The Mountain and the Desert

“There’s gold in them hills. So don’t lose heart, give the day a chance to start.”
– Ron Sexsmith

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The Steens Mountain from the Alvord Desert, Oregon, October 2018. A 10 shot panorama, taken with the Nikon D800, stitched with Lightroom.

After a 7 hour drive from Portland, I got to the desert just after sundown. With no real visible light, I parked my car on the dry lake bed and pitched my tent. The sky was overcast but there was no wind, so I didn’t even bother trying to stake down my tent into the sun-baked ground (although, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to if I tried).

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My tent

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The sun-baked desert

Unfortunately, it didn’t stay wind free. At about 5am the winds began lifting the edge of my tent up and would’ve been blown across the desert like a giant tumbleweed if I wasn’t frantically sprawled out to hold my tent down. But it wasn’t all bad… It got me up in time to see this slice of light falling on the nearby hillsides as I was packing up my tent.

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The Steens Mountain, as seen from the Alvord Desert.

My car and the steens mountain

All packed up…

Alvord Desert showers

Desert showers

Alvord Desert in the morning light

Cracking the desert up with my dry sense of humor

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Supermoonar Eclipse in Montana

A little over a week ago, I spent some time out visiting my brother in Montana. I got to check out a bunch of awesome festivities at the school he works at, attend a powwow, and help take some photos at the cross country meet he organized. During that time, there was a supermoon, and a lunar eclipse happening. Pretty awesome stuff, but conditions weren’t super great for viewing, as it was cloudy out as the moon was rising, so we missed out on seeing the supermoon at it’s biggest… when it’s near the horizon. So, with that, I set up my cameras to take some timelapses as the moon came up and went through the eclipse.

Since I’ve been roadtripping, I didn’t have the gear with me that I really wanted to shoot the moon… a 300mm lens with a teleconverter, so I was stuck with just using what I had (aww, poor me…). Anyway, I did learn a few things through this process…

  • The lunar eclipse is hard to shoot and have a very balanced image with the bright part of the moon, and the eclipsed part of the moon properly exposed. So kudos to those who did it super well.
  • When shooting timelapse with a long lens, you have to shoot at a different frequency, as the motion of the moon (rotation of the earth) is more exaggerated due to the longer focal length.
  • And, contrary to milky way photos, you are probably better off shooting somewhere bright, like in the city, so as to match the moon’s brightness more, and create a more dynamic image (instead of just the moon on a black background, you could have the moon against a lit up city skyline).
  • You’ll probably want a super long focal length and a subject far away to exaggerate the size of the moon in comparison to the subject.

Anyway, those are some of my takeaway thoughts on this process. The final-ish product is below… Take a looksee and tell me what you think. (And hopefully, that’s the only time I ever use the word “looksee” on my blog.)

Also, consider watching on the vimeo site for the HD quality version.