Blog - Photography Blog - Anish Patel Photography

Landscape and travel photography blog. Everything from traveling to camera gear.

Jekyll Island, GA & The Milky Way

I took the plunge and drove 4-5 hours to Jekyll Island, just north of Jacksonville.

I wanted to go and catch sunset and then get some Milky Way action after astronomical twilight. Storms during the past couple of weekends have put a stopper on going though. I took a risk this weekend even though there was expected heavy clouds until the middle of the night. With the moon also rising at 11:45pm, I was cutting it really close with a sky that would stay clear and be moon free. I got a lucky last time I went to Blood Mountain, so I thought what the heck.

The main reason why I wanted to go was because of Driftwood Beach, which has bare trees and washed up logs all along the beach. It’s also pretty dark down there, well compared to other parts of the East Coast. Looking south down Jekyll Island, would be the darker Cumberland Island (which is completely undeveloped, being under National Park management), so looking south, towards the Milky Way should show little light pollution.

Well that was the plan…...The one thing I forgot to take into account was how close Driftwood Beach was to Saint Simons Island, which is anything but dark. On top of the light pollution there was also the lighthouse on St Simons, that intermittently lit up the beach. I’m kind of getting ahead of myself though.

For sunset, I did plan to go to the north part of the island, which has some driftwood on the beach but more importantly would allow me to get the setting sun back-lighting the driftwood, as it was setting towards the north-west. While I was walking up there though I came across this open field with an amazingly green marsh and I thought I’ll pass up the driftwood shot (I was going to to shot it with the Milky Way anyway).

Don’t know if I was too happy with those big, stormy looking clouds being there. Don’t get me wrong, it made the sunset picture look great but I came for the Milky Way, and those clouds did look pretty ominous.

Once blue hour rolled around, I got my camera set up next to a cool piece of driftwood overlooking the rising Milky Way. With high tide coming in at around the time of the moon rise, I did have to move the camera but I got a nice blue hour shot, with some nice saturated colors and a just visible galactic core.

That stretch of yellow light on the water is from the lighthouse at St Simons and the red glow on the water is me light painting with my headlamp.

I did have to move the camera pretty soon after - tides move quick! Once astronomical twilight hit I got some decent shots with the Milky Way and it’s galactic core very much visible and on full display. All the light pollution from Saint Simons, did give them a nasty white-orange glow. I got rid of most of it with some light painting, using a flashlight with a blue gel. I even made use of the lighthouse; I waited for it flash towards the water so that it lit up the waves perpendicular to my flashlight.

You can see the Milky Way here in it's full glory.

Overall pretty happy, well I was till I had to drive another 5 hours back, soaked from the knee down.

Macro Fantastic

I finally got a macro lens a couple of months ago and I’m starting to really like it. Not so much the lens but taking macro shots. Why? Well, it requires not really going anywhere far. All I have to do is find a flower or plant (which they’re plenty of in Atlanta) and start shooting.

Think that's a beetle.

I usually just stroll out a hour or two before sunset and find a flower and start shooting. I haven’t yet had the patience to wait for insects and then hope for a good pose but I have some decent flower shots. Nothing groundbreaking but hey, they didn’t require that much effort.

The reason why I really like it, is that doesn’t really require planning and long car rides and such. So when I’m feeling lazy but bored, it fills a nice gap. Plus, it allows me to take more photographs and learn a couple of things, like you can’t focus stack a flower with any hint of a wind.

 

So what lens have I been using? The continually back-ordered Tokina 100mm f/2.8. It seems pretty sharp to me, though I’m looking at 26 megapixel files, so don’t take my word if you’re using a 50 megapixel Canon behemoth. The Tokina is pretty nicely made, considering the price and I’m glad I didn’t buy the Nikon 105mm f/2.8. Is it also 1:1 magnification (1 inch in real life will be inch on the sensor), which is what swayed me over the older Nikon macro lens.

There are three cheap ways of getting into macro photography:

 

More of your standard flower shot.

I won’t go into which marco lens is the best or best value, but the two above are cheap, good, are 1:1 magnification and have a good working distance, so you don’t have to get super close to your subject and block out all the light.

With the extension tubes you can either go smart (with auto-focus) or dumb (without). I did the “and/or” for the them because there’s nothing stopping you from using them on macro lens! Instead of the 1:1 magnification, you could get 2:1, so 1 inch in real life would be 2 inches on the sensor - welcome to the world of abstract macro photography. Of course you can use the extension tubes on a non-macro lens to get a higher magnification than your normal lens - even if it’s not 1:1, it’s a start and it’s cheap.

An abstract, shallow depht of field macro shot.

Peach tree bloom.

