NYC Encounters From a Tourist Perspective

After a number of years without having a “real” vacation, I splurged and took my sweetheart of nearly 30 years to New York City. We definitely did the tourist gig and went to many of the must-see city icons: 9-11 Memorial, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Times Square. Of course we also visited China Town and had lunch in neighboring Little Italy. The MTA Subway provided our transportation, but a looming union strike made it a bit worrisome. By the end of the trip, all was well. Our digs for the week was the Grand Hyatt, which sits between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. It was great being in the heart of the city!

Since this trip did not include several photo students as in the past, I chose not to carry my large professional camera gear. Instead, I opted for a small, light-weight digital rangefinder-style camera from Fujifilm….it was a silver and black X20. Very 1960s retro look! It took great shots (all those in this blog post) and looked so stylish for my tourist modus operandi.

For those of you who know my food photography, I apologize for not capturing the incredible seafood and lobster paella I had at my favorite Spanish tapas bar in Greenwich Village. I was too excited to dive in to the food to worry about photographs! Sorry!

Road Tripping in the Western States: Astro-Landscapes, Wall Drug, & Giant Prairie Dogs

Recently, after months of planning with colleagues (Dr. Tom Mitchell and Mr. Robert Breshears) from the photography program at the University of Central Missouri, myself and Idaho State University student John Lowry rendezvoused with our counter-parts at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Our primary objective was astro-landscape photography, which involves daytime images of the landscape that transition into night versions with star movement. All total we had seven faculty and students from both institutions.

During the last few days of May, we watched temps at the Badlands soar into the upper 90s, with nights dropping into the 50s. The temperature swings made camping an interesting adventure. Besides typical camp life and cold showers, we made numerous trips throughout the Badland region for making traditional photographs (with a mix of vernacular snapshots) of ubiquitous bison and prairie dogs. One afternoon included a trip to the infamous Wall Drug, where snapshots were made of tourists riding the giant jackalope!

After three days in the Badlands, we broke camp and struck out for the Black Hills, with stops at Keystone and Mount Rushmore. I found Rushmore disturbing with its extensive commercialization and grand architecture…hmm a potential critical theory paper in the making! Nothing like I experienced back in the 1970s and 1960s. Everything changes with time.

The last stop on our photo road trip was Devils Tower, Wyoming. Here I managed to craft an excellent astro-landscape photograph, which transitions from daylight into night with star trails above the Tower. The following day my Missouri compatriots departed to return to the Midwest, while John and I pushed westward. Photo opportunities presented themselves throughout Wyoming, including detailed shooting at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center (Japanese concentration camp) and Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks.

Road Tripping in the Arco Desert, Moon Craters and Atomic Venues

Last month I had the opportunity to slip away from the university for a day and went on a photo road trip with fellow photographer, John Lowry. Our adventure began well before sunrise as we headed out to the Snake River Plain and headed northwest into the Arco Desert. First stop in the bone-chilling weather was Atomic City, a quasi-ghost town not far from the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). This entire region is an interesting mix of ancient basaltic lava flows, atomic wastelands, and current nuclear testing facilities.

My planned experiments for the day centered on the vast landscape to be photographed through my super wide-angle Rokinon 14mm/f2.8 lens. The objective was to use a 1.2 ND filter attached to the backside of the lens, which would reduce my exposures by 4 f-stops. Ultimately, the plan called for windy conditions that would allow for cloud movement during the slow exposures. Alas, the wind didn’t cooperate and the clouds stood still. Bummer. But regardless of Mother Nature’s lack of support in this endeavor, we did have a great time and created a variety of images. Enjoy!

Starry Night on Christmas Eve in Arbon Valley

Just a quick post on astro-landscape photography of the Milky Way shot tonight on Christmas Eve. I found this beautiful spot just as I entered Arbon Valley, which is just over the mountain and through the woods from my house. For this shot I was facing east-southeast, towards Old Tom Mountain and that’s the highest snow covered peak in the first photo. I started shooting around 4:45pm just as the sun was setting and continued until 7pm. It wasn’t too bad until about 6:30pm when the temps dropped to 10 degrees F (-12C). The second shot was repositioned to include Scout Mountain, which is north of Old Tom.

