Recent PostsHummingbirds on the Nest Night Sky Photography Resources Vortex of Nature, 60 Minutes from Silicon Valley Portal of Entry Humpback Whales on the Silver Bank Yosemite Winter Orion Over West Mitten or "Why I Love Nature Photography" Monarch Butterflies in Berkeley's Aquatic Park November 2015 Event: Summer Jazz Legend-Jenna Mammina Inspired Action-Darylle Dennis
Fresh images contain their own excitement. Each contains the seeds of future greatness, the possibility of being favored by time. Novelty itself is an experience, and this blog is my own seasoning rack, a chance to give some early exposure to images and collections that one day might stand the test of time. Like the latest musical recording or new babies, things may not always work the way we hoped. But at the moment of conception, these seemed exciting enough to seek comment and response to. Please comment, share and enjoy!
- Steve Lefkovits
April 03, 2017 • Leave a Comment
The first day of life for any animal is quite amazing. Thank you Patrick and Kim for sharing the first day for these hummingbirds with me. Glorious to watch the mother feed nearly continuously and deliver nectar to their little beaks. It’s hard to overstate the thrill of watching quietly for the return of the mother. She may vocalize a clicking noise, or simply continue her hunt for easy prey as she returns.
Darting in all directions, the chicks wake to their mother’s approach. She cases the nest and ducks behind protective leaves. Perched, she starts the regurgitation process. And then suddenly jams her beak into the receiving snout of a little chick. Maybe a little slurry of food is visible. The chick rises to try to grab more. She turns to the other and repeats.
In under a minute she’s transferred calories and moisture and flies off. Another 20-40 minutes of watchful waiting to see what happens differently the next time. So good.
January 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Night Sky Photography Resources
Recent advances in digital imaging make it possible to image the night sky in ways and with quality that was not imaginable during the film days. A quick list of resources for the night sky photographer.
Technical articles on making true-color images of the night sky
Roger N. Clark’s technical series has no peer. http://clarkvision.com/articles/nightscapes/. There are 32 or 33 articles here currently, each several pages in length and densely researched and demonstrated. Highly recommended, plan to spend some time going through them. Donate to support his fantastic work. This is the best resource that I've come across and it debunks a number of popular web sites and chat rooms. You can also go through his voluminous support and commentary on DPReview.com for a deeper dive into the practical applications of his teachings and responses to questions.
Night sky conditions sites
Finding dark sky areas in the US:
First, note Roger’s authoritative list of recommended gear. http://clarkvision.com/articles/astrophotography-recommended-gear/. For Canon users, my experience supports his note about the Canon 24mm f/1.4 Mark II lens:
“NOTE: the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens has a lot of aberrations when used wide open. I recommend the Sigma 24 f/1.4 over this lens. The Sigma 24 f/1.4 produces better stars at f/1.4 than does Canon 24mm f/1.4L II at f/2. But if you already have this lens, by all means use it. You may need to crop the images some. It should be better on a crop sensor camera. But if you are in the market for a new 24 f/1.4, I recommend the Sigma over the canon lens.”
Note that the mount will require either a “wedge” like Astrotrac sells or a geared tripod head to mount it to your tripod. This is so that it can be tilted to align with Polaris. And then you will need a ball head to place on the mount to hold the camera.
Many photographers like the Vixen Polarie mount, which performs the same function of allowing longer streak-free images of stars than a stationary camera
Starstax, which blends stationary images taken using an interval timer into star trails. Freeware - http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html
Time Lapse Assembler - makes quick movies from a series of tif or jpeg files from your time lapse series. Donationware - http://www.dayofthenewdan.com/projects/time-lapse-assembler-1/
Stellarium - night sky visualization for laptop/desktop
January 07, 2017 • Leave a Comment
More like 90 minutes from Silicon Valley, Point Reyes National Seashore is an active stew of abundant life. The relatively intact and complex eco-system presents visitors with a wondrous physical and emotional experience. Going to a beach feels good. Going to an entire natural world is energizing to the core. Being immersed in the wild engages the senses and heals the soul.
Grooming BobcatA big, healthy bobcat grooming on a cold, windy afternoon in Point Reyes National Seashore.
