Photographing the Moon

So this past weekend, while out exploring in the Olympics, we had watched the sun go down and the moon come up.

The moon looked amazing, but as usual, I was discouraged since I have never been happy with my moon shots.

On the nights of a great full moon, a harvest moon, or even the blood moon, I had slowly lost my motivation to go out and shoot, since my photos were just ending up as a round, lit up disc in the sky.

I had tried using the focus on my 300mm lens on my sturdy tripod, hoping that I would be able to catch the moon’s detail and texture, but these were always washed out because of overexposing the shot.

Surprisingly, it didn’t really occur to me how to make the corrections I needed to get the proper exposure.

But this past weekend, I had just come across a method that I have not been using before…..I had tried using my camera’s histogram and exposure compensation for the moon, like I had been extensively doing for my landscape and sunset shots in the past year.

(You can find my tutorial by using the button below to review more detail on using your light meter and histogram)

By using my histogram, I was able to dial down the exposure compensation until my histogram no longer showed the white pixels falling off the right side of the graph (which indicates overexposure).

DUH!

I have used my light meter extensively in the past year, to capture all the data that I can while taking my landscape shots. However, I have not been using this method to phtograph the moon properly…..until now.

I feel that I kept a lot of detail in this shot, but can also see some improvement will come with practice.

I plan to gain more experience now in this concept, to hone in on my technique. The nice thing is, I can do this from my back deck at home to get practice, and tweak my settings.

Here is what I had learned:

  1. Use a sturdy tripod, and a quality telephoto lens (mine is 300mm). I shoot in AV mode for the moon, since that will give me the ability to dial in my exposure compensation.
  2. Zoom in so just the moon is in the frame….it is not easy to expose for the moon and the landscape in the same shot.
  3. You can use autofocus, but it is helpful to manually adjust your focus for the best sharpness. Confirm this by using your image review screen, and zooming in to verify the sharpness.
  4. I set my aperture to F16 as a starting point.
  5. Set your ISO to base (mine is 100), to keep any grain out of your shot. If you are shooting handheld, this will have to be bumped up quite a bit higher.
  6. Watch your histogram, and dial down your exposure compensation just until the graph is no longer falling off of the right side of your histogram (see my tutorial linked above for more explanation of this process).

That’s it!

Hope this tip is helpful!

The Power of Positive Framing

Especially during tough times, I occasionally go back to review the basics on my positive framing technique.

I thought I was share my techniques I had learned about and adapted, in the chance that you may benefit from this method as well.

I had developed this technique during my self improvement phase some years back, when I had found myself unhappy in both my career and personal life.

I had finally decided I was going to live life, rather than allow life to live me.

With my new outlook, I have never been happier. I have never loved life this much since my earlier stress-free and worry-free years, and the nostalgia feels amazing.

Here are some concepts and new behaviors that I had focused in on:

Journal your thoughts – make it a daily habit to keep a journal, and write down your feelings throughout the day. It will help you zero in on where the stress and negative thoughts in your life are coming from.

Identify positive “triggers” – Track the things that give you a good feeling throughout the day. It could be a certain memory, a certain person, or a certain activity that you enjoy. Knowing these triggers will be important later in this process.

Reframe negative thoughts – In your journal, if you are writing down something negative that has happened, try to also find something positive to get out of it. Trust me, you can find it.

Be appreciative and grateful – Every morning, practice thinking about things that you appreciate in your life, and how they make you feel good. These daily positive thoughts will eventually drown out the negative voices we may find ourselves listening to.

Realize that (most) other people are simply trying their best – this helped me be more patient, and prevents me from being judgemental toward others. Oh, and for those people who are destructive and harmful to yourself and others….phase them out of your life as efficiently as you can.

These basic techniques allow me to have a realistic, mature approach to life, while automatically filtering out the anxiety, stress, and worry that I had experienced before.

I plan to explain these concepts in even more detail in future posts.

Enjoy life with your new mindset!

So You’re Lost In The Wilderness….Now What?

This has happened to us all before, to some degree, on a hike or even a simple walk into the wilderness.

We had allowed ourselves to get distracted, and we somehow lost the trail we were on, or lost our direction on how to get back to the safety of our vehicle.

As a member of search and rescue, I take interest in learning about and discussing lost person behavior. This knowledge had helped our teams locate lost people more quickly.

