Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abandoned Motel, Highway 62

This old motel on Highway 62 in 29 Palms appears to have been abandoned for years. It was probably very nice in it's prime. Very photogenic, if you enjoy this sort of desert decay! The skies were amazing (this was two weekends ago), so posting to Skywatch Friday. Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world!
Dead /dying cactus garden; Motel pool in the background.
Pink brick with old, gritty swamp coolers. Classic desert!

Long empty motel pool

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Night Sky Time-Lapse

Music credit:  "Moon Rocks", Talking Heads
So I set up my camera and tripod outside last night, prayed they would still be there in the morning and that the wind or a coyote wouldn't knock them over, and set up the camera to take one photo every 10 minutes. Each photo was a 3-minute exposure (other settings:  F 3.5, ISO 400, 17mm focal length). I pointed the camera south towards Joshua Tree, and let the camera click away from about 11 PM to 5:30 AM, resulting in about 38 photos. Pick a star in the YouTube clip and see if you can follow it!

As an add-on to this post, I got to thinking, what would it look like if I layered all 38 photos? Well, let's see... here's what a single photo looks like:
With 3-minute exposures, the stars lose their sharp focus and become oblong blobs because of their motion. Here's what it looks like if you layer all the photos on top of each other (remember - 10-minute interval between photos, hence the star movement looks like dashes).
Not the most beautiful of night skies, but an interesting effect! If you pick a single star and count the dashes, there should be about 38 (the number of photos  I layered in Photoshop, which totally crashed my computer!!). Linking to: 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Incredible Adventure...

So imagine it's 1955 and the government is giving away 5 acres of free desert land. Free!! All you have to do in return is build a very modest "structure" (box) to improve the property... minimum size something like 10' x 12'... and it's all yours! About the size of a Tuff Shed, maybe a little bigger! Heck, easy, right?
So you sign up for your free 5 acres (sight unseen), look on the map to try to figure out where in the heck 29 Palms is (you've never even heard of it), pack up the Chevy station wagon with all your camping gear, food, and water, and either start building the box yourself or try to find someone to do it for you.

You finally arrive at your location and it turns out your 5 acres is absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Think of remote, and now multiply that by 10! No water, no electricity... certainly no phones. All you can do is put your cots on the ground and you, your wife, maybe a couple of kids, maybe even the family dog, sleep under the beautiful desert sky (and hope the critters don't bother you!).
Almost no one else around for as far as the eye can see! And as you start to learn the ways of the desert, you find it grows on you and you want to spend more and more time there. You might even daydream at work about leaving the rat race behind and going out to the desert to live full-time. What an incredible adventure it must have been. Cars were so much less reliable back then... the trip from LA to 29 Palms must have been incredibly daunting, with frequent break-downs and very few people around to help! Oh, and no cell phones or air conditioning!
So next time you drive through the desert and you see these little boxes, especially common out in the 29 Palms and Wonder Valley area, let you mind start to wonder. What must it have been like? What an incredible adventure it must have been!!

Linking to Skywatch Friday. Check it out for great skies from around the world. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mom's 82nd!

We took Mom out to The Filling Station Cafe today in Old Town, Orange, CA. It's a great breakfast and lunch spot with a lot of character. I think it used to be a gas station or garage, and they have a lot of antique automobile paraphernalia. Very cool!
So, I know I'm not the most observant guy in the world... I'm sitting with my family and notice an overhead window with light streaming in and think it might make for an interesting photo. So I grab my cellphone and take this photo:
It's not till I get home and look at this photo that I even see the signs or realize what they say! Too funny!! I guess that's restaurant humor.  
Linking with   
Have a great week!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Remote Shutter Device

