This is the picture. The fabled photograph that has eluded me for the better part of two years. It all started in the summer of 2008, when I first wanted to capture the milky way out in the Anza Borrego desert. While I made it out there in August of that year, my camera at that time could only muster a grainy image, and my results were far from ideal. Fast forward to 2010. My goal of capturing this image came back to me a few months ago, and was first attempted in the form of a failed back-of-a-motorcycle ride that was abandoned before it even started. Attempts at camping trips timed correctly with the lunar cycles and good air quality all proved unsuccessful over the next few weeks and months, until a window of opportunity finally presented itself. Taking only my Nissan packed with as much gear as possible, a quick camping trip finally allowed me to capture this image last Friday night.
Yes, it's still grainy. With my current cropped-sensor camera, it's literally the best that I can do. But this hasn't stopped me from calling this photograph a success. And for ISO 6400, you have to admit that it's not too terribly bad either. Unless a stranger randomly donates a Canon 5D Mark II to my cause, I'll just have to be content with what I've got. It's not the best Milky Way photograph I've taken, but it's the one I've most anticipated. And I'm glad it could finally happen.
I was lucky enough to take another trip out to Anza Borrego State Park these past few days, and managed to take my paper photography gear with me. Luckily, my friends are amazing, and let me take the long exposures required to get these shots right! The image below was taken of a gas station in Borrego Springs, which had only a single pump. Though the street was busy and people came and went, the long exposure made them disappear, and makes it look as though the station is abandoned. So far, this might be my favorite shot with this new method.
Every so often, you experience a night that you'll never forget as long as you live. Last night was such a night, consisting of a loosely-planned drive out to a point overlooking the Anza Borrego desert in San Diego County, and culminating in a race to the top of a hill on the other side of the county to catch the sunrise, with absolutely no sleep in between. It was the first all-nighter I've had in nearly two years, and it gave me the perfect chance to test out all that the new Pentax K-x is capable of. I managed to make some truly unanticipated photographs, due largely in part to the camera's great image quality in the higher ISO range. I'll be posting more photographs later on, including my first ever photograph of a shooting star.
It took me awhile, but all 2000+ photos I took on my DSLR from my trip this past week and a half are now safely copied onto my desktop at home. My workflow can now resume as normal, and hopefully I'll be able to churn out postings at a more frequent rate! The photos here are still from day 1, and were taken between Las Vegas (where I found the billboard above) to Mesquite, Nevada (where the "bowling" sign below was photographed).
I found myself naturally capturing a wide range of photographs during this trip, which is surprising given my recent reduction in my lens collection. With only a 40mm pancake lens and a cheap 70-300mm zoom, I found myself shooting everything from natural landscapes to night exposures, from wildlife photography to mere portraits. The shots picked for this post might seem rather simple in terms of subjects chosen, but each of these photographs has a deeper story to tell.
Though I often snap away on my camera like it's nobody's business, the vast majority of my photos are composed in a split second and captured with intent. Whether or not other people find the same qualities in my photographs is another story entirely. But as far as my personal portfolio goes, I'm only doing this to make myself happy. Other people sharing in my joy, be they close friends or random strangers, is simply a pleasant bonus.
This photo was taken while traveling at 75mph. Thankfully, I wasn't driving at the time, else I wouldn't have been able to capture this shot with my trusty DSLR. This area, right outside of Mesquite, Nevada, could be mistaken for somewhere in the Middle East at first glance. The Virgin River, which cuts through the ground in this scene, provides for a narrow strip of green vegetation in an otherwise fairly dry desert. The contrast between these two strong elements, combined with the complementary color of the sky, results in a more-exciting-than-normal photograph. Though I'd never want to actually live here, it's nonetheless interesting to capture what so many travelers on the I-15 speed past without even noticing.
One month ago, guardian.co.uk posted a story about the human labor behind the massive construction in the UAE's favorite larger-than-life province. Dubai is known as the home to many recently broken world records involving architecture. It also happens to host the most construction cranes in the world. Sandy deserts surrounding the main city have "forced" city planners to build upwards (and into the ocean, but that's a whole different story). While most tourists and travelers to the city awe at the architecture, nearly all fail to notice the sprawling labor camps set up on the city's outskirts. Kept away from the eyes of the public, these workers come from every corner of the Middle East and India. As The Guardian states, "Like hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, they each paid more than £1,000 to employment agents in India and Pakistan. They were promised double the wages they are actually getting, plus plane tickets to visit their families once a year, but none of the men in the room had actually read their contract. Only two of them knew how to read."
The profound photographs attached to The Guardian's investigative article open a portal into this unknown world, where countless individuals work for little pay in a world governed by the wealthy. Their passports are seized by the labor companies, and they are prevented access to even the most basic of healthcare. Though Dubai might host some of the world's most phenomenal sights, the untold story behind these wonders is one of sorrow and despair. Things may be changing, as conditions have actually improved in recent years, though not by much. You can read the entire article here.
This photograph is another one of my former rejects. In its original color form, this photo suffered from the awkward lighting of the moment. It was morning in the desert, and the foreground of this image was in shadow due to the mountains behind me blocking the sun. The resulting file looked more like a snapshot than what I had originally seen in my mind's eye. After converting the photo to black and white, I burned and dodged various parts of the image using Adobe Lightroom. I brought out much of what was in shadow before, and intensified the sky. Though most perceive the desert as dull and dead, an entire world of beauty awaits for those who are patient enough to find it.