Total Eclipse 2017

Like many of you, I travelled into the path of totality to view the August 2017 North American eclipse. We’ve all heard plenty about it, so I won’t go on and on. However, I’ve tried to describe the event and always seem to fall short. The pictures and videos that so many across the country have taken help, but their was more to the experience. The corona was more brilliant. The atmosphere was more gauzy. And, the feeling of awe simply cannot be conveyed.

I viewed the eclipse through a pair of regular eclipse glasses as well as some 20×60 binoculars fitted with filters.

I shot a timelapse with my Canon 6d and a 50mm lens and no filter. I shot photos with my Canon Rebel t3i and a 300mm lens with a solar filter, except during totality and a minute or so after (with live view, not looking through the viewfinder).

Here are the images I managed to capture.

Stages of 2017 total eclipse ©James Gardner shows various partial eclipse stages as well as corona, diamond ring and emerging crescent.This is a composite of various shots taken with the 300mm lens in sequence. The top row were shot with a solar filter and the bottom without.

This is the time lapse.

 

2017 total eclipse corona ©James GardnerHere is the corona. You can see a little chromatic aberration caused by the lens. Unlike some of the shots that include some direct light from the sun’s surface and therefore create flaring effects through the lens, the patterns of light seen here appeared to be inherent to the corona.

 

2017 total eclipse corona ©James GardnerThis one I’ve over exposed slightly to show detail on the outer edges of the corona.

 

2017 total eclipse corona, enhanced to show more detail ©James GardnerThis one I digitally enhanced to show a little more detail of the patterns in the corona. The quality of the image suffers for it, though.

 

2017 total eclipse diamond ring ©James GardnerHere is the “diamond ring” the suns surface peaking out is what creates this effect. It was so much brighter that even with maximum shutter and aperture stopped all the way down it was still blown out in a largish area. On the other hand using the solar filter at this stage would only show a tiny blip of surface with no corona or diamond ring. I think having an ND filter on hand for this shot would have improved it. But, that would be just another thing to be fiddling with while you missed the experience 🙂

 

2017 total eclipse emerging crescent ©James GardnerHere, you can see the faint ring and emerging crescent shape as the surface of the sun poked out more. Again, that crescent area was so bright that it is blown out. in reality the crescent at this stage was awfully thin.

 

2017 total eclipse solar viewer ©James GardnerThis one is exposed to show something like what was visible through eclipse viewing glasses.

 

2017 total eclipse valleys and mountains ©James GardnerHere I’ve cropped in on the last image I took before totality. If I had removed my filter prior to this shot it would have shown the “pearl necklace” effect. I did not. It was my first total eclipse. You can see how the light is interrupted by irregularities in the moons surface.

Despite the traffic and travel, the experience was completely worth it. If I manage to make it to another I think I’ll try to be prepared to capture more of the images I like, while having even more time to enjoy the event.

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Colorado Part 2: Subjects of Opportunity

I rarely find myself making plans for a photo shoot. In fact, the only times I really have were for magazine article and cover shoots for the BYU Universe, my own engagement photos and illustration reference shoots. Otherwise I’m usually taking photos of opportunity. I like to have my camera with me, and if I see something I like I can stop and get it. That of course is what all my photos from my Colorado cabin vacation were. I actually had some half baked plans about visiting certain places when the light was just right. However, I didn’t do any of those things. But I did carry my camera and shot what I liked.Night photo of the Milky Way among trees. By Jameson Gardner

I’ve been wanting to get some star photos for awhile now. But living in a light dome, as most of us do, It meant driving 3 or 4 hours to make it worth it. I hadn’t gotten to it when vacation time rolled around. So, my first subject of opportunity, once we got out of the light pollution and up to 10,000 feet, was the stars. My methods may have been a little unconventional, but then if you get the image you want, is there a right way?

I didn’t want to be maxing out my ISO and getting noisy or having my shutter open too long and have the stars turning into little lines. So I used my fastest lens and also used it on the lowest stop to get the most light. I think I ended up doing f1.8 with a 10 or 15 second exposure. That meant less noise and faster exposure, but also that my foreground elements wouldn’t be as sharp, and my field of view was limited. I did a bunch of expirementing, including using other lenses etc. Once I knew the view I wanted, I did two parallel columns of 4 shots and stitched them together manually (photoshop just doesn’t get it quite the way I want). This solved both the field of view problem and also when viewing the full image, the depth of field issue with the trees isn’t really an issue at all.

