Category Archives: Landscape Photography

After the Fires in California_We need you

Before the fires. Lush green mosses and ferns cover the trees during the rainy season in Sugarloaf State Park, California, which lies at the top of the Nunn’s Canyon area off Highway 12 in Sonoma, heart of the Nunn’s Canyon fire that also took out a lot of Glen Ellen. I wonder what it looks like now…

It raged, hot and infernal, consuming everything in its path, this fire-

In just moments, all was gone – houses, cars, memorabilia, furniture, cars, keepsakes, the stuff of lives lived, for so many. Most escaped with their lives, some with barely the skin on their backs. Now, they need everything – from underwear to shoes, hair combs to shampoo, to roofs over their heads, to food in their stomachs. Please do what you can to help via any one of the relief funds out there. Sonoma and Napa county residents thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support. Here’s one link to a fire relief fund from my local credit union – it will help all four counties, because even Mendocino and Lake County were affected by fires that fateful weekend. 

The land looks like a war zone in places, houses reduced to rubble and ashes. Along Highway 12, about 13 wineries were affected, some completely destroyed, others in limbo as they can’t get to their last tons of grapes on their vines due to closures. It’s truly a mess, and it’s a domino effect. Two large hotels burned, about 13 wineries along Highway 12 into Sonoma were affected in various degrees, and all those employees lose their jobs temporarily, and many of them lost their homes at the same time, a double whammy! 

But in talking with so many supportive friends, I realized that the media coverage may have you all thinking that everything burned to a crisp. Not true! Not ALL of Sonoma or Napa or the town of Santa Rosa burned to the ground. So much is still standing, still functional, and we need to get the word out that we are all open for business. Please spread the word. We need your help. Come visit us, visit all the areas that didn’t burn, visit our coastlines, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, drink our wine.  And don’t feel guilty about spending your vacation days in a luxury hotel or campsite (!) when so many are dealing with such losses. We need your money, to put it bluntly. And the counties will rebuild. Resilience is a wonderful thing. 

On the side of Nature, the hillsides and forests that burned are dull and scorched, the understory consumed in the flames. This in the end is a good thing, to clear out some of the ‘fuel’ that controls fires. And our native oaks and bay trees were designed to withstand heat/scorching, so all are not lost; and in a short time, with our winter rains, our hillsides will ‘green up’ again, the wildflowers will burst forth to show us that Nature is healing, and if enough rain, we may even have a bumper year for wildflowers, ironically, in burned and disturbed areas.  The trees will send out new shoots, the pine cones that needed fire have distributed their seeds, and the scars of fire will be covered in green mosses in the forests. In time, those that lost much will heal, and renew, too, but it will take longer than a season, I’m afraid. 

There were mixed messages during how it all began, at first, but it appears that with 10% or less humidity during a hot dry spell, small fires broke out here and there during that fateful Saturday afternoon, and stiff winds just whipped them up into bigger fires until power transformers were exploding on poles and adding to the fires. My partner saw flashes all over the hillside in the near distance Saturday evening, and thought it was dry lightning at first but later learned it was likely the transformers exploding on burning power poles. Locals escaping the firestorm said it was like ‘mortar fire’ the way the transformers were popping. yikes!

I was in Slovenia about to lead my photo tour, and I was stunned beyond belief with the breaking news via texts from my partner. I was helpless, as were friends from my area that were with me on the tour; we couldn’t go home, that wouldn’t help, but nor did we feel right having fun and being creative at first, with so much hanging in the unknown. And then we felt guilty – when we learned that our homes were spared. It’s normal to feel that way, but what an emotional milkshake it was for us the first few days. Returning last Thursday evening, to rain, the air was thick with an acrid smell, like a wet old campfire, but oh how welcome that rain was! And it put us on top of getting the fires under control, which are now mostly 90% and higher contained. finally. Now, let’s hope for more rain to keep our land moist and soggy and protected.

The blog picture below is of a vineyard below Nunn’s Canyon road east of Santa Rosa. I don’t know exactly what it looks like now, but I do know areas along Highway 12 did not fare well, especially the town of Glen Ellen. But even businesses that were spared in Glen Ellen are again opening for business! There was no pattern to this fire, as sustained winds of 35-50mph with gusts to 78 mph in some areas scattered the embers in many directions almost simultaneously, as if a dragon breathed across the land while swaying it’s head back and forth. Unfathomable.

And as I sat here at home this past weekend, sifting through the news bits and pictures, trying to get my head around it all, I found that I couldn’t. I missed all the terror, the uncertainty of potential evacuation, the panic of those who had to flee, and I will never really know how it all felt. While I’m grateful to be spared all that anguish, my heart aches for all of those that went through this in some way or another.


