When I first started reading up on night photography years ago I remember looking at star trail images with wonder: simply by leaving the lens open for a long time one could capture the movement of the stars across the sky. Even more wondrous were images that included Polaris, the north star, which aligns with the planet’s rotational axis and thus does not move during the night (while all the other stars appear to spin around it). I promptly put capturing a long-exposure star-trail image with Polaris on my bucket list.
And last week while visiting Prescott, AZ, I finally got one I’m happy with:
This is a single-frame capture based on a roughly 30 minute exposure; the hills in the foreground are illuminated by moonlight.
Take a look in my Prescott, AZ gallery for a few more images from my recent trip there (though this is the only star trail image I’m sharing from the trip).
You’re coming up to an intersection and want to go straight, but suddenly realize that the lane you’re to the right of is turning into a right-turn-only lane. You know bike safety: you need to get to the left of this lane before the intersection, but you’ve only got a few yards to do so.
Is it safe to pull out into the lane? Is there a car behind you?
Like most riders, I started riding without a mirror. When I was on bike trails and low traffic streets this was fine, but as I started commuting and utility biking more, I found myself wishing for eyes on the back of my head. Turning to look behind me caused me to wobble left (into the cars I was trying to avoid!) and also only gave me a snapshot of what was behind me (did that car keep gaining on me, or did it slow down to let me over?).
When I finally bought a mirror, my cycling world changed. All of a sudden riding on busier streets and navigating complicated intersections got easier: with a single glance I could immediately tell whether cars were behind me or not1. And, even better, I could predict when the road would be clear – by regularly glancing in the mirror I could see, for example, that after one car passed me I’d have an open road behind me, allowing me to swing into that left-turn lane three lanes over.
Riding with a mirror has given me tremendous amounts of confidence in traffic, yet very few road cyclists use mirrors2, and that’s a shame. They’re not expensive, they’re easy to mount, and dead simple to use.
When I got my road bike last July I discovered that I loved to take it on 20 or 30 mile rides, and started dreaming of going further. So, I asked around about good first centuries to aim for, and one event kept getting mentioned again and again: Tour de Palm Springs (with Cool Breeze in Ventura also getting many votes).
The timing was perfect – Tour de Palm Springs happens every year in January or February, so that gave me months to train up. I followed a training plan from Burke and Pavelka’s The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling, which helped me slowly increase my cycling distances from ~50 miles a week about 3 months ago to 150 miles a week in the two weeks before the century*.
Newport Back Bay is a gem of central Orange County. It’s a wetlands estuary located just inland from Newport Harbor, and has roughly six miles of paved bike path that allow you to ride only feet away from nature. The views can be gorgeous, and I’ve seen many stunning sunsets while riding it.
For years I suggested that my students do an outdoor project at Newport Back Bay, and many came back saying “I never knew this was there; I loved it!”
However, actually cycling around Newport Back Bay is more complicated than it should be because the bicycle path does not actually form a complete loop around the bay. On the eastern side the bike trail ends about a quarter mile north of PCH, and then doesn’t truly start up again until about a mile and a half north of PCH on the western side. Thus, riders wanting to do a true loop must fend for themselves and figure out how to get through PCH and city streets to get back to the trail.
21760. (b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.
(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.
(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.
So, basically, cars must give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing them, or slow to a reasonable speed and pass without risking injury to the cyclist. Given the frequency with which cyclists need to dodge debris (and just plain lose their balance), a three foot passing margin is really a good idea.
I live in Costa Mesa and love riding on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART), a multiuse paved trail open to walkers, runners, bicyclists, skaters, and more (pretty much anything non-motorized). If you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve got to: the Santa Ana River Trail runs more than 30 miles inland from the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Huntington Beach, where it connects up seamlessly with the beach’s bicycle path. And for that length it’s 100% car and crossing free – you have dozens of miles of paved trail to roll on continuously without stopping. Insanely useful for getting places in central Orange County while avoiding cars.
But getting on the trail isn’t always intuitive, especially as the trail crosses from one side of the river to the other within Costa Mesa’s borders. Starting near the ocean and heading inland, here are all the entrances from Costa Mesa:
Lately I’ve started bicycling longer distances1, and as I’m riding, I’m seeing more of my local area. So many of the bicycle paths lead to stunning views, not to mention the gorgeous little parks.
But now that it’s winter I’m out riding a lot at night. Night changes so much about the landscape, especially in urban areas where a single bright point-source of light (the sun or moon) is replaced by multiple small light sources, many of which are different colors and intensities. Combine the change in illumination with a requirement for long exposure times and you have a recipe for a dramatic visual change.
I wanted to try to capture some of that changed beauty, so I recently biked to a couple of my favorite vantage points in Newport Beach to try my hand at it.
But those are just general overviews; the image I’m happiest with takes just a piece of one of those and lets your eye linger on the details:
All of these are single-frame exposures with minimal manipulation in post processing. A few more images can be found in my Newport Beach at Night album.
1 I’m trying to get in at least 80 miles a week, and am hoping to build up to riding a century in a few months. 2 The two tall buildings on the left are the Vista Del Lido complex and the 601 Lido Condominiums; the two tall buildings on the right (that almost appear as one) are Newport: The Towers (3121 PCH) and Newport Surgery Center (3333 PCH).