Christmas Lights 2014

It’s that time of year again when photographers try to find interesting holiday light displays. I always look for the older and wealthier homes as they tend to have more organized displays. It seems like suburban homes are often about buying as much stuff (lights, inflatables, etc.) and covering the entire property Griswald style. It gets to be an eye sore at least for photography.

See the full gallery of Christmas 2014 here.

Christmas lights, Holiday lights, Christmas Tree, Summit Avenue Christmas, St Paul Christmas

Summit Avenue in St. Paul with one of the best lit trees around.

Summit Avenue in St. Paul is a wonderful light for holiday displays. From the Governor’s Mansion down to the Cathedral of Saint Paul there are some nice looking light displays. For a few days the snow melted but we’ve got a thin layer currently. I may try to get a couple more shots this weekend if possible.

Christmas lights Summit Avenue, Holiday lights St. Paul

A simple yet elegant display.

See the Christmas 2014 gallery here.

Rooftopping Minneapolis Style

What a glorious view of Minneapolis from the heart of the city. To see more go here Minneapolis Rooftop gallery.

Minneapolis dawn, HDR Skyscrapers, Color Efex Pro skyscrapers, Wells Fargo Center, RBC Plaza, Minneapolis skyline

Awesome clouds for our rooftop adventure. It was mighty cold up there. Thankfully this side had shelter from part of the structure. The other side was quite brisk.

Just over a week ago a photographer friend of mine asked if I wanted to shoot from a rooftop in downtown Minneapolis. Heck yeah! Who cares if I was going out for beers the night before and I’d need to get up at 5:30AM. Completely worth it. I shouldn’t really say which building we were on but it was between 30 and 40 stories. The IDS (blue), Wells Fargo (yellow) and Capella (behind Wells Fargo) are all 55-60 stories. I actually like the height we shot at because you’re right in the middle of the action.

Sunrise Minneapolis, Minneapolis Dawn, Wells Fargo Center, IDS Building, Rooftop Adventure

In the heart of Minneapolis at dawn!

As you can see we were blessed with an incredible sunrise as there was a break at the horizon and clouds to catch the pre-dawn light.

See the rest here Minneapolis Rooftop gallery.

Lakewood Autumn

All the color is gone so let’s remember the fantastic colors we had this fall. These are from Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Here’s the link to the gallery.

Lakewood Cemetery Minneapolis, Minneapolis cemetery, Lakewood Mausoleum

Autumn Reflections

It’s not really a reflecting pool. More like a reflecting slab with water running over it. Very cool though!

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis Cemetery, Lakewood Memorial Chapel, Cemetery Reflecting Pool

The Reflecting Pool

This looks like the Parthenon. It’s actually for a Lowry family member or Mr. Lowry himself possibly who was prominent in the area.

Lakewood Cemetery, Parthenon. Minneapolis cemetery

The Parthenon Lowry Style

The gallery

Happy Halloween

Halloween is almost over but I wanted to share a spooky photo of sorts. Love these trees along the Mississippi. Don’t get too close though!

Halloween, Spooky, Crawlers, Black and White, Moody, Creepy Trees


The Dell’s Mill

Made a trip out to the Dell’s Mill in central Wisconsin. Great to see the colors changing on the other side of the pond.

Dell's Mill, waterwheel, Dell's Mill Pond, August, Wisconsin

Autumn begins at the Dell’s Mill.

This is actually two shots combined. I wanted a long exposure (30 seconds) for the clouds but didn’t want all the movement from the trees on a windy day. I combined it with another exposure (1/13 second) so there was little movement in the trees. I also used that exposure for the water. I usally like to get water at 1/8 of a second or longer but the 1/13 second works just fine here.

Lunar Eclipse – October 2014

I’m a little late sharing these but wanted to show the lunar eclipse as the moon set behind Minneapolis. The main portion of the eclipse was over but the moon looked great as it sank lower on the horizon. Yes, I know the moon doesn’t actually sink :)

Lunar Eclipse October 2014, Minneapolis skyline and moon

October 2014 Lunar Eclipse behind the Minneapolis skyline.

The key for getting a shot like this is to have a long focal length and to be far away from the object or city in this case. I’ve used an extender in the past but in this case I was at about 300mm to get the major buildings in the cityscape.

blood moon, lunar eclipse October 2014, moon and Minneapolis skyline

The moon just above the skyline of Minneapolis.

Blue Angels at Duluth Air Show 2014

Despite some really bad weather was able to see the Blue Angels perform at the Duluth Air Show on August 24th, 2014. The cloud deck was low so they had to perform their “flat” routine. I’m sure the normal routine is even more spectacular but what they performed was truly inspiring.

See the full Blue Angels gallery.

US Navy Blue Angels, Blue Angels F18 Hornet, Duluth Air Show 2014, Blue Angels Air Show

Blue Angel #6 skims the ground.

Of course you gotta get the mirror shot. Happy I didn’t miss it.

US Navy Blue Angels, Duluth Air Show 2014, Blue Angels Air Show

The Mirror

Here’s a great example of the precision and teamwork involved. The lead pilot flys the routine while the pilot next to him follows. Except for the lead pilot the rest just follow the plane next to them. Easy right? They make it look as if it is.

