Category

National Parks

Photographs of Southern California’s Spring Wildflowers — the 2017 Super Bloom

Carlsbad, Desert, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Wildflowers

During March and early April of this year I was chasing the wildflower bloom around the southernmost parts of California. The wildflower bloom was indeed spectacular and went on for weeks with vast displays of color. Was it a “super bloom”? I’m not sure. Somewhere during March the interwebs began using “super bloom” and the term stuck. I’ve seen wildflower blooms equally spectacular in the past, especially in the desert, so perhaps those past events were all “super blooms” as well. One huge difference this year is that social media and news outlets picked up on it and created crowds the like I have never seen before. I did much of my photographing midweek in order for me to find solitude in the flower fields — weekends were out of the question due to the sheer number of people. My outings took me to Anza Borrego Desert State Park (many times), Joshua Tree National Park, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Elsinore, Hemet, Santa Rosa Plateau, Mount Palomar, La Jolla, and my backyard of La Costa and Carlsbad. Below are 42 of my favorite spring wildflower images from the Super Bloom of 2017. They are presented in the order in which they were made, starting around March 6 and ending mid April. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Poppies, Elsinore

California Poppies, Elsinore
Image ID: 33115
Location: Elsinore, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33120
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33124
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33126
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33131
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33134
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33139
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33142
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33144
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33146
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate.
Image ID: 33151
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33154
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33161
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33164
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33168
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33173
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33179
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33184
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33186
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33188
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33192
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33193
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33198
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33200
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33208
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33213
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33220
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33227
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33229
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33231
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33234
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33237
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33238
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33240
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33242
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33243
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33244
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33246
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33249
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33252
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33257
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise
Image ID: 33264
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Blood Red Moon Madness! A Tetrad of Total Lunar Eclipses

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Joshua Tree

Lunar eclipse sequence, showing total eclipse (left) through full moon (right).  While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere.  As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether.  August 28, 2007, Earth Orbit, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, The Universe

Lunar eclipse sequence, showing total eclipse (left) through full moon (right). While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. August 28, 2007.
Image ID: 19392
Location: Earth Orbit, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, The Universe

During 2014 and 2015 we were treated to a tetrad (quartet) of total lunar eclipses. For landscape astrophotography buffs, this was a big deal: each six months (lunar cycles, to be more precise) we would be offered a chance to watch the full moon pass into the shadow of the Earth and, for a while, be illuminated only by the faint light skirting the edge of the Earth rather than the direct light of the sun which normally illuminates a full moon. This “edge light” — sunlight passing obliquely through the thin atmosphere of the Earth, scattering and bending as it does — casts a faint, reddish light upon the moon that lends to oft-heard phrase “blood red moon”. Indeed, while the moon is dim during a total lunar eclipse, it is typically red, or orange, in color due to this edge light. There are even moon-geeks that have developed a scale for the gradations of this eclipse light.

I set out to photograph each of the four eclipses that would occur: April 14/15 2014, October 8 2014, April 4 2015 and September 28 2015. To my surprise, I managed to get at least one good image of each of the eclipse events. I say “surprise” because I live along the coast of California, and our skies are usually overcast. If I were a betting man I would have wagered against my chances of having clear skies for all four eclipses. I got lucky.

Prior to each eclipse, I wanted to know what lens choice would give me the best composition for a “sequence image”, in which a collage of each phase of the eclipse could be seen as the moon arced through the sky over a terrestrial landscape. There are lots of eclipse calculators out there, and using them I was able to determine, for each eclipse, the time, angle of inclination and compass degree for the moments when the partial eclipse would begin and end. Knowing these angles, it was a pretty straightforward thing to figure out what lens to use on my 35mm camera. I chose a landscape composition, setup my camera on a tripod to repeated photograph the composition with the moon passing through, and then layered the resulting images so that the moon appeared in various stages of eclipse, and positions in the sky, while the landscape below remain fixed. While it is not rocket science, I do explain a little bit more about my thinking when I posted about the April 14 2015 Lunar Eclipse.

Lunar Eclipse, April 14 2014, Joshua Tree National Park (link, link)

I had grand plans to shoot the lunar eclipse as a sequence. I went to Joshua Tree National Park since it tends to have clearer skies than the coast near my home, and is less influenced by light pollution than some other local desert options such as Anza Borrego. I had several different compositions I wanted to depict, so I set up three different cameras in three different parts of Joshua Tree National Park, and let them record the eclipse throughout the night. I then assembled the sequences into composite images. I was pretty happy with each one, but the Arch Rock Lunar Eclipse photograph is my favorite, partly because it was the most difficult to set up and partly due to the fact I love trying to photograph this one iconic arch in as many ways a possible.

