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Road trip to Yosemite and more

All my life has been pretty much confined to the area I live in. When I was a very small child, my family used to take road trips. I know this, because I have seen the pictures. That’s unfortunate and something I can now correct.

My wife and I went on a huge trip for over two and a half weeks, Route 66 from Oklahoma City to the Santa Monica Pier, then back a little further up north through Utah and into northern Colorado. The trip was so massive that I will be posting pictures for a while. What follows is a start….

Yosemite National Park is one of those things that once you see it, you feel very sorry for those who have not. Words, pictures, nothing can convey what it is like to actually stand there. I have been in the Blue Ridge mountains and they are amazing too, just not like this.

If you hired an artist to make the most beautiful natural place on earth, he could not improve on this, not even a little.

Everything is amazing. The skies are bluer, the rock in more rock like, LOL.

Everywhere you look there is something else that is more beautiful than the last place you looked, or was it?

We camped in Yosemite in the Crane Flats campground and that was an experience in itself. Walking around to gather firewood is just as fun as you thought it would be as a kid with amazing wildlife and forests everywhere. Turn out the lights and look up, just wow. Yes, it really looks like that laying down and looking up. No need for long exposures and stacking images to see the Milky Way here.

Even though it is a long way from Yosemite, Arches National Park right outside of Moab, Utah is just as amazing. Rock formations stretch towards a clear blue sky. Take lots of water and go for a little hike, you won’t be sorry. While rugged, it is pretty easy going. My wife has a hard time walking on uneven terrain but used some walking sticks and was doing great.

 

If you are looking for an amazing place to go camping or just be, try the mountains of Colorado. Not as majestic or awe inspiring as the other places we talked about, just just dang near perfect for just relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

 

These pictures can not do any of the places justice but they can give you a small glimpse into what these places are like. Don’t take my word for it, go visit them yourselves and be sure to put the camera down and enjoy the area.

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Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017 in Tennessee

I finally got the time to get some eclipse pictures together! Between increased duties at work, the long drive back from Tennessee, and hurricane Harvey, I have been a wee bit busy, sorry!

Almost a year ago my wife and I decided we were going to go see the total solar eclipse 2017. Looking at a list of total solar eclipses, this was the only one until 2024. So we decided to go. For us, the best place to see the eclipse was in Tennessee so that is where we decided to go.

Early on Saturday 19th my wife and I loaded up Buster (my MINI Countryman) and headed up to Memphis. We spend the night there and had a little fun on Beale street. Since it was my wife’s birthday and she was being nice enough to let me head to the eclipse, I figured she should have a little fun, and we did! We did make sure to call it a night early enough so that we wouldn’t have an issue driving up closer to the central line the next morning however.

Sunday the 20th we ate lunch at the Hard Rock on Beale street (Hard Rocks are kinda our little tourist thing) and then headed for Paris, TN. This was our base camp as it allowed me to keep an eye on the weather and had easy access north, west or south to wherever the skies were clear. I could not afford to miss this so I was making sure.

I made plans for three locations, one primary, one further south and one further north. A good portion of the evening was switching between weather apps seeing who said what. All the while I had the weather channel on the TV going. Yeah, I was a little over the top.

After figuring out what time I would have to get up to make the worst case destination in my plans, we went out and had a nice little dinner, then headed to bed.

The next morning the weather was awesome so we headed to the Eclipse Event in Clarksville, TN at the Old Glory Distillery which was right in the middle of the total solar eclipse 2017 path of totality. The people there were awesome and their spirits were awesome too! Unfortunately their stuff is only available in Tennessee so that may mean we have to go back, heh.

All over Clarksville there were vendors on the side of the road selling everything from water to t-shirts. There was a really great turnout which I think is fantastic. Some people live their whole lives and never experience one of these so it was great to see so many people, especially children, coming out to watch it.

Setting up telescopes for the solar eclipseI set up my 110mm Orion refractor I use for imaging on my Orion Sirius mount, installed my Thousand Oaks glass filter and then fired up the laptop. Next to this setup I put my old Nikon D90 DSLR on a tripod with a 200mm 2.8 ED lens and a 1.4 teleconverter using Baader Solar Film. I also had a video camera using Baader film mounted below the refractor.

My wife in the shade staying cool while watching the laptop screen.It was hot in the parking lot so I put up a little shade tent and let my wife sit under it watching the laptop while I stayed out in the sun making sure everything went well, it didn’t. It took forever to get the mount to line up on the sun, then it wouldn’t track, then a cable came unplugged. It was a nightmare. At just a couple minutes to first contact I told my wife I did not think I would be ready in time. I was fortunately wrong.

I also tried to take a total solar eclipse video but had a problem with the video camera so there is no video unfortunately.

