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Nightscapes with Fireflies; Live Composite is Great

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by faithblinded, Jun 12, 2016.

  1. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    I've been out a lot lately, during sunlight hours, chasing critters and bugs. I also shoot a bit of landscape while I'm hiking, which sometimes keeps me out until after dark. This brought to my attention how prolific the fireflies are right now. I've spent 4 nights in the last week trying to capture them.

    I started by simply trying to capture them where I was at, with a single long exopsure. I tried to find a pleasing view on the path, but it was hardly my best composition. The only lens I had on hand was the 17/1.8, so that's what I used. Here's the best exposure from that first night. 17mm f2.8 40sec ISO800:
    P6070522-1903x1070.

    Seeing that on my PC was enough to commit me to going out again after dark, specifically to shoot the fireflies. I also knew I wanted to use Live Composite, to get more bugs into one image. Two nights later, I went out for the golden hour, and a plan to shoot fireflies when it got dark. I brought the 12-40 for the job, and found a few areas of the path I knew offered an interesting view. This is at the same general area where I shot the first one. These are the best two from that excursion.
    40mm f3.5 15s ISO1600 for several minutes:
    P6090745-X2.
    12mm f3.5 15s ISO1600 for several minutes:
    P6090752-X2.

    Those were good, but I still wasn't quite happy. But I had company coming, so I wasn't going to be able to get out for a few nights. While my cousin was here, we stayed up late catching up. I decided to drive out to the park and show him an area I know is nice at night, and it turned out to be even more extreme with fireflies than the other location. Of course I didn't bring my gear, so I had to wait until the next night(last night), to go check it out. I worked all day yesterday, thinking about where I would set up to shoot the flies, and maybe some stars, if the clouds allowed.

    I went out at about midnight and hiked into the woods, while a somewhat overly warm breeze washed over me, alternating with a cool breeze off the pond nearby. It was an odd sensation, but the fireflies didn't seem to mind the strange wind. The clouds were thin and clearing, and the pond there lies low enough that the breeze wasn't disturbing the surface much. This one area offers an open mowed field, natural meadow, deep and fringe forest, and a large still pond. There's even a RR track line that goes through here. It's a good one stop location for a variety of shooting.

    I brought with me the em5ii, the 12-40/2.8, the 40-150/2.8, the panny 25/1.4, and my 4/3 sigma 50/1.4. I wanted to try and use them all. The f1.4 lenses would allow me to shoot in the darkest areas while keeping my exposure time at 30s or less. The zooms would allow me to create the best framing possible in the more open areas, and give me the versatility of wide to telephoto angles, so the fireflies could be either tiny or large in the image. I had one particular shot in mind for 150mm, so there was that too.

    The path in cuts through an area where meadow meets forest. I came up to a bend in the path, and was struck by the multitude of fireflies in the trees and in the meadow. A few stars were peaking out to boot.
    12mm f2.8 15s ISO1600 for maybe 10 minutes
    P6120001-X2.
    I walked up to the bend in the above picture, and turned around for some shots in the direction from whence I came. I used the 25mm/1.4 for this shot, with intentional soft focus, since it turns the fireflies into these amazing little perfect bokeh balls of light.
    25mm f1.4 15s ISO1600 for 3 or 4 exposures
    P6120006-X2.

    Just a little further around the bend, I found a better view, with some foreground foliage I liked. I set this one up with the 12-40. I got a rare still few minutes, and the foliage I liked actually stayed still.
    12mm f2.8 15s ISO1600 for several minutes
    P6120009-X2.

    I continued on the path to where it opens to a field, a meadow, and the shore of a large pond(called Indigo Lake). The reflections were great, so I set up near the water and shot the stars. Light pollution is pretty bad at this park, so I don't often do so. It was too nice last night to pass up. This is the best starscape I've ever shot at this pond.
    12mm f2.8 15s ISO800 for 2 or 3 exposures:
    P6120017-X2.

    Ok I know that had no abundance of fireflies, just a couple interlopers. I wandered around in the field and meadow for a while, taking more exposures and trying different angles. Nothing was quite as pleasing as what I got on the path in, so they didn't make the cut. It was a lovely evening under the stars, but I decided I should head back to the Jeep and get the last shot I wanted while the darkness lasted. The blue hour would be on me soon.

