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Low Light Photography

30th March 2019

It’s Dark Down There


Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky is the world’s largest system of caves extending more than 400 miles. On a recent trip with a few of our grandkids, we stopped there for a few hours to explore some of the caves.



here are the grandkids adorning the park sign

at this entrance way we had to descend about 30 steps

We arrived at the park too late to reserve a spot on one of the various guided tours. Instead we opted to take the self-guided tour.



The beginning of the cave entrance is lighted by daylight with handrails and a cement walkway. Continue walking and the outdoor light slowly disappears.

Electrical lights provide the only illumination inside, but they are relatively dim. We were surprised by the width of the cave at this point – about 30 feet side to side.


As you can see, we’re walking alongside the cave walls. The pathway is mostly hard dirt but there are cement pavers in some parts of this cave.

At this point, the cave widens considerably and the ceiling varies between 30 and 50 feet high. You’ll also notice that this area is well lighted.


One of the park rangers points out this small bat hanging from one of the cave walls. He tells us that there were hundreds of the bats at one time but they are no longer found in large numbers.

This part of Mammoth ends after about one-quarter of a mile. As we turn around and walk back towards the entrance way you can visualize the darkness of these caves.


This short clip shows the large size of the so-called “ampitheater” within the self-guided tour cave.



The steps from the cave. The self-guided tour is an easy way to explore Mammoth when you’re time limited.

Here is the wife and grandkids relaxing after their cave diving experience.



For those interested, these photos were taken with a Sony A7 III camera using a 24-240mm lens. In most cases, the ISO setting was 16000 or 32000 and taken handheld with a shutter speed of 1/15 or 1/30 and aperture as wide as f/3.5. I think the photos are of pretty decent quality considering the cave environment.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Brightening My Winter


Winter weather in Michigan consists of lots of snow, cold and blustery temperatures and dark, gloomy clouds for weeks on end. You can imagine that I’d welcome getting away for a few days to a warm and sunny place.

Luckily, it’s just a three hour plane ride from the chills of Grand Rapids to swaying palm trees of Ft Lauderdale. I’m happy to feel the warmth and see the cloudless sky after quickly changing my attire into shorts and a t-shirt. Then I’m off to Everglades National Park.

As usual I have a camera in tow. My goal is to photograph the snowless foliage that lines the paths along the Everglades. Without any fanfare, below is a group of pictures that help to shed the Michigan winter blues.





















Of course the Everglades has much more to see and explore than its amazing foliage. I’m also a lover of birds but I’ll save those photos for another article.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Iceland – a city view

15th October 2018

Reykjavik – the capital


Like many others, I have a bucket list of places that I’d like to visit. Over the past few years, my list has grown shorter as I work my way around. But high up on the list was my wish to visit Iceland. Early this month I finally made the trip to this island nation that sits way north, close to the Arctic Circle.

From Detroit, you can reach Iceland in about six hours. That makes it a shorter flight than one to either London or Paris. Ahead of time, I understood the weather to be quite variable but on the wet, cold and windy side. When I arrived in early October the temperature was about 40 degrees but the strong winds made it feel much colder.

I was prepared for the rain but wasn’t for the cold and wind so ended up purchasing a warm winter parka before setting out to explore Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and main city. Its population of 125,000 represents about 1/3 of the entire country. It sits along the western coast and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.






















I hope you’ve enjoyed the colorful and picturesque city landscapes, architecture and very walkable areas of Reykjavik.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Tag Along Pal

09th October 2018

Just Migo and Myself


I just hopped off a plane after visiting with two of my long time friends – one in France and the other in Belgium. On the flight back to the US, I shortened my bucket list by spending a few days in Iceland.

I had company on this trip – my grandson Verek’s fluffy partner. Migo was my traveling companion.

Both Migo and I got to visit some of the well-known places in Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and Reykjavik. Here are some of the snapshots of Migo that I brought back for Verek.






















Verek now has a scrapbook to remember the travels of Migo.

 

 



 

 

 

 

Drive By Cross Country

22nd August 2016

From the Midwest to the West at 75 mph

It’s a long way from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the western USA and when you’re driving there’s an awful lot of space between here and there. For those of us who enjoy traveling, there are many familiar sites along the amazing interstate highway system that connects the great expanses of our country.

