New Skillshare class – The Photographer’s Ephemeris

I just published a new online class with Skillshare on how I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris. The first 25 people to use this link can watch it for free:

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is an application that uses Google Maps to predict where the sun and moon will rise and set on any date, anywhere on earth. I demonstrate how to use TPE to align the sun or moon for a photo shoot, take you on location and process the images.

The Photographer's Ephemeris
The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Light Painting Event in Half Moon Bay

Light Painting Event in Half Moon Bay

July 17 and 18

Click here to see and download your drawings from the “Pay it Forward” art project . (Pictures are now up! Thank you for playing.)

Click here to view my new Light Drawing video course for free on Skillshare.


Trombone portrait
Trombone portrait
In association with Coastal Arts Enterprises
and produced by Lainey Sainte Marie,

we will be light painting portraits and light drawing live on Friday evening , July 17 from 4 pm to 9 pm and again on Saturday afternoon, July 18 from 12 noon to 5 pm. Free! 

Come play with us and create some unique photographic art. Images will be uploaded to Flickr the next day and available for download, again for free! We supply the lights, camera and action.

We will be at the Coastal Arts Museum (at Zaballa Square)

300 Main St., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Three faces, light painted
Tai of a different color

Paint a portrait or draw from your imagination!

light drawn horse image
running horse

Contact me here for more information.

After the Pumpkin Festival

I had a great time at Half Moon Bay’s Pumpkin Festival this year. Thanks to Made on the Coast supporting local artists, I had a booth selling my photographs on Main Street which provided an opportunity to meet so many people and get some exposure.

If you asked about up coming projects, here are a few links.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Projection Event

PPLS projection test-1

Saturday, November 15th is the annual celebration of the first lighting in 1872 and they normally have activities and music during the day. Since the Fresnel lens was removed in 2011, they no longer light the original lamp, an event that attracted thousands of people. This year I will be projecting images of the coastside and past lightings onto the lighthouse to bring back some of that experience and raise awareness of the restoration challenges. Look to the lighthouse as it gets dark. Read more about the lighthouse here.

This event is made possible through a generous grant from the Made on the Coast Emerging Artist program and the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee.

Coastside Photographers Meet Up Group

Coastside Photographers is 200 strong and rich with fun loving photographers looking to share photo walks and expertise with anyone with a camera. We meet primarily along the San Mateo County Coast at various times each month. Check out our web page for future and past meets at Coastside Photographers.

Photography Classes

In association with the Half Moon Bay Parks and Rec, I teach Basic and Intermediate photography classes. Check my schedule in the current Activity Guide here. Watch for a special 3 night class in January dedicated to Night Photography and Light Painting.

Johnston House Light Show

On Tuesday, October 7 at about 6:30 pm, at the Johnston House, join me, just after sunset, for a projection presentation of historic images, Galen Wolf paintings and photos from around the San Mateo County Coast.

johnston house-3
Historic photo of the Johnston House projected onto the Johnston House.

The Johnston House is located at 110 Higgins-Purisma Road, here in Half Moon Bay, CA.

The weather is looking good to view a great sunset on the ocean (about 6:45 pm) and, about 10 minutes later, a full moon rise behind the Johnston House.

Johnston House Moon Rise
Full moon rises behind the Johnston House

As it gets dark,  I will begin a video presentation on the front of the Johnston House, showing photos of the Johnston House juxtaposed from the past and present.

There will also be photos of Galen Wolf paintings, an artist that documented life in San Mateo County in the 1930s and photos I have taken on the Coastside.

Oxalis Field
Oxalis Field photo projected onto the Johnston House

Bring your camera and a flashlight and something to sit on, if you like.

After the presentation, I will attempt to perform some light drawing which will also be projected onto the house.

This is a free event! Bring your friends and family! See you there!

This event is made possible by Made On The Coast, The Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee, The Johnston House Foundation and presented by me, Stuart Nafey.