View of valley up Hall's Gulch, Colorado. By Jameson Gardner

This one (above) was also a panoramic stitch. We came across this view while on our way up Halls Gulch. I wanted better resolution on the details and less distortion than my 18-55mm was offering. so I went for the 50 again. I’m not real big on going crazy with processing. If you’ve read my other posts you know that I sometimes feel that editing way beyond what was really there can be dishonest and detract from the actual beauty of that scene or person as well as from the truly amazing moments that don’t require you to drag a bunch of sliders etc.

I do like to make sure that the values and colors are at least as good as they looked to my eye, though. It is amazing how the human eye can automatically adjust when focusing on a slightly different areas of what you are looking at. A camera can only output a single exposure (though, raw data is great because it records more and lets you be flexible in post) and that is often the culprit when you look at something and say “wow that looks great”, then take a picture and think “at least it did in real life” (composition is the other half of that coin). These clouds are a great example. In my image above, they look pretty much like they did when my eyes focused on them at the time. However, if I had exposed for that, the landscape would have been way off. So I got my best all-around exposure and then made adjustments after stitching.

The Artists Father by Jameson Gardner

Next up, my Father. I shot this while he was relaxing on the cabin porch. There isn’t a  whole lot to tell other than that the lighting was good, and my mom thinks he needs a new hat. But, the men out there know that it isn’t so easy to replace a good hat.

Alpine Outcropping by Jameson Gardner

This outcropping is another example of what I was saying before. I saw it and thought, “wow that is perfect.” but it didn’t come off quite the same until I was able to make some adjustments.

Elk Skull at Ruins of Miners Cabin. By Jameson Gardner

And finally, this skull. We found this near the crumbling ruins of an old cabin while hiking. I believe it belonged to an elk. Like my father this one didn’t take much. I just bent over took a photo and it came out nice 🙂 I hope this, like the others, really just captures a moment and a feeling. Stay tuned for my final installment of Colorado vacation photos, in which I will be sharing some artifacts.

Colorado Part 1: Rocky Mountain High

John Denver sang about a rocky mountain high. Of course there are always nitwits who hear the word “high” in a song from the 70’s and dismiss it as a drug thing. These days Colorado has plenty who are willing to hop on that train. But, anyone who’s bothered to spend a little time away from it all, and I don’t mean on a crowded beach or a ski resort where you use the wifi in the lodge, will understand a little of John was talking about—The wonder of the earth and sky. A place where the air really is clean (and thin) and you can see the clouds of stars that are up there, not just the few pinpricks you get back home.

I returned recently from a vacation in Colorado. We spent 12 days at 10 or 11 thousand feet in a log cabin that my grandparents built. It is in the mountains between Pitkin and Tincup and is the type of place where you get your water from a spring, your heat from a wood-stove and when you need to use the facilities you make a short trek to the outhouse.

I have enough photos from this trip that I’ll have to break it into a few parts. Part 1 will try to give a feel for the nature of the area.

View from upper bowl area looking up to ridge. By Jameson GardnerThey’re called the Rocky Mountains, but the rockiness becomes much more distinct the higher you get. The shot above is right around the timberline looking up to the ridge that tops the mountain on which the cabin is located. Below is a stream on the same mountain but at the cabin’s elevation.

Stream among trees in Rocky Mountains of Colorado. By Jameson Gardner

Cumberland Pass  12,00 Ft elevation. By Jameson Gardner

This one is from Cumberland Pass. My first photo in this post is taken looking up the other side of that ridge in the distance. Below is a 360 degree panoramic from on top of that ridge. I put the panoramic together from 25 full resolution portrait orientation shots. It might be overkill knowing that most people will only see it on this blog in web resolution and when iPhones can do a cute little panoramic with a lot less work. But, there is just something nice about knowing I could print it 8 ft long at 300 dpi without even scaling it up 🙂

360 degree panoramic of Cumberland pass area from adjacent ridge. By Jameson Gardner

Fox in the Rocky Mountains. By Jameson Gardner

Here is a little fox who came sneaking around sometimes to see if we had any leftover food. He was cautious, but not afraid. I had to make some squeaking noises just to get him to hold still and look at me while I snapped this.

