Pic of the Week 8/24/17: 2017 Perseids Meteor Shower: Taiban, NM

August 24, 2017  •  1 Comment

It has been almost a month since my last “Pic of the Week” and without getting too much into the boring details I haven't been updating the website because I was searching for a new web hosting service. I have come to the conclusion that I will finish out the year using my current hosting provider and then will move to a new one in 2018. Now that that's out of the way lets talk about this week's Pic of the Week.

 

Pic of the Week 8/24/17

“2017 Perseids Meteor Shower Taiban, NM”

Date taken: 8/12/17

Location: Taiban, NM

 

August always brings us some great night time photo opportunities. Perhaps the most famous of these would be the annual Perseids meteor shower. This year was we would have to battle the waxing gibbous moon and possibility of cloud cover. Where I live in Wichita Falls we were expecting cloud cover all through the afternoon into the following morning so I was closely watching the satellite and trying to decide where to go. Judging by the model trends the only spot that seemed to remain clear was eastern, NM. I remember talking with my good friend Jim Livingston about possible locations and he mentioned an abandoned church in the community of Taiban, NM. I called Jim up and asked if he was still going out and if so could I tag along. He happily said I could join and after work I made the 3hr 20min drive to Amarillo, TX.

 

I arrived in Amarillo just after 5:30pm and met Jim at his home. It had been a while since we went on a photo shoot together so it was nice seeing him again. We greeted each other and began talking about the news in our lives, but then the conversation quickly changed to how we wanted to photograph the meteor shower. Jim showed me where the church was located and we planned out our route hoping we would find something else to photograph along the way. Taiban was about a 2.5hr drive from Amarillo so we wanted to get leaving pretty soon. Jim had to make a quick phone call to a friend a fellow photographer Mark Dieker who was in New Mexico and we arranged to meet at the church after dark. We gathered up all our gear, grabbed some gas, and purchased some snacks then headed down I-40 towards the Texas/New Mexico border.

 

While driving down I-40 I kept looking off in the distance at some billowing thunderheads over the caprock. I thought it would make a nice shot and Jim agreed, we turned south once we reached San Jon and met the storm face to face. We watched the storm build and boil until the sunset where the thunderheads soaked up all the sunset colors like a sponge. It was an incredible shoot, but we still needed to get to the church on time. We turned back north and continued on 40 where we reached Tucumcari and then turned south following some of the backroads to Taiban, NM. Along the way we stopped and shot some images of the milky way under an unobstructed sky. We even found a great location with three windmills on the top of a mesa, we stayed a shot there for a little while before finally reaching Taiban, NM.

 

We pulled into the “packing area” of the old Presbetyrian church and surveyed the sky above us. There was a thick low cloud from thunderstorms to our north that was blocking out the entire northern sky we did, however, have a nice clear view to our south. We approached the old church and walked inside for closer inspection. We decided to leave a flashlight inside to church to light it up. I set up my composition and started to adjust some of my camera settings when a fast green meteor whizzed overhead. I was hoping this was a sign of things to come. We stayed there for a few hours catching brief glimpses of meteors before the moonlight washed out our sky and the cloud cover set in. This is a time-stack composite made from 12 different images to show the meteor shower in one photo. If you look closely you can see 10 meteors in the shot. We would continue to shoot in NM until about 3am where the cloud cover got too thick. Although, it was noting like last year's meteor shower it was still a great time and we all came back with some excellent photos. I'm looking forward to the next adventure!

 

Meteors streak across a starry sky over the ghost town of Taiban, NM. © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week: 7/27/17: Once in a Lifetime Capture

July 27, 2017  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 7/27/17

"Once in a Lifetime Capture"

Date taken: 7/27/14

Location: St John's Chapel Bomarton, TX

 

When I'm telling the story behind my images I'll frequently use words like "awesome", "epic", "incredible" and even "surreal". While this is true, and the general emotion I was feeling when making those captures, nothing has ever compared to my "Once in a Lifetime Capture". It doesn't seem like it has been three years since I recorded one of the wildest and surreal experiences of my life. Witnessing it, was an incredible treat from the heavens, but getting to record and share it with other's is even more exciting! Three years ago I was meeting up with some of my good friends for some night photography. We decided to use St John's chapel in the ghost town of Bomarton, TX. The first church was built in 1909, but after a fire and some structure damage the new brick church was constructed in 1936. The beautiful old chapel would serve as our anchor point as we tried to capture images of the milky way around and behind it. 