My journeys are accompanied by a camera or two. These cameras usually stay packed until we reach our final destination. However, I have a nice little point-and-shoot which sits on the dashboard – waiting for me to grab it to capture “stuff” as we pass by at highway speeds. Below is an abbreviated scrapbook that shows you some of that stuff that we saw along the highway as we made our way from Michigan to California. Excuse me if some of the photos are 75mph blurry.

 



the rolling farmlands of Illinois

the paths between rows in Iowa are irrigation ditches


colorful clouds as the day nears sunset

huge irrigators watering corn


rolls of hay in Nebraska fields

gigantic stockyard in Ogalalla, Nebraska


Lincoln statue near Laramie, Wyoming

oil refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming


solitary monuments near Green River, Wyoming

steep upgrade ahead in western Wyoming


skyline of downtown Salt Lake City

salt processing factory near Grant, Utah


Tree of Utah sculpture

production company filming at Bonneville Salt Flats


mountains leaving western Utah

mighty diesels pulling freight at Battle Mountain, Nevada


hillside letter at Carlin, Nevada

work train near Lovelock, Nevada


weather approaching Reno at sunset

Lake Tenaya in Yosemite Nat’l Park – driving much slower!

 

 


the compact Canon SX710

it’s small but capable of recording excellent images

 

 

I hope you enjoyed our most recent cross-country adventure in these few photographs courtesy of my handy Canon SX710 camera.

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


SuperBloom

11th March 2016

The Desert Explodes with Color

Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Death Valley National Park is the driest, hottest place in North America. Although its climate isn’t very hospitable, wildflowers do appear each Spring. However this past October, a series of rainstorms set in motion the favorable conditions for a literal explosion of colorful wildflowers that blanketed the normally harsh landscape of the park.

This phenomenon happens seldom, perhaps once in every 10 or so years and arrived in mid-February. When I visited Death Valley in early March, I was fortunate enough to see many fields still shimmering in the SuperBloom.
 





 


I’ve visited Death Valley more than a dozen times previously, but I’ve never seen as many visitors taking in the colorful wildflowers as I saw in March.

Click here to see one of the DV Park Rangers describe a “once-in-a-lifetime” visit to Death Valley.

How lucky I was to be able to see this unexpected event.

Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

WPPI Conference & Expo

22nd February 2016

The Wedding & Portrait Photography International Conference and Expo

As I sit at my computer in crusty Michigan with the clouds building for another forecasted snow storm, I’m looking forward to escaping for a few days.

My destination is the WPPI Conference & Expo which begins March 3rd and runs through March 10th. For professional photographers and hobbyists alike, it’s a chance to learn from experts.

Additionally, you’ll travel to the warm climes of Las Vegas at the MGM Conference Center for extracurricular activities that are sure to add up to a practical education and fun packed week.

WPPI is comprised of hundreds of classes and seminars taught by noted photographers such as Joe McNally, Tamara Lackey, Lindsay Adler, Roberto Valenzuela, Bambi Cantrell, Hanson Fong, Kevin Kabota, Jerry Ghionis and Gary Fong to name a few.

Alongside the conference is the expo portion in which 80,000 square feet of space occupied by 300 exhibitors who will showcase the newest cameras, lenses, equipment, lighting, accessories, supplies, marketing material and services. All of the major camera manufacturers will set up booths to demonstrate their latest wares.

To look at the wide range of classes and seminars please visit WPPI Conference & Expo.

Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

Accidental Reporter

28th December 2015

Have Camera, Will Travel

One of my former careers was developing, publishing and marketing software for the tiny flight simulator industry. This fact alone entitled me to become a very big fan of aviation, even though I’ve loved all things that fly since I was a kid.

I’ve also had a lifelong affair with photography. Whether on the road for business or pleasure I always have a camera as a traveling companion. This was the case several years ago when I was on a long haul from Grand Rapids to Sydney.

My flight by way of Los Angeles arrived at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport early in the morning. While reading the local Sydney newspaper I learned that the first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 would be arriving from Singapore that afternoon. This was exciting news to me – for years I had been following the creation of this monster aircraft. Right then I decided that I would return to airport following a scheduled meeting in nearby Silverwater.

 
 
When I later returned to the airport, the lobby overlooking the tarmac was jammed with loads of very anxious onlookers. After considerable wrangling I was able to find a small standing space next to a window from which I could view the arrival gate.

The wait was about 30 minutes. Due to the inclement weather, you could see only the faint lights of the A380. They grew larger and somewhat brighter as the aircraft approached the runway. As the aircraft touched down, the crowd broke out into cheers and applause. Flight SQ380 then hurried past us, exited the runway and made a U-turn to taxi to the awaiting gate. Down below on the tarmac, scores of workers and dozens of vehicles were on hand to greet the arrival.
 
