Saturday, August 20, 2016

Glencoe Reflection

dawn cottage and mountain reflection in the water
Glencoe, Scotland at dawn
My first morning and my first shot in Scotland is posted here.  I woke up early, so early at about 3:30 am so that I could actually see the sun rise at about 4 AM.  June in Scotland's highlands means really long days and short nights.  Catching sunrise feels like severe sleep deprivation here!

Driving along the road through Glencoe Valley I searched for a good location.  This massive mountain and its' quaint cottage made me stop and shoot.  I wandered along the stream looking for the right height and location to capture this mountain reflection in the calm stream.  The cottage stands far enough away that it cannot be reflected.  

Everything felt cool and quiet.  That's what I think of when I see this photo.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jumbo Rocks and Ansel Adams

Round suspended boulder
Marbles in Suspension
Ansel Adams is justifiably famous for his incredible black and white landscapes.  Yosemite, Sierra Mountains and Joshua Tree National Park are all associated with his masterful skills.  Two of his famous photos comes from the Jumbo Rocks campground at the heart of Joshua Tree.  Many photographers have seen what he saw and taken the same picture he took.  Spending a few extra moment to capture the scene as he did is what I did here.  I copied the master and enjoyed nature while doing so.

Ansel Adams boulder and tree picture
Tree and Standing Boulder

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jumbo Rocks Panorama: An Original Take at a Classic Location

Jumbo Rocks wide sunset panorama
Jumbo Rocks Panorama -- click on picture for larger view
I had to visit Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree.  I've seen so many pictures of these amazing and balanced rock conglomerations that my thoughts of JTNP immediately bring up the Ansel Adams photo of the balanced boulder.  So I went.

These rocks are right in the middle of the largest campground in the whole park.  People are coming and going.  Just finding a parking space was difficult.  From a distance, I could see that this formation stands taller than many of the surrounding hills and mounds.  One of those mounds served as my location for this panorama.  

From 400 feet away, I shot with my 300mm lens on a tripod and slowly moved across this rock formation.  Back home I stitched all these together to create a massive file.  It's a different look at this classic place, and one that I am happy with.  

Ryan Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

Sunset falls on Ryan Ranch in Joshua Tree California
Ryan Ranch Ruins with Yucca at Dusk
On my visit to Joshua Tree National Park, I had two days:  two sunsets and two sunrises.  Being the best time of day to capture a quality photograph, I debated carefully over where I ought to be to get the best photo.  I try to put myself in a good place at the right time and hope for something special.  JTNP has plenty of locations.  My wish list included the cholla cactus garden, Ryan Ranch, the Lost Pencil, Hidden Valley, Key's View, Jumbo Rocks, White Tank to name a few.  This is the kind of decision that faces a photographer when visiting a major national park:  too many good things.  

I whittled the list down a bit by seeing what had been shot extensively.  Jumbo Rocks, Cholla cactus garden and Key's View are photographed so much that I felt a visit to those locations would be unlikely to yield an original photograph.  (I did visit most of these locations in the day, though.)  Ryan Ranch intrigued me because of its' smooth and colorful adobe walls.  It's also a ruin -- those hold special attraction too.  Using online tool, I could see it ought to catch the evening sunlight.  

There is a campground about a 3-5 minute walk away from the ruins.  On my day there were no clouds in the sky (sometimes I think I'm cursed this way).  I liked working my way around this structure and shooting into its' angles as the sun gradually set.  

The photo above is after sunset.  I'm attached a few more from earlier that evening.  
ryan ranch standing walls
Walls of Adobe at Ryan Ranch
Ryan Ranch walls and interior
Looking into the Ruins

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Aiguille de Joshua Tree: the Finger of Hercules

Finger of Hercules in Joshua Tree national park
Aiguille de Joshua Tree:  the Finger of Hercules
Aiguille means "a sharp pinnacle of rock in a mountain range".  I discovered a very unique fingerlike pinnacle exists in Joshua Tree National Park in several pictures and when I finally discovered its location, I wanted to visit.  It is very easy to find in the Hidden Valley section of the park.  Walking to it is level and it takes less than 30 minutes to reach the base.  I climbed up a few boulders to reach this vantage point and then took my best shot.  I wanted to include the surrounding valley of Joshua trees to give it a strong sense of location.

