Misty moonrise, Half Dome and the Merced River, Yosemite. 15 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600.
We haven’t had much rain or snow this winter, but on Monday and Tuesday we finally got a decent storm. Though the storm wasn’t as big as initially predicted, Yosemite Valley got a good soaking, with an inch and a half of rain. No snow though, as it was very warm. (This same storm dumped much more rain on southern California, creating devastating mudslides. This state has endured a lot lately.)
On the few occasions when we’ve had precipitation this winter, I always seemed to have some commitment that prevented me from getting out to photograph. But this time I didn’t have any pressing deadlines, so I kept a close eye on the weather, hoping to get up to the valley to photograph the storm clearing.
Great Fountain Geyser and the Milky Way, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA. I photographed this geyser two nights in a row. On the first night I joined another photographer from Florida, but on the second night I miraculously had it to myself. This is the one image in this post where I used my own lighting, using two LED panels to add subtle illumination to the geyser and its beautiful terraced pools. This photograph is a stitched three-frame vertical panorama, captured with my 20mm Rokinon lens. Each exposure was 20 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.
Next to Yosemite, Yellowstone might be my favorite national park. But I hadn’t been to Yellowstone since 2003 – way too long! So after watching and photographing the eclipse in Idaho, Claudia and I decided to head to Yellowstone. We started in the remote, quiet, beautiful, southwest corner of the park, near Cave Falls, an area we’d never been to before. Then we moved into the Madison campground, where, miraculously, we had been able to secure a last-minute reservation.
Milky Way over sand dunes, Death Valley. I was puzzled by talk about the “star-eater” issue with Sony cameras, since all my nighttime photos made with my a7R II showed plenty of small stars – including this image made in April from Death Valley.
There’s been a lot internet chatter lately about the so-called “star-eater” issue with Sony cameras. If you haven’t heard of this, last August Sony issued a firmware update for the Mark II versions of all its full-frame E-mount cameras (a7 II, a7s II, and a7r II), and many people have reported that since then these Sony models have been making smaller stars disappear in nighttime photographs. It seems that the new firmware included some kind of noise-reduction algorithm (even with Raw files) that blurred or eliminated those smaller stars. And, unfortunately, there’s no way to revert these cameras to the previous firmware version. In June of this year Sony released new firmware updates for these models, but some initial reports indicated that this new firmware didn’t fix the “star-eater” issue.
Clouds and Milky Way reflected in Tenaya Lake, Yosemite. A four-frame vertical panorama stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge; each frame was 20 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.
On the first night of our recent Starry Skies Adventure workshop we started at Olmsted Point in the Yosemite high country. We had beautifully clear skies at first, despite our proximity to the Detwiler Fire. And the early-evening winds died down, making our group feel warmer, and also creating a chance to photograph reflections in nearby Tenaya Lake.
Before we headed to the lake some clouds started moving in from the east, but I didn’t mind. I love photographing nighttime skies with a mixture of stars and clouds. And that’s what we found when we got to the lake, with the underside of the clouds catching an orange glow from the lights of the Central Valley. Better yet, the wind was calm and the water still, creating beautiful reflections.
Lightning at dusk, Mono Lake (35mm, 30 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 250)
The Detwiler Fire is now 85% contained, and emitting little smoke. As I mentioned in my last post, Claudia and I never felt that our house was in serious danger, but sadly, 63 homes were destroyed in the fire. None of our friends lost their homes, which we’re grateful for, but we feel for those who did lose their homes, even though we don’t know them. I’m sure that’s a very tough thing to go through. It is heartening, however, to see the community come together to help those who lost their homes.
The fire started a week before our Starry Skies Adventure workshop on the eastern side of the Sierra. Initially the fire was spewing out tons of smoke, and sending it over the mountains to the east, so Yosemite and the Mono Lake area were pretty socked in. But as the week wore on the smoke diminished, and by the time our workshop started the skies were remarkably clear.
Milky Way over sand dunes, Death Valley. This is a six-image panorama, lit with low-level continuous lighting from two LED light panels on stands, and stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge. See the main text for more details.
It’s been a busy spring, so I have a backlog of images that I haven’t been able to post yet. Among those images are most of the nighttime photos I made during our two Death Valley workshops (as well as beforehand, while scouting). We encountered a lot of wind, which made things challenging. You just don’t want to be out in the dunes when it’s windy, because you and your gear will get sand-blasted. But the wind helped wipe footprints off the sand, and somehow, during both workshops, we managed to get out into the footprint-free dunes on calm, clear, beautiful nights.