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29201

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Juniper and Standing Rock, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Juniper and Standing Rock, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29204

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29202
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Full lunar eclipse, blood red moon, with blue star Spica (right of moon) and planet Mars (top right), over Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15, 2014

Full lunar eclipse, blood red moon, with blue star Spica (right of moon) and planet Mars (top right), over Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15, 2014.
Image ID: 29205
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse, October 8 2014, Torrey Pines

For this eclipse I was unable to get away, and was forced to photograph it near the coast. The forecast was not good, with cloudy skies predicted. I had two ideas: Torrey Pines, and Scripps Pier, both locations I have photographed many times. I went out to the bluffs above Torrey Pines beach and checked out how the angles would work, knowing from the eclipse predictions where the moon would be passing and using that to line up the famous Broken Hill promontory below the moon’s path. I set up the camera to record all night long, and let it go. I had no idea what I would get, or whether it would even be clear enough to get any images. I also went down to Scripps Pier, but the conditions there were poor: the air was very wet, humid, and it felt like coastal fog was going to obscure the view, so I took no images there. When I finally retrieved my camera from Torrey Pines and processed the images, I was pleased to find I had recorded the entire eclipse and it was positioned right above Broken Hill as I had planned. Score one for high school geometry and the compass.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014, San Diego, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29412
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29411

Lunar Eclipse April 4, 2015, Joshua Tree National Park

By this time I was done with eclipse sequences depicting all the phases of the eclipse where they occurred in the night sky: I wanted to shoot something different! My friend Garry McCarthy and I decided to run up to Joshua Tree for this eclipse, primarily in an attempt to find clear skies. We also had two ideas for new images, both of which succeeded beyond my expectations. We would use Arch Rock as the focal point for these images, as we often have in the past. Garry had determined that during full eclipse the Milky Way would be positioned above Arch Rock, similar to how we usually photograph it but in this unusual case the blood moon itself would be providing the light on the arch (as opposed to light painting, as in most of these images of the Milky Way over Arch Rock). This meant we would have a chance to photograph the Milky Way during a full moon, which is normally an impossible proposition. A rare occurrence — a full eclipse in the Western sky and the fortunate location of the milky way low in the Eastern sky, all in synchony not long before dawn, made this image possible. The red color on the arch is natural in this case, as it is the light of the sun, passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, reflecting off the moon and reaching the arch. I don’t think I will have an opportunity to shoot exactly this combination of light at this location ever again.

I also placed a second camera behind the arch, pointed toward the West, to depict the moon passing through the sky. I chose to use exposures that would illustrate how the brightness of the moon wanes and waxes as it passes through the shadow of the Earth.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015
Image ID: 30713
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.  The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon.  Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth's thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch.  The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015. The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon. Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth’s thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch. The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time.
Image ID: 30717
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse September 27, 2015, San Diego

The final eclipse of the tetrad took me to Shelter Island. The moon was already partially eclipsed when it rose over the San Diego City Skyline. I managed to get one frame in which a jet plane, approaching to land at Lindberg Field, was silhouetted against the eclipsed moon itself.

Jet Airliner Silhouetted Against Supermoon Eclipse, at Moonrise over San Diego, September 27 2015

Jet Airliner Silhouetted Against Supermoon Eclipse, at Moonrise over San Diego, September 27 2015
Image ID: 31869

Supermoon Eclipse at Moonrise over San Diego, September 27 2015

Supermoon Eclipse at Moonrise over San Diego, September 27 2015
Image ID: 31874

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Perseid Meteor Shower over Joshua Tree National Park, August 2015

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Desert, Joshua Tree

Each August the Perseid meteor shower takes place. This year it peaked during a new moon, which offered prime conditions for seeing many meteors. I photographed the Perseid meteor shower in Joshua Tree National Park using two compositions/locations: with Arch Rock as one feature and with a single joshua tree as an alternative composition. [See the former posted a few days ago: Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park.] Note that a completely different set of meteors are depicted in each of these two images. In each case, I rotated the images about Polaris (the “north star”) so that they aligned correctly with respect to the constellation Perseus, the northern arm of the Milky Way and the rest of the night sky. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

(See two other Perseid meteor images: Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock and well as Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Half Dome.)

