time-based still digital photography

Sun and Stars over Arbon Valley

After days and nights of freezing fog and clouds, I finally caught a break for some astro-landscape photography. Once the sun fell behind the horizon, the Milky Way was incredible. Unfortunately, it was directly overhead and I was aiming to the south in order to capture the sun setting in Arbon Valley. In the distance there’s Bradley Mountain to the left and the Deep Creek Mountain range falling in the background.

Photographing at 6,000-feet (1,829 meters) on a clear January night gets cold….8oF (-13C)!!! But, it was a pleasant evening listening to hoot owls and coyotes. In addition to watching airplanes cross the sky, there were satellites and meteorites as well. It’s interesting the different colors appearing from various light sources that our eyes simply do not detect at night (our rods and cones lose their color vision in low light levels). I had to finally give up after four hours, as my equipment, including my 14mm super wide angle lens, was completely covered in frost and ice!

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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!

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cowboys, Stars, and Prairie Ghosts

Last week was our spring break, so a much needed road trip to the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas was taken. Wilson, my colleague and shooting partner, joined me for a few days in the Flint Hills, where we made Cottonwood Falls our base of operation. Specifically, we stayed at an eclectic little stone motel called the Millstream Resort Motel, overlooking the Cottonwood River.

Our timing for the trip was great, as we had clear skies and no snow storms until after we returned! I had recently read Jim Hoy’s (director of the Center for Great Plains Studies) book, Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales from the Tallgrass Prairie, so many of the small towns he mentioned became our venues for imaging making. Plus, after talking with a local gravedigger, we found other exciting places to visit, such as living ghost towns, abandoned farmsteads, octogenarian speedsters, and an idle gristmill from the 19th century.

In keeping with Hunter Neal’s classic rendition of the Kansas Food Pyramid (see drawing diagram below), I had to continue my quest of sampling biscuits and gravy at the local cafes. We also were introduced to a new culinary delight known as bierocks, at Dave’s Place on the edge of Strong City.

We managed to photograph star trails two nights at the Chase County State Lake, which is just south of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Clear, crisp nights with a half-moon made for some interesting shots. Wilson did manage to have frost develop on his lens while the temps dropped and we enjoyed a variety of ales. Moose Drool Brown Ale by Big Sky Brewing and Single-Wide IPA by Boulevard proved to be favorites!

As I continue my creative research in the Flint Hills, this trip allowed me to pursue my multimedia interests with digital still photography. Here, I’m exploring the visual dimensions coupled with ambient or natural audio. New photographic toys under investigation were my new Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 (35mm modern-day scioptic lens), Tascam DR-07MKII digital audio recorder, and a new lightweight carbon-fiber tripod by Induro (CT-214).

Here’s some images from the trip…enjoy!

Windmill near Chase County State Lake, Cottonwood, Kansas. © Terry Ownby.

Windmill near Chase County State Lake, Cottonwood, Kansas. © Terry Ownby.

Forgotten swings at the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse near Spring Hill Ranch in the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve, sway in during strong prairie winds on our recent visit. © Terry Ownby.

Forgotten swings at the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse near Spring Hill Ranch in the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve, sway in during strong prairie winds on our recent visit.To see animation, click on image. © Terry Ownby.

Breakfast at Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, KS. © Terry Ownby

Breakfast at Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, KS. © Terry Ownby

The only church in Bazaar, Kansas, heart of cattle grazing country in the Flint Hills. © Terry Ownby

The only church in Bazaar, Kansas, heart of cattle grazing country in the Flint Hills. © Terry Ownby

Star trails at the Chase County Fishing Lake, just west from Cottonwood Fall, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Star trails at the Chase County Fishing Lake, just west from Cottonwood Fall, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Doctor William B. Jones build this farmstead in 1878. © Terry Ownby

Doctor William B. Jones build this farmstead in 1878. © Terry Ownby

Sycamore trees along Cedar Creek, near Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Sycamore trees along Cedar Creek, near Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Strong City Rodeo champions from the past. Blonde-haired Marge Roberts was a trick rider at the rodeo known for her standing upright "Dive" on a speeding horse, during the 1950s. © Terry Ownby