US Navy Blue Angels, Duluth Air Show 2014, Blue Angels Air Show

Follow the leader.

Finally a movie I put together with stills and video clips to capture the action. Hope you enjoy and you can see the best photos in the Blue Angels gallery.

Touch the Sky or Milky Way

Was in southwestern Minnesota last weekend and went out to try to get my first shots of the Milky Way. Went to Touch the Sky Prairie (gallery here) which is up on a hill in the middle of farm country. This is actually a nature preserve founded by National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg who is originally from nearby Luverne, MN.

Touch the Sky Prairie, Milky Way, Astrophotography

Touch the Sky Prairie

The above photo was at 16mm on a Sony A99 full frame. It was f/2.8, 30 seconds at ISO 3200 I believe. Even with a good lens and camera combo I had to be aggressive in pulling out the milky way. It’s a dark area but still plenty of light pollution from nearby Luverne and Sioux Falls, SD.

Also had a bit of fun up there with some light painting. Used my flashlight with red filter to create this sort of Mars landscape scene.

Light Painting, Mars Light Painting, Martian Landscape Lighting, Touch the Sky Prairie

Ghost of Mars

Check out more photos from Touch the Sky Prairie.

HDR ISO Bracketing

I’m sure others have tried this but I’ve never seen anyone really talk about it or recommend it. Basically instead of varying the shutter speed to take 3 to 5 photos for creating a HDR I varied the ISO instead. The results were way better than I expected. Now I only wish I had taken a similar set with the shutter speed changed to compare the two methods. If nothing else it says it can be done with good results for a night HDR.

HDR ISO Bracketing, St. Paul Skyline, Cityscape HDR, Adjusting ISO for HDR

St. Paul Skyline Using HDR ISO Bracketing

I’ll explain a little about the setup and process. I’m using a Sony A99 with a Zeiss 24-70mm 2.8 lens at 60mm focal length. Each exposure was f/9 and a 30 second shutter speed. I took 5 shots from -2 EV to +2EV. I simply started at the dark exposure with ISO 50 and doubled it to 100, 200, 400 and finally 800 for the brightest shot. Doubling the ISO changes the exposure by ~1 EV step. This was then combined in Photomatix and finally tweaked in Lightroom which is my normal process.

Benefits of the HDR ISO Bracketing method.:
1) The shutter is the same on each exposure so moving objects create similar patterns. That can help with ghosting issues. In this scene the 1st Bank sign rotates and flashes on different sides. The shorter exposures which are most important for that sign can end up not capturing the sign as it is lit.

The second part is the water and traffic which often create similar patterns over 30 seconds where they can be quite different in a 2 second shot.

2) The Zeiss lens is pretty sharp at f/4 but hits it’s stride from f/5.6 to f/11. The f/9 aperture is right in the sweet spot. In using HDR ISO bracketing I choose manual mode and set the shutter speed to 30 seconds and the ISO to 50. That means I just need to find the aperture which is f/9 in this case. You could use a shorter shutter speed for all exposures but 30 seconds works well with painting all that light on the water.

Issues with this Method:
1) Noise could be a problem depending on the low light ability of the camera. The A99 does a great job even at higher ISO and it’s full frame. A camera with poor ISO performance like my old A55 might have issues with this. That’s one reason I like 5 exposures or more at night because noise is reduced with more exposures

2) While this method is great for repeating patterns of motion it’s not good for more random motion. There were airplane trails all over the place that I had to deal with after the fact. This is an issue in any time you combine multiple exposures but in this case each light trail is 30 seconds so there’s more to deal with.

3) It takes a bit longer. At 30 seconds + long exposure noise reduction (dark frame) that’s 6 minutes of time for one HDR. A normal bracket would have taken about 2 minutes with the same 5 exposures. At this time of night there’s virtually no change in exposure so time isn’t as much of a factor.

Would I recommend this method. Yes, in certain situations. If your camera has good ISO performance give it a shot. It probably makes most sense to use this at night after the blue hour has ended and on a clear night. Hopefully I get a chance soon to test this further.

Minneapolis Glow and Proposed Redevelopment Plan

This is maybe THE iconic view of Minneapolis taken from the 24th St pedestrian bridge over interstate 35W. I had to share a few more shots from here as the sunset was magnificent. The other reason is there is a plan to expand the transit station and add additional freeway access in the area around Lake Street. A few of the bridges may be replaced including the pedestrian bridge I’m standing. If the plan goes through construction it may impede the view and eventually there won’t be a bridge to stand on for this shot at least for a while.

To see the full gallery go to Minneapolis Skyline 35W View.

Minneapolis skyline, Sunset Minneapolis, Interstate 35W

Sunset view of Minneapolis skyline.

Here’s a view of the pedestrian bridge (below). On the right there are probably 5-6 holes cut into the fencing for photographers to use.

The pedestrian bridge at 24th St. in Minneapolis.

Here’s a closer view of the diffuse light on downtown Minneapolis. To read more about the proposed redevelopment plan go here.

Downtown Minneapolis Skyline, Minneapolis at sunset

Downtown Minneapolis

Finally a long exposure shot with the light trails.

Long exposure Minneapolis, Light Trails Minneapolis, Minneapolis skyline, Interstate 35W

Light trails leading to and from Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Skyline from 35W gallery.


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