The Perseid meteor shower happens each year because the Earth is plowing through the trail of dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteors are named for the constellation Perseus in the northern sky, from which the meteors appear to radiate. When sand- and pea-sized debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle collide with our atmosphere at about 37 miles per second, the gases in our upper atmosphere are superheated and glow, often with colors. In the above image as well as in “Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock”, I found that most of the meteor tracks I recorded have a pronounced green color at the beginning of their trail, ending in white or yellow.

Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, 2015

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Desert, Joshua Tree

The Perseid meteor shower occurs each August, peaking on the evenings of August 12 and 13. It happens because the Earth is plowing through the trail of dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteors are named for the constellation Perseus in the northern sky, from which the meteors appear to radiate. When sand- and pea-sized debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle collide with our atmosphere at about 37 miles per second, the gases in our upper atmosphere are superheated and glow, often with colors. That’s what I wanted to photograph, over what has become one of my go-to places to make astrophotographs, Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. I photographed from about 10pm until 3am, seeing hundreds of meteors all over the night sky and capturing about 25 on my camera.

(See two other Perseid meteor images: Perseid Meteor Shower over Joshua Tree National Park and well as Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Half Dome.)

I was last photographing in JTNP with my buddy Garry in April, when we elected to photograph the total lunar eclipse over Arch Rock. We were alone then, it was great and easy to make good photographs. When I was at Arch Rock a few nights ago for the Perseid meteors, Arch Rock was crammed with people. Honestly I have never seen it so crowded, it was like Mesa Arch at dawn. A lot different than when we first photographed Arch Rock under the milky way 5-6 years ago and astrophotography was not as popular as it is now. A few nights ago, while the Perseids were flying overhead, many of the folks at the arch did not speak English. This made it impossible for everyone to be in sync, working together to keep the light pollution to a minimum and light the arch while balancing the star light. No problem, I just waited until everyone was done, and managed to sneak in a few exposures of the arch and milky way above it when noone was flashing a mag light, or red “night” lights or cylume sticks around. I think everyone photographing eventually got a good image of the arch and the milky way, but it took a while. As for recording the meteors — that’s the easy part: I just let my camera take photos of the north-eastern sky for hours (14mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 10 seconds) with a cable release locked down, and I kicked back in the bed of my truck and watched the show. (Note: the images are rotated in post to properly account for the rotation of the stars as the night goes by, so that they appear in their proper orientation relative to the milky way and Perseus in the final photo.)

What is depicted here is Arch Rock, with the northern arm of the Milky Way visible rising above to the left. The Andromeda galaxy is seen just above and to the left of the top of the arch, like a large star. The constellation Perseus, from which the meteors typically appear to emanate, is behind the arch and just rising above the horizon. What I found interesting is that virtually all of the meteors that I recorded have green coloration at the beginning of their tail, ending in white or light yellow. I don’t recall seeing that when I photographed the Perseid meteor shower over Half Dome in Yosemite a few years ago. OK, whatever. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Lunar Eclipse April 4 2015 from Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to watch the lunar eclipse of April 4, 2015. Photographically, I was not sure what I was going to do. I’ve made a series of lunar eclipse sequence images (lunar eclipse October 8, 2014 and April 14, 2014 version 2 version 3). While these images are visually appealing and challenging to make well, I really wanted to do something different for this eclipse, push the creative comfort zone so to speak. Fellow photographer Garry McCarthy and I mulled over some ideas on the drive up to Joshua Tree but after arriving I was still at a loss. I deliberately left my 500mm lens at home so I would not fall into the trap of trying to photograph closeups and sequences that way. In fact, I brought my fish eye lens to force myself to look for something different. We headed to the arch, a spot we often go to for night photography and the place at which Garry (with some help from me) originally planned and executed the “Milky Way Arch over Arch” photo, which we have subsequently re-photographed in many variations over the years. A little pondering, a pause for a Santana’s chicken burrito, some crawling around on the rocks looking for angles, and then thankfully I had finally had an idea for a different kind of sequence and a different angle on the arch. At least something to try.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015
Image ID: 30713
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I wanted a composition that told the story of the entire eclipse from start to end in one photograph, and in which the Joshua Tree NP setting was clearly evident. I recalled the exposure settings I had used during the last eclipse and realized that the variation of the moon’s light is too great to capture with just one exposure setting, but that could work to my advange in depicting the entire smooth path of the moon through the sky. I took a wild-ass-guess at the best aperture, shutter and ISO to use, set up my camera on a small tripod wedged into some rocks, turned on the intervalometer and let it go all night. The result is the following composite image, depicting the moon from about 1am until 6:30am, including the lunar eclipse from when it began at 3:15am until it set behind the rocks in the distance. The frame is “Arch Rock”, but in an unfamiliar angle. 890 individual images were taken to make this image. The stars and eclipsed moon are shown at about 5am, when the eclipse was at its “peak”, the moon being in its “blood red” phase and lit only by indirect, refracted light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. The color of the moon is indeed red in the full res version but its hard to make out on the web. The path of the moon is flared toward the top due to high altitude clouds which were passing by, but as the eclipse began the skies cleared and the moon’s path through the sky becomes smoother.

