11/28/16: Green Mtn. Fire

And oddly, tonight, the fire on Green Mtn. provided an image similar to yesterday’s, albeit with winds from the opposite direction, and a bit different ‘temperature’:

Fire on Green Mountain, Lakewood, Colorado, 11/28/16

Fire on Green Mountain, Lakewood, Colorado, 11/28/16. 22 minute, 45 second TerraLapse composite image.

And the time-lapse video:

11/27/16: Orographic Clouds over North Table Mtn.

This afternoon’s rather strong northwest winds created optimal conditions for orographic cloud formation over North Table Mountain. Winds were entering the image from the left and hitting N. Table, forcing the air upward. The rising air cooled (from expansion) to below the dew point, causing the increasing cloud layer running toward the south (from left to right in the picture). In the summer, such orographic uplift can be responsible for spawning thunderstorms as the unstable clouds continue to rise after the initial push upwards.

This TerraLapse composite image represents 7  minutes, 28 seconds of cloud development:

Orographic clouds

Orographic cloud development over N. Table Mtn., Golden, CO on 11/28/16.

11/25/16: Abajo Fidel

During my two weeks in Cuba, it was the only single, solitary instance of negative sentiment displayed in public toward Fidel Castro, who died last night at the age of 90, that we had seen. Greg’s friend Miguel, who had lived in Sancti Spiritus for his entire 6+ decades of life, had never once–before that day–seen any such public defacement. Miguel appeared to be rather surprised, and yet seemed to ultimately brush it off to the recently impending changes in political climate that was so clear to see.

Abajo Fidel

Graffiti on a wall (“abajo Fidel”) in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, 9/12/15.


[TRANSLATION]: Raul Castro read this message dressed in olive green in his office, according to local TV and other state press in Cuba:

 “With deep pain I appear to inform our people … that today November 25, 2016 at 10.29 p.m., the commander of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died. Complying with the expressed will of Comrade Fidel his remains will be cremated in the early hours of Saturday, the 26th. The funeral organizing committee will provide our people with detailed information on the posthumous homage to the founder of the Cuban revolution.”

According to state media reports on the island.

Whether you mourn or cheer his passing, Fidel Castro stands as one of the few on earth who have thumbed their nose at the U.S. Government and lived to tell about it. Despot or hero? He was both to many, but his relentless stubbornness and antagonism toward America’s imperialistic pursuits in the region often put him at odds with being able to attend to his people’s needs. As the cold war era ended and the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in the hasty removal of financial support in 1990-91, Fidel’s centralized approach to the Cuban economy more often than not resulted in misery for his people. And yet with so little money or resources (due in large part to the ongoing embargo, considered by Castro to be a ‘blockade’), he was able to build rather progressive–and arguably successful–solutions to both medical care and education for the masses. His autocratic approach to governing led to many civil rights and free speech violations, and his unflappable vision of their country remaining ideologically separate from the West effectively determined that he doggedly pursue political strategies and tactics that left his people stuck in the past, still living amidst a crumbling 1950s infrastructure with no true investment in the future.

I have hope that Fidel’s passing will allow people here in the U.S. to have a more balanced and objective opinion of today’s Cuba, as it is now mostly unlike the vision that most cold war-era Americans have been led (fed?) to believe. There are not billboards of Fidel Castro all over Cuba (we saw one). There are no more people begging on the streets than here in the U.S., probably less, in fact. People are not carted off to prison daily, and in fact many political prisoners are being released. Free speech on the internet is not completely confounded in Cuba as it often is in places like China; there are many active bloggers in Cuba who can and do voice opinions that decades ago would surely have landed them in jail, although internet accessibility remains an issue, mostly one of technical infrastructure.

If you think that the people of Cuba are wholly suffering, you need to go there.

If you think that Raul Castro is just another extension of the militaristic rule of decades past, you need to go there.

If you think the economic embargo that has been waged upon this Caribbean island has been politically and/or socially successful (let alone acceptable) and should continue, you need to go there.

Don’t blindly accept what politicians like Marco Rubio foment about it ‘there’; he has never even been to Cuba.

11/20/16: Dusk over north Golden

Not much color tonight, but a nice view of north Golden just the same.

6 minutes, 21 seconds of dusk over north Golden (South Table Mtn. at right), as captured from Mt. Galbraith.

6 minutes, 21 seconds of dusk over north Golden (South Table Mtn. at right), as captured from Mt. Galbraith.

11/15/16: Last of the SuperMoon, with sunrise over Golden

As I headed out to shoot the last of the nearly-full SuperMoon this morning, I changed plans at the last second due to the mid- to upper-level clouds in the atmosphere, and instead caught the SuperMoon setting over Golden, well after the sun had come up. Brief window for spectacular images of full moons, so we’ll just go with this until the next one…



TerraLapse image consisting of 10 minutes, 52 seconds of sunrise over south Golden, as captured from the western flank of South Table Mountain.



