March 2nd 2015,
Yesterday I worked as a volunteer photographing the Phoenix Zoo Party Safari Fundraiser. For years now I've been a regular visitor to the zoo taking pretty much all my wildlife images there. I figured since I'm so familiar with the place, I should offer my services to them.
To me the fundraiser was a great learning experience. Up until now I had no experience in event photography or working for a client. Usually I just do my own thing shooting whatever I like with zero pressure to preform. But in this case I wasn't taking pictures for myself. I had a responsibility to get the shots the Zoo needed. Images that highlight the event and what its all about.
In the end I think I did a good job and had some fun along the way. It felt good to use my talents to give back to the community. Plus everyone I met was super kind and helpful.
The only real difficult part was being around all that amazing looking free food. I was offered some snacks a few times but I respectfully refused. They were meant for the guests after all, not volunteers. Plus I was too busy working the event to stop and chow down.
March 6th to 7th 2015,
My weekend was filled with a ton of outdoors activities. First I visited Coon Bluff Recreation campsite and hung out with some really cool people. Overall I didn't take too many picture. However I was able to snag one really nice star trail image while we were off sitting by the campfire. To me, this one picture made the whole trip worth it.
Since I don't have much more to say about this trip, I figured I'd explain how to take a star trail picture. Of course this isn't the only way to take star trail images. Its just the way I was taught to do so.
Step 1: I scoped out a location while it was still daylight. When it comes to star pics, having an interesting foreground is just as important as capturing the stars. In this case, I decided to use my tent as the subject of the photo. I also wanted to capture the stars circling in the background. To shoot a photo like that, you have to point your camera right at the north star. That's the point all others starts rotate around. So I set up my tent in an location which would be directly under that star.
Step 2: Be aware of the weather conditions. The ideal weather for star pictures is a clear sky with a new moons. I hear cool weather also makes the stars more pronounced but I'm not too sure if that's true. I've only ever taken star picture in cold desert nights. In the case of this image above, it was a clear night but a few days after a full moon. So the lighting conditions were not ideal at all. The moon can cause light pollution which makes stars harder to see. Luckily I was able to work around this by taking my pictures as soon as the sun set 100% and before the moon rose over the horizon. That small 40 min window allowed me to see the stars clearly without the moon mucking up my shot.
Step 3: I set up my shoot just before the sun sets all the way. For star pictures you want to put your camera on a steady tripod, switch it to manual mode, crank up the ISO to about 800 to 1600, drop your F-stop aperture as low as possible, and set it for a slow shutter speed around 15 to 30 seconds. To get the star trails, I used a remote trigger that was set to continuously take pictures one after another nonstop. Those many images would be later combined into one on my computer back home. And finally, I focused my lens to infinity and turned off auto focus. That way when my camera automatically took a photo, it won't try to re-focus with every shot.
Step 4: I take test shots before turning on my remote trigger. That way I can adjust the composition or the camera setting to fine tune the image. This step can take a while. If it gets dark outside, I suggest using a headlamp. That way you're hands are free to work. Once I'm happy with the image, I turn on my remote and listen to the camera click away.
Step 5: Leave your camera alone. DO NOT TOUCH IT. Moving the camera will ruin the star trail. Even slight wind can be a headache which is why its important to invest in a decent tripod. For this image above, I resisted the urge to fiddle with the camera by leaving it all together. I sat down by the camp fire and enjoyed a few drinks. Usually I would sit by the camera and protect it. In this case I was fairly confident my camera would be safe on its own. After about an hour and a half I returned to the camera, stopped the remote, checked the images. Everything looked fine so I put it away and called it a night.
Step 6: I worked the images in a “digital darkroom”. There are many different post-processing methods and programs to use when making star trail images. What you use depends greatly on how you took your photos to begin with. In my case, I adjust the exposure and color in Adobe Lightroom 4, imported all those images to Adobe Photoshop 5, and then combined them into one image.
Taking star trail images can be a tricky process but hugely rewarding. For more in depth walk throughs, I suggest checking out the many free video tutorials on youtube.com. Its a great resource where you can get tips from the pros.
March 16th, 2015,
Last week I picked up some awesome shirts I ordered through Jayarr Customs Screenprint Service. They’re a full service design and screenprint shop based out of Tempe, AZ. I’m really impressed with the feel of the shirts and the print quality. They also have a huge selection of printable merchandise to choose from. Like hoodies, hats, bags, towels, jerseys, and so on. Definitely gonna contact Jayarr anytime I need some Lopez Photography Swag.
I plan to wear these shirts anytime I’m working my camera in public. Check out Jayarr Customs at http://jayarrcustoms.com/