Posts Tagged ‘California’

In a Redwood Grove

May 6th, 2016

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Even high up on the mountainside the parking lot is shrouded in the utter quite of the fog. I am alone. I set out, relishing the solitude. The crowns of the towering giants fade away into the mist. The fog condenses on the leaves and drops to the forest floor with barely perceptible random taps.

I continue along the trail, breathing in the moist air, breathing in the quite, breathing in the majesty that surrounds me. It is enough. And yet, there’s more.

The clouds begin to part, granting beams of sunlight passage into the cool, shadowed grove. My heart fills with joy, my eyes with wonder. And I have the presence of mind to bring it home to share.

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The Best of the 2014 Redwoods Photographs

April 26th, 2015

Well, you have done it. You have spoken and selected the best of my Redwoods photographs from 2014. I chose my eight favorite photographs from trips to the magnificent redwood groves of Northern California and offered them to you for your consideration.

It was exciting to watch the results come in. At one point there was a tie for 1st and 2nd, another tie for 3rd and 4th and, believe it or not, a tie for 5th and 6th, all at the same time. But eventually, with your help, it all got sorted out.

So here are the results.

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Creating Images with Impact – Black Point

April 14th, 2015

In this series of blog posts were talking about how to create Images with Impact. You know what I’m talking about. These are those images that really grab our attention, that capture our imaginations. There’s something special about them and it doesn’t have to be a mystery how they are created. There are a few simple techniques that you can use in Lightroom and Photoshop to add impact to your images. Now if you don’t use Photoshop, you can still do everything were talking about in Lightroom.

In the first article we talked about utilizing the full dynamic range of your medium. This is something Ansel Adams taught in his books and classes that was an essential element of his stunning landscape photographs. As he developed his technique which became known as the Zone System, the primary goal was to use the full dynamic range of his medium which, in his case, was the black and white print.

So we talked about that technique first because it is the most appropriate place to start. I do want to add that in color photography or color prints not every print benefits from a white point but virtually all prints benefit from a black point – which is what we want to talk about in this article.

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What exactly is a black point? It is small portions of the print that are pure black. If you’re printing on paper than these are small portions that are the blackest black that the combination of paper and ink can achieve. As a side note, different combinations of paper and ink achieve different levels of blackness. But regardless of the combination you use, the blackest black that can be achieved is your black point.

You want to keep the black point areas very, very small because they have no detail. And generally speaking we like to see detail in our shadows, another guideline that I picked up from studying Ansel Adams. But you don’t want to eliminate black points, that is, in most cases. There are a few exceptions to this rule that I will talk about later.

Let’s take a look at the before and after images of our photograph. I shot this at the Huntington Library in South Pasadena a few weeks ago. It’s in their incredible cactus garden – endlessly fascinating.

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Best Big Sur Photograph of 2013

June 28th, 2014

You have spoken; the results are in.  You have chosen your favorite Big Sur photograph from 2013.  And the voting for first and second place was very close.  But this is your your clear favorite – Pfeiffer Beach Tunnel.

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Pfeiffer Beach is always exciting in winter when the sun’s rays penetrate the tunnel as the waves come roaring through.  It’s exhilarating to say the least.  I chose this one from the scores that I shot that afternoon because, in addition to the golden glow the rays cast on the inside walls of the tunnel, the water appears as a wall about to sweep through.  It’s the moment right before the explosion.  You can sense the power about to be unleashed.

For a limited time you can purchase a gorgeous 16X20 gallery-warp canvas of this beautiful photograph on Fine Art America for only $70.  That’s a 30% discount from the regular price.  But hurry, this offer ends at 5:00 PM Pacific Time on July 3, 2014 and there are only five canvases available at this sharply reduced price.  Check out this special offer.

“So, what was the close second?” you ask.  I don’t think you’ll be surprised when you see it – another display of awesome power.

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How to Photograph the Coastal Redwoods

June 22nd, 2014

California is blessed with two species of redwoods, the Giant Sequoia (Sequoia giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia semperverins) along the California coast from the Oregon border to 150 miles south of San Francisco.  These awe-inspiring trees are both a joy and a challenge to photograph.  I recently spent a week in Crescent City in Northern California photographing the Coastal Redwoods and leading a photography workshop there.  I’d like to pass along some of the techniques we employed to capture photographs that do these majestic trees justice in breathtaking but often very difficult light.

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Best of 2012 – Results

February 6th, 2014

The results are in and you have selected your favorite photographs of 2012.  Before presenting the results let me just say how much I appreciate the input from everyone that participated.  This has been an exciting experience for me and I hope you had fun.

So, on to the results.  There were eight photographs in the final runoff.  They were the top two of their categories – California Deserts, Big Sur, Eastern Sierra and Zion National Park.  So each one is a winner in it’s own right.

Let’s start with number 8 – Sunrise, North Lake.

