Super Blue Blood Moon

Super Blue Blood Moon (1/31/18) John Poimiroo

A super blue blood moon is about as rare as the moon gets. This morning’s event combined a super moon (larger than usual), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month) and blood moon (a total lunar eclipse – the first since 2015), all at the same time.

So, like a lot of other photographers, I was up early to capture it, and – no celestial photographer – I made every mistake in the book.

First, I failed to shift the internal meter to manual. A camera’s light meter is fundamentally useless in this situation. You need to make the adjustments manually.

Begin by setting the ISO to its base level. My camera’s base is ISO 100. I started there, but scrolled up to see what results I would get at various levels. This frame was shot at ISO 1250.

Second, an ideal aperture for photographing the moon is f11. When shooting manually, once you set the f-stop it will stay there.

The same with shutter speed. Set it at 1/125 sec. and leave it there. Because the moon is in constant motion across the sky, 1/125 sec. (1/250 if base ISO is 250) is needed to stop action and provide a sharp image of moonscape details. This shot was taken at far too slow a shutter speed, blurring detail.

Fourth, focus by hand. It’s much easier to focus on small distant objects manually than by trying to line up the focus sensor with the object. Trust what you see and your ability to capture it as you see it.

Finally, be prepared. If you don’t shoot a specific situation regularly, refer to photo sites like, publications like Outdoor Photographer or ask a photo buddy how to do it right, well before the event occurs. As, during the moment, it changes too fast to step away and figure out what you’re doing wrong.

As, when something as rare as a super blue blood moon comes around, you want to get it right, then and there.

Moon (2/1/18) John Poimiroo



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Mass Ascension

Mass ascension, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

When a “mass ascension” occurs at one of the Sacramento Valley’s many wetlands, rice patties or wildlife refuges, virtually tens of thousands of birds lift off all at once.

They take to the air when predators (bald eagle, redtail hawks and falcons) approach.

Similar to the effect of the flashing silver and black flanks of fish in their schools, the swirling mass of white and dark wings in a mass ascension confuses raptors and makes it more difficult for them to snare a meal.

Mass ascensions are breathtaking sights that are often seen, in autumn, north of Sacramento.

Kermen knew to visit a wetland, south of Durham. If you open the California Fall Color map on the right side of this page and search for Durham or Colusa, anywhere you see large ponds of water are sure to be gathering places for waterfowl. For the easiest viewing, visit the Sacramento Valley National Wildlife Refuge or Colusa NWR. Roads pass through both of them and your vehicle serves as your “blind.” Bring binoculars and, if photographing, a telephoto lens and tripod or window camera mount (which turns your car into a tripod).

White-fronted Geese, Durham (11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Snowy egret, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Close up photographs of wildlife are best captured with digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras using lenses greater than 300 mm.

A 400mm lens is considered to be an ideal length when starting to shoot wildlife. However, long lenses – particularly those with larger apertures that will take sharp pictures in low light – come with a hefty price tag. For example, Nikon’s 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens (admittedly, a very expensive lens) costs over $11,000 (Canon’s similar lens is $1,000 less).

Snow Geese, Durham (11/25/17) Robert Kermen

Considering the high cost of telephoto lenses with large aperture settings, starting amateur wildlife photographers might consider first purchasing a zoom lens in the range of from 100 to 500mm, but with a smaller aperture setting, such as a Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 ($1,400) or Canon 100-400mm f5.6 ($1,200).

Another way to increase focal length is to add a teleconverter to a smaller focal length lens (about $300 for a 2x teleconverter). They do not provide the sharpness of a set lens, but are not budget breakers and result in fine photographs that impress, if you’re not selling your work or making gallery-quality prints.

For clarity, a smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture.

Bald eagle (middle right, sitting) (11/22/17) Robert Kermen

With these options, you will lose the ability to shoot action in lower light conditions, but can more affordably begin shooting wildlife and thus gain experience before making the investment on a more expensive lens.

