Monday, August 11, 2014

Amazing Night Weather ~ Possibilities Beyond Starry Skies

Many photographers, especially those new to night photography, may think they need clear skies and a small moon to photograph the night.  Images of dark, star-filled skies, whether the stars are recorded as points of light or as long trails, are indeed awe-inspiring.

Milky Way over Moss Lake, Adirondacks.
30 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 5000

But there’s also incredible beauty to be discovered under varying meteorological conditions at night.  I take my camera out in all kinds of nocturnal weather: partly cloudy, foggy, rainy, in lightning storms and snow squalls.  It’s a chance to expand my repertoire and create unique images packed with drama and atmosphere.  I’ve seen moonlight catch fog on fire, cast rainbows on sheets of rain, and paint fogbows on mist.  I’ve recorded fingers of lightning fanning through cumulonimbus, and the Aurora Borealis backlighting clouds with fanciful colors.

Northern lights over Fourth Lake, Adirondacks.
12 min’s, f/4, ISO 400

Prior to night shooting, I check weather forecasts on-line.  Wunderground.com, weather.com, and noaa.gov provide hourly forecasts of sky conditions.  AccuWeather.com has an Astronomy tab that lists stargazing conditions over several nights, by location, based on the amount of cloudcover and phase of the moon.  I get excited when forecasts call for intermittent clouds.  Just as with daytime photography, at night clouds can lead to more interesting images.  They take on the colors of the atmosphere and reflect artificial lights from below.  When clouds are sufficiently thin, or there’re breaks in them, the stars and moon shine through.  Moving clouds streak through the sky during long exposures.  They splay dramatically when they’re coming at you or going directly away from you.  Using a wide angle lens will accentuate the effect.

Moon reflected in Little Tupper Lake, Adirondacks
30 sec’s, f/4, ISO 400

Even total cloudcover can be photogenic at night.  I was leading a night photography workshop to Newport, Rhode Island.  We gathered at a nearby beach where I gave a short session on nighttime camera settings as we stood under umbrellas in a torrential downpour.  Several members looked as if we should pack it in.  But we stuck it out and were rewarded.  In the fifteen minutes it took to drive to Newport Harbor, the rain stopped.  Clouds hung low over the world-famous sailing mecca, colored by the city lights.  I made this image, one of my all-time favorite night images.  Note how the lights paint the clouds in contrasting cool and warm tones, and how the long exposure has smoothed the clouds and water, and softened their colors to pastels.

Newport Bay Bridge and sailing vessels, Newport, RI.
30 sec’s, f/5.6, ISO 200

Night fog lends a certain cinematic atmosphere.  I experienced some amazing fog at Fourth Lake in the central Adirondacks.  On a summer night it streamed down a hillside, splayed out across the lake, and billowed up against the far shore.  The lights of a dock and gazebo colored it.  The Big Dipper shone above.

Fog on Fourth Lake, Adirondacks
30 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 800

I led a workshop to Nauset Light on Cape Cod one spring night.  Skies were clear but for a layer of fog that hung over the top of the lighthouse.  The light rotated through the fog and I made this image, reminiscent of a Thomas Kincade painting.

Fog and stars over Nauset Light, Cape Cod.
30 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 800

At Follensby Clear Pond in the Adirondacks an advancing thunderstorm was overtaking a starry sky.  Along the leading edge a night rainbow appeared, cast not by sunlight but by moonlight, as the moon rose behind me.  Sheets of rain fell beneath the stars.  You can’t make such images under clear conditions!

Stars and a moonbow, Follensby Clear Pond, Adirondacks
8 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 3200

In Pittsfield, Massachusetts I shot a time-lapse sequence of a summer thunderstorm over Silver Lake.  Using a hahnel Giga T Pro wireless remote with a built-in intervalometer, I shot 10-second exposures, separated by one second, over about 35 minutes.  Many of the images didn’t capture lightning bolts, but several did.  In StarStax image stacking software I blended four images that contained bolts using Lighten blend mode.  The software combined the brightest parts of each image — the lightning bolts and lit clouds — to render this composite.  Be extremely cautious photographing thunderstorms.  Lightning can strike up to five miles out from a storm cell.  I feel relatively safe shooting receding storms with the wireless remote while I take shelter in my vehicle.

