Jackson Hole’s Great Solar Eclipse!

A Page of Resources and Links

August 21st will be the big day for this year’s Solar Eclipse—and Jackson Hole is directly in the totality path!  The Park Service is preparing for the event with extra staff, one way roads, camping and parking restrictions and so forth. Expect bumper to bumper traffic and all kinds of “issues”. Even with a few potential logistical hassles, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us. Luckily, I live in the path so I don’t have much invested in the eclipse. I don’t have to gamble at all! Others will have paid premium prices to be in Jackson Hole for the event—with no guarantee of clear skies. Heavy clouds, and even smoke from area fires, are always a possibility. Barring clouds or smoke, onlookers can expect some of the least polluted skies in the country. Plenty of areas of the country will be in the path of the Solar Eclipse but Jackson Hole will be a hot ticket! Remember—it will be August. Traditionally it is a very hot month in most parts of the US. Jackson Hole’s cool weather and clear skies make it a premier location. NOAA Map NOAA: Ready, Set, Eclipse: As the map indicates, JH is predicted to have a good chance of clear skies for the Eclipse in August (Historical Averages). Viewers originally planning on being in Oregon might rethink their choices. The “clear skies” gamble is much higher there. Continue reading "Jackson Hole’s Great Solar Eclipse!"

A quick note about photography gear for South Africa

A big frustration about long distance travel to exotic regions is always - what gear to bring. For our 2 month trip I bought a new larger pro backpack. The pack allowed me to bring all of my photography gear and laptop, card reader and a 4T external hard drive in the pack.

Kruger-3102-EditKruger-3102-Edit I brought 3 bodies - a full frame Canon 5D3, a crop sensor Canon 7D, and a full frame Sony A7R2 with a Metabones IV adapter to Canon lenses. I had at least 3 extra batteries and a charger for each body. I had a series of CF and SD memory cards with capacities from 16 gB (too small) to 128 gB each. I used all of the CF cards because of the number of shots with the 7D which uses only a CF card and had extra SD capacity. I brought a tripod for night shots and kept it in my checked luggage on the plane - never took it out of its carrying bag. I had both lens and sensor cleaning gear and ended up using only a blower for external lens dust.

I took many lenses and used only 3. I brought a 8mm fish-eye for fun, a 17-40mm wide-angle, a 100mm macro, and a 70-200 f/2.8, a 1.4x converter and used none of these lenses. I brought a series of ND and polarizing filters and used none of these. What I did use was a 24-70mm f/2.8 for wide shots on the 5D3, a 100-400mm for tele shots on the 7D, and a 28mm f/2 on the Sony for walking around in the cities. I never changed a single lens - even once (and never got dust on any sensor.) You could correctly argue that I didn't use the creative capacity of my lenses and other gear but I was consumed with finding and observing wildlife and really never had (or took?) the time to use the other gear. Over 85% of my shots were with the 100-400 on the 7D and about 15% split between the other two body/lens combinations. We were up every single morning between 5 and 5:30 and usually to bed by 9 PM and I was simply too tired for creative night shots - lazy, I guess.

Finally, a word about work flow while traveling. I tried to do nightly downloads to my laptop of all camera memory cards. All images were imported as copies with custom presets that did routine noise reduction, sharpening, added some clarity and vibrance, and adjusted the luminance for good dynamic range. Raw images were converted to DNG files on import and full-size previews were created. I added basic location key words on import. Most of this occurred while I was taking my evening shower. I tried, when possible, to do a quick scan through all of the day's images to make sure there were no systematic capture errors or camera malfunctions and added additional subject key words and geotaged their general location. When I had time I would optimize exposures on large groups of similar images using the synchronization tool in Lightroom. When we had wifi in the south of the country, I would try to do some first-round editing of a couple of images so I could post them to Facebook. There was no wifi or any internet access in Kruger or Mapungubwe so I didn't try to edit or crop images there.

