Badlands Beauty

Friday, October 20, 2017



An opening in the clouds near Panorama Point in the Badlands of South Dakota at the start of golden hour provided a reddish tint to rock strata seen in the image above. Image captured at 5:39 pm MDT, Saturday, September 16, 2017.



A panorama at Pinnacles Overlook two minutes after sunset on September 16. Official sunset was at 6:57 pm MDT.




Entering Door Trail from the parking lot at the Badlands, 6:11 am MDT, Sunday, September 17, 2017. Official sunrise was at 6:31. Visible in the eastern sky in this image is the -3.94 magnitude planet Venus, and the waning crescent moon.


Moving farther into Door Trail moments later. The brilliant red sky was probably augmented by distant wildfires.


Rock pinnacles, tinted red from the rising sun at Badlands Door Trail are contrasted by white wispy cirrus clouds in a west-viewed blue background sky. Image captured at 6:51 am MDT, 20 minutes after official sunrise. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera. 1/160 second, f/16, ISO 320, 16mm focal length.



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Blazing Start To Vacation

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Just over an hour into our drive westward to our intended destination at Badlands National Park in South Dakota on Saturday morning, September 16, 2017, the sky became ablaze just before and at sunrise. Quickly pulling off US Highway 20 on Grundy Road, about 3.5 miles west of Cedar Falls, Iowa, I was able to capture the brief but brilliant display before rains came only minutes later. Image above captured at 6:57 am, and below, a minute later. Official sunrise was at 6:58 am. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.


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More September Badlands Skies

Saturday, October 14, 2017


The Pinnacles Overlook at Badlands National Park in South Dakota provides for many a beautiful vista for sunrise/sunsets. Saturday evening, September 16, 2017 was no exception. The location shown above was about a .2-mile walk over hummocky hills from the parking lot. Time was 6:40 pm MDT. The image was shot using Aperture Priority setting at f/11.



Similar shot at 6:51 pm. 1/100 second at f/9, 250 ISO and 28mm focal length. Official sunset was at 6:57 pm.


Two minutes after sunset. A panorama of the same area, including the overlook's lookout (left). 1/100 second at f/9, 250 ISO and 18mm focal length.


Door Trail area of the Badlands. 6:33 am MDT, Sunday, September 17, 2017. Official sunrise was 6:31 am. This image looks southwest and includes wisps of cirrus clouds. Perched on the red hillocks in the background with her iPad is Sue Alliss. The hillocks were reflecting the rising sun.


Similar image at 6:35 am. 1/40 second at f/10, 320 ISO, 11mm focal length. Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX II lens, Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT tripod with SBH-100 ballhead.


Vertically-cropped variant of an earlier posted image from the Door Trail area to create a more dynamic  image of the Milky Way rising over a light-painted foreground area looking west. 4:12 am MDT, Monday, September 18, 2017. 20 second exposure at f/2.8, 5000 ISO and 11mm focal length. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Brilliant Halo Over Devil's Tower

Friday, October 13, 2017



Walking the inner perimeter trail at Devil's Tower in Wyoming on Monday afternoon, September 18, 2017, the sky was mostly clear blue. Around 12:54 pm MDT, a small bank of cirrus clouds drifted directly overhead and began to create the sun halo seen in the iPhone camera image above. I had of course seen sun halos before, but this particular one was the most colorful and vivid as I had ever seen, and it was especially striking materializing over Devil's Tower-- (you know, with the Close Encounters of the Third Kind thing). Sun halos are produced by light interacting with ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.

In just a few minutes the bank of cirrus clouds had passed, and with it the beautiful halo.

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Dark Skies Vacation

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Our recent vacation to the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota and Devil's Tower in Wyoming provided some spectacular clear night sky photography results. Above, the sun peeks over the eastern horizon at 6:28 am MDT on Sunday, September 17, 2017, as seen from the Badlands Door trail in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. This is a HDR image.


Back to the same location but looking the opposite direction and at 4:12 am on Monday, September 18. Getting used to moving about in the creepy pitch black conditions along the Badlands Door Trail at this hour, I set up in an optimum area to capture the Milky Way, which stood out in breathtaking detail in the clear star-spangled sky. Sue Alliss provided a light painting effect by moving about 70 yards closer to the rock pinnacles seen in the background and playing a flashlight from left to right across them. This image captured was achieved with the use of a Tokina AT-X Pro DX II lens. It is a 20 second exposure at f/2.8, 5000 ISO and 11mm focal length. The bright star at bottom right of the Milky Way is the magnitude 0.00 Vega in the constellation Lyra.


About an hour and a half later (5:44 am) and turning my attention east again, I had the wonderful opportunity to capture a not-so-frequent celestial conjunction above a scenic foreground element.
Glittering in the pre-dawn sky were, from bottom left: -0.92 magnitude planet Mercury, 1.82 magnitude planet Mars, the crescent moon, 1.34 magnitude star Regulus and the -3.94 magnitude planet Venus. Adding to the scene was a ground fog shrouded along the horizon in the background. This image was captured with my AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens.


