Posts Tagged ‘Southwest’

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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Exercising Your Creative Muscle

October 23rd, 2009

Remember when you first started driving?  Just about everything you did behind the wheel was a conscious act – steering into a curve, breaking for a red light, backing out of the garage, whatever.  Everything required a conscious effort.  But now, those things are all automatic and you can safely drive from point A to point B without even once thinking about the physical act of driving.  It’s a part of you.

If you learned to play a musical instrument you went through the same process.  I played piano and at first had to think about every key I pressed.  But as time went by it wasn’t which key needed to be pressed any more but how to interpret the phrase.  The fingers automatically went to where they were supposed to go.

Athletes also experience the same thing.  For example a tennis player at first needs to concentrate on every part of a backhand swing or a serve.  But after a while it it all becomes muscle memory.

The single most important thing that causes this effect to happen is frequent practice, usually daily.

But what does this have to do with photography?  Well, this applies on two levels and I’m specifically referring to photography in the field.  The first is the operation of our instrument, our camera.  At first things such as exposure, focus, depth of field, filtration, etc. are all conscious acts.  And this doesn’t touch on all the additional functionality modern digital cameras provide such as highlight tone priority, high ISO noise reduction and on and on.

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Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah

October 21st, 2009

I took a side trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park this afternoon.  What a cool place.

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom

The park is famous for it’s columns of cemented sandstone that stretch in come cases hundreds of feet into the air.  Geologists believe that they were once hot springs like those in Yellowstone and that they cooled off and filled with sediment.  Then the earth around them eroded, leaving them standing there.  They call them ‘sand pipes’ and the park has over sixty of them.

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom

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SW Utah Workshop – Day 3

October 20th, 2009

Well, the storm rolled in last night right on schedule.  By dawn the precipitation hadn’t started yet.  That was to come.  But clouds were covering most of the sky.

I had a brief moment of excitement when I looked up and saw Orion.  But hopes faded away when a few minutes later it was nowhere to be seen.  Sunset Point was the shooting location I had planned for sunrise.  Yes, you heard correctly.  Is said ‘Sunset Point.’  This is where Thor’s Hammer is found, one of the most distinctive and impressive hoodoos in Bryce.  I’ve tried on previous occasions to photograph Thor’s Hammer but never got  anything I liked. Maybe this time would be better.

But first, I set up on the observation lookout and started the shoot with a 25 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 200 (for you camera geeks out there).  I just pointed the camera in the general direction of some interesting clouds and pushed the shutter (the camera was on a tripod of course).  And, well, it turned out pretty good – good enough to share with you.

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom Beautiful clouds, wouldn’t you agree?  I believe it was Galen Rowell who first said, “Bad weather makes for good photography.”  I love the contrast between the almost abrasive ridges and hoodoos of the canyon and the soft, soaring, ethereal clouds.

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SW Utah Workshop – Day 2

October 19th, 2009

Sunrise this morning was part way up the tunnel road at a switchback that provides a great view across Zion canyon.  The opposite wall is dominated by the West Temple and the Alter of Sacrifice.  The pre-sunrise alpenglow was spectacular.  And this was followed by the wonderful first light.  You’ll have to decide for yourself which one you like best.  I love them both.

(c) 2009 by Ralph NordstromAlpenglow

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom

First Light

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SW Utah Workshop – Day 1

October 18th, 2009

This morning was the first sunrise in Zion.  For a canyon that runs north-south, sunrise can be a bit of a challenge.  So Checkerboard Mesa was selected as the sunrise location because it is near the east entrance.

Now, Checkerboard Mesa is located in a place where the canyon still runs north-south in spite of its close proximity to the east entrance.  This means there was a lot of very wonderful open shade light that lasted for well over an hour after sunrise.  In fact the whole morning shoot was about open shade, autumn colors and an occasional back lit subject.

Sunlight eventually warmed the top of the Checkerboard but the foreground remained in cool, soft light.  The effect was very pleasing and calming.

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom 

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Canon PowerShot G11 First Impressions 2

October 18th, 2009

I’m getting some use from the G11 here in Zion National Park.  I was out shooting all morning and the surprises continue.

For example, the control dial on the back of the camera, well, I expected it to work by pressing up, down, left and right (which it does).  I didn’t expect it to rotate like its bigger dSLR cousins.  But it does and what a pleasant surprise that was.  It didn’t take long to get into the habit of spinning the dial instead of repeatedly pressing the direction buttons.

(c) 2009 by Ralph Nordstrom

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Canon PowerShot G11 First Impressions 1

October 18th, 2009

I’m here in Southwest Utah for the next several days and just before coming out I picked up the grand new Canon PowerShot G11.  (I was on the waiting list at Calumet.)  Now I’m actually getting a chance to use it and find out jus what this camera can do.

I didn’t do any research, no product comparison, didn’t even check the published or anticipated specs.  When Canon announced it I put my name on the list.  The only thing I cared about was that its predecessors had rave reviews from photographer friends of mine (some of them even dedicated Nikon people) and the fact that it shoots RAW.  So everything about this camera was new to me and I didn’t know it yet but I was in for some surprises.


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2009 Orange County Fair Awards

July 23rd, 2009

I was fortunate enough to have all three photographs accepted for the Orange County Fair this year.  And I was very surprised to learn that all three had won awards.  To today I finally made it out to the fair and sure enough they all had ribbons.

Death Valley Reflections had an Honorable Mention ribbon.

Bristlecone Moon also had an Honorable Mention ribbon.

And Virgin River and the Watchman had a 2nd Place ribbon.

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High Dynamic Range Processing

November 29th, 2008

High Dynamic Range or HDR has become a standard and often used tool when I’m in the field.  For example, a few weeks ago when I was shooting sunrises in Bryce Canyon we would arrive well before sunrise.  Generally I would start shooting when it was light enough to get a good exposure at 30 second, ISO 100 and f/16.  That’s a good 20 to 30 minutes before the sun peeks over the horizon.  In that wonderful pre-sunrise light the dynamic range is very low, maybe a total of four or five stops.  There is no need for HDR because under those circumstances I can get a good 8 and if I want 9 stops of dynamic range from my sensor.

But as soon as the sun is above the horizon all that changes.  The dynamic range jumps to at least 8 stops, probably more.  (I don’t take the time to scintifically measure the dynamic range because things happen so fast in those first few minutes.)  I don’t want to take any chances with that incredible light so I switch to HDR, just for insurance if nothing else.

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