It also motivates me to learn about the best steps to take, what things would be the best to do when you get caught in this situation.

While the concept of being lost on the trail or being separated from our hiking companions is terrifying, the actions we take over the course of the first few minutes can rapidly increase or decrease our chances of getting out safely.

First, let’s back up to before you got lost in the first place, and was planning on this particular trip.

Did you….

1. Plan out your trip ahead of time, and check on the weather and any hazards on this particular trail and area?

2. Bring your ten essentials?

3. Communicate ahead of time to someone responsible of the trail and the route you were taking, and approximate time of your expected return?

(Please review the link below if you are new to hike planning, or want to learn more about it)

Once you have become lost, here are the steps, as recommended by the Forest Service, that you need to take to make yourself more likely to be found…

Stop


As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.

Think

Try to retrace in your mind how you got to where you are. What landmarks do you remember, and should be able to easily see? Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step.

Observe

Get out your map and compass, and determine the directions based on where you are standing. Do not walk aimlessly.

If you are on a trail, stay on it. Most trails are marked with signs, where intersections meet and where you may find points of interest. This information could be helpful for somebody to come and find you.

Plan

Based on your clear thinking and observations, think of some possible plans. Think them through, then act on one of them once you are convinced this is the best action to take.

If you are not very, very confident in the route, if it’s nightfall, or if you are injured or you are near exhaustion, stay in place.

Self Rescue

If you are feeling up for a self rescue, here are some guidelines to follow.

  1. Stop and take a breather when your body is telling you to. Don’t expend your energy too early.
  2. Remember to take rest, food, and water breaks, even though your mind maybe racing a mile a minute.
  3. Drink plenty of water, not just on your breaks, but also while you are hiking to find your way back. Dehydration will increase your stress and frustration, while depleting your energy rapidly.
  4. Take the time to deal with small issues while they are still small. If you ignore your body and gear and just keep pushing, the pain, illness, or risk of injury will only get worse and make recovery more difficult.
  5. Avoid hiking, if possible, on highly exposed areas on hot days. If you are on a trail such as this, find a shady spot and stay there until the temperature cools down. Adjust you’re hiking pace to what you can comfortably maintain and rest when you feel necessary.

Hope you find this information useful (or, better yet, never will need it!)

Be safe out there!

The Top 5 Reasons That I Don’t Like Top 5 Lists

All over the Internet, there are plenty of lists of the few “top” ways to do something. You know what I’m talking about.

If you were to put in a simple web search on any type of topic, it seems to always generate “Top 5 Ways” to do this, or “Top 10 Ways” to do that articles and videos.

This applies in just about any skill or passion that takes immense time and effort to be mastered.

The reason I don’t like to see these lists is simply because I see this as an easy way for people to search for “shortcuts”…….to attempt to learn all these complex skills and tasks quickly, and then attempt to rapidly benefit from them.

While this may initially appear as an efficient way to learn something, I feel that it bypasses the passion that drives us to continuously excel.

I follow quite a few blogs on here, and the articles I enjoy reading are the ones reflecting the hard work people have put into the skills, challenges, or lifestyles they have mastered.

Whether it’s obtaining and maintaining the fit lifestyle they wanted, finding and conquering the trails they’ve always dreamed of exploring, facing the every day challenges of keeping up with writing, or trying to simply increase skills in photography so they can take better pictures (that’s me!), these articles are the most motivating to me.

I don’t enjoy seeing articles that just list these briefly summarized lists on how to do a particular craft, I feel that they just inspire us to take shortcuts so we can obtain quick results.

To me, it just feel genuine to see those of you who have spent the time and learned the research, skills, or experience to become good at something you are passionate about.

When I research something online, I have been finding myself just scrolling past the Top 5 or Top 10 lists, and spending time researching the actual principles of the skill, learning the mechanics, and coming up with my own conclusion of how to apply it to my craft.

In the meantime, please keep posting the articles that reflect the hard work and tough lessons you may have learned in your quest for your passion….I will read through these over an abbreviated Top 5 shortcut list any day!

May The Fourth Be With You!

DISCLAIMER: Yes, these are Photoshopped.

Happy Star Wars Day!

I normally post my blogs on Tuesdays, but doing it a day early this week for this awesome day.

Here are some of my favorite hiking locations from Washington State, with some objects I had placed from the amazing Star Wars universe.

Please let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!

Feel free to share with any Star Wars fans in your galaxy!