Yes, I tested everything well in advance to the event, but even so, things can still go wrong. I am just thankful that the only real disappointment was that the video was completely useless, both cameras got plenty of great images.

I did decide that my old method of using the shadow behind the telescope to line it up on the sun was a terrible idea. I have since acquired a TeleVue Sol Searcher and will never go back. This thing makes it so very simple to get any telescope lined up in seconds.

Let’s take a look at some images!

The first one is a compilation of images as the sun changed, always wanted one of these images. I did make one of the last eclipse I imaged which was an annular eclipse. While not quite as amazing as a full eclipse, the annular was still incredible and the ring of fire it shows when it reaches annularity is really nice.

Progression of a total solar eclipse

Next we have the money maker, total eclipse. The rays coming out are simply astounding.

Totality.

And here is one of the chromosphere:

Prominences shown in pink around the edge of the eclipseThis is an  enlargement from the D90 which is far inferior to the ones taken through the telescope with the D7000, however you can clearly see the red chromosphere showing up as pink here. This only happens for a few seconds so the fact that I captured them is pretty cool.

One note I want to make is that when you get the chance to see one of these, do not pass it up. Being there and looking around is simply amazing. No other time in my life have I seen light like that, dark but very edgy with multiple shadows because of the way the sunlight shines around the moon. It is nothing like you think, it is way cooler.

Lastly is this image:

Having fun after it was all over.After the eclipse was over it was time to go inside and buy some of their limited edition Solar Shine, made just for the eclipse. It was all a blast!

Driving back to our hotel virtually all of the vendors on the side of the roads were gone which I found odd as there were a ton of people on the roads heading back to wherever they were staying for the night. Seems to me that would have been an excellent time to put everything on discount and sell it rather than tote it back with you.

I know Sue Ann and I brought more back than we took ūüėČ

I would really like to thank all the people at Old Glory, they were amazing! Also thanks to all the people who bought my book How to Take Pictures of an Eclipse. Hope to see you all at the next eclipse in 2023 (Annular) and 2024 (Total here in Texas, yeah!).

I hope you enjoyed reading about our eclipse journey!

 

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Big skies and light painting in Terlingua Texas

I got a chance to spend a few days in a little town called Terlingua about twelve miles north of the Mexico border right between the Big Bend National and Big Bend State parks. This is one of those trips that the weather and time of year needed to be perfect for and they were.

This part of Texas was the ideal area to shoot anything with the skies as it is some of, if not the darkest skies in the continental United States. In fact it is even more remote than the observatory north west of Terlingua, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. Fort Davis does have the advantage of being a much higher elevation however.

Terlingua was also my chosen destination as it has one of the oldest actual ghost towns around. The mining town of Terlingua was built in the late 1800s and did not survive long. Fortunately much the buildings are still there and it is an awesome place to explore. You can actually wander through and touch the ruins and to me that makes this place extra special. This is made even better since the town is so small, 58 people as of the last census.

I picked the first weekend in June because it was a new moon (no moon up at night) making everything very dark and also having the Milky Way high in the sky in the early morning. July would actually have been better for the Milky Way but the temperatures would have been higher and I already had plans for a large chunk of July that I could not move.

I had wanted to do a trip like this ever since I had heard of a photographer named Lance Keimig. Lance has done some fantastic light painting all over the world and takes a group out to Terlingua every year for a workshop in July. I even bought his book Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way In The Dark and it is an excellent book on the topic.

The images that follow are all single exposures (no image stacking), mainly 30 seconds at f4 ISO 3200 10mm using a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 lens on a Manfrotto carbon tripod. The tripod was not only important for holding the camera steady for thirty seconds but for getting the camera inches from the ground on the shot with the dragonfly. I use the Manfrotto 290 XTRA legs with a 3D magnesium RC2 head.

Click on an image for a larger view.

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For my first attempt at light painting I think these went fairly well. We were already talking about going back as we were leaving. I also took a couple rolls of black and white film using my Contax G1 which I will post later.

Enjoy!

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New name and logo

Welcome to the new Paper Bird Images, formerly Allan Hall Photography. This change will consolidate names, logos and more making things easier and giving all sites a more artistic direction. In addition to this site, Falcon Technologies, my technology focused company I have had  since the nineties has changed to Paper Bird Tek. You may also see a new site for Paper Bird Publishing coming soon. My personal site at allans-stuff.com will continue under the same name.

pbi-logo1

 

The slogan for all Paper Bird entities will be the same “Helping your ideas take flight” and the logos will all be the same bird logo seen above on various colored backgrounds. I will also be changing phone numbers and more to consolidate even more of the entities.

While I am doing all of this I will also be making major upgrades across the board with the websites and substantially improving the strength and direction of each of the companies.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

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Time for a new coat of paint!