Made on the Coast

Coastside Photographers Meetup Group

Coastside Photographers is a new Half Moon Bay based photography Meetup group and I am the organizer!

Sunset at Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Photographers line the bluffs for a Pigeon Point Lighthouse sunset.

The idea is to focus on photo opportunities unique to the San Mateo County coastline. There are many (200+) bay area photo related groups in Meetup, none centered in Half Moon Bay. I know plenty of coast side photographers that travel over the hill to attend lectures and photo walks (myself included) and I want to help us get together locally.

For now, I will organize photo walks as natural alignments and community events occur. Long term plans include regular meetings to talk and learn, but finding a venue to accommodate the group, which has grown to over 150 members as of this writing, is the challenge. A few local coffee shops have offered their services, but I have yet to take them up on those offers. The library has no meeting rooms for us and only allow library sponsored activities, at least until the new library is built. The Recreation Department charges a hefty fee unless you are a certified non-profit.

But the future is promising. We have already had 4 successful meets since we started at the end of January and membership grows everyday.

Surprisingly, we have members from all over the bay area. For those that must travel, I try my best to update scheduled meets as to changing weather and traffic conditions.

If you are interested in joining or checking us out, click through to Coastside Photographers. This will take you to our Meetup website where you can read about us, view our previous meets, suggest ideas in the Discussion Forum, check out the posted photos and read our Policies and Guidelines.

It is free to join (free to sign up with Meetup) and most meets will be free. Occasionally, I plan to hold technical seminars and charge a fee.

Take that camera out of the bag, charge the battery and come join us as we photograph the coast!

Organizing Your Photos via Adobe Lightroom

A word about organizing your photos and Collections in Lightroom

I store all my photos on a separate external hard drive dedicated only for photos. I have one folder named “Pictures” on that drive. Within that folder are more folders named with general categories – Art, Holidays, Music, People, Projects, Places, Plants, Sports and Vehicles.

Inside each of those folders are sub folders that further define the contents. For instance, in the Music folder, sub-folders have names of specific musicians and bands. The Places folder has a Cities folder, a Parks folder and a few more. The Sports folder has Soccer, Surfing, and Hula Hoop sub-folders. The Vehicles folder has sub-folders for Cars, Planes, Trains and Boats. Those folders are where I store all my photos.

Even though I use Lightroom to import and organize these folders, the pictures can only be in one place and in one folder on the one hard drive. Those folders are all displayed in the actual hierarchy in the Folder Panel of the Lightroom Library. (I create duplicates as a backup on another drive and will write about that later.)

What if a photo fits into more than one of my categories? That is where Collections come in.

The powerful advantage of Collections is being able to create a Collection of photos that live in different folders and even on different hard drives. And any one photo can also reside in more than one Collection.

Collections are virtual. Photos in Collections never move from their permanent home on your hard drive. They stay in the folder where you first imported them. Lightroom cleverly remembers the Collections you create, the photos you place in them and any editing you make to those photos. Lightroom never makes changes to the originals.

I utilize Collections when working on projects. After reviewing and rating pictures from a photo shoot, I might create a Collection of the best photos that require further editing. I might make a Collection of photos that have a similar theme, which will probably include pictures from many different folders on my hard drive.

Organizing is a joint effort of (1) knowing how files are stored on your hard drives and (2) using the tools in the Lightroom Library, including Collections, ratings and keywords. Master these concepts and you will easily manage the huge number of pictures you are collecting in this digital photography world.

Full Moon Rising – August 30 Photo Op


Weather permitting – always a consideration in Half Moon Bay – I am inviting camera folk to join me in photographing the near full moon rising behind the Johnston House on Thursday, August 30. I plan to be setup by 7:00pm and expect the moon to appear by 7:25 and the sun setting at 7:40.


The Photographer’s Ephemeris tells me to be near the intersection of Main Street and Higgins Canyon Road looking east toward the house.

