Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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.


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” »


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Best of 2012

January 18th, 2014

In 2013 we started a fun project – picking the best of my photographs from 2012.  We approached it area by area, choosing the best from each.  It’s been a lot of fun so far.  And now it’s time to finish what was started and select the best photograph of 2012.

There are photographs from four areas – California Deserts, Eastern Sierra, Big Sur and Zion National Park in Utah.

death_valley_sunrise_2012California has two wonderful desert national parks.  Joshua Tree here in Southern California is a blend of both high and low desert, the fantastic trees that give the park its name, outcrops of granite that attract climbers from all over the world, not to mention the great photography.  Death Valley is the premier desert attraction in the country.

pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012At the opposite end of California’s diverse spectrum is incomparable Big Sur, one hundred miles of the most incredible coastline in all of North America. Big Sur is famous for its precipitous cliffs that plunge into the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean but it also boasts redwood groves, waterfalls, classic bridges and more.  One small stretch of the coast captured your imagination and for good reason.  Pfeiffer Beach is blessed with some incredible rocks just off shore pounded by powerful surf.  And when the light is just right the photographs are unbeatable.


The Eastern Sierra boasts the mighty Sierra Nevada mountains to the west and rivers and lakes along the Owens Valley.  One of the prime attractions is the Mammoth Lakes area with it’s superb skiing and a beautiful string of alpine lakes and laughing streams.


Zion National Park in Southwest Utah attracts visitors and photographers from all over the globe.  Its spectacular red sandstone cliffs create a canyon that of unparalleled beauty.  And when autumn storms roll through, the drama of the already impressive cliffs and towers is intensified.

This is a sampling of the photographs that are being considered for the Best of 2012.  The top two images from each of these areas are presented for your evaluation.  Take our survey to view them all and pick the ones you like the best.

Thanks for participating.  Have fun and enjoy.

Please feel free to share this with your friends.  The more input we have the better.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Mastering Composition – Working the Shot

October 26th, 2012

There’s no doubt that composition is one of the key elements of a successful image.  You can have all the other factors of a great shot – fantastic light, optimum exposure and appropriate sharpness – but with a weak composition you have a weak photograph. 

I know photographers that work slowly enough to work out the strongest composition before they press the shutter.  I admire these people immensely.  But I don’t work that way, especially in an area I’m unfamiliar with.

A short while ago I was driving south through Utah on beautiful highway 89 traveling between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks after wrapping up a successful photography workshop.  I came upon a stand of cottonwood trees that were in full autumn splendor.  I had to pull over.

I grabbed my point and shoot (Canon G11) and started scouting for photographs.  I like to use the G11 for that, scouting for compositions that are worth the effort of setting up my big Canon.  I found two compositions that were promising.

The second proved to be the most interesting, at least in terms of how the final composition evolved.  Behind the cottonwoods was a meadow with a dilapidated shack.  It was so Utah!  I set up what I thought would be an interesting composition.


(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

I positioned my camera so that there would be a narrow opening to the meadow and the shack.  It is a tight composition that draws the viewers eye to the shack which is placed in a very strong position within the frame.  It has a feeling of depth with a strong foreground opening up to the shack in the background.

I was feeling good about this composition and then I noticed a glowing cottonwood just outside the frame to the right so I moved the camera a couple of feet to the right and created this image.


The golden cottonwoods on the left are balanced by the single, smaller cottonwood to the right.  This arrangement has the effect of placing more emphasis on the autumnal trees.  The eye makes three stops, first at the cottonwoods on the left, then to the right and finally works its way back to the shack in the back.

I was pretty  pleased with these two compositions and thought I had something to work with when I got home.  So I disassembled everything and put  it back in my camera bag, collapsed the tripod and started back toward the car.  I hadn’t gone 5 steps when I looked back up toward the shack and saw there was another blaze of cottonwoods right next to it.  So I swung my backpack back down to the ground and set up again for this shot.


