The Great American Total Solar Eclipse Journey – Day 1

August 21, 2017, that was the day when a Total Solar Eclipse was going to be through out the Untied States. The Total Eclipse was visible in 14 states stretching from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina on the east coast. The rest of the U.S. got to see a partial Eclipse. How could I not go see this event?

I spent about a month researching where I wanted to travel to view the eclipse. I did this about 15 months before the eclipse so that I could make my reservations well before the masses became aware of the eclipse. I took what the weather history was like in each location. But I also wanted to make the trip worthwhile even it should be a rainout. Since I’m working on a couple of photographic projects, they played a major factor in my final decision. After much contemplation, I chose Jefferson City, Missouri.

Why Jefferson City? The weather prospects were good, it was near the centerline of the eclipse and it wasn’t seen as a major and therefore an overcrowded spot. Also, we would travel Interstate 40 from Barstow, CA to Oklahoma City, OK. We had first traveled this route in 1985 when we covered the Race Across AMerica (RAAM). I knew there would be many photographic opportunities for my photo projects along the way. The main projects I’m working on is my “Land of Giants” and a project with old signs, signs with Arrows and signs with Neon. So, over a year before the eclipse I booked our room.

We departed home on August 16th for the eclipse. I had it planned out to be four days traveling to Jefferson City, three days in Jefferson City and five days traveling back home. I could have easily doubled the time and still not have had enough time to photograph all we say. It was 1700 miles back to Jefferson City and I planned the first day as the longest. We traveled 525 mile from home to Winslow, AZ. Since we’ve travelled often to the Flagstaff, AZ, we new the route well and knew we wouldn’t be stopping to photograph until after Flagstaff.

A short distance after Flagstaff we came to Twin Arrows. Well, it wasn’t like we remembered it from the late 80’s. The old Twin Arrows Trading Post was just an old derelict building. Across the interstate was an Indian Gaming Casino. But, the Giant Twin Arrows was still there. Another Giant for my collection.

Pulling up to our motel in Winslow, just 100 yards from the Motel, I see an old sign that has a great looking arrow. Joes Café might not be what it used to be, but it’s sign still has a beautiful arrow.

Driving around town that evening after dinner, we came to Winslow High School and their mascot, a Giant Bulldog.

After a good nights sleep and a good breakfast, we were ready to leave town. But before we left, with the Eagles, “Take It Easy” playing on the radio, we had one more stop.

We were now on our second day. Stay tuned for more.

Printing for my show

I spent this weekend to start printing the Photos for my show as Artist In Residence at the Mojave National Preserve. For those of you who haven’t been to the Preserve or have not heard of it, it’s a beautiful area of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. To get to it, head to Las Vegas from Los Angeles on Interstate 15. When you get to Baker, turn left on Kelbaker Rd. You are then in The Mojave National Preserve.

My show will be displayed in November and December of 2017. The show will be in the Gallery at the Preserve Headquarters in the Old Train Depot at Kelso, about 30 miles from Baker. It’s an old pre World War 2 station that has been beautifully restored and now functions at the Park Headquarters. You can learn all about the Park and the history of the Kelso Station. Also, if you like trains, the Union Pacific Mainline from LA to los Vegas/Salt Lake City passes right next to the station.

I decided I better get started printing as soon as I can so that I can work on my other projects. It’s been a while since I printed large prints. As my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has progressed, I’m become pretty much confined to wheelchair. As with much of my life now, this provides challenges that need solutions. Being in a wheelchair causes my head to be just little higher than the top of the printer. Because of this I can’t see the paper stop setting for the paper feed and can’t see to load the paper. Luckily, I have a wonderful wife, Margaret, who can function as my eyes and legs.

I would get the file set in Photoshop and she would set the printer and load the paper. Once we had the room arranged so that we could both work it went smoothly. After the prints was finished she would take the print to the table in the dining room and place it on the table so if could off-gas for the next day. We than would start on the next print. The system worked well and we got through quite a few prints each day. Living with MS provides many opportunities to find solutions to problems. Without Margaret’s help, this whole project would not have been possible.

