• Shrinking The Milky Way – A Multimedia Art Installation Project

    If this is your first time on this site, Welcome! 

    I wanted to share an art project that has taken over much of my free time during the last 3 months. If you have a look around this site, you will notice a lot of milky way and deep space photography (Here are some examples). It’s my hobby and passion, and something I have been slowly learning for the past 7 years or so. 

    I recently found a high quality photographic printing service (shout out to www.perfectposters.com) and was able to order my largest print yet of this image.

    This is a scaled down file. The original is 200 megapixels

    This is a scaled down file. The original is 200 megapixels

    I took this photo in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California during the new moon (the best time for night sky photography). The Milky Way arches from the city to the back of the mountains, with a stream of fog cascading over the saddle of the ridge. The image is actually a mosaic of 24 photos, stitched at the edges in order to capture the widest swathe of sky possible. Since the image is such a large resolution, I was able to print it very large. I ordered it at 72 x 30 inches, 6 foot by 2 and a half. Initially, I simply wanted a large print to decorate my place, but once it arrived I was suddenly struck by inspiration and began formulating a plan. I would later find that this plan was going to be extremely painstaking, and take many more hours than I imagined.

    The print

    The print

    I had a vision to pierce tiny holes through the thick matte paper, and backlight it using LED lights which I use in my lightpainting photography (which you can see here). I wanted to create an indoor representation of the night sky that so few of us get to see anymore due to light pollution in populated areas. Bear in mind that there are probably at least ten thousand stars in this photo, and on the printed matte paper, the number was completely overwhelming. I began to experiment with the best way to pierce the paper, while trying not to damage it.

    I later found a pushpin used for corkboard was the best and easiest way to create the holes

    I later found a pushpin used for corkboard was the best and easiest way to create the holes

    So began the process that I came to find both meditative and loathsome. I really didn’t come to realize how long this would take until the end of the first 3 hour session of hole-poking. In three hours I had gotten perhaps 1/10th of the sky pierced through. I began to seriously consider if this was going to be a worthwhile undertaking. I didn’t want a huge print with some holes in the corner, so I trudged on with the hole poking.

    Another part of the plan required the building of a large, hollow-backed lightbox frame, in which the LED lights would be placed to illuminate the print. Luckily my housemate is a skilled carpenter, and I got him to begrudgingly agree to build this complicated and completely custom piece. I paid him for his time of course!

    The first piece of the frame, drying after being painted

    The first piece of the frame, drying after being painted

    I was very grateful that my housemate agreed to do this, as I would have sawed off a limb, or at least several digits trying to make something like this. So as the design of the frame came together, I continued poking holes in the paper, either listening to audiobooks, or watching movies to lessen the monotony. Slowly I was able to see what the final product would look like. I fired up the lights and placed them behind the print.


    It was better than I had hoped!

    It really was looking like stars in the sky! This got me very motivated, and I began to pick up the pace while I was house-sitting for a family member, and I had a larger space to work. Many nights of sore handed repetition later, and the holes had all been poked. The process took roughly 26 hours, and I was so relieved that it was finally over. I also noticed a very interesting and unintended side effect of the lighting I had chosen. Due to the layout of LED lights, in which there are one red, one blue, and one green diode, certain colored diodes would be isolated through the tiny holes, making the stars shimmer different colors as you moved your point of vision across the print. I believe this is what is referred to as a “Happy Accident”

    You can see this cool phenomena in the video below

    Now that the print had been punctured by a plethora of pinpricks, it was time to figure out how the frame would actually work. I had no plans to go off of, only a skilled carpenter to aid in the construction. In order to create the most light, I wanted to have a reflective backing inside the lightbox frame. I also purchased two pieces of plexiglass, cut to size. The print would be suspended on the top of the lightbox frame between the two pieces of plexiglass.

    The frame, print, and LED light strips with color changing remote control.

    The frame, print, and LED light strips with color changing remote control.

    The last detail was how to mount the LED strip to give the best effect, and highlight the Milky Way. This was done by a process of trial, error, and hot glue.

    Oh, did I mention they change colors and have a remote control?

    Oh, did I mention they change colors and have a remote control?

    The end was in sight, and the results were starting to look very promising. We needed to make a top-frame to hold down the plexiglass to the lightbox frame. Once this was done, the piece which now weighed 40 or 50 pounds was ready to hang! We made sure to screw into the studs in the wall, as this thing needed some serious support in order to not succumb to the pesky rules of gravity.


