Godspeed, John Glenn

In lieu of another astrophotography post today, I’ve put together this tribute to John Glenn, who passed yesterday afternoon. John Glenn was a national hero, certainly a hero to me. I remember watching his historical orbit of earth in 1962, from my elementary school classroom. Seemed like fiction at the time, but in the decades to follow, advancements in space travel continued to hold my interest. So much so, that when it was announced that Astronaut Glenn would travel on the Discovery space shuttle in 1998 (designated as mission STS-95), I made plans to travel to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch in person. Doing my diligent research, I learned of what I needed to do to get a pass to watch from the Kennedy Space Center’s Causeway, and proceeded to do my “homework”. I was later elated to receive a notice from NASA that I had been accepted to receive a pass for witnessing the launch from the Causeway! As launch neared, I received my authorization, Permit #6617, from NASA.

Arriving in Titusville, Florida a couple of days before the launch, my wife and I took a daylong tour of the Kennedy Space Center. We had a wonderful time viewing all the exhibits and learning about space travel.

On launch day, I packed my photo gear into our rental car and off we went. Traffic everywhere! People everywhere! But such an exhilarating rush! I remember getting to the Causeway site, grabbing my gear and running to grab a front row spot for the launch. Even though it would be several hours before launch, it was a wonderful day for me! As launch neared, and the countdown was broadcast over a loud speaker, I could feel “goosebumps” up and down my arms. With just a few minutes before launch, the launch countdown was halted … a small plane had wandered into the restricted airspace and NASA helicopters and planes were rushed in to re-direct it away. Fortunately, the plane was “coaxed” out of the airspace and the countdown soon resumed.

As the launch neared, the protective covering over the nose of the shuttle was retracted (sorry, can’t remember what it was called, but I understand it was to “vent” gases from the shuttle) and with only seconds to go, the shuttles 3 engines were started, with liftoff quickly following. As the shuttle began to rise from the launchpad, it was quickly enveloped by “tons of steam” (to keep the concrete from cracking, they flood the pad with gallons and gallons of water; when the engines start, the water is instantaneously turned into steam). Then, out of the cloud arose the shuttle. The top of the shuttle faced us, but only for a brief time … as the shuttle gained altitude, it began it’s trademarked “roll” as it established it’s course into our heavens.

I’ve often been asked what was the most memorable parts of the launch, to me. I have to say it was the sound of the launch. Since safety is the main issue with a launch, the crowds are kept at a long distance from the launch pad (I believe it was between 2 and 3 miles). With all the power it takes to send a spacecraft into space, one would expect a launch to be very loud. But it surprisingly was not so! At liftoff, there was virtually no noise, except for the crowds erupting in elation. Then, within a few seconds, the waters in front of us “danced about”, due to the tremendous vibrations caused by the launch, as well as feeling “thunder in the ground” below my feet. Then, a short time later you could begin to hear the sounds from the shuttles engines. But not a loud roar like one would expect. Instead, it was a “crackly” sound … somewhat like you would hear while sitting around a campfire, only a more constantly crackling.

Following the launch, I put together a poster-sized memory of the launch experience and it proudly hangs in my computer room. This morning, when I decided to post a tribute to John Glenn, I captured a few photographs of my launch experience. Here are a few images from my poster:

My cut-and-pasted together poster:

Tribute to John Glenn

My cherished Causeway Pass:

Tribute to John Glenn

Our Kennedy Space Center tour ticket:

Tribute to John Glenn

Following the launch, I printed a couple of images I had captured and forwarded them to the Astronaut’s office in Houston. It took about 3 months, but I received them back, signed by the astronauts.

Tribute to John Glenn

It was a sad day to hear of the passing of John Glenn. A true hero lost.

