Photo: Arch Rock Milky Way

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It’s about summer time. That means it’s Milky Way season for us night sky photographers. I went to Joshua Tree to take advantage of these moonless nights, nights full of magic and beautiful night weather.
Title: Arch Rock Milky Way
Info: Nikon D610, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8. 20 second exposure, f/2.8 ISO 6400. 2014-05-25 1:36 am. Processed in Photoshop CS4 with Nik Viveza. Light painted with LED  lights that were left over from someone shooting time-lapse photos. Thank you!
Photo: Ken Lee Photography
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, CA USA

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Equipment:  Nikon D610, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8, Feisol tripod.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

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Chimney Moon: Mysterious Ruins of Llano Del Rio Socialist Colony (Night Sky Light Painting Photo)

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The desert holds many mysteries. One of these  mysteries is Llano Del Rio.

This old chimney is mostly what’s left of the hotel ruins, part of the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, obtaining over a third of the votes. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

Today, signs of decay abound at Llano Del Rio. Although a designated California landmark, the site rots, its grain silo tagged, broken glass and automobile debris everywhere. A 150 pound plaque designating the site as a Historical Landmark was erected in 1982, only to be stolen two weeks later. It’s never been replaced.

According to the LA Times, County officials and members of Llano Community Association have proposed a county park that would preserve the site and provide a historical display. There is fear that the area could be leveled by a developer.

But a park costs money, and the county does not have about half a million dollars that it would take. Even worse, the land where most of the substantial ruins are concentrated, including the hotel, commissary, bakery, post office, and horse barn, is owned by two doctors in Illinois, according to the LA Times. And unless the property is acquired, the ruins will continue to languish.

Title: Chimney Moon
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. 109 second long exposure, f/8 ISO 200. “Light painted” the old hotel chimney with LED flashlight and speedlight with gel. The streaks of light on the right are car lights from the nearby highway.
Location: Llano Del Rio, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

Mystery Ruins of the Desert – Llano Del Rio Socialist Colony

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The desert holds many mysteries. One of these mysteries is Llano Del Rio.

This grain silo is part of the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, obtaining over a third of the votes. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

If you climbed inside the grain silo, and, ignoring the remains of a bonfire and the broken glass, laid down on your back and peered straight up, this is what you would see. I take these risks so you don’t need to, and that’s very sweet of me.

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The colony’s local economy was almost totally self-sustaining. Their economy included agriculture, orchards, a paint shop, a print shop, and a fish hatchery. Despite the desert climate, their farms succeeded, their farmers using purchased water to create fertile farmland, and growing alfalfa, corn, and grain, stored here in this grain silo. By 1916, Llano Del Rio grew ninety percent of the food they ate. A world class rabbitry provided the colonists with their main source of meat; and a large stable complex just outside the colony could house up to 100 horses.

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Llano Del Rio opened on May Day of 1914, its first inhabitants members of the Young People’s Socialist League. In the beginning, only the community center had been constructed, and during much of the colony’s existence, very few permanent structures were ever built. Many people lived in canvas tents, able to do so because of the warm desert climate.

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Llano Del Rio held a parade, dances, and had a champion baseball team and other sports. They also had a drama society, staging black-face minstrel shows. And Llano were chivalrous and gentlemanly, not allowing f-bombs in the presence of women and children. Liquor was not allowed unless granted permission by a doctor.

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Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

The Iconic Skull Rock in Joshua Tree (star trails long exposure)

startrails-kenlee-joshuatree-skullrock-24halfmin-30sf28iso400-700pxPlease click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

This is one of the iconic features of Joshua Tree National Park, frequently photographed.  But perhaps not like this!  This is a long exposure photo showing the movement of the stars. I also light painted the rock with a flashlight, keeping the “eyes” largely in shadow to add to the mystery. Someone on Google+ thought this was “creepy”. But, after all, it’s called Skull Rock.

