Stellar Weekend

Blog, Photography

THE ASSIGNMENT

There are many reasons I love this hobby of mine.  On the top of that list is that there’s always something new to learn… something to explore.  Once a year, in September, we visit a little valley in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.  It’s a weekend filled with long walks and paddling around a pond during the day, and sitting around the bonfire and star gazing at night.  Oh, and of course, spending time with the family ~priceless!   I have been documenting this weekend for over 16 years and as my technical skills grow, so do my photo projects/challenges… from macro to light painting to family portraits.  So this year, with the help of some new gear, I wanted to take on universe.

This is what I learned about astro/night photography.  1) It really helps to be prepared.  Um, should have thought of this before I got to the land of no cell service.   With what little cell service there was, I was able to Google “how to photograph star trails,” and got some very basic settings.  2) Patience.  I’m not sure why I thought 4 minute exposure would be enough (it’s not) to capture good trails.  The above shot is 15 minutes.  I’m guessing 30 might have done it… but I was running out of patience, standing in the dark, just outside the woods, alone, where I am sure creepy things await (at least, that’s what was going through my head as the timer seemed to take forever). 3)  There’s a lot more light out there than you think.  I always thought this would be the perfect place to do night photography, the center of Pennsylvania, where there’s nothing around for miles.  Maybe that’s just what it feels like given the rustic setting, but in reality State College is only about 30 min to the North and Huntington, another college town, is just to the South.  Of course they are not metropolises by any stretch, but apparently big (and bright) enough for the camera to capture their light on the horizons. 4) Wait for the world to go to sleep.  This may have worked better had the cabin lights been turned off, the bonfire burned out… (neither of which I could see from where I stood, but the camera could) and the towns in the distance dimming some of their lights too. But, I’m not a night owl…

The Unexpected

Moving on from the star trails, when I turned around, I saw the cabin light had lit of row of trees.  It was like “light painting” without all the work.  So I took some shots based on a nighttime landscaping setting I found by DPS.   Satisfied after a quick check on the display, I packed it in for the night.  While enjoying the bonfire and reviewing my images more closely, I got one heck of a surprise! I actually captured the Milky Way (you know, like in those Nat Geo kind of shots).  I could see it looking straight up overhead; it just didn’t occur to me that it reached across the sky… and I never dreamed it would turn up in the shot.

So there you have it.  With a little guidance on the post-processing, I have my first ever shot of the Milky Way.  Okay, so maybe there are some way, way more amazing photographs of this amazing astronomical wonder out there, but there are none quite like this one… because this one is mine.

I can’t wait to see what next year’s stellar weekend brings,

High Noon

Blog, Photography

Not only is it when the heat of the day really starts to rise, it is said to be one of the most undesirable times of day to take photographs ~ High Noon.  If you photograph people, you get unattractive shadows under the eyes and nose.  If you photograph animals… well, they just know better than to even be out, and you’ll have a long wait.  But what do you do when that seems to be the only time of the day you ever have (I have) to get out with your camera?

For me, I’m working with what I have, in the time I have, and I’m loving it!  Maybe someday when the day job is not so demanding, I’ll have a little more flexibility to catch those “golden hours” more often, but since they are so fleeting and since I never be seem to be in that right place at just that right time, I make it work… for me.

Round-Barn

A recent road trip to central PA. A bright sunny day, but I was not going to get another chance to photograph this barn anytime soon. With a little help from Lightroom and Topaz Impressions, I’m able to use all that sunny goodness to my advantage.

kaleidoscope-2

Ok, so maybe not an original idea on how to capture such a photo (saw my daughter using her iPhone), but when I saw her results, out came my Note 5. Although, it turns out I have an app on my phone that does something very similar, this is so much better… my lens and a real kaleidoscope.

 

 

The kaleidoscope garden at the PSU Arboretum .

The kaleidoscope garden at the PSU Arboretum .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a little patch of shade in a very sunny arboretum was perfect spot to catch this family portrait. Thank you Nate & Greg for being our personal tour guides!

Banners-2-Edit

Still sunny & getting hotter, but there was so much color everywhere! Love these banners lining the street of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts on the campus Penn State Univ.

Church-in-the-valley

Late afternoon sun is still pretty strong… it is summer after all. Another shot with my Samsung Note 5 and a little help from Topaz Glow.

I see and hear the saying The best camera… is the one you have with you all the time, and it is so very true no matter what time of day it is.

Til next time,
Maria

Happy Fall

Photography

This weekend the family & I took a break from it all and headed to the mountains in Central, PA, to a little slice of heaven nestled somewhere in Rothrock State Park . . . a place we call Diamond Valley.   It’s not on a map and there is no cellphone or internet.  

And as much as we love this little get-a-way, it has also become known as the Dogs’ vacation.   It’s a place where our dogs can run, and run. . . and run . . . and swim, and roll, . . . and run .    

There is also no itinerary.  There are just  long walks in the woods,  canoeing around the pond, or searching for critters such as frogs, salamanders, and snakes (that parts not for me … although I am always nearby with my camera to document the find).. and I have heard there’s the occasional bear :-0   When the day is done and the body’s exhausted from all that fresh air and exercise, we all pull up a camp chair and keep warm by the bonfire, make smores, and look for shooting stars.  

It’s not glamorous and it’s quite frankly a lot of work and quite exhausting…but it is that weekend that, for this family, comes only once a year and we would not  trade for anything.

Truly a perfect first Fall weekend…