Here are the prints from one days work lying out on the dining room table.

Who placed this Elevation Marker?

After finishing Breakfast i Palm Springs, we went exploring around the desert looking for some old structures and signs for my photo projects. We traveled alone Highway 247 from Yucca Valley to Barstow. As we were traveling down the portion that is know as Barstow Road, we were about 5 miles south of The Slash X Cafe when we came upon an elevation marker along the highway. We had gone past a few that morning. The were the usual, 3000 Ft, 4000 Ft, or if it was a pass it would have the actual altitude, 2349 Ft.

As we were coming down this long straight road when we approached this elevation marker. After see the elevation, I had to stop to take a photo of it. I was trying to figure out why they didn’t go down the road 50 ft further where the elevation would be an even 3300 Ft. Why 3305 Ft? I guess this government work.

ElevationSign3305Ft-Hiway247-NearSlashXCafeCA-(20150517)-004

Giant Hunting in the Southern Central Valley – Day 2

After the gas station in Lemon Cove, we headed back down to the valley. In Kingsburg, we had lunch at a nice little restaurant inside an antique mall. After lunch we found the towns water tower that is made to look like a large coffee pot styled to look like it fits with the towns Swedish theme. It was tough finding an angle where the tower wasn’t obscured by the buildings of the town. We headed up to the northern edges of the town to investigate the large raison box at the Sun Made Factory. It was the wrong time of day as the box was totally in the shadow of the building. Not the right time of day for the image.

GiantCoffeePotWaterTower-KingsburgCA-20150212-009

We next headed down to Tulare to investigate their water tower, which is painted to look like a glass of milk. Unlike Kingsburg, this tower had a clear view of it. While the tank isn’t as good looking as the tank in Kingsburg, it is still a good-looking tank.

GiantGlassofMilkWaterTower-TulareCA-20150212-007

Back in Bakersfield, we went to photograph an old 7-Up sign on the 7-Up bottling plant. I was hoping that the sign would be lit that evening, but the sign no longer works. Is still got a good shot of it. We stopped for dinner at a little burger stand near the sign before returning to our motel. It was good to get back to the room and relax for a view hours that evening after such a long day. I also had some time to review the image from the day.

7UpSign-BakersfieldCA-20150212-008

Day 2 of our Southern Central Valley trip had us leaving our motel at sun up to head back out to the Buttonwillow Steer. When I photographed it in the evening, I just didn’t like the background to the steer. It looked like it would be better if it was photographed in the morning. So out we went. We stopped for a quick breakfast on our way out. Once we arrived at the location, I scouted around taking photos as I went. It did have a better background than the evening. We had photographed all the targets that I had in my itinerary along with a few more.

Giant steer in Buttonwillow, CA

Giant steer in Buttonwillow, CA

We decided to take a longer way home by going through Tehachapi. Before leaving Bakersfield, I had to photograph a giant boot that we had been directed to by a local we had been talking with the day before.

LargeRedBoot-BakersfieldCA-20150213-001

We probably hadn’t been through Tehachapi in 15 to 20 years. We took the slow route following the BNSF railroad tracks. It was a very relaxing drive through the hills and we found some interesting items along the way. When we arrived Keene I found an old interesting sign for my sign projects.

KeeneCafeEat&Deli-KeenCA-20150213-004

We finally arrived in Tehachapi, we ate at a little burger stand with a good view of the tracks. We got to see a couple of trains go through as we were eating. We did a little sight seeing in Tehachapi before heading home. The last 2 days had been very productive as I got to add photos to a couple of projects I’m working on.

The Value Of Revisiting The Past

Sometimes you rediscover things that you have long forgotten when you take a trip down memory lane. A month or so back I received a call from a video production company in England. They were producing a show on a competitor that had competed in the 1988 Race Across America. They had been referred to me as I worked as the race’s photographer during that race.