 

Posted in 2016, Blog, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Night Skies Over Park Avenue

Today’s post features some of the images captured late at night over the Park Avenue area of Arches National Park (Utah). In my previous post (“Little New York”) I featured some daytime images of the area, but today’s post has a little bit of everything in the night sky. Here are my favorites:

This first image is a stitched panorama that I captured by grabbing 6 images (slightly re-positioning the camera with each successive shot, then stitching together in Photoshop) of the night sky over Park Avenue. The many stars overhead are part of the Milky Way. Adding some interest were some low-level clouds:

Park Avenue at night

This next image is a long exposure shot of the overhead sky, working to capture a single image star trail (the white areas just above the rock wall is part of the Milky Way):

Park Avenue at night

When I captured this next image, everything was on my side! Not only was I able to capture the Milky Way over the rock wall, but the image contains 3 meteors (Leonid meteor shower that was in progress). Can you find all 3?

Park Avenue at night

If you couldn’t find all 3 meteors, I have marked each with a red oval:

Park Avenue at night

Today’s post was all about why I chose to drive out to Arches NP for some night time photography. Since learning the techniques, I have absolutely fallen in love with capturing our heavenly skies at night. My “bucket list” for night captures is growing by the day … hope to fulfill more of those list items, over the next few months :o)

In upcoming posts, I’ll share more night skies over and through the arches of Arches NP.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 6400 (all, except for the star trails image); ISO 3200 (star trail image only)
  • Aperture f/2.8 (all images)
  • Shutter:  Pano (22 secs.), Star Trails (20 minutes), Last 2 Images (20 secs.)

 

 

Posted in 2016, Astrophotography, Blog, National Park, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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“Little New York”

Today’s post is the first of two posts that feature Park Avenue, a very interesting area in Arches NP (Utah). Park Avenue is so-named because of it’s towering walls that surround a smooth rock canyon bottom, simulating the skyline in New York City. Arriving as the sun began to set in the western sky, the mountains in the La Sal range, that are located across the road from Park Avenue, and which had received fresh snow the night before, was lit with alpenglow on the mountain tops. What a glorious way for Park Avenue to greet me!

La Sal mountain range, with fresh snow and alpenglow

For a comparison, here is a similarly-composed image I captured from the same area, just a few days later:

jimbraswell-d5dmk3-8793-lasalmtnswithnoaplenglow

I think you will agree with me that timing is everything … the alpenglow image is much more alive!

And here is an image (taken a few days later, during daylight hours) of what Park Avenue, with it’s rock canyon and towering rock walls looks like during daytime:

Park Avenue

Out of the camera’s view (to both sides) the walls rise straight up and seem to reach the sky! By the way, on the day this last photo was taken, I had a wonderful, moderate wind from my back. This fit nicely as I released a small amount of my wife’s ashes at this location. As I tossed them gently into the air, the wind carried them over my head and out across the canyon … a wonderful sight that I now wish I had captured on my camera sensor. Karen and I had planned and scheduled this trip in October 2015, she now will awake every morning with this awesome sight in front of her!

In my next post, I’ll feature some of the night images captured in Park Avenue, including an unexpected surprise!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 28-135mm, f/4.5 – f/5.6 IS lens, and Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 400 and ISO 500
  • Aperture f/16
  • Shutter 1/15 sec. to 1/125 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2016, Blog, Landscape Photography, National Park, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Landscape Arch

After photographing the Pine Tree Arch and the lone pine tree (both featured in “Enter Devil’s Garden”), the night ended with a short hike to Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is located within Arches National Park (Utah) and is the longest arch of the over 2,000 cataloged arches there. It spans 306 feet, base to base. That’s 6 feet longer than a football field! Photographing the arch was a bit challenging. As of lately, there have been some large rocks/boulders falling around the arch, so the National Park Service has installed a fence that cannot be crossed to get closer to the arch. But heck, at 306 feet long, how close do you really need to be? The challenging part of capturing this arch is getting different angles or viewpoints of the arch. The “viewing area” is quite small and just doesn’t allow the freedom to re-position yourself, as you can with most other arches in the park. But even with limited views, Landscape Arch is a wonderful natural structure to photograph.