In addition to hiking and exploring, I spent some time throwing my tomahawk. I’ve created and uploaded a little video of that for your viewing pleasure. Hope you enjoy, I also hope it makes people think twice about breaking into my house 🙂

Of course while at cumberland pass I also had to take a “selfie”, made possible only by the little fish eye attachment that screws onto my lens. Cute huh?

Jameson Gardner selfie at Cumberland Pass

Last are some pretty little alpine ponds fed by springs from, you guessed it, that ridge featured in all my other photos.

View looking over ponds at the treeline to vista beyond. By Jameson GardnerI think what John Denver is saying in that song is that reconnecting with the earth and the beauty that is out there gives you a kind of high that no chemical can. Just make sure to stay hydrated or you could end up with a splitting headache more akin to some kind of Rocky Mountain Hangover.

 

The Land of Enchantment

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment. My parents are from Los Alamos, so during my life, I’ve spent a lot of hours driving down to visit my grandparents in New Mexico. Honestly as a kid, I decided there were large swathes of that state that were rather less than enchanting. I think back then I had the idea that enchanting things had a lot of moss growing on them or were formerly inhabited by knights or trolls etc. I was kind of into medieval stuff more than Anasazi  or Pueblo stuff. Back then, the main appeal of Los Alamos was the lab’s connection to WWII and the atom bomb. I was happy to imagine soldiers in Willys Jeeps patrolling the canyons to make sure the Manhattan Project stayed secret. But beyond that, it seemed too dry and too sunny to be enchanting.

Then I grew up. I’m not sure if my capacity to recognize beauty increased or developed the same as my ability to appreciate the taste of bell peppers, or if I just happened to look outside in the morning instead of watching cartoons. I recently made another trip with my family to visit grandparents and I decided to take some photos trying to capture “The Land of Enchantment”.

Windmill at dawn with mist North of Espanola, New Mexico

This was taken off the highway North of Espanola when mist from the river was still clinging to the valley.

Pines in one of Los Alamos' canyons

These two are in a canyon between a couple of Los Alamos’ mesa fingers—also in the morning while the light was still low and sweet.

Plants surround path in canyon outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico

This is the valley South of Georgia O’keeffe’s Ghost Ranch home. I always wondered why she would move from New York to somewhere dry and kind of desolate. But I guess this is why, it makes you feel free. It’s also not always so desolate as it seems.

Valley across from Georgia O'keeffe's Ghost Ranch home.

Cliffs North of Georgia O'keeffe's Ghost Ranch home

The cliffs above are North of the Ghost Ranch.

I’ll admit this arch is not in New Mexico, it is South of Moab Utah. Still pretty cool—red rock and all, but definitely not as enchanting, is it? 🙂

Looking Glass Arch South of Moab Utah

First Snow, Canyon and Creek

We had the year’s first snow in the valley last week. Of course, as soon as I saw it was coming down, I had to grab my camera, jump in the car and head for a trail to hike. I picked Grove Creek because it is close and has both nice views and a running creek. Here’s what I came back with:

Grove Creek in Utah after first snow. By Jameson Gardner 2014.

I took these two of the creek on my way down. I tried a couple shots of the water on my way up, but I think I was impatient and the light was different because it was still snowing. So, I tried again later, this time bothering to set up my tripod and take a some care. As you might expect, the shots with a little care came out much better.

Grove Creek in Utah after first snow. By Jameson Gardner 2014.

This one below was taken on my way up the canyon and is actually stitched from about 15 shots. I had my 18-55 and could have just taken a wide angle, but I used the 50mm instead and the resulting 3 columns of 5 shots came together nicely and produced an image with pretty amazing resolution compared with what a single wide angle shot would have given me. Not that I really need it, I’ve shrunk it down to the same size as all my others for the blog 😉

path snow pano web

Along the way, I started thinking about how I didn’t get a lot of photos during leaf changing season, so I took one of this fallen oak leaf to make sure I didn’t miss representing the late fall flavor.

Oak leaf fallen among weeds after first snow. By Jameson Gardner 2014

Path down trail in Grove Creek Canyon after First Snow. By Jameson Gardner 2014

Whenever the wind blew, it pushed the low clouds from the valley right up the canyon. I wish I could have adequately captured the experience. It was like something from a fantasy novel. I’d be hiking along with crisp views of the canyon below, when suddenly a thick mass of writhing mist would barrel up the canyon twisting around rocks and trees. Then before I could get my lens cap off I was engulfed and couldn’t see past 10 ft in front of me. This happened several times. Both the path above and the tree below were taken when the wind in the valley lulled and the mist began to thin and dissipate. It usually cleared completely before the cycle started over.