Strong City Rodeo champions from the past. Blonde-haired Marge Roberts was a trick rider at the rodeo known for her standing upright “Dive” on a speeding horse, during the 1950s. © Terry Ownby

Abandoned grist mill along side the Cottonwood River in a living ghost town called Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Abandoned grist mill along side the Cottonwood River in a living ghost town called Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Hunter Neal's version of the food pyramid, after his photo expedition to the Kansas prairie. © Hunter Neal

Hunter Neal’s version of the food pyramid, after his photo expedition to the Kansas prairie. © Hunter Neal

Full Moon, Snow Orbs, Confederate Park, and Tex-Mex

After a few days of cabin fever brought on by a major snowstorm and several inches of the white stuff, Wilson and I headed north to the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site, just outside of Higginsville, Missouri. The evening was perfect for tracking down those elusive light orbs and we wondered how they would appear against and snowy backdrop under a full moon.

Crisp temperatures at 27oF (-2.7oC) and deep snow provided the perfect cooler for a couple of brewskies. Simply insert beer bottle into deep snow, wait about 15 minutes and enjoy a truly ice-cold refreshing beverage!

Hmm…sorry for getting side-tracked. Back to our scientific and creative endeavors! We did discover that EL Wire (aka electro-luminescent wire) did not function properly at these colder temperatures. Also, those nice colored light orbs we encountered earlier in the season are extremely hard to detect under a full moon and reflective snow cover. The only orbs to significantly manifest themselves were the white ones, and that was still hard to record, being white against white.

So, after several attempts to capture the elusive winter snow orbs and listening to a cacophony of geese, we back up and headed in to Higginsville and enjoyed a nice Tex-Mex supper at the La Carreta cantina located on the main drag of old downtown. Excellent way to spend a few hours in the dead of winter!

Snow Orbs located in Confederate Park under a full moon in the snow.

Snow Orbs located in Confederate Park under a full moon in the snow. © Terry Ownby

Confederate Park under a snowy full moon. © Terry Ownby

Confederate Park under a snowy full moon. © Terry Ownby

 

Stars, Meteors, and the Milky Way

So last night we broke our routine, instead of a Friday night photo shoot we did an impromptu trip to Pape Lake to watch the Geminid meteor shower, while photographing star trails.  With the temperature dipping to 34oF (1oC) and the lack of ambient moonlight (it was a New Moon), we could plainly see the immensity of the Milky Way, satellites, hundreds of aircraft moving along their flight paths.

On our eastern horizon we could easily see Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, Jupiter was in the midst of Taurus, and the star Capella was visible in the left of my viewfinder. Several meteors appeared, mostly coming from a northerly direction towards the south. One particular meteor put on a spectacular display as it incandesced blue-green with a huge orange tail that was trailing debris as it rocketed low across our northern horizon.

Below are two efforts from my evening’s night photography. First I targeted the eastern horizon from a portion of the dried lakeshore (due to the severe drought this past summer). The shoreline is clearly visible and serendipitously, Wilson wandered into the field between my camera and the wooded background to perform his light orb dance.

Eventually I changed to a southerly position next to Robert in order to show the reflections in Pape Lake and the glow of distant urban areas far in the background. I find it interesting how the manufactured glow of urban lights affects the white balance during digital shooting like this. I particularly enjoy the rich amber glow that gradates across the sky and its reflection into the still lake.  Although the wind was still, the duck and geese decoys anchored neared the shore gently moved during my long exposures, creating interesting ghost effects on the water’s surface.

Capella, Pleaides, Jupiter, and Taurus above Pape Lake, Concordi

Capella, Pleaides, Jupiter, and Taurus above Pape Lake, Concordia Missouri.

Looking South, Pape Lake, Concordia, MO.

Looking South, Pape Lake, Concordia, Missouri.

