Nature Walk Editorial Photography

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Amongst the bustling, buzzing, city that is Indianapolis, is an ecological oasis. That oasis is the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab at Marian University. Although the modern urban jungle and untouched nature seemed to be juxtaposed, they are more alike if you care to notice. The foundation of science is based on observation. In classic antiquity, it was the observation of environment and nature that built the ‘concept of nature’; the foundation of science. These concepts were qualified as laws and led the way to understand of natural phenomena known today as natural science. Like the roots of a tree, to understand the tree, you look at the roots, the foundation, thus, under-stand-ing. Everything invented has its roots in observational understanding. Look at the tree that blossomed from that! Our modern cities grew from that blossom, yet we cut it down, deny it lessons, deny it’s life, and ask NOT for its thanks. Trees are significant in many of the world’s mythologies and religions, where the understanding of spiritual-natural and deep sacred meanings have been given throughout the ages. As Einstein is quoted as saying, “Look deep into nature, you will understand everything better.” Many breakthroughs in technology have come from nature. The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask. For example, the invention of Velcro – Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral invented his first touch fastener when, in 1941, he went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers — and dog — could be turned into something useful. He took a close look at the burrs (seeds) of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur. He examined them under a microscope and noted their hundreds of “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair. He saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops. In the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor. At the same time, other chemical changes may occur, for example – in the presence of sugars trapped in the leaves, the red pigment anthocyanin is formed. Carotenoids are orange and dominant pigment in autumn leaf coloration. The deeper and darker the color the less oxygen in the leaf. They absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis, and they protect chlorophyll from photodamage. Xanthophylls are yellow pigments and contain oxygen. Temperature, light, and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. Low temperatures above freezing will favor anthocyanin formation producing bright reds in maples. However, early frost will weaken the brilliant red color. Rainy and/or overcast days tend to increase the intensity of fall colors. The best time to enjoy the autumn color would be on a clear, dry, and cool (not freezing) day. As my favorite philosopher, Albert Camus said, “Autumn is a second Sping when every leaf is a flower.” Enjoy the color, it only occurs for a brief period each fall. As the fall colors appear, other changes are taking place. At the point where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf. At the same time, the tree seals the cut, so that when the leaf is finally blown off by the wind or falls from its own weight, it leaves behind a leaf scar. That is why I love the splendor of autumn. It is rejoicing lush with color not seen any other time. It says, prepares, change is patience, nature makes the wise rich. It says the fruit must rot if it is to reveal a new seed. How lovely it can be to let dead things go if you need to grow, for it will only then return anew. It is a sublimely beautiful cycle!

 

Astrophotography

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I’d like to say that is was my first attempt at Astrophotography, but my first couple attempts were dismal failures. I thought I was set after saving up and getting a Rokinon 14mm F2.8 ultra wide angle manual lens last year. Lens selection is just one factor of many in astrophotography. Not only must you have a correct lens, you need to look into light pollution (which I used cleardarksky), moon phase (new moons are preferable), and correct camera settings to allow the most light into the sensor.

I challenged myself in that I am afraid of the grain of high ISO. To allow the most light in from stars millions of light-years away, you have to push the ISO up into the thousands, open up that aperture, and have the long shutter speeds! I watched a tutorial from Serge Ramelli that taught me the 500 Rule. This just gives you a formula for setting your ISO and shutter speeds to get clear stars without trails. I found for my situation that 20 sec at f4.0 on 3200 ISO worked best for the lens and environment during the photo-shoot.

It was cold and clear and that meant the atmosphere would not cause any haziness. I’d advise a blanket with the must have items of a flashlight, low LCD brightness, a tripod, and of course patience! I choose the hills outside of Nashville, Indiana far enough from the light pollution of Columbus and Bloomington as the location.

Post-processing led to many discoveries. First off, always shoot astrophotography in RAW. I don’t know why anyone would do otherwise but just in case I’d caveat that. I followed most of Serge’s advice and a few others in the photo-stitching process. I learned that double masking the edges is a bit of an art-form in itself, but like everything in Photoshop, it will get easier (and more fun) the more you do it. I also created an action of the process for the future. I do this with most of my photo editing processes.  As for my own editing process, I did some burning & dodging, as well as some tweaking to my prerogative. Finally, one of my favorite things – I used Exposure X to add some final touches.

Jonathon Moore