We worship wealth. Here in Northern California, everyone is wealthy because of the endowment of nature set aside by those who came before us. Within driving distance of 4 million people lies a complex eco-system with entire food chains visibly at work. Point Reyes provides:
People save up all year long to have a week or two in an unspoiled natural place. Wealthy Europeans and Asians stream through the American West to feel untrammeled nature. Our guests marvel at Yellowstone and Yosemite. They flood down California’s Highway 1 to spend a single day along an undeveloped coastline and the clean ocean at its edge. Average Americans can immerse themselves in this nature at no cost. (But because it’s free and always there, we won’t appreciate it until it’s threatened or gone.)
Even if you’ll never save enough to travel to Africa, you can claim some of the safari experience by walking the meadows and dunes of Point Reyes. Clean air, healthy animals and a working food chain. A real wild experience - a cauldron of energy and renewal - within commuting distance of the tech capital of California. Amazing.
Places to stay: Point Reyes Lodging Association - ptreyes.com.
Nature safari guide: Daniel Dietrich, Point Reyes Safaris - pointreyessafaris.com or303-929-8443.
Point Reyes National Seashore: https://www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm
November 06, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Edges contain the residue of magic. Where one system ends and another begins, lies a gray zone of mystery and discontinuity. We long for pathways from one place to another. Our mythology replete with magic caves, doorways, passages, transitions and guardians like Charon, the boatman on the river Styx who enforce the rules of the of the doorway to the afterlife.
Portal myths are out of fashion, but their stories continue in movies. In blues classic The Crossroads, Ralph Maccio meets Legba who takes him through the portal. Legba is the the West African Vodun god who facilitates between the mortal and immortal realm. Trickster and keeper of the crossroads. Ghostbusters featured time-traveling, returned-from-death mystic Vigo the Carpathian. His 1610 prophecy: “Death is but a door, time is but a window. I’ll be back.”
The Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland. The Matrix. Stargate. Our spirits long to go through the special doorway that leads to greater mysteries being revealed and solved.
It’s no wonder that Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer State Beach draws me in. Located at the end of the continent, the start of the Pacific Ocean and underneath unbroken sky. I had the deep pleasure of being bathed in the starlight of the Milky Way, and the glow of the setting crescent moon all converging at Keyhole Arch - a doorway of with slightly supernatural effects.
Friday November 4, 2018
March 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Photography provides me with structure and purpose to being curious and in search of beauty. Last week it took me to the Silver Bank in the Caribbean Atlantic Ocean for a guided, permitted trip to swim with humpback whales.
The trip was special for the sights, and sounds and also my incredible good fortune to be invited to join in with a great group that already knew each other. We snorkeled several times above resting whales that allowed our presence. Every 10-20 minutes, they rose to the surface to breathe, and languidly slid back down to rest. Their ease and grace in the water made me think of the phrase “fluidic space” from Star Trek Voyager. The ocean is fluidic space, with an alternate, appropriate reality of motion, gravity, sight, sound adaptation.
The Silver Bank (20.541667, -69.7) is an underwater plateau between the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. Water barely covers it, just 50-60 feet deep in some areas. It is the edge of this fluidic space, a doorway. The presence of this edge allows a few humans to to peep through the spyhole into the world of the humpbacks.
By far the most moving experience was floating in the water 50 feet above a singing humpback. It’s beautiful, haunting song repeated over and over. The vibratory power of the music rattled our thoraxes. The bass notes rumbled deeper than a passing freight train, and the following viola notes defy the notion that a single animal produced notes with such a range.
I recorded six minutes of whale audio, and our guide Gene Flipse of Conscious Breath Adventures recorded 15 minutes on the hydrophone. I recommend downloading this audio file, put it on a stereo with big speakers and turning the power all the way up. It will blow you away to hear not only “our” whale in the foreground, but other whales repeating the same song, miles away. It is an exquisite experience. At about the 7:00 mark, the whale starts making sea monster sounds below the bass level of any instrument I’ve ever heard. It will touch you on a very deep, primeval level. (And please let me know how your dog reacts.)
Download the whale song here. The .wav file is 168 mb. https://www.dropbox.com/s/2p16d9w2giy4qjt/Whale%20Song%20of%20the%20Silver%20Bank%20Atlantic%20Humpback-160306-001%20%C2%A9%20Gene%20Flipse.wav?dl=0
Underwater and topside whale photos are located in this site's whales gallery here: http://www.pacific-landscapes.com/whales1. Please let me know what you like, and if we can help you order a fine art print for your home or as a gift for the whale lover in your life.
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