Posts from the ‘stars’ Category

Backlit Bison Breath and Starry Skyscapes: Teddy Roosevelt Day 2

Day 2 in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park started early…REALLY EARLY! Ryan and I crawled out of our cozy cocoons at 2:27am. Time to try for some Milky Way landscapes! It is always good to plan night shoots with a buddy, because if you are like me, it takes a lot of gumption to go out late at night by yourself. Unfortunately, we hadn’t scouted too well the day before, so it took some driving to find a good spot with foreground interest in the dark.
Night Sky Hoodoos Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5950Hoodoos (eroded pinnacle-like landforms) and the Milky Way
Normally you’d like to keep your star exposures to under 30 seconds…That way star motion is minimized. Over 30 seconds, you start to get “star trails,” short streaks of light showing the movement of the stars in the sky.
[Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm; f4 at 54 seconds; ISO 1600; tripod; headlamp to light hoodoos]

Night Sky Hoodoos Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5957Hoodoos and the Milky Way
We had to get up in the wee hours of the morning since the moon did not set until after midnight….and any moon can wash out the stars and make the Milky Way much harder to see. I lit the hoodoos with my headlamp. Experiment with how much light painting you need to do to get pleasing results.
[Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm; f4 at 69 seconds; ISO 1600; tripod; headlamp to light hoodoos]

Bison backlit sunrise Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5999Bison backlit by morning sun.
There is one easy thing that can really help your wildlife photography (that doesn’t involve expensive equipment!) and that is to GET IN THE FIELD EARLY! Dawn is the time when crepuscular critters may still be active and diurnal animals are also moving around. In summer, the mornings are cool and wildlife is more energized, much more so than during the heat of midday.

We found a heard of Bison backlit by the sun which was giving us gorgeous rim lighting on the coats of the Bison. Underexposing by several stops highlighted their breath on this chilly morning.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/6400 second; ISO 100; 0 ev; hand held]

Bison backlit sunrise Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_5996Bison backlit by morning sun
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/8000 second; ISO 100; -3 ev; hand held]

Landscape Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6127
October is a great time to visit Teddy Roosevelt; Empty campgrounds, mild weather (25-60 degrees during our stay), golden grasses and abundant wildlife.
[Canon 7D with Canon 50mm f1.8 STM lens; f10 at 1/250 second; ISO 250; -2/3 ev; hand held]

Ryan Marshik Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6488Ryan Marshik shooting Bison at dusk
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; f4 at 1/125 second; ISO 1250; tripod]

Wild Horses Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6200Band of Wild Horses (feral horses) in the rugged Teddy Roosevelt landscape
The wild horses of Teddy Roosevelt belong to many well-defined bands which do not mix socially.
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; f6.3 at 1/320 second; ISO 100; -2/3 ev; tripod]

Wild Horses Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6172Wild Horse (feral horse)
Details are sometimes more interesting than the entire subject.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/1250 second; ISO 400; tripod]

Prairie Sky Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6390
The North Unit Scenic Drive is an out-and-back road that travels from the bottom of the eroded landscape and climbs up through the badlands to the prairie grasslands at the top of the plateau.
[Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens; f8 at 1/80 second; ISO 320; tripod]

Badlands landscape North Unit Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6354North Unit of Teddy Roosevelt
[Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens; f9 at 1/400 second; ISO 320; -2/3 ev; hand held]

Cottonwoods Little Missouri River Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6299Big Cottonwood forests thrive in the bottomlands of the Little Missouri River (North Unit)
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens zoomed to 78mm; f14 at 1/200 second; ISO 320; hand held]

Cottonwoods Little Missouri River Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6297Big Cottonwood forests thrive in the bottomlands of the Little Missouri River (North Unit)
Mid day can be a slow time for wildlife photography, so search out scenics or macros where you can use this higher-angle sunlight to your advantage. I like how the tree trunks went black and the shaded hillside turned blue…not to mention the golden side lit grass.
[Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens zoomed to 126mm; f10 at 1/250 second; ISO 320; hand held]

Prairie Dog Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6065
A pair of Prairie Dogs greeting each other with Bison “blobs” in background.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/1600 second; ISO 320; -2 ev; tripod]

Prairie Dog Roosevelt National Park ND IMG_6053A Black-tailed Prairie Dog goes head first down its burrow at sunrise.
You have to have a good reason to shoot into the sun. It works best when the sun is low on the horizon. I had to under expose the image by nearly 3 stops to get the pleasing rim light on the fur of this chunky Prairie Dog.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f8 at 1/4000 second; ISO 320; -2 2/3 ev; tripod]

NEXT TIME: Day 3 in our late October Teddy Roosevelt Adventure



Wild West Landscapes October 2012

[**Just a reminder, landscapes look pathetically puny at 470 pixels wide, but by clicking on an image you can view it at a bit larger scale in a new window.]

