Tiger Lilies put on a long show in July and early August in my garden every year. They are not deer resistant. If I did not spray these flowers, I would not have any.
I made these images following an afternoon rain. For this type of image to work, you need deal calm and I do mean dead calm, not just for a second but for minutes.
Feature Image Details
For this set of images I used a my Canon 100MM Macro F 2.8 Lens at perhaps 1/4 life size. Meta data does not capture that information so I cannot say precisely.
This is a fixed focal length macro lens. It’s an excellent lens for butterflies and small insects.
That’s a blend of 10 different images, each focused on a different rain drop or portion of the stem. Even with the varying focus spots the background is out of focus. That adds to the image, I wanted the key elements to be in focus and the rest not.
For comparison purposes, here is one of the frames, un-stacked.
Single Image – Not Focus Stacked
The detail on the leaf at the right is missing and only one of the drops is in focus. Helicon focus did superb on this set, better and faster than I could do myself. For that I can thank the calm wind.
Here is a another focus-stacked image.
Depth of Field
Depth of field on close-up images is extremely shallow. The only way to get a completely sharp image is to focus stack.
Helicon Focus works best with stationary objects. Mountains don’t move but flowers do.
I took this set of images on a very calm day with little wind.
See links number 2 and 6 below for a focus-stacked Green Tree Frog and focus-stacked coneflowers.
Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.
Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.
Winter hours 9am to 4pm (November 4th to April 15th)
Summer hours 9am-6pm (April 15th to November 3rd )
In the winter, you may need a snowmobile to get in. The road is not plowed.
The only access at sunrise, sunset, and the interiors of the building is by permit. The cost is steep but worth it. My wife Liz and I went on a photography tour at $800 a pop.
The tour gave us access at sunrise, sunset, and the interiors of the building at mid-day.
Feature Image Details
I used a Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens at 20mm, F4.5, ISO 6400 for 61 seconds. Stars will streak beyond about 20 seconds so I shot them separately with a star tracker then merged the images.
The formula for determining when stars will stop looking like points if governed by the formula e = 400/FL.
E is the exposure time in seconds. 400 is a constant from experience and FL is the focal length of the lens in mm.
The result of this image would be 20 seconds. My exposure was 60 seconds.
We did not have access to that building. I took the above shots through a window.
They were taken with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 16mm and 19mm continuing the streak of very wide angle images.
The Chemong Mine, founded in 1909, is located near the ghost town of Masonic, CA. It was torn down and rebuilt three times. The structures were eventually abandoned in 1939. By the 1950s the nearby town of Masonic was abandoned also, leaving Chemung to fade quietly into the dust.
I use an iOptron start tracker to take long exposures without the stars blurring. The camera slowly rotates with the stars. I have a second EOS 5D Mark IV Canon body with Canon’s low-pass filter removed, invalidating my warranty, but granting me an extra stop of light. With the iOptron star tracker, I can easily take 2-minute exposures without the stars blurring. The end result is milky way images with far more stars than the naked eye can see.
But if you are tracking the stars, the land is blurry because it isn’t moving. One needs to blend images if using a star tracker.
These images were taken on September 12.
In late August and September, the Milky Way is nearly vertical. The core of the Milky Way is visible only for a short time after sunset this time of year.
In April, the Milky Way takes on a rounded appearance and is visible only very early in the morning (think 3AM or so). In summer the Milky Way is diagonal.
The core of the Milky Way is not visible from October through February.
Additional Chemung Mine Images
If you are visiting the Mono Lake area and the ghost town of Bodie, this ghost town is right in the area and worth a visit. Unlike Bodie, there are no hour restrictions. At your own risk, you can enter the buildings.
Bodie is far better preserved and there are many more buildings. But the hours at Bodie are restricted and you can only enter the buildings on a private tour.
The answers to the three questions you are most likely to ask are as follows: Yes, Yes, Yes.
Yes, the ice really is that blue. Glacial ice is compressed and has a different crystal structure that makes it look blue.
