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.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Like a Rothko Painting

Colors like Rothko
If you find yourself bored someday and want to create a little colorful magic, try this.  Get a macro lens, grape juice, gatorade and diet orange drink.  The important thing is that the drinks be different colors and different sugar content.  The one with the highest sugar content, the heavies liquid, goes in first and then the next heaviest and finally the lightest.  The liquids separate in a nice colorful gradient.  Using a macro lens right up close to the glass surface, I shot this simply for the fun colors.  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mosida Pioneer Trek Photography: Shooting the 3-day Event

Family portrait handcart trek pioneer
One of 20 Handcart Families
Event photography includes weddings, parties, family reunions, school activities and much more.  This year I was asked to be an event photographer on a pioneer trek.  Youth groups from the LDS church sometimes will have an opportunity to join a commemorative trek, giving them a sample of what their pioneer forefathers experienced.  This particular trek took place in Mosida, Utah, and isolated but very beautiful place.  Temperatures were around 90 degrees, not a drop of humidity but occasional clouds gave us some shelter from the unrelenting sun.  The experience itself was wonderful.  I would like to share a little bit about what is involved as a photographer if you’re ever asked to do something like this.

Walking was involved.  Because I was trying to capture a little bit of everybody, I did more walking than the average person.  I would walk with and photograph part of the group and then moved to a different part.  Sometimes I would run ahead to get some pictures of the group as they were climbing a hill or going along a particular section of the path.

The 200 individuals involved in this were divided into 20 different family groups.  Just getting 10 members of each family together for a picture was a challenge.  Multiply that by 20 different families and you can see how getting the family pictures took me about 2 hours.  I would do that every morning after they would eat breakfast.

With 200 individuals, I hoped to have about 5 good photographs of each individual.  Some of these would be in group shots and others would be individual shots.  I estimated I would need to take about 1000 pictures each day to have some quality pictures for each individual to have after the trek was finished.  (I must say here that the kids were not allowed to bring electronic cameras or phones along, so they would not have any photos without my work.)

I brought a variety of lenses but the ones I used the most were my 16-35mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4, 85mm f/1.2, and 24-105mm f/4.  I did not use my tripod.  People were moving too quickly for anything to be set up.  I did bring my flash and used a fill-in flash on my family portraits.  I did not use the flash at any other time however.

More intimidating and time-consuming than the track itself, processing 3000 photos afterwards and creating a yearbook took me 4 days of non-stop work.  Of the 3000+ photos, I threw out 2000, leaving me with 1000 good photos.  For the yearbook we created, I used Entourage Yearbooks Company.  Their online yearbook creation site does work well although it is very slow.  It took me about 30 minutes to create each page and I am not a slow worker.  I must say they were very nice to work with and got my printed books to me ahead of schedule.  And the books look amazing too!

Please see the sample of my pictures below but if you’re interested in seeing the entirety of the work, visit my website gallery for the trek:  Mosida Trek Gallery.  
Handcart trek sign in Utah
Mosida Trek Site is in Central Utah
Pioneer handcart trek in Mosida Utah
Walking 4-7 miles daily
Pioneer line dancing Mosida Trek
Dusty Dancing the first night
Pioneer youth Mosida Utah trek
Pulling the Handcart
pioneer young women on handcart trek
Pioneer Trek Fun
Women's pull mosida handcart trek
Women's Pull
two pioneer men carrying woman across river
Echo River crossing
Pioneer youth pulling handcart across river
Pulling Handcart across the Echo River crossing

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wind and Photography: Catch It or Be Blown Away?

ISO 400, f/11, Shutter speed 1/50 second
ISO 50, f/16, Shutter speed 1/4 second
Among the many things out of my control, the wind probably is mentioned the least.  We tend to talk about the light more than anything else.  Clouds certainly enhance a photograph and I love the beautiful partly cloudy sky.  Wind can only be seen in the effects it has on movable objects.  In a sandstorm, it can create dramatic effect on the sand dunes.  Usually wind is a foe to good photography because it makes for blurry moving objects.

Wind is almost always present on the Montana prairie.  As I made my annual trip to photograph my favorite cabin, the wind was blowing moderately.  I decided to try a couple of different photographs to capture the wind.  I wasn't sure if I would like them more or less than the perfectly still shots.  To be truthful, I wasn't sure of my still shots would work at all because of the wind.

On the left I chose a very slow shutter speed, smaller aperture and a low ISO film speed.  This allowed for plenty of movement.  On the right side shows a faster ISO film speed, a much quicker shutter speed but still a fairly small aperture so that I would have everything in focus.  The picture on the left is an exposure of 12.5 times a much time as the right.  I was hoping to get a lot of motion without making everything so blurry as to become indistinct.  (That kind of blurriness is achieved by using a neutral density filter.)