    Finally Complete!

    To give some perspective, that is a 29 inch widescreen monitor on the desk. The picture is a bit distorted due to the extreme wide angle lens used to take the shot. The lighting can be changed to virtually any color of the spectrum from the comfort of my bed, and dimmed or brightened. I am very happy with how this came out, and may do more in the future, especially if I find that people are interested! If not, I have a very unique piece of artwork that will be a centerpiece in my home(s) for years to come!

    Thanks for reading, and leave a comment if you enjoyed this! 




  • Travel Plans – Larung Gar and Sertar

    I have begun formulating a plan to travel to the pristine and little known area of Sertar in the Kham region of Tibet/China. Sertar is home to the Larung Gar Monastery and Buddhist University, the largest dedicated settlement of Tibetan Buddhist Monks and Nuns, and the world’s largest Buddhist University. Very little information is available on this amazing place, and I have had to track down a few savvy travelers on the web who have actually been there, and can assist in navigating the journey from Chengdu. It will be a 2 day bus ride, a very bumpy one I hear, from Chengdu to Sertar.

    I first heard of Sertar while attending a teaching by Khenpo (A title denoting a Buddhist Scholar) Tsultrim Lodro, the successor to the founder of Larung Gar, Chogyel Yeshe Norbu Jigme Phunstok. His talk and the insight he gave into the already familiar Buddhist teachings on compassion and the need for unity were a welcome re-introduction to Buddhist philosophy in my life, and he even chose to answer my question about lucid dreaming, giving a detailed and fascinating description of Dream Yoga and it’s use in Tibetan Buddhism. After the talk I became entranced by the (admittedly very few) photos of Larung Gar I found online. I was told by some that it was heavily restricted area, and not open to foreign travelers. I was quite dissapointed to hear that!

    A few months passed and I ran across an online discussion regarding travel to Sertar. My eyes lit up when I saw people discussing the fact that travel is currently open to the area, and I set out to find all the information I could. I found a great travelog called straightondetour, where the author Prue Sinclair offered me advice and a heartfelt recommendation to travel there. I also ran across the stunning photos of Larung Gar by Wanson Luk (below), and decided to contact him. He has been very helpful in detailing the route I should take, and the details of what it is like in this truly foreign place. So if you’re reading this Wanson, Thanks!

    So my plans have begun to solidify. I plan to go in May or June of 2016, to arrive between the bitter cold winter, and the grey monsoon. I am hoping this time period will allow me to take some long exposure and timelapse photography of Larung Gar, that I have come to learn is quite rare. Photography may be my main mission, but I am also very interested in visiting such a bastion of Tibetan Buddhist culture, something akin to what Lhasa must have been like in the 1950′s before the Chinese began transforming it into… what it is now. 

    I have a number of months of hard work and saving ahead before I can comfortably up and leave, but the thought of this adventure is more than enough to keep my hand steady at work, and my mind pining for a new adventure. The road beckons once again!

    The best photo I have found of Larung Gar. Credit Wanson Luk, who is also asssisting me in finding my way

    The best photo I have found of Larung Gar. Credit Wanson Luk, who is also assisting me in finding my way.


    Another fantastic photo by Wanson Luk

    You can visit Wanson Luk’s Instagram @ https://instagram.com/6ws/


  • Day And Night On The American Riviera

    6 months of photography condensed into 4 minutes. This timelapse compilation comprises over 5000 still images. After posting this I have received offers to create opening trailers for 2 iInternnational Film Festivals. Looks like the hard work and dedication is finally paying off!

  • Dedicated Photography Facebook Page

    I have decided to stop clogging my personal facebook with tons of my photographty endeavours and have opened a page solely dedicated to my photography. I am doing a lot of work in timelapse and hyperlapse lately so come over and have a look!



  • Nocturnal Rainbow – A Milky Way Panorama

    This image took a lot of work. over 30 photos stitched into a mosaic, it features the Milky Way arching over the Santa Barbara mountainside. I have a 30″x72″ print of this image, which I am currently working on to become a multimedia installation piece. Progress is slow, but I will update with an overview of the project when it is complete. For now, enjoy the view.

    handpaint sb composite rs

  • The Milky Way Over Santa Barbara

    This is part of a long-running timelapse project that I wanted to share. The fog rolled in over Santa Barbara, and dulled the light pollution so that the view of the milky way was outstanding!

