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Posts Tagged ‘landscape’

Omega Landscape

Omega Landscape

Omega Centauri is the biggest and brightest globular cluster in the sky. It’s only visible from the South Hemisphere and on a dark location it’s very easy to see with the naked eye and a great view with binoculars.

There are a lot of great astronomical photos of Omega Centauri available but only a few showing the Globular Cluster in the context of a landscape or as we call them at night a “nightscape”. In my research I only found a very nice photo from the great photographer Tunc Tezel at Twan (link).

So I went on the task to photograph the King of all clusters in a landscape contest. The photo taken with a 135mm lens simulates what can be seen from a very dark location. The cluster looks small but compare it with the stars around it and you’ll see how big and bright it is.

Most people think “you took a black photo” or “poor Luis forgot to remove the cap lens again”, you need to see it as large as you can in a dark room, then it’s better, I promise.

I think this is a way to show a beautiful and unique astronomical object in a context that doesn’t need telescopes or special equipment.  If you examine the photo carefully (click to go to my site then click again for a larger view) you will be able to find a small and beautiful galaxy: Centaurus-A (NGC 5128) and more eye-work will show you a galaxy similar to our own Milky Way: NGC 4945. Can you find them?

Now I need to find a way to print it, nightscapes aren’t easy to put on paper.

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The Emu in the Sky

The Emu in the Sky

What happens when you find yourself standing in the middle of the night at 800 meters high, with little or no humidity and more than 200km away from the nearest artificial light-source? Welcome to one of the best nigh skies in the world, at the Somuncura plateau in the Argentinian Patagonia.

There is a scale to measure the quality of the night sky called “the Bortle  Dark Sky Scale” in that scale Somuncura is a class 1 zone, there’s not a single lightbulb in hundreds of kilometers around you!

From Scorpius to Orion

From Scorpius to Orion

If you are used to the horrible pink glow of urban or suburban skies you will notice several differences in a class 1 sky. The first one is that you can’t see! And I really mean it, on a moonless night you can put your hand in front of your face and you won’t see it. Interesting!. Several deep sky objects are easily seen with the naked eye. The Magellan clouds are very bright and the Milky Way is stunning. The Orion Nebula is fuzzy and easy and of course you see thousands of stars. Something that really caught my attention was how the dark coalsack  nebula next to the southern cross contrasted against the Milky Way. It was deep black against an ocean of stars.

The Light of the Milky Way

The Light of the Milky Way

The Milky Way is so bright that it casts shadows and can be used as a light-source. This panorama is Milky-Way lit, no moon, no artificial lights no other light source in hundreds of kilometers. I blogged about this before in a post called “The Light of the Milky Way“.

The Celestial Equator

The Celestial Equator

One inmediate effect of darkness is that you can take a really long exposure photo without blowing the sky, at the place where I live I can expose the sky for about 30 seconds, at Somuncura I could expose for 2 hours and the photo had still room for more photons! This is very nice but caught me totally off guard and I run into several technical problems with my remotes, batteries and supporting gear because I wasn’t trained for such long exposures.

Meteor at Somuncura

Meteor at Somuncura

My final paragraph is for meteors or shooting stars. I visited the plateau in March far away from any significant or even small meteor shower. Even then it was very easy to catch a few sporadic meteors jut by grazing at the sky for some time. I even got a nice bolide in one photo jus by pure luck. I can’t imagine how a meteor shower would look under these skies but I would love to be there for one.

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Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

The Somuncura Plateau is a large and almost unexplored part of the Argentinian Patagonia. It’s between the coast on the East popular for the beaches and the whales and the mountains on the west popular for the ski, snow, lakes and glaciers. In the middle we have this gigantic piece of basalt formed millions of years ago by volcanos that are now extinct.

Somuncura

Somuncura

In this remote location at about 800 meters above sea level the weather is very extreme and random, you can have more tan 40C in the Summer and -20C in the winter, it can snow at almost any time of the year and winds above 60km/h are constant. Rain is very rare making water a very precious resource.

Difficult Roads

Difficult Roads

Only a few brave people live in this place where distance is measured in horse-hours, sometimes in days. The roads are made by hand removing the rocks one by one until a path is cleared, they are difficult and only accessible with 4×4 vehicles and horses. Most people live from their animals struggling to survive day after day without electricity, gas or any form of service. At some points of the plateau you will be more than 200km away from the nearest inhabited place.I’m not a “people” photographer but their stories really deserve attention and respect, a lot of respect.

The Centinel

The Centinel

Only a few species make the Somuncura Plateau their home, there are a lot of Guanacos, very shy from people as they are hunted for their fur and sometimes meat. The majestic Condor can be seen at some specific locations of the Plateau. All the other forms of life are small rodents, mammals and the typical plants you can find at the desert.