Camera Tips

The moon is no larger on the horizon than it is when directly overhead. In order to increase the perceived size of the moon, you photograph it along side a landmark, from a distance and with a long lens, zooming in as much as you can to frame the picture. I have a 70-300mm lens but will be using my 70-200mm instead. It is a higher quality lens that gives me sharper pictures. More megapixels in your camera helps when cropping to retain a high resolution photograph. I use a Nikon D7000 with 16MP but have taken decent photos with the 10MP D80.


Exposure is a bit tricky. You might think that an evening shot would require a wider aperture or a slower shutter speed, but the moon can be very bright in a dark sky and to retain crater detail, an under exposed picture (according to the camera’s light meter) might be best.

The picture below was taken with the D80 and the 70-300mm lens at 100 ISO, f/8.0 aperture and 1/50 shutter speed. The original picture was both under exposed for the house and hills and a bit overexposed for the moon and the sky. I then, using Lightroom,  lightened the bottom half and darkened the sky which brought out details in both. Bracketing your exposure and layering via HDR should improve that process.

moon rise over the Johnston House
A near full moon rising behind the Johnston House, Half Moon Bay, CA

Some folks suggest starting at f/16 with a shutter speed equal to your ISO setting. Those are fast shutter speeds, but use a tripod anyway. And be ready to manually adjust your settings, as the moon rises quickly. In the bay area, the earth is spinning around 818 mph which give you only a few minutes to catch a shot like this.

But the Full Moon is on Friday

It sure is. Those pesky mountains block our view of the horizon and, in this case, the moon doesn’t appear until 26 minutes after the actual rise. Since the sun sets as the moon rises, by the time we see it, the sun is long gone. By shooting the day before the fullness, you can get some of that golden hour sunset light on the Johnston House and less extreme contrast in your exposure.

Update: Local SF and nocturnal photographer Phil McGrew suggests the “Lunar 11” rule. Start with an f stop of 11 and a shutter speed the same as your ISO setting, similar to the “Sunny 16” rule which is to start with f/16 and shutter speed the same as your ISO when in a very sunny environment.

Update 2: Despite perfectly clear evenings the previous 2 nights, the marine layer blanketed the coast with low lying clouds and we saw neither the blue moon rise or the sun set. Next month is another story when, on September 29, full moon rises 24 minutes before the sunsets and may be the best photo op here in Half Moon Bay.

Treat Social Club Photos

We took our Light Doodles Photo Booth to the Treat Social Club last night and had a great response to the portraits session. The people were fantastic, the music was stellar and the light show amazing.

I did get some time to talk with the video director for some cool insights to the software used. I built a slideshow of our light drawings which included several tango themed pictures which seemed to display just as the accordion played and the dancers were tangoing. And then a yellow giraffe head would pop up. Very trippy. Here are a few shots.

Lori with light painted trombone projected on a wall
My shot of a light painted Lori on trombone became the default image for the evening

3 people form a light painted totem pole

Red an green man in a blue cloud

Visit the Light Doodles web site or see the full portrait gallery here.

The Milky Way – Finding and Photographing

For those of us who like to sleep late, July through September are the best times to find and photograph the Milky Way and the SF bay area based Star Circle Academy can help you. Look to the southern sky from just after sunset to midnight this time of year.

Depending where you are, just looking might not be quite enough. Nocturnal photographer Steven Christenson has posted 2 helpful articles on the Star Circle Academy blog on the subject of finding and photographing the expanse that is our home galaxy and is happy to answer questions in the comments.

The Elusive Milky Way – How to Find It!

The Elusive Milky Way – Capture an Image

I have yet to capture a Milky Way photo I want to share, so I link to one of Steven’s below.

A 180 degree vertorama of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon

If the picture looks a bit strange, it is a 180 degree vertorama (a series of stitched pictures) taken straight overhead from horizon to horizon. The west horizon is at the top of the photo.

Walk towards the light… frame and shoot!