First light on Castle Rock, as the SuperMoon sets to the west.



SuperMoon sets over Mt. Galbraith and the Mountain Ridge subdivision.



OK, one more of ‘these’…



11/14/16: SuperMoon Rises over Downtown Denver

After having spent the morning on the Genesee I-70 overpass with 12-15 other photographers shooting the setting SuperMoon, I was hoping that tonight’s location for the rising, 12-hour-old SuperMoon might be a bit less hectic. I’ve been using The Photographer’s Ephemeris iPhone app for planning landscape shots for a few years now, and it is an indispensable tool for planning phases and the precise location of the rising/setting of the moon, as well as showing you the relative heights of camera and subject, etc.

Having avoided the best ‘downtown’ location the night before due to poor atmospheric conditions, I chose the lower flank of the eastern side of Green Mountain to line up the rising moon over the Denver skyline. As either good or bad fortune would have it, on the evening of 11/14/16 the lower atmosphere to the eastern horizon was socked in with cloud cover, preventing any chance of capturing the moon directly behind skyscrapers. Let’s face it, moon pictures can be kind of mundane; after all, a cropped-in image of a SuperMoon looks pretty much just like an image of the moon at either apogee or perigee. Being the largest, brightest moon since 1948, I wanted to try and capture something unique, and present it in a way in which our expectations of the subject matter are set aside. I thus chose to capture a sequence of the SuperMoon rising through those clouds and out above Denver, which I would compile into a TerraLapse image showing the entire event, rather than just a single shot of the moon over the city. Shooting sequences like these is a rigorous, time-consuming process that demands attention to detail on a variety of aspects of the image. I’ve been confounded in countless ways over the last few years of shooting these sequences, and I still occasionally find a new way to screw it up.

After setting up and manually-focusing as best I could using Live View, I then narrowed the exposure down to get as much light onto the downtown buildings as possible without having the foreground look unnatural, knowing full-well that the moon would be blown out (excessively over-exposed) using such an exposure. Since the moon was rising 40 minutes after the sun set, there would be no way to get a proper exposure of both the moon and city. I used a manual exposure setting so it didn’t change through the sequence, and started shooting at 4-second intervals about 90 seconds before the moon broke the horizon, even though there was no way to see it through the cloud cover.

As the moon came up you could see its orange glow behind the clouds, and I was pretty sure that the sequence would prove to be unique, though you never quite know what you are going to get with ‘time-lapse’ sequences like these until you put them all together to see the final image. Back in 2013, the ‘Tribute Hike’ star-trail image I captured over Loveland Pass gave me the idea to use astrophotography image stacking techniques in order to blend a series of images into a single, long exposure, far longer than you could ever capture in any camera. I’ve refined the technique over the years (with regard to both image capture and post-processing), and have applied it to many non-traditional (e.g. daytime) subjects. Basically each frame is brought into Photoshop, and blended using the ‘Lighten’ command, which essentially compares the brightness of each pixel with every frame in the sequence, and ‘picks’ the brightest one for the final composite image. This process can take hours of computing time, depending on the resolution and number of frames crunched.

This image in particular was problematic with all the air traffic approaching and departing Denver International Airport, which showed as a variety of points of light creating interrupted ‘streaks’ and general noise throughout the image. Although I could have used some layering techniques to try and isolate the sky, a mind-numbing amount of cloning them all out from the source imagery was the only viable alternative to creating a natural-looking image absent the abundant air traffic. I ended up using 407 images from a Canon 1Dx (raw files ~18.7MB each, totaling 7.99 GB) captured between 5:23:08 and 5:56:58 PM, which after compilation is effectively a 33 minute, 50 second exposure, and showing the entire moonrise from before it’s even visible, to its coming though the clouds and then ultimately leaving the frame.

I’m pretty happy with the end result:


Time-lapse sequence of Super Moon rising over Denver 11/14/16

TerraLapse composite image of the SuperMoon rising over Denver, compiled from 406 images over the course of 33 minutes, 50 seconds. (air traffic manually removed from source images)



Canon 1Dx
EF 70-200/2.8L IS II@200mm
ISO 200
4-sec interval

TC-80N3 Intervalometer

RRS TVC-34 Tripod
RRS BH55 Ball Head w/PC-LR Panning Clamp

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (app)
Photo Transit (app)


SuperMoon rises over the Denver skyline

The super-est of the 2016 SuperMoons rises over the Denver skyline on 11/14/16.


I guess I have to take one of ‘these’ images even though we’re 12 hours past the full moon; I didn’t get the chance yesterday morning as the clarity of the atmosphere was terrible due to wind and convection.



360-degree panorama of my quiet little spot on the eastern flank of Green Mountain.



Time-lapse video compiled of the SuperMoon rising over the Denver skyline, as captured from Green Mtn. (33 minutes, 50 seconds):



Super Moon rises over Denver, with air traffic

33 minutes, 50 seconds worth of air traffic over the Denver skyline, rising SuperMoon in the background.

