Tag Archives: moonlight

Migratory Geese Flying at Dusk


I had traveled around the levee roads a few times the afternoon this picture was made last year.  A lot of the geese had lifted off the ponds from a ‘scare’ and landed over in a field of stubble. After one more round on the levee road during the ‘sweet light’, where I managed a few nice photographs, I decided to wait it out and see what might happen if the birds flew at dusk. I was pushing the limits of the time allowed to be in there, but no ranger had come along, so I was staying until they came by. I’m so glad I did! When the geese lifted off, the full moon had also broken through the clouds a bit, and the combination was very exciting! It expressed what I wanted, the mood and mystery of how they fly at night by the full moon. I managed a few frames before they dissipated, and I went away happy out of the gate with the ranger not too far behind!

It’s the season for migrating geese, ducks, and cranes in northern and central California. At any given time, you will see flocks large and small all around the farm fields and refuges  along the Pacific Flyway. There are layers of birds in the sky, going every direction, making that a rather difficult picture to make, so I was looking for ‘less is more’ photos, where all I needed were a few birds to line up in a V, or at least be close to that, and I got lucky with this one image. I won’t tell you how many you ‘toss’ because they are just a ‘bunch of birds in a mess’! I got lucky with a great sky behind this silhouetted group, I cropped this to be a more panorama format because it emphasized their shapes and brought a better balance to the overall frame. No matter how pretty the sky was, negative space can still throw a composition off. But I saved the original, so if someone really needs that space for text, I’ll have it. 

Thanks for visiting. I’m planning to get out there in the next few weeks to create some fresh images of this wondrous annual event.



And by the way, I used DXO Optics for noise reduction on this 3200 ISO file from a Canon 5D MK III and it was amazing how it cleaned up the raw file. I’ll be posting more comparisons on the blog soon. stay tuned.

Posted in bird photography, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, nature photography Also tagged , , , , |

Yosemite: Mirrorless and Moonlight



Cabin fever got the better of me this past weekend, and I took off for a very quick trip up into the Merced River canyon and Yosemite. I was in search of redbud, having heard they were popping into bloom with the warm weather. I found various stages from full bloom with leaves showing, to just barely beginning to bloom. But the idea I had for a redbud image was not to be this year – with water levels at record lows due to the drought, the branches had river rocks behind them instead of the flowing water I had wanted. Still, it was all so pretty to see things beginning to bloom! With the warm temperatures of this past weekend and early days this week, I’m sure that the peak will happening very soon. I will defer to Michael Frye, however, who always has a reliable and up to date report on seasonal events happening near and in Yosemite.

I photographed some redbud, and then headed up into the valley to eat while waiting for complete darkness. I wanted to test out my Fuji XT-1 at high ISOs required for star points of light (3200 and 6400) and also test out my new Fujinon 23mm 1.4 lens. The results were really amazing. I was so impressed by the way the camera handled the noise of 3200 and 6400 ISO. The 23mm f1.4 was a superb light-gathering lens, as well. But I discovered one ‘down side’ of such light-gathering. You see so many stars that the constellations themselves can get lost in all of that. I could see a strong definition of Orion in the sky, with my eye. But at f1.4 I saw so many stars that he disappeared in the picture. If I exposed at f2.8, I saw him better because I gathered in only the light of stronger stars. At least I know know that when I get the chance to photograph the milky way on a moonless night with this lens it will be awesome.

I then moved up the valley, to get a photograph of Yosemite falls and the cliffs under moonlight. Being a few days past full moon, I had to wait until about 11 PM for the cliffs to be bathed in moonlight. But heh, the best entertainment in the valley is being out under the billions of stars at night so I didn’t mind. I made a 6 minute exposure, at 400 ISO, for the blog image above. I love how at this time of the moon cycle you can get moonlit landscape and star trails. It makes for an unusual effect.

Some might be wondering how I could do this with a mirrorless system that uses an electronic viewfinder, and I’m here to say it was a challenge! To say they are noisy is an understatement. Even the best EVF’s will be challenging if not impossible to compose at night. You’ll have to get there early to compose while you can see, or use the point and hope method of composition that I used that night! With a few quick test shots, I got my composition, and was ready for the moon when it came. It rose later, as it was a few days after full moon, but by 11 PM it was bathing the cliffs in beautiful moonlight. I was glad there was enough water flowing over the falls to at least have that as a feature to work with, and I got a little ‘bonus’ of prismatic hues in the wispy falls – the beginnings of a moon bow, but not strong enough with the low water flow.

All in all it was worth the trip and I am looking forward to doing more night and star photography with my mirrorless system, now that I know it’s feasible.

Thanks for visiting,



Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Landscape Photography, photo tips Also tagged , , , , |

The Camera as a Window on the World

Look at the camera as a special window on the world.” Sam Abell




I’ve always loves that quote from Sam Abell. I took a class with him back in 1982, and have followed him for all these years. He’s a deep spirit, a thinker, and he expresses how he feels through his photographs so well. When I was processing the image above, I thought about him and this quote. I have been photographing since I was 9 years old. And even though back then I didn’t realize it, I used the camera to look at the world around me, to focus-no pun intended – on things that mattered to me. Nature, my sisters, our family travels, birds – those were the common subjects of my younger years. Later on, those still mattered, but as my world expanded, so did my photography. As I traveled more, I used my camera to share with others the awe and wonder that I felt and experienced where I traveled. Were the pictures always show-stoppers? Not likely! But what mattered was that I was seeing and sharing. Over time, my technique improved enough to go pro and the pictures I shared were much better. But again, what really mattered was the use of the camera to see the world around me and to create a way to share what I saw and felt.

I’ve been so fortunate to be able to lead photography tours and workshops to great locations. Yosemite is one of them, relatively close to home, but this Spring the Super moon and the promise of a good moonbow was really exciting. I had seen it once, but didn’t know how to photograph it and was using film back then.  Never got back there to try it at the right time – until we decided to do this Spring tour. It was crowded,  everyone was pretty intent on getting a picture whether they had a point-and-shoot camera or a 4×5! It was their ‘window’ on a special world that night. But there was a festive spirit to the group – and a friendly, helpful spirit. People next to you were willing to give you guidance if you were new to this experience. When the moonbow began to be visible to the naked eye, it was SO exciting for the group! At the same time, a certain ‘frenzy’ set in – as everyone worked to get a decent exposure. Even with suggested exposure settings, the first image was a ‘test’ – and then everyone had to make adjustments for their camera. If you went too long with your exposure, it looked too much like daylight instead of moonlight. This exposure was at f5.6 for 134 seconds, about 2.2 minutes, and was just the balance I was looking for.

Walking back to the cars, I reflected on just how special that experience was. The camera once again had given us an opportunity to view the world through a different window, one of night and moonbows and magic.



Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Landscape Photography, nature photography, Photo Blog, photography, workshops & photo tours Also tagged , , , , , , , |