A New Arcanum Master

I had been teaching college level English classes for a few years at Truckee Meadows Community College when I met my supervisor’s mother at an on campus copy machine. She told me that she taught art classes, and I told her that I had almost twenty years experience as a photographer and had been published in some top-notch publications and worked at the summertime Lake Tahoe art fairs at Kings Beach. She told me that I should go talk to the art department because she thought they were looking for a new photography instructor.

A couple hours later, I did exactly what she recommended and was basically given an Intro to Digital Photography class to teach the following semester. The department asked me if I could teach Photoshop, and I said that I had been using it since 1995. Then I was asked if I could also teach Adobe Lightroom. I said that I could and basically fibbed because I had at the time never used Lightroom at all. I knew that I had enough time to learn it before the semester started and went and purchased a copy with my teacher’s discount at the University of Nevada, Reno. I read some blogs and watched some videos, and that was when I first learned about Trey Ratcliff.

I am surprised that I didn’t know who he was before then. He is currently the most famous and successful travel photographer alive, and he has a following on social media that is larger than Mick Jagger’s. He also has great tutorial videos on HDR photography and Lightroom, and I ended up purchasing both. Thankfully, that Lightroom tutorial prepared me to begin teaching it in my first photography class, and now I use Lightroom as my primary software for editing and organizing my photography catalog. Honestly, it is now my favorite software that I have ever used, and I wonder how I made it so long without it.

During my first year as a photography instructor, I continued to follow all the cool things that Trey was doing, and through him I was able to keep up with all the latest and greatest things which were going on in the photography world. If you haven’t noticed, and I really hadn’t at the time, technology has rapidly evolved in the photography world during the past few years, and many things are possible now that weren’t five years ago. For example, using high ISO for nighttime photography has improved so much that some cameras will shoot very well at an extremely high ISO which didn’t exist in the days of film. Also, many digital cameras can now shoot video that is much better quality than what video cameras could produce a few years ago.

Nighttime Scene from Nevada's Cathedral Gorge State Park

Nighttime Scene from Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park

One day, while looking at Trey’s blog at www.stuckincustoms.com, I read that he was going to start a new online photography mentorship program called, The Arcanum, and I became interested immediately and decided to sign up. While I felt as though I was qualified to become a master right away, I didn’t have all the required tutorial videos, and I thought it would be fun and helpful to initially take part from a student’s perspective, so I signed up to become an apprentice. My application was submitted in December of 2013, and I received my invitation from Angela B. Pan in August of 2014. I was already familiar with her amazing HDR photography of Washington D.C., so I accepted the invitation the day that I received it and have been involved ever since.

The Arcanum experience was terrific. The people in my cohort were all super fun to visit with, and I learned a lot from Angela, whom I like to call Angela B. Rad. She has an amazing eye for detail that has really helped me to improve my compositions while in the field, and I also learned some post-processing techniques from her that have taken the presentation of my photographs to a higher level. Besides the learning experience, it provided a great community aspect that I really hadn’t experienced as a photographer. Most of my friends aren’t photographers, and The Arcanum brought me new friends who liked to talk about all the technical stuff nobody else I knew wanted to talk about. In my opinion, the friendship and camaraderie makes The Arcanum different and sets it apart from other platforms of learning.

This past January, Angela recommended me to become a master and I started working on all the requirements in February. At the time, I really didn’t know much at all about shooting or editing video, but I put a lot of effort into it and am now comfortable with both. As an already experienced teacher, the rest of the transition from apprentice to master was relatively easy for me. I was assigned a supervising master, Jessica Lark, who is a famous boudoir photographer, and I found a second supporting master, Ron Clifford, who is an amazing landscape photographer from Canada and one of the nicest guys in the world. They, and Angela, helped guide me on the path to where I am today. I was able to merge what has been successful for me in the past as a photography instructor into a new form of learning through the merger of yesteryear’s master and apprentice method with the high-tech modern technology of today. It’s all so exciting, and I am so happy to be about to send out my first batch of invites.

Arcanum Masters (from left to right) Jessica Lark, Angela B. Pan, A.D. Wheeler, and Ron Clifford take part in the Trey Ratcliff photo walk in Philadelphia.

Arcanum Masters (from left to right) Jessica Lark, Angela B. Pan, A.D. Wheeler, and Ron Clifford take part in the Trey Ratcliff photo walk in Philadelphia. Photo by Zach Heaton  www.facebook.com/zachariahshawnheaton

If you are interested in being one of my 20 apprentices, please fill out an application at www.thearcanum.com and let me know. My cohort will be general in that all genres of photography will be covered and discussed, but there will be a strong emphasis on landscape photography, and two of my leveling-up assignments will be about nighttime photography. There will be a weekly, Theme of the Week, challenge, and I will be hosting at least three video hangouts on Google + a month. My goal is to level up the skills of all the cohort members while also building new friendships amongst likeminded individuals with similar interests. 