Hopefully you can see some things you like in each photograph.  One tells the story of the wind on the prairie.  The other is a story of the prairie without the wind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oasis in the Desert: Travertine and Ferns

little Jamaica springs in the Arizona desert
Desert Spring and Small waterfall
Desert Springs is a natural spring in the Arizona desert.  It is a small area surrounded by very little growth.  Despite its closeness to a major interstate, it remains mostly hidden.  As a local I heard about it from an acquaintance.  I spent my morning visiting this beautiful location.  Nobody was there when I came but it clearly gets some use in the summertime.  Several sandbanks built around the outside created a lovely pool.  That part is artificial.  However the ferns, the travertine and the beautiful greenery are natural beauties.

There is limited room for maneuvering.  Water also is a problem when combined with electrical equipment such as a digital camera.  Using a wide-angle lens, I was able to try several compositions.  The one featured above is my favorite.  I tried to capture the waterfall, the hanging stalactite-like structure and the beautiful ferns and pool all in one photograph.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lake Powell Landscape Photography

sunrise at Lake Powell over the water
Sunrise near Face Canyon, Lake Powell

Lake Powell is a place for recreation but also incredible beauty.  It remains controversial of because of the Glen Canyon dam which is really beyond the scope of my power.  As a visitor to Lake Powell, I did enjoy the beautiful combination of water, sandstone cliffs, clear skies.  One challenging thing about Lake Powell is the changing water level.  What is present in one year is not necessarily going to be there the next year or even the next week because the water level will go up and down depending on the amount of rain in the Colorado mountains.  As a photographer, I found my best pictures by walking around, looking at the land very carefully and trying to find interesting aspects of each visit.

Sometimes I get lucky and a rainbow will appear right in front of me.  Other times I do a lot of walking.  This last year I found a wonderful curve in the cliffs that formed a perfect S.  The S-curve is considered a thing of beauty in visual arts and I took several pictures of this to hopefully capture the right idea.  I also spent some time walking along the sure and found a collection of broken sandstone tablets.  I have visited this area at sunrise to get the beautiful morning light in one of my favorite pictures from Lake Powell.  

Please enjoy
Rainbow over Lake Powell
Rainbow over Gunsight Butte, Lake Powell
Puzzle pieces of sandstone at sunrise
Sandstone curve and water of Lake Powell
Natural Curves of Lake Powell

Monday, September 21, 2015

Snow Canyon Overlook: Spectacular Sunrise

Snow Canyon Utah landscape photography
Two Yucca plants overlooking the majestic SnowCanyon, Utah
Snow Canyon is the closest landscape photography destination for me.  I can almost see my home from this viewpoint.  I came to the Snow Canyon Overlook about a year ago to see what type of photographic potential it had.  After looking things over carefully, I decided it would be a great sunrise location.

This month I decided to wake up at 5 o'clock, make the drive to the parking lot and began hiking up the trail.  It is about 2.5 miles one way.  It is not especially difficult although in the dark, false trails could lead someone astray for a few feet here and there.  I used my headlamp for the first 2 miles.as I was getting to the overlook, enough dawn light allowed me to turn off the headlamp.

I was not disappointed with the sunrise.  It was very gradual, very beautiful.  I love the contrast in the white sand, the red rocks and blue sky.  I hope to return here again for another sunrise before too long.
Southern Utah landscape photography Snow Canyon
Snow Canyon Overlook with some Tiny White Clouds
sunrise at Snow Canyon Overlook, Utah
outcropping of rocks above Snow Canyon

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cedar Pocket: Scenic corner of the Arizona Strip

Joshua Tree in Cedar Pocket, Arizona
Joshua Tree at Sunrise in Arizona
I have driven through the Northwest corner of Arizona 1000 times.  On every trip I take to Las Vegas or California I pass through this rugged and dry country.  Sometimes I have seen bighorn sheep.  There's only one exit and it's not in the most scenic portion.

This month I finally decided to spend some good time here.  I found a pull-off into the brush beside the freeway.  Finding a gap in the fence and a faint trail, I figured I am not the only person to ever come here.  It had rained this week and I hoped for some dramatic clouds for the sunrise.

Nature gave me a great scene as sunrise gradually crept across the open valley.  I isolated 1 Joshua tree for my main photographic subject and try to balance that with the red and gray mountain which was catching the morning light.  That was my composition decision.