This formation is often photographed with a climber standing atop the pinnacle.  My fear of heights and lack of rock climbing skill made that option undesirable.  :(

Lost Pencil of Joshua Tree National Park

Lost Pencil photo taken at sunrise
Lost Pencil at Sunrise
Scouting locations in Joshua tree before arriving, I combed the Internet and found several different unhelpful sites.  It was not until I discovered the "Joshua Tree 3D" site that I found a place that actually told you where to find specific rock formations.  I decided to hike to one location mentioned on this site called the "lost pencil".  I hiked out before sunrise so that I could be there when the sun came up.  The wind had been blowing throughout the night and there were no clouds at all.  The harsh desert sky did not provide anything interesting to complement the rocks.  Therefore I tried to include a lot of different objects on the ground as I was making photographic composition choices.

Sometimes photographers only show their very best work.  This case, I feel that this is not my very best work but given the weather conditions, it is the best that could occur on this particular morning.  Oh, there is not a lot of information about this a big rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park and I thought I would share this and perhaps it will help someone else.  I enjoyed the hike.  This is a wonderful location to visit.

North Algodones Sand Dunes: Dreaming of African Sahara

North Algodones Sand Dunes, Imperial Glamis Dunes
Algodones Sand Dunes resemble the Sahara
On my 1st and only trip to the North Algodones Sand Dunes located in the Imperial Valley of California, I was hoping to experience some untouched sand dunes.  The Algodones Dunes are segregated into the North and the South.  The North is designated wilderness and off-road vehicles are forbidden.  The South is a designated site for off-road vehicle fun.  When I drove into Glamis that was quite clear that the South receives a lot more attention than the North.

I slept in my car beside the North dunes and got up well before sunrise so that I could hike out onto the dunes and be there when the sun came up.  I was surprised at how much walking I had to do simply to reach the dunes.  It was very flat but seems to take about twice as long as I expected.  The dunes began fairly abruptly on the edge of some brush and trees.  Yet a few questions and even a tree or 2 are located in the midst of the dunes as far as I can see.  There was never a location where the dunes were completely 100% sand without vegetation.

I certainly enjoyed taking pictures at sunrise.  After about an hour it started to get quite hot and I started making my way back towards the edge of the dunes.  It was at this time that I discovered this lonely tree which actually has a nest.  I was careful to make a wide circle around this tree because I did not want my footprints in the picture.  This shot was taken with an 85 millimeters lens which I thought was a good choice to include the tree and the surrounding areas but also to give a perspective of the distant dunes seem to go on forever.

In postprocessing I must admit there were a few small rocks and pebbles in the sand that I removed using Photoshop so that I could have a very clean sand dune appearance.

A few hours on the dunes I felt like I was in Africa.  Sand dunes are quite spectacular in person and in photography.

Friday, April 8, 2016

More Pictures from Yant Flat

Yant Flat Utah at sunrise
Pebbles, Rocks and the Lines of Yant Flat
As I wandered around Yant Flat, I discovered more and more photo compositions.  This location is rich in potential.  It's pretty amazing to visit an amazing place like this and not have every great corner previously discovered by someone else.  I'm thinking of The Wave (Coyote Buttes North) when I say this.  That's an amazing place I've visited 6 times but I had to wander wide and work hard to shoot an original shot.  That is NOT the case at Yant Flat.  It's so new, so untouched that any shot may be the first time for this virgin rock.  So, enjoy some landscape shots of Yant Flat.
Utah hiking to Yant Flat
Red Dot of Yant Flat
Sweeping sculpted sandstone yant Flat
All part of Utah's Red Cliff Desert Reserve
Yellow sandstone hill with white and red stripes
Yellow Hill resembles a Shell
Yant Flat dead tree and sandstone hill
Dead Tree in Shape of Cross
Hiking around Yant Flat
Hiking around Yant Flat to discover many gems