Using flashlights to “light paint” the arch and foreground, here is my favorite capture (unfortunately, clouds were really streaming in and “socking us in”, so no stars were visible):

Landscape Arch at night

In my next post, I’ll share some images of “little New York” in the park.  :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 200
  • Aperture f/2.8
  • Shutter 187 sec (just a tad over 3 minutes)

 

 

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Enter Devil’s Garden

In today’s post, I’m featuring some images captured in the Devil’s Garden area of Arches NP. Arriving at sunset, we were greeted with a wonderful landscape:

Entrance to Devil's Garden at sunset

After a brief stop to capture the amazing sight, we headed on into the Garden as the light faded and nighttime greeted us. After a short hike (0.5 mile), we reached our first destination, Pine Tree Arch. Pine Tree Arch is named for the Pine Tree that is on the far side of the arch. Looking through the arch, the pine tree can be seen in this image, illuminated by light painting we conducted on the foreground, arch and pine tree:

Pine Tree Arch at night

After shooting the arch for a little while, we hiked on and came upon a single pine tree in an opening on the landscape. In the distance, lights from Moab can be seen on the horizon:

Lone Pine Tree at night

Being a longer exposure (a little over 8 minutes), you can see the stars were being captured as short star trails. Also, you can see some of the clouds begin to roll into the area. Since they were pretty thin at the time, they add a nice ambience to image, but later were a real nuisance to trying to capture star points and trails.

In the next post, I’ll feature the grand Landscape Arch, which was farther on down the trail in Devil’s Garden.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 400 (all images)
  • Aperture f/2.8 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/15 sec (top image), 139 secs (middle image), and 482 secs (bottom image)

 

 

Posted in 2016, Astrophotography, Blog, Landscape Photography, National Park, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Balanced Rock at Night, Part 2

In Part 1 (“Balanced Rock at Night, Part 1”), I featured the transition from daylight to night skies. In today’s post, I feature a few of the images I captured late in the evening in the Balanced Rock area of Arches National Park. Once the sun sets and the night skies appear, you can find literally thousands of stars keeping an eye on Arches NP:

Star Points over Balanced Rock

Star Points over Balanced Rock

After shooting crisp star points for a while, I adjusted the settings on my camera and shot longer images, capturing a series of short star trails. The next image consists of blending together 10 images, each exposed for 3 minutes, to attain a nice star trail over Balanced Rock. Note the different colors of stars. The colors indicate the relative age of the stars, the “younger” stars burning a blue color while the “older”, dying ones burn a warmer color (yellow and white). Also, note the warm sky color at the bottom of this image, caused by the rising super moon:

Star Trails over Balanced Rock

Towards the end of the evening, the “super moon” (actually, it had hit it’s peak a day earlier, but still quite nice) arose behind the rocks at Balanced Rock. This next image was captured by combining the light of the moon, a long exposure, and light painting (via a small flashlight) the foreground. Kind of a spooky, Halloween-like look, isn’t it?

Super-moon at Balanced Rock

Shooting at night at Balanced Rock was a lot of fun. In the next post, I’ll feature some nighttime images captured at Pine Tree Arch.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 28mm-135mm, f/3.5-f/5.6 IS lens, with IS “Off” (all images except bottom image) and Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens (bottom image)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 100 (bottom image), ISO 200 (star trail image), ISO 6400 (top 2 images)
  • Aperture f/2.8 (bottom image) to f/5.6 (all other images)
  • Shutter 9.6 secs to 3 minutes

 

 

Posted in 2016, Astrophotography, Blog, Landscape Photography, National Park, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Balanced Rock at Night, Part 1

In Part 1 of this 2 part post, I’m featuring some of the early evening night images that I captured at Balanced Rock, in Arches NP (Utah). In the previous post (“A Bit Tipsy”), I featured a few images leading up to sunset. Once the sun fell below the western horizon, and the skies began to darken, the real fun began! Here are a few of the early night images I captured at Balanced Rock (remember, even though some look like it is daytime, all images are in the evening, with stars out and twinkling in the sky. The daytime appearance is due to long exposure times and light from the super moon):

