Oct 17 2014

Photo Finish for October 17, 2014: Turn! Turn! Turn! by Anthony T. Jancek

TNO Contributing Photographer Anthony T. Jancek doesn’t put his camera away when the sun goes down, and earlier this week, on a crisp, clear night, he locked his trusty Pentax to a tripod, pointed it toward the North Star, set the shutter, and … walked away. Several hours later, he returned to find this:

Anthony T. Jancek Star Trails

Of course, it really wasn’t as simple as I suggest, and if you want to know just how Tony managed to capture this striking confirmation of the earth’s rotation, here’s his explanation:

I set the camera to ƒ/4.5, ISO to 400, the shutter to 30 seconds, and the drive to continuous. Then I used a plug-in release I built from an old computer mouse and triggered the "cable" switch to hold down the shutter button. The camera runs a 30-second shot, resets and shoots again infinitely without heating the sensor excessively, which keeps the photos' noise down. I walked away for a few hours, then had to bag it when clouds moved in. After downloading the pictures to my computer, I merged them with the application Startrails, which does a decent job of stacking all those photos so you don't have to do it manually.

Who’d have thought you could teach an old mouse such a nifty new trick? But I’d say it was worth the effort, wouldn’t you?

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Oct 16 2014

Now We’re Really Cooking! Secrets of the Kitchen Pack

Lightweight v Heavyweight Bout

Tendrils of mist rise from a nearby falls. Drifts of scarlet and yellow leaves carpet the water. A sweet, subtle reek of rot hangs in the air along the riverbank, simultaneously enticing and repelling, like the smell of strongly flavored cheese. Back in camp, the scents of fresh‑brewed coffee and woodsmoke commingle — an evocative perfume. And now that the sometimes oppressive heat of the Canoe Country summer has waned, it’s no hardship to spend time next to a wood fire when making dinner. The warmth of the glowing coals is most welcome, and the evening chill serves to sharpen my appetite for such hearty fare as hot bannock, substantial soups, and baked desserts. Which helps to explain why every fall sees me revisiting the Age of Iron. Cast iron, to be exact.

Some time back, in an article titled “Out of the Frying Pan,” I tallied the virtues of cast‑iron and nonstick aluminum skillets, contrasting the merits of the Ancien Régime with those of the Young Pretender. And I invited readers to do the same:

Camp cookery flowered in an age of cast iron (and iron men), when a well‑seasoned black iron skillet was the camp cook’s best friend. But we’ve moved on since then. And nonstick aluminum appeals to many paddlers today. What about you? Are you an Iron Age anachronism or a thoroughly modern miss (or mister)?

Not surprisingly, a number of you accepted my invitation to make your druthers known. In fact, I got enough mail to warrant a follow‑up column. So here it is, beginning with a vote for heirloom cast iron … Read more…

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Oct 14 2014

Backcountry Photography: First Steps in the Forests of the Night

Blue Hour

I’ve always enjoyed exploring the country of the night. But even though I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos in my life, I don’t have many that record my travels in that largely unknown land. Unknown to most trekkers, anyway. Of so it seems. At any rate, I almost never encounter other two-legged wanderers on my jaunts afloat (and afield) after the sun goes down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, now that the balance between the hours of light and dark in my home waters has tipped in favor of the latter. And I’ve been struck by the paucity of night shots in my photo archive. Why is this?

Part of the answer lies in simple laziness. After a long day—a day which sometimes combines cycling, paddling, and walking—I’m usually pretty bushed. Few of my muscles have been idle, and they’re all reminding me that it’s time to take a break. By the time I’ve set up camp, cooked (and eaten) dinner, changed into something comfortable—well, something warm and dry, anywaywashed up, and put temptation out of the way of any nocturnal diners… By the time I’ve done all that, I’ve got just enough energy left to crawl into my sleeping bag. Often, I’m asleep before I can even think about dipping into the book I’ve brought along. (It’s usually one of those books I can’t find time to read at home, either. Oh, well.)

Still, on those rare occasions when I can master fatigue, I enjoy being up and about at the night. Animals that have good reason to fear the sight of humans feel free to move about once we’ve retreated into our own too-well-lighted dens. And then there’s the aesthetic angle. A full moon lights a glittering path on the rippling waters of a mountain lake. Myriads of stars shine forth—stars never seen by men and women who seldom venture out of the reach of streetlights—in a display that no HD screen can equal. Sometimes I’ll see meteorites plunging to their fiery deaths. Or—rare treat!—watch Jupiter keep company with Aldebaran as the pair sweeps westward across the heavens from the eastern horizon to the western.

All in all, the night offers quite a show. And it’s one that Disney hasn’t found a way to copyright and charge for. Yet. But who knows what next year will bring? So I’ve decided I’d better make the most of any opportunities to record the comings and goings in the forests of the night. Of course, it’s not as easy as I make it sound. Laziness isn’t the only obstacle to be overcome. Photography depends on light, after all, and that’s a commodity in short supply at night. But there’s always at least a little natural light to work with, even on the darkest night. The secret to night photography, then? Make the most of whatever nature (or man, if you’re taking photos where streetlights do battle with the dark) provides. And this, not surprisingly, brings us to the consideration of the proper equipment for night photography… Read more…

This article is an update of one originally published on November 8, 2012.

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