Star trails and Perseids

The Perseid meteor shower had its peak a few days ago (late August 12 / early August 13 in North America), and since I both live in an urban area (bright night skies) and had cloudy weather that night, missed out on what must have been a good show.

But as luck would have it, we own a small bit of land in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains — a dark sky sort of place — and I’d already planned on traveling down for the weekend to do some maintenance work.  So, I thought I should try to capture some lagging Perseids the night of the 13th / 14th — here’s my first shot from the series:

Crowded skies

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Bouquet of colors

We recently took a family trip to Montreal and Boston — so along with other things, it gave me a chance to put Olympus’ (relatively recent) “Live Composition” mode to work on Boston’s Independence Day fireworks.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, “Live Composite” is a feature of their OM-D cameras that allows you to do something like a long exposure — but without the usual risk that brings of overexposing parts of the image.  You set up your exposure settings, start “Live Comp,” then it only updates a part of the image if it has become brighter than before — so you wind up collecting sort of a “high water mark” for each pixel / color.

It’s easier to use than I’ve described it, as for the results, you can see for yourself:

Bouquet of colors

This was my first real experience with Live Composite — I’ll definitely be writing more about it in the coming weeks…

Scenes from a Colorado overflight

We recently did a bit of family travel — on our way from Denver to Phoenix, we were fortunate enough to have relatively clear skies and a late afternoon flight.  Perfect for some aerial twilight photography of various spots in Colorado and the four corners region of the U.S.

First up for you, Colorado Springs (top of frame) seen over the snow covered Rampart Reservoir, not far west of town.

Over the Rampart

Colorado Springs is one of those places I normally see while driving through (in this case, on I-25) — from that perspective, the mountains form a wall to the west of the city.  But from above, the fact that the mountains are essentially a (tall) rumpled plateau is much more evident.

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The Super Blood Moon

I don’t know why it took me so long to post it, but here’s my favorite among the shots I took of last Sunday’s supermoon lunar eclipse (near the deepest part of the eclipse):

The Super Blood Moon

We didn’t have time to run off anywhere for a unique local point of interest in the frame, I shot this straight off the deck over our garage.  Still, I like it — even with (maybe because of) the traces of clouds below the moon.  The clouds swept through just after the eclipse started, and I was afraid they’d ruin the whole show, but they moved out just in time.

Playing with Hyperlapse

About a week ago, Instagram announced the release of their new free Hyperlapse app for iOS. So since we were headed to Ohio to visit relatives over the Labor Day weekend, the timing was perfect for me to use some flights to experiment with this new software.

Mind you, Hyperlapse does wonderful things, but it has its limits. It has essentially no settings you can change — you tap on a button to start recording, tap again to stop, then decide how much you want the video sped up before it is saved. The particularly impressive part of this story is that the app makes use of your iOS device’s built-in solid state gyro to help smooth out the device’s motion while you recorded the video.

Here’s a hyperlapse video (10x speedup) of our departure from Denver International Airport:

For the most part, it looks pretty good to me — but you can see some artifacts in the clouds from point to point. The default speedup is 6x, so on the flight home from Cleveland, I used that setting for three hyperlapse videos I made during ascent. Here’s a montage of them:

Maybe this was just a fluke, but the app seemed to do a much better job with things like clouds in the second video. A function of the speedup setting, or just dumb luck? Time (and some more experiments) will tell…

Fireworks in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

This past weekend, our family was able to spend a few days (including July 4th) in Steamboat Springs — always a treat and source of plenty of photographic opportunities to boot.  This is the first time, though, that I had the opportunity to photograph the town’s fireworks.  So since there’s not a whole lot of information about the show online, I thought I should do a quick write-up to help future visiting photographers.

July bouquet

At least when we visited, the fireworks were shot off from three locations on the sides of Howelsen Hill — centered roughly on the ski jump, south and west of downtown. This means that many spots downtown will give you a partial view of the fireworks, but they seem to be fired to a low altitude — so unless you’ve got rooftop access, you’re likely to have an obstructed view. Continue reading