Diamond Ring of Elqui Valley
Falcon 9 NebulaThe SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivers the SAOCOM 1A satellite to orbit. In a single long exposure, the ascent, second stage, boostback and re-entry burns are shown. From Santa Ynez Peak, California.
I watched the launch from Santa Ynez peak, about 40 miles from the base. It was spectacular, the fog lit up and quickly the horizon turned red. After the second stage deployed, the Falcon 9 drew spirals of light in the sky and a massive cyan and magenta cloud formed. It looked as if we we staring into a nebula, with two bright eyes staring back. The descent back to base was fiery and almost blinding, while the payload left behind a trail that looked like a distant comet.
This is a single exposure, at 9 minutes and 33 seconds. This was my first time shooting a launch, and it won't be my last.
Griffith HornsWaxing crescent moon suspended in a beam of light sets over the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
It's much harder to plan moon positions than sun positions for super telephoto shots. The sun transitions rather evenly day by day, it'll be just a tiny bit off to one side the next day, pretty predictable, but the moon jumps around a lot more.
It's also much harder to avoid camera shake, due to the longer exposures with low light. Even with a tripod, 90% of my shots were not sharp enough. But one sharp shot is enough.
Comet 46P-Wirtanen over Santa BarbaraComet 46P/Wirtanen approaches Earth (green blur on the far top-right), with the lights of Santa Barbara illuminating the seaside. Santa Ynez Peak, California.
We went to Santa Ynez Peak to take photos of the launch of the Delta IV Heavy NROL-71, which unfortunately was scrubbed just 7 seconds before ignition due to an unexpected condition with the terminal count. It was a bummer, I really wanted to see that rocket launch. We spent the next half hour or so taking photos of the Milky Way and the city lights instead.
I did not have comet 46P/Wirtanen in mind at all, I had forgotten it could be visible already, I had my calendar set to observe it the following week when it would reach it's closest point to Earth, so this image was made through pure luck.
Driving on the way back, I saw a tweet from a friend asking if I had seen the comet. We stopped immediately and searched for it with binoculars. Got to see it, it was dim, hardly noticeable but made the evening feel more fulfilling. What I really didn't expect is for the comet to have shown in one of my photos, and in quite a solid composition, that makes it seem like it was framed that way on purpose.
Falcon 9 Comet
Griffith Rain SunsetAfter a long drought, the first rain washes over the Griffith Observatory during a fiery sunset in Los Angeles, California.
I took this shot from Mount Washington. Since the rain showed up out of nowhere, I figured a good sunset was incoming. I planned the alignment with some apps and maps, and had to quickly get in my car and find the spot that would line up the Griffith Observatory to the sun and falling rain.
Crater Lake EclipseWizard Island sits awash in a strange color palette or orange and purple during the “super blood moon” eclipse of 2015, seen from a location near the Lightning Springs Picnic Area, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
I found my perfect spot at Crater Lake for the super blood moon eclipse, and planted myself there hours before the event. I was totally isolated on the tip of that protruding rock, waiting with the cold, the wind, and the changing sounds of birds. This spot by the Lightning Springs Picnic Area has outstanding views.
Black Hole of Elqui Valley
FunambulismThe moon balances itself on a residential power line in the hills of Mount Washington, in Los Angeles, California.
I was shooting the Griffith Observatory, and when returning to the car I saw the moon rising on the opposite side. My telephoto and tripod were ready, so I lined this shot up and waited just a few seconds until the moon balanced itself on that cable.
I like the play of diagonals here, it flows in a zig-zag motion through the image, and the trees vignette it to focus all attention on the moon.
Falcon 9 Eyes
Guardian of the Blood MoonDuring the “super blood moon” eclipse of 2015, an ancient whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) embraces the moon. Taken at the Watchman Peak Trail, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
There was a wild flock of photographers at Crater Lake for the eclipse. I got some wide shots too, but I wanted something a bit different from what everyone else was getting, so I focused my attention on this old pine. This now endangered species can live to over 1,200 years, and their numbers are quickly diminishing due to invasive, conifer-killing beetles.
Griffith SilhouetteThe domes of the Griffith Observatory silhouetted behind the setting sun in Los Angeles, California.
I was obsessing with getting the perfect Griffith Observatory sunset photo, aiming for an alignment of the sun to the main dome, but my position was off by maybe 50 feet. The sun moves too fast in those last seconds, and you can't just correct that on the spot, but I liked this slightly offset version of the shot. You can see hints of a green flash on the very top of the sun's edge, an optical phenomenon that occurs when the atmosphere causes light from the sun to separate out into different colors.
Nuclear BadlandsLoaded with bright LEDs, thousands of ATVs and RVs light up the desert's night sky, in this long exposure view from Font's Point, looking towards the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, California.
40 minute exposure from Font's Point in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Despite this area being great for dark skies, due to the massive amount of off-roaders there for Thanksgiving, the landscape was covered in clouds of dust and not as dark as it should've been. There were thousands of RVs and ATVs with bright LEDs all around the landscape.
This shot was stupidly overexposed, I set the ISO too high for star trails, but I ended up liking the apocalyptic look it took. No tripod! The tripod would've vibrated too much over 40 minutes, so I left the cam on a rock at the edge of the cliff. The rock didn't move.
Falcon 9 Spirals
Moon EaterWaxing crescent moon inside the metallic, piercing bite of Breceda's Eagle. This sculpture by Ricardo Breceda inhabits a desert road in Borrego Springs, California.
I had to embrace the noise in this image, I needed a really high ISO of 6400 to get things sharp with the telephoto at f/16. I was looking for an original angle of this sculpture, since I've seen in photographed many times before. Few people care to take out a telephoto at night, it's a nightmare to use even with a tripod, so I gave it a shot. I had a ton of blurry images, but the ones that turned out sharp became some of my favorites from this trip.
Going to Borrego Springs feels like hunting for Pokémon. The sculptures by Ricardo Breceda are scattered all over, some right by the main road, some in the middle of nowhere, and one can't help but go visit each one of them and try to see them all.
Venus SunsetWe went to the Santa Monica Pier to watch Venus pass in front of the sun, hoping to catch a unique sunset from the beach. The sunset was fantastic, the sun revealing a lot of sunspots in incredible detail, and Venus moved by as a dark, shimmering silhouette.
Purple EclipseNear Moran Point, I set up to take pics of the annular solar eclipse. After the ring of fire was gone, the sun’s silhouette was still partially consumed while it lowered itself into the purple canyons. The complementary colors were vibrant, and short-lived.