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Playing around with crystal photography

This is some fun and easy photography you can do at home with just cell phone cameras. We turned on the flashlight on one of our phones and put a crystal on top. We turned the lights off and went under some furniture for as much darkness as possible.

Then you can simply adjust your camera settings until the crystal shows detail and is well lit. The result is a floating crystal on a black background!

From there you can make some simple edits to polish off the image.

Abstract black & white photos

This is what a crack in the sidewalk looks like a 3am

This photo was taken by my girlfriend who has a great eye for photography. I edited it to look dark and abstract.

Pleasant-looking shadows

Father’s Day

fathers day bass fishing

For Father’s Day this year we caught some largemouth bass in my grandpas pond. Me, my dad and my brother caught and released about 5 or 6 fish, capturing photos of them jumping out of the water and their vibrant green scales. They’re a really beautiful animal.

fathers day fishing louisiana

louisiana largemouth bass

Photo by my brother, Gage Trahan

orb weaver spider

orb weaver spider found in the garden

First Spring camping trip with friends at Indian Creek, Louisiana

 

As the Earth rotates along her axis, the stars appear to move across the sky. After capturing over an hour of light, that movement appears as the star trails you see here.


My friend asked me to write about my experience out there to make the photo more magical. So I wrote a surreal one and another version that is far more accurate about my time out there.

Laying under a young spring sky with a cool northern blanket. Nothing between us and the great primal spirits of the cosmos. Their teach us ancient wisdom in silent languages.. We lay under a young spring sky with a cool northern blanket.
until wakened by the new dawn

Honest Version:
The campfire warms my face. Until the wind is scorn and burns my face with ash. I move my chair, but I cannot escape it. The smoke chokes me, and burns my eyes. Somewhere in the distance a child screams. A car passes by and I’m blinded by headlights. I rub my eyes and I see light spots. Dizzy, I stand. I need to lay down. Flailing, I fall from my hammock and plop onto the ground. It is dirty. Something is piercing my arm but I cannot see it.

I lay down to sleep beneath the infinite stars. A root of a tree feeds on water and nutrients in the soil as it pushes into my diaphragm. The night is perfect. I jump up in a panic when i realize I’ve lost my keys. I search for them frantically through the unkept grass and pine cones. Oh here they are they slipped out when I fell from the hammock. I forget that my camera is still on. I go and turn it off. I swat a bug. Fin.

“Elements of Earth” – Digital Art

 

For this project I wanted to personify the primal elements of Mother Earth; wind, water, earth, and fire. Using a double exposure technique I learned from a lot of YouTubers, I was able to make this series of elementals. The wind element is double exposed against a photo of a passing rainstorm with a rainbow. Fire consists of two separate fire exposures; one exposure for the trailing embers and another for the detailed flames in the face.

The Orion Constellation & Barnard’s Loop taken with a DSLR

I wanted to capture my first deep sky object and the Orion Constellation is a beautiful and easy target. The scale of this object is unimaginable. The entire span of our solar system would barely register as a pixel in this image.

It felt overwhelming to see actual color appear in my image from pointing my camera into outer space.

To quote Kerry Kennedy of Acadiana Astronomy Club about this photo:

Barnard’s loop is tough. It’s mostly faint hydrogen-alpha wavelengths, so its really hard to capture with an unmodified dslr. Great work!

I’m no scientist, but this explanation makes a lot of sense. I had to stack a ton of photos together and do lots of photoshop kung fu to get even the slightest color and nebula data to show up in this image. 

Image Details

Acquisition

Date Taken: 1/5/2019
Location: Pecan Island, Louisiana
ISO: 3200
Exposure: 1 Minute 20 Seconds (8 Composite Images)
Lens: 50mm 1.8
Camera: Nikon D750
Additional Details: Standard tripod with a 2 second interval shutter delay.

Post Editing

In Lightroom I made adjustments to the white balance and removed vignetting on all 8 images. Then I moved them into Photoshop and followed a guide by Lonely Speck for LRGB processing, and made adjustments for taste. I copied the composite image three times to make three different layers: A high contrast black and white Detail layer, a low contrast black and white luminance layer where you capture the Nebulocity, and finally a layer that contains all of the Color. I made adjustments to each of them separately to find the right balance between low noise, lush color, and nebulocity.

Finally I made some minor color corrections and vastly increased the vibrance and saturation.

Here are my three layers in the final image.

This whole process took longer than a week tweaking it every night. I plan on taking more photos of this night sky object and to have improved photos in the future.


Another part of the challenge was when I noticed my histogram was almost off the chart. I was too excited during the shoot and forgot to check it. I also only had 8 exposures instead of the 32 exposures I had hoped to stack. So I didn’t have nearly as much detail as I’d hoped to work with in this image but all considering I’m still really blown away by how it turned out. After struggling with clearing up the noise for a few hours, I think it’s pretty okay for one of my first astrophotography shots.

Taken 1/5/2019 with a 50mm 1.8 at 3200 ISO. 8 composite images for a total exposure time of 1 minute 20 seconds.