Area along Highway 12 near Nunn’s Canyon


Links for good facts about the fires: Press Democrat and a map showing the burned areas. 

Thanks for reading,





Also posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, events, general photography, Uncategorized

Expressive Nature Photography Officially on Sale TODAY


Expressive nature photography is about first finding what excites you in the location or scene, and then figuring out the way to communicate what you feel about what you are seeing, and that requires applying the concepts of light, composition, visual depth, and point of view, along with other technical things like the appropriate depth-of-field or shutter speed. In my latest book, I discuss all of these things and more, illustrated with new photographs, and I’m very excited about this book – 240 pages of idea and tips to help others become better at creating photographs that have more impact. SUMMER is a great time to read this and put it to good use – and keep using it into Autumn, and well, Winter, and then there’s next Spring…

This book is now available at bookstores everywhere – and on line. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Expressive Nature Photography! It always feels good to give ‘birth’ to a new project…

Signed copies are available on my site (higher price), or visit your favorite on-line or brick-and-mortar store to order a copy. 

Enjoy, and keep on photographing!



Also posted in books, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, nature photography, photo news Tagged , , , , , , , |

Photo Tips for Landscapes – An Excerpt from the Book

             Tre Cimi formation and stream, Dolomite Range, Italy.


It’s a perfect time to get out there and celebrate summer – and photograph the landscape. With that in mind, I’m sharing a few pointers taken from the pages of my new book, Expressive Nature Photography – that goes on sale July 25th! 

• Try to be there in great light. (Always a great idea, and by great light, it doesn’t have to be sunny! Look for drama in the light for landscapes.)

• Get physically close to things in the foreground. This exaggerates their size in relationship to other objects and elements in the frame behind them. (It also puts the viewer in your shoes…)

• You may need to be at a slightly higher position to show background elements, and keep them separated from the foreground. (i.e. watch for mergers!)

• Find a way to create a flow for the eye by using leading lines, or a repetition of rocks, or tufts of grass, to bring the viewer from foreground to background.

• Make sure you have sharpness throughout the scene. You’ll typically be using f/11 to f/22 for an aperture, but you’ll need to set a hyper-focal focus. Use a hyper-focal app on your smart phone, or printed charts to calculate and set the hyper-focal focus to get foreground to background in focus.

That’s it – as if it were that simple, right? But keeping tips like these in mind when you do find a great landscape will help you create more impact in your photographs, something we all want.

Thanks for visiting, and have fun out there!




Also posted in books, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog Tagged , , , , |

The Power of Your Voice

Nature needs your voice!

You may not know that considerations are underway by our current Department of the Interior whether to declassify lands that are presently national monuments, such as the newly designated Bears Ears in southeast Utah, the new Berryessa Snow Mountain (California), Giant Sequoia (not the national park section!) The Carrizo Plain, Sonoran Desert, Grand-Staircase National Monument, and the list goes on – 22 in all.  Seriously. 

Aside from your political beliefs, consider the implications of losing these wilderness spaces, and the value that they have as places one can go and ‘lose oneself’ and merge with the whole of nature. As a landscape/nature photographer, these and other public lands are often the source of my photographs, but those photographs are the outward expression of the inward inspiration that I receive while being in these wild, special places, places that take my breath away – and not from hiking, but from the sheer joy of seeing fantastic geology, flower-filled meadows, rushing streams, and wildlife. 

Preserving wild, natural places, is, in my mind, essential for mental health. of us all. Even if we never visit these places, the human mind needs to know that there are places that we can ‘escape to’, a safe zone in nature, away from it all. It’s a primeval base need within us all, whether we are conscious of it or not. If you use local or regional parks for your time with nature, a walk, a hike, a paddle on a lake, then you have felt some of that refreshment, that rejuvenation, that comes from being in nature. These national monuments are land much like a ‘local’ park, just on a grand scale.

National Monuments serve to preserve the integrity of  wild areas that might otherwise be abused by extractive industries, and in some cases provide a buffer zone to those processes just outside of their borders. Many also preserve space needed for wildlife to survive, let alone thrive. And ironically, with the crowds that populate our national parks these days, these monuments are oasis where one can still find solitude, without the crowds, and they are wonder-filled, too, although perhaps not on the grand scale of the national parks nearby. But to the animals, and those of us that go there, they are essential.

I know that not everyone sees ‘eye to eye’ on issues like this, but if you feel strongly about the need for these lands, please consider taking a moment and make your voice ‘heard’ in the public comment period for these monuments on the list.  You can read the information and comment here:

The public comment period for the other monuments ends June 10th, EXCEPT for Bears Ears – that ends May 26th, so please, if you plan to comment, do so soon.

Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Also posted in bird photography, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, Conservation, nature photography, USA Tagged , , , , |