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North Lake is in the Eastern Sierra just outside the town of Bishop,, California.  It is one of three lakes that are up Bishop Creek.  North Lake sets itself apart from the other two (Sebrina and South Lakes) in that it is naturel.  Besides being the smallest there is no dam to back up water and generate electricity.  The only development is a pack station at its head.  And there’s a rustic campsite upstream a little ways.  I always return to this same location because of the boulders in the foreground, the soft grasses and the snag in the middle ground.  The colors at sunrise are magnificent with the cool blues and greens that are still in the shade and the bright warm morning light on the peak in the back.  I get a strong feeling that all is well with the world when I’m there.

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Best of 2012

January 18th, 2014

In 2013 we started a fun project – picking the best of my photographs from 2012.  We approached it area by area, choosing the best from each.  It’s been a lot of fun so far.  And now it’s time to finish what was started and select the best photograph of 2012.

There are photographs from four areas – California Deserts, Eastern Sierra, Big Sur and Zion National Park in Utah.

death_valley_sunrise_2012California has two wonderful desert national parks.  Joshua Tree here in Southern California is a blend of both high and low desert, the fantastic trees that give the park its name, outcrops of granite that attract climbers from all over the world, not to mention the great photography.  Death Valley is the premier desert attraction in the country.

pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012At the opposite end of California’s diverse spectrum is incomparable Big Sur, one hundred miles of the most incredible coastline in all of North America. Big Sur is famous for its precipitous cliffs that plunge into the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean but it also boasts redwood groves, waterfalls, classic bridges and more.  One small stretch of the coast captured your imagination and for good reason.  Pfeiffer Beach is blessed with some incredible rocks just off shore pounded by powerful surf.  And when the light is just right the photographs are unbeatable.

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The Eastern Sierra boasts the mighty Sierra Nevada mountains to the west and rivers and lakes along the Owens Valley.  One of the prime attractions is the Mammoth Lakes area with it’s superb skiing and a beautiful string of alpine lakes and laughing streams.

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Zion National Park in Southwest Utah attracts visitors and photographers from all over the globe.  Its spectacular red sandstone cliffs create a canyon that of unparalleled beauty.  And when autumn storms roll through, the drama of the already impressive cliffs and towers is intensified.

This is a sampling of the photographs that are being considered for the Best of 2012.  The top two images from each of these areas are presented for your evaluation.  Take our survey to view them all and pick the ones you like the best.

Thanks for participating.  Have fun and enjoy.


Please feel free to share this with your friends.  The more input we have the better.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.

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Mastering Composition–More Border Patrol

January 17th, 2014

It may not be obvious at first but a photograph’s border is a critical element of a successful composition.  All too often we get so focused on the subject that the borders get  ignored.   Because it’s so important I’m writing a second post on the subject.  To read the first post you can click on this link  – Mastering Composition – Border Patrol.

For this post take a look at this photograph.

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The photograph is of the famous tunnel at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California.  In wintertime, as you can see, not only do the waves come crashing through but the setting sun turns the water to liquid gold.  It’s easy to get so absorbed by the spectacle that important elements of the composition get ignored.  Can you see what I missed here?

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Mastering Composition – Balance

December 22nd, 2013

There are many rules of composition.  I know people don’t like to use the term rules and for good reason.  If you treat these rules as if they are hard and fast you can end up with compositions that are mechanical.  So I prefer to call them ‘principles of composition.’  Now I’ve said before that composition is a problem solving endeavor.  That is, you have been inspired by what lies before you, you have connected with it and you have an idea of what you want to say.  And one of the key elements in communicating your message is the composition you choose.  There is generally a point where this becomes very much of a problem solving effort, meaning it can get very analytical.  And while the analysis may be important if not essential, it can cloud aesthetic considerations.  Take for example this photograph of dawn in the Little Lakes Basin up Rock Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

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I was drawn to this Lodgepole Pine growing from a cleft in the granite above the lake.  I gave a lot of thought to this composition and compositional principles came very much into play.  The way I saw it, the two key elements were the tree and the lake.  I didn’t think of the peaks in the distance as being a key element although I knew they were important.  And I was aware of the lake as a leading line the drew the eye to them. I placed the tree on the right 1/3 line so that it wouldn’t block the lake.  And I enjoyed the wonderful alpenglow as I captured a few images through the final minutes of civil twilight.  Then I wandered off looking for other photographs.  But later, after the sun came up I was drawn back to this tree and saw it completely differently.

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Big Sur Photography Workshop – Highlights

November 8th, 2013

We wrapped up the 2014 winter Big Sur photography workshop last night with a spectacular sunset at Point Lobos in Carmel, California.  But hold on.  Before we get to that I want to share with you some of the highlights from this week.

Let’s start with a funky photograph I got at the Santa Rosa Creek estuary way south down in Cambria, California.  I went up to Cambria a couple of days before the workshop started for a little exploring.  It paid off.  I call this one, “Get Your Ducks in a Row.”

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Also that same day I caught a surfer catching a wave.  The surf was definitely up.

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We start the photography workshop Monday in San Simeon at the southern end of the Big Sur coast.  To get it off to a good start we photographed sunset at the southern end of the impressive Big Sur headlands.  And we were treated to some equally impressive light.

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