Something new was encountered on this photo excursion, the sound of energy! I was setup under a telephone pole. Unfortunately, some of the wires are in the shot. Anyway, all was quiet sitting there in the dark along side the snow-covered road when all of a sudden I heard this deep throbbing sound. It kept getting louder and for awhile I was looking for a plane over head, but nothing showed up. Finally the sound was pronounced and sounded like it was right on top of me, which it actually was. I walked over to the utility pole and it was vibrating with the pulsing of the energy overhead through the wires. Eventually it died down, only to return later during the photo shoot. Shortly after the sound of electricity, coyotes started their singing in the valley below. Very strange and interesting encounter!

Christmas Eve in Arbon Valley. © Terry Ownby. Nikon D800, Rokinon 14mm/f2.8.

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Milky Way in the Arbon Valley. © Terry Ownby. Nikon D800, Rokinon 14mm/f2.8.

Starry Winter's night in Arbon Valley. © Terry Ownby. Nikon D800 Rokinon 14mm/f2.8

Starry Winter’s night in Arbon Valley. © Terry Ownby. Nikon D800 Rokinon 14mm/f2.8

Ready for a cold evening of astro-landscape photography. © Terry Ownby.

Ready for a cold evening of astro-landscape photography. © Terry Ownby.

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Set up looking east towards Old Tom Mountain. © Terry Ownby.

Testing New Lens: Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

Last week my new lens arrived from B&H Photo: a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8  super wide-angle. My primary use for this lens will be for astro-landscape photography, star-trails, and traditional landscapes here in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. I’ve been eying this lens for a number of years since my astrophotography mentor, Wilson, started using this sweet lens.

But, our weather here in the Northwest hasn’t been too cooperative, with below zero chill factors and overcast skies filled with snow, so I haven’t ventured into the mountains our out onto the Snake River Plain. Instead, I

stayed indoors and the other day ventured into my colleague’s visual communication experimental letterpress lab. I’ve always been fascinated with metal and wood type and she has some really neat large displays of type in her lab. Here’s a diptych shot under available light with my Nikon D800 with the Rokinon 14mm super wide-angle lens. Enjoy!

Letterpress type in ISU's Visual Communication Experimental Labe. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Letterpress type in ISU‘s Visual Communication Experimental Lab. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Star Trails at Chesterfield Reservoir Idaho

This first weekend of November, I ventured back up to the lake near the Chesterfield ghost town for some astrophotography. A storm front was beginning to move in from Seattle, so it was very windy and exceptionally cold. My sweetheart decided to join me on this outing and this was her first exposure to hours of patiently waiting for the stars to come out and images to be captured. What an initiation she endured!

In addition to shooting star trails (in the tradition of my friend and mentor, Wilson Hurst), I also tried photographing the Milky Way. Visibility of the stars to the east side of the lake and straight overhead was remarkably good. Unfortunately, I had not anticipated the glow of city lights to my north, which clearly is visible in my star trail shot. The light pollution came from Idaho Falls, which is about 65 miles (105 km) away.

Looking north at Chesterfield Reservoir. © 2013 Terry Ownby.  Nikon D800, 28mm @ f3.5, Bulb, ISO 100~400.

Looking north at Chesterfield Reservoir. © 2013 Terry Ownby.
Nikon D800, 28mm @ f3.5, Bulb, ISO 100~400.

Looking East at Chesterfield Reservoir, Idaho, with storm front moving in from Seattle. © 2013 Terry Ownby.  Nikon D800, 28mm @ f3.5, 30s, ISO 6400.

Looking East at Chesterfield Reservoir, Idaho, with storm front moving in from Seattle. © 2013 Terry Ownby.
Nikon D800, 28mm @ f3.5, 30s, ISO 6400.

Milky Way directly overhead. © 2013 Terry Ownby. Nikon D800, 28mm/f3.5, 30s, ISO 2000

Milky Way directly overhead. © 2013 Terry Ownby.
Nikon D800, 28mm/f3.5, 30s, ISO 2000

A toast to my friend, colleague, and mentor, Wilson Hurst. We discovered Big Sky Brewing while photographing stars in the Tall Grass Prairie in Kansas. Here's a toast to you, Wilson! © 2013 Terry Ownby. Nikon D70, 18-70mm.

A toast to my friend, colleague, and mentor, Wilson Hurst. We discovered Big Sky Brewing while photographing stars in the Tall Grass Prairie in Kansas. Here’s to you, Wilson! © 2013 Terry Ownby.
Nikon D70, 18-70mm.