For these shots, Kermen used a Canon 80D with 70-200mm f4L IS USM lens, which he keeps at hand on the console of his vehicle, so that he doesn’t miss a great shot when motoring along one of California’s backroads.

Click on photo to enlarge.

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More Photographic Perspectives

Black oak, bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Fridays are a quiet day to catch up on posting photographs that arrived too late to be included in a timely fall color report. The first selection is of photographs taken by Laura Jean near Hayfork along CA-3, two weeks ago.

The color seen in these images has long since fallen, though her shots provide perspective about what it was like to drive the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway in late October. Click on photo to enlarge.

Hayfork, Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway (CA-3) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean










Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

California ash, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean








Also, here is a selection of images contributed by Dona Montuori-Whitaker in mid October. They arrived too late to be posted in a timely fashion, but are now in order to show additional views of Plumas County.

What is particularly striking about the Shasta Cascade region are the number of old wooden bridges, barns and cabins that have aged beautifully and contrast so emotionally with fall color.

Plumas County – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Maple, Quincy (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Genesee Valley (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Indian rhubarb, Keddie (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Long Valley Creek Bridge, Sloat (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Shed, Indian Falls (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Taylorsville School (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Fallen maple, cottonwood and dogwood leaves, Yosemite National Park (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

As reported here on the day Tracy Zhou took these photos, peak color has shifted from bigleaf maple, dogwood and cottonwood to black oak in Yosemite National Park.

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

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Color or B&W?

Black oak, Hideaway Rd., Greenville (10/29/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Hideaway Rd., Greenville (10/29/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Jeff Luke Titcomb reports that black oak are peaking in Greenville (Plumas County) along Hideaway Rd.

Nancy Hull found red, orange, yellow and lime ash peaking near the Colusa Unified School playground.

Jeff says the oak look good even without their color. Which do you prefer: color, or black & white?

Greenville, Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Colusa – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!



Ash, Colusa Unified School (10/29/17) Nancy Hull




Ash, Colusa Unified School (10/29/17) Nancy Hull

Still More Photo Contest Entries

Persimmons, Robert Kerman

Deadline to enter and vote in the Cotton Carriers Fall Photo Contest is just over two weeks away.

This is a contest in which visitors to the site vote for their favorite fall color photo. The winner receives a canvas print of their photo, a Cotton Carrier G3 camera holder and recognition as a photographer.

To vote or enter the contest (Deadline Nov. 15), go to

Here are two more from our readers. To see all photos submitted by contributors, search “Photo Contest” on this site. We encourage all readers to vote for their favorite.

Bear River Headwaters, Robert Kermen

Hope Valley, Deane Simpson

Gallimauphry: Photographic Perspectives

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

When we receive photographs too late to be posted as a current report or perhaps so artistic that they do not tell the story of what was seen, we set them aside for later use as a collection of gallimauphry.

Here’s one on Monitor Pass by Steven Crowley. Click to enlarge.

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

Monitor Pass (10/13/17) Steven Crowley

More Fall Photo Contest Entries previously posted a report on Cotton Carrier’s Fall Photo Contest.

This is a contest in which visitors to the site vote for their favorite fall color photo. The winner receives a canvas print of their photo, a Cotton Carrier G3 camera holder and recognition as a photographer.

To vote or enter the contest (Deadline Nov. 15), go to Following are additional photographs submitted by contributors. To see all photos entered, search “Photo Contest”.

We encourage all readers to vote for their favorite.

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite Valley – James Forbes

The Fall of My Life, Red Lake, CA – (2016) Robert Kermen

S. Yuba River, Cisco Grove, CA (2016) Robert Kermen

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon, CA (2014) Jay Huang

English Walnut Orchard, Durham, CA (2015) Robert Kerman

Note: The contest’s official rules have been changed since first reported, to reassure entrants that they will retain rights to submitted photographs.