Finally I got around to putting together a more modern website. This one should be much faster, cleaner, display better on mobile devices and will start to show a lot more information over time.

For nostalgia here is an image of the old site, which in all fairness held up quite well for many years.

old-ahp-website

If you have any problems with the new site, please use the contact form to let me know. Thanks and enjoy!

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Its been a while, but there is a reason…

It has been a long time since I posted here, things have been crazy busy. Although my standard commercial photography has been part of that, unfortunately some of the other things I enjoy such as shooting sports have had to take a back seat while I completed something I never thought I would actually do, write a book.

Yep, I can hear my English teachers crying in agony now. And yep, it is about photography…

 

If you would like more information you can visit the book’s website here:

http://www.allans-stuff.com/leap

visit the discussion board for the book here:

http://www.allans-stuff.com/forum

and even purchase the book if you like, here:

https://amzn.to/2Jq1mTi

It will be available through Amazon US and Amazon in Europe in a few days, with wider distribution in the months to follow.

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Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last flight

This past week I was fortunate enough to be in Houston when NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour was flown through on it’s way to California. I have never been lucky enough to actually see one of the shuttles in person so I made the quick trip to the other side of town to shoot a few images. It was truely awe inspiring.

shuttle Endeavour 2

To think, this shuttle right in front of me has been launched into orbit 25 times, traveled over 122,000,000 miles and safely returned 154 astronauts to earth.

shuttle Endeavour

This voyage would be the last time anyone would ever see a space shuttle on top of the 747 used to transport it from the landings in California to the launch pad in Florida. Indeed, this was the last time one would ever be in the air at all.

I used this opportunity to shoot the normal images above and one special image here:

Small high res shuttle

What’s so special about this picture? This is a resized copy of an¬†set of sticthed images which are almost 200 megapixels in size, that means it can be printed at just over eight feet wide with no enlargement and be razor sharp from inches away. To give you an idea, here is a small glimpse of what a section of the image would look like at full resolution:

Flag closeup

Honestly, because the blog resizes images, this image shows a little too much and would actually be zoomed in a little more than what you see here. This would make an excellent print for hanging on a wall at an observatory or museum.

This is truely an end of an era. No matter how well the new Orion spacecraft performs, it will never reach the majesty and beauty of our shuttle fleet.

Space shuttle facts and more about Endeavour can be found at Wikipedia. You can also learn more at the NASA official website.

Goodbye shuttle Endeavour!

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Annular solar eclipse road trip and more!

My wife and I decided to travel to Albuquerque New Mexico for the annular solar eclipse, that is where the moon comes directly between the sun and our little earth. We choose that city because it was far enough west to see the complete annular part of the eclipse and was directly on the center line where the moon would be exactly in the center. Here is a poster of the images I took while there:

Annular solar eclipse

I even shot a little video of the eclipse and if you missed the actual eclipse, you can see it in less than 60 seconds by clicking below

eclipse-01

If you want to see upcoming solar eclipse dates, check out NASA’s eclipse page.

While in the area, no astronomy buff would dare leave before seeing the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, also know as the Very Large Array or VLA. This has been included in many movies such as Contact and is an absolutely awesome place to visit.

VLA1

Very Large Array 2

You can read a ton more information about the very large array Wikipedia page.

While there was still some daylight left we turned east and went to White Sands National Monument. This place is just breathtaking. Their sign says something about you must see the place at sunset to really get an appreciation of the beauty of it. I agree. My sunset picture does NOT do this place justice and I am still trying to coax a better image out of what I have. The entire sky just lights on fire, and I mean the entire sky, not just the area close to the setting sun, it is simply amazing.

Around here when the sun goes down you get some red/orange towards the setting sun. You can even get some up close to the zenith if you are lucky. Here, the zenith was on fire and the horizon to the east was showing some red/orange colors too. I would not have believed it had I not seen it.

White sands

White sands at sunset

More information can be found at the White Sands National Monument Wikipedia page.

We went for the annular solar eclipse and wound up seeing so much more, what an awesome trip. I hope you enjoy looking at the images as much as I enjoyed taking them!

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Bearkats take down Houston 5-4

You could not have asked for a nicer evening for baseball, it was warm and clear, and of course a fun close game with the Kats on top. For baseball fans, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Right fielder Jake Arrington even came away with a home run in the seventh inning making his third for the season.









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NCAA Quarterfinals, SHSU vs MSU

Yesterday was a heck of a game with #1 ranked Sam Houston State University pitted against Montana State University who just came off a 48-10 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals. MSU started out strong, and no wonder with their reported 750 fans in the stands. Unfortunately, like a steam roller, SHSU built up power and just overwhelmed them on both offense and defense. Taking the game home with a 49 to 13 victory the Kats of SHSU rushed over 400 yards including six touchdowns.











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