“Vermont Summer Nights”
My final project theme is “Vermont Summer Nights”. As a teacher I enjoy spending quiet time with my family during the summer, away from the hustle and bustle of the academic year. You are more likely to find me on a July night at home building a fire pit, watching the stars, going on night hikes or swims than going to the movies, hitting Church street, etc. Covid I am sure had something to encourage this as we all found ourself at home more. I know how lucky I was to have some property and the ability to work from home, and I really discovered what I had literally right outside my door. With 3 young children we had to make home the coolest place in the world during lockdown.
What you will see next will be my attempt to document my “Vermont Summer Nights”. I have broken down into two main sections, Stars and Light Painting.
Stars and astrophotography has always been something I have been interested in, yet could never get over the hump to “do”. Over the years, going back to film, I have attempted to document what my eyes see with limited results. This project allowed me space to sink my teeth in the subject and try to figure it out. Full disclosure – my first 3 night shoots were total failures. I had a real hard time with focus, and I have about 120 initial photos which were just unusable. Thankfully I was able to continue learning as I shot, and in the end I was very happy with the results.
Light Painting is also something that I have seen but never myself documented. As I was learning about long exposures to capture the stars, I also noticed that my children (playing all around me) were creating these beautiful streaks of light. I took that as a sign to continue documenting not only the stars, but what was going on all around me as my family and I enjoyed the Vermont Summer Nights.
One of the hardest views to capture. I have many unsuccessful versions of this, but toward the end of the project window I was able to get this image with a shooting star.
I like this image as the trees being on the left felt like a different style of composition, so often you find any type of foliage toward the bottom of the frame. I also liked how I was able to pick up the Milky Way.
An asymmetrical composition. I really like the juxtaposition of the pure black on the bottom, with the Milky Way in the background.
Another asymmetrical piece. I found the light pollution from Chittenden county illuminating the bottom of the clouds added an interesting visual addition.
In this photo I was trying to capture both nature and society in an interesting light. Adjusting the tripod legs I was able to angle the ridgeline of the roof to add some dynamism to the piece. There is one light in the house, as well as the stars in the sky. This piece makes me think of all our busy lives and often overlooking what is right over our heads.
Again trying to play with angles on the roofline for variety, and was able to capture a light streak across the sky. Hard to convey in an image, but the only sound during these shoots is nature. An interesting time of peace.
My attempt to capture the Big Dipper in the top frame. To reinforce it I enhanced the shape in the lower image. Followed the Rule of Thirds. There are at least 3 shooting stars in this image!
Another juxtaposition of nature and society. In this the house is much more traditional in placement, and both the lights in the windows are apparent. This photo took a many reshoots as I initially could only get the lights in the house, but not the stars. Then I was able to get the stars, but not the lights in the house! Finally I was able to get a combination of the two.
Asymmetrical nature and society.
In this image looking west over Chittenden County you can easily see the light pollution. You can see the glow and as you move up it falls away almost as a gradient. I chose this image specifically due to the smattering of clouds. I think the clouds help give the light something to play off of, and at the same time give some dimension to the piece. You can almost see then level of clouds in the sky going off in the distance. Similar to using perspective when drawing or painting. Helps give that sense of 3D.
Again using the clouds and the light pollution to my advantage, I moved where my tripod was setup so I could also include some “society” with the power line, roof, and chimney. The subtle change from the light to dark blue in the sky may be one of my favorite color transitions.
One of the longest shooting stars I captured. The trio of clouds, chimney, and tree fill the bottom of the frame. I wish the star was more centered!
Here is a perfect example when shooting with long exposure that I was picking up interesting visuals – specifically this plane. During the long exposure you can see the different lights cycling on the plane. I also liked how the planes light looks like some sort of antennae, and it is close to being “attached” to the chimney. It reminded me of a Star Wars / Halo type of aesthetic.
Please click on the image for the full sized version! You will see that I have combined a number of images taken at the same time into an animated gif. It is interesting to see the star drift (Earth rotation) with the plane moving bottom to top.
In this image I wanted to demonstrate for the viewer the different images captured at the same time, and how different settings can lead to dramatically different results.
The top image had the lower ISO and quickest Shutter speed.
The middle image had a higher ISO and the same Shutter speed.
The final image had the same ISO and a longer Shutter speed.
By increasing the light sensitivity of the sensor/film with the ISO, and by increasing the duration that the aperture was open, you can see how much more light gets in.