I backed up my Lightroom catalog with every download to the laptop with an extra copy to a USB thumb drive always in my pocket. I did a full backup of the images and catalog to the external hard drive every couple of nights so that I had 3 copies of every image stored 3 places in the camper (in Kruger and Mapungubwe) or the car/B&B while in the south. This arrangement is far from perfect as all of the storage could have been stolen, damaged or even lost but I am happy to say that I didn't lose a single image from any of the 3 sites of storage.

Flying to South Africa I had my camera bag with me as carry-on in the airplane. Returning to the US I was forced to check the laptop in my luggage so I was not able to do any work during the 30+ hours to get home. To my great dismay, I was forced to check my entire camera bag in Doha, Qatar because of new TSA rules limiting electronics to nothing larger than a cell phone. I was able to place my external hard drive in my pocket and carry it during the flights home. Qatar Airlines did a wonderful job of double sealing the backpack, marking and hand-carrying it to the plane, and finally, hand-delivering it to me at US customs in Dallas.

Everything was covered for full-cost replacement by a rider on my home insurance for domestic and foreign travel. Piece of mind is a wonderful thing.

 

Your arrival in South Africa

You have planned for months and triple-checked your luggage and gear. Now you are ready to board your long flight, arrive in South Africa, and start your adventure. In part 2 of this multi-post theme I will discuss what to expect in the country and the travel to your first photography destination. Karoo-08111-EditKaroo-08111-Edit   Your arrival in South Africa will most likely be in either Johannesburg (north central region) or Cape Town (southwest coastal region) and the two could not be more different. Jo'burg is the heart of the SA business world and is a bustling large city with an unfortunate number of crime ridden areas. My advice is to get your vehicle and move out of the city quickly. Cape Town, on the other hand, is a beautiful destination city with wonderful beaches, restaurants, and diverse attractions. My advice is, if you have the time, spend a few days to adjust to the time change and enjoy the city on foot, by tour bus, or with Uber. I will have more about Cape Town and the south coast in a later post. Continue reading "Your arrival in South Africa"

Light Painting Without Lights

Lightroom and Photoshop to the Rescue!

Recently, the Park Service announced slight changes in the enforcement of a few rules already on the books. The change involved a restriction on the use of artificial lights to illuminate a subject for the purpose of photography. Flashlights are still allowed for safety and wayfinding. I posted a new page on the subject a week or so ago. Check out this page: Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park. Night Barn Original Capture I thought it might an interesting challenge to attempt to imitate a light painted shot. This is a screen grab of an image as it was captured on a Nikon D5 body and a Nikon 14-24mm lens. You can see the shooting data near the top corner: 20 seconds at F/2.8, with ISO 2500 at 18mm. The photo was taken during the “blue light” period, which can often appear too blue. I set the White Balance to a Custom setting of 6800k. (This is just a starting point for LR and not set in stone).  Of course, I was using a tripod. This page will show a lot of steps and tools that might spark some ideas of your own. I am using Lightroom CC 2015 (the current version) which contains a nice set of features that are not included in the boxed LR6 version. One of the recent additions is the Guided Transform tools, which work similarly to the Perspective Crop tool. It has been in Photoshop for quite a few revisions. Lightroom can do a lot of the heavy lifting on most images—and can even do all of the work on many images—but a project like this one still needs Photoshop. Continue reading "Light Painting Without Lights"

Planning an African photo safari

Africa - the dream of a lifetime but how do you plan for an extended photo safari? [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="944"]Kruger-3715-Edit African lion in Kruger National Park[/caption] Kruger-3715-EditBig cats of South Africa   I recently returned from a two month photo safari in South Africa, truly a trip of a lifetime and want to share many of the things I learned in the planning, execution, and photography of this adventure. This is part one of a multi-part series of posts about South Africa and its photographic treasures. Continue reading "Planning an African photo safari"

Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park

The Times They Are a Changin’!

