Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Touch the Sky

February 6th, 2018


How many times have you seen a photograph of tall trees taken with the camera pointing straight up and the trees converging high in the sky? It’s a pretty common shot. Standing in a grove, turning your eyes upward and wondering at the enormity of these living things, putting camera to eye and pressing the shutter is compelling.

But, to paraphrase Minor White, one of the great pioneers of fine art photography, it’s important to get into the habit of seeing ‘what else is there.’ And one way to find the ‘something else’ is to say to yourself, ‘OK, let’s do something craaaazy!”

I mounted my widest lens on my camera, got my tripod as low as it would go and laid down in the dirt to compose this image. People looked at me like I was craaaazy – which I was. I wanted to capture this incredible tree from ground to crown. There were a few technical details to work out like depth of field and exposure (there always are technical details with digital photography) but the main thing was to capture as much of this tree as I possibly could, so I could share with you the wonder I was feeling.

And a very close second was to let my inner child out and lay in the dirt, gazing into the upper reaches of this towering marvel.

Notice how the tree comes out of the bottom left corner and stretches to the right on a slight diagonal. That was intentional because that little angle changes this image from something static to a much more interesting one that is dynamic, alive. A simple, yet powerful technique.

You can do this yourself. Here are a couple of tips. When you see something you want to photograph, shoot it the way you normally would. But then, get crazy. Let yourself go and play with other ways of viewing your subject. You don’t have to get in the dirt if you don’t want to…, but I highly recommend it.

Also, be aware of diagonal lines in your image. They add motion and energy and make the photograph more interesting.

And finally, fill the frame with your subject. Don’t be afraid to move in closer or, if you have a zoom lens, zoom in tight. Like this tree, make your subject the dominant element in your photograph.

Oh, and don’t forget the experience itself. Bringing home a nice photograph, a keeper, is rewarding but that does not outshine the thrill of being there among these tall giants. It is a time to grow quiet and let Mother Nature speak to you in her soft, still voice.

By the way, this tree is in the Lady Bird Johnson grove at Prairie Creek State Park in Northern California. The tree stands in a small clearing where Lady Bird, Richard Nixon and other dignitaries stood when the grove was dedicated to her. There’s a nice bronze plaque commemorating the moment. Makes it kind of special.

Join me to photograph Redwoods National and State Parks in May from the 21st to the 24th. It’s the perfect time to be there.  For more information, click here.


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Photographic Gear – Miscellaneous

November 19th, 2017

I’ve been using the pretext of touring my camera bag to carry on a general discussion of photographic gear. So far we’ve covered the camera bag, the camera body itself, lenses and filters. In this installment we will cover miscellaneous items.

If you haven’t seen the previous articles, here are the links:

Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag

Photographic Gear – the Camera Body

Photographic Gear – Lenses

Photographic Gear – Filters

To complete the camera bag tour let’s look at some of the accessories we accumulate to support our passion for photography.



Let’s begin with that little pouch in the upper right hand corner. It contains, among other things, a microfiber cloth. It is used to clean lenses and filters. It’s important that we keep everything clean including the front elements of our lenses and/or the filters we place on them.

clip_image004The microfiber cloth is designed to clean without scratching. It can clear away dust and smudges. But I prefer a no-contact method and for that I use my Giotto Rocket. It’s designed to blow dust from our sensors but it blows dust from the front of lenses equally as well. So that’s my first choice for cleaning the lens. If that doesn’t get all the dust I reach for the microfiber cloth to finish the job.

But, as good as those two things are, neither of them can clean water drops from the lens. This of course can occur when you’re photographing near waterfalls, or the surf on the ocean or, in the rain. For these situations, a small square of chamois is perfect. It doesn’t scratch the lens but it soaks up the water.

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Photographic Gear – Filters

September 2nd, 2017

This is the fourth in a series of articles that tour the contents of my camera bag. If you missed any of the previous three articles you can catch up with these links:

Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag

Photographic Gear – the Camera Body

Photographic Gear – Lenses

In this article I want to discuss filters with you.

An Overview of Filters

Filters are a clear medium that is placed in front of the camera lens. The medium can be glass or, in some cases, a high-quality resin. The purpose of the filter is to enhance the image. Filters are one way in which photographers “get it in the camera,” a point of view that it’s better to get something close to the image you want in the camera so that it doesn’t require so much effort in the darkroom, digital or analog. Continue reading “Photographic Gear – Filters” »


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Photographic Gear – Lenses

July 28th, 2017

Continuing the tour through my camera bag, we come to the gear that takes up the most room – the lenses. The previous two articles discussed the bag itself and the camera body. Here are the links if you haven’t read them yet.

Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag

Photographic Gear – the Camera Body

It’s interesting that most people when they think of a camera, think of both the body and the lens combined. And granted, one is not much good without the other. One day I was with friends at the horse races and was using my 70-200mm long lens. One of my friends said, “Wow, what a nice camera.” (Here’s a tip; it looks even nicer with the lens hood on.) I doubt she would have even noticed if I had a modest 50mm lens on.