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Yant Flat Fins and Shell: Picking the Best Photo

Fins and colorful sandstone Yant Flat Utah
Yant Flat fins leading to the Turtle Shell
After taking 600 pictures in one location on one day, I am often faced with the challenge of choosing the best picture.  I have a soft heart when he comes to the pictures that I have taken and 10 to lungs them just like a lovely children.  Each one is different but it is hard to choose one over the other.  Nevertheless I know that is part of the photography process that must done and I try to force myself to practice this by choosing a photograph each month that is my best effort.  I have a gallery called the "photo of the month"filled with these that goes back to my early photography days.

I choose this particular photograph overall of my others because I like the composition.  As I was wandering around Yant Flat I saw this particular group of fins and try to align them headed towards the yellow hill in the background.  I like this composition.  As the sun would come out, I walked over to this area on 3 different occasions to get it with different clouds and different lighting.  I just had a strong feeling that it would be the best composition of the day.

Back at home looking through my photos, I still liked this.  It is very unique and I think captures a very beautiful moment with the lovely blue sky with fluffy clouds above.  Therefore it is my pick of the month.  I hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Yant Flat Sunrise over Candy Cliffs

Yant Flat near St. George Utah
Yant Flat Sunrise Bursting over Candy Cliffs
Yant Flat at sunrise is a dream come true.  The sandstone colors glow in the morning rays of sunshine.  Winter is the best time here because of the southern exposure of this sandstone slope.  I drove out in complete darkness.  I began hiking with headlamp but was able to turn it off after about 45 minutes of walking/hiking because light began filling the sky.

Yant Flat is a broad area.  Like White Pocket or Coyote Buttes, you can explore and discover new things in several directions, some quite far away from the main section.  My destination was the so-called "Candy Cliffs" located east and lower than the main area.  I've also heard this called "rainbow ridge."  Hiking down these cliffs is a bit treacherous because there are no trails and some steps are steep and irregular.  Ankle sprains are the type of injury easy to incur.  Using my tripod as a walking stick, I made it down here without harm.   I even made it before the sun!  (It seems I'm often racing the sun or waiting for it to do something.)

These photos are from the candy cliffs just at the moments of first sunshine.  Those low clouds in the picture above hid the sun for a while and then allowed it to poke through again.
yant flat sunrise at candy cliffs, Utah
Colorful Candy Cliffs
Rocks and Candy Cliffs of Yant Flat
Waiting for Sunrise at Yant Flat
Yant Flat Utah Sunrise
Candy Cliffs with Sandstone Tower

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mount Kinesava Sunset

Mount Kinesava with cactus and sunset
Mount Kinesava Sunset
The Chinle trail in Zion National Park has been overlooked by me for years.  I know it existed but had felt the motivation to trek there.  This trail is sun exposed and lacks the encircling canyon feeling for which Zion is famous.  Instead this is open desert.  Mount Kinesava is the beautiful monument standing for everyone to see.  I figured a winter visit would be best for photography because the southern-facing mountain would receive more lighting at sunset.

I hiked here in late November, getting up on the Rockville bench before sunset.  However I found that the cloud color and lighting got better just after the sun set.  Using my Lee neutral gradient filters, I took this and several other photos to capture this fantastic light.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Finding Original Photography Subjects: Quest for the Holy Grail

utah tractor abandoned in an empty field
Faded Metallic Blue Tractor in an Empty Field
New, original, creative, novel, unique:  those are words I like.  An artist can learn from others (see my previous Zion Narrows Post) but creating something altogether new is a higher goal.  With landscapes, you obviously can't make a new landscape but you can try to go to places that haven't been photographed before.  Every National Park has truly famous icons that receive overflowing attention.  I believe these same places have lesser beauties that few see or record.  That's the opportunity for original work.  