Yellowstone is known for its wildlife, but it is also a fantastic place for landscape photography. Especially good because you can include the wildlife in your scenics for added interest and scale. Here are a few of my favorites from our recent mid October trip.

Ryan brought along a 9-stop neutral density (ND) filter, a high-quality screw in filter from B+W that allows long exposures even on sunny days. I threw it on my Sigma 10-20mm lens to create this 20 second exposure. When on the lens, it is impossible to autofocus, so you need to focus BEFORE putting on the filter. I love the smooth buttery flow of the water and the glow of the shaded rock wall. 10mm lens at f22 for 20 seconds (!) ISO 200.

We were following a bull elk across the landscape when we topped a rise and found this dramatic scene. I excitedly set up the tripod and then realized I’d left my 70-200mm lens in the car. So off I ran, hopping dozens of downed trees from the fires of 1988 still laying on the ground. When I returned the scene had changed…and not for the better. Still, I like this shot…It has a prehistoric Ice Age feel. Canon 70-200mm f4 lens at 200mm.

We thought this cloudless morning would mean a drama-less dawn, but steam from the Firehole Geyser basin created this sunrise scene. Canon 70-200mm lens handheld braced on car door.

The shaded canyon of the Firehole River at dawn. The water, heated by geothermal features upriver, steams on cold mornings. The pre-dawn blue was emphasized in Aperture. Canon 70-200mm lens handheld.

Our trip coincided with clear night skies and a very late moonrise which enabled us to get great shots of the Milky Way. This one was taken straight up through the Ponderosa Pines, which were lit by just the glow of a campfire. Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm f4 for 30 seconds. ISO 800. On a tripod. Tungsten white balance.

Is this a landscape image OR a wildlife shot? Not sure really, but I like the peaceful feel of the grazing Bison along the Firehole River (Fountain Flat Drive). Canon 70-200mm lens at 122mm. f7.1 at 1/400 second on tripod.

These “skeleton trees” near the Firehole Lake Drive never seem to disappoint. We have shot here many times and the conditions always seem to be different. Blue cast emphasized in Aperture. Sigma 10-20mm lens at 14mm, f9 1/1000 second. Tungsten white balance.

Jupiter & Venus: Traveling Partners

Jupiter and Venus have been traveling partners in the night sky recently. The bright duo have been visible low in the western sky from dusk to early in the morning.

Here’s an excerpt from
“Venus-Jupiter conjunctions are fairly special events, occurring roughly every 13 months. This year’s was especially stunning, experts say, because the two planets were visible for so long in the sky and appeared so bright.
Though Jupiter is about 11 times wider than the roughly Earth-size Venus, Venus appears about eight times more luminous these days. That’s because Venus is so much closer to us than Jupiter is.
So while the two planets appear close together in the night sky, in reality they’re nowhere near each other. The orbits of Venus and Jupiter are separated by Earth, Mars and the main asteroid belt.”

So while doing a late night owl survey up in the Sax-Zim Bog tonight (March 13), I decided to try to capture the pair of planets. The moon was not yet up and so the stars were brilliant. I put the camera on the tripod with my 10-20mm Sigma, set the self timer to 2-seconds (to prevent any camera shake from tripping the shutter) and let it go for 25 seconds at ISO 6400. I left the Tamarack low in the frame to highlight the stars and planets. You can see Jupiter and Venus low on the horizon just to the right of the big Tamarack.

TIP FOR NIGHT SKY STAR SHOTS: I like a blue-purple night sky (versus black-orange) so I set my camera to Tungsten white balance. You can also shoot at Auto White Balance and change the color in Aperture/Lightroom if shooting Raw. It is strictly personal preference.

Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens at 11mm, f5.0 at 25 seconds, ISO 6400, Tungsten white balance, tripod, two-second self timer to minimize camera shake.