I ended up having to blend a couple of exposures in photoshop to get the light just right.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Snow Canyon State Park: Sunrise

Snow Canyon White Rocks, Utah
Snow Canyon State Park:  Sunrise
Snow Canyon State Park in southern Utah is close enough for me to visit at sunrise without really disrupting my weekly routine.  Landscape photography could not be much easier than that.  I found a new location and this wonderful part that is an excellent sunrise spot.  Light is wonderful here.  There are so many different colors in the sandstone.  In my chosen picture above, the sandstone right in front of the camera has a light pink color in it.  The cliffs in the mid-ground have rich golden tan color.  The distant cliffs are red rock, very characteristic of this area.  Being able to capture all these different hues of rock with the morning light barely touching each one of them is unique.  That's what makes this spot very special.  Please enjoy.

3 Bears Falls in a Rainstorm

Road to Hana waterfall Upper Waikani
Upper Waikani Falls during a rainstorm.
On my second trip to Maui, I visited the lovely city of Hana once again.  On this trip, the rain was falling a lot more.  We had more cloudy days, more use of the windshield wipers and less time getting a tan at the beach.  I was curious to see what the waterfalls would be like on the road to Hana.  I have seen some photographs of them during severe floods:  severe brown massive waterfalls causing destruction.  When I arrived at the picturesque 3 bears waterfall, I was surprised that it did not look more wild.  The image was pretty tame.  In this photograph, I try to capture the highest waterfall above.  You can see it through the trees.  When it is not raining, it is much harder to see and I really did not appreciate it on my first visit.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whale Watching on Maui

whale breaching by tour boat
Humpback Whale Breaching out of the water
Humpback whale watching is a popular in Maui and other Hawaiian Islands.  On my first trip to Kauai many years ago I enjoyed sailing the surrounding waters and finding humpback whales.  The whales are typically in Hawaii in January through April.

This year I investigated some other options.  A small speedboat instead of a large sailboat has some obvious advantages.  Ultimate Whale Watch company out of Lahaina offers a great whale watching tour.  We rode quickly out to sea and found several mothers with calves, groups of males and some loner whales.

The photo above shows a distant whale fully breaching.  On the left side there is a tour boat.  This shows how much larger these whales are compared to the boats.  Amazing.
breaching humpback whale
Breaching Humpback Whale off coast of Maui

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees on Maui, Hawaii

detailed bark on rainbow eucalyptus tree
Bark detail of a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree
Rainbow eucalyptus trees are a sight to see with your own eyes.  Their unreal colors made me think someone had photoshopped a little too much when I first saw pictures.  Then I saw the real thing and learned that these trees really are fluorescent green, bold orange and deep brown.  I only know of their existence in Hawaii and they are difficult to find there.

On Maui, you can see these beauties on the road to Hana.  Some of our sitting next to the road.  You cannot really stop to see them because of the traffic.  A great place to experience them close up, away from the traffic is the Ke'anae Arboretum.  There is a small sign on the road and a place to pull off.  A paved pathway goes into the forest.  Informative signs can teach you about many different plans but the ones that are most interesting to me are the rainbow eucalyptus trees.  A pleasant 10 minute walk brings you to a small grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees.  There are probably 20 of them total.  Their beautiful, colorful and peaceful.

Please visit my Maui gallery to see more photos from this awesome island!
rainbow eucalyptus trees
Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
Maui jungle forest of rainbow eucalyptus trees
Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove of Trees

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lava Rock and Jungle

Pahoa lava rock is being overtaken by the jungle
Near Pahoa, Big Island
This just caught my eye while I wandered along the coast near Pahoa, Big Island of Hawaii.  The lava rock is so acutely jagged but somehow produces fertile soil for the jungle to thrive.  This process  happens at a speed we don't normally witness on the Big Island.  I got down low with tripod to include all the elements you see here. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hamakua Ditch Trail

hamakua ditch trail to overlook
Hamakua Ditch trail leads to this viewpoint
The Hamakua ditch trail is also called the White Road trail.  It begins at the end of White Road on the Big Island of Hawaii.  After you walk around a water tank, you will enter into a lush jungle.  This is a beautiful hike.  It is quite easy.  After about 20 minutes, you come to the edge of an enormous valley.  You are on top looking down into Waipio Valley.  I have seen photos when the waterfalls are pouring off the cliffs.  On my visit, the skies were fairly clear and we did not see any waterfalls.  Nevertheless it is a beautiful view and certainly worth your time.

Please visit my Big Island of Hawaii gallery to see more photos from this awesome place!

