Posts Tagged ‘California’

Mastering Light – Dawn

March 23rd, 2013

Not long ago I was photographing dawn in Joshua Tree National Park.  I must confess, dawn is my favorite time of day.  And I have thrilled to more spectacular dawns in Joshua Tree than anywhere else.  There are ;often clouds that ignite as the sun approaches.  And the other morning was no exception.

I’d like to share with you three photographs taken that morning.  The alarm went off at 4:30 and we left the motel in Twentynine Palms a 5:30, an hour and a half before sunrise.  There were clouds in the morning sky, the first ingredient for a spectacular sunrise but by no means a guarantee.  I selected Sheep Pass at the west end of Queen Valley because it offered both Joshua Trees and some impressive granite outcrops for an interesting foreground.  We arrived about 45 minutes before sunrise.  It was still dark with the barest glimmer of light in the east.

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Best Photograph of 2012 – Eastern Sierra

March 10th, 2013

We are continuing our selection of the best of my 2012 photographs.  In the first round we selected the best California Desert photograph.  Four photographs were presented and the one that ranked the highest was Death Valley Sunrise.  See Best Photographs of 2012 – California Desert for the other three.

death_valley_sunrise_2010

We have just concluded the second round in which you selected the best Eastern Sierra photographs of 2012.  There were six to choose from in this category.  I’d like to share them with you one by one and tell you a little bit about  each of them.

Let’s get started with this one.

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2013 Death Valley Workshop

February 21st, 2013

Wow, the Death Valley photography workshop was great. We had a terrific bunch of participants and good weather.

Zabriskie point is always a highlight for me and my enthusiasm for it rubbed off. Some of the other highlights were Mosaic Canyon, Devils Corn Field – at night, Aguereberry Point and Cotton Ball Marsh. Some of these were first time visits.

Another first was breakfast at the Furnace Creek Inn, a new tradition I do believe.

There’s so much more to see and do than anyone can possibly cover in three days but just being there is a joy. And, two coyotes greeted me on the way in. I was wondering if they would be there on the way out and sure enough. They said farewell as I departed.

I’ll be back next year. Come join me.

Ralph Nordstrom Photography Workshops

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Taking Your Photography to the Next Level

January 13th, 2013

“Did you manipulate your photograph?”  “Did you use a filter?”  “Do you use a Mac?” “Do you crop your images?” “I’ll have a nicer day than you; I’m not shooting a Canon.”  Yes, someone actually said that to me at Bridal Vale Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon in response to my cheery, “Have a nice day.”  I guess when you take the entire population of photographers you will always find those that are prejudiced and closed minded just like any other population.  They think they are right and anyone that disagrees with them is wrong.  It’s that simple.

The current issue of Lenswork magazine, the premier journal for black and white photography, has an article by guest contributor Jim Kasson titled “Previsualization in the Digital Age.”  I couldn’t wait to read it.  In my workshops and lectures I’ve always advocated that an artist interprets reality and communicates that interpretation through her or his art.  In landscape photography I’ve encouraged our workshop attendees to leave their camera gear in the car until they connect with a location and only then set up their cameras to try to capture what is is they are experiencing.  Previsualization, the anticipation of what the finished work will look like, is a big part of communicating what you are feeling.

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The Making of a Photograph – Clearing Storm, West Temple 2012

December 3rd, 2012

As I drive across the Mojave Desert late one Thursday night not long ago, heading north on I-15, I have a sense of harmony, of unity with the night, the highway, my car.  The pavement ahead eases into the beam of my headlights, grows brighter as it draws closer and then slips back into darkness as it slides underneath.  Nights like this are a joy.  I’m in a groove, a state of calm serenity and anticipation.  Tomorrow I’ll be returning to Zion National Park, something I always look forward to.  I didn’t notice the faint flashes of light.

Powerful thunderstorms were roiling over eastern California and southern Nevada that night, The dark clouds glowed with flickers of light and precious water dropped on the parched desert.  it was a huge storm and I was chasing it.  Approaching the state line the casino lights of Prim were reflected, bright and shimmering, on what is normally a dry lake bed.  A half hour later as Las Vegas finally came into view, the glitz and glamor of the gaudy hotels was dwarfed by the grandeur of bolts of lightning streaking for miles across the turbulent sky.

The following morning workers were cleaning up after the storm but it hadn’t fully passed.  Storm clouds still blanketed the sky for the remainder of the journey to Zion.  A detour to Kolob Terrace to check the aspens was, I suppose, inevitable.  The falling snow up in the high country was a surprise.  And a delight.  Sunrise the next morning was looking promising.

