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Mackinac Bridge Tower Tour

July 28, 2014  •  3 Comments

On the 25th of July, 2014 I had the honor of taking a tower tour of the iconic Mackinac Bridge that connects the peninsulas of the great state of Michigan. The view from the top of the south tower was extraordinary! While I was at the top I managed to create this 45 shot, 360x180 degree panorama to put into a virtual tour. Click and drag around to take in the view!


Planet version!

Traditional Panorama!

The little hole that takes you into the tower

The little elevator that takes you most of the way up. A tight squeeze for two people

The little holes that you squeeze through when you get off the elevator

Ladders that take you to the top, with more tight squeezes

Selfie on top of the bridge, no more tight squeezes. Nothing but a cool northern breeze and a remarkable view!

2014 Calendars

November 05, 2013  •  2 Comments

Since the year 2014 is going to be awesome, I want to be there with you every day of the year! Which is why I put together a few calendars so we can enjoy the ride together. I chose two different themes: ...ssspppaaaccceee..., and Fireflies. Calendars are 11x17 when unfolded, 2 pages of 8.5x11 that are spiral-bound. Calendars will likely start shipping the last week of November.

Calendars are $20 each.

The 2014 Space Calendar is a collection of images of my favorite subjects, the night sky and celestial events! Mostly made up of the multiple camera 360 degree startrail panoramas that I have dubbed 'Planetary Panoramas' created throughout the year of 2013. Along with a partial solar eclipse lightning storm and transit of Venus setting into Lake Michigan from the summer of 2012.

Order the 2014 Space Calendar Here: http://www.vincentbrady.com/2014calendars/h9c97cf2#h9c97cf2

Visit the Planetary Panorama Blog Here: http://www.vincentbrady.com/blog/2013/10/planetary-panoramas

Firefly images taken in the Summer of 2013. I spent the month of June chasing them in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Then came back home to Grand Ledge, Michigan in July where they were just starting to brighten up the nights so I could continue my chase. Most of the images are time-lapse photos stacked together to show the fireflies flashing over several hours time. Of course, I threw in a spooky macro shot for the month of October while the month of February features a single image of a firefly lighting up appropriately in the shape of a heart. No matter what the season is where you are, every day will be hot and humid just the way the fireflies like it.

Order Here: http://www.vincentbrady.com/2014calendars#h1b4ba366

Visit the Fireflies Gallery Here: http://www.vincentbrady.com/fireflies


Planetary Panoramas

October 10, 2013  •  4 Comments

Throughout this past year I’ve been shooting 360 Degree Startrail Panoramas. So I’ve put together this little blog to tell a short story about how I pre-visualized, created, and shoot the images that make up what I like to call, ‘The Planetary Panorama Project.’ To keep myself entertained I like to put a little slang on it, the Plan Pan Pro, P3, P-Trip.

Through the year of 2012 I found great joy in shooting startrail photos. After acquiring a Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens at the beginning of the year, I began to have a blast shooting what I like to call ‘strails.’ The super wide lens is great for catching a scene on Earth while picking up a good chunk of the sky. Long exposure photos at night, well actually it’s a group of photos taken over a long period of time. The camera gets put on a tripod and takes pictures nonstop for typically a few hours with the help of an intervalometer. My favorite exposure is for 80 seconds. I tend to shoot shorter exposures than many other photographers shooting startrails since I like to have lots of frames in order to make a timelapse videos. Some others might tell you to shoot 3 or 4 minute exposures. Anyway, I’m not here to tell you what to do.

Blasting through the year 2012 and heading out into the rare moonless clear Michigan nights I had quite a bit of time to think. Taking full advantage of the fisheye lens I started using it to start shooting 380x180 degree panoramas in the daytime. Whereas a regular panorama is several shots to make a wide view of a scene, a 360x180 degree panorama is lots of shots to make for an extremely wide scene of everything all around you. Using a really wide lens to create really wide panoramas just seemed like the right thing to do.

Then in the Fall a crazy idea came to me... What would it look like to combine the two concepts?

With This

The answer was to combine several cameras with fisheye lenses and stitch the images together. After doing some testing,  I had my heart set on using 5 cameras to get a super wide 360 degree panorama.

Thus my very own custom rig was created. It consist of 5 cameras (1 Canon 60d and 4 Canon t2i’s) all with Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lenses. All on a special wooden mount that my step-dad was nice enough to cut up which has a thread appropriately sized to put on a heavy duty tripod.

Here’s a photo of the rig. The P-Trip!

I knew before rigging up this rig that editing was going to take quite a bit of time. The strategy is usually to be patient and turn on some good music while going through the editing process.

