Posts Tagged ‘winter’

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.”


Also that same day I caught a surfer catching a wave.  The surf was definitely up.


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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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.


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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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: El Capitan, Winter Sunrise

September 3rd, 2012

I’ve heard it said that many photographers believe there are no more photographs in Yosemite, that all the great ones have been taken.  And it’s true that the prime locations have been photographed again and again, sometimes with 50 or even 100 photographers all vying for their three square feet of ground in which to set up their tripods. 

It would appear the assumption is that if a particular location is photographed too many times, becomes too popular, it becomes a cliché.  I’ve succumbed to that point of view in the past.  There seems to be the faintest whiff of, “I’m too good to photograph something so common.  I’m able to find what no one else has never seen.”  I know; I kind of felt that way.

El Capitan, Winter Sunrise
Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams had something to say about that in connection with this photograph.

“A viewer once asked me about the values: ‘Don’t you think the trees are rather dark?’  Black and white photography gives us opportunity for value interpretation and control.  In this instance, were the trees lighter in value, the glow of the light on the cliff would, for me, be far less expressive.  Exposing for higher forest values  would have weakened the separation of the far brighter cliff and cloud values.  However, other photographers might well make quite different images.  I would not like anyone to think I believe this image to be the only one possible, but it fulfills my visualization at the time of exposure.  In an overpowering area such as Yosemite Valley it is difficult for anyone not to make photographs that appear derivative of past work.  The subjects are definite and recognizable, and the viewpoints are limited.  It is therefore all the more imperative to strive for individual and strong visualization.”

Adams’ comment gets to the heart, mind and soul of the artist.  There are two key concepts in his statement that, for me, define art.  The first is ‘interpretation. ’Black and white photography gives us opportunity for value Interpretation and control.”  I take from this that our photographs are interpretations of the subject.  After all, art is interpretation.  And, as artists, it is through interpretation that we share with our viewers our vision of the world.  We don’t document reality; we interpret or possibly even create reality.

The other concept that catches my attention is ‘individual … visualization.’  Adams speaks of his ‘visualization’ all the time.  And the reason we enjoy his photographs so much is because of his strong visualizations.  When he tripped the shutter he knew what effect he wanted to create with the image.  He knew what he wanted to convey in terms of what he was feeling and he knew how to do it, especially when he developed and refined the Zone System.

And it was his interpretations and visualizations that took a location that had been photographed time after time by many other photographers and turned it into something uniquely and identifiably his.

So stand on the bridge in Zion or line up to photograph Delicate Arch in Arches or join the throng at tunnel view in Yosemite.  You can make your photograph unique through your own strong vision and interpretation.

This is a continuing series based on my reading of Ansel Adams’ wonderful book, “Examples – The Making of 40 Photographs.”  It is exciting to read of his attitudes towards making photographs, the decisions he made and the techniques he employed and apply them to the issues that confront us today as digital landscape photographers.  I think those of us who ‘Photoshop’ our images for the sake of achieving our visualization can feel a comradeship with the master.  The question, “Did you manipulate that photograph?” will never go away as long as our medium is the camera.  Adams was also confronted with the same question.  For those of use that believe that the purpose of making a landscape photograph is to share with our audience our response to and our connection with the subject, the work is not done when we press the shutter, it’s just beginning.  And we can delight in photographing the cliché locations, time and time again, because we are creating our own individual statement, not creating ‘derivatives’ of others’ works.

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Making a Photograph – Vision

June 29th, 2012

“This photograph speaks to me.”

The photographs that have a strong impact on us speak to us.  The photographer has created an image that moves us.  Did he or she have something in mind when making the photograph?  Probably so.  Strong images just don’t happen by accident.

As one grows as a photographer one’s vision becomes clearer.  One begins to discover who they are and what they have to say.  And as one’s technical and aesthetic skills develop, skills used in both the field and the darkroom, one’s ability to express their vision becomes stronger.