White Road trail on Big Island of Hawaii: Hidden Waterfall

Hawaii Big Island Waterfall
Koiawe Waterfall along the White Road Trail
On the Big Island there is a wonderful hike to an overlook into the interior of Waipio Valley.  This hike is definitely worthwhile.  It is easy and provides a spectacular view.  Along this hike, there is a small detour, just north of the stream crossing.  Follow a faint pink trail for about 60 seconds, you come to this hidden waterfall.  Even though it is extremely close, it is well hidden.  Please explore and you will find this lovely gem.

Please visit my Big Island of Hawaii gallery to see more photos from this awesome place!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hamoa Beach Sunrise, Maui

sunrise hamoa beach hana, maui
Hamoa Beach, a beautiful sunrise location
Headed back to Maui for a second visit, I hoped to see some new things.  Previously during my visit to Hana I enjoy the sunrise and Black Sand beach, Koki beach and Red Sand beach.  Because there are not very many beaches in this area, I had seen everything except for Hamoa beach.  All of these other locations are outstanding at sunrise.  I hope that Hamoa beach would be equally good and rewarding.

Previous day it had rained a lot.  Clouds were just starting to clear through the night.  When I arrived at the beach, everything was very overcast and the sunrise really didn't happen all at once.  Instead, the sun would peek through the clouds here and there in the clouds themselves dynamically changed from moment to moment.

A wonderful thing about this beach is the different viewpoints.  Getting down in the sand near the water yields fantastic photos.  Likewise, it is an easy walk to the south side where I captured a view above the water, looking down on the beach.

I must also report that when I returned to this beach a few hours later with my family, it made for wonderful swimming.

Please visit my Maui gallery to see more photos from this awesome island!
hamoa beach hana maui landscape
Hamoa beach golden sand
hamoa beach waves and sand are the best of maui
Wave and Beach meet at Hamoa Beach, south of Hana

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trail Report: Hike to Hi'ilawe Waterfall in Waipio Valley

Hiking to Hi'ilawe waterfall big island
Hi'ilawe Waterfall in Waipio Valley as seen from the bottom of the road
This describes my hike to the base of Hi'ilawe Waterfall in Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The trail goes up the stream for a little more than a mile before reaching the highest waterfall I've personally ever visited.

The Big Island of Hawaii has a reputation for being more rugged, rural and raw.  Every guidebook indicates that the Waipio Valley is the place to go for unsurpassed beauty unspoiled nature.

I would like to describe my experience in 2015 to clarify reality.  I hiked to the base of the valley hoping to reach the waterfall itself.  As I wandered along the road going into the valley, several trucks filled with tourists passed me.  Many of these were parked at the stream, the trailhead.  At the trailhead many folks walked upstream, staying in the water all the way.

I started walking up the stream with my 2 hiking companions. The scenery was immediately quite beautiful.

After hiking upstream about half of the distance, several people passed us hiking back.  We also came across another man contemplating whether he wanted to swim/wade across a deep pool in order to continue on the trail.  This trail requires you to get wet at some places and in one particular location, you must wait up to your chest in order to advance.  This is all part of the adventure.

The trail is not particularly difficult.  It simply takes time:  over an hour going up although quicker coming back.  After the deep waiting, the waterfall comes into view.  It seems to take a long time to reach the waterfall even though you can see it, hear it and almost taste it.
Big Island Waipio Valley Waterfall trail
Hi'ilawe Stream and Waterfall
Finally reaching the base of the waterfall, I set up my camera and took several pictures.  The size of the waterfall, over 1000 feet, cannot be encompassed in one photograph from the base.  I tried to compose some pictures of the water and the boulders.  Several other people hiked up and swam in the pool at the waterfall base.  I took a picture of one woman sitting on a boulder underneath the waterfall which I like.
Naked woman under hi'ilawe waterfall
Some people swim under the falls

There is some danger at the base of the waterfall.  My brother went to the far side of the waterfall and several large rocks (about the size of suitcases) fell without warning, landing about 30 feet from where he was.  He moved away from that location fairly quickly.  I have heard of incidents where falling rocks have killed people.  These rocks fell so quickly, there would be no way to escape if you happen to be in an unlucky location.  Please beware.
Hi'ilawe waterfall in Waipio Valley
Hi'ilawe Waterfall and Boulder

Our group spent about an hour enjoying the scenery, taking pictures and dodging falling rocks before deciding to leave.  As we were leaving, 3 other groups of people passed us in quick succession.  This hike was clearly not a secret nor was it forbidden.  I warned those who followed me about the falling rocks and wished them good luck.