11/14/16: SuperMoon over Continental Divide (Colorado)

Last night’s SuperMoon actually became truly ‘full’ just after setting this morning. I went up to the Genesee overpass on I-70, and although I was the second one there, ultimately there were about a dozen of us shooting (for some reason semi trucks like to honk at people with tripods).

I captured several time-lapse sequences which were used to compile the TerraLapse images below–basically, very, very long exposure images); the video is included at the bottom of this post.


The SuperMoon of 11/14/16 descends onto the Continental Divide (Colorado). TerraLapse image shows 7 minutes and 14 seconds of moon, cloud, and traffic movement on I-70.



An additional 5 minutes, 10 seconds shows the SuperMoon setting behind Breckinridge Peak and Mt. Flora (Winter Park lied directly behind these peaks).



Setting SuperMoon on the morning of 11/14/16, directly over 12,889′ Breckinridge Peak.


Slightly different exposure, showing the details of the SuperMoon.

Slightly different exposure, showing the details of the SuperMoon.



An unusual phenomena which I have not captured before; I believe it is a sundog-like (rainbow) effect emanating from occasionally-blowing snow on the flank of Witter Peak lit by the setting SuperMoon at 6:18 AM. You can see this area briefly flashing in the time-lapse video at the bottom of this post.



Sun rises on the morning of 11/14/16, showing 10 minutes and 21 seconds of cloud movement over the Continental Divide.


11/13/16: SuperMoon over JeffCo Administration Building

Tonight’s SuperMoon over Jefferson County Administration Building, Golden, Colorado. At around 6:30 tomorrow morning, the full moon will be closer to the earth than it has been since 1948, and it’ll be 2034 when we’ll next see it any closer. It’s approximately 30% brighter than a ‘typical’ full moon.

SuperMoon over Jefferson County Administration Building, Golden, CO

SuperMoon over Jefferson County Administration Building, Golden, CO

8/13/16: Perseid Meteor Showers from Castle Valley, UT

Took a 27-hour trip (door-to-door) to Utah to try and capture what had been reported as being an exceptional year for the Perseid Meteor Showers, due to Jupiter’s gravity altering the path of the comet fragments/dust that cause the yearly event. I had planned on catching both ‘peak’ nights, but the closure of I-70 at Glenwood until Thursday afternoon prevented a two-day trip, so I arrived Friday night just before sunset, and was home by 4 pm on Saturday.

Although the second night wasn’t as good as advertised, I did capture two meteors with persistent trains at 0308 and 0321 hrs; images and time-lapses of those will have to wait a day or two. I just now finished up the composite image from the 36 major meteors that I captured with a 15mm lens; those meteors were captured over 2 hours 32 minutes of shooting between 0153 and 0426 in the morning. The fading light on Castleton Tower is from the moon, which set just after 2 AM.

2016 Perseid Meteor Showers over Castleton Tower, UT (8/13/16)

2016 Perseid Meteor Showers over Castleton Tower, UT (8/13/16)

A crop from the main meteor in question, showing the gases slowly moving away from the location of the meteor. These gases could be seen moving with the atmosphere for more than 30 minutes afterward (time-lapse to follow).

Perseid Meteor Persistent Train detail

Perseid Meteor Persistent Train detail, Castleton Tower, Utah

5/30/16: Houseboating on Lake Powell

So our first family vacation of the year was one I’ve been anticipating for many months, as I’ve not been able to get out and do any astrophotography for quite awhile. Although the 3/4 moon wasn’t rising until after midnight, unfortunately the Milky Way also wasn’t rising until about 10PM, giving me a limited (and late) window for shooting. The weather certainly cooperated for our 5 days on the lake, and the 75′ houseboat we rented from Bullfrog Marina was amazing.


Houseboating under the stars on Lake Powell

Few places in the U.S. offer such a plethora of accessible (relatively I guess, assuming you have a boat) dark sky locations. The region around Bullfrog Marina (south of Hanksville, UT) is sparsely populated with very few towns to light up the sky. Hiking around the barren landscape in the middle of the night is a unique experience, on one hand completely safe from bears, mountain lions and such, while on the other hand you wouldn’t want to tumble yourself down a cliff as you’d likely never be found.

Milky Way over Lake Powell

Our Milky Way Galaxy arches over the desert southwest, near Lake Powell, Utah.

While out shooting Sunday night, I experienced a silence so deafening that it was hard to imagine. Whether we realize it or not, there is almost always sound around us, whether we are in a structure or in the outdoors. In the case of Lake Powell: wind, water lapping the shores, fish jumping, various boat sounds, a bat or moth flying by, a small piece of gravel rolling down the slickrock (from where I do not know). For about five minutes the wind quit completely, and shortly thereafter the lake became absolutely still and quiet. My surroundings were completely and utterly silent, in a way I’ve not experienced in my 5+ decades on this earth.

Anyway, enjoy. I did.