The workflow looks something like this:

1. Each camera is set to take continuous photos over several hours. Typically 2-3 hours with 1-2 minute exposures. Thus having 100 or 200 photos from each camera.

2. Batch edit all the images then stack the images from each camera using the software ‘StarStax.’ So now we have 5 separate startrail images.

3.The five images are then manually stitched into a panorama using the software ‘PTGui Pro.’ This is probably the most tedious part but very necessary. Each image needs to be aligned to the two that border it. This is done by placing 30 to 40 ‘control points’ where one image needs to be aligned with another. Between the fisheye distortion and stars needing to be aligned this usually takes me several hours. When you’re ready to go, PTGui will make one big panorama.

4. Image is then tweaked Photoshop.

5. After all the preparations the image cooked fresh in my photo factory and delivered straight to you ready to enjoy.

I find the best results when scoping out locations in the daytime before going out into the pitch blackness. I typically but not always setup just before sundown and take a few photos while sunlight is still present and blend in these shots with the night scene to bring out some details in the elements.


So without further ado...

Here are a few of my results and accompanying stories with the shots

Being from the greater Lansing area in Michigan I drove about 20 miles north to Sleepy Hollow State Park. The scene here was taken from the swimming beach area with the frozen lake looking like a crescent moon in the photo. I’ve always had a special kick for nature at night, the atmosphere seems to change and I love the thought of being the only one in a popular spot. Especially in the Winter, being out here the frozen ice sheets were making an eerie sound as they were grinding against each other, while coyotes were howling in the distance. It was about 10 degrees fahrenheit and I had actually let my cameras shoot for about 2 and a half hours. Unfortunately after about 45 minutes frost had built up on some of the lenses making for blurry photos. So I just used 45 minutes of startrails to create this for my first 360 degree startrail planetary panorama.

After a few more trials and errors through the cold months, I was ready to have another go at it when finally some clear moonless nights broke out in the middle of March. I headed back out to Sleepy Hollow State Park to capture a scene on the freshly thawed lake. After a peaceful night shooting, I was really excited to see the result. This was shot over the course of 3 hours and I was very excited about the image. After posting it on Facebook the feedback was explosive as well. I’m always checking the weather forecast before I head out. The hourly forecast on weather.com and I like to watch the radars on the local WILX 10 channel. Appropriately I shared the image on WILX’s Facebook page and they shared it for the whole community to see. I got so much positive feedback that it put a new boogie in my groove and I knew that I wanted to keep pursuing this.

Over Memorial Day weekend I headed to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for a family gathering. I brought all of my photo equipment and planned on staying down there to shoot the night sky as well as long exposures of fireflies having a wild and dance party. Over the weekend my Aunt and Uncle gave me a crash course on how to operate their pontoon boat, and gave me a tour around the area as we scoped out some points to shoot from. They also demanded that I throw an air mattress on the boat so the dog and I could be comfortable while staying out at night, I didn’t argue! Laying out on the boat, stargazing, fireflies, and listening to all sorts of strange sounds mysterious creatures in the dark make was great. For this shot, it was one of the first nights when the fireflies were starting to make themselves present in the early Missouri June. I was really watching and capturing the sight before me.

Another night at  Lake of the Ozarks. For this I decided to take just one of the frames from each camera to make more a static shot of the stars and Milky Way. Everytime I go down there it’s so nice to see the Milky Way. Typically I seem to be surrounded by city lights, and to get out of all of that on a clear night can just be a fantastic experience. I recommend it to everyone. Lake of the Ozarks isn’t technically a lake, but rather a damned up river. The first 15 to miles along the lake are pretty populated with people, restaurants, condos, big boats, and lots of fun stuff for tourist, retirees, and locals alike. Where my family gathers is about 70 miles down the lake from the damn and it’s typically pretty quiet. Especially in the middle of the week. I don’t think I saw anyone out this night, maybe a fisherman in a small boat on the other side of lake when I wasn’t looking. It’s totally cool having the feeling that you get such an amazing place all to the dog and myself.

June and July I found myself really focused on shooting fireflies. I spent the most of June down at Lake of the Ozarks shooting, then when I came back to Michigan in July they were just starting to light up for the season. I’m still working on a time-lapse video for the fireflies, stay on the lookout for that. In the meantime the firefly gallery can be found here: http://www.vincentbrady.com/fireflies

I headed back to Lake of the Ozarks for Labor Day. Another family gathering over the weekend. We seem to never get sick of gathering at the lake. It’s really an amazing enough place to where it’s the undisputed prime place to gather. Everyone wants to be there and comes from many miles consistently. On Monday night after a great weekend I headed out into a peaceful clear night and captured another scene, this one is in a family favorite cove where we do lots swimming and late night stargazing.

