How to Capture Lightning

How to Capture Lightning

Photo: Lightning and a starburst light up Lake Michigan and the Frankfort Lighthouse
Lightning and a starburst light up Lake Michigan and the Frankfort Lighthouse
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It’s storming here, which has inquiring minds wanting to know how to photograph lightning. There are a few ways, including the use of a lightning trigger, but if you don’t want to invest in specialty equipment, blocking ambient light is your best bet. You’ll need a stable place for your camera, like a tripod, and some patience. If you don’t have an ND filter, set your camera with the smallest aperture you can (like f/22), the iso as low as it will go (like 100), and then meter the scene so that you can get the longest shutter speed possible without over-exposing. This will depend entirely on how much light is available. Then simply trigger the camera repeatedly during the lightning event until you capture a photo you like.

Another option is to attach an ND filter to the front of your lens. The stronger the filter, the longer the exposure you can get. This will also allow you to play around more with the depth of field you prefer. You may be able to do 1-minute or longer exposures, increasing the chance that you’ll get multiple strikes in an image. Even the use of a polarizing filter will block out some ambient light, giving you a bit more exposure time than just using a small (f/22) aperture alone.

The above image was shot at f/22, 4-sec, iso 3200, with no filters. The light was fading, so I could have opened my aperture and dropped my iso to get a properly exposed image with a 4-second shutter speed, but I wanted the starburst over the lighthouse. I shot image after image, until I captured this one.

Be safe, and have fun! Have questions? Join the lightning photography conversation on Facebook 🙂

Northern Lights and Quiet Nights at the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Northern Lights and Quiet Nights at the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Above, stars millions of miles away burn through the clear night sky, and the Northern Lights dance wildly. Considering the energy that creates these events, it should be chaotic and loud. But, down low a hushed rumble growls as a freighter trundles off in the still waters of the Manitou Passage. A gentle breeze plays with the grass atop the windswept sand dunes. The alarming cry of a single loon punctuates the peace. It’s not absolutely silent, but it is absolutely serene – perhaps even divine.

Two images hand-blended: 11mm f/2.8 30-sec. iso 3200 (for sand), 13-sec (for sky)
Photo: Northern Lights glow vividly over the shifting sands of Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes
Northern Lights glow vividly over the shifting sands of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes
I’d like a print!
Two images hand-blended: 11.5mm f/2.8 65-sec. iso 2000 (for railing), 20-sec (for sky)
A Sleeping Bear Dunes boardwalk meanders under a starry night sky alive with dancing Northern Lights
A Sleeping Bear Dunes boardwalk meanders under a starry night sky alive with dancing Northern Lights
I’d like a print!

The core of the Milky Way will be rotating farther around in the coming months, eventually falling back out of view in the early autumn. I’m excited for more wonderous nights under those stars. In the meantime, there’s more from this night’s outing in the night photography gallery, and I’ll be adding more soon!

Choosing Photo Groupings

Choosing Photo Groupings

“My all-time favorite city is Leland. I love Lake Michigan sunsets, but I also love Lake Michigan’s vivid blue.”

A sweet client emailed me with interest in an 8×10 Milky Way photo, but in further emails, she described some of the things that she loves most about northern Michigan, and asked for my input. I love this area, too, and have a veritable art gallery – in a variety of media including framed prints, gleaming metals, and canvas wraps – displayed in my home to prove it. Interestingly, I don’t have a single 8×10 hanging. Instead, I have several 20x30s, a few 24x36s, a couple 16x20s (though those are older, and I wouldn’t choose that size now), a couple panoramas, and scads of 11x14s. So when this lovely lady inquired about my help, I put together a grouping that would make me happy if it were on my walls.

art2

She sent me a photo of a room in her house, and I created a to-scale mock-up of a 20×30 flanked by two 11x14s. This set-up shows frames with 2-inch mats.

We started with her favorite Fishtown (Leland) right in the middle, a warm beach scene on the left, and classic Lake Michigan blues on the right.

art3

A second option included two warm sunset scenes, and some afternoon glow at Esch Beach.

art4

She liked the idea of the symmetry offered by the warm dune grasses surrounding Otter Creek, so I showed her that.

art5

And we ended up settling on this grouping: the symmetrical beachy scenes with a simpler – but similar – Otter Creek sunset in the center. The tones go well together, and the moods match. A peaceful trio perfect for a bedroom.

However, she also wanted a print of the Fishtown sunset, maybe paired with a smaller image, though she was concerned whether this could work. Though it wasn’t for a bedroom, I thought the idea sounded promising, so I tossed the disparately sized images together on the bedroom wall so she could see for herself. This of course wouldn’t show how they would look with living room furniture, but it shows how the images look together at their right sizes on a wall. After viewing a few pairings, we decided that Fishtown (11×14) looked best with a golden scene (8×10).

art1

The whole process took place over email, because she lives quite far from northern Michigan, but it was wonderful getting to know her a bit, and helping her make choices she knew she’d like. This process can be achieved over the phone, but is easiest in person (preferably while sharing coffee!). So, if you’re stuck deciding which photos will look best at which sizes, and which ones could maybe go together, contact us! We’re happy to help you choose.
(PS – She’s waiting on frames, or I would include some “after” photos, too!)