Tree on slope in Grove Creek Canyon after First Snow. By Jameson Gardner 2014

I also tried to do a little time lapse while up there. I didn’t bring any sort of interval timer or controller with me, so I did it manually. I have to admit that 35 min of standing in the snow,counting to five and releasing the shutter over and over got a little dreary, but my best photos usually aren’t the ones I take out the back window in my pajamas.

Hope you enjoy.

Utah valley and powerplant after first snow 2014. By Jameson Gardner

Caerphilly Castle

Nothing says British history like castles. The word originally meant a fortress or stronghold, though Disney has managed to make in synonymous with a medievalish looking palace. That isn’t totally their fault, though. Nor is it totally inaccurate. Castles were definitely inhabited by rich people. But not because they liked a grand facade of wealth. Rather, they liked to be safe from their enemy’s soldiers. Caerphilly castle is just such an example. It was built by a nobleman who’s family was intent on subjugating and dominating the surrounding area. Having a castle meant he could be relatively safe from attack, while having a base from which to deploy his men and maintain control. Being safe from attack wasn’t just theoretical either. In 1294 the Welsh, unhappy about being taxed and repressed, rose up. Morgan ap Maredudd led a force that attacked Caerphilly. Half the town was burned, but they couldn’t take the castle—in which our nobleman Gilbert de Clare was cozy and safe.

Ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

In its day, Caerphilly castle was quite revolutionary. It had extra-fortified gatehouses on concentric defenses including artificial lakes and moats. It even had a semi-fortified island where the townspeople could come during a conflict. Just because it was a fortress didn’t mean the noble family shouldn’t live in style—so, their interior accommodations were rather lavish.

Hundreds of years of decay, shifting soil and possibly some intentional blasting during the English Civil War, while rendering it a little less grand, have given it the patina of age and authenticity that sparks your imagination. Yet, enough restoration has been done to guide your imagination in the right direction. Our visit was accompanied by cloud and rain—it seemed only appropriate.

Restored windows at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

The windows in this restored section of the castle show that accommodations for the noble family weren’t so bad as the shabby arrow loops on the exterior walls might suggest.

Outer defenses of Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Ivy growing on ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Crumbling stone ruins at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Duck near water defenses at Caerphilly Castle, Wales. By Jameson Gardner Art

Once upon a time, the water defenses may have repelled attackers. But they certainly aren’t repelling a variety of waterfowl.

 

Fashionable Bath

Our next stop was Bath. Having been there as a kid, the thing that stuck in my mind was steamy green water filled with treasure. As an adult, I am now also aware of a bunch of movies, based on Jane Austen novels in which, various characters travel to Bath accompanying so-and-so who needs a change of venue and who will be taking the waters to recuperate from such-and-such ailment. Of course, we rarely see anybody taking time to recuperate. We are much more likely to find them buying new dresses to attend this-and-that social events. That is because the dresses they brought, which were perfectly acceptable at thither-and-which country estate, will certainly not do in society at Bath.

Dress at Fashion Museum in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Though Ms. Austen was writing fiction, I get the impression she knew what she was about and Bath has always been a pretty fashionable place. The steamy green treasure of my youth was really a multitude of one, two and five pence coins tossed into the Roman Baths. What are the Roman Baths? Why, only the most fashionable place to be during Roman times—a large complex of pools and saunas built on natural hot-springs.

1800 years may have changed the peoples opinion of public bathing, but it certainly didn’t render the town any less fashionable. They still had the spring-water, they now had the Royal Crescent, and the Circus (both fashionably arced places to rent an apartment) and they still couldn’t wear that old dress they brought from the country.

Today, Bath still has a sort of Georgian-tourist-chic about it, which I think is why my more fashionable brother and his wife spent several days there, while my wife and I kept our visit to one (we had to save time for crumbly Welsh castles). We did manage to hit the fashion museum and find out which dresses “would do” in society from 1700 up through last year.

Chandelier at Assembly Rooms in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Fountain at Royal Cresent in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

Men's Jacket at fashion museum in Bath, UK. By Jameson Gardner

 

End note: We also sampled the spring water. I’d describe it as tasting like the periodic table of elements—the fact that the water was 70-something degrees Fahrenheit didn’t really help 🙂 Also, In case you are new and were wondering, I always take all my own photos.