Looking back, I took several other photographs.  I used a very wide lens for some photos and also switch to a telephoto lens in order to capture a single tree with the waterfall behind it.  There are many creative possibilities here.
reaching the base of hi'ilawe waterfall by hiking
Approaching the Hi'ilawe Waterfall
Waipio valley tree and waterfall Big Island Hawaii
Hi'ilawe Waterfall and Tree
Hiking back went twice as fast as hiking upstream.  We stayed on the more established trail on the right side of the stream.  My brother was not prepared with very good shoes and he had a bleeding heel wear his shoes had been rubbing and cutting into his foot.  Because of this, we were not anxious to climb the enormous hill to get back to the top of Waipio Valley.
Evan and his dog drove us back to the top for $20
This is where an unplanned adventure took place.  There was a man in a truck with a dog who offered us a ride.  His name is Evan and we decided to pay is $10 fee per person and he drove us all away to the top.  We made it safely but I do not recommend anyone else catch a ride with Evan because he immediately pulled out his large liquor bottle after we reach the top and drank the very last of it.  He had probably been drinking the rest of it earlier in the day and was not entirely sober.  Nevertheless he was extremely friendly and I will always have a friend on the Big Island in him.

My conclusions about this hike? 
1.  It is an incredible adventure.
2.  The trail is open and used frequently.
3.  The views are spectacular.  Photography possibilities are manifold.
4.  Falling boulders are a true danger.
5.  Don't ride to the top in Evan's car.  Say hello to his dog instead.  The dog is very friendly.

Please visit my Big Island of Hawaii gallery to see more photos from this awesome place!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Trail Report: Akaka Falls State Park

akaka falls hawaii tall big beautiful waterfall
Akaka Falls in the Afternoon Sunshine
I can say from experience that hiking in the jungle is difficult, messy, bloody and muddy.  It doesn't have to be this way if you visit Akaka Falls state park.  This compact state park is not very far off the main road.  For a nominal fee you can see the dropdead gorgeous Akaka waterfall.  That view is worth the entire detour.  For some, they see the waterfall and go home.  The waterfall can be reached with minimal effort by climbing down the stairs and taking the left paved trail.  Within 5 minutes, you are rewarded with this lovely view.

The trail makes a circuit which I highly recommend.  It is not long nor difficult but he has beautiful views into the jungle.  Here are a few other photos I took on my brief visit.  I found quite a bit variety within the park with views into the deep jungle interior, beautiful jungle trees as well as flowers and other growth.

Please visit my Big Island of Hawaii gallery to see more photos from this awesome place!
akaka jungle trail big island hawaii
Jungle views from trail
single tree branch against cloudy blue skies
Stretching above the canopy into sunlight
akaka state park jungle vine trail
Staring into the heart of the tangled jungle

Friday, May 15, 2015

Kohala Mountain Road Scenery

Big island kohala mountain road tree
Green Pastures of the Big Island
Beautiful green meadows are about the last thing expected on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Beaches, waterfalls, jungle and even volcanos are more characteristic of this rugged land.  Nevertheless, on my drive back from Pololu Overlook I witnessed some beautiful scenery of a different sort with green rolling hills and occasional solitary trees.  In the distance you can see the ocean far below.  This particular tree maybe stop and pull over:  the verdant and fertile scene along with the solitary tree make a great photo!
green meadow with a lovely tree
A wider view of the meadow

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Post-Processing Pearl: Color Channels

hawaii pololu cliffs landscape photography
Pololu Cliffs at Sunrise.  The glow on the water is enhanced in post-processing.
Processing a photo after taking it is often underestimated in the importance of the photographic process.  There is a lot more glamour in climbing a mountain with all of your camera equipment at sunrise to take a picture.  Comparatively, sitting in an office looking at a computer screen adjusting the contrast and color saturation is not as thrilling.

There is also quite a bit of secrecy about how processing is done.  Everyone seems to have their own special technique.  I typically shoot with one exposure and try to process the photograph in my RAW processing software.  Currently this is Aperture from Apple.  (Unfortunately this particular software will not longer be supported by its maker and I will have to switch to light room at some point.  That's a whole another subject.)  After doing the standard adjustments for exposure, highlight recovery, black point, saturation and sharpening, I usually have a very good looking photograph.  Those are the basic adjustments I do on every photo.

In this case I wanted to take things up a notch and this is where a very small adjustment can go a long ways.  In the curves adjustment, I am able to separate color channels into green, blue and red.  In this particular photo the red channel dominates.  Simply increasing that slightly brings a great orange glow on to the water as it is reflecting the light in the sky.  It is a small change to make but I feel like it improves this photo 100%.