Please let me know if you would like to join or have any questions. Also, I will be participating in Trey Ratcliff’s photo walk on September 19 in San Francisco. If you happen to be there, please come by and say hello.

Nighttime in Nevada: Occidental Mineshaft

A couple years ago one of the best photographers I know, Neil Lockhart, told me how to get to the remains of this interesting mineshaft near Virginia City, Nevada. It requires going up a rough, steep road, but it is worth it because the mine is very photogenic and appears to be an old relic of a historical time in Nevada when gold and silver was on the minds of many, and getting rich quick was possible for some. It’s one of the things that I like most about photography in Nevada; the history can be just as visually interesting as the natural scenery.

Milky Way over the remains of the Occidental Mineshaft near Virginia City, Nevada

Milky Way over the remains of the Occidental Mineshaft near Virginia City, Nevada (Sony A7R ii — ISO 8000, f2.8, 20 seconds)

As you may know, I am very interested in nighttime photography and have been collecting images for my Nighttime in Nevada project for several years. In February, after getting my tax-return, I bought a Sony A7S to use as my main nighttime camera. It has been fantastic, but it has been my only camera since I decided to sell all the Olympus gear and switch entirely to Sony a few months ago. While the Sony A7S can produce amazing images in all types of light, the 12 megapixels can be limiting for someone who likes to print big. So in June I preordered their latest and greatest camera, the 42 megapixel Sony A7R ii, and it has been in my possession since August 11. My intentions were to use the Sony A7S at night and the new Sony A7R ii during the day, but I read a lot about how the Sony A7R ii is close to being as good in low light as the Sony A7S. I’ve been testing both cameras all week with the Perseid Meteor Shower coinciding with the new moon, and from what I have seen so far, the Sony A7R ii is close to being as good as the Sony A7S in low light, and in some ways I think it beats it. I don’t want to bore people with 100% crop noise comparisons, but the Sony A7R ii is the second best camera that I’ve ever had for nighttime photography, and I would probably use the Sony A7R ii’s 42 megapixels instead of the Sony A7S’s 12 megapixels if I knew that I would be making large prints.

Star Trails over Occidental Mineshaft (Sony A7S -- ISO 8000 f2.8 -- 100, 15 second exposures blended with Star Stax Software)

Star Trails over Occidental Mineshaft (Sony A7S — ISO 8000 f2.8 — 100, 15 second exposures blended with Star Stax Software)

One thing that I am really excited about now that I am rocking two very special cameras is that I can work on time-lapse stuff while also working on capturing a variety of stills. I won’t have to choose between the two; I’ll be able to do both. Here’s an example of a quick little time-lapse video that I put together. There might be one or two shooting stars with this, but most of the streaks going across the sky are from airplanes.



Nighttime in Nevada: Perseid Meteor Shower over Calico Range

This summer’s Perseid Meteor Shower has been on my calendar since I realized that it would be during the time of a new moon. Last year it happened when a full moon was out, and very little could be seen. For the peak night of the event this year, I decided to drive up to the infamous Black Rock Desert. Upon arrival, I was kind of bummed out because the legendary Burning Man event is already being setup, and there are bright lights all over the floor of the Playa which make the location horrible for my intended purpose. So I had to come up with a new plan and drove north on the lovely Soldier Meadows Road until the Burning Man lights were blocked by surrounding mountains. I then noticed being next to the Calico Range on the western edge of the Black Rock Desert. The Calico Range is really beautiful, and I especially like it because I had a photo of the range in the 2010 Wild Nevada Calendar. That was enough for me to make the location the photographic subject of the night. Besides, it was getting dark, so I parked for the night at a flat spot with a good view mountains and setup two different cameras to both shoot time-lapse footage all night long. I am still importing the files into Lightroom as I write. This photo caught my attention right away, so I thought I’d go ahead and post it. It is a 20 second exposure that captured several meteors.

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor Shower over Nevada's Calico Range

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor Shower over Nevada’s Calico Range

Reno Portraits: Tony Walker

As a derivative of Ton Loc, the famous rapper of yesteryear, Tony Walker’s best friend and brother, Devin Devontae Dinkins, gave him the nickname, “The Locus,” while they were “messin’ around with rappin’ or b-ballin.” He eventually shortened it up to just “Locus,” which is a scientific term that actually means the distance traveled from point A and point B. Tony loves to sing, freestyle rap, and paint, but above all he loves to hang out with his son who is his “light and inspires many things.” He is also a well-known man around Reno and has a lot to do with much of the city’s nightlife and art scene.

