Category Archives: Photo Tours

Don’t Miss Out!

Don’t Miss Out on our Early Bird Specials and Fall Tour Opportunities!

Alaskan Aurora Adventure – 15% discount expires on May 31, 2016

Current Price (with 15% discount) – $4463

Regular Price – $5250

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To learn more about and register for this trip, click here.

Davis and Canaan Valley, West Virginia – Discount expires on July 31, 2016

Current Price (with discount) – $280

Regular Price – $350

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To learn more about and register for this trip, click here.

Cape May, New Jersey

Current Price – $375

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To learn more about and register for this trip, click here.

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Charleston

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We just concluded our first tour of Charleston, South Carolina! I was last in Charleston about 8 years and revisiting this fantastic city was even more fun than I remembered. Charleston has so much to offer photographers. The beautiful architecture of the old city, beaches for sunrise, plantations and gardens to just name a few of the great shooting locations.
 

We are looking forward to returning to this great city! Drop us an email at info@roadrunnerphotographytours.com if you would like to be notified when we offer our next tour in Charleston.

 

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The Magic of the Northern Lights

 

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Capturing the aurora… the illusive, search for lights in the night sky.

Most frequently seen above the magnetic poles of the Earth, these circles of high-density auroras lie between the latitudes of 60° and 70° north and south, more or less in line with the Arctic and Antarctic circles. The auroral activity increases when high solar activity, such as sunspots, disturbs Earth’s magnetosphere.

Solar activity is created by complex magnetic fields on the sun’s surface, which ejects billions of tons of plasma (coronal mass ejections (CME)) at extraordinarily high speeds, sending fast-flowing “gusts” of charged particles out from the sun.

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NASA 4.2Mclass

The light of auroras is emitted when charged particles in the solar wind excite the electrons of atmospheric atoms through collisions. As the electrons return to their original energy levels, these atoms, primarily oxygen and nitrogen, emit photos of visible light of distinct wavelengths to create the colors of the auroral display. The wavelength of the light depends upon the electronic structure of the atoms or molecules themselves, and on the energy of the charged particle colliding with the atom or molecule.

Solar wind is a stream of plasma, charged particles created by collisions of atoms in the intense heat of the sun’s atmosphere, or corona. These charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, have their own magnetic field. They reach Earth at speeds of 350 to 400 km per second. The Earth’s magnetosphere forms an obstacle to the solar wind, which deflects them and ultimately channels them toward the North and South poles.

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NASA

The electrons of the atmospheric atoms collide with the particles of the solar wind to become excited. As the electrons return to their original energy levels, these atoms emit visible light of distinct wavelengths, to create the colors of the display that can be seen. The specific atmospheric gas and its electrical state, and the energy of the particle that hits the atmospheric gas determine the colors. The atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which emit the characteristic colors of their respective line spectra. Atomic oxygen is responsible for the two main colors of green and red. Nitrogen causes blue and deep red hues. Additionally, altitude can effect the color of the auroras. The strong green light originates at altitudes of 120-180 km. Red occurs at even higher altitudes, while blue and violate occur mostly below 120 km. When solar activity is extremely high, reds can be found at lower altitudes of 90-100 km. Although rare, entirely red auroras can sometimes be seen at low latitudes, often appearing to be fire on the horizon.

 

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Although solar winds occur regularly, the intensity of the activity is not constant, but follows an eleven-year cycle of activity.

The movement of the aurora is created when the magnetic field lines are broken and reformed, called magnetic reconnection. The Earth’s magnetic field lines capture and store energy, and magnetic reconnection occurs when these stressed lines suddenly snap back to new shapes, like stretched elastic bands. In doing so, they fling charged particles back towards the Earth’s atmosphere.

 

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Auroras, although present throughout the year depending on solar activity, can only be seen in the night sky near the North and South poles during the relative winter months. In the northern sky the lights are called the Aurora Borealis, where as in the southern sky, they are known as Aurora Australis.

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NASA

Capturing auroral images is challenging, as travel to remote locations is generally required. Because the aurora is a winter phenomenon, being prepared for frigged conditions is necessary. This effects both you, the photographer, but also your gear. Camera gear is generally not happy in extreme cold conditions; batteries die faster and the mechanisms seize up. When you go into a warming shed or facility to warm up, the gear will steam, but because it is so cold, the steam will turn to frost instantly. It can take hours for the gear to reach the ambient temperature of the room and be usable again. This could be the difference between capturing the aurora and missing it entirely. For yourself, being prepared to stand in the extreme cold also poses some challenges because it requires multiple layers of heavy clothing, thick gloves, balaclavas, hats, and scarves. Simply moving can be difficult. Exposing your fingers to change camera settings or to manipulate your metal camera body or tripod can be painful, sending burning cold through your finger tips.

Even with these challenges, there is nothing like experiencing this wonder. Sometimes you just have to sit back and appreciate the moment… of course while your camera is working!

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No Words and Not Enough Cameras!