How about borrowing a line from Bob Dylan’s 1964 title song?  The days of adding artificial light in Grand Teton National Park (and all National Parks for that matter) are coming to an end. As it turns out, the regulation has always been in GTNP’s rules—they just weren’t being enforced. In essence, it states that no artificial light can be used for night time photography. You can use a flashlight for navigation and safety, but not to light a subject. Photographers have been shining flashlights and popping strobes on trees, barns, footbridges, wagons and so forth for as long as I have been doing digital photography. I heard about “light painting” for a few years before I ever tried it. The concept is simple: during a long exposure, the photographer shines a light on a subject, usually slightly from the side. After that, it’s simply a matter of practice and finesse. March Snowman Over the years, I’ve asked if it was okay to use a flashlight in the Park, and have always been told it’s fine as long as I don’t shine the light on wildlife. I’ve had rangers come up while I was light painting, and each time said I was fine. One time, the Ranger chatted with me while I was light painting a snowman at one of the turnouts. He chuckled at the setup and drove off. As it turns out, I was probably breaking two regulations that night…more on that later. Continue reading "Artificial Light for Photography in Grand Teton National Park"

Radio Interview KID-AM

Thank you to Neal Larson of KID-AM and FM out of Idaho Falls for the radio interview earlier this week. We talked about the Idaho Total Eclipse Guide. This book is the only guide dedicated to Idaho for the total eclipse on August 21, 2017. Neal has hosted KID’s morning show for some time. He brings information, education, and entertainment to eastern Idaho. The morning show has the latest news and updates from around Idaho and across the country. Continue reading "Radio Interview KID-AM"

Fort Henry Rendezvous 2017

Photos from the 28th Annual Rendezvous held near Rexburg, ID.

Mountain Man Rendezvous are held all over the country, but head to the Northern Rockies if you want to be where it actually happened! Rifle Range If you were attend a Mountain Man Rendezvous, you’d find an eclectic mix of individuals that share an interest in American History. The Mountain Man era spanned from roughly 1825 to 1840—a blink of the eye in US History. Hardy trappers roamed the Rocky Mountain West in search of beaver pelts—trapping them in late fall and early winter to be used for fashionable European top hats. Lack of demand and depleted supplies of beavers resulted in the demise of the Mountain Man period. Continue reading "Fort Henry Rendezvous 2017"

Another Day at the Office!

Cowboys and Wranglers in Grand Teton National Park.

Three Cowboys and Mt. Moran Each year, Pinto Ranch moves a herd of cattle to one of the leased pastures north of Elk Ranch Flats. In preparation of tomorrow’s cattle drive down the highway, three cowboys saddled up near the historic old cabins and dude ranch. Another Day at the Office 1 I managed to get to the cowboys at about the time they were ready to ride West. I asked if I could take some photos. “Yep, no problem. We are headed that direction”.  I did my best to line up either the Grand or Mt. Moran, moving to my right at a pretty quick pace. From what I understand, their job for the morning was to move bison out of their pasture and then patch up the fences. Jon Holland, broke away from the other two cowboys and then all hell broke loose! Continue reading "Another Day at the Office!"

Beating the Summer Crowds in Grand Teton National Park:

Tips and Strategies to Help Make Your GTNP Visit More Enjoyable!

GTNPVisitation at Grand Teton National Park has been on the incline for several years—each one breaking the previous year’s totals. We are likely on a similar pace this year, and that’s not taking into consideration the extra visitors in August for the Solar Eclipse! Air travel is getting more and more difficult—and less fun. It is probably going to get worse with new restrictions on computers and eventually photo gear. Gasoline prices have remained relatively low and there is a renewed interest in the Parks in general. That’s great for our regional market. It’s great for the tour operators, merchants, galleries, restaurants, dude ranches, and activities! If you are stuck behind a bear jam or waiting to get through the entrance station, it’s not so great! Continue reading "Beating the Summer Crowds in Grand Teton National Park:"