Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Clearing Storm, Yosemite Valley


As I've said before, some times you just get lucky. I was in Yosemite for a wet weekend when I stopped at the famous, iconic Tunnel View with no real intention of getting a decent photograph of the valley. And yet . . . The ugly weather started clearing right before my eyes. Another good bit of timing was how the rainy weather had recharged Bridalveil Falls so that it was flowing enough to reflect the light and act as a kind of anchor for the otherwise shadowy right side of the picture. As I immediately recognized whiffs of Ansel Adams' famous "Clearing Winter Storm" shot, oh, about 80 years before, I decided to crank up the resolution by shooting this as a panorama, which worked out to be about eight vertical pictures stitched together in Photoshop. As a further homage to the master, I converted it to black and white with a slight selenium tone. The detail is pretty amazing and one could be forgiven for thinking this was shot on large format film. It looks that good in person.

Canon 5D, 28-70mm lens set to 48mm, 1/100, f/8 at ISO 100, Gitzo tripod with Kirk ballhead

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dewey Point, Yosemite


This is an example of having a wonderful scene but just not getting the photograph right technically. My wife, Gloria, and I had snowshoed out from Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park to Dewey Point in fresh snow from the night before. Above the Point, which was around the corner from our tent site, we hunkered down for the cold night but then I got restless and realized I needed to take a shot of our tent in the moonlight. I can't tell you how hard it is to wiggle out of a warm sleeping bag, put on a parka and boots, and then leave for the freezing night air. No, I'm not trying to demonstrate how dedicated I am . . . okay, maybe I am. In any event, I had figured I might try this composition the day before when I was packing and so I brought a flash and wireless trigger for it. Unfortunately, with Gloria holding the flash inside the tent, the signal from my camera to the trigger just wasn't getting through (or maybe it was too cold). We fiddled with it for awhile and decided that wasn't going to work. So next we got out Gloria's Canon Rebel and put my flash on it. Each time I took a picture with a fairly long exposure, I called her to take a picture inside the tent. First, she pointed the camera toward me but that was way too bright. In fact, we couldn't get the right balance of light and dark with my big, honkin' flash, so tried the pop-up flash on her camera. She pointed it in different directions and finally we nailed it when she directed the flash away from me. I don't know—I probably took 20 or 30 frames during this exercise. Strangely, while we were working out the picture, I didn't feel cold once.
Canon 5DMII, 15-35mm lens set to 23mm, 90 seconds at f/8, ISO 800.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Silver Moccasin Trail


The Silver Moccasin Trail runs 53 miles through the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles and from what I understand it's a rite of passage for many Boy Scouts. I have to admit it's never occurred to me to actually hike the whole thing, a trip that would probably last about four days or less depending on how motivated you are to get back to the city which is only a few miles away. My wife, Gloria, and I took on a few miles of it for a day hike and near the trailhead, I turned around to see this beautiful, late morning light filtering through the trees as she descended the trail. As is often the case, the original RAW file was pretty lackluster so I processed it to match what I saw and the feeling of soft sunlight. So, in Lightroom, I added a little contrast and black, but mainly attacked the image with the radial filter, isolating the splash of light behind Gloria. I softened it by going into minus territory with the clarity slider and added a smidge of white as well. I then added another radial filter, selecting just Gloria and some of the trail in front of her. I lightened this to lead the eye down the trail from the blast of light which grabs your attention first. Finally, in Photoshop, I added a bit of darkening around the corners and brightened her face and legs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cloudburst, Mexico City


A few minutes before this picture was taken, the streets were filled with people. And then without warning, mega-raindrops started splattering in the pavement and on our heads. The pedestrians disappeared as if vaporized. I and my wife hunkered under our umbrella across from this sporting goods store that had the only awning for blocks. While we waited out the rainstorm, I took a few pictures. Converting this one to black and white using Silver Efex Pro seemed to increase the almost claustrophobic feeling at the time without the distractions of color. And after all, it was a gray moment best described by shades of gray. Canon 5D, 16-35mm lens set at 35mm, f/8, 1/60 sec., ISO 400.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Piramide del Sol


I'm always looking for juxtapositions in my images. That is, elements in the composition that contrast with each other in interesting ways. In this case, I was getting ready to photograph Piramide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), which is located in Teotihuacan near Mexico City, when this woman sat down in front of me with her umbrella cocked to shade her from the sun. Generally speaking, I get a bit annoyed when someone does something like that, but then I have to remind myself she has as much right to the scene as I do and I try to work with what I've got. (As an aside, just because one has a camera doesn't mean they're in charge of crowd logistics. Some photographers have to be reminded of that.)

I quickly saw she had done me a favor. Instead of some straightforward, blah picture of the pyramid with the only saving element being the sky, I got a juxtaposition. In this case, that meant the angular relic from some 2,000 years ago contrasting with the curved shape of a modern umbrella. I didn't think of it at the time, but there's also the notion of an umbrella, used for protecting the woman from the sun, which was pretty hot that day, sitting in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. There's no great cosmic meaning in that, I admit, but it adds to the idea of a juxtaposition, I guess.

That's the thing about photography. Sometimes you don't always see a deeper meaning until after you look at the picture for a few years.

The settings for this were: Canon 5D, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens set to 26mm at f/22, 1/80 at ISO 400. I don't normally shoot with that small of an aperture, but I wanted to make sure I got both foreground and background in focus.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Photographying Death Valley


Sunrise, Ubehebe Crater
For my pixels, I think Death Valley is one of the best places in the west to photograph. It's got huge landscapes, intimate landscapes (especially inside the hundreds of canyons there) and incredible, however fleeting, light. So I wrote an article for SleekLens about some of the most accessible places to photograph while there. Here's the link: "Death Valley: Photographing the Desert in Winter"

Saturday, June 25, 2016

From the Landscape Archives

I was recently "nominated" or challenged—I'm not sure which is more appropriate—to post on Facebook one photo a day of something having to do with nature. So I decided to drag out some old faves that I hadn't seen in awhile, and more to the point, my Facebook had never seen. If nothing else, I was able to prove to myself that I had taken in my lifetime at least seven decent pictures. And here they are:

Cedar, Hoh River Rain Forest, Olympic National Park

Dusy Basin, Sierra Mountains

Garrapita State Park, California

Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Desolation Wilderness, Sierra Mountains

Tehachapi Mountains and Central Valley, California