Stars Posts

Milky Way From Mt. Shasta

Milky Way From Mt. Shasta

During my recent ascent up Mt. Shasta, I camped at Lake Helen at an elevation of 10,000 ft. I was able to capture a stunning view of the Milky Way. Due to forest fires there was a lot of smoke in the air, enhancing the colors from the city lights.
Taken with a D800 and 17-35 2.8.

Night Shots

Night Shots

Below are several shots of the night sky I’ve captured recently. The one showing the North Star is a 28 minute exposure, while the rest are around 30 seconds. All taken with the D800 and 17-35 2.8.





The Unconventional Landscape Lens

24 2.8 AIS LensAs digital photography has become the norm throughout the last decade, the choice lens by most amateur and professional landscape photographers has been some form of an ultra-wide zoom.  Typically something along the lines of a 17-35mm or 17-40mm is most often used.  While these lenses are highly convenient and frequently yield spectacular results, there are several major drawbacks; one being the price.  As an alternative, however, I recently discovered a new gem; the Nikon 24mm 2.8 AIS lens.

I have compiled a list of the major advantages that I’ve discovered from using this lens, listed in order of decreasing importance.



Does not focus past infiniti!
It’s a novel idea right?  As novel as the idea may be, however, most modern AF lenses focus way past infinity.  this is a complete headache when shooting night scenes.  Unsurprisingly, it’s very difficult to find anything bright enough to focus on with a moonless sky.  With this little guy, you simply rotate the focus ring all the way to the right, and you can be sure the stars are in focus.  Much easier than fiddling around with a flashlight attempting to estimate where infinity is.

How many people do you know shooting with an 18-55 kit lens?  Quite a few I imagine.  The great thing about this lens is you can pick it up used for about $100.  That’s about the same price as the kit lens, and around $900 less than a 17-35 2.8.  That means you can take the lens many more places without worrying about selling your car to replace the lens in case of damage.  Not only that, it’s f2.8!

Small and tough
Nowadays, dropping $1000 on a nice wideangle lens will give you a nice results, but the lens itself is still made of plastic.  On the contrary, most manual focus AIS lenses are small, lightweight, and indestructible!  Perfect for the next rock climbing adventure.  The image shown below would definitely have been more difficult had I been lugging a heavy, expensive zoom up the mountain.


For those that are highly concerned about each pixel, the lens is also extremely sharp, even at 2.8.  This makes it doubly perfect for shooting the night sky!

52mm filter thread
Remember back in the day when buying a polarizer for your kit lens was not much worse than buying a box of Cheerios?  Well with the 24 AIS lens, you can spend less money on filters and more money on cereal!



Every lens seems to have it’s drawbacks of which the 24 AIS is no exception, but there’s not many.

Corner sharpness
Sharpness appears to drop off in the corners slightly on full frame when shooting wide open at 2.8.  This could affect some landscape images.

Limited focal length
While 24mm on full frame is about the widest you want to go with a polarizer, there’s many times when shooting at around 20mm or even less offers a great effect.  This obviously is not achievable with a fixed 24mm lens.




That’s it.  Although I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are on the best landscape lenses.  What do you shoot with?

Castle Peak Long Exposure

Castle Peak Long Exposure

After a two and a half hour hike up to the top, I ate dinner with my group and setup camp on the very top of the summit. Once it got dark I took several long exposures, and then decided to try a longer one, maybe around 30 minutes. I setup the camera, started the exposure and promptly fell asleep. I awoke two hours later and realized it had run out of battery and shut off. After warming up the battery in my pocket, I popped it into the camera to take a quick look at what it had captured. To my delight, I saw this spectacular view of the stars! Apparently it had run for 1.5 hours before shutting off.