Posts Tagged ‘sunrise’

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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Veil of Gold (2016)

January 29th, 2017

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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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Mastering Light – Sunrise and Sunset

February 1st, 2015

We all love a beautiful sunset, especially when the clouds glow with color. The same happens with sunrise although there may not be as many of us up to enjoy it. There’s something special about sunsets and sunrises that bring joy and wonder to our hearts.

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My personal favorite is sunrise. I like to arrive while it’s still dark and set up my camera in the cold, crisp morning air. I like standing under the fading stars waiting for the sun to come. I like the stillness of the earth at that time of day. For me, it’s magical.

To get the most out of sunrises and sunsets, it’s helpful to know what’s going on in the sky. (I’ll talk just about sunrises now but much of the same things apply to sunsets.) A lot depends on the clouds. If the sky is completely overcast then you’re not likely to have much of a sunrise or sunset. If the sky is clear then you’ll have a totally different experience. But if the sky is strewn with scattered clouds you may be in for a wonderful experience.  And yet it’s hard to predict.

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Fine Art Photography in Joshua Tree National Park

September 24th, 2014

This past weekend I just completed a photography class for the Joshua Tree National Park Desert Institute.  We spent the weekend photographing in the park where we found some fantastic light and had some incredible opportunities that I’d like to share with you.

The title of the class is “Fine Art Photography in Joshua Tree National Park” and the emphasis is on not only becoming a better photographer but also growing as an artist.  There were four eager and enthusiastic students.  We photographed together, camped together, shared meals together and generally had a great time together.

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Mastering Composition – Rule of Thirds

February 22nd, 2014

The Rule of Thirds is a compositional principle that is widely used. And for good reason because, well, it works.  At least, it works in a lot of situations.

What is the Rule of Thirds? You superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid on your image, two vertical lines equally spaced and two horizontal lines equally spaced. Then you place the key elements of your image on or near those lines, or at one of their intersections.  They don’t have to be exactly on the lines or intersections, just near them.  This is art, not engineering, so it’s important that it feels right.  But the Rule of Thirds gives us positions that are visually very strong and command the viewer’s attention.  That’s why you want to use this principle for the key elements of your composition, the elements you want to draw the viewer’s eye to.

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One should be cautious in overusing the Rule of Thirds. It should not be applied mechanically and certainly not universally.  It does not apply to all compositions.  After all, aren’t our ‘Rules’ of composition made to be broken?  But on the other hand, sometimes a composition gets just a little bit stronger when you move the key element just a tiny bit to place it closer to or right on a 1/3rd line.

The fact is it works so well in so many situations that the camera manufacturers give us the ability to display the grid on our camera’s LCD screens and viewfinders. Also, software publishers like Adobe display the grid when we use the crop tool. This is true of Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop. And these aids can be very helpful in achieving strong compositions.

Why does the Rule of Thirds work so well? To answer that let’s talk about Visual Tension.

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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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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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Mastering Light – Warm and Cool

July 28th, 2013

Light has several properties that are important to landscape photographers including quality, direction and color.

It is important to understand that different times of day and weather conditions will produce light of different colors.  Also, when you add artificial light sources the range of colors expands.

Our brains play tricks on us when it comes to color.  During twilight we don’t see that the light is a soft, delicate blue.  In fact, we don’t perceive any color cast at all.  But the camera is not fooled.  It sees what is actually there.  Take this image that I call ‘Breakfast’ as an example.

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When drastically different light sources are set next to each other than our eyes can clearly see the difference in the colors.  In this photograph the interior of our home is illuminated by tungsten lights which give off a very warm color.  That’s why our homes feel so warm and cozy at night – because of the warm light emitted by tungsten lights.  (That will change as we replace the tungsten lights with CFLs or LED lights.)  Outside we have a foggy morning at twilight.  The sun is about 10 minutes away from rising.  And it’s clear the color of the outside light is blue.

If I was standing outside away from the warm tungsten light, my mind would trick me into thinking the light was not blue, just a neutral gray.  But the camera is not fooled.

So then why are we so easily fooled?  Because of perception.  Our brains receive input from all of our senses including our eyes.  And without us even being aware of it, this input is translated into something we are familiar with, concepts and generalizations we have learned from all the accumulated experiences of our lives.  And our brain overrides (manipulates if you will) the actual blue color of the outdoor light and we perceive it as neutral.

Our perceptions help us with everyday living.  They help to bring order to our lives from the endless bombardment of stimuli.  But perception interferes with the photographic process of seeing.  As far as day-to-day life is concerned we don’t need to see that the outdoor light is blue.  But as photographers, cultivating the ability to see beyond our perceptions opens up the world to us in ways we normally can’t even imagine.  And isn’t this what photography is all about?


Join the conversation, share your experiences, leave a comment.  We love to hear from you.  And if you know of someone else who might enjoy this article, please share it.

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Best Photograph of 2012 – Big Sur

April 19th, 2013

The next step in selecting the best photograph from among the photographs I captured in 2012 is completed.  And you have spoken in a loud and clear voice.

We are doing this one area at a time.  The first was the California Deserts.  Next came the Eastern Sierra. This round was magnificent Big Sur.  And since I was there three times in 2012 there were a host of photographs to choose from – ten in all.

How did it turn out you ask?  Let’s get right into the results and this time we’ll start with the most popular photograph.

In the number 1 position is Sunset, Pfeiffer Beach.

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Everyone loves a beautiful sunset.  But Mother Nature doesn’t pass them out freely.  So you need to be patient and ready for them when they happen.

Sunset photographs have the best color when they’re underexposed a bit.  But they are so inspiring that too often not enough attention is paid to the foreground.  On this evening I sprinted 100 yards or so down the sandy beach to work the rock outcrop into the composition. And it worked well with the triangular shape of the rock mirroring the diagonal sweep of the clouds.

But that wasn’t enough for an strong foreground.  It was important to capture an interesting pattern in the surf which completed the composition.

 

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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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