A weekend up north!

I just came back from a fabulous weekend trip up to Jackson and Yellowstone - two of the most beautiful photographic locations in the US. It was an awesome time, filled with adventure and non-stop action! It was my goal to get as much shooting in as possible, both day and night, so by the end of the weekend I was beyond sleep-deprived. It was well worth it though, and the shots came out great! Enjoy :)  

 

 

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The Jackson Barn, photographed just before midnight. The bright moon actually made for a challenging night to get everything exposed properly!

 

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Another angle of the Jackon barn

 

 

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When the sun finally came out, it turned out we were surrounded by buffalo. I had heard them throughout the night, a little frightened, but thankfully they didn't give me too much trouble.

 

 

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Scenic overlook

 

 

 

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Same view, after sunrise

 

 

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Yellowstone colors...

 

 

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There was a wildfire raging in Yellowstone - made for dramatic sunset shots.

 

 

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The Yellowstone wildfire

 

 

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Buffalo!

 

 

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One of the most serene spots I'd ever camped at.... I stumbled upon this spot just after sunset and couldn't believe how perfect it was! Beautiful!

 

 

 

My How-to guide to Night Photography

AN HOUR AFTER SUNSET, most photographers are packing up their gear and heading to a nice hot meal and a warm bed, but not me. I’ve waited all day for the sun to dip over the horizon, and now it’s time to grab my camera bag and start hiking. Typically, I will scout a location during the day, looking for unique angles, perspectives, and subjects to shoot, with a vision in mind of how it will look at night. I examine the subject: will I be able to illuminate it with a light (like a tree, for example) or is it too far away or too difficult to light, in which case it’ll remain completely black in the photo (for example, a distant canyon or desert tower)? Next, I think about how I’ll compose the photo during the dark of night. A composition that looks great in the sunlight isn’t necessarily one that works at night. Then, I think about how the lighting will affect the subject, where the Milky Way will be in relationship to the subject, at what angle the moon will appear (if at all that evening), where light pollution from nearby cities might show up in the photo, and countless other elements that don’t need to be accounted for in your standard daytime travel photography.Finally, there’s the matter of actually finding the subject you scouted during the day. Imagine you’re walking around a vast desert and spot the perfect tree in the distance. It’s guaranteed to make a memorable night shot — but it’s still a lone tree in a wide-open desert. The second the sun goes down and you’re walking around in pitch black with a headlamp that only gives you a 10′ visual in any direction, the simple act of finding that tree might well be the most challenging task of the night.

There are so many factors, so many challenges that come into play with night photography, that when you finally do capture the perfect night shot, it’s that much more rewarding.

Stay warm.

 

A night sky with many tiny stars and mountains partly covered by clouds

 

This photo was taken from Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. I spent the night standing outside in sub-zero temps, waiting for the moon to be at just the right angle to illuminate the massive 8,167-meter peak. Here, the only reliable form of illumination for the landscape was the moonlight. On a moonless night, the mountains would have been lost: black silhouettes against the starry night in the background.

As I was shivering for hours in the cold dark night, I had to do jumping jacks between shots to keep warm. I accepted it as part of the dedication required to get the great night shot above.

Experiment with light.

 

Stars above a stone arch in Arches National Park

 

This shot was taken at Double Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. The particular formation was difficult to illuminate evenly because the top of the arch reaches 148 feet high. Its height means it requires significantly more light painting at the top than the lower portions of the arch to achieve an even spread of light.

Get familiar with your surroundings.

 

A purple night sky, sharp mountain peaks on the horizon, a tree in the foreground

 

I spent several days hiking around Fitz Roy in Chile in search of great night photography locations. I stumbled on this tree halfway up the eight-mile trek to the mountain’s base. I knew it was going to be a challenge finding the tree in the night, so I made sure to memorize nearby landmarks to help find my way.

At midnight, I started hiking and quickly realized it was a terrifying experience to try to keep track of the tiny footpath that wandered through the woods for miles, alone in the dark. After about two hours, I finally began to recognize the landmarks I’d memorized earlier in the day and managed to capture one of my favorite night sky images to date.

Interact with the scene.

 

A figure standing beside a gnarled tree spins a light to create a glowing sphere

 

There are several techniques for night photography — some more pure and natural than others. While many of my shots only incorporate natural features of the landscape, I wanted to add a human element to this night shot. The idea in my mind represented the symphony of man and nature, the integral relationship between us and the natural world we live in and the interconnectedness of mankind with our environment.

I searched long and hard for a subject that could portray this message. The tree I found, shaped by years of relentless winds on the rim of the Black Canyon in Gunnison, was perfect for the shot.