From 1984 though 1999, I worked as the race’s photographer. The Race Across America, RAAM, is a transcontinental bicycle race that starts on the West Coast and ends on the East Coast. Unlike bicycle stage races, such as the Tour de France, where each day the racers complete a race of a definite length, in RAAM, the entire course is the stage. There is no definite time each day after the stage has been completed, for the racer to rest, have a massage or a meal.

All the competitors start together and the first one to the finish line is the winner. They have to complete a course that is defined by the Race. They are free to get of the bike to eat, sleep or answer natures call. When they are of the bike, they aren’t making any headway toward the finish. If their competitors are on the bike riding and they aren’t, they are losing ground. Time off the bike is time lost, so the major rule in RAAM was, “Stay on the Bike”. As little time of the bike was the mantra. It was normal for most racers to sleep as little as 2 to 3 hours a day. The winner would cover the typical 3000 mile race in 9-10 days.

Covering the race, my wife and I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep either. After all, if we slept, the race moved on and we would then have to play catch up. We usually tried to get a good 8 hour sleep about halve way through the race. It was a tough assignment, but also very rewarding. Since the race usually was on the back roads of America, we got to see many places few people get to visit because they are flying down the Interstate. How many people have got to visit Slapout, OK or Pie Town, NM? The only downside is we didn’t have time to do much sightseeing, as we had to keep up with the race.

As I started looking through the transparencies from the 1988 Race, a ton on memories came flooding back. This was from the time before digital photography and everything was on film. I had to go through notebooks filled with slide pages, pages with 20 slide per page. I had to review them by taking each page out of the notebook and place it on a light table. I would then take a loupe and look at each slide. It sort of like Grid View in Adobe Lightroom except I only see 20 at a time. If I want to see the little inch by inch and a half image in greater detail, I have to look at with my loupe. It sure made me appreciate Lightroom. With my dual 24 inch monitors, I can see the grid view on one monitor and the loupe view of an image on the other. Boy, is it much faster and easier now. But at the same time, I do miss film sometimes, but then again, not that much.

Looking at the 1988 race I saw some photos of a friend that competed in the 1987 and 1988 race. It the hit me, I had some photos of him in the 1987 race that fit in with my Giants photo project. After I got the photos to the folks in England, I dug out the transparencies fro 1987 race. Flipping through images I came across what I was looking for. There it was Chris Kostman, 20 years old at the time, being stalked by a Giant Gumby. Chris is still a good friend and I see him a few times a year at some of the Ultra-marathon events he produces. He produces bicycling and running events and I come out to his events to do some photography each year. Chris always has a small Gumby as his totem and good luck piece.

Having known Chris since 1984, I knew Chris would enjoy a print of him and Gumby from 1987. I was traveling up to Remo the following week to photograph his “Silver State 508” Ultra-marathon cycling race and decide to make a print and give it to him there, since this race was covering the same place the photo was made 27 years earlier. I then new I had to add it to my project.

My wife and I are now starting to go through the 15 years of transparencies of RAAM with the thought of producing a photo book of our adventures. It’s going to take a bit of effort, not just to go through all the images, pick the ones we think should be in the book, but then to scan them. I first have to round up all the images, as many have not been returned to the notebooks where they belong. Many are still in the packages that they were returned in from different publications during those years. That will also mean straightening up many other images that haven’t been placed back in their correct locations after having been returned.

Revisiting the past can create a lot of work, but that’s my fault as I should have done a better job, but I was always looking forward to the next assignment, not worrying about what was already done. I guess I will get to look at many old images. I’m not looking forward to the work, but I am looking forward to all the memories that I will find in the process. I do know that it will make me appreciate the digital process. Since I acquire my DSLR in July, 2001, I haven’t shot one roll of film.