Tony Walker in front of Reno, Nevada's most famous sign

Tony Walker in front of Reno, Nevada’s most famous sign

I met Tony thru one of my former students who told me that he’d be interested in hanging up some of my photography prints at a popular bar in downtown Reno. I noticed right away that he is a hip and friendly guy who is very “coo.” If you check out his Instagram account @THELOCUS, you can see a lot about how much that he does around Reno and why he is so respected by those involved in The Biggest Little City in the World’s vibrant art and entertainment scene.

Artown with Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Stitched iPhone panoramic of my aluminum prints at the Friends of Nevada Wilderness office in Spark, Nevada

Stitched iPhone panoramic of my aluminum prints at the Friends of Nevada Wilderness office in Spark, Nevada

When my friend, Shevawn Von Tobel, sent out her notice about Friends of Nevada Wilderness looking for art to hang in their office during Artown, my first thought was to submit some images from my  Nighttime in Nevada project. During my spring break, I had been down in Southern Nevada shooting star trails, and I had plans to photograph a lot more nighttime scenes this summer. Thankfully, Kurt Kuznicki, my other friend over at Friends of Nevada Wilderness, told me not to submit any images with manmade stuff, so when I went out for my June nighttime photography outing, I only photographed natural locations. I setup a Dropbox folder for Shevawn and uploaded images from McDonalds WiFi while on the road in order to show her my submissions. It was a lot of work and a bit of a gamble, but it was a lot of fun and totally worked out. I ended up hanging six metal prints, five from my June nighttime outing and one from my March star trails outing in Southern Nevada.

Nevada's Blue Lakes are really hard to reach and in a very remote location. It is a white knuckle drive that I probably won't make again until I hear about the roads being improved.

Nevada’s Blue Lakes are really hard to reach and in a very remote location. It is a white knuckle drive that I probably won’t make again until I hear about the roads being improved.

Interestingly, Reno’s Artown began in 1996 as a festival in downtown Reno with the purpose of promoting art, and it has grown into one of the biggest art festivals in the country with over 100 businesses and non-profit groups like Friends of Nevada Wilderness participating. The intention, in my opinion, is to help promote Reno as a great town that is not only a gambling destination. Personally, I love Reno and think that it is a fantastic place to live and enjoy life, so I am more than honored to be involved with the Artown event.


Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is where I originally fell in love with nighttime in Nevada photography, so it was my first stop during my June run of collecting new images.

So if you are lucky enough to be a Renoite, or you just happen to be passing through “The Biggest Little City in the World,” my six metal prints and great art from other artists will be hanging on the wall for the rest of July at the Friends of Nevada Wilderness office at 1360 Greg St, #111 in Sparks, Nevada. The old maintenance man at my apartment building once jokingly  told me that “Reno is so close to hell that you can see Sparks,” but I totally disagree. Reno is so close to getting away from light pollution that you can see the heavens. Or, if you don’t want to drive an hour outside of town in the middle of the night when the moon isn’t out, you can see it on my metal prints for the rest of the month in Sparks.

Great Basin National Park really means a lot to me for many reasons. First of all, it's just flat out gorgeous, and it doesn't receive many visitors. Second, Wheeler Peak, the mountain featured in this photo, is the tallest mountain that I have ever climbed. Finally, it has terrific dark skies at night with very little light pollution.

Great Basin National Park really means a lot to me for many reasons. First of all, it’s just flat out gorgeous, and it doesn’t receive many visitors. Second, Wheeler Peak, the mountain featured in this photo, is the tallest mountain that I have ever climbed. Finally, it has terrific dark skies at night with very little light pollution.

Click Here to order prints: http://beaurogers.smugmug.com/Nighttime-in-Nevada/


Do Go Chasing Waterfalls: California’s Webber Falls

My life of landscape photography began with chasing waterfalls in Arkansas. I would wait until it rained and then rush out to one of the lovely waterfalls in the Ozarks with a handful of Fuji Velvia slide film. I’ve always loved waterfalls and think that just being around them makes one feel more positive and optimistic, so because of all the rain we’ve been getting in Northern Nevada and Northern California, I decided to try to focus myself on getting back to my roots a little bit. This waterfall is called Webber Falls, and it’s off the radar of most waterfall photographers. There are no signs, and the route is kind of sketchy, but I knew it’s location, and the early morning light was flat out amazing.

California's Webber Falls in the Northern Sierra Nevada

California’s Webber Falls in the Northern Sierra Nevada

Prints are available here: http://beaurogers.smugmug.com/buy/50512313_bQpz5r/4193850720_NSPFxFc/

Nighttime in Nevada: Cathedral Gorge State Park

After five days without a shower, the 25 cent hot showers at Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park was what I was most anxious to see upon my arrival. It was the furthest south that I made it during this portion of my nighttime in Nevada photography trip, and I have to say that those showers are the nicest of any state park that I have visited. Most national parks and state parks don’t have showers at all, and it is really nice when they are available in the desert, where it is typically over 1oo degrees. Okay, that’s enough about the showers. I just wanted to let my fellow travelers know that they are available at Cathedral Gorge State Park, which is also a very beautiful and unique place to visit. 

