Camera technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Just look at Nikon’s latest releases, one camera that can focus almost in the dark and shoot 10FPS(D4), and another camera that is 36MP (D800). Not to mention their incredible video abilities. I was reminded of this on a recent trip to Death Valley with friends. One thing I always felt digital cameras lacked was the ability to shoot long exposures and get a decent image. The noise was just to much. But that is not the case anymore. The image above was a 45 minute exposure on a D3, and I did zero noise reduction on the image you see. Just remember, if you want any real streaks you have to leave the shutter open for 45 minutes or longer using a wide angle sky. I use a locking cable release, set my shutter to Bulb and aperture wide open. Turn off your autofocus, manually focus to infinity and back off just a touch, and make sure you have your in camera noise reduction on. And fresh batteries. A 45 minute exposure takes an additional 45 minutes to process with your in camera noise reduction on.
Death valley is the largest national park in the lower 48, and offers many desert landscapes to photograph. Mesquite dunes shoots well both at sunrise and sunset.
My trip there felt like an experiment in photographing color. Cool blue starry nights, warm sunsets and stunning red sunrises. Remember to watch your red channel when photographing red skies. You will get some clipping, but be careful not to clip the red channel to much or you will get blocked out colors.
I finally broke down and bought an iPhone. One feature I was very interested in trying out was the 8 MP camera. This image of the salt flats was taken with the phone. The quality was quite good, a little noisy as one would expect with such a small sensor but very usable. I reduced noise in CS5 and added some contrast and saturation. The file is 72dpi 22MB size out of the phone. iPhone images are being published everyday, take a look at Scott Kelby and Terry White’s book The iPhone Book to really learn what this camera can do. To download iPhone photos to your computer, plug your phone into your computer and open iTunes, the program will give you options to download.