Title: Skull Rock Star Trails
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 1970s metal tripod from Sears. This is a long exposure night sky photo of 21 minutes in total, with each individual photo exposed for 30 seconds at f/2.8 ISO 400, stacked “by hand” in CS4. I light painted this with a Streamlight LED flashlight. Begun 7:40 pm P.S.T. on 9 November 2013.
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA.
Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

Magic Rock Star Trails – long exposure night sky photo of the California Desert (higher res view available)

Magic Rock Star Trails on 500px (higher res than what can be shown here)!

http://500px.com/photo/52953848

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Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, and an old 1970s metal tripod from Sears.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

They Roamed The Earth: The Amazing Creature Sculptures of Borrego Springs / Milky Way Nights

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A night sky photo with a prehistoric feel that I like, this encounter between the scorpion and the cricket taking place under the Milky Way.

In the tiny town of Borrego Springs, there are at least 129 metal sculptures of varying sizes, many of them rather large, on the Galleta Meadows Estates, owned by the late Dennis Avery. The sculptures were all created by Ricardo Breceda, and are absolutely fascinating. Creating a sculpture garden of prehistoric creatures wins major points for me, and although Borrego Springs is beautiful in itself, it’s really the sculptures that makes it a must-visit for me.

I “light painted” the metal sculptures with a flashlight, kicking up the camera’s sensitivity to light to ISO 3200 to capture the Milky Way.

Title: They Roamed The Earth
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. 20 seconds at f/3.2 ISO 2500. “Light painted” with flashlight. 2 August 2013 11:36 pm.
Location: Borrego Springs, California

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

How To Make Killer Light Painting Photos Today!

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M-Class Planet

Light Painting
First, let’s get this out of the way.  I love light painting.  It’s a creative, active, experimental sort of photography.  And a lot of fun.  The hours melt away.  But what is it?  It’s a long exposure photographic technique in which the photographer moves a light source, – or sometimes the camera itself – to create the exposure. I like to use light painting to illuminate objects at night, lighting from outside the frame, although I also sometimes like to “paint” light into the lens as well.  Since we’re just gonna show you one photo, I’ll select one that shows both!

Stuff We Need
– We need a camera.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  And ideally, one that allows you to determine how long to keep the shutter open, and preferably, one with Bulb Mode, and accepts a remote shutter release.  I use a DSLR, but I’ve had friends use a compact digital camera or film cameras to do this.  What matters is that you can determine the length you wish to keep the shutter open.

– A remote shutter release.  Why?  To avoid any movement of the camera.  Even minuscule movement can ruin your photo.

– A stable surface.   If you’re gonna leave your shutter open for several minutes, you’re need a rock solid surface.  Out in the field, ideally, you’ll want to use a good tripod.  Giotto, Manfrotto, Gitzo, and others make good tripods.  I use a Feisol.  I like lightweight carbon fiber tripods because I do a lot of walking around and hiking.  As always, your mileage may vary, yes it may.  Now, if you’re gonna move the camera around, that’s a ‘nother thing, but today, I’m discussing techniques involving keeping the camera perfectly still.  If it’s windy and your tripod has a center hook, hang your camera bag or some such thing in the middle to further stabilize it so that camera that someone purchased for your previous birthday doesn’t fall on the ground and shatter.  That would suck.

– A light source or three.  Flashlights, headlamps, car headlights, glow sticks, matches, candles, LED lights, stuff like that.

One of my flashlights is an absurdly bright flashlight, a Dorcy spotlight.  I can light paint stuff from 10, 20 meters away. The Dorcy is almost like holding a car headlight in your hand.  Whazaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!  Fun!!  And another thing I like to use is El Wire.  El Wire?  Yeah, El Wire.  This is not Spanish for wire, no it isn’t.  It’s short for electroluminescent wire.  El wire is a copper wire coated in a phosphor, you see, and when you add juice from batteries, voila, it starts to glow!  And in different colors!  If you don’t get one for light painting, you could go to a rave or tie it around as part of a costume!!  Oh, the fun!  And this stuff is easily available online, including Amazon.com.  And it’s cheap. Cheap.  Fun. Artistic.  Whaddaya waitin’ for?