The artist’s vision is an important element of their art.  The clearer an artist is on what his or her vision is the more expressive their art becomes.

If you’re not clear on what your vision is, live with your photographs.  Become aware of what you associate with them, what stories they are telling you, how they make you feel.  And as your vision emerges nurture it, strengthen it, let it speak through you and your art.  And then your photographs will also speak to others.


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A Trek in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

March 19th, 2011

Yesterday was a perfect day for a hike in Whiting Ranch (our back yard).  The hills are green from the wonderful rains we’ve had this winter.  This is welcomed in a location that is basically a desert and has its share of droughts.

WRWP_the_start The start of the hike is down the street at our local park.  It starts out easy enough.

WRWP_the_road_down The first part of the hike is easy.  An access road drops down to the bottom of the canyon behind our house.  This morning it is especially beautiful hiking in the lush green that seems to be hanging on and on and on.  The rains this winter have come at good intervals and have nourished the hills.  They have recovered beautifully from the fires three years ago.

WRWP_sleepy_hollow One of the most beautiful sections of the hike is through a lovely oak grove called “Sleepy Hollow.”  The trail meanders under a canopy of Coastal Live Oak.  And the stream is still trickling making this a special treat.

WRWP_lower_cattle_pond The Sleepy Hollow climbs out of the grove when it comes to a dam built during the ranching days.  Cowboys built it to catch water so they could graze cattle on the hillsides.  For many years this dam has been mostly dry with at best a small muddy puddle.  But this year there is a considerable amount of water.  There aren’t cattle in the area any more to drink the water but I’m sure the deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, mountain lions and all the other critters in the area enjoy it.

WRWP_upper_cattle_pond Not far above Lower Cattle Pond the trail goes by Upper Cattle Pond.  It too is nearly full.  When these hills were still private land you could wander around the banks of the pond.  (Well, maybe I trespassed just a little.)  But then the county bought it and has restricted access.  So the trade off is the county controls access but we don’t have developers building their homes down here.  I’ll opt for the limited access any day.

WRWP_erosion_control_oak This oak tree is amazing.  It’s standing all by itself and the ground on three sides is literally washing away.  Every rain that falls carries a bit more dirt away from its base.  If you look closely you can see it’s roots jutting out of the bank, dangling in mid air.  So far the oak is hanging on to a pretty large chunk of land but I wonder how long it can hold out.  I’ve been keeping an eye on this tree for over 20 years now and it seems to be doing just fine.  You gotta love it.

WRWP_four_corners The first resting point is Four Corners.  Mountain bikers and hikers alike sit on the benches projecting from both sides of the bulletin board.  The county brought in a water fountain for people and an automatic waterer for horses.  People stop here after a good climb to catch their breath before zooming down the other side.  It’s a good place to relax and an easy place talk with some very interesting people.  But this morning I’m not ready to turn back.  There’s more in store.

WRWP_dreaded_hill_road_start I’m going to continue on up this road.  It’s aptly names the Dreaded Hill road although this isn’t the dreaded part of it.  That’s further on.  This road will take me near the summit of the highest peak in the area.

WRWP_steep_road No, this isn’t the dreaded part of the road either.  It’s just a minor steep part on the way to the summit.

WRWP_mark_reynolds_memorial At the summit is the memorial to Mark Reynolds, an avid mountain biker who was attacked and killed by a mountain lion not far from here.  He was fixing a flat tire when the lion pounced on him.  He probably never saw it coming.  Later that same day the mountain lion came back and attacked another mountain biker, this time a woman.  Fortunately she was with her friend who, with the help of some other mountain bikers, were able to get the lion to release her and run off.  She recovered.

WRWP_mark-reynolds_plaque That all happened back in 2004.  Gosh, has it been that long already.

