One of my favorite movies is Inception and I often find myself watching it on long plane rides when I’m sick of reading or prepping for a meeting. During one of the early scenes in the movie the Cobb (character played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is teaching Ariande (Ellen Page) about dreaming and building worlds with her imagination during the dreams. She is crossing a bridge and the Eiffel Tower is clearly visible in the background. After noticing the location a few different times watching the movie I was determined to find it when we were in Paris in March. I did a little research online and learned it was called the Pont de Bir-Hakeim Bridge. So one night shortly after sunset I walked over and setup for this shot.
Pont De Bir-Hakeim Bridge (Paris, France)
I like the lines in this shot and the cars (and bus) passing by created some interesting colors in the foreground as well.
After this we walked over and took a few shots of the Ferris wheel by the Eiffel Tower before heading home.
Another of my hopes for this week’s overnight trip to Death Valley National Park was to get some shots of the dunes in the morning. The last time I visited in January 2014 there was little wind in the park and as such the dunes were trampled with footprints from other hikers. Fortunately, throughout the night when I was taking photos of the Milky Way the wind was whipping through the valley periodically and I knew this would lead to good dunes in the morning.
Mesquite Dunes at Sunrise (Death Valley National Park)
The best time to shoot sand dunes are on the edges of the day when the shadows creep in and out and make the dunes look dramatic. I liked the look of this shot and the way the shadows emphasized the shape of the dunes and the pattern of the dunes also resembles that of the mountain behind it. Also, because of the wind there are no footprints as the sand blew all around the prior night before settling – a few hours after this the dunes would most likely be trampled and the photographic possibilities become much more limited.
I’m very intrigued by night photography/astrophotography/star photography – whatever it is called – these days and alot of that has to do with the camera I bought earlier this year. My old Canon Rebel T3i is a FANTASTIC camera but I just don’t think capturing the Milky Way like this would be possible on that body – it probably is and I’m sure if I googled Milky Way T3i I’d find something similar – but I am just continuously amazed at what the Nikon D750 can do and the way it handles noise in images. This was taken at ISO 6400 with a shutter speed of 21 seconds. My lens is not ‘optimal’ for star photography in that it ONLY goes to f/4 (as opposed to the lenses that can open to f/2.8 or even f/1.2) but even with a 21 second exposure I think the stars are pretty sharp.
The GENERAL rule with stars is that they should be pretty sharp and show up as single points of light as long as you follow the rule of 500. That rule essentially says that as long as you keep the exposure time below 500 divided by the focal length (I shot this at 16mm) your stars will be pretty clean. Thus, I tried to keep my exposures below 25 seconds (just to be on the safe side – I’ve heard anything over 25 seconds is going to show some blur regardless of the focal length because of how fast the earth rotates).
Milky Way Above Zabraskie Point (Death Valley National Park)
I stayed out all night shooting – I got 20 minutes of sleep when I pulled off on the side of the road to take a power nap – before heading to the Mesquite Dunes for some early morning shots (after shooting there in the morning I took another 20 minute nap before starting the trip back to Vegas so 40 minutes total sleep in the last 36+ hours – yikes! :(). There was a fair amount of wind (unexpected) in Death Valley last night which meant the dunes were pretty smooth and free of footprints this morning so I’m actually pretty happy with some of my dune shots from this trip whereas on my last trip I threw every one of them in the trash almost immediately. I will say there are some things I could have done better with these Milky Way shots though. I’ll have to post on that when I have some more energy – now to take a quick nap before dinner tonight.
I’m off to Las Vegas for a few days so not sure how much I’ll be able to post while I’m there – it will be largely dependent on wifi speeds which I expect will be woeful at best. I don’t remember from the other times I’ve been out there but I know they didn’t build Las Vegas by having ‘guests’ sit in their rooms on the internet. They want you in the casinos early and often! Even trying to go to the gym in Vegas is a $20 – $30 spend because you have to purchase a day pass. It’s a racket but I certainly get it.
I will be bringing my camera out there though so I’m hoping to get some good pictures of Death Valley at night (Milky Way) and the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas strip.
Impressionist Landscape (Matador Beach – Los Angeles, California)
I took this picture a few years back when out in Los Angeles for work. The sun was setting behind the rocks on the horizon and as a result I was able to keep the shutter open a little longer than I normally would have to smooth the waves a bit. The reflection of the colors from the sky combined with the look of the waves gave it a bit of an impressionist feel for me.
In June 2014, I was in Yoho National Park (just outside of Banff) taking in some new viewpoints for sunset. This was a location I read about online before my trip called the Meeting of the Rivers and is a location in Yoho where two primary rivers (the Yoho River and Kicking Horse River) meet and then start to flow together. Scouting told me this was a nice sunset point and as I stood waiting for the colors to come in I was disappointed because there didn’t seem to be too much happening. I thought maybe I got unlucky with the time of year as maybe the sun was positioned behind another peak someplace and thus the Cathedral Crags (steep cliff faces of the Cathedral Mountains) weren’t going to catch any sun. I started to focus on some longer exposure shots of the water in an attempt to salvage the evening. However, a few minutes later – really out of nowhere – the peaks lit up as the sun popped out from wherever it was hiding.
Sunset on the Cathedral Crags (Yoho National Park)
By that point the foreground was pretty dark which was fine because it allowed me to get some good shots of the river running while still getting the nice color of the peaks. I blended a couple of shots together – a ‘regular’ exposure for the foreground and a darker exposure for mountain in order to bring out the direct sunlight setting on the Cathedral Crags. It was a nice ‘blue hour’ moment.
Next week I’m heading to Las Vegas for my Mom and sister’s birthdays – it’s a family celebration and we are all looking forward to it. I arrive a few hours before everyone else so instead of hitting the casinos all by my lonesome I decided to rent a car and drive out to Death Valley National Park to take some pictures of the milky way. The 15th is the ‘new moon’ so on the 16th when I get there the sky should be dark and devoid of light pollution for the moon so I’m really looking forward to it.
My plan is to drive out to Badwater Basin and take some shots with octagons in the foreground (It’ll be hard to search in the dark – I’ll be less particular this time) with the Milky Way over top (and it is supposed to be in full view this time of year!), before heading to Zabriskie Point for the Milky Way over that spot and then head over to the dunes – maybe catch the milky way there but ultimately I’ll plan to sleep in the car for a few hours before sunrise at 5:45 AM over the dunes. After that I’ll make my way back to Vegas, grab a mai tai and crash by the pool. So much for vacation!
The Long Road (Death Valley National Park)
The dome that sits atop the cathedral in Florence, Italy is an engineering feat even to this day. So much so that TV programs like NOVA and the National Geographic channel have had specials where engineers today try to re-create it in the same form (using modern computers, tools, etc…) that Brunelleschi did. The crazy thing about what Filippo Brunelleschi did is that he built and designed this dome in 1418! Imagine what we all could accomplish if we didn’t watch TV for three to four hours each day – I feel like such a failure!
Brunelleschi’s Dome (Florence, Italy)
Seriously though this is was and is a pretty impressive feat and Florence was in a real bind until they opened a ‘contest’ up to everyone in the world to design a dome that could cover the altar in the cathedral. Architects of varying fame from around the world submitted plans and designs but the one who was selected – Filippo Brunelleschi – was a goldsmith with no formal training in building structures like the one that still stands nearly 600 years later. Pretty damn amazing.
There is a fascinating article over on National Geographic’s website called Brunelleschi’s Dome if you’d like to read more of the back story and the reaction of the architects that weren’t chosen (sore losers anyone?).