Archivi categoria: landscape

How to Turn the Sky Into Pyramids by Rotating Your Camera

My latest photo series, Pyramids In The Sky, was inspired when my wife and I visited the Mayan Ruins of Chacchoben while on a cruise in 2015. I have always been intrigued by ancient civilizations and how they were able to build these massive structures, seeing the pyramids in person was an inspiring experience.

The way the sunlight was coming off the pyramids got my mind racing thinking of how I could create a similar vision using light painting techniques. The next night we were back on the ship and I was sitting on the balcony just after sunset when inspiration hit me. The ship was out to sea so the deep water was dark, the horizon was clean, and the dusk sky had an orange and blue glow to it. Luckily I had brought along my CRT (Camera Rotation Tool) so I set it up and started trying to make a pyramid design using nothing but the available ambient light.

I used the dark water to create the pyramid and the dusk sky provided the rays of light. I was blown away by the result on the back of my camera! The image looked just like a pyramid with rays of light shooting out of the top, it was even better than I had envisioned it. That night started an ongoing addiction to creating Pyramids In The Sky.

The Process

The Pyramids in the Sky photos are all created in real-time and captured to the camera in one single photographic frame. The only light source used to create these images is the ambient light in the sky right at sunset or a little after. This is a form of light painting called kinetic light painting, meaning that the camera is moved to create the design in the frame.

The process for creating these images is fairly simple, I use a custom-made CRT (Camera Rotation Tool) this tool was designed by Alan and Chris Thompson. The CRT allows me to move the camera to any angle during a single exposure.

To create the pyramids, I shoot in bulb mode and use a lens cap to control the light coming into the camera. The first thing I do is I find the angle I where I want to start the exposure. Once I find the right angle I put a cap on the lens and I open the shutter of the camera for a long exposure. With the exposure running I simply remove the cap to let some light in and then replace the cap to block the light.

During a single long exposure I turn the camera to the next angle and repeat the process of removing and replacing the lens cap. I repeat the rotation and capping process until I have an image that looks like a pyramid in the sky that is captured in one photographic frame.

The Gear

Camera: Canon 60D
Len: Tokina 11-16
Tripod: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB
Other: CRT Camera Rotation Tool
Other: Neewer Intervalometer

The Settings

ISO: 100
Aperture: f/8-f/22
Exposure Time: 18-75 seconds (~40s average)

The Challenges

The most difficult thing was to find a location to create the pyramids. To create them I need a high angle of a clean flat horizon (no city lights) and I needed to have a location where the foreground was darker than the sky. This might sound easy but when you live in South Florida a high angle of a clean horizon is a difficult thing to find.

After some long drives looking for location that didn’t work, I ended shooting most of the series from a lookout tower at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This spot was perfect and it was just 10 minutes from my house, funny how I drove past it 10 times while looking for the “right” location.

My Favorite Part

My favorite part of shooting these images is all the beautiful sunsets I was blessed to witness. I would talk to people at the tower and most would leave right as the sun dropped below the horizon, the crazy part is that is just when the colors are starting to get good so I would be there alone seeing the most beautiful colorful skies.

I also really love the interesting patterns the clouds add to the images. I started thinking I needed cloudless skies to create the pyramids, but I quickly found that the clouds added some incredible features. For me some of the pyramids have the feeling of a Native American headdress, giving them a deeper and spiritual feeling.


About the author: Jason D. Page is a photographer who specializes in light painting. He’s the founder of LightPaintingPhotography.com and the creator of Light Painting Brushes. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

How to Tell a Story in Your Landscape Photos

Sometimes when I go to new locations, they can be so awe-inspiring that I feel photographically challenged. When this happens, I need to take a step back and think about the location’s special traits that fill me with such awe.

What is important about this area—is there some natural event occurring, or some irregular weather phenomenon? In short, what are the stories this new place is trying to tell me? Answering these questions often lends direction to my photography and helps me realize which stories about the area I want to share with others.

(Note: although I primarily photograph natural subjects, this technique works equally well with any location or subject).

I recently used this technique when I spent several days in the Namib Desert in Namibia last year. At first, being surrounded by these huge red sand dunes was overwhelming. What should I shoot first? As I explored the desert around me, I began to recognize several stories that this place had to tell.

The most obvious story was about the sheer size of the sand dunes found here. This is the oldest desert in the world—home to the world’s largest sand dunes. I had photographed sand dunes before, but never any of the massive size that I saw in this desert. The rust-orange massifs were more akin to sand mountains than something as temporary and fleeting as a dune. Some of the largest dunes stood over 1,000 feet (~304 meters) tall, dwarfing the sparse trees and flora that dared to grow at their feet. In the photo below you can faintly see a few trees, which give the enormity of the dunes a sense of scale.

The giant sand dunes of Namibia turn many shades of red and orange under shifting clouds, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

Although this desert receives only 10mm of rain each year, amazingly there are large mammals that thrive here. This was story number two.

Here, a gemsbok oryx (one of Africa’s many species of antelope) roams among dry scrub and dying trees. With no ground water to drink, these animals rely on the occasional fog that rolls in from the Atlantic ocean. After the fog collects on plants and their fur, the oryx lick the scarce moisture from each others coats, sustaining themselves until the next foggy morning.

