Castle View JV Track

When asked for volunteers for this year’s Castle View JV Track season; I wanted to try out my new camera and learn how to take sports pictures so I did it; I was going to be at all the meets already.  I have never taken track pictures before and was excited for the challenge.  In summary, I found that taking pictures up close and personal is the style I like.

For archival purposes, here are the pictures that made it to the coach’s blog.  Going back and looking at them I feel I did get better technique and quality as the year progressed, so I’m happy with the experience and look forward to doing more in the future!

Northern Taurids Meteroites

This is the first time I’ve seen several Taurids due to the moon’s phase, and I was able to catch a couple. The Taurids occur as we pass through the debris path left by comet Encke. Last night I was observing mainly the Northern Taurids. The clouds weren’t too bad but a couple of times it did cloud over during the night. I didn’t see any of the big fireballs (like my partner Erin and her friend did a couple nights ago) but I may have captured one on the camera. The fireballs occur because this debris trail has many pebble sized meteors, rather than the typical grain sized dust that we see shooting stars form from. The shooters I saw were very slow moving, though, which was really cool! No tails on the ones I saw this morning.

Next up, Leonids peak next week, November 17th and 18th!!! Always one of the best showers of the year, and the moon will be just in a crescent so it should be worth staying up for! :stars:

Canon Digital EOS Rebel T2i. EF-S 10-22mm @ 10mm. F3.5. 8 seconds. 3200 ISO. I started off with 1600 but after seeing several shooters I realized I needed to absorb more light-the noise due to high ISO setting isn’t too bad.
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Photographing the Blood Red Super Moon

Man I just love the sound of that (the Blood Moon), kinda gothic and fitting around fall as Halloween approaches! During this orbit, the full eclipse was at a nice time where most folks could enjoy it; which is awesome because everyone should enjoy these celestial events, IMHO! My kids finally got to see it due to the early time. Here is the blood red super moon!

Entering eclipse

Assuming no cloud cover and available where I live, I always watch these eclipse events and usually pull the camera out and photograph them. In the recent past events I noted having trouble dialing in the setting for photographing the event, especially getting the blood red part in focus and alternatively the bright partial moon in focus. My goal this time, other than enjoying the entire event, was to dial in the settings and process so next time I can focus on some more creative elements of photography and not so much of the technical stuff.

Entering eclipse

Moon entering eclipse

Because I tend to forget stuff that I don’t use often, I figured I’d document my findings which would at least serve me for future events. As a bonus, hopefully this is helpful to others that want to photograph these type of events and maybe haven’t known how to do it. Finally, I’m hoping that someone with much more experience and skills than I could also chime in and provide some suggestions for my next attempt!

Exiting full eclipse

As the moon was starting to come out of full eclipse

A couple of quick tips I use whenever doing low-light photography:

Tripod. I most always use a tripod in low light. I configure such that I don’t have to bend over or position myself around the legs, simple ergonomics! I put the “V” on the legs spread so I’m in the middle of it (hmmm…); and extend the height so I don’t have to bend over or stand on my tip-toes. You need the tripod as you can’t hold the camera still enough to capture the low light and stay in focus.

Supermoon - long exposure

Blurry due to too long of exposure

Focus. This is still one of the harder parts for me because focusing all the way out with the camera lens is never going to give sharp focus. Focus depends on the temperature and other environmental factors. I tend to use auto-focus if I have a light source far away, and then I turn off auto-focus and fine tune from there using my eye in the viewfinder, and then taking pictures and reviewing the zoomed digital screen. Many times I don’t have a big enough bright source so it is just trial and error.

Image Stabilization. Turn that bad-boy off. There is a slight vibration when in use that will give you less focus. Image Stabilization isn’t needed for tripod work so it always gets turned off.

Remote trigger. This is a wired remote that allows me to trigger the shutter (and lock it, if doing time lapse) without touching the camera or tripod setup. I recommend these so you don’t have to touch the camera when taking the picture at all; which more often than not causes some blur in my photos. This has a really small adapter so do this in the light (cell phone flashlight apps are good for this).