  • Flight Paths – Visualizing The Flight Patterns Of Birds (Video Editing Tutorial)

    A while back I had seen a video on youtube which used a fascinating editing technique to visualize the flight paths of birds as they rode the airwaves in the sky. 


     I was really amazed at how this technique brought out the inherent patterns in nature that always surround us, yet we are rarely cognizant of. About a year went by during which I became much more proficient with my camera and editing techniques, and I somehow came across the video again. I had, and still have very little experience with video editing software aside from timelapse editing, and figured this was something that was way out of my league. Nevertheless I decided to post a request for the technique to the author on youtube who goes by poochengeez, who has a great variety of interesting videos with unique editing ideas. To my surprise he responded and the explanation was a lot easier than I had anticipated. Since I figure their may be interest among people online on how to do this, I have decided to post this quick tutorial using Adobe After Effects CS4. This is actually quite easy. With a few clicks, and some waiting for rendering time you can get effects like this!

    Firstly you will need a video file of birds in flight. A wider angle and good foreground will help to give this technique more impact and sense of scale. The video should also be at least a minute long, so as to give enough time for the effect to fully take hold. I chose a video of a vulture circling on thermals for this example which really emphasises the “echo effect” that we achieve with this technique.

    Open the file in Aftereffects.


     In Aftereffects, in order to work on a file we need to move it down to the workspace on the bottom left. Drag it from the top left to the highlighted space bottom left.


     Now we’ll go to the effects menu and select time>echo


     This will apply the time echo effect to the sequence. We have the options for the effect at the top left. We need to configure the effect to make it work with our footage. The first step is to select echo operator>minimum This means the entire frames will not overlap and create far too much exposure and just turn white, instead it will only overlap moving subjects, like our bird.


     Next we need to decide how long the interval or “echo” will be between our subjects. This will be completely dependent upon your particular footage. Enter a time in seconds into the Echo Time section. I have chosen .25 seconds which works well for this sequence, but you will need to experiment.



    Next we will need to decide how many “echoes” of the subject we want. Keep in mind that while more “echoes” look great, it is EXTREMELY memory intensive, and the higher you go, the longer your computer will likely be unusable due to Aftereffects using all your RAM. So enter an integer into the  Number of echoes section. I have chosen 100, and don’t like going higher than that, as this 1 and a half minute clip took over 7 hours to render!


     Once these values have been set, you can preview how the sequence will look. Don’t try actual playing it in the preview as it will likely be too slow, just choose a frame in the middle to see how it looks. If you are not happy go back and experiment with the echo time and number of echoes values until you are happy.


    Once you are happy, go to composition>add to render queue


     This will bring your video into the rendering area on the bottom. When you are ready to sacrifice your computer for a while, go ahead and hit Render!

    9 Hopefully after a few hours you will end up with a cool video that not only looks fascinating, but also gives you a great insight into nature and the patterns that surround us everyday!

    Please leave a comment if you found this tutorial helpful! This is the first one I have created and am interested in doing more if I get positive feedback!

  • Smoke On The Water – Long Exposures On The Sonoma Coast

    If it wasn’t apparent by now, I am a big fan of long exposure photography. It is much more involved than just snapping a photo of a beautiful scene, and so allows you to really take the time to connect with a certain place and notice it’s nuances. One of the most interesting subjects for long exposure photography is water and it’s movement. Depending on how the water is moving, it can create the appearance of fog, like below -



     Or if the water is slower moving it can create the appearance of an almost fabric-like consistency, sort of an ethereal velvet.



     While these shots take a deliberate eye and a good dose of patience, they are almost always worth the time involved.

  • San Francisco – A Panoramic

    This photo was taken on a frigid Christmas Morning before sunrise from Twin Peaks. It is seven photos stitched together, and spans from the Golden Gate all the way to South San Francisco. All 4 Bridges are visible. Can you spot them all?

    andro tor-0237_stitch

  • Light Painting – Learning the LED Ropes

    For the past year I have been working on techniques using an LED rope to paint light on long exposures. It has been a long, and often frustrating journey to see what different movements and flourishes create the best results. It’s far from an elegant process, with wires stuffed into a jacket, and lugging around a heavy battery pack. Despite the frustration, my dedication has finally begun to pay off with some very nice looking and composed shots. I am happy with the direction these are going, so look out for more in the future.

    Infrared Roses

    Infrared Roses

    Standing Fire

    Standing Fire

    Spectrum Shore

    Spectrum Shore