Camera Settings:  
As mentioned, I use a DSLR.  You’ll want to use Manual Mode so you can control the exposure time.  Flip that to whatever you want.  For this particular photo, I used Bulb Mode.  This means that if I lock my remote shutter release, my shutter will stay open until I unlock the remote shutter release.  Cool, eh?  But you can also set your camera to 15, 20, 25, 30 seconds, whatever it has.

 How The Heck Do You Focus In The Dark?
Well, look, if you’re one of those persnickety photographers who actually wishes to have their subject in focus, then read on!!  The easiest way to do this is to use your camera’s auto focus.  I know you’re thinking, “Buh-buh-but it’s dark!  And my camera’s gonna hunt!  It can’t focus when it’s really dark!!!”  And you’d be right!  But no worries.  Since you’re all ready to light paint anyway, take one of those really bright lights you have, shine it at the subject, and let your camera’s AF do its thing.  When it has focused, carefully carefully switch your camera’s auto focus off, switching it instead to Manual Focus, so that it’s pre-focused.  Voila.  Done.  See, wasn’t that easy?

Look how much you’ve learned already!  You know how to set your camera, how to focus, you know how to light up your subject in the dark!!  So next, let’s check out a photo that shows both light painting outside the frame – illuminating the subject – as well as shining not one but two kinds of light into the lens directly.  I used several light sources.  Let’s discuss how I used each one!

1.  Rings Around The Stone:  You can see three red rings around the stone, yes you can.  These are from my Energizer headlamp.  I set it to the red light setting, held it up high, and walked around the stone three times!  Wheeee!!  Why three?  Uh, why not?  For representing past, present, and future?

2.  Illuminating The Stone:  I took that big yellow Dorcy spotlight, ran up to some rocks some 10 meters away and to the left, and pointed it at the rock, waving it around to illuminate it evenly.  I think about how I want the stone and so forth to be illuminated, and in this case, since it was a full moon, I wanted to emulate how the moonlight was falling on the rock so it would look very natural.  This giant flashlight is bright, so it doesn’t take much to light up the rock, even from 10 meters away.

3.  Blue Mist:  That’s where the El Wire comes in.  My El Wire 2.75 meters of glowing blue goodness. I activated it at the battery pack, then waved it around the base of the stone, almost as if I were sweeping the sand, waving it up and down.  If you kept the wire still for a while, the shape of the wire would “imprint” on your image.  I wanted more of an otherworldly mist, so I moved it around.

This whole process took 199 seconds.  If you’re bad at math, that’s three minutes and 19 seconds.  And it went by quickly!!!  I ran and moved around a bit.  Active, creative, fun photography.  And moving around was doubly good because this was taken in the high California desert in winter, and the temperature was at about freezing.  But moving around kept me warm.

I hope this inspires you to try your own light painting and long exposure photos.  Take night sky photos, light paint, do long exposures.  Do all three.  Experiment.  Have fun!

Note:  I originally wrote this for Better Photographs!

Title: M- Class Planet
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, Feisol tripod. Exposure time 199 seconds at f/11, ISO 200. Combination of natural lighting from the full moon and light painting with a flashlight, a red headlamp held high, and blue electroluminescent wire.
Photographer: Ken Lee
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA.

This is Ken Lee’s photography website:  http://www.kenleephotography

This is Ken Lee’s Photography Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/kenleephotography

This is Ken Lee’s Photography Blog, featuring long exposure, night sky, star trails, light painting photographs: https://kenleephotography.wordpress.com

This is a link Ken Lee’s Virtual Photo Album, featuring more night sky, long exposure, and light painting photos from his trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California in December 2012: http://www.elevenshadows.com/travels/joshuatree2012december

Note:  I originally wrote this for someone across the pond.  They use this system that we Americans call the metric system.  Instead of odd arbitrary things like “12 inches to a foot” and “three feet in a yard”, their system is logically based on ten.  Ten millimeters in a centimeter.  A hundred centimeters in a meter.  See?  Easy!

But anyway, I used the term “meters” here.  Divide by three and you’ll have the approximate amount of feet for the distances discussed.  See?  Easy.  Now you can show off and impress your American, and who knows, maybe impress that friendly European that sits across from you in in your classroom or cubicle.