February 7, 2008 Local Light Pillars

I was in the process of heading to bed when I looked out my window and noticed apparent fog to the east, near the plant. It was 1 a.m. but I wasn't exactly tired yet. So, knowing there may very well be a cool night scene over there, and maybe even light pillars, I headed on out.

As I got closer to the plant, I found I couldn't see much of it. It was quite foggy, but no light pillars to be found. So I drove around and down to the river. I could barely see the bridge when I first got there. A couple minutes later and it let up some. I think the wind just shifted a hair, and that most of the fog was from the plant to the south....not all of it, but a lot. Clouds were increasing from the west, putting a halt on the falling temperatures. This seems to happen a lot when I'm out at night shooting scenes that are dependant on cold air.

I thought a train was coming from the east(like they seem to do most often), so I put the window back down and mounted the camera. Nope, just a truck on the other bridge. Drats. Then as I go to leave I look right/west and see very bright lights on the track. That would surely be a train. So I put the window back down, then wait. It was going horribly slow, probably 5mph. Something about being down there at night, in the dark, in the fog, and alone, keeps me from being horribly excited about getting out and walking closer to the river to shoot. So the above was shot from the running van, with the camera mounted to the window....camera on bulb at F5 I think....ISO 100, for probably 30-60 seconds. The van running, vibrating some, doesn't seem to hurt such long shutters at night. You can sort of see how much frost was already on the bridge.

I leave after this one, as a truck comes down the road. I wound up here again later, only to find myself stuck in a train of trucks dumping snow from town. This was like 2 a.m. or later. They had to wonder what the hell I was doing down there. That's one thing that sucks about shooting at night, you get everyone to wondering when they see you parked somewhere. I hate it because I have no desire to explain that I'm actually out taking photos. I know most won't get it when it is freaking dark out. Me: "Sir, the dynamic range is so much easier to deal with at night...well minus the street lights themselves." Sir: "I'm calling the cops and the psychiatric hospital."

Light pillars! Game on. I think I used the 17-40L on this one. These weren't here only 15 minutes before when I came through. The wind was just right, carrying steam from the cooling towers down at the plant(mostly from the cooling towers I think). It was cold enough(15F) that by the time it reached here it was falling as ice crystals.

The whole area just looked very cool. I wish it did it more often, and I wish there were neater things to shoot in this area. It was funny to see a car coming at you. The headlights of course had these beams going up too. Most of the time you only see vertical beams. At times though, there were strong horizontal beams included. You can see the white light doing it in the above on the left. I guess the light assortment in this area makes it neat. I'm facing towards the plant in the above.

Pretty easy to see the 4 beams off that white one in this one.

That's not snow, but ice crystals floating around. They sure aren't in any hurry to reach the ground as they go by.

The sign on that building was sending up a cool rectangular beam. It also went out horizontal at times too.

Driving around the strange scene. I think I have the EF-S 10-22mm on now. It seems to flare less than the 17-40L.

Sure looks like snow doesn't it. To get it to freeze the crystals some I needed to ISO up to 1600. The shutter wound up about 1 second, which left a bit of a streak to the crystals.

The horizontal beams were quite strong in this area a little closer to the plant.

Well, as my cloud cover continued to stream in high above, the temps began to rise. As they did, the steam coming from the plant rose too. Not much longer and the steam would be just too high to give me any more pillars. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted...which wasn't very long, thanks to the wind not liking to be se either.

Steam streaming nnw into town higher up now. Still have pillars but not much longer.

This tower looked highly coated in frost. It was often right in the layer of steam.

You can see the plant itself far right. The steam closer to the middle is coming from several very large cooling towers. Oh yeah, some quick words on "distortion". Distortion is pretty much for bending lines on something shot straight on(the above was not shot straight on....lens is leaning back to get more of the sky). Say you have buildings, and you shoot level at them. They should have vertical walls that don't lean in the image. If they bow there's distortion. You look at the image above and the tower is clearly "leaning" over to the right. Trees on the right side are leaning over left, like the steam over there. Every lens will do this if you aren't pointing it straight on(every lens but a tilt-shift anyway). Ultra-wide angle's just exaggerate it. If you have a camera you can see it real easy by pointing it at some doorway or buildings. The more you tilt back and look up, the more those walls will lean inward towards the top(even the best lenses do this...two of mine used in these do it, and they were both $800 each. If you don't want that you have to use a tilt-shift....or correct it in a photo editor at the cost of losing portions of your image to the crop that will be needed). BUT...if you look straight on, perfectly level, they shouldn't very much at all. If I had 50% foreground and 50% sky in the above shot, with the horizon in the middle of the image, that tower(the light poles, trees, etc) would not be leaning over.

Since my pillars were gone, and I thought there would be some thick frost accumulation along the river, I drove over to Wilson Island. Sunrise was still a couple hours away, but I needed something to do other than make people wonder what I was doing. I drive all the way over there only to see there's no river steam now, and little frost. Oh well I thought, at least I can get back home and sleep! Got back around 5:30 and crashed.