Enjoy the Giant Gumby. It was shot on Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, somewhere east of Fallon, NV. Who knew, Gumby was a stalker!!!

KostmanHighway50-2

 

To view the rest of my Land of Giants images, please visit my web Page. http://www.djnphoto.com. Once you get to the site, go to the Galleries section and there you can see the Land of Giants Project or any other projects I may be working on.

Thank you and keep those shutters clicking.

Partial Solar Eclipse or The Universe is Circular

Have you every pondered how the universe seems to be circular. Wether as actual circle or as spheres, everything seems to be circular. Planets, moons, stars and if something isn’t circular, it’s path through the universe is circular, i.e, orbits.

Last Thursday afternoon, in the United States, we got to see a couple of spheres traveling along their circular paths. We had a Partial Solar Eclipse. That is when the Moon in it’s orbital path crosses between the Sun and us here on Earth.

In the Los Angeles are, where I live, the moon started moving in front of the Sun about 2:30 pm with it reaching it’s maximum coverage about 3:20. We had our normal clear weather so we had a good view of the event. While not a spectacular as a Total Solar Eclipse, it still provide us with a reminder of where we are in the grans scheme of things.

All I had to do was to grab my camera equipment out on to my front lawn and snap a few images. I owed my Nikon D800E, my Nikkor 500mm f4 lens with a 2x teleconverter add to it. I set the ISO a 1600 and placed a solar filter over the lens. The Sun has quite a few sunspots on its face including on very large cluster just below the center of the sun. This all made for a very exciting image.

ENJOY!!

Partial Solar Eclipse-Oct. 23, 2014. From Buena Park, CA

Partial Solar Eclipse-Oct. 23, 2014. From Buena Park, CA

“Super Moon” – August, 2014

The summer of 2014 is a good summer to observe the Full Moon when the moon was at the perigee of its orbit around the Earth. Wait, what is perigee? Perigee is when an object orbiting another make it’s closest approach to the object. Apogee is when it’s furthest from the object being orbited. When the Moon is at perigee, it appears larger than at any other time in its orbit while at apogee it appears smallest. On August 10, 2014 the Full Moon is perigee and will appear about 13% larger and 30% brighter than it would at apogee this is why its called a “Super Moon.” For you non-astronomical folks, here’s a link to a good illustration of it on the Huffington Post. If you missed this one, there is another coming on September 9, 2014.

Even in the city, the view of them larger moon can be very rewarding. A pair of binoculars or a small telescope provides a great experience when observing the Moon. If you have camera that has a longer lens, you can silhouette the larger moon rising behind a foreground object. If you have a really long lens, you can get a good close-up of the moon. To get the best exposure for the moon, you need to open up one stop from the basic sunlight exposure, f/16 @ 1/ISO setting. That is if you ISO is set at 250, the normal sun setting is 1/250th of a second at f/16. But even though the Moon is in Bright Sunlight, it’s darker than mid gray, it only appears white because it is in a black sky. So open up on stop 1/250 sec @ f/11 and you’ll have a good exposure.

My reason for going out to photograph when we have a Full Moon is not to photograph the Moon, but to use its light to illuminate terrestrial object. The moon is reflecting sunlight back to the Earth and illuminating it. Since the moon is about 30% bright, I can get slightly shorter exposure. While you use normal sunlight exposures to photograph the moon itself, the moon reflected light is much dimmer than the direct sunlight during the day. Even though the reflected light is dimmer than daylight, once your eyes adjust to the light you’ll be amazed at what you can see. Head out to a dark area with no lights around and be amazed by the beauty of the moonlight on the scenery. My wife and I have hiked and backpacked with just the light of the full moon, a most magical experience.

I wasn’t going to be hiking this time. One of the photo projects I’m working on to photograph old structure using moonlight. The results provide a photo with and interesting effect. Since the structure is illuminated by reflected sunlight, it appears to be illuminated by the sun. But since there isn’t as much light, there isn’t enough to illuminate the sky, so while the structure looks like a daylight exposure, the sky is a very dark blue with stars.

