Club News

May 12: “Lightroom Catalog Quick Start”

Snow Geese at Moonrise, Bosque del Apache © Doug Coombs

The May meeting of the Pagosa Springs Photography Club will be held on May 12 at 6:30 PM, via Zoom video conference. The program will feature Club member Doug Coombs, who will present “Lightroom Catalog Quick Start”. 

Doug is the co-founder of the Los Alamos Adobe Users Group in New Mexico. He is primarily a landscape and nature photographer, with an affinity for birds and wildlife. Doug now splits his time between Los Alamos and Pagosa Springs, with a generous amount of travel to photogenic destinations.

Not only does Adobe Lightroom Classic provide an excellent PC and Mac based post processing tool for digital photography, it also provides a superb cataloging system to aid in post processing and to organize images. In this talk Doug will mention the various versions of Lightroom but specifically discuss Lightroom Classic. He will show where the catalog and its images are stored on a PC, discuss some cataloging strategies and fundamental catalog settings. He will briefly show some organizational techniques he finds useful, how the catalog is a tightly coupled partner with Adobe Photoshop, and briefly discuss his backup strategy. The presentation will be made available to Club members and will contain many useful links to topics that users new to Lightroom may have not yet discovered.

Following Doug’s program, we will have a member’s image share session. Each Club member may submit up to five images for sharing and discussion.

Club members will receive an email with the Zoom link for this meeting. Others who are interested in watching May contact Andy Butler at abutler@mac.com for the link. 

March 10 Meeting: Tips & Tricks for Digital Photo Processing

portrait of a Cougar at the Albuquerque Zoo.
Cougar, taken at the Albuquerque Zoo, © Chris Roebuck

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club (PSPC) will meet by Zoom video-conference on Wednesday March 10, at 6:30 p.m. Our speaker will be Photography Club member Chris Roebuck. His topic will be Important tips and tricks for successful digital processing. In the program, Chris will consider both technical and artistic considerations in processing digital photos. Using tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom, he will discuss enhanced mid-tone contrast adjustments, maintaining detail with exposure adjustments, and global color corrections. 

Chris Roebuck has honed his photography skills through a commitment to taking advantage of workshops and other educational opportunities whenever possible, including intensive courses from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, in Missoula, Montana, and Maine Media Workshops and College. Chris is primarily a wildlife photographer, and hopes to always be a student of the photographic arts. 

This will be a virtual meeting, live on-line, using Zoom video-conferencing. You may participate in the program from the comfort and safety of your own home. Photography Club members will receive a Club email containing a Zoom weblink to participate in Chris’s presentation. Others who are interested in taking part may contact Club president Andy Butler for information, at abutler@mac.com. Photography Club members may also submit up to five images to share with the group after the presentation. This month’s theme is open, so submit any of your five favorite/best photos.

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club promotes educational, social and fun interactions between any and all who enjoy making and viewing great photography.  The club sponsors educational programs and outings to help photographers hone their skills. Non-members are invited to attend a meeting to learn more about the club. For membership information visit our website at https://pagosaspringsphotoclub.org/about/ .

March Night Sky

March is a transition month. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the long dark nights of Winter are quickly giving way to longer days. Night sky photographers can look forward to the reappearance of the Milky Way core in March. But there are other potential events worthy of photographing, or just viewing, in the early Spring night sky. 

The Milky Way arching over the South San Juan Mountains (May, 2017). The pink glow on the left is from the town of Pagosa Springs, Co. Stitched panorama from 12 individual photos.

First though, the Milky Way. While our home galaxy is visible year round, beginning in March, the Galactic Center, the Milky Way “core” will be visible. This is perhaps the most dramatic and photogenic portion of our galaxy. The first prerequisite for good Milky Way viewing is a relatively dark sky, so we will need to wait until the recent Full Snow Moon wanes. Starting March 8, there will be periods in which the Galactic Center will be above the horizon with no moon interference in the early morning hours. Best viewing should be from March 9 through the 23rd, when the core will be visible in the hours before dawn. On the night of the new moon, March 13, the viewing time will be from about 2:39 until 4:54 AM (the beginning of astronomical dawn). After the switch to daylight savings time on the 14th, this window moves to 3:35 to 5:53 AM, which somehow seems a bit less onerous. The reward for early risers in Pagosa Springs will be a view of the Milky Way arching over the South San Juan Mountains. Spring is the best time of the year to see the full arc of the Milky Way, and in early spring it will be lower in the sky, allowing for better images of the landscape beneath the arc. 