Now there are three sources of golden light for the eye to explore – the cottonwoods to the left, the one a little further back on the right and the ones way in the back by the shack.  (Odd numbers of things are always good.)  The image is well balanced and every element in it contributes to the entire impression.

There’s a story here, a story of living in this beautiful valley during a time that is gone and will probably never return.  It must not have been an easy life but one of honest, hard work and the satisfaction of living in a place of such splendid beauty.  We would do it differently today with more conveniences and comforts.  And maybe, just maybe, miss out on the more intimate connection with Mother Earth that living in such a simple shack must have provided.

I’d be interested to hear which of the three compositions you like the most.  Please leave a comment saying which one you like and why.  It will make for a very interesting dialog.

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to Like it and share it with your friends.  You can use the links at the top.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.

WordPress Tags: Composition,Shot,image,exposure,area,Utah,highway,Bryce,Canyon,Zion,National,Parks,photography,workshop,trees,splendor,Canon,worth,effort,Behind,shack,Click,images,viewers,depth,foreground,background,arrangement,emphasis,tripod,steps,backpack,numbers,element,valley,life,satisfaction,conveniences,connection,Mother,Earth,factors,compositions,feet,cottonwood,cottonwoods,camera,three


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2013 Photography Workshop Schedule Preview

July 29th, 2012

I’m busy putting together the 2013 Photography Workshop schedule.  We’ll be going back to some of the great places I love taking people to.  But I’m also adding a new location that I think you will find very exciting.  Here’s a preview of what I’m considering.


February we’re going back to one of my all time favorites – Death Valley.  This is one of our largest National Parks and is filled with wonders at every turn.  It’s always exciting to be there.




In March we’ll be back in Joshua Tree National Park for the annual Joshua Tree Gathering.  This is a weekend of camping, fun, food and photography.  This has become quite an affair and it’s something I do to give back to the photography community.



Here’s a hint as to what I have in mind for late May or early June.  Bet this hint isn’t difficult to figure out.  And this will be the perfect time to be there.  I’m still working out the details but will announce it as soon as they are finalized.





Big Sur is such a stunning place, it would be a shame not to hold a workshop there. And we’re going back in 2013.  I haven’t finalized the date yet but we’ll be there.  You can count on it.




A year of photography would not be complete without returning to Zion National Park in Utah.  We’ll be back in mid to late August.  Zion is such a peaceful place, I always look forward to it.  It’s a place where many people recharge their batteries.



I’ve always felt that if you’ve gone to the trouble of traveling to Zion you owe it to yourself to finish the week in Bryce Canyon National Park.  So that’s what we do – two photography workshops back to back.  Most students do as I do, take them both.  And we have special pricing for those that do.




So 2013 will be another great year of photography, returning to the places I love and adding a new one.

To me, a photography workshop is about more than shooting great locations; it’s also about growing as a photographer and artist.  I like to work with each student individually to develop their technical skills.  But equally important is developing their expressive skills.  Photography is art and through art we as artists share our vision of the world.  Becoming an artist is the process of opening yourself up to the world around you and experiencing it more deeply.  Then capturing that experience in your photographs.  This is our focus in our workshops.

If you know of someone who might be interested in a photography workshop in 2013 please feel free to share this blog post with them or post it on your Facebook page.  There are links at the top of the post for this purpose.  By the way, I offer a very attractive discount for anyone who brings another student along with them.

So come on out and join us and bring a friend.  Click here to check us out.

You can also check out our photography.  Click here.

WordPress Tags: Photography,Workshop,Schedule,location,Here,February,favorites,Death,Valley,National,Parks,March,Joshua,Tree,Park,food,affair,June,haven,Zion,Utah,August,batteries,Bryce,Canyon,workshops,Most,students,locations,photographer,artist,student,skills,artists,vision


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December 8th, 2011

Photography is all about light.  In nature photography we study the weather, time of day and time of year to learn all we can about light.  And the more diligently we study light the more it pays off.

One of my favorite types of light is alpenglow.  There is a bit of confusion about what it is.  Many people think it’s the sunlight shining on the mountain peaks during sunset, after the valleys below are in shadow.  And while this is beautiful, that’s not it.

