Night Photography in Slot Canyons

 Wow….this is one of the coolest things to do if you’re interested in night time photography. It will test all your skills and push you to the limits. It demands perfection in lighting, technique, composition, content and everything else you can imagine, but it is INCREDIBLY fun and rewarding!

Shooting in slot canyons during the day can be one of the most frustrating things in the world, namely because they can be JAM PACKED with people (think Antelope Canyon here...) And I literally mean shoulder to shoulder. You feel like a crammed sardine, it’s no fun! But what I love about shooting at night is that you’re the only one there!!! It’s peaceful (as it should be), and you can enjoy the atmosphere and the solitude. But there’s one problem with shooting at night… there’s no light!

 Does this make you want to go to the canyon in the day???

Does this make you want to go to the canyon in the day???

 During a typical night shoot, I can crank up my cameras ISO and drop the F-stop enough to capture the ambient light off the stars, moon, or whatever else is out there. But the second you walk into a slot canyon, it’s a whole new game. There’s absolutely no light coming in – it’s pitch black. You may have a tiny slot in the roof where stars can be seen, but there’s no way you’re going to pick up any light from them on the camera sensor. So what do you do? Flashlights!!!

Lighting the slot canyon with flashlights is AWESOME, you can do some super creative and unique things. I felt like a kid at Christmas when I was playing around with my lights in there because each and every shot is different from the last depending on how you light the walls, so you start to get your technique down and it’s as if each picture gets better and better and better until you start getting some amazing results!

 too much light

too much light

So what are the challenges? First of all, getting the RIGHT amount of light is very difficult. It’s easy to shine too much or too little, resulting in hot spots or black spots, but getting the light to where its evenly lit is very tough. In these two images, you can see that I was definitely shining way too much light and the photos were coming out totally overexposed. This is ok for the first few shots, you gotta figure out how much light you need! You cant expect to get a perfect image on your first go!

 

 Way too much light!

Way too much light!

 Watch out! Dont ruin the photo be being in it yourself!

Watch out! Dont ruin the photo be being in it yourself!

Second challenge: evenly lighting everything. Sure, you can get the proper lighting on the walls to your left and to your right, but how do you evenly light the wall 30 feet above you to the same extent? How do you light up those shadows where there are curves in the canyon? Here’s the clue: lots of practice with bouncing the light. I never, NEVER, shine the light directly on the wall. Everything I do is ‘bounce’ light. And on top of that, my feet are always moving when the exposure is going. I literally RUN around that canyon floor while my camera is shooting (typically around 30 seconds to one minute), shining the light on the floor of the canyon so that it bounces up to the walls. BUT!!! one thing to be careful of! When you're running around lighting up the walls, make sure you dont light yourself in the photo! It's easy to do, and it will result in a little person running around in the picture, so be concious of where you are in regards to the light!

 

 Evenly lit? Yeah. Interesting? Not really...

Evenly lit? Yeah. Interesting? Not really...

Third challenge: Getting an interesting subject. Once you have your technique down and you can light everything well, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get a cool photo.  You need an engaging subject! And when it’s  pitch black in there and you cant even see through your viewfinder, that can be a real challenge! So what do you do? Just keep shooting!!! Move the camera, move your feet, change the angles, move spots, always try looking for something different. Don’t settle for one spot or one angle that you think is the one – keep looking for something new and engaging!

 Evenly lit? Yeah. Interesting? Not really...

Evenly lit? Yeah. Interesting? Not really...

 Very similar to the next image, but this one was shot about five feet to the left. Just because it's composed well and evenly lit doesnt make it a great photo though!

Very similar to the next image, but this one was shot about five feet to the left. Just because it's composed well and evenly lit doesnt make it a great photo though!

 Very similar image to the one on the left, but I moved a few feet to the right and angled the camera slightly different. Notice how just these slight differences can result in dramatically better photos.