I’m having fun shooting macro and if you haven't started, hopefully I’ve shown you that it doesn't have to be expensive to get going.

Rise & Shine

Having trouble getting up early to go and hit the trail, for that morning sunrise glow? Well I don’t, but rather than just bragging, why don’t I?

I think the main reason is that I’ve spent such a long time planning, sunk a bunch of money and used up a large amount of my PTO (paid-time-off), to take one of many sunrise shots during my trip, that I feel more than just obligated but compelled to wake up and hit that creepy trail in the dark and catch sunrise.

When I plan a trip, the trip is centered around sunrise and sunset shots. I don’t plan a trip and shot on the fly; the priority is on the sunrise/sunset not on relaxing, or spending time with the family on vacation. I know the common objections to this; what kind of vacation is that, it’s not just my vacation but my family's, I don’t have the time to plan, etc.

They are valid objections but if your goal is for a killer sunrise shot, then you’ve got to accept it’s probably not going to happen. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun on your trip taking travel snapshots or just lounging by the beach.

One of things I hate about taking photographs during sunrise and sunset is that I don’t really get to enjoy a spectacular location with the perfect light. I’m fussing with my camera, thinking if that focal length is perfect, if I need to bracket, if I want to take a panorama...... blah blah blah. With that being said I’m going to purposely miss a sunrise/sunset or two and go running at a normal hour or just relax at the hotel.

I’m going to take a page from everyone else and have a touch of a normal vacation, so see you at the beach!

Why I Hate Gear Reviews

So I need to buy a backup camera having sold my D7000. Let’s do some research then.

Several hours of research and a week later …………….

 

How the hell have I not made a decision and worse, how am I more uncertain now than before?

It started with a firm belief I was going to get a Sony a6000. That morphed into a Sony A7r, then a Sony A7s, then a Sony rx100 iii, then a Fuji X-T1 and then finally, screw it, how about a Nikon D810 as a backup to a D600????

Why all the indecisiveness? Well, going to dpreview previewing all the high iso comparison pictures, then going to dxo mark and comparing sensor dynamic ranges, then going to camerasize.com and comparing the size and weight of the cameras and then watching endless marathons of youtube camera reviews, I came to the resolute conclusion, that I needed to change to a different conculsion and watch some more reviews and then come to another conclusion and so on and so forth.

You know what the endless crap show of camera reviews online doesn’t tell you? It’s that there is sample variation to various degrees in all these cameras and lenses (well lensrental.com does tell - good for them!), not to mention the inherent bias in the all the reviews out there.

I wasted a week and I’m pretty sure I’m buying a Sony rx100 iii, and you know what, choice-supportive bias will mean it’s the best back-up camera in the world.

Shooting Into The Sun

I learnt this lesson pretty late. Since I’ve never really read anything explicitly about it, I thought I’ll share it. When is it OK to shot into the sun? Seems like an extremely important question if you want to take landscapes right? Well it’s best to separate it into two separate times. Golden hour (1-2 hours before the sun sets or after the sun rises) and sunset/sunrise plus civic twilight (20-30 minutes after or before the sun leaves or enters the horizon).

First, let’s look at the sunset/sunrise plus civic twilight (S+CT). The sun here would be very close to the horizon or just below it. At this point the sun isn’t partially strong as the light from it is being scattered quite a bit by the atmosphere. The light from the sun at civic twilight hasn’t quite disappeared; the sun’s just dropped or risen below the horizon, but as the earth is curved, the light is still reaching us, it just has to travel through more of the atmosphere. This scattering (Rayleigh scattering) causes the orange/red color at sunset/sunrise and particularly at civic twilight.

Oh the colors.

Oh the colors.

At S+CT it is best to shoot directly where the sun is rising or setting. The most color is going to come from that direction and it best to plan for a shot at a time where the sun will rise or set in the direction you plan to shot.

 

Now golden hour is something that’s really puzzled me. I always approached golden hour the same why I approached a sunset/sunrise, which has led to some pretty bad pictures. I have until recently just shrugged it off, as most of time I plan for the sunset/sunrise and anything at golden hour is just a bonus.

Washed out picture at golden hour, shooting directly into the sun.

Washed out picture at golden hour, shooting directly into the sun.

As you can see the above looks washed out. The sun just overpowers the picture and the colors and highlights look drab and lacking depth. The solution? It’s really simple and I feel kind of stupid not figuring it out earlier: don’t shot into the sun at golden hour. Why? Well the sun is higher up in the sky and more powerful, so aim for a front-lit, or more preferably side-lit subject (your camera pointed perpendicular or in the opposite direction of the sun).

I should now come away with a few more keepers, though I wish I had my head screwed on right and figured it out sooner.