Yes, the water is cold.
Yes, I got wet, which is why I can properly testify to the previous question.
Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens. I shot at ISO 500 at 24mm for 0.8 seconds at F16. If I had to pick one lens and one lens only, this lens would be at the top of the list. I see things from a wide angle perspective.
The color of that sky lasted only a few frames. Here are a couple more images right before the sky turned.
The third image looks like it’s black and white.
Getting very close to the subject
Willingness to get wet
Taking exposures of about 1 second or so
Waiting for the right moment. Experience shows the right moment is just as the waves are receding.
When the waves are coming in, the ice is moving and it will be blurry. Grab the shot as the water recedes and hope the weight of the ice keeps it in place.
The ice is dangerous. If a big wave comes in, get out of the way. This ice is dangerous. It can break your tripod, or leg, whatever it hits first.
Aurora Borealis Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
We were in Iceland for 8 days in March of 2017. We only say the Northern Lights on two evenings. The above image represents the weaker of the two by far.
Olive Branch Illinois, in Alexander County, is the home of Horseshoe Lake, not to be confused with Horseshoe Lake in Madison County.
Horseshoe Lake is an oxbow lake in Alexander County, Illinois. It is the site of Illinois’s Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, a state park 10,645 acres (43 km2) in size. A remnant of a large meander of the Mississippi River, it is today a shallow, isolated patch of water located near Cairo and the southern tip of Illinois.
The Alexander County lake has major problems with siltation. During the Great Flood of 1993 the river tried to shift back to the Horseshoe Lake meander, but returned to its modern channel after the flood subsided. Much of the lake resembles a swamp or bayou. This is one of the northernmost parts of the natural ranges of the Bald cypress and Tupelo trees, which are found on the shoreline of the lake. Another tree found here is the swamp cottonwood. There is a good growth of the flowering American lotus.
Feature Image Details
The feature image shows Bald cypress and Tupelo trees at sunrise.
The key to reflection images such as these is for the water to be in the shade.
Play around with various exposures and time durations.
Get low to the water! Sometimes you cannot see any reflections unless you get low. Find a composition you like, then set up the tripod in that position.
Here are some more images from the same morning.
I like the above image a lot. It distinctly shows the Bald Cypress trees. It was taken with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens. I did not have my tilt shift lens with me at the time. It was in the car. Had I walked back to get it, I would have missed the shot.
Perspective controls in Photoshop are amazing but it is better to use the right lens.
The above image was taken with a Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens. I seldom carry that lens, simply because of the weight. I had it with me because I knew there were opportunities like this.
Hatfield vs McCoy
Horseshoe Lake is not a “family destination”. There are few services and unless you are interested in photography, fishing, or birding, there is little else to do.
The above images are recent and digital, but here’s my story from twenty years ago that highlights the issue.
In the immediate area, there was then and there still is today precisely one place to eat, and it’s in a bar. I sat down at the bar and asked for a menu.
Then I made a mistake: I asked the person sitting next to me a question about the number of the geese in the fall. This was the resultant conversation.
Me: Is this an average year for geese in the area.
Him: Do I know you?
Me: I’m Mike – cutoff
Him: Are you from the DNR?
Me: I’m Mike – cutoff
Him: I did not ask you who you are. I asked if you were from the DNR.
At that point, he pulled out a gun, pointed it at my head and said If you are from the DNR I’m going to blow you away.
I assured him that I was not from the DNR and he put the gun away.
I should have immediately left at that point, but I had already ordered dinner and waited for it. The man who pulled the gun on me started talking to the person next to him. The other fellow mentioned that his daughter was dating someone who he did not know.
As you might imagine from this, our “hero” said that if his daughter was dating someone he would know when he got up, where he went, and would stake him out until he knew everything about him.
The next day, I filled up at a gas station and a young kid came out to pump. This was not self-service yet. I told the kid what happened and he laughed.
He then said: “I am not surprised. In fact, if anyone sees me talking to you, I can get in serious trouble.”