There are other opportunities among the planets, and the stars. In the predawn hours of March 6 (and a few days before and after) is a good opportunity to see Mercury as it will reach its greatest western elongation from the sun. At about 5:25, Mercury will rise in the east and reach about 12° above the horizon before fading in the brightening sky. But it gets better, as Mercury will be within about a degree of the gas giant, Jupiter, and nicely aligned with Saturn as well. By March 9, Mercury will be much closer to the horizon (and more difficult to find), but Jupiter and Saturn will be joined by a young crescent moon. These will be close enough to the horizon to afford good nightscape opportunities. 

Jupiter and Saturn at their great conjunction on December 21, 2020. Also visible are Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Exposure was at 1 second, f/2.8, 150 mm using an Olympus OMD EM1-Mk II (300 mm full frame field of view)

Meanwhile, Mars will be much higher in the sky, but will be quite close to the Pleiades open cluster in the evening sky. 

As winter turns to spring, so the winter constellations will gradually disappear. But in the late evenings of March, you can still find Orion and other familiar winter constellations. Look to the west a little before midnight, and Orion, and the bright star Sirius of Canis Major, will be low enough over the horizon to the west-southwest for nightscape photography. You might also look for the Winter Hexagon, featuring Sirius, Rigel , the Hyades, Capella, Pollux and Procyon in Canis Minor. 

Orion and the Winter Hexagon, as would be seen looking West-Southwest on March 15, around 11:40 PM, from Pagosa Springs. Screen capture from Sky Guide.

Finally, moonless evenings in early spring are the best time of the year to see zodiacal light in the Northern Hemisphere. Zodiacal light looks like a hazy triangle in the west, as darkness falls. Look for it along the path of the ecliptic. Find out more about zodiacal light at https://earthsky.org/tonight/zodiacal-light-is-glowing-pyramid-in-west-after-dark . By the way, I recommend EarthSky as a great website to keep up with heavenly happenings. To predict the locations of stars and planets, there are several great programs, including the free Stellarium, or apps such as Star Walk or Sky Guide for smart phones.  

Beyond the beginnings of “Milky Way season”, March skies have a lot to offer. Good viewing to you!

Filters in the Digital Age

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club will meet on Feb 10, 2021, at 6:30 pm, via Zoom videoconference. Our topic this month is “Lens Filters in the Digital Age”. 

Like wearing sunglasses, putting filters on your camera’s lens can be crucial for taking landscape photos under challenging light conditions. Filters can enhance colors and reduce distracting reflections. They can also protect your lens. For some photographers and videographers, filters may be an essential accessory. For others, they may be of little use, with many of their functions subsumed by the digital darkroom. For many stalwart landscape photographers, using filters to get the best possible image in the field is part of the process and enjoyment of photography. For others, filters may be more of a complication. 

So just why would you use lens filters? And when? Which filters are important to have, and which might you skip? How do you choose a good filter? At the February Photography Club meeting, we will address these questions in the presentation “Lens Filters in the Digital Age”. 

Club members are encouraged to submit up to five images to share and discuss following the program. 

The Photography Club sponsors monthly programs on photographic topics, and field trips to various areas of photographic interest.  Longtime photographers and those just starting out are welcome in the Club. Non-members are invited to attend a meeting, and may receive the Zoom link by email to abutler@mac.com. For information on joining the Club, visit our website at https://pagosaspringsphotoclub.org/about/ .

Creative Exposure, January 13

Sunlight in an Aspen grove in the San Juan Mountains, © Andy Butler

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club will hold it’s first meeting of 2021 on Wednesday, January 13, via Zoom videoconference. Join us  at 6:30 p.m. We will have a few Club announcements, followed by a discussion of “Creative Exposure”. In this presentation, Club president Andy Butler will explore how to use your camera’s exposure controls to assist making creative photographic decisions. Learn how to control the look and feel of your photos using aperture, shutter speed and other basic camera controls. Both beginners and enthusiast photographers will likely find the information helpful.

Club members are encouraged to submit up to five images to share and discuss following the program. 

The Photography Club sponsors monthly programs on photographic topics, and field trips to various areas of photographic interest.  Longtime photographers and those just starting out are welcome in the Club. Club members will receive the Zoom link by email; non-members may request the Zoom link by email to abutler@mac.com. For information on joining the Club, visit our website at https://pagosaspringsphotoclub.org/about/ .

Update: A video of this program, recorded from the Zoom presentation, is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5YiOgeFQxY .

December Dark Sky Events

Saturn and Jupiter in the evening sky over Pagosa Springs, Dec 5, 2020 © Andy Butler

As we move towards the shortest day of the year, it’s a good time to think of night photography. There are a couple of significant events coming up that could be of interest to both photographers and stargazers. 

First, the Geminid meteor shower, one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year, will reach it’s peak on the night of Dec. 13-14. With the new moon on Dec 14, skies should be dark enough to see quite a few meteors. However, you should be able to see meteors any night beginning this weekend (Dec. 4).The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, which conveniently is above the horizon before midnight in December. The maximum activity should be after midnight in the early morning of December 14, with up to 75 meteors per hour visible. The Geminids are one of only a couple of major showers derived from an asteroid, 3200 Phaeton, rather than a comet. Look to the east for this shower. 

For best viewing of the Geminids or other meteor showers, find a relatively dark site. If you want to photograph a meteor shower, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the number of meteors “visible” includes the entire sky, while even a very wide-angle lens is not likely to cover more than 1/3 of the night sky. So you are unlikely to capture more than one shooting star even in a minute-long exposure. Second, if you want to keep the stars as points of light, rather than streaks, you will need to limit your exposure time. A rule of thumb is to limit exposure times to 500 divided by your lens focal length (in full-frame equivalent). So, if you have a 16 mm lens (full frame) then 500/16 is roughly 30 seconds. If you think you will be making large prints from your photos, you should be more conservative, maybe using 20 seconds in this example. A good starting point is to set your aperture to f/2.8, shutter speed 30 seconds, and ISO 6400; basically the same as you would use for Milky Way photos. To increase your chances of getting one or more photos that contain a shooting star, set up your camera to automatically take these 30 second exposures for several hours during the night. To do this, either use your camera’s built in intervalometer, or an external cable release with intervalometer. If you have chosen an interesting foreground subject in the landscape (you should!), it would be good to either take a longer exposure of it, or to take a separate photo of the landscape using light-painting or low level lighting. Back home, check all the photos to find the ones with meteors streaking through the sky. For a dramatic image, you can composite these with your landscape image using Photoshop or another editor. For a very thorough discussion of photographing and processing meteor showers, see: https://www.photopills.com/articles/meteor-shower-photography-guide 

Another event coming up will be a Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21. Jupiter and Saturn have been appearing closer and closer to one another this fall. Shortly after sunset, around 5:24 PM on the Dec. 21, these gas giants will be visible about 17° above the horizon in the Southwest. They will be within 0.1° of each other, or about 1/5 the apparent diameter of the moon. This is considered to be a “Great Conjunction”, as it happens only about once every 20 years. And in 2020 these planets will appear closer together than they have for about 800 years. The best viewing will be just at the end of civil twilight, so lighting should be good. You can observe these planets near one another on any clear night in December, as they appear closer and closer.  In fact, a few days before the conjunction, on December 16 or 17, you should also be able to see the new Moon very close to the two planets. For information, and some inspirational photos, see https://earthsky.org/todays-image/jupiter-saturn-photos-drawing-closer-conjunction-dec21-2020 .