WRWP_dreaded_hill_descent Now we get to the dreaded part of Dreaded Hill Road.  I’m doing it the easy way – I’m heading down.  Climbing this road is another matter and very few mountain bikers will even attempt it.  This is mostly a hiker’s climb.  As beautiful as these foothills are you always know that the city is not far off.

WRWP_santiago_peak But when you look in the opposite direction from the city you are rewarded with inspiring views of Santiago Peak, the tallest summit in our very own Santa Ana Mountains.  I never tire of looking at the range. I’ve hiked all over them from the time I was a Boy Scout until now.

WRWP_dreaded_hill_bottom It’s difficult to capture just how steep Dreaded Hill really is.  I describe it this way, “Dreaded Hill is a killer at the bottom and a killer at the top and murder in between.”  If you look at this picture carefully you can see the road way down there as it enters the trees just to the right of center.  Maybe you can get a feel for how far down that is.

WRWP_below_dreaded_hill And this is what greets you where the Dreaded Hill road enters the grove.  Beautiful, isn’t it.  Just up a few more steps the road meets the Serrano Creek trail where I do an about face and head back towards the start.

WRWP_serrano_creek Serrano Creek gets its name from the Spanish Ranchero that this land was a part of.  The creek doesn’t flow all year, only a few weeks in the spring and that’s not a for sure thing.  Hey, this is Southern California.  You get used to it.  But I love this little stream, especially in spring.  It feels so good to walk in the cool air under the spreading oaks.  Even in summer this little canyon remains cool and inviting.

WRWP_serrano_creek_vignette Here’s another vignette of the creek that I just have to share with you.  This is such a glorious place.  I’m so fortunate to have this literally in my back yard.

This is a good place to end this account.  In just a few more steps the oak grove comes to an end and gives way to the open hillsides so typical of these foothills.  From that point on it’s an anticlimactic climb back up the hill to the park.

If you would like to join me on one of my adventures in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, let me know.  I’d love to share it with you and would enjoy your company.


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Death Valley Workshop Map

February 23rd, 2011

I use a device called Spot while in the field.  It keeps track of where I am and transmits my location to a communications satellite.  I can check in whenever I want (and call for help if I need it).  This all gets captured on a map.  It shows many of the locations where we were shooting during the workshop.  I added pictures from flickr and presto, changeo, we have an account of the workshop. 

Click on the title above the map to see it in interactive mode.  Enjoy.

Death Valley Workshop 2011

Share your Adventures with SpotAdventures


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2011 Death Valley Photography Workshop Recap

February 17th, 2011

The 2011 Death Valley photography workshop is ‘in the can.’  While it’s still fresh in my mind I’d like to share some of the highlights and photographs with you.


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Approaching Storm

February 9th, 2010

Originally uploaded by Ralph Nordstrom

Yet another storm is swooping into Southern California. Its approach is heralded by fantastic clouds towering overhead. Capture the beauty while you can.


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2009 Death Valley Workshop – Day 0

February 20th, 2009

I arrived in Death Valley the day prior to the start of the workshop.  There were a couple of locations I wanted to explore and you don’t get a chance to do that during the hectic pace of the workshop.

One location that was becoming more and more interesting the more I learned about it was Golden Canyon.  It is literally on the back side of Zabriskie Point.  In fact, the upper end of Golden Canyon passes beneath Manley Beacon, the iconic formation so often photographed from Zabriskie Point.

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2009 Death Valley Workshop Followup #1

February 19th, 2009

The 2009 Death Valley workshop is in the can and it was great.  We had some once-in-a-lifetime photography opportunities that we took advantage of.  The workshop started Saturday a couple of hours before sunset.  Sunday a storm was moving in so the light wasn’t that great.  But Monday the storm hit and made up for the so-so light on Sunday.  Tuesday, the last day of the workshop the storm had cleared and we took advantage of probably one of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever experienced.

But see for yourself.  Remember, this is Death Valley, the hottest place in the US.

Telescope Peak, Winter 20009

Telescope Peak, Winter 2009


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