Can Minimalism Improve Your Photography?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I have become very interested in minimalism.

This new interest had motivated me to completely declutter my house, and I systematically got rid of things that created clutter and no longer make me happy, by either selling them on eBay, giving away, or donating.

Long story short, my house feels much more open, organized, stress-free, and I see things every day that make me happy, rather than allowing these unnecessary items to bring back memories from the past (that I occasionally would much rather keep there!).

So what does this have to do with photography?

Well, once I removed a lot of the noise and negativity from my life by leaving social media, I next zeroed in on my photography hobby.

I have volumes of photos that I have taken. on multiple drives, that I neither don’t care for, or have no future use for. These were causing me stress and anxiety as I went through my thousands of photos that I no longer needed or wanted.

Once I began to organize (and delete) all of these meaningless photos that I could part with, I started to question why I’ve been taking so many photos to begin with.

A lot of the reason, I found, was to keep up with social media. I felt like I had to keep up with the popular people, take the same compositions they are and go to the same places they have been, in order to feel like I was part of the community.

These recent changes by adapting minimalism have helped me realize my outlook has been wrong.

By applying minimalism to my photography, I could now begin to capture just the photos that have so much more meaning and creativity to me, versus the thousands of photos I had allowed to pile up on my hard drives before.

I now focus more (pun intended) on capturing meaningful memories, special events, and true creativity, versus taking photos strictly for gaining social media’s approval, simply because everyone else on my feed had been doing it.

This new outlook had made photography fun and exciting again. I had went back to the basics, and I am excited again for putting my energy into creativity, versus trying to create photos that I felt would be popular to others.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you for reading!

See you next week,

Mirek

Leave No Trace Principles…Are you Bringing These Along On Your Adventures?

As we all know, the 10 essentials of hiking is very important. These essentials will not only make our adventures more enjoyable, but are usually necessary to get us back out of the wilderness safely.

I recently took an online Leave No Trace awareness course, and had become certified. This had helped both educate and remind me how important these principles are.

I always feel that I do a good job of protecting the wilderness when I am out there, but also realize there is a lot more to learn about these very important concepts.

The 7 current Leave No Trace Principles are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out)
  4. Leave What You Find.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts.
  6. Respect Wildlife.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

I had actually made a couple of changes recently to decrease my own impact on the wilderness.

First thing I did was disband my Facebook hiking group.

I enjoyed being a group leader and always enjoy the company of hiking partners, but I also found that I allowed this hiking group to get too big. I was bringing too many people out at once, and realized I was sometimes disrupting or even possibly creating damage to the wilderness areas by doing this.

Now, I simply send out texts to smaller groups when I plan a hike, backpack, or a photo shoot and want company.

The second change that I made, was I stopped sharing photos to the large hiking groups on Facebook and Instagram.

This scenic barn rests in the meadow near Cle Elum.

If you are curious about this, you can read about my main reasons for quitting social media here:

While I initially enjoyed sharing the photos and hikes that I had done, I had realized that instantly sharing these locations to tens of thousands of strangers was not doing the ecosystem any good.

I had included a link below, if you are interested in the Leave No Trace course, and would also like to obtain certification (it’s free).

See you on the trails, and I welcome any feedback in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, and see you next Tuesday!

Adding Panoramic Compositions to Your Photography

While out on your adventures, you will come across impressive landscapes, that you simply cannot capture the full composition that you want in one shot.

This is where the Lightroom panoramic feature comes in nicely.

I will now cover this feature, and how I had created some of my favorite photos this way.

NOTE: Its important to use a tripod while shooting a panoramic, to keep your images consistent.

This example was from an awesome backpacking adventure in the South Cascades. The sunrise was great at our campsite, but I also wanted to capture all 3 volcanic peaks in the distance, in my final photo. I knew that I needed to take mutltiple exposures to capture the full composition that I wanted.

This is how I will capture 4 exposures of the scene, and when I get home, I will then use Lightroom to blend them together as a panoramic.

I took my first exposure of the sunrise, using my aperture technique to capture the rays that were coming out from the rising sun (keep in mind, these photos are NOT the final edit!).

I then swiveled my camera on the tripod, to capture the 2nd exposure, as you can see above.

Please note, you must be overlapping at least 1/3 of the previous shot. This process is necessary, for Lightroom to able to properly line up and “stitch” these photos together to make the final panoramic photo.