 

 
 
I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Being able to report on the arrival of this Singapore to Sydney flight back in 2007 is another reminder to me to continue to carry a camera while traveling.

And of course I was able to use the camera to take a few sightseeing pictures as well.

 
 
Written by Arnie Lee


 
 

Taking Flight

08th February 2015

Things With Wings

 

Like many others, I’ve been fascinated with flight and things that fly.

On a recent trip to the parts of the USA where the sun is bright and warm, I had another chance to look skyward.

Here’s a short gallery of some of the sitings that caught my eye.










 
 

For those who are interested these photos are from Death Valley National Park, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, McCarran International Airport, Creech AFB, Nellis AFB and Everglades National Park.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

Am I Equipped Right?

30th September 2014

Like many other dedicated photographers, I’ve somehow accumulated a sizable stash of photo equipment over the years. I’ve also gained a lot of experience knowing what equipment I’ll need for a particular type of shooting.

My last two assignments were a combination of travel and outdoor shoots. My aging back and wobbly knees beg me to travel as lightly as possible for two reasons: a) to minimize the size and weight of the load that I carry and b) to reduce the amount of time I need to get ready for any given shot.

Since I don’t like carrying camera bags or backpacks, I rarely carry extra lenses. On hikes, it’s a chore for me to search for the right lens and change it on the fly, especially if wildlife is the subject matter. It’s far faster for me to slide the desired camera/lens setup on its shoulder strap up to my eye and be ready to shoot in a few seconds.

After these two recent assignments, I’ve zeroed in on a reasonable set of cameras and lenses to use when traveling long and far. I based my choice on the range of the lenses that I typically use: a very wide angle, a medium range telephoto zoom and a long range telephoto zoom.

For several years, I’ve come to rely on Sony’s NEX series of mirrorless cameras. Not only are they compact and lightweight, but they have several features that I appreciate such as the electronic viewfinder which instantly previews your exposure adjustments and a mode that captures in-camera panoramas. One drawback of these mirrorless cameras is that there isn’t a long telephoto lens available. For this I have to stick with a full-frame Nikon DSLR.



Here’s the short list that I’ve found works well for me:

For very wideangle, I use a Sony NEX7 with a manual focus Rokinon 8mm fisheye.

For the medium telephoto, I use a Sony A6000 with a Sony 18-200mm lens.

For the long telelphoto, I use a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-400mm lens.

As you can see, the Nikon DLSR setup is monstrous next to other two cameras. But lugging this heavyweight around is the price I have to pay for the lens’ long reach.



The NEX7 is a very a very capable camera. I like its large 24mp APC-C sensor, excellent electronic viewfinder and brightly lit tilting LCD.

The 8mm Rokinon lens is about 1/4th as large as my expensive fisheye lens for Canon DLSRs. Using the Rokinon lens I have to manually focus and set the exposure so it’s less convenient than the Canon setup. But the savings in bulk is a major plus for me.

Below are a few photos using this setup. The extra wide angle lets me record everything in front of me. I especially like how the fisheye exaggeratingly bends the horizon.



The A6000, Sony’s successor to the NEX7 is also mirrorless. Feature wise it is very similar to the NEX7 except that it has a superior autofocusing mechanism. This enables high speed captures at frames rates up to 11fps.

When not traveling, the A6000/18-200mm setup is my everyday camera. With a large zoom range I have a wide angle to medium telephoto in a single lens.

When traveling, it becomes my primary camera with the other two cameras reserved for special points of view. Below are a few examples that illustrate the versatility of the 18-200mm lenss.



The Nikon D600 is a full-frame DLSR with a 24mp sensor. It weighs in at two pounds which is twice as much as the A6000.

The Nikon 80-400mm zoom lens weighs just under three pounds making this setup a combined five pounds. Although this is hefty to carry, the lens lock (prevents the zoom from unintentionally sliding) keeps it secure while carrying it with a shoulder strap.

This long telephoto comes off of my shoulder mostly for the long distance shots such as these below.



So there you have it, my equipment of choice for outdoor photography. Of course, not everyone has the same preferences or requirements in the field as myself so this set up may not work universally. But for me being properly equipped has proved to be an ideal way for me to work comfortably, quickly and efficiently.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 
 
 


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