Friday, June 6, 2014

Phoenix, Arizona - Night Shoot First Friday

Kalen suggested that we go out for a unstructured night with the "Arizona Night Photographers" Meetup group to shoot the First Friday events.  The group is led by Beth Ruggiero-York, a night photography instructor from the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Kalen and I bought a new 50 mm lens with f1.8 and set off to learn how to use our new tool.  Here are some of my results.

The group was to meet at Hotel San Carlos, so we left the car at the Central and Camelback parking lot and took the Metro Light Rail down town to 1st Avenue and Van Buren.  We walked over to Central Avenue and south to the Hotel San Carlos.  Interesting place and I will need to stop by again to see what the "Bonjour Vietnam" corner pub has to offer. (Click here to view the video about the historic San Carlos.  It is very interesting.)  Next time I need to photograph the Italian Renaissance Revival style and the detail work on the building, and maybe ask for a quick view of the Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Mae West suites!

The first group of photos is from the intersection of Central Avenue and Monroe.  Reflections of the Chase Bank Tower building on the north east corner.  This used to be the Valley Bank Tower then the Bank One tower.  It was built in 1972 and is 40 stories tall.  When it was first proposed in the 60s, it was an oddity because Phoenix was spreading out, not up, at the time, and the downtown area was being abandoned.  The completion of the building starting the 70s revitalization of the downtown area. (Source:

 This is the old Hotel San Carlos on the north west corner.  It is a 7 story historical hotel built in 1927-1928 and I hear that it has a pool on the roof.  We didn't go up to see it, and I put it on my list of things to do.  I learned from the video link (above) that the building is concrete and scored to look like blocks.  Fooled me!

This old building is on the south east corner.  No one had a description of the building and I wish that I had walked across the street while the group was forming to take better photos. As I researched for this post, I found a description of the building. It is the Professional Building at 15 East Monroe.  It is an example of Art Deco architecture and is a Depression Era building built in 1931.  The upper story section is considered "rather dull" but the first two floors have wonderful wonderful detail, including lacy bronze scrollwork over the door and triangular Pueblo Deco lintels over first floor windows. (Note: To me it appears that the lintel work has been removed.)  The top photo shows the ground floor and the bottom one shows the upper floors. (Source:  The building was renovated in 2007-2008 but it did not look renovated to me.

The south west side of the street has a small structure with a Subway on the corner.  This family was coming home from Phoenix Comicon at the Convention Center. The Comicon is a comic book, anime, media and gaming convention.  Haven't heard of it? They are expecting 70,000 attendees this weekend!  We were on the lookout for more costumed attendees.

A long row of media kiosks.
 Here are more Comicon attendees.
 When we sat in "Bonjour Vietnam" restaurant in the Hotel San Carlos, we sat at a table with two people who had a condo in the area.  They loved living and playing downtown.  I took this photo of the bikes, and later saw them drive away on their stylish rides.

More views of the San Carlos sign from the sidewalk as we walk away.  You can see some of the building embellishments here.

This reflection is in the Chase Bank Tower and shows Security Center (the one on the right) and the Security Building, on the left.  The Security Center is a nine story office building built in 1928.  It was renovated in 1958 when a penthouse apartment was added.  At the time that it was built, it was the tallest building in Phoenix.  The penthouse apartment was built for Walter Bimson, who was then president of the former Valley National Bank.

I was excited when I read this because we were friends with Walter's wife, Betty Bimson in the 1980-2000 timeframe.  She was a lovely lady.  [Correction to my comment: This article from 2000 says that it was occupied by Walter and his wife Nancy. Maybe I have generation issues?]
 This is the ceiling of the Security Building lobby.  I need to get more photos of this. One of the photographers in our group was invited by the guard to come in and tour the roof.  It looks very cool up there.  Again, need to return.
 We started to walk north on Central towards Roosevelt.  This is the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.  555 N Central Avenue.
This man allowed the photographers to gather in front of him and he posed for photos.  He was dressed up for Comicon.
A look south on Central with the nice melt of colors.  I was trying to get the right setting for the building light and the long streaks of the car lights, but did not get the setting correct.  Sorry, no car light trails tonight.
I've been learning some new techniques in my photography so I have started a collection of interesting wall surfaces and textures. This is beautiful brick work.  I didn't see it at the time, but if you click on the photo and look at the center piece, you will see a little "Hi" tucked away.
City scape, getting a slightly blurred view of the Light Rail as it eases in to a station.
We finally made it to Roosevelt Street and turned right (east) to walk through the crowds.  Musicians and crafts galore, but nothing much to post. This one of the wall painting is fun.  By this time I needed a tripod but the streets were too crowded to set up.