The best location in Zion that gets the full sunrise treatment is West Temple.  I’ve photographed it many times but never got anything that I was excited about.  The most popular location to shoot from is the ‘patio’ behind the museum but on this morning I chose a less visited one – the 2nd switchback on Tunnel Road.  The expectation of clearing storm clouds, the choice of shooting locations – everything worked out just right.

west_temple_clearing_storm_121013

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New Photographs

September 16th, 2012

I just finished posting a batch of new photographs on my website. They are from three different ‘shoots.’  I’d like to tell you a little about each of the shoots and share the photographs with you.

I don’t put anything up on my website until I get prints that I’m satisfied with.  Another way of putting it – a photograph isn’t done until it looks great on paper.  I’ve made large prints of all of these and, I must confess, I’m very pleased.  I’ll be matting and framing them and showing them to the public for the first time this weekend at the Old Monterey Fine Arts Festival in Monterey, California.  If you’re in the area Saturday or Sunday, stop in and say Hi.

Big Sur

I have two photographs to share from last month’s Big Sur photography workshop.  We covered famous Highway 1 from San Simeon to Carmel-by-the-Sea.  The weather was clear, the sun was bright and an on-shore wind made for some great surf. 

I chose two photographs to put on the website.  The first is Bixby Bridge.  I’m not normally into photographing man-made structures.  But this one turned out so well with great light and a sense of its gracefulness and size that I had to include it.  Click on the link to see the photograph and read more about it.

View Bixby Bridge (2012)

The other photograph is China Cove in Point Lobos State Park.  I’ve always been impressed with its rugged serenity and, with the soft light of an overcast day helping out, I think I finally got a photograph that captures it.

View China Cove (2012)

 

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Why I Love Big Sur

September 9th, 2012

There are some places you have to see to believe, experience to begin to understand – Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls,…  Photographs don’t begin to capture the feelings you have.  Big Sur is such a place.

Big Sur is a 100 mile stretch of the California coast that has no competition for sheer grandeur anywhere on the West Coast.  Henry Miller claimed it was the way the Creator intended the world to be.

plaskett_rock_north_2011

The first thing that comes to most people’s minds are the towering Santa Lucia mountains that plunge headlong into the blue Pacific Ocean.  And there’s no doubt, this is what characterizes Big Sur.  The mountains in some places are a mile high and drop to the sea in only two miles.  Statistics – interesting but they don’t begin to convey the feeling you have in your stomach when driving the Cabrillo Highway, the two lane road that clings to the cliffs, snaking its way from San Simeon in the south to Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north.

Wherever you have such a precipitous coastline you’ll find plenty of cliffs into which the surf endlessly crashes.  You can experience calm seas like the photograph above.  After all it is the Pacific.  Or you can get a little more action.

garrapata_120809

 

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HDR for Every Day

September 9th, 2012

We landscape photographers tend to avoid photographing during the middle of a sunny day.  The light is harsh with no color.  We prefer golden hour or twilight.

But there are times when we have no choice as to when we can shoot.  When we’re on vacation with family we can’t wait until sunset at every location that sparks our interest.  So we get the shot and hope for the best.  But there’s a technique we can use that will greatly enhance our chances of capturing a more compelling photograph.

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: Rock and Surf

August 18th, 2012

I was fortunate to be in Big Sur last week photographing that magnificent coast with the members of our workshop.  Ansel Adams made some beautiful photographs here as did, of course, Edward Weston.  An increasingly common technique used by photographers is to employ a neutral density filter to get very long exposures that turn the ocean into a sea of ethereal mist.  Many of these photographs are incredibly beautiful.  Personally, I connect with the power and energy of the ocean, something these beautiful photographs do not capture.

Adams’ technique was to stop the motion in of the surf as in this photograph titled “Rock and Surf.”  Freezing the water was essential to the effectiveness of the composition.

rock and surf

Rock and Surf (1951)
Ansel Adams

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: Frozen Lake and Cliffs

July 15th, 2012

It was in the  ‘70s when I was backpacking through the Kaweah Gap areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  We were two days out and came upon this lake.  I instantly recognized it from on of Ansel Adams that I particularly liked – Precipice Lake.  It was exciting and we spent the night there.

Frozen Lake and Cliffs (1932)

I’ve always been a fan of this Ansel Adams classic.   For me it has a feeling of immensity and majesty.  So it  has a special meaning to me reading about it in “Examples.”   A few things caught my attention in Adams’ narrative…

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