Super moon total eclipse

Total blood moon eclipse

Now to the camera’s configuration. With low-light situations, especially a lunar eclipse which lacks light by definition, you want to capture as much light as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible. A problem is we’re on a moving object (yes, the earth is rotating) and so open exposure will result in blurred photos if open too long. My rule of thumb for stars (when shooting meteorites) is 8 seconds max. When shooting severe weather (clouds and such) in low light it is about 4 seconds max. For the moon in crisp focus since there is tremendous detail, I’m shooting for the smallest exposure possible. Below is a picture when the exposure is too long, notice the stars starting to trail and the moon being blurry.

I always shoot in Manual Mode. Note that this mode isn’t available only just DSLRs, my daughter’s trusty (and inexpensive) point and shoot Canon also has a manual mode and tripod mount and can take great low-light photos! There are three standard adjustments that all are interrelated that I work with (note these are my layman definitions, for more scientific and precise information, you should check out other sources):

a) Shutter speed governs how long is the shutter open and letting light in.
b) Aperture or f-stop is how big does the shutter open up, letting in more (or less) light while the shutter is open.
c) ISO is how fast the “film speed” is, which in DSLR terms how quickly the light is absorbed onto the photograph.
d) This is not configurable, but the lens speed is how much light your lens can let through quickly, or how expensive is your glass. Rule of thumb, the more expensive, the quicker!

Because I have too many hobbies I’m limited to what I can spend, so a fast (expensive) lens is not an option for me at this time, so I get a slow lens and have to work with the other configurable factors. A faster lens will let more light in by default allowing more optimal camera configurations.

Back to my goal, I need to let in as much light as possible in the shortest amount of time, so I typically go with the lowest f-stop setting my lens allows and I adjust the exposure and ISO.

Because I want to let the earth move as little as possible while the shutter is open, my goal is as fast shutter speed as possible.

Because I want crisp and sharp pictures, I need to balance with the lowest ISO setting possible (higher ISO absorbs more light which is great, but also absorbs noise “pixelating” your picture). Here is a pretty noisy photo taking with a very high ISO (3200), you can see the graininess in the moon. Are those dots around the moon stars or noise? I believe stars but noise looks basically the same!

Fully Eclipsed Super Moon

Supermoon fully eclipsed, a little grainy due to higher ISO

There are really two phases to the moon eclipse, when it is partially eclipsed with the sun’s reflected light and our shadow on the surface; and when it is fully eclipsed and very dim. As the moon is entering/exiting the eclipsed state, I often want to get the blood red part in focus but also the bright reflective part in focus too.

red moon

Starting to come out of full eclipse, slower shutter speed

half eclipsed

About half way eclipsed

I was able to dial it in last night such that I could make one adjustment and capture both of my goals as it was entering/exiting the eclipsed phase. I am using a Canon EOS T2i with Canon 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lens. My f-stop was 5.6 at 300mm and my ISO was mainly 800 or 1600. I would switch between 1/4 second for the blood red perspective and 1/1000 second (or even faster as it got less eclipsed) for the bright perspective. Simply switching the shutter speed back and forth I was able to capture both perspectives of the eclipse!

light bulb moon

Reminds me of a light bulb, faster shutter speed gathering both red and lit eclipsed moon

almost done with eclipse

Nearly done with the eclipse

What a fun night, and wonderful celestial event! Next up, October 8, 2015 the Draconids meteorite shower, and then October 21-22 is the Orionids! Can’t wait!

Best of davealex.com Lightning

I love lightning!

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

I love to look at the photos–this is a shortcut to my favorite posts so I don’t have to search.  As always, you can click on any image on this site for a much larger version.

A Selection of Photographs

I was going through some photos that needed processed and found some that I really liked, so I thought I’d share them.

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Fun bicolor smokey quartz

Fun bicolor smokey quartz

Mount Evans, downhill of Deadman's Curve above

Mount Evans, downhill of Deadman’s Curve above

Deer in the yard in Larkspur

Deer in the yard in Larkspur

Smokey Quartz - Bi-color double terminated crystal

Smokey Quartz – Bi-color double terminated crystal

 

Saccocoma tenella from the upper jurassic

Saccocoma tenella from the upper Jurassic

Elk herd near LarkspurElk herd near Larkspur

Larkspur Bobcat

My only bobcat sighting in the neighborhood

Garden of the gods owls

Garden of the gods owls

 