It was a fun evening. I didn't think that I had any photos to post until I started going through the batch  of photos and looking closer at what I captured.  Hats off to #1 son for getting us out on a warm June night to play with the cameras.  It was a fun adventure and I was able to chat with Craig, a man that I have shared several Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  I also ran into Tim of Timothy's Jazz Club (from the 1980s).  He was in front of the Jazz in AZ workshop, the Nash.

My notes from the night: Timothy's Jazz Club was located at 6335 N 16th Street, Phoenix.  The building is now occupied by Richardson's and Rick's Rokery.

Tim mentioned that there is a great Salsa/Mexican Restaurant club around 12th Street and Roosevelt.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Apache Junction, Arizona - Milky Way and Big Dipper

Saturday night I went with Mike and Beth (of to Lost Dutchman State Park to photograph the Milky Way.  Conditions were ideal, meaning that the moon set at about 11PM and we would be able to see the Milky Way.  Lost Dutchman State Park is about 40 minutes from my home, given that no one is on the freeway at that time of night and one can easily go the speed limit the entire way.

What is the Milky Way? See what wikipedia has to say.

Beth had already made her ideal photograph of the Milky Way.  You can read about it at her post and I encourage you to do so now before you read about my experience.  It was with her ultimate photo in mind that I decided to join them on an 11PM-4AM photo session at the park.  Yes, 11PM-4AM.  I can't remember the last time that I willingly kept those hours.  I had to nap...

Up front, I want to tell you that I learned a lot in this session about my equipment and my inability to see the small screen late at night in the dark.  I am very happy with the session.  You are right if you guess that I am setting the scene for less than stellar photo production.  But I am a lot smarter!

We set up the cameras.  I had my little set up with camera, camping chair, tripod and snack pack.  Beth and Mike had their huge telescope, cameras, gear, laptops and the works.  I was set up and going in no time.  My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I started to shoot.  This is my best shot of the Milky Way.  They were all blurry.  I learned that my maximum ISO of 1600 is too low.  I had to allow the photos to expose for a minute.  Which causes stars to blur.  So the long exposure was one problem.  The other was that I could not focus on anything. My lens does not have an infinity exposure so I had to manually adjust and check...on the screen that I was straining to time I need my magnifying glass!  Also, my lowest setting was f3.5.  2.8 lens is better.  and I am sure that there are "best" ones too.

Here it is.  The time is about midnight, I am facing south/southeast... and I felt that the Milky Way was racing to be higher in the sky away from the mountains.  In this photo, the Milky Way looks like a line of clouds from the upper left corner running diagonally to the bottom right.  These shots work best if there is something interesting in the foreground (from my research).

I played with this shot and then set up the tripod to allow me to take a wide pano.  [upload the pano here when it is done, if I can make it work.]

I then decided to turn to the north and play with "star trails".  

You have probably seen photos of star trails.  See photo examples here star trails.  These are others' photos from different places and not mine.  Just wanted you to see what I was intending to do.

I wanted trails that swirled in a circle, so I found the Big Dipper and the North Star (actually I found the Big Dipper and Mike pointed out the North Star.)

Beth recommended that I take 30 second shots and put them all together when I got home.  I decided that an hour and 120 shots should be more than enough to give me   I have labeled the Big Dipper and the North Star since I am not there with you to point at the screen.  I asked Beth why she didn't just open up the lens for an hour and take the shot that way.  She explained that sometimes someone will walk in front of the camera or a plane will fly by. It is easier and less noticeable to delete a 30 second movement than a longer one.

I put the camera on automatic continuous shots and locked my remote control to let it just keep rolling.  I settled back with my 2AM turkey sandwich and snacks.  By the way, I always camped with M&Ms and I really missed them on this overnight trip.

Here is the end result of my 120 photos merged together.  I did this in Photoshop but I understand from Beth that there are free packages available on line that will allow you to do this.

After an hour I was able to capture a little movement.  One plane did cut right through the middle of my scene.  The red spots are from the flashing light.  

If you would like to learn more about night sky photography, see Beth's website for information on the June "Shoot The Moon" session at   She is very helpful and knows her night time stuff!