Cotton Carrier had originally used boilerplate language in its official rules – provided within the contest template – that allowed Cotton Carrier to use the photographs, but that was never their intent and contradicted what they had communicated to us.

A revised rule now states, “Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for Cotton Carrier LTD to use winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.”

This limits exposure only to the winner and allows the winner to not accept the prize and thus not interfere with any rights it may have assigned to a stock agency, removes language of which some photographers were concerned and removes our concern about the original language which allowed Cotton Carrier to use all photographs submitted.

The object lesson learned from this instance is to always read contest rules carefully, as entering could give away your rights to your work.

Photo contests should never result in diminishing ownership or commercial rights to images for photographers. Instead, they should only seek to recognize excellent work, which is what Cotton Carrier intended. 

We are indebted to those photographers who alerted us that Cotton Carrier’s initial promise to photographers that they would retain rights to their submissions was not supported by the contest rules, and to Cotton Carrier for being a stand-up company that supports photographers, recognizing the problem and quickly changing the official rules to assure that entrants are treated fairly.

Now, let’s go and vote for a winner.

Contributors Get Published

Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas has become a go-to site for publications and designers looking for fall color photography.

Photographs contributed to this site this autumn by color spotters Dylan Ren and Daniel Stas were selected by a calendar publisher.

And, San Bernardino County color spotter Alena Nicholas had several of her images chosen to decorate the interiors of San Bernardino County government buildings, because the designer found them on


Lake Arrowhead (11/7/15) Alena Nicholas

That’s not saying we promise contributors that they’ll be published, though that does happen fairly often, because of the visibility of the site.

There seems to be no set pattern why a photograph is chosen, other than that it is colorful, nicely composed and has a subject that the medium, designer or publisher wants.

The calendar designer was looking for fresh water and an autumn scene. San Bernardino County was looking for images of their county that could be enlarged and hung inside county office buildings.

What is common is that the photos were seen here, and they were strong candidates.


Golden Hour and Fall Photography

Silver Lake sunrise, Mono County (10/14/17) Jennifer Franklin

McGee Creek day’s end, Mono County (10/14/17) Jennifer Franklin

Photographers are both story-tellers and artists, as these photographs by Jennifer Franklin show.

There is a moodiness to each image, caused by the early or late afternoon light and by the shutter speed she chose for the latter, which accentuates both motion and emotion.

Jennifer (@msnightfall) stopped at Silver Lake (June Lake Loop) at sunrise on Saturday, and ended the day in McGee Creek Canyon in the late afternoon.

Photographers call the hour shortly after sunrise or before sunset, “the golden hour,” because then, sunlight is warmer than when the sun is high in the sky.

However, in autumn the golden hour lasts much longer because the lower angle of the sun causes light to warm each scene. That is particularly noticeable when such light touches warm colors, as in these scenes (click on photo to enlarge).

Using digital darkrooms like Adobe Lightroom, photographers have many tools today that make it possible to emphasize vibrance, highlights, shadows and contrast. Years ago, we would spend endless hours in the dark working to express what we saw, experienced or imagined. Now, it happens in the light.


Fall Photo Contest Entries

The following photographs, submitted by readers, have been entered in Cotton Carrier’s Fall Photo Contest. Vote for your favorites at

The photograph with the most votes wins an 18 x 24″ canvas wrapped print of the photograph and a $149 Cotton Carrier G3 Harness.

One photo may be entered per week, per photographer. Deadline Nov. 15. Photographers retain the rights to their work.

To enter, you must post them at Once you enter, send a .jpg of your shot, where it was taken and your name to:  We’ll post all photographs here and encourage readers to vote for them. Photos do not need to have been taken recently, so past photographs are eligible.

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/7/17) Xin Wang

Autumn in the Sierra, Parker Lake – Alena Nicholas

Fall Fishing, Bishop Creek – William Barnhart

Convict Lake – Sigthor Markusson

Salmon Creek, Humboldt County – Ren Trujillo

Burney Falls – Ren Trujillo