• 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

  • Tom Kha Salad with Mango and Charred Leeks



    Tom Kha Salad with Mango and Charred Leeks
    Serves 4
    A light spring salad with seared tuna and a sweet and sour Thai inspired coconut milk sauce
    Write a review
    Prep Time
    30 min
    Cook Time
    15 min
    Total Time
    45 min
    Prep Time
    30 min
    Cook Time
    15 min
    Total Time
    45 min
    613 calories
    60 g
    70 g
    28 g
    41 g
    22 g
    813 g
    423 g
    32 g
    0 g
    3 g
    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size
    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 613
    Calories from Fat 234
    % Daily Value *
    Total Fat 28g
    Saturated Fat 22g
    Trans Fat 0g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
    Monounsaturated Fat 2g
    Cholesterol 70mg
    Sodium 423mg
    Total Carbohydrates 60g
    Dietary Fiber 9g
    Sugars 32g
    Protein 41g
    Vitamin A
    Vitamin C
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
    1. 1 16 oz. can coconut milk (Chao-Koh brand is best)
    2. 8 oz. chicken stock
    3. 3 Limes juiced
    4. 5 thai chilis or 3 jalapenos chopped
    5. 2 T fish sauce
    6. 1 bunch cilantro
    7. 1 lb Fresh Tuna steaks
    8. 2 Large firm but ripe mangoes
    9. 1 Medium daikon
    10. 2-3 red bell peppers
    11. 2 Large leeks
    12. 3 T black pepper
    13. Garlic chive flowers for garnish
    14. Thai basil for garnish
    1. Bring a large saucepan to medium heat
    2. Fire up a grill or preheat oven to broil
    3. Add coconut milk, chicken stock, lime juice, fish sauce, chilis,and cilantro stems to saucepan, bring to a simmer to reduce
    4. Heat a thick bottomed skillet to high heat and coat tuna steaks in black pepper
    5. Add oil to hot pan and sear tuna 30 seconds per side, reserve
    6. Halve leeks, and cut off the leafy tops, keeping the roots intact and lightly oil them with a neutral oil
    7. Put leeks on grill or in oven, they will take a while to char on the outside
    8. Slice the mango and bell pepper into small, even, brunoise, discarding all seeds
    9. Check the sauce reduction, it should evenly coat the back of a metal spoon, and not run
    10. When leeks are well charred on the outside remove and plate the dish on a base of the reduced sauce, using the cilantro, thai basil and flowers as a garnish.
    A Taste Of The Road http://tasteoftheroad.com/
  • New successes in Astrophotography!

    I recently ventured out to Lake Sonoma on a very cold night with a friend to shoot some deep sky astrophotography. I had borrowed a very fancy lens from work to try to pull as much detail from the sky as possible. The results are better than we could have hoped for, and the night was declared an unmistakable success.

    Picture saved with settings embedded.


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  • Timelapse in Bennett Valley

    I have been slowly amassing more and more timelapse footage, hoping one day to reach 5 minutes to be able to do a proper and dramatic edit with music. The thing with timelapse is, it takes, well…. time. I have been getting better results with every video though,  and this morning I got one of my best so far!

  • 9 Months of Photographing the Sonoma Coast

    Since moving to Northern California, I have spent much of my free time traveling and photographing the beautiful coastline. It truly is one of the most unique and stunning places in the world. I have selected some of the best shots I have gotten to share here. Please have a look through the galleries and enjoy!




  • Deep Sky Astrophotography Without a Telescope: A Primer

    Ever since I was a young kid and my parents bought me a copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD I have had an inescapable fascination with space and astronomy. This fascination has been central to developing my beliefs and philosophy on life, and has always provided me a grounding perspective when things become stressful or overwhelming in my work or personal life. With the advent of modern, high performance photographic equipment it has become possible for average joes like me to explore the universe and create images that just a decade ago, only astronomers with access to the most advanced equipment were privy to. This has resulted in magnificent images being created by hobbyists from all over the world.

    Deep Sky Astrophotography is definitely one of the most difficult, frustrating and time consuming fields of photography. All the toiling, cold nights huddled in the dark have the effect of dissuading many novices from dedicating the time needed to accumulate the “data”, often hundreds of single pictures needed to compile a quality image of deep sky objects. While it may not be easy, and frustration is inherent, once one achieves a quality result, the gratification is enormous and instantly addicting. 

    I’d like to share with you a bit of the process involved with deep sky astrophotography, as well as my, so far, moderately successful results. This guide assumes a basic understanding of camera settings and image editing software. If you only use your camera in automatic mode, you may find this guide a bit too complex.

    When first committing to taking these kinds of images, four major pieces of equipment are needed to achieve optimum results.

    1: A quality DSLR style camera, with a remote shutter release. Canon, Nikon, Pentax, any brand will work. The camera will preferably be of the full frame variety, with a 35mm equivalent sensor, but these tend to be expensive, and many people (including me) cannot afford one. I use a Nikon D7000, which is a high end APS-C size sensor camera. Basically, the better the quality of the camera, the less “noise” or grain will be generated in your image, resulting in crisper, clearer final results. 