    At the entrance to this area of the park, there is a set of RR tracks, and a station for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. It serves the park nearly every day, allowing visitors to hike/bike, and ride the train back to their cars. It's very cool, and a very popular subject for local photographers. The tracks here in particular are a popular shot, as they stretch off into the forest, with a bend that sends the tracks out of view near the horizon. You have to see it to enter this area, and it's difficult to resist snapping a shot of it every time you pass. I rarely share any of the images I get here since it's so over exposed, but sometimes you get to see something in a new light, or the sun just makes magic for you. I've never seen anyone share a night shot here, since there's not much sky to be had, and like I mentioned, the light pollution here is rough. But last night, the fireflies were making magic where the forest met the open cut of the tracks. I set up shots with the 50mm, and 40-150mm, and spent a good hour trying different angles and shot heights. When I finished, the blue hour was ten minutes old, and the fireflies were already slowing down. I chose this as my favorite capture. It's at 150mm. I suspected the super telephoto would be best, since it tends to offer the best captures here during the day. The golden glow is the wash of light pollution, and the beginning of the blue hour, shining through an opening around the bend in the tracks. It was very dark under these boughs, and coupled with telephoto, I was forced to use my most extreme settings here.
    All aboard for Hogwarts!
    150mm f2.8 30s ISO1600 for several minutes
    P6120041-1903x1070.

    Thanks for taking a look. I'm not done shooting fireflies yet, but I thought this was worth a share. Now the challenge is to find subjects that have them nearby, for more interesting nightscapes like this last one. I hope you enjoyed seeing my progression from "hey, that's cool!", to "I have a plan.".
     
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Great series. Last one is my favorite
     
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  3. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    I tried that last Summer. Was too much light pollution around that ruined the look. These are great though. Good work.
     
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  4. alan1972

    alan1972 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    592
    Jun 23, 2012
    Malaga, Spain
    Alan Grant
    Yes, I had seen some of the earlier shots on the Live Composite and enjoyed seeing how you took the idea forward, and especially the very original take on the "train tracks stretching into the distance" shot.
     
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  5. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    #4,6,7,8 are really nice. Thanks for sharing.
     
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  6. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks mate. That one is my fav too. Seems like it was all leading to that shot, whether I knew it or not.
     
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  7. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Speedliner. Honestly the light pollution here tends to be pretty bad too. My solution was mostly to make compositions that were 90% foreground and forest, with only the smallest bits of sky, if any. One of these days, I'm going to spend some quality time shooting in dark sky country. Until then, I guess we need to come up with creative ways to work with what we have.
     
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  8. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Alan. I'm acquaintances with a very talented local landscape photographer who, like me, shoots those tracks nearly every time he walks over them. Primary difference being, he always manages to make magic with the location, while I tend to be unhappy with my own shots there. I like to give him a little bit of a hard time about it, so this shot was intended as a bit of a :p to him. (a friendly one)
     
  9. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Gryphon. It was fun taking these shots. These June nights are a rare pleasure in Cleveland. We only get so many warm summer nights every year.
     
  10. Hendrik

    Hendrik Mu-43 Regular

    101
    Feb 27, 2015
    Wayland
    Great series, thanks! #4 & 6 particularly float my boat. Ah yes, yet another thing to try...
     
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  11. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Hendrik. It's a fun use of the live composite feature.
     
  12. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    last one a winner
     
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  13. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks hazwing!
     
  14. alex g

    alex g Mu-43 Top Veteran

    549
    Mar 30, 2016
    New York / Bath
    Out all night by Indigo Lake and still no ghosts? ;)
    Just kidding. I really like how the fireflies mix with the stars in #6 - some of them are giving Saturn a run for its money. Top composition too, with the path parallel to the cloud bank. :)
     
  15. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    No ghosts, but about every 20-30 minutes, a coyote would sound off in the distance, and a dozen more would call back. It's a spooky nighttime sound.
    Thanks, no6 is one of my favorites. It was a good night watching the light show.
     
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  16. Rambling Sam

    Rambling Sam Mu-43 Regular

    68
    May 27, 2016
    Reading, Berkshire, UK
    Sam
    Thanks, Faithblinded, this is one function I haven't tried using yet, even though I have the tools to hand to do so! 6 and 7 are my favorites, but 5, is pretty close behind.
     
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  17. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

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  18. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    633
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    Nice write up. #4 and #8 for me.. I think I like #4 the most.
     
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  19. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Sam. You really should get out there and try it. Live Composite is fun after dark.
     
  20. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Thanks Ross. It was a fun series to shoot.
    We call them fireflies, but they are all in the beetle family, and almost all carnivorous. There are a ton of different members of the family. Most blink to signal readiness to mate, and to help potential mates know if they are the same species. I read that some are more devious, mimicking the blinking of other species, in order to draw them in for an easy meal. Fascinating stuff.
     
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