Continue reading “Alpenglow” »


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Photography Workshops in 2012

July 29th, 2011

I’m excited to announce the 2012 Ralph Nordstrom Photography Workshop schedule.  More beautiful locations; more wonderful photography.  But before discussing each of the workshops I’d like to say a few words about my philosophy on photography because it carries over into the workshops.

death_valley_dunes_2011I believe that photography is art.  And I believe art is interpretation and communication.  That is to say, we are each artists to one degree or another.  And our photography is a unique expression of our view of the world and our interpretation of reality.  One way to grow as an artist is to expand the way we see the world, to see the world in new and fresh ways.  And we also continue to grow when we become more fluent in communicating our world view through our photographs, when we expand our Creative Vocabulary.

Granted, a large component of a successful photography workshop is being in the right place in the best of light.  And work on technical skills is also important.   But I also like to challenge the participants to stretch themselves creatively, to get in touch with how they relate to a location and explore how they can express their feelings and impressions in their photographs.  It’s a meaningful experience and I’ve received feedback from some telling me that it has helped them slow down and see photography in an entirely new way.  I’m always humbled when I get that kind of response.  So you can expect to be challenged to shoot things you normally wouldn’t see, to perhaps get outside your comfort zone and hopefully to return home with new insights into your art.

But where does all this magic take place?  Well, in magical places of course.

Death Valley Photography Workshop, February 11-14, 2012

badwater_dawn_2011The Death Valley Workshop is always very popular so if you’re interested you better sign up right away.  I like to go in February because it’s still the ‘rainy’ season.  And for three years running we’ve been delighted with a lake in Badwater.  This is really an incredible time of year with clear air, wonderful temperatures and great light.

2012 Death Valley Photography Workshop – click here.



Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop, June 2-7, 2012

mt_whitney_first_light_2009I love the Sierra Nevada Mountains and this workshop takes us to some of the most amazing wonders this area has to offer.  You may ask yourself, “Why June?”  The answer is simple. This is springtime in the mountains.  The aspen are sending out their first shoots of foliage.  The streams are splashing and dancing.  The bristlecone pines are always an inspiration.  Everything is fresh and clean and full of life.  There is so much to experience that we it takes a full five nights and six days to cover it all.

2012 Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop – click here.


Big Sur Summer Photography Workshop, August 6-9, 2012

bixby_bridge_2011If you haven’t been to Big Sur you’re in for an incredible treat.  Quite simply, it’s the most spectacular meeting of mountain and sea on the entire West Coast.  Nowhere else will you find mile-high mountains that plunge into the sea in as little as two miles.  But Big Sur is more than majestic headlands.  Coves and beaches with crashing surf dot the coast.  Streams splash down narrow canyons and leap over waterfalls.  Hidden groves of coastal redwoods abound.  And the name of the famous restaurant in the village of Big Sur sums it all up – Nepenthe, the cure for sorrow (by the way, once the home of Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth).

2012 Big Sure Summer Photography Workshop – click here.


Zion National Park Photography Workshop, October 13-16, 2012

Riverside_Walk_2007Zion is one of the most inspiring places I know of.  There’s something almost spiritual about this beautiful canyon and its surroundings.  And I’m not the only one that feels that way.  Zion means “Place of refuge.”  There is a tremendous feeling of contrasts here with the gentle Virgin River set against the power and majesty of the towering red cliffs.  Many call this the red Yosemite.  And we are here at a magical time when the first touch of autumn begins to paint the trees.

2012 Zion NP Photography Workshop – click here.


Bryce Canyon National Park Photography Workshop, October 16-19, 2012

silent_city_2010If you’re already in Zion you may just as well drive the short two hours to take in the other wonder in this corner of Utah – Bryce Canyon.  I don’t know where on earth you will ever find more stirring sunrise than at Bryce Canyon.  But that’s not all.  Surrounding Bryce are many other exciting wonders that we will explore.  It’s a perfect extension of the Zion workshop.  And when you’re in country this beautiful who in their right mind would want to rush back home?

