The Making of "Mossbrae Falls"

How the winning photo of the "Water" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Mar 25, 2022

"Mossbrae Falls"

Thank you so much for your nominations and votes in the February “Water” contest. When I saw the theme, I immediately recalled a trip I took years ago to Mossbrae Falls on the southern slope of Mount Shasta, California. This spot has a magical feel and is especially enchanting during the spring/summer snow melt from the mountain.

It was a 4.5 hour drive due north from my home. After a tricky hike along a dangerous active railroad track (not advised), I began to hear the increasing roar of rushing water, and dropped down into the valley to look for the falls. I found myself completely alone for several hours in the presence of this massive wall of greenery and water. It is really a sight to behold. Here is a short video showing how wide the falls are: 

The Making of "Coronado's Gold"

How the winning photo of the "Panorama" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on May 25, 2021

"Coronado's Gold" by mikeSF

Thanks so much for your nominations and votes in the April 2021 "Panorama" monthly contest!

I'm a weekend photographer, but sometimes my day job sends me beyond the SF Bay to other interesting places.

I had 3 days in San Diego for a downtown conference and could only bring a very abbreviated kit: my Pentax K-3 II with 2 lenses, and a tiny travel tripod. Needing to be at the conference early and in business attire, I decided to try for a morning blue hour shot from Coronado Island, looking back toward the curvy Coronado Bridge. The plan was to grab the shot and hurry downtown to work after.

Several years prior, while vacationing on Coronado Island, I happened on this tiny strip of sandy beach at the Tidelands Park:

The Making of "Sleepless in Seattle"

How the winning photo of the "Cityscape by Night" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Mar 26, 2021

"Sleepless in Seattle"

Thanks for your nominations and votes for my image, “Sleepless in Seattle”.

My day job gave me an opportunity to visit Seattle, but I was limited to only a very small kit, so I brought my Pentax K3-II, smc Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8 Limited, and a travel tripod with the ball head and extension legs removed, to fit it into my carryon. I screwed the camera directly into the tripod leg base and forfeited any height adjustability by removing the telescoping leg sections.

On my last day before heading to the airport, I raced up to the vista point at Kerry Park. I had come here on my first night in town and the clouds and fog were not conducive to any photography. However, on this day, I could see that Mt. Rainier was visible through the clouds. This would make for a thrilling sunset and twilight experience.

Limited to a single focal length, I set up for a vertical pano and waited for blue hour. As the buildings of the skyline began to come alive, I shot a strip of pano frames, single exposures at f/10, ISO 100, and 2sec. I re-focused and grabbed another set, just to be sure, then hurried to the airport. To control blowouts of highlights on the Space Needle, I intentionally underexposed the set to preserve detail in the whites.

The Making of "Timeless"

How the winning photo of the "Night Sky" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Sep 24, 2020


Thanks so much for your nominations and votes for my image, “Timeless”.

I made the 7-hour drive from the San Francisco bay area over the eastern Sierras and south to the legendary White Mountains, above Big Pine, CA. Meeting my good friend Miguel at Schulman Grove (we drove separately due to the pandemic), we quickly hiked up into the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest after dark. Selecting one of the more popular trees on the trail, I brought out my Pentax 645Z and DFA 35mm F3.5 and framed up a suitable composition on the hillside. I prefer this slightly longer focal length for wide field astro shots, because it brings the starfield closer and really helps fill the frame with a foreground subject. There is also less wide-angle distortion to mitigate when stacking multiple successive exposures.

The Making Of "Phone Home"

How the winning photo of the "The Sky" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Dec 5, 2017

Thanks for your nominations and votes in "The Sky" contest! Here is an explanation of my photo, "Phone Home".

I am an avid astrophotographer, and have always preferred to use my Pentax K-3 II (with built in Astrotracer) for shooting the milky way and starry skies. I've been so pleased with the results, I had never attempted to make a night sky image using my primary landscape rig, the Pentax 645Z. That is, until this night.

My friend Miguel and I escaped the light pollution of San Francisco bay for a long weekend of astrophotography through the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and into the Owens Valley. If you are like me and have spent your entire life looking at muted night skies over cities, please do yourself a favor and travel to a remote spot to experience the true beauty of a starry night. It is enchanting to the casual observer, and even more so for a serious photographer.

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