I was surprised last weekend when I set up for some night photography to learn that my remote shutter device for my old Canon Rebel DSLR didn't fit my Canon 5D... not even close! So I ordered a new one on Amazon and it came in the mail yesterday. I mainly use the remote for night photography when the camera is in "bulb" setting and I need to expose for over 30 seconds... To minimize camera shake you might otherwise introduce when pushing down to take a picture. So here's a second surprise... the remote shutter release I got in the mail yesterday is a lot more sophisticated than my old device! It's programmable for delay, exposure time, length of time between exposures, and total number of exposures. Cool, eh? So to try it out, I put my camera on a tripod in the backyard, set the delay so the first photo would be taken at about 8 PM (just after sunset), set the interval for about every 40 minutes, set the F stop on 14, ISO on 100, and exposure for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Why these settings, you ask? A totally wild-ass guess. Not a lot of science or logic behind it! I don't have any view from my back yard, so basically just pointed the camera up toward the sky. I used the side of the house (on the left) as a reference point. A boring photo, but I would at least know by the next day if the programmable remote was working!
8 PM
8:40 PM
9:20 PM
10 PM
So what did I learn? Well...
1. The sky color changes dramatically as clouds move in and out of the frame. And long exposure shots of moving clouds look crummy, because it's just a blur!
2. Two minute 15 second exposure (along with the other camera settings) was too short. I had to increase the exposure in Photoshop.  Next time, I may try a 5 minute exposure.
3. Be careful about leaving your camera outside all night long. I had a panic attack this morning until I saw my camera was still in the back yard right where I left it!
4. You can use Picasa or similar software to put your series of photos into a movie format.  I've never tried this before, but it's pretty easy and I like the way it turned out. Click on this link to check it out. Kind of a time-lapse photography effect.

So what's next?  Now that I know it works, I want to use my wide angle lens out in the desert for some big, open night skies. A series of day shots would be fun too. Stay tuned!!

Linking to Skywatch Friday. Click on the link to check out 
great skies from around the world!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Are We Crazy? Well, Define Crazy!

During the biggest heat wave of the year, we left Orange County to head out to the desert. I guess we're contrarians, because every sane person is desperately trying to figure out how to leave the desert for cooler locations. My Spam-ometer registered 103 yesterday, which isn't bad for this time of the year.
Good news / bad news:  The bad is we had high humidity, which makes the 103+ temps tough. But the good, wow, great skies. Thunderheads, lightning at night, just incredible skies. So what did we do? Well, some night photography. We set the alarm for 4 AM Saturday morning to watch the Perseid meteor shower, but there wasn't much to see. We took the cots out under the stars last night, and it was much better, with many meteor sightings. Impossible to photograph (at least for me), but fun to watch!
Some day photography to capture the fantastic skies...
That's a huge storm cell on the horizon, north of Joshua Tree
A drive into Joshua Tree National Park...
 I had a hard time keeping the Jeep on the road with these skies!!

Watched the Olympics... Lebron in the house!!
And had to get a little creative to stay cool. Not an Olympic pool, but...
I promised my wife I wouldn't take her picture.... and she believed me??

Hope your weekend was a good one, and hope you were able to find ways to stay cool and get out and take some photos!

Linking to and 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disneyland Fireworks

It's 15 minutes away, but I rarely go. I hear the fireworks every night @ 9:30 PM. It's part of our regular "soundtrack"... some people have trains, some church bells, some freeway noise, whatever. After a while you hardly notice. So when Lap Dog Knits was told to go out and take some night photographs for her photography class (fireworks were specifically mentioned as a good subject choice), I figured I was long overdue and tagged along. Since we were a little early, we walked through part of the "Downtown Disney" area that's brimming with shops, restaurants and tourists. I noticed the brightly colored Lego Store and thought it might make for a good iPhone shot.
One entire wall was covered with these plastic bins full of legos... how can a kid possibly resist??
There are a number of Disney characters built entirely out of Lego.
A little further along on our walk... one of Downtown Disneys many restaurants.
Around 9 PM, we figured we better get set up for our primary objective:  Fireworks.
Helped this one along a little by adding the fireworks to the original photo.
150mm focal length, f 8, 1 second exposure, ISO 200.
Here's my tribute to the Olympics. I took a circular fireworks shot and duplicated it and added colors to try to make something that vaguely resembles the olympic rings!
 Hope you're having a 
great week! Linking to Skywatch Friday. Click the link to check out great skies from around the world!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Random Act of Kindness

My sister over at Lap Dog Knits stopped by this morning and dropped off some flowers for my wife. No particular reason, she's just like that... likes to do nice things for people. Cool, eh? These are some kind of Sunflower variation, called Teddy Bear Sunflower. Looked like a photo opportunity to me!!  Thanks, Sis!
70-200mm lens @ 200mm, f4.5, 1/320sec, ISO 100, texture added

60mm macro lens, f2.8, 1/200sec, ISO 200
70-200mm lens @ 130mm, f2.8, 1/800sec, ISO 200
16-35 lens @ 35mm, remote flash fill, f16, 1/80sec, ISO 100
Linking to Skywatch Friday.
Also linking to 
Have a great weekend, and get out and take some photos!