Mike was kind enough to let me ride with him to Bomarton and we met Jim Livingston at the church. Around 9pm we arrived to Bomarton and the church. We got out and exchanged greetings. This was Mike's first night shoot and first time meeting Jim. Jim has been a good friend of mine for a while now and I always enjoy shooting with him. He has a passion and drive to capture great, meaningful images and helping other's do the same. The sun started to set and we set up for some milky way photos. We spent a few hour showing Mike how to photograph the milky way and how to light paint. We captured some nice images that night including some shots of the interior of the church. After that we continued around to the south side of the church. Jim brought a spotlight to use for light painting and it was suggested that we try to capture a beam of light hitting the cross on the top of the steeple. After a few attempts we finally had the right approach and we were able to capture that image. It looked pretty nice. Jim suggested we change our position. He said " Come over here to the other side and shoot the milky way behind the church. I can still use the spotlight to paint the steeple." We agreed and moved over to the other side. This was absolutely crucial for what happened next. 

We started shooting off some frames and were enjoying the images we captured. And then something incredible happened. I shot off an exposure as did Mike and Jim began to paint the steeple. The stars and milky way in the night sky were shining brightly and the weather was quite tolerable, which is pretty rare in late July. I heard the shutter of my camera release as I stood there watching the night sky. And then out of nowhere, we saw a bright flash and the sky split and a magnificent fireball meteor came through the scene bisecting our night sky. The light from this meteor was so bright and pure you thought it was daytime. The fireball lasted for several seconds and we watched as it broke up into smaller pieces. It was so intense that you could hear the faint booms and hiss as it burned in the atmosphere. It was the most awesome, epic, incredible, and surreal experience of my life.

We were jumping around screaming like a bunch of little kids just amazed at the sight we just witnessed and then I heard the sound of my shutter closing. The click seemed to echo forever and I remember thinking to myself there was no way I captured this unbelievable moment. I thought it was way too bright for my exposure settings. I thought all I was going to get was a giant white blob that would be unrecoverable in post processing. I didn't care, though. I was just excited that we got to witness such a remarkable event. I pressed the playback button on my camera and looked on the LCD screen. I felt my heart sink into my stomach and a chill going up and down my spine when I saw the photo. I was wrong--dead wrong. What I had before me was a near perfect exposure of the event. I stood there for several seconds just trying to understand what had just happened. Then I seemed to be snapped back in reality when I heard Jim's voice shout "Did you get it?".

"I got it!" I shouted back. Mike also shouted "I got it too!". I captured the full path of the meteor almost perfectly aligned with the church. Mike was in a little bit tighter and he captured a nice close up view of teh church tower. We all huddled around each other's cameras marveling at the photographs we just captured. But then there was a sobering moment when Jim remembered where his camera was. He was facing the opposite direction and shooting a tighter shot of the steeple, unfortunately he missed it. But Jim couldn't be happier for us and I know he was excited to help us capture this once in a lifetime image. I had captured a historic church in front of the milky way, with a beam of light touching the steeple, and a fireball meteor shooting across the scene. I will likely never get to capture such a thing again and I am truly fine with that. This will forever be my Once in a Lifetime Capture. 

Once in a Lifetime CaptureOnce in a Lifetime Capture © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week 7/14/17: Whickham Marsh Sunrise

July 14, 2017  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 7/14/17

"Whickham Marsh Sunrise"

Location: Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area near Port Kent, NY

Date taken: 7/14/13

 

We're going back a bit for the week's Pic of the Week. It was three years ago to the day I was in upstate New York visiting for a family reunion. Its always nice to get up there and visit with my other side of the family, and it had been a while since our last reunion in Indiana. July 14 was our last full day before we departed back to Texas and it was also my big photography day. My aunt Becky would once again be leading me through the Adirondacks for nature photography.

After a busy day in Vermont eating at the Old Stowe homestead the guys returned to Aunt Becky's house to play some poker (this is a tradition among me and my cousins). After the card game and the comradery, it was time to send everyone home so I could get some rest for the next day. This was going to be a busy day we had plans to look for bald eagles on Lake Champlain and the Ausable River, then we were driving to Whiteface Mountain where a gondola ride would take us to the top of Little Whiteface afterwards, we would drive to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. So a big day was planned. 

 I woke up a little late that morning because I forgot to set the alarm on my cell phone so my sleep was interrupted by the blaring ring of an old telephone. I immediately woke up and picked up the phone it was aunt Becky and she was checking to make sure I was getting ready--I am very glad she did as I would've likely overslept. I quickly got ready and got my gear together and we got into her car and drove off to our first stop. Our first stop was somewhere along the shore of Lake Champlain watching the sunrise. While it was a very nice sunrise over the lake I couldn't really find a photograph I liked from the bunch and we continued on searching for other shots and wildlife. 