Very similar image to the one on the left, but I moved a few feet to the right and angled the camera slightly different. Notice how just these slight differences can result in dramatically better photos.

Now…if you want to get really creative, you can add another element of light into your photographs. Orbs!!! Light orbs, fire orbs, whatever orbs you can come up with! These are awesome to play with, and can result in some really, really neat photos. So get creative! And most of all, HAVE FUN!

 Fire orbs are fun!

Fire orbs are fun!

 And so are light orbs!

And so are light orbs!

Introducing the New York Collection

         I just spent a fabulous week in New York City and had a wonderful time scouting out great photo locations and creating some captivating cityscape images. I lucked out with the weather, with five great days of sunshine making scouting much easier, followed by one day of rain and fog, which made for the amazing shots I was looking for! It's funny, in the entire week I spent in the city, I spent six of the seven days looking for the best angles, spots, views possible, all while waiting for the weather to turn (you gotta remember, in photography, bad weather is good weather!) Finally the day before my flight the clouds rolled in and I lucked out with the perfect shooting day! So I hustled around town trying to hit up all the spots I'd been eyeing, and I think I did a pretty good job of covering ground that last day! Enjoy the shots, which you can find in my Portfolio section of the website :)

 

 

New York.jpg

Another amazing video from space!

As many of you know, I absolutely love watching the 'how to' videos from the International Space Station. It's so fascinating and entertaining, and it makes me wish I were up there looking down on earth with my Nikon in hand... So I thought I'd share one of the coolest videos I've come across from the ISS. Enjoy!

 

Special Promo with BayPhoto - Free 8x12 MetalPrint!

 Hey everyone! I'm here to announce an awesome special I've worked out with BayPhoto - the lab I use for all my printing! They've agreed to provide a FREE 8x12 MetalPrint to new users referred by Max Seigal Photography.... On the new memberspage, just fill out the 'How Did you Hear about Bay Photo Lab' form with Max Seigal Photography and they will provide you with a promo code to print your own free 8x12 MetalPrint! Awesome!!!! Sign up at www.bayphoto.com to get your free MetalPrint and let me know what you think 

Lone Penguin.jpg

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 :)  

 

 

700_7971 2

 

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

 

700_8015

Another angle of the Jackon barn

 

 

700_8077

 

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.

 

 

700_8235

 

Scenic overlook

 

 

 

700_8276 bw

Same view, after sunrise

 

 

700_8333 2

Yellowstone colors...

 

 

700_8366 2

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

 

 

800_0746 2

The Yellowstone wildfire

 

 

800_0829

Buffalo!

 

 

800_0867 4

 

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

A meteorific night!

Last night the Perseid meteors were out in full force, so I hiked in the Dream Lake up in Rocky Mountain National Park to capture the splendor and sleep under the beautiful starry night. The night began as a battle against the torrential rains that scattered across the rockies, which made for a very wet and soggy ride on my motorcycle. Needless to say, I wasn't a very happy camper. Especially after the hour long drive that put me at the base of the hike with nothing but clouds, rain, rain and more rain. I decided to wait it out though, hoping the skies would clear before sunrise instead of driving back to my very inviting warm bed back in Boulder. When I arrived at the trailhead 12,000 feet up in the middle of the night, I felt like a cold wet icycle that needed thawing. Turns out my motorcycle doesn't provide much protection against the elements... I quickly hopped off my bike, grabbed my pack, and started hiking the steep trail to warm my blood. I was blessed with perfect weather when I arrived at the lake - the rain had stopped, the sky had cleared, and the stars were shining as bright as ever. I set my camera up, and started snapping away to capture the meteors that seemed to be everywhere. It was an amazing show, definitely a first for me, and it turned out to be a magical night. I walked away with one of the coolest night sky photos I've taken to date, so I hope you enjoy! It was quite a lot of effort to get this one shot, but well worth it in my opinion :)

 

DSC_1531 3 METEORS

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!  

700_7181 2

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

 

DSC_0817 2

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

 

DSC_1369 2

 

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!!!