I also use my digital leveler on my LCD screen, between each shot, to make sure my camera is staying level throughout all of the exposures.

Here is my 3rd photo for this composition:

I could have stopped shooting here, since I had captured all 3 peaks, but I didn’t want Mt. St. Helens to be this close to the edge of the composition. Knowing that it was important to overlap the previous compositions, as mentioned, I decided I will take a 4th photo to capture more of the composition near this volcano.

And here is the 4th and last photo. These will be the 4 photos I will use to eventually stitch together a seamless composition in Lightroom.

Back at my computer, once all my photos are imported into Lightroom, I will do my basic edits first, to make sure all the exposures are matched in tone to my usual preference.

The next step, as shown below, is to select all 4 photos that I want to stitch together.

Also, if you use the Lens Corrections feature, as show below, it is important to make sure the corrections are processed on all photos BEFORE stitching, to make sure your final panoramic is consistent throughout.

After the 4 photos are selected, right clicking will bring up this menu, shown below, which will allow you to select Panorama, to begin the process.

A preview will now come up, with various settings you can manage prior to merging.

Spherical, Cylindrical, and Perspective are 3 different methods of projecting them into a panorama. There is no right or wrong answer….just click through each one, and choose the one you like the best.

Boundary Warp will actually warp the photo, to give you more or less upper and lower “boundaries” of the photo. I recommend experimenting with this slider also, since the preview will display your changes. I try to keep this at 0, but you should set it at what looks the best to you.

Once you hit Merge, Lightroom will do the work and you will get a stitched photo to do your final edits with.

Here is the stitched shot, after final editing. I still captured the sunrays as I saw them, but was also able to capture the volcanoes I wanted, to show the scale of the amazing viewpoint we had at our campsite.

I hope this tutorial was helpful, please let me know in the comments!

Happy Shooting!

Mirek

Now May Be The Time For Adventure Planning

Now that we are all spending time at home, it may be the time to plan some adventures, for when we are able to go out and visit these destinations again.

I thought I would share a hike planning tutorial I had created, and had recently updated.

I’m hoping it may have some ideas you may be looking for, while we have some downtime on our schedules!

What type of adventures are you planning? Is the link above helpful? Please let me know in the comments!

Have a great day,

Mirek

Reversing Perspective During Challenging Times

So, how are we all adjusting to what people are calling the “new normal”?

Stores are closed, grocery stores are empty, and the local hiking trails are packed (I’m not going currently, to help comply with social distancing guidelines).

Big events we were excited for are postphoned, or even cancelled.

Dealing with an uncertain job schedule and future feels stressful.

Getting cabin fever on a daily basis.

All of these things were beginning to pile up, making it difficult to adjust to sometimes.

Then I had begun to shift my perspective.

While my first instinct was to focus on what we CANNOT do, I had decided to reverse my outlook, and begin to focus on the things that we CAN do during this health crisis…

  1. Keep in touch frequently with family, and the people we care about.
  2. Communicating with family and friends about their needs, and use my free time to help them however possible.
  3. Get that list of projects done around the house, that typically fall victim to lack of time (or procrastination!)
  4. Organize my online photo libraries (they always need some serious organization, don’t they?).
  5. Rebuild my website to the setup that I had always wanted, but seemed to have trouble finding the time (P.S. just finished, feedback is welcomed in the comments!).
  6. Go for a walk in an isolated area.
  7. Finally binge watch the shows I’ve had in my watchlists since the the birth of online streaming.
  8. Stay consistent with my workouts at home.
  9. Learn the songs on guitar I have had on my list all this time (apologies to my neighbors).
  10. Catch up on my Lightroom photo library from previous years’ adventures, and get them posted to my website pages.

You see what I mean? The list goes on and on.

From a great night out at Suntop Fire Lookout, in September 2018.

The things that I CAN do suddenly took center stage to the things I CANNOT do, then I felt my motivation and drive come back.

I began to appreciate everything I have, and less concerned about the things I don’t have, during this necessary adjustment to our lifestyles.

I just wanted to share this insight……it’s a very simple concept, but it took me some time to see it this way, and my spirits picked up almost immediately.

Hope this is inspiring in some way, I am planning to begin posting weekly updates such as this.

How are you adjusting to things? Please provide feedback in the comments below!

How to combine hiking and photography for a rewarding hobby!

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