So I set out to photograph a few old building I had seen on recent trips. The location I was heading for was Red Mountain. It’s a small town, if you can call it that, along US 395 in California, about 25 miles north of Kramer Junction and 25 miles south of Ridgecrest. During the last couple of times passing through Red Mountain on or way back from Lone Pine, I had noticed a couple of buildings that looked interesting. We left home in the early afternoon on August 9 and headed to Red Mountain. Since I was also going to be getting up early the next morning to do some more moonlight photography, we got a room in Ridgecrest so we could get a few hours sleep that night.

I returned to Red Mountain just after 8 pm as it was getting dark and set up my equipment. I’ll throw in a little MS related info now. I have a very difficult time walking now and use a cane for support and have balance problems. With it being dark, it only aggravated the problems. My wife, Margaret, works an outstanding assistant. I could find the spot where I wanted to photograph from and she would bring e my camera and tripod.

I found three building I thought would be good subjects. On appeared to an old residence, another appeared to and old store and the other was an old grocery store. It’s kind of hard to identify what they may have been as there is little room in front of them as the road has been widened over the years. I set up the tripod and attached the camera. This type of photography is where the advantages of digital quickly become apparent. It’s hard to get meter reading in such dark light, isn’t that an oxymoron, dark light? I set the ISO at 1600 and took the first exposure at ¼ sec at f/8. Not to bad, but a little dark. After a couple more test shots, I arrived at good exposure of 1/15 sec and f/8. With film, I wouldn’t have been able to see my results until the film was developed. I would have needed to bracket and record the info for future use. Using digital I can always start new each time in case the lighting is a little different and still get the correct exposure. Here are the three buildings.

Old Residence, Red Mountain, CA

Old Residence, Red Mountain, CA

Old Store, Red Mountain, CA

Old Store, Red Mountain, CA

Old Store, Red Mountain, CA

Old Store, Red Mountain, CA

 

Even though I was out shooting building, I did turn around a shoot a couple of moon shots. I was using my Nikon D800e. I took my Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens and put a Nikkor 2x convertor on it to give me a 1000mm focal length. After all, if your out there, you might as well take the shot.

Supermoon - August, 2014 Shot with Nikon D800E with Nikkor 500mm f/4 with 2x convertor. ISO 1600, 1/800 sec f/16

Supermoon – August, 2014
Shot with Nikon D800E with Nikkor 500mm f/4 with 2x convertor. ISO 1600, 1/800 sec f/16

After shooting in Red Mountain, we slept about 4-5 hour in Ridgecrest and then headed out to my next target. My main project at this time is shooting subject for my “Land of Giants.” In Pearsonville, about 20 mile north from Ridgecrest is a giant statue of a woman. It looks like it may have onetime been used as an attraction for a golf course. I have photographed it in the daylight, but I thought that moonlight would add a little something to the photo. We arrived a little after 4 AM and set about photography. I was nice that I could use my scooter to get around as it made it easier to find the right angle for the photo. Again, my loving loyal assistant would bring me my tools.

Giant Woman Pearsonville, CA

Giant Woman Pearsonville, CA

A few dozen yard north of the statue is the Pearsonville water tank. I couldn’t resist photographing it also.

PearsonVille Water Tank

PearsonVille Water Tank

We got back into Ridgecrest about 5:30 AM and stopped at a McDonalds for something to drink and a quick bite to eat. As we were walking back to the car, I noticed beams coming from the horizon from the full moon that had just set. I’ve seen this from the Sun but this was the first time I had seen this from the Moon.

Moon rays after Full Moon had set.

Moon rays after Full Moon had set.

All in all, I was a very interesting trip. Daytime temps were about 100° F during the day and the low as about 70°. It made shooting at night very comfortable.