    2: A “fast”, or large aperture telephoto lens. For the lens, it is best to have an aperture of f2.8 or lower and a focal length of at least 100mm, although 200-400mm is ideal. I use an old Nikkor 105mm f2.5 lens I found at a garage sale, although I really wish I had a longer lens like a 300mm f2.8, but those are $6000 so I may have to hold off there for a while :)

    3: A high quality tripod. I use this Slik Tripod, which is solid as a rock, and the best I have seen in the price range. The only downside is that this tripod is rather heavy, which may be an issue for some.

    4: A computer with an image editing program such as Adobe Lightroom 5 or Adobe Photoshop CS6, and an image stacking program like Deep Sky Stacker. Both of these programs will be used to process the data from your camera. 

    The lens, while being an important piece of equipment, can be very costly. Do not shy away from trying these techniques if you only have a “kit lens” or a cheap telephoto. You can still get good results, and when you do get a fancy new lens in the future, you will already be ahead of the game and know what you are doing. With that being said, let’s get to shooting! In astrophotography, we are never at a loss for subjects, but let’s start with an “easy” subject:

    M31 The Andromeda Galaxy

    Picture saved with settings embedded.

    This image is the result of 90 separate 3 second exposures totaling 270 seconds of shutter open time. I put my camera onto a tripod. Located the Andromeda galaxy using the wonderful Google Sky Maps App on my smartphone and centered the camera on the subject. Putting my camera in manual mode, and making sure I am set to take RAW images, I set my ISO to 1200 (the highest I am comfortable going before the images become too “noisy” or grainy, this will depend on your particular camera model). I also put my camera in remote shutter mode and make sure my remote shutter release is handy.

    Since the Earth rotates causing the stars move across the sky, you can only expose for a certain amount of time before you will see them streak in your image. How long you can expose depends on the focal length of the lens you are using. The more zoomed in you are, the shorter you can successfully expose before the stars begin to trail. A good rule of thumb is to take 400 and divide it by your focal length. 400/105= ~4 seconds. This rule is not set in stone, and your mileage may vary depending on where in the sky you are shooting and other factors. 

    With my settings ready, I now ensure my focus. I find the best way to do this is to put the camera into live view and digitally zoom into the image on the back of the screen. Find a bright star and gingerly adjust the focus ring on your lens until you think the focus is correct. This takes patience and practice, and is arguably the most important step in the process, so do not rush this step.

    Once a good focus is achieved, it is time to take the first test image. Ensure your subject is centered, and your lens is at it’s widest aperture (you may want to step down one stop for sharper focus, this is up to you) and release the shutter with your remote. Once the exposure is done, review the image on the cameras LCD screen. Zoom in and make sure there is no trailing, and that your focus is sharp. Your image should look something like this:


    Not too exciting, but we’re on the right track. If everything looks good, it’s time to take all of your exposures. Take pictures in succession, the more the better. Take as many as you can until the object noticeably changes position on the screen. If you have a long telephoto lens, the object will move rather quickly. Re adjust the camera so that the object is centered again, and continue shooting. Repeat this as many times as you desire, again, the more the better here.

    Once you have taken a good number of exposures (100 is a good starting goal) it is time to take some funny pictures called darks, flats and biases. These are used by the stacking program to determine the unique performance and imperfections of your particular sensor. Basically they cancel the imperfections that are apparent in all camera sensors by allowing the program to recognize them and compensate for them. 

    Dark frames are taken using the same settings as your above exposures, but with the lens cap on, so no light reaches the sensor. take ten of these.

    Bias frames are taken using the highest possible shutter speed (usually 1/8000th or 1/4000th of a second) and the lowest possible ISO (usually 100) with the lens cap on. Take ten of these as well.

    Flat frames are uniformly exposed images. They can be taken many different ways. A good way to take these frames is to pull a white t shirt tightly over your lens and focus at infinity. Find a uniform light sourceand adjust the exposure time until you achieve a uniformly gray image. Take ten of these.

    Whew! That was a lot of work! Well, the “hard” part is over. Now we move on to the computer end of the process. I will try in the future to do a write up on proper techniques and practices in the Deep Sky Stacker program. But for now, I will link you to this easy to follow tutorial by Doug German on youtube. DSS is a VERY complex program, and resembles the processing algorithms used by NASA for images from the Hubble Telescope, but mere mortals such as we can scrape by using many of the automatically generated settings. Doug German goes just deep enough to get good results without jumping into the deep end and being to too complex. You should get good results using his method.

    Once you have an image generated by DSS and have adjusted the histogram as shown at the end of the video, it’s time to do the final touches. Don’t worry if DSS gives you  a very dark picture on export. I nearly lost it and gave up when I saw my final image was barely visible! This is normal! 

    Open up Adobe Lightroom, or Photoshop. Adjust the exposure, contrast, and do some noise reduction. You can also do some selective color and white balance adjustments. This is the fun part! Mess around with applicable settings and see what looks good to YOU. You are allowed to go crazy. All of the amazing astro images you see on the net are various levels of edited. Some are totally overboard, while others are more reserved. This is where you can put your personal touch on the beauty of the universe and is the most rewarding and gratifying process I have ever encountered in photography.

    I hope at least a few people out there find this little guide useful. Please leave a comment or ask any questions you may have in the comments. Thank you for reading!