Posts Tagged ‘Zion’

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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012

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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Best Photograph of 2012 – California Desert

February 2nd, 2013

We are choosing the best Ralph Nordstrom Photography photograph of 2012, or, more precisely, you are.  We’re running a series of surveys, selecting the best photograph from each of five areas where we did workshops – Death Valley and Joshua Tree (collectively the California Deserts), Eastern Sierra, Big Sur, Zion and Bryce Canyon.

The first survey covered the California Deserts.  And the results are in.  But before presenting them I’d like to give you an opportunity to weigh in on the second survey – the incomparable Eastern Sierra.  We were there in early June which is summer in the Owens Valley but still spring up in the mountains.  There are six photographs to choose from and the survey will only take a couple of minutes.  So click the link below and share your opinion.

Select the Best Eastern Sierra Photograph of 2012

OK, now let’s turn to the results of the California Deserts survey.  There were four photographs, two from Death Valley and two from Joshua Tree.

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The Making of a Photograph – Clearing Storm, West Temple 2012

December 3rd, 2012

As I drive across the Mojave Desert late one Thursday night not long ago, heading north on I-15, I have a sense of harmony, of unity with the night, the highway, my car.  The pavement ahead eases into the beam of my headlights, grows brighter as it draws closer and then slips back into darkness as it slides underneath.  Nights like this are a joy.  I’m in a groove, a state of calm serenity and anticipation.  Tomorrow I’ll be returning to Zion National Park, something I always look forward to.  I didn’t notice the faint flashes of light.

Powerful thunderstorms were roiling over eastern California and southern Nevada that night, The dark clouds glowed with flickers of light and precious water dropped on the parched desert.  it was a huge storm and I was chasing it.  Approaching the state line the casino lights of Prim were reflected, bright and shimmering, on what is normally a dry lake bed.  A half hour later as Las Vegas finally came into view, the glitz and glamor of the gaudy hotels was dwarfed by the grandeur of bolts of lightning streaking for miles across the turbulent sky.

The following morning workers were cleaning up after the storm but it hadn’t fully passed.  Storm clouds still blanketed the sky for the remainder of the journey to Zion.  A detour to Kolob Terrace to check the aspens was, I suppose, inevitable.  The falling snow up in the high country was a surprise.  And a delight.  Sunrise the next morning was looking promising.

The best location in Zion that gets the full sunrise treatment is West Temple.  I’ve photographed it many times but never got anything that I was excited about.  The most popular location to shoot from is the ‘patio’ behind the museum but on this morning I chose a less visited one – the 2nd switchback on Tunnel Road.  The expectation of clearing storm clouds, the choice of shooting locations – everything worked out just right.

west_temple_clearing_storm_121013

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The Making of a Photograph – Virgin River 2011

December 1st, 2012

A friend asked me if I’d do a blog on the making of the photograph I took of the Virgin River during the Zion National Park photography workshop in 2011.  He’s a good friend and it’s a nice photograph so let’s do it.  Here’s the end result. (You can click on each of the photographs to enlarge them and get a better look.)virgin_river_2011

And here’s what it started from.

virgin_river_2011_raw

The difference is obviously pretty dramatic so there will be a few things to talk about.  We’ll start with what I was experiencing in the field and take it all the way through the darkroom to the end product.  So let’s get started.

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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.

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(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.

bryce_121019__SM33935

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.

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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.

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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.


If you enjoy these posts please feel free to share them on Facebook or Twitter, or email them to your friends.  And we would really enjoy hearing from you.  Join the conversation –  leave a comment.

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

To see more of my photographs click here.

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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.


death_valley_sunrise_2012_rrpm_rc0

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.

 

 


pinto_basin_dawn_2012_rrpm_rc100

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.

 


stout_grove_1_2006_emp_rc50

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.

 

 

 


pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012_rrpm_p50_0421

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.

 

 


kolob_terrace_2007_2.0_EMP_RC75

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.

 


thors_hammer_star_trails_2011

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.

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs

July 6th, 2012

I’m continuing my journey through this marvelous book, “Examples – The Making of 40 Photographs” by Ansel Adams.  It’s a fascinating experience.  Much of the legacy of Ansel Adams is distorted these days because of all the hype about him in the press.  But to read the master’s own words is inspiring and refreshing.

Alfred Stieglitz, An American Place

Alfred Stieglitz

I could only find this tiny rendition of the photograph Adams discusses in his book.  So I apologize for the quality.  But the story is the important thing.

Adams’ main cameras were large view cameras.  I have two 8X10 prints of his hanging in our home, contact prints made directly from 8X10 negatives.  In fact, most photographers of the time (1932) photographed with large format cameras and their prints were contact prints.  Photographers that used enlargers were extremely rare.

This photograph of Stieglitz was taken with an amazing new device, a Zeiss Contax 35mm camera.  It was taken when Adams visited Stieglitz’s gallery in New York to show some of his photographs to the one most people considered the finest photographer in the country.  Stieglitz was impressed and arranged for Adams to have a one person show.

Adams commented on his experiences using a small camera which sounds very similar to today’s comments regarding digital SLRs.

“Small cameras make pictures far more immediate; and many negatives could be made in the time required to produce one with a sheet-film camera.  The technique of 35mm photography appears simple, yet it becomes very difficult and exacting at the highest levels.  One is beguiled by the quick finder-viewing and operation, and by the very questionable inclination to make may photographs with the hope that some will be good….  The best 35mm photographers I have known work with great efficiency, making every exposure with perceptive care….”

One can substitute ‘DSLR’ for ‘small camera’ and the statement rings just as true today.

Having photographed in the past with a 4X5 camera I know the slow, exacting deliberation it takes and often think that this is a desirable approach with my Canon 1Ds Mark III and even my Canon G11.  The latter especially is great for spontaneous photography.  Setting up the Mark III is a much more deliberate process but not like setting up a 4X5.  I like to encourage my workshop students to slow down, connect with the land and then try to capture what they are feeling.  You don’t get this from chasing after as many  captures as you can find.

I was standing next to a large format photographer on ‘The Bridge” in Zion National Park at sunset.  He was shooting 8X10 color film.  I asked him how much it cost to press the shutter.  He replied, “$35.”  The light didn’t happen that time and he did not press the shutter.   One of the beauties of digital photography is that it doesn’t cost us anything to press the shutter.  But if it did, we would slow down and our photography would benefit from it.

In researching for this post I came across a letter by Ansel Adams that I must share with you.  The letter was written to his good friend Cedric Wright.  Adams had just come through a period where he was emotionally torn between passion for his beautiful lab assistant and commitment to his wife Virginia and their two children.  He had a clarifying moment in Yosemite when he observed a glorious thundercloud over Half Dome, a moment in which he saw clearly the meaning of love, friendship and art.  Here is what he wrote.

“Dear Cedric,

“A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that relate to those who are loved and those who are real friends.

“For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be.

“Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things….

“Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.

“Art is both love and friendship and understanding: the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is a recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the interrelations of these.

“Ansel”

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

To see more of my photographs click here.

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