Blurb Books Disappoints

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog. The last ones were about problems I was having with my MS back in January and February. Since that time, my health has improved and I’m getting around better than I was back then. I’m back working on my photo projects again and that is what led to this posting.

I attended the Palm Springs Photo Festival in April and had some very positive and informative portfolio reviews. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about the reviews and how I could make even more of an impression up the reviewers and anyone else I’m showing my work to. I started thinking about producing a small inexpensive book to show or give to interested parties. It would be a small soft covered book with nothing fancy, only my photos displayed in a quality format.

Lightroom now has book tab that provides the capability to produce a books using the provider, Blurb. Having seen reviews that gushed about the quality of these books, I decided it would be easy to give it a try since I already have collections of my work in Lightroom and it would then send it to Blurb. I opened Lightroom and went to my Giants Collection and chose the 24 photos for the book. For the size of the book, I chose the “Small Square” size, which is 7 in. square. This seemed like a very good size for a small handout book. To keeps costs down I choose the “Softcover” option as apposed to the Hardcover option. I feel that the softcover is more appropriate for the use I wanted in the book.

Lightroom quickly laid out the book with the photos from my Giants collection. I choose to display one photo per page and chose the full-page option since I have both verticals and horizontals. I then arranged the photos in the order I wanted, set the covers and added a couple of text pages at the end. I checked the pages and all looked fine in the Lightroom display. I then exported the book as a PDF and inspected the book and it looked great. I then sent it off to Blurb and ordered a couple of copies. These were only going to be test books, as I would be adding more photos and text to the final version. I just wanted to check the quality of the book before I sent a larger version.

This weekend, the books arrived. When I quickly looked at them when I first opened the package, the looked OK, at least the covers did. But when I opened the books, I started to see problems. With the vertical photos, there was a small white border at the top but bleed of the page at the bottom. Same problem with the horizontals on the sides. Not only was there was a discrepancy with the borders, but you could see that the photo were slightly crocked one the page since the border was crocked. I’m posting a scan of one of the pages from the printed book and also a page from the PDF file that I exported so that you can see the differences.

The final problem is that when I measured the book. It was supposed to 7 in. (18cm) square. When I measured it, it was 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm) square. Either Blurb is advertising a size they don’t offer or their cutters are way off. It will be interesting to see what Blurb has to say about this. I’ll keep you informed.

Giants-Pg1 Eagle

Giants-Pg1.PDF

A bad start to the year – Part 3.

From my last post, after having a good Monday following my steroid infusions, I thought everything was going to be fine. Waking up Tuesday morning and seeing that I now had the mumps, I knew that my feeling good was over after one day. I now knew that I would now have more than another week of feeling poorly.

For the next week I was extremely tired. I was sleeping 9-10 hours a night and taking 1 hour plus naps in the morning and afternoon. It seemed as if time was moving at half speed. During the first few days of the mumps, I took a steady diet of Tylenol to keep the swelling of my glands down and get rid of muscle aches.  After about 6-7 days I finally began to feel human again. It’s now been over 2 weeks since I started coming down with the flu and have my exacerbation of my MS.

Finally I’m feeling pretty good, though I still have a little cough from the flu left. My walking is better than it has been in 6 months, though it is still not very good. I can only cover short distances before the legs give out which is why I have a scooter. I’m now able to walk around the house without having to hold on to things to steady myself. I’m hopeful that things will not deteriorate to fast in the future.

Having the exacerbation with my MS was probably one of the scariest events in my life. All I could see was that I was going to lose even more of my life. The prospect of loosing my mobility was something I don’t think I had ever really considered before, even though I knew it was a possibility. Here I was going to lose both my ability to drive and the ability to walk on my own. It is now something that I’m definitely taking as a future possibility.

So I’m now back to being able to resume my life and get back to the things that I want to do. I’m hoping to get back to working on my photography project. I think I’ve got a few more giants to photograph. Now that I’ve used all my bad luck for the year, the rest is going to be great.