4-image composite of lightning over Silver Lake, Pittsfield, MA
Each exposure: 10 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 200

The most astounding nocturnal weather event I’ve witnessed took place at Moss Lake in the Adirondacks on a cool summer night.  As the night progressed, a low-lying fog thickened over the lake.  The Milky Way towered above.  Eventually the half moon rose behind me, magically projecting a multi-colored moonbow on the fog, the shadows of bare shoreline trees beneath it.  What special conditions coalescing at once!

Milky Way and fogbow over Moss Lake, Adirondacks
30 sec’s, f/2.8, ISO 5000

So don’t limit your night shooting to clear skies; venture out in all kinds of weather and explore the artistic possibilities.  You’ll find that as beautiful as the resulting images may be, the ultimate reward is discovering the majesty of Nature at work after dark.


Mark Bowie has authored two extensive e-books on night photography: The Light of Midnight and After Midnight.  They are available through his website: www.markbowie.com.  He is a staff instructor with API and leads photo workshops, tours and seminars throughout the year.  He is also a much sought after public speaker.  For a list of upcoming API events, visit www.adkpi.org.

Special thanks to Hunt's Photo for granting API permission to re-produce this feature, which originally appeared on their blog.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dark Adirondack Skies, Incredible Celestial Views

I'm never so profoundly stirred by photography as I am when shooting the night landscape.  It's unbelievably beautiful.  I recently led my Photographing the Night Landscape workshop in the central Adirondacks, a 4-day & night event which combines comprehensive state-of-the-art classroom instruction with night shooting sessions.  I covered how to shoot the stars, planets, northern lights, meteors, and night weather, how to process night images, and how to create star trails, time intervals and time lapse movies.




One evening we walked to the darkening shore of a quiet lake.  As night fell a regal panorama materialized, with stars, several planets and the Milky Way, which arched across the heavens bright as clouds.  All were reflected on the water.  Several of us concurred: if we didn't even record any images, just witnessing the celestial majesty was inspiring enough.  But we were there to shoot time lapse sequences.  They would turn out beautiful and, as always, surprising.  They recorded the Milky Way rising in the southeast then climbing high in the sky as it slid west, towering over an iconic island with an osprey nest atop a pine tree.  Earth's atmosphere put on a show: small clouds formed, colored by the distant lights of a village, then quickly dissipated.  The stars streamed across the water.  Eventually a bank of fog descended, obscuring the night vistas for good.



At Raquette Lake, we captured cobalt blues in the early night sky, mirrored in Brown's Tract Inlet.  Lightning lit the northern horizon, and rain finally chased us off.

There is so much to shoot at night — different types of weather, different atmospherics and celestial phenomena.  If you'd like to learn the wide range of techniques for capturing them come explore with me.  I'll be leading more night shooting sessions at each of my upcoming API fall workshops.  Click here for the schedule.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Water Wonderland



How much fun would it be to photograph from a canoe?!  Don’t you want to try it?  Imagine exploring the wild waters of the Adirondacks, places that you can only get to by boat.  Peaceful, serene, enchanting, exciting.  Mark Bowie will lead a tour by canoe to explore these enchanting waters, full of the plants and animals that thrive there.


 
The wild awaits.  Water lilies, loons, birds of prey all ready to pose for you. I’ve arranged it in advance ;)
 
Ok, maybe I couldn’t get them to sign the model releases, but they are there and you could be sneaking shots of them from one of the numerous bodies of water that you will explore on this adventure!

Griz Caudle, famed Adirondack guide, will join Mark to lead this wonderful exploration.



So, this is your assignment, if you choose to accept it…

For full details on this watery photo adventure, please visit our website.  Click on the link below and get ready!

http://www.adkpi.org/workshops-tours/2014/canoe/index.html


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gorgeous Waterfalls in Western NY!


Fellow API staff instructor Joe LeFevre and I led an intensive 4-day workshop to Letchworth and Stony Brook State Parks in western NY.  Each is quite distinctive, with its own personality, giving us the opportunity to create a variety of images of dramatic gorges, waterfalls and streams.  Letchworth is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.”  A 550-foot deep gorge has been carved by the Genesee River into a series of imposing switchbacks.  Fresh spring greenery lined the river.  Hawks and turkey vultures rode the thermals above the canyon.  Down in the gorge we got close to Lower and Middle Falls for intimate images.  Afternoon sunlight cast a rainbow on mist rising from Middle’s plunge pool. 



At Stony Brook State Park a half-mile trail follows the brook to First and Second Falls.  There are numerous riffles and small falls along its course.  Colorful slabs of rock decorate the streambed.  We walked into the water and behind some falls for interesting perspectives.  We've learned that different weather and lighting conditions open unique shooting opportunities in these environments.  Bright sunlight added a wonderful luminance and blue-green striations to the waterfalls, something that just doesn’t happen in often-favored bright overcast conditions.



Joe and I also led indoor instructional sessions on the fine art of photographing waterfalls and streams, and the digital workflow for optimizing images of flowing water to their full potential.  We stressed the need for blending multiple exposures for exposure detail, and expanding resolution and depth of field.

We came away very excited about the possibilities for making inspired images of flowing water.  API will continue our series of workshops to areas that give us unprecedented access to photograph waterfalls and streams up close and personal.  Watch for 2015 workshops in Rickett’s Glen State Park, Pennsylvania and/or the Finger Lakes region of New York.  And let us know if you have a preference.  There’s so much to explore in each and Joe and I have so many innovative tips and techniques to share for creating stunning images of these special places!

New Offering! Making Time-Lapse Movies

We have added a new event to our spectacular 2014 line up, Making Nature Time-Lapse Movies with Joe LeFevre.

Anyone who is familiar with Joe and his work knows that he is a master of time-lapse photography.  His nighttime skies filled with the Milky Way, shooting stars, the Aurora Borealis and the like are awe-inspiring.

Now you too can learn how to capture these amazing moving images in an all new workshop.  Visit the link below to get all of the details!

Making NatureTime-Lapse Movies with Joe LeFevre 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Facebook Mentoring Group

mentor: a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

We’re starting a new group on Facebook. It’s a place where Adirondack Photography Institute staff members will share their experience with you, informally. We're going to perform image critiques, answer questions, act as mentor in your quest to become the best photographer you can be.

Search Facebook for API Mentoring

Anyone can join!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snowbound Up North!




Arriving just ahead of a blizzard that pummeled the eastern United States we settled into the turn-of-the-century Woods Inn in Inlet for our annual winter photography workshop, led by yours truly.  Over the next several days, our group of intrepid participants shot forests blanketed in pristine snows, night blizzards and frosty mornings.  We photographed the zen of peach-colored beech leaves decorated with fresh snow, intricate wind-driven snow patterns on the lakes and streams, a patch of cattails wearing snow caps, the subtle textures and hues of the landscape.  We even shot the night, my personal passion.  Though snowing and overcast, the sky turned rich blue, which was reflected on the snow.  We walked the village shooting the artificial lights of buildings and vehicles, and made some moody images of the moon popping out between clouds.

Winter is unlike any other season, with special happenstances capable of producing special images just not possible in other seasons.  I led indoor instructional sessions on the art of reading winter weather and light, strategies for winter landscape shooting, the benefits of shooting open water, big snows and extreme ice, shooting for color and tonal palette, determining winter exposures and critical focusing.  I also demonstrated multiple exposure techniques including layer masks, focus stacking, creating HDR's and panoramas.




The Adirondack winter is always conducive to great imagery and this years' fresh snows were a bonus.  We came away inspired by one another's work and excited to get out photographing more of winter.  Special thanks to the Woods Inn for being such a wonderful base camp to return to for warmth, hearty food and gracious hospitality.  Can't wait for next year....