What the . . .???

Today, Tisen and I are on a mission.  I’ve often said I wanted to go to the training hills some morning when I wasn’t flying in order to shoot.  Today seems like the perfect day for that.

My plan is to arrive at the entrance to the training hills no later than 7:00AM so I have time to hike down the gravel road and get set up before sunrise.

As Tisen and I get on the highway, I have a clear view of the full moon.  It’s still too high to make an interesting shot, but I want to shoot it before it sets completely.

Now I’m racing the moon.  Each time we go up a hill, the moon disappears behind the mountains.  I watch it set over a ridge on 4 separate occasions during our drive, only to reappear moments later.

As we enter Trenton, the moon is close to the ridge and I’m sure I’m out of time.  But as I drive on down into the valley towards our destination, the moon rises up above the ridge, giving me more time.

Unfortunately, I pull over where there’s a bad angle.  I hop out of the van, grab the tripod from the back and run up the road about 100 feet or so where the angle is better.  I set up the tripod and run back to the van.  Fortunately, my 100-400mm lens with the 1.4x teleconverter is already on my camera because that’s the only way it fits in my backpack.  I run back to the tripod.  The moon is getting closer to the ridge line; it’s already sunk behind some of the topmost trees.

As I get into position, I realize I didn’t grab my glasses or loupe and I don’t have time to get them.  I turn on live view, enlarge the image, and stand back as far as my arms will let me to try to focus.

The moon keeps sinking rapidly.  I fire off as many shots as I can before it disappears.  When I play them back in my viewfinder, I think they look OK.

Much later, when I view my moonset shots on the big screen of my computer with my glasses on, I almost spit a mouthful of beer on my screen.  I didn’t realize my vision was quite that bad!

Besides not having focused properly, I also had too slow a shutter speed so I’m getting movement blur in the moon.  I also have had some movement in the lens.  I don’t recall it being that windy, but that’s a possibility.

This leads to the age old question:  you’ve blown the shot, now what do you do with it?  I probably should just delete these images, but I decide to see how far photo editing can go.  I used Aperture, Photomatix, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements (the majority are from the latter) to see just what can be done with a completely blown shot of the setting moon.

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Double Sunset

Between working on a self-portrait, working my way through another online photography workshop, and taking a break from from both by shooting outside, I’ve managed to spend nearly all of my weekend on photography.  I pick up my camera and start to tuck it back into my bag when I look out the window.  The sun is doing something amazing.  It’s setting in the East.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a directionally challenged friend.  It went roughly like this:

I said, “Look at the sunset!”

She said, “Oh wow!  It’s really beautiful.  I always thought that was the East.”

I replied, “What?”

She repeated, “I always though that was the East.”

Confused, I said, “The sun always sets in the West, so that has to be the West.”

She replied, “Oh, I know the sun always sets in the West, but that’s the East.”

At this point I gave up.

However, I am not confused.  The sun, of course, is setting in the West, but the light is bouncing around in inexplicable ways that make it look like it is also setting in the East.  I cannot explain why the clouds reflect the sun so brilliantly in the Eastern sky tonight, but it’s beautiful.

Frozen with my camera still in my hands, mid-way to being put away, I look at the camera and immediately head to the balcony, grabbing my tripod on the way.  The obstacles from the balcony quickly frustrate me.  I return inside, tripod over my shoulder, and head on up to the roof.

The double sunset motivates me to try to shoot a set of photos that I can stitch together into a panoramic image.  I start in the East and work my way around to the real sunset.  I end up with 12 overlapping photos.  I consider reshooting on the vertical, but the light is starting to change and do other interesting things.

A small wisp of clouds forms just over the ridge in the distance, turning brilliant red.  I decide not to risk missing the last of the light by reshooting the panoramic and shoot the changing light instead.

When I return inside and try to figure out how to stitch the photos, I learn that my Canon software is so outdated it won’t run on any of my computers anymore.  I do some googling to figure out I can use Photoshop Elements to stitch a panoramic and go to work.

Something has gone awry in my 12-photo series and one photo seems to be out of place.  It’s as if I changed focal length in one shot.  I don’t remember doing that, but maybe I bumped the lens and magically bumped it back.  In any case, I don’t much like the panoramic with 12 pictures.  I create one of the East and one of the West instead and am much happier with the results.

I still want that full frame camera, though.