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archive for very cool

you so mighty

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Chapter 2: After our weekend of wining and dining, Jeremy and I drove to Yosemite National Park for a quick 3-day backpack to Cloud’s Rest – the best 360ยฐ view of the park I have ever seen. I’ll be back with a proper post shortly.

nevada fall in the distance

half dome

cloud’s rest benchmark


resident marmot of cloud’s rest

in camp

on nevada fall

lupine (grape soda?)

drive-by shooting of el capitan

half dome silhouette pre-dawn

shoot the moon

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

People often ask how I shoot things like lightning, meteor showers, the moon. To be honest, it took a lot of attempts and screw ups and reading for me to manage any level of competency and I’m *still* screwing up and I’m *still* learning. But after the recent supermoon event, I thought it might be helpful to document a little of my process. The moon, unlike lightning, is something you can plan for well in advance (thank you, SCIENCE!). And unlike meteor showers, you can know exactly where it is going to be. It’s also pretty big, which makes locating it less of a mystery.

ye olde supermoon rising

When I first took interest in photographing the moon, I would see it outside, grab my camera and take some photos. I usually got bupkis, or something close to it. My moon was a teeny white dot on a sea of black night sky, usually void of any details. The nice thing about the moon is that it makes a regular appearance in the sky and the great advantage of digital is that I could burn tons of crappy images and learn from my countless mistakes relatively quickly.

here is the setup i used on the supermoon

Right now, I’m gunning for a big moon, because I have never nailed that to my satisfaction. I don’t do enough serious telephoto photography to justify dropping $8,000+ on a single lens and I don’t know that I ever will. However, I do have the option to rent these very expensive, very wonderful, very powerful telephoto lenses from my friends at Pro Photo Rental in Boulder (they ship US and Canada). You can, of course, do remarkable work with landscape captures of the moon. My mentor and friend, Michael Frye, achieves this routinely (and beautifully). The lens I used was the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f4G ED VR, slapped onto my Nikon D3X (full frame, 24.5 MP). I wanted as many pixels as I could get to resolve detail on the surface of the moon. As it was, capturing the supermoon with the 500mm on my D3X yielded a moon that was only 2.3% the area of the image. Small, huh? Crop city.

the lens weighs over 8 pounds

i always swap out the foot

It’s important to note that just because you get a hold of a lens, like let’s say, a 500mm lens for a day, don’t expect that you’re going to know how to use it the first time you try it out. There’s an adjustment going from your typical 50mm to a 500mm (or even to a 300mm). It’s a different beast altogether. Practice well before “go time”. Take a look at your images and figure out what you’re doing. Do your homework. How many people have purchased new gear right before going on a big trip? I’ve done that. Missing a great shot because you didn’t figure out the technical details when you should have is sad. Been there.

I currently use the Really Right Stuff (RRS) system of quick-release clamps, L-plates, and lens feet. So I invested in the RRS lens feet for the Nikkor 200mm-400mm telephoto zoom and the Nikkor 500mm pictured above for the couple times a year that I do use those lenses. This ensures that the lenses are mounted rock solid to my tripod and ballhead (Acratech) setup. Speaking of tripods…

gitzo gt3531 series 3 carbon 6x tripod

**Jump for more butter**

wizard within wands

Friday, April 30th, 2010

We had some of our favorite people on the planet over to our house for a nice meal and some catching up last month. There are those individuals with whom you can never have enough time to talk about everything on your minds, everything going on in your lives, all of the jokes and stories. Somehow in conversation, the topic of Harry Potter came up which led to the discovery that our friend makes wands.

Makes what?


lovely, elegant wands

M showed me her website, Wizard Within Wands, and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to order two for my nephew and niece. Heck, I wanted to order one for myself. I have enormous admiration for people who make things with their hands, make things from scratch. So I asked if I could come down to Boulder one day to see how she makes the wands and to maybe take some pictures.

variety of handles and wood

and you thought ollivander was a master wandmaker…

It all started because her daughter (an avid Harry Potter fan) wanted – nay, needed – a wand. And M thought, “Well how hard can that be to make?” The first one was hand-carved, hand-sanded, and a little warped. As anyone who takes a hobby to the next step knows, that was just the beginning. M learned from her early mistakes and she began to acquire more knowledge, skills, and yes – beautiful, gorgeous machining tools. [I’m quite in love with their workshop.] I watched, mesmerized by the fluid motion with which she shaped the wand on the lathe as she explained how careful she is about sourcing sustainable wood and following green practices.

wands on display

each comes in its own crushed velvet bag

These wands are a hit with the local elementary school crowd. Each one is a work of art. I stood there admiring the wands and their details – from the beautiful wood grain to the shaping to the designs on the base of some handles. M has always been creative, crafty, handy, and resourceful. She told me the more she delved into making the wands, the more she learned that you can make almost anything. I love that about her.

A wand is a great way to harnesses a child’s imagination and creativity – or perhaps set them free. If you are looking for a beautifully hand-crafted gift to ignite the imagination of your favorite wizard, fairy, or other wand-bearing person (because adults want them too!!), then have a gander at Wizard Within Wands, a local Boulder business.

discover your inner wizard