2012 Bryce Canyon NP Photography Workshop – click here.

So we offer a special Utah Southwest Super Workshop that combines these two workshops and is offered at a very special price.  It’s a full week of exciting, challenging and immensely rewarding photography.

2012 Utah Southwest Super Workshop – click here.

Big Sur Winter Photography Workshop, November 5-8, 2012.

plaskett_rock_north_2011Big Sur is such a magnificent place that it deserves a second visit.  In winter this wild coastline offers a completely different experience.  Early winter storms can churn the surf and turn gentle streams into rushing torrents.  It’s even been known  to snow higher up in the mountains.  And I’m the lucky one; I get to be there for both summer and winter.

2012 Big Sur Winter Photography Workshop – click here.

I’m working on some other workshop ideas.  I have some really special places in mind but it’s too early to announce them.  Stay tuned.

Take Advantage of these Discounts

We offer a number of discounts that are spelled out on the website.  But I want to point out a couple you might be especially interested in.

The Early Bird discount of 10% is available to those who sign up for a 2012 workshop by December 31st, 2011.  This is 10% off the 2012 workshop prices.

Returning participants can take advantage of the Alumni discount of 15%.

I also want to let you know about the ‘Bring a Friend’ discount.  If you go to the trouble of recruiting another participant I am happy to give you a whopping 33% discount.  After all, there ought to be something in it for you.

Only one of these discounts can be applied to any given workshop.

To help you get started, here are links to the signup forms.

2012 Registration Form – click here to download

Assumption of Risk Form – click here to download

Pick the workshop that inspires you and reserve your space now.  Download these forms and return them to me with your deposit either by fax or mail and you’re in.  We accept check, Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

I’m looking forward to shooting with you in these incomparable locations.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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2011 Photography Workshops

March 13th, 2011

The 2011 photography workshop year is off to a great start.  Death Valley was a roaring success and we have more extraordinary workshops scheduled for the remainder of the year.

Death Valley Photography Workshop

The 2011 Death Valley photography workshop was full.  We all had a great time, laughed a lot and made some good friends.

I love Death Valley in February because the weather and conditions can be truly unique.  And this year was no exception.

You don’t often expect to see standing water in the hottest, driest place in all of North America, much less lakes that stretch for literally miles.  But for the third year in a row that is what we encountered.  We had an absolutely astounding sunrise at Badwater with beautiful pink clouds overhead reflected in the seemingly unending expanse of water.  And the fortunate thing is the day after the workshop ended high winds blew all the water away so that by the next weekend it was all gone.  We continue to be very lucky that way.

Click here to see what I’m talking about – Badwater Dawn 2011

We’ll be back in Death Valley next year the same time – February 11-14, 2012.  You won’t want to miss it.

Eastern Sierra Workshop

We are returning to the Eastern Sierra from June 4th to the 9th.  I always get excited returning to the mountains where I spent so much time in my youth.  And while we won’t be sleeping under the starts near a lake at 10,000, the thrill is still there just being in the company of these majestic peaks.

Besides such towering peaks as Mt Whitney, Mt Williamson, Mt Tom and on and on, we will explore roaring cascades, the placid and beautiful Owen’s River, sparkling lakes, the always amazing ancient bristlecone pine, the mysterious tufa of Mono Lake and the best preserved ghost town in the country – Bodie.  Last year we were even able to get into the high country of Yosemite National Park for a truly amazing experience.

If you love the mountains as I do and want to see them in their spring glory, this is a workshop that is not to be missed.  We still have spaces available but hurry.  This has proven to be a popular workshop in the past.

For more information on the Eastern Sierra workshop, click here.

Big Sur Workshop

This is a new workshop this year and already proving to be very popular.  We will explore the dramatic California coast from Cambria and San Simeon to the south to Carmel and Monterey to the north.  The 70 miles in between hold some of the most exciting coastline you will find anywhere as the Santa Lucia mountains plunge into the blue Pacific.

