Folsom Lake at one of it’s lowest levels.
For several years now California has been experiencing a severe drought. So severe that earlier this year the Governor as well as state agencies implemented various water conservation measures. The citizens also stepped forward to help alleviate the grave water shortage. I like many just stopped watering my landscape and let it die out. I eventually removed the lawn on my quarter acre property because honestly it did not make any sense whatsoever. It also slashed my water bill in half which means more resources for photography! Yay! …LOL.
Like many, I didn’t fully grasp the gravity of the water shortage we are facing until I took a hike to the bottom of the Folsom lake reservoir with my good friend and fellow photo geek, Sasha January of this year. It was a eye opening excursion. I was blown away by the fact that I could take a leisurely stroll on the lake bed where several years ago I was boating with friends and enjoying summer on the lake. The water level dropped so low we were able to explore old gold mining settlements and ponder a piece of this great state’s history.
Finally this winter we have been getting rain most days of the week with little sunny breaks on the weekends. We are still far from where we need to be (as far as rainfall) to get out of the drought, but we are most grateful. I thought now would be a great time to look back in retrospect and post about it. See the California Drought page for updates. I also found this Insightful NASA Report. Below are some choice shots from that excursion.
Milky Way Galaxy dust lanes as seen from the north coast of California.
This last weekend I had some down time and took off for the north coast to explore and visit friends. Anyone familiar with that part of California must also know how remote some parts can be. The upside is there is almost no light pollution. Being in the heart of summer also meant I could stay comfortably outside well after dark. Once your eyes adjust to the pitch black night, all the stars reveal themselves and after about 20 minutes you can see the all the Milky Way galaxy dust lanes with the naked eye.
I have always wanted to explore the wider view as well but never really had such an opportunity. One look up at the sky and I couldn’t help but think this was going to be easy to capture with my Canon 5D Mark III – as it usually captures at least twice what I can see. I figured I could stack a few wide shots and be done.
In anticipation of this trip I added a new lens to my kit, the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8. I will post more on that later. I am very satisfied with how it performed. The shot above is a panoramic of several shots at 16mm, f/2.8, ISO-1600 and 30 seconds. I also shot dark frames (with the cap on). However once I got back home and started processing the RAW files I realized I did not need the dark frames, nor did I need to stack the shots. I am impressed by the high dynamic range of the 5D Mark III RAW image data.
The image processing was done in Canon DPP. The panorama was stitched with PTGui. The final editing and prep was done in GIMP. This was where most of the work was done, mostly with light curves and masks to limit the effects of light pollution from the San Francisco Bay – even though we were several hundred miles north, the effects were still noticeable – see lower right corner of sky.
My trigger [shutter] finger had a serious itch when I woke up this morning. My buddy Pete of Denim Spot invited me down to to come enjoy Brazilian Day festivities. This worked out well as we needed to catch up on some business. I did not stick around for the entire day’s scheduled events, but I managed to capture some of the color. I’m always game, when people take the time to be creative and make any kind of art that is visually appealing. Unfortunately there would be no carnival/samba dancers this time, however I did meet some of the folks from the Brazilian Center who gave me the scoop on future performances. I’m looking forward to capturing those colors for sure. Most of what I captured was of the Mexican Folkloric Dance studio performance. I suppose it was more of a latin american cultural day. Still they put on a very visually appealing performance. Below are some of my favorite shots:
As for the technical details, I shot these with the Canon 5D Mark III using the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. Because I was shooting over a very dynamic range I put the camera in AV mode. My Aperture was set to f/2.8 for maximum bokeh and subject isolation. My ISO was set to 400-800 to give me a fast enough shutter to stop the motion. AF was set to AI-SERVO to track the fast moving subjects. Selected my AF point based on how I wished to frame each shot. I also used partial or spot metering to help the camera ignore the over exposed spots not covered by tree shadows. This was further aided by the fact that I was tracking my moving subject and keeping my focus point on them at all times. I also used High speed shutter mode to take my shots in bursts of 2-4 shots. Even though the 5D Mark-III is fast enough for most cases, I found myself missing a few key shots because of the “fast-but-not-fast-enough” shutter speed. This is another area where my 7D has never had a problem.
Overall it made for a fun, casual Saturday out and about.