We pulled up at a parking lot in the Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area and started off towards the overlook. The overlook sets you along the edge of the marsh and our idea was to stay there and see what wildlife show up. I gathered my camera bag and started walking on the foot trail. The trail was not long, maybe a quarter of a mile at most, and we were in deep dense forest most of the way. I would come across the occasional break in the treeline and would see the distant landscape lit up by the early morning sun. It was quite peaceful and serene. In a short amount of time I reached the overlook and watched as this beautiful scene unfolded before me.

I was facing almost due west and could see the gibbous moon drifting towards the horizon while early morning light reflected off the clouds giving them a nice pink glow. Looking out over the marsh I could just make out the fog that was hovering above the surface of the water and as the sun got higher and higher in the sky the fog would start to retreat. I found a composition that I really liked showing the moon, clouds, fog, and the marsh in the shot. The close proximity of the surrounding vegetation better immerses you in the landscape almost like your peeking through the dense forest and wetland. I shot off a few exposures and went with the best one to process the final image. I really enjoy the strong triad color combination of the reds, greens, and blues in the photo. It gives the image a very tranquil feeling and I can't help but feel more relaxed looking at it.

This is one of my favorite images I have taken in my visits to New York and one that I hold near my heart. This was my last photography outing with my aunt Becky, shortly after this trip she started getting sick and discovered she had cancer. This was also the last time I saw her in person. I wouldn't return to New York until her funeral. Thank you aunt Becky for waking me up in time to capture such a beautiful image. We love you and miss you very much. 

 

Whickham Marsh: New YorkWhickham Marsh: New York © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week 6/29/17: Mesa Arch Canyonlands

June 29, 2017  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 6/29/17

“Mesa Arch Canyonlands”

Location: Canyonlands National Park, UT

Date taken: 6/22/16

 

Utah is a photographer's dream. I have always said I want to stay and live in Texas, but if I would move anywhere else it would be Utah. Around every corner you are either greeted by impressive mountains, intricate canyons, incredible arches, or interesting rock formatoins. Its very easy to find a photogenic or picturesque scene to capture. But naturally, this beauty draws crowds of tourists as well as photographers to these areas. Millions of people visit these attractions and national parks each year. In fact, Canyonlands National Park, saw 776,218 visitors in 2016 and I was one of those visitors.

Canyonlands National Park was my last stop for the day on 6/22/16. This was my second full day of traveling and photography. I had spent the day shooting Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley. I wanted to arrive at Canyonlands, and more specifically the Buck Canyon overlook, before sunset. But before I made it Buck Canyon I stopped at Candlestick Tower overlook and Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is a natural sandstone arch that spans 90ft at the edge of a cliff. This location has become very popular for photographers especially during the early morning hours. Dozens of photographers line up around the arch shooting the sunrise glow on the underside of the arch with the dramatic landscape of the Colorado river gorge/canyon down below. I was out there just before sunset and had it almost all to myself. There was a young couple that was out enjoying the view as well. I waited for them to leave before I started shooting my images.

I was scouting some locations I could use for sunrise and trying to familiarize myself with compositions I thought would work for a sunrise shoot. Spoiler alert: I didn't shoot the sunrise the next morning! Instead, I made some images from Mesa Arch at sunset. This was actually a pretty tricky shot to capture. When I arrived at the arch, late afternoon light was shining all over the arch and landscape below it and while it was amazing in reality, the still image lacked the sense of depth I wanted to capture in the photo. So I patiently waited for some of the light to be filtered out in the intermittent cloud cover. So the clouds would block the sun and a much softer light would fall on the scene, but now all the landscape was covered in the shadow of the cloud. So now there not only wasn't that sense of depth, but the colors were flat and so I waited some more.

Finally, I got the perfect combination of light falling on the distant landscape, soft light in the foreground, and some clouds in the sky adding some nice texture. The result is an almost 3D look to the photo. You can see all the layers that make up the amazing scene the arch in the foreground, the cliff edge, the rock spires and Washing Woman Arch, the canyon, and emerging from the haze an almost “ghostly” silhouette of the La Sal mountain range. Not to mention, the excellent clouds in the sky adding just a bit more dimension to the overall scene. Although, those clouds would plague my sunset shoot later in the evening.

