Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6 ISO500 1/8 Second

Every Thursday night from 6:00pm – 10:00pm, the California Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, opens its exhibits to the 21+ crowd. The event is called “Nightlife” and includes live DJ music, cocktails, and food. I decided that Nightlife was the way for us to experience the Academy of sciences for the first time since its recent renovation. So Bridget bought a couple tickets and we met at the museum after work. This was a few weeks ago by the way. I haven’t had a chance to post any images from that evening until now.

The dark venue had me thinking about how awesome it would be to have a highly sensitive full-frame sensor, but the D300s was up to the task. This was also a great opportunity to test the practical use of the reworked version of my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 with Vibration Control (VC).

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8 ISO640 1/8 Second

The new building for the Academy of Sciences features tons of open space in its interior. This huge courtyard was a nice place to hang out and people-watch as we ate dessert and enjoyed some drinks.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/11 ISO200 1/60 Second

The images above and below were taken inside the Academy’s huge, four-story rainforest exhibit, contained in a massive glass dome. As soon as we stepped into the sealed enclosure, both my glasses and camera lens fogged up heavily. The temperature and humidity are both very high inside the dome to simulate a rainforest climate. In the above image, you can see a fog-like haze in the upper left of the frame from the misting system that keeps the dome’s humidity at a sweat-inducing, lens-fogging 75%. This climate, combined with an enormous amount of light pouring in from dozens of skylights and large metal halide lamps, makes a perfect environment for the growth of many kinds of tropical plants from around the world. There were hundreds of animals in the dome as well, from amphibians to reptiles, bats, birds, and butterflies, to name a few.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/11 ISO200 1/15 Second

I liked how these spiraling pathways (above) don’t just wrap around the edges of the dome but take you through the center as well. Can you see fish swimming in the water below the platform? That body of water is actually an aquarium that you can view from below, one floor beneath the dome. It’s called the “Flooded Forest” :

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/13 Second

There were some massive tropical fish in the aquarium….like scary-large. One thing that I definitely kicked myself about all night: I should have brought my ultra-wide Tokina 11-16mm in addition to the Tamron. Using it would have helped me take in more of the modern, interesting architecture inside the building. There’s always next time!

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 19mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/8 Second

Bridget wanted to take pictures that evening as well, so I equipped her with the Lumix Lx3, which she had a lot of fun with:

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/4 ISO1100 1/8 Second

The following two shots are courtesy of Bridget with the Lx3 set to High Dynamic, a new function included in the latest update to the camera’s firmware:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 at 5.1mm f/2.0 ISO400 1/8 Second, High Dynamic Scene Mode

High Dynamic was a perfect mode for this area of the aquarium, with its dark, wavy, electric blue walls framing brightly lit tanks filled with aquatic life.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 at 9.1mm f/2.5 ISO400 1/8 Second, High Dynamic Scene Mode

I offered for her to claim the Lx3 as her own from now on, but she hasn’t used it since, so I guess it’s mine again!

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8 ISO360 1/8 Second

After visiting the aquarium, we enjoyed a show called “Fragile Planet” at the Academy’s Morisson Planetarium, which is apparently the world’s largest all-digital dome. Without my ultra-wide, I couldn’t get the whole dome in one shot, but you get the idea. It’s huge! The complex relies heavily on natural light for interior lighting anyway, so a shot of the entire dome would have been very dark. Perhaps we’ll come back during the day next time.

I actually have a ton of shots from that evening, but I’ll have to upload them later.

8 thoughts on “Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences

  1. Awww, cool post and great shots, honey! I wasn’t expecting you to post about this. Anyway, I’m taking the LX3 back, but you can use it anytime you want. We really should go back during the day!!

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