You can check out this nebula with a good pair of binoculars.



 

My first Milky Way photograph

The outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy

The outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy

On the darkest, clearest winter night of the year, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. Billions of suns come together to form the Milky Way arm you see above this camp in Pecan Island, Louisiana.

Full Resolution Image
Free-To-Use Version

Image Details

Acquisition

Date Taken: 1/5/2019
Location: Pecan Island, Louisiana
ISO: 3200
Exposure: 1 Minute 40 Seconds (5 Composite Images)
Lens: 24mm F/4
Camera: Nikon D750
Additional Details: Standard tripod with a 2 second interval shutter delay.

Post-Editing

I imported the images to lightroom and made some white balance adjustments and fixed vignetting as best as I could. From there I exported them to Photoshop where they were aligned and stacked.

Next I did something called “LRGB processing” which I learned from a tutorial by Lonely Speck. You copy the composite image three times and make three different layers: A high contrast black and white Detail layer, a low contrast black and white luminance layer where you capture the Nebulocity, and finally a layer that contains all of the Color. This allows you to capture as much detail, nebulocity and color from your shots. It’s a really neat process. At first I was just a monkey following along with the tutorial but once it clicked I understood what I was doing and began to learn a lot.

Once the LRGB processing was complete I made some vibrance and color corrections. Finally, I copied one of my original layers and made adjustments only to the camp and foreground and added it to the final image you see here.

Story

The conditions were near perfect for astrophotography so I head out to my family’s camp in a dark zone with some friends. We could see the Milky Way’s outer arm with the naked eye.

I took 5 composite exposures for a total of 1 minute 40 seconds of exposure time on a 24mm F/4 . Taken at the family camp in Pecan Island on 1/5/2019 during a stargazing trip my friends Bennett, Colby and Danny.

My histogram was not where I wanted it to be, so I didn’t capture as much data as I’d like. But that’s all part of the learning process. We’re going to keep going out there and to other dark sky zones and take more photos of the milky way. Hopefully each one is better than the last.

My emotions were beyond excitement when I saw the stacked image on my computer. My first ever Milky Way shot and it’s looming over the family camp. I also got a rush when I noticed you can faintly see the Andromeda Galaxy in the shot.

This is my first ever Milky Way photo! I’m beyond excited — I have a lot to learn about acquisition and post editing but I’m still more than happy with how this turned out. You can faintly make out the Andromeda Galaxy which blew me away when I noticed it.


Here’s my long exposure version of this angle. It’s about 42 minutes, resulting in star trails.



A week in the Smoky Mountains

Clingman’s Dome

The trek up to Clingman’s dome was some of the most pleasant hiking I’ve ever experienced. It was about 68 degrees, overcast, and every now and then a very slight mist would past through. The scenery and hiking trails were beautiful and had new sites at every bend.

When we reached the summit, we were higher than every mountain around us. Nothing in any direction could limit our site.

A storm rolled in, and we began to head back down. But not before I took one of my favorite photos from the trip.

This photo captures the namesake of the Smoky Mountains.

Grotto Falls

We decided we wanted to see some waterfalls. As Louisianians, any waterfall is impressive, and Grotto Falls did not disappoint. The clear pools of water and boulders to climb were plenty to keep our minds impressed.

This abandoned water mill was a nice treat on our way out. I snapped this shot of the tread.


Midnight Waterhole

We were lucky to stumbled across what is locally called the Midnight Waterhole.

After a day of ziplining, we made friends with the zipline workers who later showed us this hidden gem off the beaten trail. A cozy little tourist-free waterfall with a pool deep enough to jump off into.

Ahead of the falls I found some nicely flowing water over some rockbeds and snapped a few photos.

I also spotted a timber rattlesnake hiding in the brush.

Lorel Falls

We’d already seen a few waterfalls but we still wanted to hike. So we took the time to check out Lorel Falls. Along the way I came across a few noteworthy sites.

But my favorite part of this hike by far was seeing a mother bear and her cubs. They were so high up in the tree it was hard to snap a photo, but I managed a few just to prove the story.

Cade’s Cove

Horseback Riding

Our horseback riding was a fun and unique experience. There’s not much else to say, so here’s some photos.

Miscellaneous

Spelunking for Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls is a 145 foot waterfall about 1,120 feet underground inside the caverns of Lookout Mountain. To see it, you need to spelunk deep into the Ruby Falls Cave in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I really love looking at stalactites and stalagmites are pretty amazing to think about. How incredibly gradual the process is for these formations to occur. The drip drop of limestone deposits built up over millions of years and now here I am with a camera to witness it. Pretty cool to stop and think about it.

Exploring a cave is pretty eerie. Cold and wet, the terrain is completely unnatural from what we’ve evolved to navigate. It’s a thrilling and rewarding experience.

Finally, at the end of our journey through Ruby Falls Cave we finally found the 145 foot underground waterfall — Ruby Falls. It’s lit up by multi-color lights fading into arrays of colors like red, blue, pink and green.