Panoramics at a Mormon Ghost Town

This week my Photo Communication class and a few folks from my Advanced Photography class headed up into the Portneuf River Valley, about an hour southeast from the university, for some panoramic fieldwork. The valley was beautiful this time of year, situated between the Bannock and Portneuf mountain ranges at 5,446 feet (1,660m) elevation. Our fieldwork site was the Mormon ghost town of Chesterfield.

Situated along the Oregon Trail, Chesterfield began as a village settlement during the early 1880s. However, after the turn-of-the-century, this rural community began to suffer the effects of drought, harsh winters, and the construction of Union Pacific’s rail line a dozen miles south at Bancroft. By the late 1920s and into the ‘30s, Chesterfield continued to fail due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl affects throughout the Intermountain West.

With cameras and tripods in hand, the ISU photo students tackled their work with much enthusiasm! Dividing into small teams, they conducted photographic survey work of the old town site. Using a variety of photographic methodologies, they crafted images ranging from multiple-image panoramic landscape shots, to detailed close-up interior architectural views within abandoned structures still containing home-preserved jars of fruits and vegetables.

Late in the afternoon, we drove over to the Chesterfield Reservoir to scout future sites for nighttime astrophotography; specifically, star trails. Afterwards, we headed out of the valley to Lava Hot Springs, where we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Chuck Wagon restaurant. Below are some shots of my students engaged in their fieldwork at Chesterfield, along with a few of my interpretations of the experience.

Pano of Chesterfield using six vertically stitched images from my Nikon D800 with 1962 vintage 50mm/1.4 lens. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Pano of Chesterfield using six vertically stitched images from my Nikon D800 with 1962 vintage 50mm/1.4 lens. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View of the Portneuf Range in B&W. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View of the Portneuf Range in B&W. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Same view in color...can't make up my mind! © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Same view in color…can’t make up my mind! © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View towards Portneuf Range with dramatic skies. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View towards Portneuf Range with dramatic skies. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Click here to see more students in action!

Click here to see more students in action!

Early Autumn in the Intermountain West

Today (just a week after the Autumnal Equinox) we took a 20-mile scenic drive east of town that winds its way between Camelback Mountain and Chinese Peak (colloquially known as Chinks Peak, including Google Maps). Colors in the trees were incredible with plenty of red from the Maples and orange from Hawthorns and other smaller deciduous trees, scatter among the cedars and pines. What surprised me the most was seeing mountaintops already blanketed with snow! Just yesterday the nearby Scout Mountain (14 miles away), had its peak (about 8,700ft/2652m) covered in the white stuff! Here are a few shots from our afternoon outing. As a technical side note, I was shooting with my Nikon D800 with a 51-year old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 lens. It works great and has excellent qualities!

Color deciduous trees mixed with pines in the Pocatello Range. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Color deciduous trees mixed with pines in the Pocatello Range. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Midway between Camelback Mountain and Inkom. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Midway between Camelback Mountain and Inkom. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Looking east across wheat fields towards the Portneuf Range with snow-dusted peaks. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Looking east across wheat fields towards the Portneuf Range with snow-dusted peaks. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

 

 

Western Landscape in B&W

This past weekend marked the Fall Equinox, when the earth comes into close equilibrium between daylight and nighttime darkness. I thought it fitting to seek my personal balance by hiking once again up canyons of the City Creek Trails not far from my home. As usual, I backpacked my camera gear with the intent of shooting some Western landscapes. The weather was a bit unsettled and provided visual drama, which translated nicely into black and white imagery. Here’s a couple of views from that outing.

Rail fence along North Fork road. © 2013 Terry Ownby

Rail fence along North Fork road. © 2013 Terry Ownby

Looking east on North Fork road. © 2013 Terry Ownby.
Looking east on North Fork road. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Stopping the Time-Space Continuum

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Captured with Nikon D700, continuous frame at 5fps, shutter speed 1/8000s. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Above is an example from a recent photo shoot where I stopped time in fractional slices. I was using a Nikon D700 set to the Continuous High mode, which fires off 5 frames per second with a normal battery. This illustration uses a total of six images captured during one shooting burst.
On the other hand, the illustration below of star trails uses 22 separate photographs using an external intervalometer by Aputure. These were five minute exposures with 1/10second interval between shots.

Star Trails at Kearn Wildlife Area, near Whiteman AFB. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Star Trails at Kearn Wildlife Area, near Whiteman AFB. © 2013 Terry Ownby.