A gemsbok oryx stands in front of a massive dune, wet from a rare early morning thunder storm, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

While I could take up-close portraits of oryx in other parts of Namibia, telling the story of these large antelope thriving in the desert necessitated using a shorter lens than I usually do for wildlife. A 400mm lens allowed me to include the massive red walls of sand that dominate this habitat.

Again, it was important for me to use unique elements of the scene to tell the story of that location.

Gemsbok oryx cross flat ground in front of a wall of sand – the lower slopes of a massive sand dune, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

A third aspect of this desert that I wanted to show photographically was the rust orange color of the sand. This reddish orange comes from the high iron concentration in the sand and the gradual oxidation of that iron. The older the dune, the more orange it becomes.

In order to offset the beautiful orange and red tones of the sand, I needed blue skies, giving my photos nice complimentary colors. Counter to most of my landscape photos, I opted to shoot in late morning or early afternoon (instead of sunrise or sunset, when the sky itself would be much warmer and closer in tonality to the sand). Had I not been thinking of how to convey the story of these ancient orange dunes, I likely would have kept my camera in the bag at this time of the day.

A massive sand dune glows red orange in the setting sun, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

A final story waiting to be told about this area was the play of light across the contours and textures of the dunes. The photo below was shot at sunrise, creating extreme side light and casting a sharp shadow line along the front crest of the dune.

This strong shadow added shape and contrast to the dune.

Rare storm clouds cast shadows across the massive dunes of the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

The shadows in the image below manifested very differently in that they are not created by the shape of the dune itself, but rather by clouds moving in front of the sun. Because these dune ridges are actually quite far apart, a large cloud shaded only a single ridge at a time, giving me endless shadow patterns to choose from over the course of about half an hour.

This was my favorite image of this type, as the closest and farthest ridges are in shadow, isolating the middle ridge in sunlight.

Rare storm clouds cast shadows across the massive dunes of the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

When I first arrived in this vast desert, I was challenged by where to start with my photography. But by focusing on those stories that made this place so special, I could use them to direct my photographic effort. It even helped me develop a shot list to try to fill during my brief stay.

Next time you find yourself in a challenging location, stop and listen—perhaps the area will open up and share its stories with you.


About the author: Hank Christensen is a freelance photographer specializing in bird, landscape, and adventure stock photography. His work has been published on the cover of Outdoor Photographer and Bay Nature, and you can see more of his photos on his website, blog, Instagram, and Facebook. This post was also published here.

This Infrared Timelapse Reveals the Invisible Landscapes of Oregon

Photographer Sam Forencich recently created something really special. It’s a timelapse of Oregon’s beautiful landscapes that stands out from the hundreds (if not thousands) of other Oregon nature timelapses out there, because he shot it entirely with infrared converted cameras.

Forencich says the final timelapse, titled Invisible Oregon, is at least in part an exploration of the nature of reality. “It’s no secret that many creatures exceed our abilities to interpret the world around us,” he writes in the video’s description. “The idea that we have to process the sensory data coming into our brains makes it seem like we are already a step removed from the real world.”

Invisible Oregon seeks to close that gap, at least in part, by revealing “the subleties of new growth” and the “dramatic intersection of sky and Earth” that only the infrared spectrum can truly capture.

Through the use of both timelapse and infrared photography, Forencich is expanding our sensory abilities to traverse time at an incredible rate and view parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans aren’t usually privy to. Using an infrared converted Nikon D750 and Canon 5D Mark II, he reveals Oregon’s landscapes in a way we’ve never seen them before.

Click play up top and enjoy.


Image credits: Video stills provided by Sam Forencich and used with permission.

This Photographer Travelled Across New Zealand with a Gandalf Costume

What better way to explore the far reaches of New Zealand … uhh, I mean Middle Earth… than with Tolkien’s Gandalf as your guide? That’s what photographer Akhil Suhas was thinking when, while planning his 6-month trip across the country after university, he packed a Gandalf costume… just for fun.

“I wanted a recurring subject in my photos and with so many photographers visiting the country, I figured that I needed to do something to set me apart!” Akhil tells PetaPixel. “I was watching the LOTR for the 5th time when I figured New Zealand is famous for 2 things: its landscapes and the LOTR + Hobbit Trilogies. So why not combine the two by having Gandalf in the landscapes?”

It took him 2 months to hunt down an appropriately accurate costume, but before long, he was on his way—15,000km with both camera and a Gandalf costume at the ready.

At first, the idea was to create self-portraits, but it didn’t take long for Akhil to realize that this was a lot harder than it sounded.

“I tried the camera on a tripod with a timer shot, didn’t work for me,” he said over email. “So, I started asking the people I met along the way if they wanted to put on the outfit.”

Surprisingly, man “gladly said yes” because, in Akhil’s words, “who doesn’t want to dress up as Gandalf!?” That’s how a “silly” idea turned into a beautiful small-person-big-landscape tour of New Zealand… Darn It! I mean Middle Earth.

Have a look for yourself:

If you enjoy the series and want to see more, check out Akhil’s Instagram account or Facebook Page. And the next time you’re planning a trip across some beautiful landscape… don’t forget the wizard robes.


Image credits: All photographs by Akhil Suhas and used with permission.