Besides the surf crashing on rocky cliffs, this coastline is home to the southernmost groves of coastal redwoods, beautiful waterfalls and a few scattered sandy beaches.  In many places the Cabrillo Highway (also known as Highway 1) clings to the side of the steep slopes with many picturesque bridges spanning the larger streams.  The most famous of these is Bixby bridge.

We will be exploring the many gems over a four day period from August 8th to the 11th.  The grand finale will be photographing sunset at Point Lobos, Edward Weston’s old haunt.

This workshop is nearly full so if you’re interested I would encourage you to not delay.

For more information on the Big Sur workshop, click here.

Southwest Utah – Zion and Bryce Workshops

You don’t want to miss Zion and Bryce in October.  The weather is ideal and the colors of autumn are just starting to appear.  And in Bryce, it’s possible an early storm can blow through and leave a dusting of fresh white show on the orange hoodoos.

This is actually two workshops that run back to back but most people sign up for both (at a discounted price).  We explore Zion beginning Saturday, October 15th and then move on to Bryce Tuesday, October 18th.  The workshop wraps up on Friday, October 21st.  It’s

Zion holds a special place in my heart.  Zion means ‘place of refuge,’ and that is how I feel about it.  It’s grandeur has a special renewing quality about it.  And Bryce is always exciting as it is the home to some of the best sunrises on earth.  There’s nothing more glorious than watching the sun come up over Thor’s Hammer.

Click here for more information on the Zion workshop.

And here’s the link to the Bryce workshop.

Central California Coast and Napa Valley Workshop

In November we are returning to the Central California Coast, this time above and below San Francisco.   We will spend five exciting days working our way from Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco, up the coast to Point Reyes and then inland to Napa Valley. 

This workshop includes dramatic shorelines, some of the beautiful locations within San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, Point Bonita and Point Reyes, and out of the way gems within Napa Valley.

November is the perfect time of the year to be in this area and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Here’s the link to the Central California Coast and Napa Valley workshop.

So that’s the roundup for the rest of 2011.  As you can tell we are holding photography workshops in some very exciting places.

My Photography Workshop Philosophy

I believe photography workshops need to be more than just taking you to beautiful places.  So I have developed a three-point philosophy that I see as my obligation to you or anyone who attends one of our workshops.

  1. First, I am obligated to get you to the right place at the right time.  That is, we will visit locations with exciting photographic potential in the best light.
  2. Second, I want to make sure you return home with technically sound images.  So I’ll work closely with you to make sure your images are well composed and you use the best techniques to produce the highest quality captures.
  3. Third, I will challenge you to expand your vision.  We all grow as photographers and artists when we expand the way  we see the world.  So each of the locations we photograph will have special challenges to help you see them in fresh and exciting new ways.

I also believe our workshops provide a great value – a personal touch at a reasonable price.  I invite you to compare what we offer with other workshops and I think you’ll agree.

So check us out and come join the fun. 

Here’s a list of all the 2011 photography workshops.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Announcing the November Print of the Month

December 12th, 2010

I jut put up the November print of the month on the website.  It is a photograph that gives me a great feeling of peace and solitude.  It was photographed in Zion National Park, Utah during our photography workshop there in October.  It’s one of those photographs that felt good at the time I was taking it and was even better when it was finished.

I am proud to present “Gateway to the Narrows (2010).”

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Save on 2011 Photography Workshops

December 10th, 2010

Our photography workshop prices are going up next year.  But you can lock in 2010 prices and additional discounts if you register before December 31, 2010.  So if you’re considering attending a workshop in 2011 check out our offering of six extraordinary workshop opportunities.  But hurry.  With this offer, they’re already starting to fill up.

Click here for the 2011 Ralph Nordstrom Photography Workshop Schedule

Please not that the prices quoted on the website are for 2011.  Subtract $50 for 2010 prices.  And, by registering early you qualify for an additional 10% early bird discount.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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March 30th, 2010

I’m printing note cards for the Joshua Tree Art Festival this weekend and this was one of them. I really like this image so I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.


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