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Just returned from a successful Alaska Aurora Adventure workshop. It is almost impossible to describe this type of trip… epic, amazing, relaxing and exhausting at the same time… these terms only touch on it. However, there are those moments that make you realize that life is simply good and every day above ground is a gift. This trip was one of those moments.

When the sky came to life, the only thought I had was “no words and not enough cameras”. With two cameras running, set on interval, I still could not capture the activity in the night sky.

We are running another workshop in Alaska next March, for more information and to register, click here. In addition to aurora photography, the tour features attending the official start of the Iditarod, the Reindeer race, and more! Register before May 31, 2016 and receive a 15% discount! Register between June 1 and November 30, 2016 and receive a 10% discount!

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Brrrrr!

Are you ready to get out of this freezing cold windy winter and to celebrate spring?? Well we sure are! Join us for an amazing trip to Charleston, SC. To learn more and to register, click here.

 

Golden Hour

Some warm thoughts and images on a cold winter’s night.

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The golden hour refers to the time just after sunrise and just before sunset when sun light is at it’s warmest and softest. It is such a spectacular time of day, it is also known as the magic hour. Depending on where you are, this “hour” can last for many hours or be as brief as a few minutes.

Our challenge as photographers is to take advantage of these moments to create magical images, in which we can feel the warm glow of the waning light on our skin.

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The first and second images were shot in Iceland in December. At this time of year, the sun in Iceland only reaches approximately 12º above the horizon… so the golden “hour” lasts most of the day (or rather a few hours.

The third image was taken at Conowingo Dam, MD, also in winter. Although in the U.S. winter days last much longer than in Iceland, the golden hour only last for about an hour in the best of circumstances.

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The fourth image, was taken at the Tidal Basin in DC in April. On a spring day, without cloud cover, the golden hour lasted about 15 minutes or so. Once the sun is up, the light is hot creating heavy contrast in the scene. This was a very brief, albeit beautiful moment on the Tidal Basin.  _DSF4273-Edit

The fifth image was taken in Acadia, ME. Also taken in winter, this sunset golden hour gave the rocks and the sea spray a lovely pink hue. Creating a dream-like feel on a very chilly evening.

The final image was taken in Assateague National Park, MD in May. This sunrise lasted for longer than normal due to the heavy cloud cover in the foreground. The clear sky on the horizon created a beautiful glow that reflected on the beach as the waves pulled back from the shore.

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These fleeting moments are the very ones that draw me to photography. Addicting. They don’t happen often, but when they do, their effect keeps you trying for more.

Get out and chase the light….

 

 

 

 

 

West Virginia in the Fall

We are so fortunate to live so close to such amazing beauty as West Virginia. Wild and Wonderful is there slogan and it is spot on!

Every year, Road Runner has been leading fall tours in this area and this fall will be no exception. Each season provides new wonders, so don’t miss this opportunity to get out and enjoy the changing seasons!

For more information and to register, click here.

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The Palouse

Located between Washington and Idaho, this region encompasses thousands of square miles of rich farm land and is the heart of grain growing in the United States. After hundreds of hours touring this area, I have yet to tire of its beauty. The barns, grain silos, mills, abandoned trucks, and epic landscapes are extraordinary and remind me of the enormity and wonder of this country.

This most recent tour was a bit challenging. The Palouse, known for its puffy white clouds and lack of rain, presented two days of unaccustomed storms. Blank skies, chilly weather, and lots of rain can be daunting and depressing. But patience pays… because weather also present some of the most amazing skies and therefore, photographic opportunities.

Here are a few images from our tour last week:

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Road Runner’s next tour of the Palouse will be the harvest of 2017. We are looking forward to seeing the farmers harvest and process their crops. Known for its colorful and stunning sunsets, harvest time will nothing short of amazing. If you are interested in registering for our 2017 Harvest Tour, click here to contact us

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A Fleeting Moment

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Last Friday Denise and I arrived in Davis, WV just in time to be greeted by significant rain. I was making Denise drive so I could work on my motion abstracts when suddenly the sun pops out before it stopped raining. Without missing a beat Denise proclaims there must be a rainbow somewhere. I started looking around and sure enough there was one behind us over the Canaan Valley Wildlife Management area. We quickly turned in, jumped out, and started shooting.
From the time the sun popped out to the time the rainbow disappeared was about 5 minutes. These moments are fleeting and knowing our gear allowed us to jump out and start shooting. If you have to fumble with your gear you just might miss some opportunities.

Palouse Year 3

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In a few days Denise and I will be heading to Washington for our Palouse Photography Tour. This is our third year doing tours in the Palouse. For those who don’t know, the Palouse is the largest wheat growing region in the country. The landscape is full of rolling hills, barns and my personal favorite, lots of old trucks.

We are looking forward to working with a great group of participants, several of whom have done other tours with us. We can’t wait to see what they create!

During the last 2 years we have mapped thousands of miles of country roads and, believe it or not, we will be scouting some new areas in the days before our participants arrive. I already know the week will fly by.  Did I say fly?  Stay tuned to this blog to see what that means.