We also realized that during the eclipse, the milky way would become visible, something that is typically impossible to see during a full moon. In fact, the strength of the moonlight would gradually fade in such a way that we could wait for it to exactly match the milky way and starlight above, allowing us to photograph the arch lit by a perfect amount of moonlight, right at astronomical twilight when blue just begins to appear in the sky, without resorting to using any artificial light at all. The result was this image: Milky Way over Arch Rock during Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015. (Note: I think this is the highest quality panorama of this scene I’ve ever photographed, and I’ve practiced it many many times. It will print 4.5′ by 7′ with no interpolation.)

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.  The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon.  Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth's thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch.  The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015. The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon. Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth’s thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch. The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time.
Image ID: 30717
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

We were also treated to a 22° lunar halo an hour or so before the eclipse occurred. Often mistakenly called “lunar corona”, the lunar halo forms when moonlight refracts through hexagonal high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo. It formed a complete circle for about 45 minutes. We were freezing our asses off and, while this was a superb distraction, once it was gone we still had to wait and freeze until the eclipse began. Why is it still so cold in the high desert in April?

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park.  The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park. The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo.
Image ID: 30711
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Cheers and thanks for looking!

Sunset over the Garden of the Gods, Arches National Park, Utah

Arches, Utah

The sun sets over the Garden of the Gods in Arches National Park, Utah. Garry McCarthy and I were in Utah for a few days of hiking and night photography. While we shot the sunset from this scenic point we bumped into night photography great Brad Goldpaint, a nice guy and exceptional photographer who was teaching a night photography workshop. It was a fine sunset which we followed it up with some night photography of nearby Balanced Rock and Double Arch. If you like this please check out more photos from Arches National Park. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Sunset over Garden of the Gods, Arches National Park

Sunset over Garden of the Gods, Arches National Park
Image ID: 29261
Location: Garden of the Gods, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Anacapa Island, Aerial Photo, Channel Islands National Park, California

Aerial Photography, Channel Islands

This is Anacapa Island, viewed from the west with the California coastline visible in the distance. Anacapa Island is composed of three islets stretching about 6 miles long, located 11 miles off the coast. West Anacapa, seen here, is the highest of the three reaching an altitude of 930′ above the sea. Anacapa Island is part of California’s “Channel Islands” and is one of the five islands in Channel Islands National Park. This image was made during an aerial whale survey of the Channel Islands.

Anacapa Island, west end, aerial photo

Anacapa Island, west end, aerial photo
Image ID: 29400
Location: Anacapa Island, California, USA

Dusk on Vogelsang Peak, Yosemite National Park, California

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

The last time I stayed at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, my dad and I took the Rafferty Canyon trail and arrived about 3pm. For some reason I still had some energy so I took off and tried for the summit of Vogelsang Peak, arriving just shortly before sunset. The view was spectacular, an unobstructed view of much of the high country around Yosemite National Park. I got back to camp well after dinner but my dad had saved a plate of food for me, which I scarfed up. I crashed hard that night after covering about 13 miles. It was a good day. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Vogelsang Peak (11516') at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite's high country, Yosemite National Park, California

Vogelsang Peak (11516′) at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite’s high country.
Image ID: 23202
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500').  The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture, Yosemite National Park, California

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500′). The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture.
Image ID: 25751
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Townsley Lake and Cathedral Range at Sunrise, Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

One of my favorite lakes in the Sierra Nevada is Townsley Lake, located a bit above and not far from the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park. Every time I stay at Vogelsang I make sure to spend at least one sunrise at Townsley, where I have always had quiet solitude and wonderful morning light. Vogelsang means “bird song” in German, and while I made this photograph that was indeed all I could hear: the chirping of small birds and nothing else. Two other beautiful, typical, granite-basin Sierra Nevada lakes are very close to Townsley; Hanging Basket Lake (you can actually see a bit of light bouncing around the hanging valley containing Hanging Basket at the far right of this image, below the sunlit Cathedral Range), and a lake I like to call “Nameless Lake” about 1/2 mile above and to the left of this image. All three can be easily bagged in a half-day hike from Vogelsang High Sierra camp. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise.
Image ID: 25756
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA