Vineyard Storm

Living on the gorgeous California Central Coast brings many blessings, especially for wine lovers who are fortunate enough to reside in the North County area. In recent years Paso Robles and the so-called Templeton Gap region have become renowned for their abundance, variety, and quality of superb wines. The area is a haven for budding and experienced winemakers alike from all over the world, amply demonstrated by the numerous award-winning wines produced. This winter has brought us some much-needed rain along with several severe storms – a photographer’s delight.

Clearing Storm Over Templeton Gap Wineries

Clearing Storm Over Templeton Gap Wineries

During an excursion along rural Highway 46 West in Paso Robles, I waited for a storm to clear over some vineyards near Peachy Canyon. The late afternoon cloud formations were stunning, and formed a large thick swath of dark puffy clouds over the grapevines. This image is an HDR photograph generated by combining multiple RAW files taken at different shutter speeds, then merged and tonemapped in Photomatix software. The composite image was further processed in Lightroom 4 and onOne Software’s Perfect Effects, a favorite of mine. Hope you enjoy viewing the image as much as I did experiencing the scene.

Light Painting on the Beach

Holy moly great balls of fire! In November, members of the San Luis Obispo (California) Camera Club were treated to another excellent night and low light photography workshop put on by Howard Ignatius and Pat Brown. An initial night photography shoot was done after the lecture at the very popular Spooner’s Cove beach in Montana de Oro State Park, located just south of the tiny sea hamlets of Los Osos and Morro Bay. Naturally we were all so excited by the shoot that when weather conditions and the tide once again became favorable a few nights later, an impromptu group of photographers met in the same location to practice taking shots of stars, star trails, the Milky Way, and faintly (but purposefully) lit objects/people on the beach.

Balls of Light, Meteors and Stars Over Spooner's Cove, Montana de Oro State Park, California

Dancing to the Heavens

Howard Ignatius is truly an expert night photographer who also excels at the fine art and science of light painting. In the above image, you can see Howard standing in the middle of the ball of light located in the lower left corner. He is also magically inside the second ball of light. Due to the long exposure time, Howard was able to move around the beach, positioning himself like a whirling dervish! He was very gracious in assisting all of us in light painting the rocks, beach, and other objects. But the dancing balls of light were simply spectacular!

He was graciously assisted by Jerry Kirkhart for both shoots, who had to endure many togs shouting and screaming while trying to figure out proper camera settings for ISO, aperture, shutter speeds, and more. Do we use long exposure noise reduction or not? How about high ISO noise reduction? What color temperature (white balance setting) do we use in degrees Kelvin? Mirror-lockup mode? What about exposure delay mode? Could the tourists with the dogs please get the hell out of our way? After all, when a large group of enthusiastic photographers are present, the beaches naturally belong to them, just like surfers in their sacred spots. And so on. Poor Jerry and Howard. What was that you told us to set on our cameras? I couldn’t hear you over the pounding surf. And could someone please remember to turn off their annoying red headlamp? It is shining into my lens! Rats. One more ruined shot courtesy of joyful photographers.

Pup Tent, Stars, and Milky Way, Spooner's Cove, Montana de Oro State Park, California

A Night to Remember

What a ball (of light) we literally had. These images were taken with my Nikon D800 equipped with a 24mm lens. They are both comprised of single RAW shots processed entirely in Lightroom 4. The first image at the top (of the dancing balls) was shot at ISO 3200 at f4 for about one minute (using a tripod and cable release, of course). At this length of time, the star points have begun turning into star trails, due to the rotation of the earth. Some ambient light contamination can be seen in the middle right side above the rock. This is from the city of Morro Bay. There were also meteor showers present that evening, which you can see in the middle right of the image. It looks as if they are dive bombing into the rocks on the beach. The image directly above of the lit pup tent was shot at ISO 1600 at f3.5 for 30 seconds. The Milky Way is highly visible in this image. I took many photos both evenings and will post more as I process them. Yep, I am very behind. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy viewing these as much as I did taking the images. I have much, much more to learn about night photography and am excited at all the creative possibilities!

If you are interested in learning how to photograph the night sky, I highly recommend the wonderful eBook Shooting Stars: How to Photograph the Moon and Stars with your DSLR by Phil Hart, winner of the 2012 David Malin Astrophotography Award. Shooting Stars, a 129-page eBook with a printable field guide, will show you how to shoot your own stunning images of the moon and the stars with just your digital SLR and a tripod.

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