Fishtown at Night

Fishtown at Night

For several weeks I’ve had half-formed plans to make some photographs in Fishtown, and I finally made the trip Saturday evening. The sunset wasn’t much to speak of, which didn’t upset me greatly, because the light is still hitting south of the Leland River, so my view of the show wouldn’t have been great anyway. We watched twilight settle from Van’s Beach, and then ventured over to the Fishtown boardwalks under the light of the moon.

Two images hand-blended: 11mm f/4.5 15-sec. iso 1250 (for sky) iso 320 (for structures)
Photo: Fishtown/Leland, Michigan under a moonlit, starry night
Fishtown sparkles under a moonlit, starry night
I’d like a print!

The moonlight would’ve been enough to illuminate the historic buildings along the river, but several business also have exterior lights turned on. This meant that I had to combine a couple of images for the final photo, and I also had to correct for the various colors of the town’s lights. Still, it’s obvious that Fishtown is charming under any light!

I look forward to exploring the area as spring brings more foliage. In the meantime, look for twilight on Van’s Beach to show up soon in the complete landscape gallery. This photo is already available there and in the night photography gallery 🙂

Traverse City Sunset Serendipity

Traverse City Sunset Serendipity

After keeping an eye on the weather for a few days, I had decided that last night’s sunset would be worth making a photo-trip for. I had planned on visiting Leland. As the day progressed, the skies clouded over in an unremarkable way – which is to say: in a way that doesn’t catch sunset light very well. And then one of my go-to sunset prediction sites indicated that the sunset would be mediocre at best. I decided to stay home.

But I had spent all afternoon pining for the fjords keeping an eye on the light, so whether they’d be good or not, I was primed to make some images. A little after 7PM I told my husband I’d be heading up the Old Mission Peninsula for a sunset after all. As I began the journey north, the sky was just not very inviting. The best light in the west had passed, but the eastern sky held some promise. After some aimless meandering, I charted a course for the Greilickville Harbor Park.

It ended up being the perfect place. The nearby marina shielded the bay from the afternoon’s breezes, largely preserving the cloud reflections. Using a 10-stop ND filter, I was able to shoot fairly long exposures, further smoothing the water’s surface. The tough part was finding interesting compositions, but I ended up with a few photos that I’ll keep, including this one that straddles the Elmwood Marina (left) and the mouth of a small creek (right).

11mm iso 100 f/5 20-sec
Photo: Rocky breakwalls jut into the smooth waters of West Traverse Bay at sunset
Rocky breakwalls jut into the smooth waters of West Traverse Bay at sunset
I’d like a print!

I’m happy I took the camera on a little adventure. Though my original expectations of the day were tempered, I captured some great reflections of a sky that had more texture than I had anticipated. I’ll be adding more images from the outing to Facebook and Instagram, so I encourage you to check there so you don’t miss them! And of course, there are lots more colorful landscapes in the sunrises and sunsets gallery.

Do I Have to Crop?

Do I Have to Crop?

This is a question we receive with most photo orders, and the answer is: maybe.

Almost all the landscape images offered in our galleries are in the 2×3 aspect ratio, which means that one side is 1-1/2 times bigger than the other side. (Three is 1-1/2 times bigger than two.) So if you have a frame or a mat with an opening in any multiples of 2×3 – or if you buy a metal or canvas with that ratio – you won’t need to crop. Examples include:

4×6, 8×12, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 24×36, and 30×45.

If your frame or mat opening is any other ratio, you’ll need to crop. So 8x10s, 11x14s, 16x20s will all lose a little around the edges. Exactly how much? This much:

cropping-chart

How will this look in the final print? It depends on the photo. We examine each one and choose the best crop before sending it off to print. If it just won’t look good at a certain crop, we’ll let you know first. Here’s a real-world example to give you an idea of what to expect:

Original photo, 2×3 aspect ratio (includes 4×6, 8×12, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 24×36, 30×45

2x3originalI’d like a print!

Cropped to a 4×5 aspect ratio (includes 8×10, 16×20, 24×30)

4x5crop

Cropped to an 11×14 aspect ratio

11x14

Cropped to a 3×4 aspect ratio (includes 12×16, 18×24, 30×40)

3x4crop

If you’re ever unsure if a photo will look okay cropped, just ask! We’re happy to provide an opinion and/or a preview.

Sunday Funday: The Dog Edition

Sunday Funday: The Dog Edition

On November 9, 2013, Petey wiggled his way into our home. We had gone to the animal shelter looking for a smallish (~35-lbs) dog – preferably female – to take adventuring. At almost 50 pounds and male, Petey was not what we thought we were looking for. However, it was abundantly clear that he was our dog.

Petey’s first night home.

peteyhome
Petey now weighs in just under 65 pounds, split evenly between muscles and his big head. He’s a sensitive soul who loves meeting people only slightly less than playing with other dogs. We have logged countless miles together; he really is our constant adventurer. It’s a rare photographic outing that Petey isn’t by my side – or being admonished not to mar the smooth snow or sand 😉

Besides northern Michigan landscapes, he’s one of my favorite subjects. He will happily pose for treats, and he will even more happily frolic about, absolutely carefree. Barreling with closed eyes through the woods not withstanding, I could learn a lesson or two from this dog: Always say “yes” to a good adventure, run while you can, smile often and play more.

Running through the woods today.

Near the Traverse City area and want photos with your pet? Or maybe just of your pet? Contact me! I love all dogs, and always have a pocket full of treats 🙂