I wouldn’t say that I’ve officially quit drinking alcohol, but I haven’t had a drop since the Superbowl, so after the shower I went to a bar in Caliente to watch the NBA Finals and drink iced tea. I’ve always been a California boy at heart, so I was happy to see them win. Once the game ended, I headed back to the park because it was dark enough to start my photography. I walked around for an hour while looking for a place to setup and even came across a couple rattlesnakes. I’m so glad that they have those rattles! Don’t hike in the desert while wearing headphones. Once I found a spot to shoot from, I shot some tests for a while and began my time-lapse. My camera was fairly well-hidden, and the park was relatively empty, so I set my alarm for 3:30 AM and went to sleep while the camera continuously shot 30-second exposures all night long.

Milky Way over Nevada's Cathedral Gorge State Park

Milky Way over Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park

When I returned to my camera at 3:45 AM, I was really upset because a spider had built a web on the hood of my Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, my favorite lens for night photography. I hurried back to my laptop to process the images through Lightroom to see how bad was the photographic damage. Thankfully, the spider waited until after the heart of the Milky Way was in the best spot. If you watch the video below, you can see when it shows up. Once I use this for my real time-lapse video project, I will have to edit out the last 20% or so from this segment. You can double click on the video to view it in full-screen.

Nighttime in Nevada: Angel Lake of East Humboldt Range

I only have a couple days left for my June Nighttime in Nevada outing, and other than getting stumped at the Jarbidge Mountains because I took a wrong turn, the trip has been great. When I was driving through Wells, Nevada, I noticed how pretty that the mountains looked, so I decided to venture up to Angel Lake to take a look. It was super windy and hardly anyone was there, but the weather forecast said it would clear out around midnight, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It looked like the Milky Way would not be in the frame when it was dark enough to start at around 10 PM, but there would be clouds going over the mountains while the Milky Way slowly moved to the right. I ended up shooting several hundred 30 second exposures, and I quickly picked this one to use for the blog. Ultimately, I am planning to use the stuff from these shoots as a time-lapse video, and I believe that this section is my best so far. It will be a while until that is ready, so for now here’s one of the frames.

Milky Way over Angel Lake in Nevada's East Humboldt Range

Milky Way over Angel Lake in Nevada’s East Humboldt Range

Nighttime in Nevada: Blue Lakes of Pine Forest Range

The first book that I bought after moving to Reno was a hiking trail guidebook to Nevada’s 50 greatest hikes. The first hike listed is the Blue Lakes in the Pine Forest Range of Northwest Nevada. I went there the following spring and remember being terrified along the drive to the lakes. It was in late May of 2009, and the road was impassible after a steep climb, and I had to turn around in a somewhat dangerous spot because I could go no further. The next summer I went again and waited for all the snow to melt and made it to the top. A couple years ago, I took a friend up there during the peak of fall color and once again made it to the top and enjoyed the free campground that is about a mile from the lakes. One thing that I have noticed during each journey to those rare, glacier-carved Great Basin lakes is that the road, which is already dangerous, just gets worse and worse. This recent trip that I made to photograph the area at night will be my last unless I hear that there has been a decent effort made to repair the road. Nevada is a first class state for hikers who seek adventure, but I don’t think anyone wants to trash their vehicle in the pursuit of a free campground that is very difficult to reach. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. This blog is meant to be positive, but the condition of that road is just flat out awful. If the location is going to be promoted as one of Nevada’s best, which it is, than why can’t there be a little effort made at making the road a little more accessible. I don’t want it to be accessible to regular cars, but it shouldn’t be bad enough to trash a high-clearance, 4×4 truck. That said, it’s a lovely area. I’m glad that I have made it to the top three times. That’s good enough for me. If you also plan to go, be ready for one heck of a white-knuckle experience.


Nighttime in Nevada: Black Rock Desert

The Black Rock Desert is where my love affair with nighttime photography in Nevada began, so I decided to make it my first stop during my June run of Nighttime in Nevada photography. My plan is to spend a week in June, July, and August working on the project, and this is the first entry. I planned to also  spend some time in May, but the weather wasn’t good for night sky photography. The Black Rock Desert is one of my favorite places in Nevada, and I haven’t ever been to Burning Man. In a few months, the location will temporarily be the third largest city in Nevada while hosting the largest and wildest party in the country. I’m sure it’s fun, and maybe one day I’ll go, but I already really like it a lot when it’s just me and my truck.

Milky Way over Nevada's Black Rock Desert

Milky Way over Nevada’s Black Rock Desert

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