219_07.10.13

233_07.10.13

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"]  

The eye of the hurricane

It’s windy outside. Well, it’s more than just windy, it’s SUUUPER windy. In fact, our expedition leader just came over the loud speaker to announce that we are in type 2 hurricane conditions. I can literally hear the howl as the wind whips and scrapes past our ship. It’s amazing, really, that we can sit here safely in our heated little bubble (aka the National Geographic Explorer) sipping on hot chocolate and watch as the gale force winds rip by us at nearly 80 miles per hour. 100 years ago, we’d have had little chance of surviving these conditions in even the most modern of ships. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in just a century… Judging by the subtle grin on his face, I’d say our captain takes pleasure in the excitement of a little wind and wave action. I have to admit, I too enjoy the rough seas. It becomes much more of an adventure when it’s a struggle just to stand up straight, let alone try to walk through the halls without spilling my tasty hot chocolate when the boat is pitching in 20 foot waves. And what’s even more fun is riding the stationary bike during stormy passages – it’s like riding through a bumpy hillside, up and down, up and down, up and down, over and over and over again. But my favorite activity of all? This was something I discovered on my ship in Alaska and it still holds true. During the roughest, toughest, craziest of stormy days, I absolutely love jumping in the shower and holding on for dear life. It’s as close of an experience as I can imagine to being trapped inside a washing machine that’s tumbling down a mountain, but boy oh boy is it a fun time. There’s something strangely comforting about the hot water splashing around everywhere during those weightless moments when you feel as if you’re flying after the boat launches off a massive wave. It’s one of those feelings that words cannot describe (picture roller coaster in the heat of tropics during a rainstorm?) and you just have to experience for yourself. So for those of you who are planning any trips to sea, cross your fingers for at least one day of rough seas so you too can join the high octane adventure shower club!

 

Wandering albatross - the largest flying bird in the world. Graceful even in the windiest conditions

The sun fighting through the clouds

And old whaling ship on South Georgia Island

Waves battering against the side of our ship

Wind and waves - epic!

Chicks, chicks, chicks!

What a perfect time of year to be exploring Antarctica and South Georgia – the chicks are everywhere! Don’t get too excited now fellas… I’m talking about baby birdies! While some are more obvious than others, it can actually be quite a challenge pointing out a baby penguin nestled under its parent’s belly fold in a colony of thousands of penguins, but once you catch sight of that little guy, it will light up your world! They are just the cutest, cuddliest looking things on the face of the earth. Beware, once you see a penguin chick, you may be pulled out of the airport security line for illegally trying to smuggle one in your suitcase. You’ve been warned! Not only are there thousands of penguin chicks abound, but with a little luck (and a LOT more effort -- involving scampering through mud pits, weaving through angry seals, dodging giant petrels that will puke on you for getting too close to their nest, tripping over your clunky boots over an obstacle course of tall grasses while weaving through a slippery, dirty mountain slope to gain access to the tussock grass hillsides) one can also find baby albatross scattered around the island, another incredible sight.

Now…I may have a biased opinion here. These may have been the cutest chicks in the world simply because of the effort it took to get a close look at them (I was a sloppy mess by the time I made it to their nests, covered in mud and dirt and grime) but it was definitely a special experience for me. Not sure who was more curious in the other at first glance, me – this big brown muddy mess of a person staring at this chick I had hiked so arduously to get a peek at, or it – this cute cuddly white fluffball sitting all cozy and clean in its nest wondering what this beast was that stumbled upon it. Either way, we had  a great time getting to know each other over the next five minutes, as I stood there doing what I do best (taking photos) and it sat there doing what it does best (bobbing its head up and down opening its mouth waiting for me to regurgitate a big juicy meal of partially digested fish down its gullet).

And that’s a wrap for South Georgia! Next stop, the Falkland Islands!

 

[gallery ids="462,461,460,459,458,457,456,455"]