The Pointed One

The Pointed One

The terrain is mostly flat with a few volcanic cones here and there. The highest elevations are from “Cerro Puntudo” at around 1600 meters, “Cerro Corona Grande” and “Cerro Corona Chico” are also prominent. All these are extinct volcanos with the classical conic shape of a stratovolcano, that’s why basaltic lava is so common in the soil. You can also find very large rocks in the middle of the plateau that could have been ejected from a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago.

The Pearl

The Pearl

There are only a few permanent bodies of water at the plateau, “Laguna Azul” is one of the biggest ones connected perhaps to an underground reservoir but even the it’s becoming smaller and smaller year after year. The lagoon is in the middle of an almost perfectly circular volcanic crater. Basalt, pumice and obsidian rocks are commonly found and used by the people that live here to make tools and construct their homes.

The Somuncura Plateau has one of the best night skies in the world but I’ll leave that for the next post.

You can find more photos about this magical place at my website. I’ve made a slideshow here: http://www.luisargerich.com/somuncura-2011

If you want to visit this or any other place in Patagonia I recomend this company: http://www.rupestrepatagonia.com.ar/ I think they are the only company with a real permit to visit the Somuncura Plateau as the area is protected.

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Sunrise at La Azul (60 mpx)

Sunrise at La Azul (60 mpx)

When doing panoramas I usually try to avoid really thin images as they are hard to visualize, hard to print and usually look like a color ribbon more than a photograph. That’s why I usually shoot panos between 2:1 and 3:1 ratios. Nevertheless in this article I will present some 6:1 panos and some ideas I’ve had for them.

Volcanic Sunrise at La Azul

Volcanic Sunrise at La Azul

The first obvious advantage is that I can choose from many sub-compositions from the big pano, for example from the first image I chose this composition to make a standard 3:1 panorama. With a high megapixel camera and a pano there are really plenty of megapixeles to choose from, sometimes details that are not easy to see on the field appear when you review the images and you can think about the best composition for the format and use you want for the image.

La Azul Lagoon (420 mpx)

La Azul Lagoon (420 mpx)

Another advantage of a gigapixel panorama is that you can use a Zooming tool to look for very detailed things while at the same time keeping the very wide view that you have in the panorama. A zoomable version of the photo where the viewer can look at very fine details is a great way to preview the level of detail you can get with a big print. Try zooming at the lagoon pano by following this link.

Plateau's Profile (150 mpx)

Plateau's Profile (150 mpx)

Finally you also have some creative ideas for printing. Like dividing the big panos in several smaller prints. From two 3:1 prints for opposite walls to many vertical shaped prints that can be put one after the other to create the visual flow needed to see the whole panorama.

With modern cameras a huge panoramic image is not difficult to make you just need to take the photos and then use a good software to assemble all the images, there are many nice advantages in a super-resolution image.

The Images in this article were stitched with PtGUI pro.

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The Light of the Milky Way

The Light of the Milky Way

In my trip to the Somuncurá Plateau in Patagonia, Argentina I found that a very dark sky can be a very good and very bad thing at the same time. The Plateau is one of the most isolated places on earth, the nearest town is more than 200km away and there are no light sources of any kind. On a moonless night you can’t see a hand in front of your face. It was also for me the first time without battling against some kind of glare in the horizon, even if you are at the countryside a city 100km away can create a nasty glow in the horizon making starry landscapes difficult to expose.

So this is probably one of the best skies in the world, dark, dry, at 1000 meters of altitude and without any light source,  that’s the good part. The bad thing is that the total absence of light makes exposures much more difficult, even in dark locations there is always “some” light to make the landscape show up in a long enough exposure, here I could expose for minutes and minutes and all I could get was darkness.

The photo is titled “The Light of the Milky Way” because that is the main light source for the landscape, averaging magnitude -5 the Milky Way can be used as a light source and can even cast small shadows if you are in a really dark location. I used the brightest part of the Milky Way at Scorpius-Sagitarius as the light source for the lagoon here, that’s the brownish reflection you see on the water.

The photo is a panorama made from 5 portrait oriented shots at 14mm 30” F2.8, Orion and the Milky Way are at the center, the Magellan Clouds on the left. You can even see the Tarantula Nebula as a bright spot next to the Large Magellan Cloud and the cumulus 47 Tucanae as a diffuse star next to the Small Magellan Cloud. The Magellan Clouds are satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way and even if they are bright they are also very diffuse and impossible to observe from a light polluted place.