This is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip, but its not really one that gets a lot of attention. Of course, my favorite thing was capturing a truly unique photo of Mesa Arch and the only reason I can say that is nobody was around me when I photographed it. I captured something truly special to me and ended up with one of my favorite shots of the entire vacation.

 

Mesa Arch CanyonlandsMesa Arch Canyonlands © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week 6/22/17: Horseshoe Bend

June 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week: 6/22/17

“Horseshoe Bend”

Date taken: 6/22/16

Location: Horseshoe Bend Page, AZ

 

It was exactly one year ago today I was in Page, AZ staring over the incredible overlook of Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I was just starting day 3 on my vacation to explore and photograph areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. The previous two days I traveled from Wichita Falls and stopped my first night in Gallup, NM. The next day I drove to Grand Canyon National Park and shot both the south and north rim of the canyon. I stayed in Page, AZ that night to be ready to photograph Horseshoe Bend at sunrise the following morning.

When my alarm woke me up I sluggishly arose from bed. I had a very busy day yesterday, but this day was going to be the busiest. My plan was to hit Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and Canyonlands in one day. Like I said, it was going to be busy day. I sat myself upright on the bed and let out a deep sigh and tried to collect my thoughts. I was excited for today’s shoot and all the awesome places and landscapes I was going to visit. So much so that the night before I checked the sunrise time I forgot to switch my time zone and ended up an hour behind! I planned to be on location at Horseshoe Bend finding my perfect composition and staking my claim so no one would interfere with my shot.

Horseshoe Bend has become quite the photographer’s hotspot. With simple access and no entrance fee, it is easy to see why some many photographers visit this iconic landscape. So after realizing my timing error, I quickly ran over to my hotel window and pulled back the drapes. To my surprise there were some patches of clouds and a light blue sky outside. It was already blue hour and I needed to get on location. Had I followed the correct time schedule I would be finalizing my composition and getting everything ready to shoot. But sadly, I overslept and needed to get moving! I frantically gathered my gear and dressed myself, no time to shower or even brush my teeth I could do that once I got back to the hotel. Luckily, my hotel was on 2 miles away from Horseshoe Bend which made being late a little easier. I arrived at the parking lot and parked my car. I grabbed my gear and started hiking to the overlook. At first I was a little worried, all I could see was the rocky sandstone I was walking on. It looked like it stretched out for miles. “Did I miss the entrance or was I supposed to go another way?” I thought to myself. But I pressed on and eventually I could see the gap between the cliffs—I had made it to Horseshoe Bend.

I immediately picked up speed and started towards the cliff edge. Peering over my shoulder I could see the yellow glow of the sun, eager to greet the morning. I was almost at a jogging pace when I finally reached the end of the trail and the full extent of Horseshoe Bend came into view. There was no time to admire and enjoy I needed to set up and get ready fast. When I arrived there were only about a dozen other people around and the one place I wanted to be (which gave me the perfect view and composition) was already taken by another photographer. I considered sliding in next to him, but then I saw his 360 degree camera rig and thought it better etiquette to find another location myself. So I did and I just barely got my camera out in time when the sun broke the horizon and the distant Vermillion cliffs ignited in a bright fiery glow. I started shooting frames every few seconds just waiting for that perfect balance of sunrise light, color on the clouds, and soft shadows in the foreground. Then the sunrise light started to fall on the nearby cliffs surrounding Horseshoe Bend.

This time was just simply magical with such spectacular color variation and light. The red glow of the cliffs help add more depth and drama to the scene and the wonderful curvature and cool colors of Lake Powell complimented nicely to the warm sky. The only thing that could’ve made the photo better was a higher vantage point. If you look in the bottom right corner you can see a brownish rock. This was the rock I ideally wanted to be on and where the other photographer had set up. But I still came back with a winner.

I finished up the shoot and headed back to my car with a big grin on my face! On the way back I ran into another photographer and we got to talking. It turns out, he was at Horseshoe Bend the day before shooting sunset (what most photographers prefer at this location) and he claimed that it photographers were lined up all along the rim of the cliff. He estimated there were 300 photographers, imagine the madhouse that would’ve been! I was very grateful for the images I shot and even more grateful I didn’t have the same shot as 300 other photographers. And although this landscape may be “overhsot” I still believe I came back with something genuine and unique of one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever captured.

 

Horseshoe Bend SunriseHorseshoe Bend SunriseEarly morning light hits the canyon walls and distant cliffs at Horseshoe Bend. © Ben Jacobi

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