 

Fire Dance Under a Full Moon

Phil's Fire Dance

Fire Dance Under a Full Moon. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Light Orbs and Energy Plasma at Maple Leaf Lake. © 2012 Terry Ownby

Light Orbs and Energy Plasma at Maple Leaf Lake. © 2012 Terry Ownby

Light Orbs at Sunset. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Light Orbs at Sunset. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Nearly the end of another fall semester at the university, and the “three amigos”, aka “the three compadres” (Wilson, Tom, and myself), along with two other very good friends (Robert and Phil), headed off to a nearby lake on a recent Friday afternoon to enjoy a bit of global warming effects in early winter, some brewskis and sodas, and some evening performance art by Wilson and Phil.

Through the use of time-based digital still capture, we take light-energy performance art to an interesting level by incorporating the reflective quality of a still lake and the illumination of a full moon. Various forms of energy emitting devices are deployed during the performance, rendering images not typically encountered during a conventional photographic session of simply pressing the shutter release. Instead, through time-based digital still capture, levels of invisible or limited visible light energy are recorded, which often times reveal a rather surreal environment as we “break on through to the other side”—The Doors.

Prairie Spirit Orb

The weekend following Halloween found me trekking across the Flint Hills prairie. Staying out late on Saturday night at the Konza prairie proved rewarding, as my colleagues and I were treated to some tricks down in the hollow that sheltered the Hokanson farmstead, built over 130 years ago. Although Andrew Hokanson was Swedish, this author’s ancestry was Celtic from the British Isles. In Celtic mythology the Halloween or Samhain season was the ending of the harvest season and the turning into the dark season, which was when the sídhe doorways (fairy portals) were open to the Otherworld. It appears we had an Otherworldly performance for our cameras that night! Enjoy this magically captured performance art!

Spirit activity at the Hokanson Farmstead in the Konza prairie. © Terry Ownby 2012.

Fading Summer and Alice’s Rabbit Hole!

Clear skies and a warm afternoon were a perfect combination for getting off campus Friday and photographing in the nearby state park of Knob Noster. So my colleague and friend, Wilson Hurst, along with one of our dedicated UCM Photo students, Phil Williams (who helped me extensively on my vineyard book project), headed off to visually explore the temporal moments of the waning days of summer. This semester is slipping by incredibly fast, as in just a few days we’ll experience the autumnal equinox, the day my Celtic pagan ancestors celebrated the turning of the seasonal wheel back in east central England and Wales.

Our first encounter was a lovely grove of pine, possibly red pine. As we photographed in this beautiful setting, the drone of vintage propeller-driven fighter planes loomed overhead, as the flight of aircraft practiced aerial maneuvers for an upcoming air show at the nearby Air Force base. Immediately the combination of the vintage aural message from above, the heat and scent of the pine grove below, transported me mentally into the Spanish Civil War scene of Hemingway’s 1940 novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls; one of my favorite reads while attending grad school at Webster University in Saint Louis.

Next, our adventures took the three of us into the deciduous forest and peninsula extending out towards the lake. Here I encountered beautiful mushrooms and fungi on the forest floor hidden in its decomposing organic detritus. Fortunately, due to my thinking ahead, I switched lenses to my Nikkor 55mm Micro 2.8, for some extreme close-up portraits. This fantastic lens allowed me to focus on the fungi within less than 10” (0.25m). As I lay there on the moss and leaves, I expected to see at any moment little gnomes or faeries sitting on the brightly colored woodland thrones. Instead, suddenly my thoughts turned to Jefferson Airplane’s classic hit, White Rabbit with visualizations of Alice going down the rabbit hole into a surreal experience of the psychedelic Other World. This led me to experiment with temporal shifts in my image making by slowing down the shutter speed to around two seconds at f32 and moving the camera in varying directions and speed.

At one point the three of us rendezvoused next to the lake and ended up in a heady discussion on Sartre’s existentialism and Barthessemiological notions of myth and orders of signification. Had any of the rural locals overheard our philosophical discussions, they surely would have thought us all to be a bunch of crazy idiots babbling non-sense! C’est la vie,  such is life for the never ending visual academic!

Pine Toll, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Throne One, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Throne Two, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Alice’s Rabbit Vortex, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Falling Forrest I, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Falling Forest II, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Leaves Falling, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Summer Ice, © 2010, Terry Ownby