My son, Chris, controlled the main light on this night photo of Delicate Arch, and the Milky Way stars at Arches National Park. Please visit my photostream every Thursday to see a new ''NightScape'' image. Read the Huffington Post story about my NightScape photography.
See the awe-inspiring NightScape VIDEO – with one Milky Way after another!
Canon 5D M2
30" f3.5 ISO 6400
Main light from camera left: 2-million candle power incandescent (reflected for control). I rarely "light painting". Instead, I often used strategically placed and controlled lights, like you would in a studio. Additional technical stuff
The NightScape Story
Definition and evolution: "NightScapes" are exposures of the night sky with a landscape feature. All are evening time exposures. Special techniques are used with off-the-shelf digital cameras and lenses in order expose the night stars without blurring them (producing trails). Some land features are enhanced with light painting. My early work did not include the Milky Way or star constellations, because the technology was not available at that time.
My early work: I've been doing light painting of landscapes for more than 30 years, where I capture the enhanced landscape against a twilight sky. These images have been in many national publications, and my techniques have been copied by scores of fellow photographers. Originally, the series was started as a self-promotion stunt to help my commercial work. I was trying to increase my on-location industrial assignment work by showing that if I could light a 300-foot wide natural arch out in the desert, I could handle any project they had.
A change in style: Digital photography has made the technical aspects of natural landscape light painting a lot easier -- so easy that it became less of a challenge, and somewhat boring for me. I quit doing NightScapes when I started using digital photography about 10 years ago.
In the middle of 2011 my love for NightScapes was rekindled. About this time, I saw a starry night sky scene someone had taken of a mountain landscape silhouetted against a starry night sky, and the stars were bright and sharp, not blurred like one sees in a star trail time exposure. I was totally blown away! How was the photographer able to get both the landscape AND star detail without the aid of an astronomy tracking device? In order to get this type of astrophotography, a person would normally have to mount his camera on an equatorial mount that was correlated with the rotation of the earth; however, you were also prohibited from showing any land features in your images, otherwise the landscape would be blurred by the tracking motion.
I have since discovered that with sensitive digital cameras it is possible to capture both the landscape and the heavens at the same time! (Most DSLR cameras with a "fast" lens can capture my style of NightScapes, if the photographer follows my technical tips.) And, with my light painting experience I can now add that feature when I feel it is appropriate and does not detract from the overall visual experience.
These techniques for increased night sensitivity have enabled me to produce a new series of NightScapes that combine the beauty of astronomy and my skills in landscape light painting. With or without light painting, I use my knowledge of composition to make the best alignment of heaven and land features.
Where are most of my NightScapes taken? I love working in the quiet of the night, with few distractions. Most of my NightScape photos are taken in western U.S. national parks, in the height of the tourist season. At night, most of these areas are deserted. I chose these national parks (currently just Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, and Arches) for two reasons. One is because their land features are very recognizable, even at night. I only add subtle light painting if it increase that recognition or it enhances their features. The other is because they are far away from big cities, where light pollution competes with the stars.
The biggest challenge to NightScape photography? I have become more aware of how much light pollution there is in our world today. So many of my admirers lament how they cannot find any places where they live to do the same type of photography. Even in the remote areas of our planet, I've also had to become more aware of the heavenly cycles in our universe. In order to get these images, one must do a lot of planning and be aware of the cycles of the moon, planets, major constellations, and how they align at different times of the night and throughout the year.
What do I hope you'll get out of my work? It has given me a lot of satisfaction to open people's eyes to a whole other world that awaits them in the evening sky. You can literally have two vacations when you visit our national parks or other remote locations. I also hope that others will feel a greater connection to the Creator of our universe and the infinite order we are a part of.
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NightScapes book & workshop: I am currently working on a how-to book about my NightScape photography. It will not only display beautiful pictures, but it will show all the techniques, tricks, and equipment I use to make these images. There will also be an inexpensive ebook version. I plan to complete the book before this summer. I'm also planning to do NightScapes workshops in places like Arches National Park and Grand Teton National Park (both daytime and night photography). If you'd like to be notified as these books and workshops become available, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I just self-published my first photo book (photos of the Grand Teton NP). You can see a preview of it at my blog, Your Photo Vision. Since this is a blog read by photographers and wanna-be photographers, I also discuss the advantages and pitfalls to self-publishing through the new print-on-demand format. I'd love to hear your comments.
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