My photo for this post is very near Zion National Park but it's a few miles off on a dirt road.  I was driving past on my way to another hiking location.  With my eyes open for new subjects, I saw this tractor and knew it could be great.  I stopped and photographed later that afternoon when the sun was getting lower.  I shot many compositions low to the ground to catch the rows of light and shadow.  The clouds even cooperated with lovely patterns among the blue background.  Lucky me!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Zion Narrows Hiking and Photography

Virgin river in Zion narrows
Zion Narrows with High Cliffs and Autumn Trees
Tackling a worldwide icon such as Zions National Park Virgin River narrows is a wonderful opportunity.  People wisely come from around the world to visit this magical location.  I live within a 1-hour drive and made my most recent trip here in October.  The leaves had changed to a greenish-yellow which made them stand out from the orange and black canyon walls.  

I'll bet there are literally millions of photographs taken here each year.  This is not a place where I'll discover something never seen before.  Rather it's a place where I can shoot my best and then measure my work against the very best photographers in the world.  They all come here.  They all shoot in the same narrow canyon.  

That being said, here are a few other photos from this beautiful icon of the Southwest.

landscape photography art zion narrows utah
Virgin River Bend in Zion Narrows
zion narrows with autumn colors photography
Zion Narrows in a wide canyon section
zion narrows southwest utah scenic
Zion Narrow, a shot upstream

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Snow Canyon Overlook with Rugged Tree Hanging on Cliff

Tree hanging onto Cliff in Snow Canyon
Snow Canyon Overlook with Tree in Foreground
This entry will be about two things:  blown highlights and finding the right foreground subject.

Blown highlights are a photographers' worst nightmare.  A blown highlight is just white, no color, no detail, no definition, nothing but white.  You cannot create anything with it.  Many cameras including mine have flashing red pixels on the LCD screen to alert you to blown highlights.  When shooting, they are to be avoided.

In processing the above photo, the subject is a darker object against a brighter background.  This calls for processing to lighten the details in the tree while still keeping the detail in the brighter distant cliffs.  There are ways to do this which look fake and I don't want that.  Sometimes a photo will look more real, believable if you just let the highlights blow out, which is what I did here in the upper left corner of the photo.  There is just white, not blue, sky.  This was a decision made in processing to create a photo which looks natural, real.

The other half of this entry is about finding a foreground subject.  We landscape photographers love to see vast amazing spaces.   Those spaces tend to look uninteresting without a foreground object, something to make you (the viewer) feel like you're there.  A person, a tree, a flower, a rock or just about anything else can serve as a foreground subject.  In this case, a rugged tree hanging at the edge of the cliff was available and I discovered it.

A foreground object also makes your photograph unique.  Many people have shot the Snow Canyon Overlook, but no one has ever photographed this tree as part of their composition.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

La Verkin Creek, Zion National Park

Zion stream and pool with small waterfall and tree
La Verkin Pool, Waterfall and Trees underneath towering cliffs.
The quest for my favorite thing in the world continues in this entry:  finding desert waterfalls.  From the high elevation of Zion National Park Kolob Section, I started hiking down the trail.  This trail goes down for 4 miles without stopping.  It makes it fairly easy to get down to the valley but the grueling hike back up is another story.

I was able to enjoy hiking and swimming in the beautiful La Verkin Creek.  As I enjoyed this, I kept looking for good photo opportunities within the light would allow.  I took several pictures which you can see on my website of this great location.  My favorite pictures were taken just at sunset.  As the light was fading in the sky, some beautiful clouds and soft light on the rocks made for a beautiful scene.  I took several photographs and felt like magic was captured.  

Utah desert waterfall and pool
Gregory Peak and La Verkin Pool
Unfortunately I was not going to camp overnight in a was forced to hike back out in the dark.  Armed with a headlamp, I made it but I would not recommend it as a fun experience.