The moral of this story is please do not try to talk to anyone in deep Southern Illinois unless you know them.
The dunes are easily accessible, just minutes from Stovepipe Wells. They are a very popular spot. It is nearly impossible to find undisturbed ripples anywhere near the parking lot where the tallest dunes are.
The dunes area is vast. I parked a mile away to get this image. The only time the tallest dunes will be without footprints are at sunrise following a very windy evening. Even then you better be the first one up and far away from the lot, or people will be walking in from of you, messing up the shot.
The Rokinon is actually a pretty crappy lens in numerous ways. It is manual focus only. The corners are not sharp, wide open. It is not usable, in my opinion, at F1.4 or F1.8. F2.0 is questionable. Others disagree.
Importantly, I have seen many stories where the focus is off entirely but only on one side of the lens. Mechanically, the lens is sloppy. One photographer exchanged his lens three times before he found a good one.
Why would anyone put up with this?
Interestingly, if one can find a good model, it is arguably the best lens ever made for night photography. The reason: coma.
Coma is an image aberration that makes points of light look like bat wings. A Canon 24mm lens that costs four times as much has terrible coma. The Rokinon way outperforms Nikon as well.
Lenses that make stars that look light bat wings instead of points of light are not suited for night photography. The Rokinon is the best coma-corrected lens around.
The maximum length of time one can expose night images without stars streaking can be calculated by using this rule: e = 400 / Fl.
E is the exposure time in seconds, 400 is a constant derived from experience, and Fl is the focal length of the lens in millimeters. In this case, we get e= 400/24 = 16.67 seconds. I round to the nearest 5 seconds, thus 15 seconds.
For this shot, I took a series of six images at 15 seconds and stacked them in Photoshop. Stacking reduces noise.
The Milky Way image is a blend of an image taken at night with a second one taken right at sunrise the next morning.
The sunrise shot is an eight-frame vertical panorama merged together in Lightroom. One of the frames was used in the Milky Way image above.
I hired a guide for the night image. The next day, I hired a guide for the sunrise image.
More on Rokinon
Focusing the Rokinon 24mm lens is a real pain. Night images are best at infinity, but finding infinity on the Rokinon is a process. If you turn the lens to the infinity mark you are 100% guaranteed to get lenses that are not in focus. They will not be usable at all.
Rokinon Focusing Procedure
Focus on the moon, wide open, F1.4. A crescent moon is best. Adjust the exposure so the moon highlights are not blown out.
Minute focusing variations make a difference. When you are sure you have it correct, tape the focusing ring so it can never turn. This is trickier than it sounds. It is very easy to move the focusing ring while taping it. It took me three times.
Also, make use you do not tape over the aperture ring. That’s manual too, and I did tape over it once. After you have lightly taped it over, go back out and take another image of the moon. It should look as good as the best you have. Then tape the whole thing so it can never move, again making sure you do not tape over the aperture ring.
As modified, the lens is only usable for night photography. But that’s all it was ever good for in the first place.
Rokinon 14mm F2.8
If the above is too much of a hassle, and it probably should be, forget the whole thing.
The 14mm Rokinon lens is still manual focus, but it is not entirely manual. The aperture is electronic. It is coma corrected, again way better than Canon or Nikon. And it is way cheaper than the Canon and even the Rokinon 24mm lens described above.
The lens also has a hard stop, right at infinity (focus ring turned until it cannot turn anymore), and that hard stop is accurate. It has other issues, primarily with straight lines that affect day photography, but it is another go-to lens that pros use at night.
“Freckles” is sitting in a barn window at the Northwind Perennial Farm near Burlington, Wisconsin. As I was taking the image, a gust of wind came opening up the catalog Freckles was sleeping on, randomly to the perfect page.
One cannot plan for moments like these. Ultimately, that’s what life is all about, being there, taking part, and capturing a story to cherish and share with others.
The inside of the barn was used for flower arranging.
The editor of Wisconsin Trails Magazine used the above image on a cover.