Saturday, November 10, 2012

Movie Star Lens

Portrait
As I landscape photographer, I get plenty of practice shooting trees, rocks, streams and clouds.  Things that move in circles and against gravity are foreign to me.  That's what kids do.

I had the pleasure of taking some family portraits last week for some family members.  When I get the call to take someone's photo, I always reach for one lens:  Canon 135mm f/2.0 L.  This lens is so fast, so sharp and so accurate in getting the picture that I want.  Some people say the "keeper" rate is very high with this lens and I heartily agree.

In one of the moments where she stopped briefly, I was able to focus, compose and shoot.

In keeping my lenses straight from one another, they get nicknames.  This one is the "movie star lens" because it makes everyone look fantastic!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Trail Report: Padre Canyon (Snow Canyon)

Circular Whirlpool
 Impressive Cliffs on the Three Ponds and Padre Canyon Trail
Padre Canyon is a secret.  Not on the map given out at Snow Canyon State Park, this little gem is something I read about in the local newspaper.  I am not the 1st person to discover this but I believe I am the 1st person to create a trail report documenting my visit during the summer monsoon season.  What would normally be a very beautiful dry canyon, became an absolutely gorgeous, wet slot canyon after we had heavy summer rain.  I anticipated this would be a very good place to visit on a wet day.

Padre Canyon branches off from the 3 Ponds trail.  I have always been underwhelmed with this particular trail.  I was hoping to find something better.  Immediately after passing through the high canyon cliffs, the 3 Ponds trail turns to the north (right).  Padre Canyon is to the left (south).  My two daughters and I hiked up the canyon and saw a little trickle of water.  It seemed to disappear into the sand.  The farther we went up canyon, the greater the flow of water.

After a little bit of hiking, a very prominent and exciting sound delighted me: falling water.  There is no sound like a waterfall in the middle of the desert!  Nothing is more exciting, nothing is more welcome.  We could hear it a long time before we could actually see it.  When we finally climbed a little bit higher, this fantastic waterfall came into view.

Heard before seen, this waterfall was magical!
The closer we got, the better the waterfall became.  There were small pools, water flowing in circles and then falling over sandstone.  The biggest part of the waterfall dropped in several segments, make and diagonals, verticals and even horizontal movements back and forth.  What an amazing waterfall!

The next waterfall upstream
Close up required wet toes.
We took off our shoes, socks and waded up to the base of this waterfall.  In the summertime, this water felt delightfully pleasant.  There was nothing cold about it.  The bottom of each pond was lined with soft fine sand.

This fall could not be climbed.  We backtracked slightly and went around it.  We found another waterfall with a large pool at the bottom.  Not quite as scenic as the 1st, it still was a wonderful discovery.

Farther up, I found other pools and another waterfall that was quite small, forming a small circular shower room.  Not as photogenic as the first two waterfalls, I did not include a picture of that here but I hope to return and photograph it another day.  I also enjoy taking pictures of the wonderful sandstone and moss in this delightful canyon.
Climbing up above Padre Canyon, the view started to clear.

Sandstone and Moss

Snow Canyon: Tree and Reflection

Snow Canyon Tree, Reflection and Cliffs
One of the most helpful pieces of advice to give the photographer is to limit how many subjects are in a photograph to a maximum of 3.  A photograph tells a story.  In order for the story to be clearly understood, there must be a straightforward message.  Anything that is a distraction from that message, weakens the impact.

In this photograph the story is simple.  small oasis in the desert.  The subjects in this photograph are the tree, its' reflection in the water, the background cliffs.  This composition was achieved by using a telephoto lens, zooming in on this subject and eliminating some distracting bushes on the left.  A photographer should not simply record an image.  He or she should draw attention to the subject in order to communicate emotion or tell a story.  My story about this tree is one of small beauty in the desert, living among the rocks, without neighbors.  It is a delightful, beautiful growing plant doing the best it can under very difficult circumstances.  That is what I wanted to communicate and I hope this photograph succeeds.  I believe it does.

I look very carefully in my viewfinder, trying to pay special attention to the sides and corners of a photograph.  If there's something there that is a bit of a distraction, try to move a little closer for a little bit to one side or another in order to eliminate it.  By doing so, you will be more successful in telling your own artistic story.