Image at my website

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Infrared Tricks

White Lagoon

White Lagoon

Besides having a nice effect on foliage and achieving a long exposure effect at daytime an infrared filter can make a scene look completely different than what it really was. Infrared light is invisible to the eye so what the camera is getting with the infrared filter is something that you can’t imagine or preview thru the viewfinder, sometimes the result is just a disaster, I’d say 80% of the time but from time to time the filter does make a scene interesting.

A Very Cold Summer

A Very Cold Summer

In this photo the idea was to turn a hot summer scene into a winter landscape, the lagoon was covered in vegetation and the IR filter made it white so it seems frozen but is only covered in green. The muted colors in the rest of the scene contribute to the winter-effect. Taken at 10:00 am and 38C on a hot summer morning.

The Night at Day

The Night at Day

The idea here was to simulate a night shot, the photo was taken at 11am in the morning under a blasting sun. The Infrared filter makes things reddish and if you swap the blue and red channels reddish becomes blueish. Blue hues are usually linked to night scenes so our brain may think this is a night-time photo. The whiteish foliage simulates the effect of moonlight over the scene.

Not an Ocean

Not an Ocean

In this scene the infrared filter makes the green vegetation red and the brown water blue, this along with the long-exposure effect makes the scene simpler and more beautiful than what it really was. The shot is a panorama made from 9 vertical shots stitched together.

The infrared filter is a nice way to make photos with “bad” light and is also a nice way to see a scene in a different way, you just put the filter and roll the dice to see what the result is. If you have the patience to discard all the failed experiments you can find a nice result here and there.

Photos taken With a Canon T2i, 28mm F2.8 lens and Hoya R72 Infrared filter.  Exposure times around 10-30 seconds at ISO 400.

Some of these images are now part of the Fantasy Gallery on my website. A collection of real photos that don’t look real, or something like that…

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My 2010 Selection

Yes, this is the mandatory “best of the year” blog post with the photos that I liked the most. You must be tired of tweets, RSS feeds and blogs announcing “best of 2010” features so I appreciate your visit to this post.

I’ll start with the image that I liked the most from 2010

Our Galactic Neighborhood

Our Galactic Neighborhood

I took this photo at the hills of Azul, 300km south of Buenos Aires. The skies were dramatically dark and the sight of the Milky Way was impressive. I had never seen a shot with the Milky Way and the Magellan Clouds in the same landscape and this was my chance to do it. It won some astrophotography awards with this picture, including picture of the week at Ice In Space and Amateur Photo of the Day.

The Forest's Energy

The Forest's Energy

This photo is from a small forest near Miramar, Argentina. The forest has allegedly some magical powers, there is a geomagnetic anomaly that produces energy and people go there to embrace the trees, do new age rituals and heal their minds and bodies. I went to take pictures and this is the way I depicted the “energy” that this interesting place has.

Strike One

Strike One

I was trying to photograph distant lightning at the horizon from the beach. I never noticed I was under a huge storm cell until I saw the cloud in the camera LCD!. The storm came my way and believe it or not I had to run. It wasn’t fun to be chased by a storm while carrying a big metal tripod. The photo was chosen by Flickr staff and featured in the Flickr blog. Works for me!

Moonrise by the Candlelights

Moonrise by the Candlelights

This photo shows the moon rising above rocks at the beach, the light on the rocks comes from a nearby fire. It was chosen by Scott Bourne to introduce me as one of the finalists for emerging photographer of the year. I didn’t win but I’m very happy I got that far. When I took the photo I didn’t see it as something very special but everybody seems to like it and it has grown on me.

Miramar Equinox

Miramar Equinox

I was happy to find these rocks because they looked like fingers and I thought it would be a good idea to point them to the sun as it was rising. What I didn’t expect was the reflection from high clouds in the tidal pools at the rocks. I think I took thousands of photos and this was the one I liked the most. It’s what it is all about.

Geyser Rock

Geyser Rock

This rock has a hole at one side and another one at the top. When the waves hit the front hole water enters the rock and the pressure makes the water exit thru the top hole as a Geyser. The conditions for this are not very common and I think the shot was never tried at night. I used a flashlight to paint the splash and let the camera do the rest. I think I will try again with a closer framing for now I just like this shot.

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

After 4 days waking up at 5am wanting to photograph the sunrise only to find clouds and nothing interest it finally happened. I got a nice sunrise with some beautiful clouds and the luck to find two crossing waves just in front of my camera. This is why the photo is called “here we go again” because no matter how bad the conditions are there is always tomorrow and the only secret is to be there when it happens.

Thank you for reading this boring post and happy 2011!

More photos at my site: http://www.luisargerich.com

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