As I mentioned earlier as I started to work on this project night over night, with my family outside with me, I found that the anything we were using with light, combined with long exposure times, was creating some really interesting results. I decided to let the theme of “Vermont Summer Nights” dictate what I documented. It may not have been stars – but it was what Vermont Summer nights means to my family and I.
One of my children using a ball with blinking blue and red LED’s to create “6 7 8” as best she could. I especially liked how you can trace the path of the ball due to the long exposure and you can see where it blinks red 4 times, than blue 4 times, etc.
In this three panel I used a propane gas cylinder and a timer to get in front of the camera. I tried to write out CCV, create a flower, and a spiral.
Route 15, around midnight. I captured the light trails of cars, and the used Photoshop to adjust the tint. Gave me a Tron / Light Cycle feel.
My attempt at being Harry Potter with a wand. To bring attention to the main subject I desaturated the entire image and then used a mask to reveal normal color on myself. Used a sparkler for maybe 5 seconds and then it ran out. Please note the lack of light on the house. Leading to…
This is something similar but with a full 30 second burn of the sparkler and 30 second exposure on the camera. I was amazed at how much light was captured through the long exposure. I can’t express enough how dark it was when I shot it, only to see what 30 seconds of light energy being absorbed on the light sensor can do. Felt really warm, almost like a campfire.
As I said my family and I spend a lot of time outside in the summertime at night. Due to this we have all sorts of illuminating toys. What you see here one of my children playing basketball with an illuminated ball. I really liked how the random tendrils of light all end up leading to the rim and going through the hoop.
A close up of the rim so you can really see the path of the ball going into the hoop. I tried to get the stars in the background as well in top left.
We went to the VSO concert series this summer and they gave out green fiber optic light-up wands. In this piece one of my children was running through grass the grass waving it like an over-tired child. I especially like the right 50% as the light painting feels more random and organic. The stars are in the background.
In this image I was able to capture a number of different toys with the stars in the background. While random, I enjoyed the number of different elements, along with the crispness of the lights. In the two vertical lines you can see where balls where thrown over myself and the camera (in the dark mind you). you can pick out where the different LED’s turn on and off.
In this image I captured one of my children’s many “Fairy Gardens”. There are a number of different visuals going on here. On the left was metal owl sculpture that had a solar LED. The blue and green dots are little glow and the dark disks. I especially like the shadows on the bottom left, and the general abstraction of the image. I do wish that there was more charged light energy released by the blue disks so there would be more of a fog glow around the disks.
I set the timer here and used a BBQ lighter with a long exposure. All that is in my hand is a single, small flame – but over a 30 second exposure it turns into a ball of inferno. You can just start to make out the light spilling onto the trees.
In this example I took out my cellphone to use as a light box. I tried to walk in a zig-zag pattern. You can just make out portions of my body here and there, which I think adds to the ghostly look of the piece. There was an attempt to get the stars in there as well way in the back middle, but it was hard with the composition as I needed to get the camera to a high enough angle looking down to see the depth of my zig-zag. I took this image at a lower level that did show more stars, but then the 4 light bars ended up stacking together and it just looked like one bar of light. An interesting test of composition planning using 3 dimensions.
A neat addition is the window at the top right of the frame. The red glow in that room comes from a 30 second exposure with only a single light source – the alarm clock! Again, it is really interesting to see how much light energy (being additive) builds and builds so when you put a long exposure together you get an eerie red room. It looks like a dark room.
I am very happy with how the final pieces turned out. My wife has even mentioned that we should print and frame a couple of these images. My kids of course loved staying up late and playing under the stars.
I have never been able to successfully accomplish astrophotography nor light painting. The fact that I was able to take a real first step in understanding how to control the camera was powerful for me. I ran into some frustrations early on and persevered and came out on the other side with a solid toolbox of skills.
For me as a parent the biggest win I have from this project is being clear with my children that I have no idea what I am doing early on. I said I guess I have to do some research, and they saw me put the work in, and at the end I was successful. One big lesson I am trying to teach my kids is work hard and you can learn anything, from photography, to guitar, to math, to electrical wiring, to … anything.
Great class everyone! Good luck in what is next with you all.
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NatureTTLTV. “How to Get Sharp Stars in Nightscape Photos | Astrophotography Tips.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Oct. 2018. Web. 29 Jul. 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXdNPkbxaq4&t=413s.