In this first image, the stars are just beginning to show up in the western sky, a while after sunset. The very bright “dot” over the western horizon is a planet (not sure which one, but I believe it may have been Venus), which was visible well before sunset, but began to “set” after the sunset was finished:

Star Points and a setting planet at Balanced Rock

In the next image, I captured some short star trails early in the evening. Normally, I capture star trails a bit longer, then blend several images together to get even longer star trails (I will share one of those in Part 2):

Short-exposure Star Trails at Balanced Rock

As the evening progressed, lots of thin, low clouds began to stream across the night sky. Usually, clouds are really bad news for capturing the night skies, but I like the streaming look of these thin clouds, while still having crisp stars visible through the cloud cover:

Star points and streaming clouds at Balanced Rock

Star Points over Balanced Rock

Later in the evening, I moved closer to one of the towering rocks and shot some crisp, star points that surrounded this rock (name of rock unknown). As earlier, thin clouds still moved across the sky:

Star Points over Balanced Rock

And even a jet contrail from a passing jetliner wanted in the picture!

Star Points and a Jet Contrail at Balanced Rock

In Part 2, I’ll share some late night images I captured at Balanced Rock, including some star trails and the appearance of the “super moon” :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 28mm-135mm, f/3.5-f/5.6 IS lens (IS “Off”) and Rokinon 14mm, f/2.8 manual lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 100, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO 6400
  • Aperture f/2.8 to f/6.3
  • Shutter 9 secs to 181 secs

 

 

Posted in 2016, Astrophotography, Blog, National Park, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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A Bit Tipsy

On my first day inside Arches NP, I captured both daylight and nighttime images of a unique rock structure within the park, Balanced Rock. Here are some of my favorite daytime images (note the photographers in both photos, giving a bit of sense of scale to the size of Balanced Rock):

Balanced Rock as sunset nears

Balanced Rock as sunset nears

As the sun began to set, a beautiful sky developed, filled with passing clouds.

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Once the sun fell behind the horizon, I changed all the necessary camera settings and set up for a wonderful night of dark sky photography. My next post will feature some of the night images captured at Balance Rock.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Lens (to be added once I reach home and can pull up the data)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO (to be added once I reach home)
  • Aperture (to be added once I reach home)
  • Shutter (to be added once I reach home)

 

 

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Dead Horse Point

Just finished an exciting photography project in Utah … photographing some of the magnificent rock structures in Arches National Park, at night. And not just the arches … my trip there coincided with the recent, extra-large, “super moon”, as well as during the Leonids meteor shower. Over the next few posts, I’ll feature some of my favorite images I captured in and around Arches NP.

Today’s post features a wonderful little place just a few miles from Arches NP. I had been told that sunrises at Dead Horse Point State Park were well worth the drive out to the viewpoint. So before the night photography began, I made an early morning out to check it out. Here are a couple of images I captured:

Dead Horse Point at sunrise

The nice reflections in the Green River really caught my attention:

Dead Horse Point at sunrise

As I scanned the horizon, I found that the early-morning “super moon” was in the early morning sky:

Dead Horse Point at sunrise

Later in the day, I made my first photo trip inside Arches NP. I’ll begin sharing those images with my next post.  :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon 28mm-135mm, f/3.5-f/5.6 IS lens (with IS turned “Off”)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 640
  • Aperture f/16 to f/18
  • Shutter 1/30 sec. to 1/100 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2016, Blog, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Damselfly

On my last kayak outing, I found a Damselfly (species unknown) perched on a plant leaf and hanging over the water. Here are a couple of images I captured of this wonderful insect:

Damselfly

Damselfly

The damselfly differs from the dragonfly by the way it carries it’s wings. While the dragonfly lays it’s wings out to either side of it’s body, the damselfly lays it’s wings out over and behind it’s body. And it’s always interesting to see the damselfly splaying out it’s 4 wings, well above it’s body, as shown in the top photo.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark 2 body
  • Canon 100-400 mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens, shot at 400mm
  • Handheld from the kayak, with IS “On”
  • ISO 500
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/200 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2016, Blog, Insect Photography, Nature Photography, Photography from a kayak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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