Grand Lake flowers and bee

Grand Lake flowers and bee

Grand Lake flowers

Grand Lake flowers

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose – Looks like a horse

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal with Aquamarine

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal with Aquamarine

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Colorado Amethyst

Colorado Amethyst

 

Colorado Lightning Composites

Lightning taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

2 Lightning stills merged: SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

These are some of the timelapse photos I took of lightning on Singing Hills Drive southeast of Parker on July 13, 2011.  I have stacked two images in each of these composites in Photoshop to show multiple CG bolts and stepped leaders per photograph.  The lightning was very intense and close and luckily I was in a clear slot in the clouds avoiding rain and getting a good 25 minutes of solid lightning; one about every 30 seconds or so.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

In Photoshop, I loaded the RAW images and then chose >Scripts >Loads Files into Stack.  From here I was able to choose the “Add Open Files” option and also checked the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option checkbox.  From the image that it created, all I needed to do is change the layering option to “Lighten” for each of the images.  I started with 4 or 5 images and chose the best two that fit together in each of these shots.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Would love to hear some of your Photoshop or photography techniques!  Leave comments if you can share anything cool that you do!  I appreciate it!

This next picture was across the street on September 2, 2012.  These were hitting everywhere around me so I had to put the tripod on the porch, put it on auto-pilot, and head inside.  I was able to get three in a row that made this amazing stacked series.  Looks like an outline of a woman–mother nature–Gaia to me.

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado - 3 Lightning stills stacked

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado – 3 Lightning stills stacked

Enjoy!

July 13, 2011 Parker Lightning Show

UPDATE: July 2012. I did some updates to WordPress and some older posts using an obsolete gallery program seems to not be working; so I am reposting these pictures, which are some of my favorites, a bit larger in resolution this time.  Seems appropriate day to repost nature’s fireworks since most 4th of July fireworks displays near here have been cancelled…

We were in a Severe Thunderstorm watch this afternoon but as I was chasing all the storms were dead before they got 30 miles east of the foothills, but there was heavy rain, slow moving storms and I knew after dark it would be a great lightning show. I triangulated a great place between a couple of storms and then drove to find a good overlook to the northern storm which was pumping out some great lightning. I had to finally leave once the bolts were a little too close for comfort, but I had a great 30-45 minute session without rain!

The bolts were pretty close so I was shooting on a tripod while safely in the car. The intensity of the bolts were incredible, so it took a little time to a) get the focus set and b) get the aperture setting adjusted–typically I just hit the lowest f-stop; these were all around f5, ISO 400, 42mm. I let it run at 10 second exposures and about every couple of minutes got a bolt!

The bolts were consistently across the valley (I should do a stack in Photoshop…hmmm) but once the storm on my west crept up I started getting rain and the bolts were coming my way so I decided to call it a night.

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Chase: June 7, 2012. Palmer Divide – Calhan Tornado

After yesterday’s strange and incredible lightning and hail storms today was shaping up to be another severe day.  The NWS ended up putting a Tornado Watch box over the NE corner of the state at 11:00 am; it was muggy due to the moisture from yesterday and more coming that was trapped in the Front Range area due to fronts, and an upper air disturbance was passing over giving some extra lift.  Shear and helicity all looked good for supercells and potential tornadoes.

I left about 2:00 and headed east on Hwy86 as my target was Kiowa, or more like Agate/Byers area.  I wanted to sit on the north side of the divide and chase whatever fired from there.  As soon as I was past Kiowa a promising cell started to form right around Byers.  On my way there two other cells started to form to the SW–although these didn’t show up on radar they were looking really nice; but I went for the maturing cell and stopped on Hwy 36 about 10 miles east of Byers.

NOTE:  Click on any picture for an enlarged and higher resolution version (they look better larger). 

Supercell of the day as I was approaching from Kiowa.

As I was watching the storm east of Byers, this hit me.

The cell was back building and went tornado warned near Byers.  I was expecting the cell to take off and I was in good position for that; but it ended up moving south.  I then jetted toward Deer Trail and eventually to Agate and south towards Hwy 86.  I figured I could get to Simla or even Ramah if the storm continued due South where the road network gets better.

Between Deer Trail and Agate the large flat rain free base produced rotation and a funnel cloud.  It also produced some amazing texture in the anvil/downdraft of the storm!

Great texture in the coulds with another cell to the south!

