When you get up early and leave at 4:30 in the morning for a sunrise shoot there are no guarantees. You pick a location that has potential and, by getting out so early, you up the potential for great light. It might, and then it might not happen. But you’re out there anyway.
When you arrive, the desert is still dark. You stand by your car, talking quietly with friends, sipping hot coffee and watching the emerging light on the eastern horizon. There is a sense of eagerness balanced with patience. Often, however, just being there is its own reward and coming home with a keeper is icing on the cake.
The earth brightens quickly this time of day and soon you grab your gear and head out into the desert. For me, just wandering and not looking for anything in particular is the best approach.
I prefer to let images come to me rather than hunting them down. When something I see stops me in my tracks, these turn out to be the best photographs. It’s not because I’m searching for leading lines or applying the rule of thirds or any other of the many ‘rules’ of composition. I don’t like to think when I’m photographing; I prefer to become quiet and simply experience. And when I’m in that state of mind I stop in my tracks because it just feels right. And the stop is usually followed closely by an utterance of surprise and joy – “Oh Wow!”.
Such was the case with “Sheep Pass Morning.” The morning shoot was winding down, meaning the sunrise had come and gone and the wonderful golden hour light was quickly fading. I wandered aimlessly and “Boom,” there it was. I was excited. This just felt right. And yes, I did say, “Oh wow!”
I set up my camera and composed the shot. I was conscious of the cluster of rocks in the lower right corner and their relationship with the Joshua trees on the right edge. I was conscious of outcrop of rocks on the left, the mountain range in the background (Queen Mountain) and the clouds. All these elements were in my mind but mostly I was seeking balance and harmony. During that time, distant Queen mountain into shadow so I waited for the light to came back, cheering it along. Then the moment came and I tripped the shutter.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – Sheep Pass Morning (2016)” »
Tags: balance, golden hour, harmony, Joshua Tree National Park, Lightroom, Nik, PhotoShop, Queen Valley, sheep pass, Silver Efex Pro, sunrise
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Last year I started a series of articles under the general theme of Images with Impact. In it we are discussing things you can do with your images in Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance their impact. When I got to the topic of contrast I came to an abrupt halt. The more I thought about contrast, the more I wanted to begin that discussion with some real examples from nature. But to do that, I needed some photographs that illustrated what I wanted to share with you. And in Southern California, the types of photographs I wanted are only possible in winter. But it’s winter now. And I’ve been able to capture the photographs that I want, so now we’re picking up the series again.
What distinguishes a photograph created by the serious student of photography from one taken by a casual photographer? Many things to be sure. But one thing that stands out is a sense of clarity, a clear quality. The casual photographers’ photographs are just what the camera captures and are often like looking through a bit of haze and I don’t mean that they are out of focus. It’s the light. The effect may be subtle but it is very real. A more accomplished photographers’ photographs have a special quality to them, a quality that engages us, that draws us in and holds our attention. You might describe it as a crisp quality. (You can click on the photographs to enlarge them.)
(My daughter some years ago as we hiked out of a late spring backpacking trip in the local mountains.)
The serious student of photography skillfully applies contrast in the digital darkroom to achieve this look. But before getting in to how this is done, let’s step back and take a look at how we respond to contrast not only in photographs but also in nature.
In the following discussion I will use examples from nature to illustrate the affect contrast has on us. The idea is to understand how it works so that we can more effectively apply this knowledge to our photographs.
Continue reading “Images with Impact – Contrast in Nature” »
Tags: atmosphere, contrast, depth, golden hour, haze, Mount Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Catalina Island, Southern California, tonal values
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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.
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.
Continue reading “Best of 2012 – Results” »
Tags: badwater, Big Sur, Bishop, blue, California, clouds, cockscomb mountains, Death Valley, desert, Eastern Sierra, fine art photography, god rays, gold, golden hour, green, Joshua Tree, landscape, light painting, lightning, Mammoth Lakes, National Park, night photography, North Lake, orange, Pfeiffer beach, photograph, Pinto Basin, salt, seascape, star trails, storm, Sundial, sunrise, sunset, Temples of the Virgin, thunder, Tunnel, Twin Lakes, Utah, West Temple, yellow, Zion
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You read this story again and again. The setting may be different but the plot is always the same.
It’s a dreary, overcast day. You had planned this photo session for months, scouting it on Google Earth for the best location, checked the sun position on TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris), and received inspiration from the photographs of other photographers. You made travel plans and booked lodging.
You arrived early at the iconic location, having traveled across the country and driven many miles in a rental car to get there. But as you approach the sky turns dark with low hanging, gray clouds. The light is a disappointment but you walk out to a viewpoint and set up anyway. You keep telling yourself that good fortune happens to those who are prepared.
The minutes tick by and the sun, unseen behind a thick cloak of clouds, continues its inexorable decent to the horizon. Other photographers join you and you ask each other, “Will it happen?” Most shrug their shoulders and reply, “It doesn’t look like it will.” It turns chilly and a cold breeze starts blowing. Many photographers mutter, “It’s not going to happen,” pack up their gear and head back to their cars and a warm meal waiting them in the comfort of a nearby restaurant.
Continue reading “Two Minutes of Light” »
Tags: clouds, exposure, focus, golden hour, golden light, Google Earth, histogram, light, Mc Way Cove, Mc Way Falls, overcast, photograph, photographer, sunset, TPE
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I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to what goes in to making a great landscape photograph. It turns out there are four things, four pillars if you will. Four, that’s a good number. There are the four legs of a table or the four wheels of a car. And not to forget the four sacred directions of the Native Americans.
In landscape photography the four pillars are evenly divided between the aesthetics and the technical. So what are they? The two aesthetic pillars are Fantastic Light and Strong Composition. No surprise there. The two technical pillars are Appropriate Sharpness and Optimum Exposure. No surprise there either. If just one of those pillars is missing, well, the table collapses, the image suffers.
Let’s look at them one by one….
(click on the images to enlarge them)
Joshua Tree Spring Sunrise (2011)
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars” »
Tags: Aperture, balance, border patrol, cloudy, color, composition, constrast, cool, f/stop, fine art, focal distance, focal length, focus, golden hour, grad nd filter, graduated neutral density filter, HDR, High Dynamic Range, histogram, hyperfocal distance, light, luminance, mid-day, midday, open shade, overcast, photography, rule of thirds, shadows, sharpness, tonality, twilight, unity, visual tensioin, warm
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