Moving on to Devil's Tower National Monument in northeast Wyoming on Monday, September 18. Our location was at a local KOA just outside the gates of the grounds. The skies during the day were clear here and promised a fantastic night sky photo opp hours later. I soon experienced how fast a clear skies can turn overcast in these parts. In the above image, captured at 9:53 pm MDT, one can see quickly approaching clouds. I had wanted to get a good dark sky and the Milky Way to be close to Devil's Tower, but was only able to fire off this shot before the entire sky became obscured with clouds a short time later. In this image, a 20 second exposure at f/2.8, 5000 ISO and 11mm focal length, Devil's Tower is about .8-mile distant. Image looks WSW.


Opting to use my "body clock" only, I woke up several times later, and around 2:00 am September 19, the skies were once again relatively clear. The Milky Way had now moved right of Devil's Tower. Using the same exposure settings as previously except for focal length (16mm), this image was captured at 2:19 am. The bright object at right is the 0.00 magnitude star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.


Now on to Custer State Park in South Dakota. 12:06 am, Thursday, September 21. Stockade Lake--near where our camp cabin was located--provided for another spectacular foreground element with the Milky Way in the distant sky. This was also another creepy dark setting where every sound could be a mountain lion! This image, looking west from the eastern shore of Stockade Lake, is a 20 second exposure (Tokina lens) at f/2.8, 4000 ISO and 11mm focal length. The background glow is from the town of Custer, about four miles distant.


Later in the day (8:24 pm) and at our camp cabin. Looking northeast at the Milky Way. In this image our cabin was light painted by Sue Alliss, with a quick burst of the flashlight. Settings and lens were the same as the lake capture above it.


8:29 pm and looking the opposite direction. Same settings and lens. Stars in the skies here were such a contrast to those in Eastern Iowa, where only the brightest are seen due to light pollution. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Wild Wildfire Skies

Tuesday, September 5, 2017



No, I was not using a special filter to capture these images. It was the actual look of the skies on the evening of Monday, September 4, 2017 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Smoke from wildfires raging 1,200 miles distant and more in the state of Montana and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan tinted the skies over Iowa with a surreal yellowish-orange color. These two images were captured from the grounds at Noelridge Christian Church, with the above image looking northeast at 5:01 pm CDT, and the image below southeast at 5:05 pm. Despite the great distances of the fires, local respiratory advisories from meteorologists were issued for residents in Iowa. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.


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Last Total Solar Eclipse Posting

Sunday, August 27, 2017



Previously, I posted a 10-image sun sequence pic during the solar eclipse of Monday, August 21, 2017 as seen from Columbia, Missouri. The previous earliest eclipse phase time for that posting was at 12:15 pm CDT, a full half-hour after the start of C1 (first contact). From 11:40 am-12:15 pm I was being frustrated by the fact that I could not seemingly capture an image of the sun, evening using a 9-stop bracket on my Nikon D7200 DSLR camera. My back-of-camera monitor appeared totally black during these early capture attempts, and I could not understand what was causing this despite atmospheric haze and passing clouds. Even Adobe Lightroom did not appear to show anything captured (as it turned out I was shooting the sun with too fast of a shutter speed for the weather conditions that prevailed). Then, just for the heck of it, I selected one of the black images in Lightroom and moved the exposure slider all the way forward. I could see a faint image of the sun on it! I did this to all the "black" images and was able to use the best images (from bracketing). This now gave me a total of 13 images, with the first--the full sun at lower left of the combination image above--starting at 11:40 am, five minutes before C1. The white blob in the third image from the upper right is the last big flash of light from the sun before the diamond ring phase.

The settings info for each image, starting from the lower left: 1. 11:40 am CDT, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, 320 ISO, 300mm focal length; 2. 11:50 am, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, 320 ISO, 300mm; 3. 12:00 pm, 1/50 sec, f/5.6, 320 ISO, 270mm; 4. 12:10 pm, 1/400 sec, f/5.3, 320 ISO, 270mm; 5. 12:20 pm, 1/40 sec, f/5.6, 320 ISO, 270mm, 6. 12:30 pm, 1/100 sec, f/5.6, 400 ISO, 270mm; 7. 12:40 pm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, 640 ISO, 270mm, 8. 12:50 pm, 1/5 sec, f/5.3, 640 ISO, 270mm; 9. 1:00 pm, 1/30 sec, f/5.3, 640 ISO, 270mm, 10. 1:05 pm, 1/13 sec, f/5.3 sec, 640 ISO, 270mm; 11. 1:12 pm, 1/30 sec, f/5.3, 640 ISO, 270mm; 12. 1:12 pm, 1/20 sec, f/5.3, 640 ISO, 270mm; 13. 1:12 pm, 1/50 sec, f.5.3, 640 ISO, 270mm.

Again, I selected the best of nine bracketed images to create each sun image.

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