After Labor Day I found myself in route to head out to British Columbia to visit my brother. I wanted to shoot at some cool locations on the way. I decided the Badlands in South Dakota, Devils Tower in Wyoming, and Glacier Park in Montana seemed like a nice journey. Making it to the Badlands I was promised clear night skies, but a stormed rolled through in the evening and it the forecast called for rain and clouds the rest of the week. Down but not out I decided to keep moving to Devils Tower. To my luck, the night I arrived was perfect. Devils Tower is an amazing monument formed by underground magma many millions years ago. As the landscape around it eroded we are left to observe this monument appropriately named. Once again as the sun went down and night seeped in, I was becoming a loner in a very popular attraction. As I toured the trail around the monument a few climbers were repelling down the side, when they reached the bottom and headed out I was alone. Well maybe a few spirits were present around the sacred monument. As my cameras were shooting I climbed around the rocks at the base that eroded over time and discovered quite a few bats flying around my head coming in and out of the crevasses. I watched the Milky Way make its path across the sky and read the tourist signs explaining the history from formation to its sacred status to native tribes to its present status as a place where people like myself come from across the globe to take pictures and show their friends.

I call this one ‘Devils Tower & The Heavens’

Had a blast shooting at Devils Tower. It was then time to move onward through Montana. I stopped at a coffee shop in Billings to get my memory cards cleaned off, charge my batteries, drink lots of coffee, and most importantly check the upcoming forecast for Glacier National Park. Driving across Montana it was 98 degrees and judging by the look of the grass I’d say 1 match could’ve burned the whole state down. The grass isn’t greener in eastern Montana, it’s really dry. Which is why I was thrown off when I looked at the forecast for Glacier and they were predicting rain and snow for the upcoming weekend. I decided I would hold off from visiting, drink coffee and edit some photos from the trip. After 2 more days it was time for clear skies at Glacier! I arrived to the park at night after driving through the day. My original intention was to shoot overlooking St. Mary’s Lake. When I went to scope out the scene, nightly road closures prevented me getting to my destination. Had to wait another day to get in and scope out another location. After some exploring, I decided Logan’s Pass would be a great shot. Actually just about anywhere in the park would make for a great shot the place is beautiful. While at the visitor’s center at Logan’s Pass I saw a flip book that had pictures of the roads that go through Glacier after they’ve been hit by avalanches and rockslides some of the photos were taken as late as May. The roads get torn up there, I was no longer upset about the road construction after seeing those photos.

I setup my camera gear in the evening fairly close to a popular walkway. Once again, many people were calling it a day while I had another beautiful night to myself. Of course, tons of people have to stop and ask me questions about what is going on with my rig. I have selfish pride moments when photographers with much fancier gear than me have to stop and ask me what is going on with my rig and what it’s going to do. I get the vibe a lot that just about every photographer would not be able to figure out how to operate the thing if I let them borrow it. I mean it’s ridiculous looking for a camera. I keep a pair of pliers in my bag to twist the screws tight to hold the cameras in place, screws that are properly fitted with a ton of washers. There’s a bunch of rubberbands on the lenses to strap handwarmers on them to prevent dew on cold nights. I have to squeeze my fingers into crevasses to hit the buttons to get all the camera setting the same. The cameras firmware is hacked using Magic Lantern for better control of long exposures and syncing the cameras. The fisheye lenses themselves look a little sillier than most other lenses. This all happens on a wooden 5 point star sloppily cut plank with pencil markings. But I love my rig, it’s very special to me. I’m blessed to have the family and friends that have helped create my pre-visualized madness and I’m humbled by all the positive feedback I get from all over the world. You guys are great. I can’t really imagine this project being much better than it is.

Ready to shoot and waiting patiently for the sun to set, what appeared to be a mother and child pair of mountain goats strolled right by. Mountain goats are so cool, I just love animals that just mind their manners and just bless you with their presence. The moon went down about an hour and half the sun and the cameras were ready to rotate with the Earth. This one I decided it looked a little better in black and white. I’m very picky about putting photos in black and white. This one I thought just needed to be black and white plain and simple.

Here's one from Kootenay Lake in British Columbia. Had my cameras setup in a mountain stream flowing into the lake and blended in shots lit with the moon.

That wraps up this blog for now. I’m currently in British Columbia hoping to do some strail shooting real soon. I’ll update with more 360 strails as they get created! Stay up to date on my Facebook photo page! I’m always posting tons of fun stuff on there!

Thanks For Reading!

Vincent Brady

[email protected]

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