But those of us that have camera bodies with interchangeable lenses know that the body and lenses are two separate components. Together they make up what I like to think of as my artistic instrument.

Before going over each of my lenses I want to revisit something I said in the first article and that is that all my gear is selected to support my creative vision. It’s not the technology that drives my buying decisions but rather a limitation in what I’m trying to achieve. If I want to do something and my gear restricts my vision, it’s time to start looking to either replace it or add to it.

With that in mind, when it comes to lenses my creative vision extends from the broad, all-encompassing landscapes at one end to the intimate landscapes at the other. That means I need a collection of lenses that range from extreme wide-angle to strong telephoto. So, let the tour begin.


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Photographic Gear – the Camera Body

June 30th, 2017

I’m taking you on a tour through my camera bag and the first stop was the bag itself.

Click here to read the article: Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag

The next stop is the camera itself. Now, by this, I mean the camera body, not the body and lens. I’ll talk about lenses later.

Like so many of us, my camera got put aside for quite some years. I was very active in photography in the 1970s. I took frequent trips to Yosemite, camping and exploring with camera in hand. I even worked in a photography studio lab for several years, learning the intricacies of color film processing and printing. But then things changed and time for photography dissolved. Until my daughter was about to be born in 1994, that is.

I bought a Canon EOS ELAN with a Tamron 28-200mm lens and shot countless rolls of film, mostly of the new joy in our lives.

clip_image002[4]I resisted the digital movement for a long time, preferring 35mm film. But when I finally joined the movement around 2000, I purchased a digital point and shoot with a big zoom lens. It was a Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS that I cut my digital teeth on with all of its 2.6 megapixels.

I tried to apply what I had learned in the film world for both color slide and negative films to the digital world. I also tried to apply what I had learned in the color darkroom to Photoshop. It took a while to realize that very little of the knowledge and experience I had gained carried over into the digital world. This required a whole new way of thinking, both in the field and in the digital darkroom. For example, with color slides, you normally want to underexpose a little to saturate the colors more. With digital, you overexpose a little to get more detail in the shadows.

clip_image004[4]It was in September of 2004 that I made the jump to a digital SLR when I upgraded to the Canon 10D. With a little over 6 megapixels, I was a big step up from the PowerShot. This is the camera I was carrying around in the duffel bag I mentioned in the previous article.

I did a lot of shooting with the 10D. I was intimidated by RAW processing at first so I shot in JPEG. Sadly, there are a lot of JPEG files that would have been great had I been able to capture them in RAW but, alas…. Eventually, I moved to RAW when I found a software program that made sense. Adobe bought the software when they were developing Lightroom. It made RAW conversion much less intimidating.

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Making a Photograph – Sheep Pass Morning (2016)

May 8th, 2017

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.

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Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag

April 28th, 2017

I thought it might be interesting to share with you the gear I use to make my photographs. In other words, to give you a guided tour through my camera bag. But before we start the tour I’d like to share with you the approach I’ve followed in bringing together my gear.

There are a lot of photographers who take a great deal of satisfaction in keeping up with the latest technology and it certainly does progress very rapidly. Many of these photographers make really great photographs as well. I prefer a different approach.

For me, my photography gear is a means to an end., the end being to follow my creative vision. If my gear supports my creative vision, I’m quite satisfied with it. If it doesn’t, then I need to consider an upgrade. Here’s an example.

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Veil of Gold (2016)

January 29th, 2017


It was pitch black when we arrived. Not a single star was visible in the heavens. It was overcast and the prospects of a spectacular sunset or even a good one were not very high. It all depended on whether the clouds extended beyond the horizon, all the way to the Colorado River, 110 miles to the east. One can always hope. Dawn photographers are always filled with hope.

Then there was a gentle tap on my cheek. I must be imagining things. And then a phantom spot materialized on my glasses. “Hey guys, it’s starting to rain. Cover up your gear,” I called. But there was no way a little rain was going to deter us. So we started wandering around in the gathering light, looking for compositions still keeping a watchful eye on the eastern horizon.

Soon it was clear that the sun was about to peep over the distant mountains and there was a thin strip of open sky that would make the sun visible for a brief minute or two. “Get ready; here it comes!” And come it did! A gossamer veil of gold filled the stormy sky, exceeding our wildest expectations. What a thrill it was to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.


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Thoughts on Art – What Is It?

July 29th, 2016


What is Art?

I want to talk about art.point_lobos_abstract_120809

Mind you, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve done some reading and talked to a lot of people about art and there are a lot of ideas out there on what art really is.

Some say art is a work that is displayed in a gallery or performed on a stage. I can see that (pun not intended; well, actually it was) although I’m not there – yet.

Others say that art is a work commissioned by a patron. Alas, not there yet either.

Still others say a work is art if the artist says its art. That’s fine as long as the artist can get others to agree.

But none of these definitions help me to grow as an artist. They don’t provide any indication of a path I can take to become an artist (other than perhaps bribing someone to hang one of my photographs in a gallery, at least for a day or two).

I’m looking for a definition of art that will provide some guidance in my quest to become an artist – to grow as an artist.

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In a Redwood Grove

May 6th, 2016



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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