Plan for spontaneity.

 

A small figure stands under a rock arch at Arches. The Milky Way spans the scene

 

Sometimes everything comes together and no amount of planning could have created a more perfect photograph. I spent the night photographing Delicate Arch in Utah, getting images of the arch in contrast with the Milky Way behind it. As I was just about to leave, I thought it would be fun to get a self-portrait in the setting I love most — outdoors, lost in the vastness of nature and night. I set up my camera and light, set off the trigger, and quickly ran under the arch to stand for this image.

I had no idea how it would turn out, but when I returned home and downloaded the image to my computer, I saw that everything had come together by chance to create this compelling night shot.

This is the article I recently wrote for MatadorU, I hope you enjoyed it! You can see the original here

Late nights

I've been having a great time riding around Colorado on my motorcycle, camping out, and shooting the beautiful night sky. The Milky Way has been shining bright these past few weeks, and it's been absolutely beautiful for night sky photographs. Needless to say I haven't been getting much sleep lately - but that's why I love this job!  

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Staying up late at the sand dunes

The Diamond on Longs Peak, taken at night with the milky way. Rocky Mountain National ParkPhoto by Max Seigalwww.maxwilderness.com------------------Shooting Data-----------------Date: August 1, 2013Time: 03:56:12 AMModel: NIKON D700Aperature: f/Shutter: 30ISO: 6400Lens: 0mm f/0Focal Length: MM

 

The 8 miles of hiking through the night were well worth it for this shot of the Milky Way over the Diamond on Longs Peak

 

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Loving the moonlit night at the sand dunes

 

 

Maroon Bells - Aspen Colorado Photo by Max Seigal www.maxwilderness.com ------------------Shooting Data----------------- Date: August 3, 2013 Time: 04:59:32 AM Model: NIKON D600 Aperature: f/1.8 Shutter: 442 ISO: 400 Lens: AF 50mm f/1.8D Focal Length: 50MM

Long exposure with some star trails at Maroon Bells in Aspen

 

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I drove up to the Maroon Bells for the night shot, but when the sun rose I couldn't resist getting this classic image with the flowers :)

Summer in Colorado

I havn't had the opportunity to get out in shoot in a while, so it was a wonderful treat to be able to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park the other day at 3 in the morning to catch the sunrise at Dream Lake with some great friends. It was great to be back outside doing what I love after spending weeks in the office, and hopefully the next time I get out to shoot my camera wont have a layer of dust building on it!!!

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A photographer never sleeps...

It's been a little over a week now on my road trip throughout Arizona and Utah, and what an amazing trip it's been so far! I've become more and more passionate about the challenge and beauty of night time photography since I got started with it last year, and in my opinion there's no better place than the American southwest to take stunning night shots. The milky way shines bright out here, and there are so many amazing spots to shoot (think Arches, Canyonlands, Antelope Canyon ... etc etc)

Here are just a few shots I've been getting on this trip. More to come later!Mesa Arch Ruins Antelope Canyon looking up Antelope Canyon

Looking back...

After a recent conversation with a National Geographic photographer, I got some insight about his workflow. Typically he will sort through his photos in three intervals: once he downloads everything onto his computer so that its still fresh in his mind, one week later to see if he missed anything, and then once more a few months down the road when he no longer has the immediate connection or attachment to the shoot. This was an interesting concept, because usually I sort through my photos that first day then never see many of them again. Just last week, however, I was transferring all the content from my old laptop to my new one which gave me the opportunity to look over all my old photos and I was amazed at what I found! There were definitely some gems that for whatever reason never made it into my portfolio. Maybe at first glance I didn't think much of these photos, but I think that my eye has changed over the years. Lesson learned: always go back to photos that were shot in the past to see if you missed anything during the initial sort.  I was happy to find some images that I truly love! Here's just a few:[gallery ids="608,607,606,605,604,603"]  

Land of the giant trees

It was my first trip to California, and seeing the giant sequoias took my breath away. I was blown away by their splendor and size, and also by the photographic challenge they presented. It's nearly impossible to frame one of these behemoths in the viewfinder without somehow cropping either the base or the top, so attention to composition and angle was essential. Additionally it was important to consider background distractions and nearby elements that could either enhance or take away from the final image. I found myself asking the questions: do I want a single tree, or multiple in the shot? Should I have something like a person or object in the shot to add perspective on how giant these trees are, or just capture the beauty of the scene and let the enormity of these ancient trees be interpreted by the viewer. These are just some of the many questions that a photographer must ask him/herself when photographing in this region. All in all I would have loved to have spent more time in these majestic forests, and I hope to return some day in the near future!