Funnel cloud formed SW of Agate

On my way south past Agate, the front end of the storm looked very suspicious and as I was driving it looked like a tornado could be occuring.  There was a tornado reported but I didn’t know this until afterwards; but I did take this shot of the scud.

Inflow/Outflow SW of Agate; I believe I saw a tornado around this time.

I traveled south to Hwy 86 (near where I started) and then west to the road to Simla.  I wanted to get to the road to Ramah, but there was no way without entering the core.  I traveled south until Simla and got some amazing, and I mean amazing, structure shots.  At this time there was a tornado down but I did not see anything from my vantage point.

SimlaSupercell-20130607-2

This was a monster…and the structure was incredible!

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Backhalf of this supercell; it was huge!

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Looking Southeast…

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This supercell was tornado warned at this time.

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Incredible structure. Could that have been the tornado the sirens were blaring for?

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Storm structure remains incredible as the storm heads towards Calhan.

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Repositioned to stay ahead of the supercell!

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Awesome structure, still!

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Tail cloud plus incredible vault! Love the blue veins!

I then headed SW of Simla and chased until near dark.  I saw a funnel which ended up being a the Calhan Tornado.  I was able to chase about a mile east of the core for a while until I decided I needed to book it south to beat the core going west on 94 into Colorado Springs.  I ended up a little slow (due to the fast developing cell on the west side of this beast) and got into some golf ball sized hail.  The cell that formed over NE Colorado Springs also put down some half dollar sized hail.

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Calhan tornado behind the rain!

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Calhan tornado June 7 2012

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Just after the tornado – I got back in front of the storm

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Great structure in this supercell all day!

 

Overall, great day.  Saw two tornadoes, a ghostly mothership, and had a fantastic chase!

Chase: 6+6=12 day, Northeastern Colorado Lightning

NOTE:  Click on any image for higher resolution…

Finally we had a severe setup in Colorado; this spring has been mediocre at best thus far on any weather, especially severe. There was a Tornado Watch box issued for the eastern portion of Colorado and it would end up being a big hail day; especially on the Palmer Divide and Denver! I chased with Adam Boggs and we stayed pretty much out of everything severe; except the lightning. This was probably in the top 2 for sure lightning days I’ve ever experienced! It was simply spectacular!

Today was a weird day; Adam and I ran into unique events all day; which made the chase a lot of fun! The first unlikely event was when we pulled off and watched the storms track north over the Grover/Briggsdale area. Off in the distance down the road I noticed a small black dot; which appeared to be coming at us fairly quickly. I got out my 300mm lens and scoped it out, it was a dog, and he was hauling!

Stray Dog running down the road to get to us.

I’m nearly sure the dog was a stray; he was definitely a bit sketchy but did hang around us the whole time we were there. There were a TON of chasers out and he barked at every car he saw. He wasn’t very happy when we left which kinda broke my heart; but there was no way I was bringing him home nor having him in the car…something wasn’t quite right with him.

While the dog was hanging out with us; we got this timelapse of the storms to our west. There was a lowering and some minor rotation which is apparent in the timelapse; the supercell was definitely rotating which is what I was trying to capture.  One of these storms put down a brief tornado; although we didn’t see anything.

We were in the middle of nowhere when we saw what appeared to be a Chase Tour group of vans.  As we neared they beckoned us to stop and they had an issue…they had locked their keys in their car.  They were looking for a coat hanger which I didn’t have; but I went to a nearby fence post and got them some barbed wire.  Right as I was back with the wire they got the door unlocked with a car antenna and duct tape.  What was hilarious was “Plan B”…yet something else you don’t see every chase!

Working on getting the keys out of the locked vehicle…

Plan B

A bit further we stopped and watched a flock of pelicans lazily soar through the winds and also saw a cute group of deer.  Again not the average chase experience being in the middle of nowhere !

Caught some deer right after leaving the Plan B scene!

Flock of Pelicans where ponds are rare!

We continued on to Hwy 14 and entered the Pawnee Buttes near New Raymer and watched the storms track by and the great sunset!  We also got some more great sunset shots south of here as we were trying to make our way back to get some lightning from the southern storms.  We saw crepuscular and anti-crepuscular rays which was fairly rare (they ran horizon to horizon) and also caught a rainbow with a gas well.  The unique stuff kept coming.

