Fremont at Dusk


From the Baylands Nature Preserve, the city across the bay should be Fremont with Mission Peak being one of the points along the mountain ridge. As dusk descends, the San Francisco Bay picks up a reflective sheen that mirrors the colors of the evening sky. I witness the bay infused with purple, pink, orange and blue hues. This is truly a sight to behold.

Fremont, CA

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 62mm
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter: 1/15s

Photographing the Moon Rise Over Silicon Valley


On Tuesday, we were blessed with a full moon. I was already packing up the camera and tripod when I spotted a brilliant orange glow coming from behind the mountains. (Looking at a map, it is roughly in the direction of Mission Peak). I will have to take a closer look during day time. Unfortunately, the evening was quite overcast. I only caught a brief glimpse of the moon before it disappeared behind the clouds.

I’ve been wanting to photograph a full moon rise over the San Francisco Bay for some time. Usually, the idea comes to mind as I am driving and I see the glowing full moon rising over the horizon. However, to do this properly would require some forethought. Fortunately, with the internet, all this planning should be quite straightforward.

The appearance of a full moon is quite predictable. All that remains is checking against moon rise times.

Date Moon Rise
March 5, 2015 6:23 PM
April 4, 2015 8:02 PM
May 3, 2015 7:48 PM
June 2, 2015 8:32 PM
July 1, 2015 8:11 PM
July 31, 2015 8:27 PM
August 29, 2015 7:43 PM
September 27, 2015 6:54 PM
October 27, 2015 6:51 PM
November 25, 2015 5:13 PM
December 25, 2015 5:43 PM

This table lists the remaining full moons for 2015, as well as the corresponding moon rise times. These times are location dependent, so consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac or some other online source for the correct times for your location.

Moon Rise

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 70mm
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter: 1/1.25s

Shoreline Lake at Sunset


I saw another gorgeous sunset this evening in the middle of winter. The Nikkor 24-70mm lens is a great low-light lens. I like it much better than the all-purpose 28-300mm lens for one reason. When faced with low light, Live View is still usable with the Nikkor 24-70mm lens at f/2.8. With the Nikkor 28-300mm lens, Live View can become quite pixelated.

I usually focus at f/2.8, then change around the aperture and shutter speed to suit. In this case, I wanted to quiet the surface of the lake with a longer shutter speed. However, at f/18, any dust on the sensor becomes quite obvious. An ND filter may be the preferred solution since I can skip cleaning up the image in post-processing by photographing with a large aperture and long shutter speed. I didn’t think I would need one at dusk, but will keep this in mind the next time I am out.


Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, 36mm, f/18, 1.0s

Mountain View Sunset


Tonight was almost perfect. By the time I had arrived at the Baylands, the sun had already set. The last traces of warm sunlight glowed behind the mountain range in a distance. The City of Mountain View really lived up to its name.

I said “almost” because I had the wrong lens and no tripod. I love the 105mm macro lens, but it is a poor match for landscape photography. The field of view is too narrow. Despite these mishaps, the sunset was too attractive to dismiss. So, with only a table-top tripod in hand, I parked myself at some benches to see what I could conjure.

The water was absolutely gorgeous as it reflected the colors of the skies above. The red dot in the foothills is the Stanford Dish.


Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/10s

Christmas Fireworks in Lima, Peru


In America, we associate Christmas Eve with Silent Night. But, not all countries celebrate the arrival of Christmas in quiet reverence. From the Mariel Hotel in Miraflores, I had a city-wide view of the midnight fireworks. From left to right, I could see multiple firework shows erupting across the Lima skyline.

I am accustomed to going to one location to see one firework show. Not here. It really felt like fireworks were being launched from all around us. It was quite a joyous spectacle.

Christmas Fireworks in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 44mm, f/7.1, 3.6s

Milky Way in Sacred Valley, Peru


Not sure if it was a bout of foolishness or naiveté, but I thought it would be interesting to travel with one lens. So, with a Nikon AF-S 28-300mm lens, I headed out to Peru. For one lens, it wasn’t a bad choice, but I did not go through the entire thought process carefully.

My preliminary thought was that at dawn or dusk, I would be using a tripod anyways, so I did not need a fast lens. Generally, that is true, except for one outlier situation: astrophotography. I immediately recognized my error when setting up my camera.

To compound the problem, I did not have my regular tripod for this photo. That mistake, to never be repeated, would be placing the tripod in checked luggage, which the airline could not locate for four days. Fortunately, I could make do with my table top tripod. The set-up was seriously constrained, but it was better than nothing. As it turned out, the night I took this photo was the only clear night at that location. I have been using Clear Dark Sky to predict optimal viewing conditions, but their dataset is limited to North America. 7 Timer provided me with the astro data for Peru.


Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1,600, 28mm, f/3.5, 30.0s

Milky Way


It’s been two years since I first (and last) saw the Milky Way. I miss it. I’m sure I’ll have another opportunity, but I’m not exactly sure when. It’s certainly a lot closer than traveling to Paris or Venice, but heading out to a remote part of the world requires some coordination of schedules. At times, I’m a bit envious of those who can step out into their backyard and view the Milky Way or an Aurora Borealis.

Milky Way

Waxing Gibbous Moon Over Shoreline Lake


Last week, sunset was at 6:00 PM. Today, it was closer to 5:00 PM. Too bad we couldn’t just fall back 30 minutes. A 5:30 PM sunset would be perfect. By the time I was able to set-up this evening, the sun was well below the horizon. However, the moon was just rising, so I headed for the closest body of water hoping for some reflections.

To the naked eye, the details of the moon and the surrounding landscape are clear. But, if you expose for the moon, the landscape will be black. And, if you expose for the landscape, the moon will be blown out with no recoverable details. Even with a graduated filter, I couldn’t expose both properly in one shot.

The solution is to take two photos: one exposing for the moon and one for the background. Before, I had always attempted to use HDR software to automatically blend the multiple exposures, but I never received any promising results. Today, it suddenly dawned on me to blend the two photos manually. In the bottom layer, I have the photo exposed for the background. In the top layer, I have the photo exposed for the moon. I delete the blown out moon (with a content aware fill) from the bottom layer, which leaves me with a background with no moon. In the top layer, I set the blend mode to screen so that the moon and landscape are both properly exposed.

Moon Over Shoreline Lake

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED, ISO 100, f/8, 6.0s

Lunar Eclipse Shutter Speed Comparison


During the lunar eclipse, I started photographing at 1/800s but ended up at 1/1,600s. I had some inconsistent notes from previous attempts at photographing the moon, so I wanted to take a more formal look.

These two were taken pretty close in time. While I already know which is which, the difference is not obvious at first glance.


Even at a larger magnification, I cannot tell them apart. I think a full moon is more forgiving because the image is quite flat. Not too much contour because of the illumination. However, when only the side of the moon is lit, the directional light shows off much more of the lunar craters. Will repeat in a few weeks.

Lunar Eclipse at 1/800s

Lunar Eclipse at 1/1,250s

Lunar Eclipse at 1/1,600s

Lunar Eclipse from October 8, 2014


Eclipses always remind me of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. However, we are one step ahead of Hank Morgan. Not only can we look up any eclipse from the past, we can even see into the future, which told me in advance the local time of this morning’s lunar eclipse. However, at 2 AM, I was limited to taking photos from the backyard. I wasn’t about to go out wandering at time of the night.

I used a telescope for the lunar eclipse photos and a 300mm f/2.8 camera lens for the “blood moon.”

Lunar Eclipse Blood Moon