Kurt M Lawson Photography »

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Star Trails

Star Trails over Lake Tahoe, 2006

Star Trails over Lake Tahoe, 2006

One thing I’ve found to be intriguing about night-time photography is the phenomenon of “star trails.” Star trails are created by leaving the camera shutter open for long periods of time to let the light of stars paint across the film. The effect is no different than any other long exposure side effect, with the exception that the movement represented is the rotation of the Earth rather than of the camera. Depending on the composition, this can produce some interesting results. Star trails can be seen in exposures as low as 30 seconds. However the more dramatic trails require exposures of an hour or even longer.

An hour of the night, Lake Tahoe, CA 2006

An hour of the night, Lake Tahoe, CA 2006

Star Trails and Clouds, Mt. Pinos, CA 2007

Star Trails and Clouds, Mt. Pinos, CA 2007

Astronomers and Star Trails, Mt. Pinos, CA, September 2008

Astronomers and Star Trails, Mt. Pinos, CA, September 2008

Star Trails over Providenciales with half Moon, Turks and Caicos Islands November 2006

Star Trails over Providenciales with half Moon, Turks and Caicos Islands November 2006

Star Trails over the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos Islands November 2006

Star Trails over the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos Islands November 2006

This short sequence of frames shows the progression of star trails in exposures of 5 to 30 minutes.

September 27, 2009 - 1:16 pm

Emily - These are so beautiful, Kurt! I just love the star pictures. You have so much talent.

October 18, 2010 - 1:59 pm

Danny Hussey - Great blog and great images!
http://bit.ly/bv3s3P

Train Textures

Paint peels from the side of a freight car

Peeling Paint

My childhood fascination with trains has led me on many photographic adventures. In Southern California, there are many opportunities to see and experience the wonders of railroads, whether by taking a Metrolink or Amtrak train ride or visiting any number of local tourist destinations and museums. Through some searching online I discovered the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. This fantastic museum offers a range of activities and sights for the railroad enthusiast, and the avid photographer. With this group of shots I’m focusing on a less than obvious side of railroad equipment I saw at the museum. I’m speaking of the infinite array of textures presented by the range of locomotives and rolling stock on display at the museum. It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the big things around you that you might sometimes miss the smaller things right in front of you. In this case I realized that many of the old freight cars around the museum grounds offered some fascinating textures to explore photographically. These images are a few of the results.

ROX

ROX

Suspension

Suspension

Tank Car Brake

Tank Car Brake

Painted Texture II

Painted Texture II

ARCO

ARCO

Brake Shadow

Brake Shadow

September 17, 2009 - 8:43 am

Robert - Great pics Kurt-O! My fav being the ‘Tank Car Brake’.

November 3, 2009 - 12:27 am

Prierien - Perfect work!

“God rays” over the Pacific from Palos Verdes

God rays shine from between the clouds over a dark Pacific

God rays shine from between the clouds over a dark Pacific

A couple years ago I was on an exploratory trip down to the Palos Verdes area. I drove down there as a random photo trip to see what could be seen. Eventually while driving on Palos Verdes drive I ran into Point Vicente Lighthouse. Adjacent to this lighthouse was a reception area for weddings and events, and a nice path that went right along the cliff. This is where I headed to take pictures.

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Point Vicente Lighthouse

What struck me first about this location was the weather that was happening. A prime motivation for going on this photo trip was the fact that we were getting some clouds and weather in the LA area that day. The lack of weather here can sometimes make photographing the surrounding landscape a bit dull. Looking out over the Pacific this day yielded a dramatic scene. In Visual Effects, we generally refer to the beams of light shining down like such as these as “god rays.” In fact there are plugins for software that can generate them. With my photography however, I keep everything real. These god rays were right there before my eyes and captured in camera.

Interplay of light and dark

Interplay of light and dark

After taking a few pictures I realized a time lapse sequence would be really cool. Here is the result with one frame taken every 10 seconds:


I wish I would have done one frame every 2 seconds, and that I had let it go longer. Here is an iPhone pic of the camera taking the time lapse:

Rig for this time lapse: Canon 20d on Manfrotto 055MF4

Rig for this time lapse: Canon 20d on Manfrotto 055MF4

It’s a neat area that I hope to return to again.

September 16, 2009 - 10:41 pm

Cary - That time lapse sequence is badass!

God really spoke to me there.

September 22, 2009 - 5:51 am

Kristen - Kurt, that time-lapse is awesome! However, I think the picture immediately preceding it is my favorite. The lighting is very dramatic.

The Station Fire part 3

After a long week, I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and add a few more photos from the Station Fire shoot last weekend. Fortunately the fire no longer threatens any homes. Thinking about the fire I have realized that the station fire has burned through areas I hiked just a few months back. I have several GPS tagged photographs from various parts of Josephine Peak, Strawberry Peak, and Colby Canyon. Perhaps when the area is made accessible again I can return and take “after” photographs of the burn area, matching location, lens and views of my earlier photographs. I expect the result will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea if the area will be reopened for hiking anytime soon.

In the meantime though, here are a few more photos from the Station fire.

The smoke plume looked like a volcano erupting

The smoke plume looked like a volcano erupting

The setting sun casts an eerily beautiful orange glow on the plume

The setting sun casts an eerily beautiful orange glow onto the plume

Backlit photographer sticking out of the grass

Backlit photographer sticking out of the grass

The fire is revealed at dusk as onlookers gaze and snap photos

The extent of the fire is revealed at dusk as onlookers gaze and snap photos

A part of the fire flares up at dusk

A part of the fire flares up at dusk

Firefighters on the hillside above the JPL

Firefighters on the hillside above the JPL

Here is a 100% size crop showing the firetrucks

Here is a 100% size crop showing the firetrucks

The next post will focus on some less destructive images.

September 5, 2009 - 5:17 pm

Anthony - Great photos! That smoke plume was pretty ridiculas. It really did look like a bomb had gone off.

The Station Fire part 2

Day two of fire chasing kept me far away from the actual flames. Instead I headed over to the new Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City to do some time lapse photography on the smoke movement. I set up in a shady spot and let the camera go for some 40 minutes. Here is the result:

Parking there is the rather steep $8. Having paid that I decided to wait it out till sunset which was about two hours away. I discreetly shot a few pictures of the people around the overlook as well as views away from the fire.

The glint of the Pacific Ocean silhouettes Santa Monica

The glint of the Pacific Ocean silhouettes Santa Monica

A couple takes in the ominous sight

A couple takes in the ominous sight

People rest and take in the sights from the overlook as the sun sets on a smoky LA Basin

People rest and take in the sights from the overlook as the sun sets on a smoky LA Basin

The sun nears the horizon over a very orange and smoky Santa Monica

The sun nears the horizon over a very orange and smoky Santa Monica

I set up for another timelapse, this time as the sun set:

As darkness fell the fire lines became visible over the city

As darkness fell the fire lines became visible over the city

Once it became dark I finished up a few shots and called it a day. I hope the fire gets contained soon. I can’t recall ever seeing such a massive fire here. Best of luck to the firefighters.

C o n n e c t
F l i c k r