Lightning near Pawnee Buttes

Lightning near Pawnee Buttes

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

Gorgeous sunset in Eastern Colorado

Gorgeous sunset in Eastern Colorado

 

As we headed south around Orchard the lightning intensified and was hitting everywhere around us!  Another something you don’t see every chase is a group of local farmers checking out the storm with multiple lightning strikes hitting all around them and watching them scramble to their vehicles in a frenzy!  Been there, done that!

Not much further down the road, around Wiggins, we ran into a field that was on fire; likely started by lightning.  We didn’t call in any severe weather today; but we did report this fire to 911.  I ran across the street to the house there to warn them of the fire that was spreading very rapidly due to the high winds.  First time I’ve seen a field fire that close due to lightning.

The lightning was great; so we went down the road a little and took these lightning shots!  Wow!

NOTE:  If you have a flash-enabled browser then click on the FS button to watch these full screen and higher resolution!

Up close lightning near wiggins

Up close lightning near wiggins

Beautifully spiked lightning

Beautifully spiked lightning

Great lightning

Great lightning

My favorite lightning shot of the night...really close

My favorite lightning shot of the night…really close

An experiment as I entered Denver

An experiment as I entered Denver

I dropped Adam off in Hudson where he left his car and I drove home; at this time the lightning was spectacular in Denver/Aurora area.  I decided to drive through Aurora in case there was an opportunity to photograph in the Children’s Hospital garage (my work); but even though I would have gotten more amazing shots; I was getting tired an opted to enjoy nature’s light show on my drive home without that stop; these bolts were CLOSE on the drive!   This was again an amazing storm; in the tech center there was 2-3″ of hail standing on the ground.  By the time I was in Castle Rock the outlet mall looked like it got hit with a huge snow storm.  When I got home the storm passing through SW Denver metro was Tornado warned, at 12:30 at night!  That storm dissipated by the time it was in SE Aurora!  Really?  Definitely a bunch of odd, unique stuff; and likely the best lightning day I’ve ever had chasing!

Best part, the next day even looked better for severe storms!

April 26, 2012 – Sterling supercell and Peetz lightning

Time to shake the rust off the gear and mind; it’s storm season again!  Coordinated with Adam Boggs and chased with him today.  Always great to have his custom software aboard and his excellent navigation skills.  We knew today was going to be a slight risk and that the upper level trough was not necessarily going to be timed correctly with daytime heating max; and there appeared to be somewhat of a cap in place too; but still felt there could be something worth chasing.

We met in Aurora and headed east on I-70 and then US 36; our target was around Anton area…at least to wait and see how the day progressed.  The cells in our area had a difficult time with the cap and were eroding…we decided to hit the cell about 45 minute north forming around Sterling…southern Colorado looked nice but it was more than we wanted to drive given we wanted to be back in Boulder by 2am.  Driving north on 63 was uneventful until we were about 10 miles south of I-76, and then nice looking mothership supercell appeared!  We stopped and took some photos; Adam got some great timelapse with his new nifty camera showing this mothership spin like a top!

We decided after getting about 15 minutes of timelapse to follow the storm north as it was getting close to dusk and the lightning was awesome.  Of course, as our luck would have it; as soon as we found a nice perch and got the equipment set up (and the sunlight dim enough for several second exposures) the storm died and lost its lightning!  But there were other cells just west that were producing some nice lighting and we got a couple of shots.  I love the colors around dusk so we shot some photos and the headed west to get closer to the cells producing better lightning.

We ended up in the massive wind farm just west of Peetz on the Colorado/Nebraska border and had a bolt hit the tower next to us (that was scary); we ended up driving to get out of the rain and set up in between three cells and got some great lightning shots.  Most of mine were out of focus; still getting use to the new lens I bought (focus on infinity does not work when shooting lightning and each lens has its sweet spot approaching infinity for crisp focus).  But viewing the lightning in the middle of the massive wind turbines that went on past the horizon was excellent fun!

The drive home had some wicked lightning along I-76.  Down south near Lamar were a couple of tornadoes after dark; so it was a severe day in Colorado.  We got some small hail near Brush; but that was the extent of the hail we saw.

Overall, great fun chasing with Adam, and a great start to the 2012 season with a rotating mothership supercell and some fun lightning!

Supercell as we got close

Supercell as we got close

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning