Category Archives: photo tips

Another excerpt from my newest book

 
Another excerpt from my newest book Expressive Nature Photography, in the chapter The Narrative Image:
 
Find the story in the landscape
Even a landscape pictures tells a story. Begin by first figuring out what inspires you in the location. What makes it unique? Try to establish what you want to express in the photograph. Then look for a point of view that brings out your vision in the strongest way….Is there a process of nature, or some detail, that will express the story strongly?”
 
In these two pictures, I found ‘story’. The drought in California is a major issue, (and it’s still not over, really). When driving through the high Sierra I encountered this pond that was drying up. The story was the parched, cracked bottom of the once-full pond. In the second picture, the story tells of a gecko digging a burrow to get out of the heat and light. There are stories in nature everywhere, we just have to become keen observers of everything around us.
 

 
Find your stories in nature this summer!
 
Enjoy,
 
 
 
 
 
Expressive Nature Photography is published by Monacelli Press, and is on sale July 25th at bookstores near you and online. Prefer a signed copy? Click here for the book sales page on my website.
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Taking a Low Point of View

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So here I was, driving through the Willamette valley in September, on my eventual way home, looking for an apple stand, when I saw this huge dust cloud from a distance. I could see the tractor at one point, and I decided I had to get there somehow to photograph this ag scene, as the cloud of dust was pretty amazing. Continue reading »

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Yosemite: Mirrorless and Moonlight

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Cabin fever got the better of me this past weekend, and I took off for a very quick trip up into the Merced River canyon and Yosemite. I was in search of redbud, having heard they were popping into bloom with the warm weather. I found various stages from full bloom with leaves showing, to just barely beginning to bloom. But the idea I had for a redbud image was not to be this year – with water levels at record lows due to the drought, the branches had river rocks behind them instead of the flowing water I had wanted. Still, it was all so pretty to see things beginning to bloom! With the warm temperatures of this past weekend and early days this week, I’m sure that the peak will happening very soon. I will defer to Michael Frye, however, who always has a reliable and up to date report on seasonal events happening near and in Yosemite.

I photographed some redbud, and then headed up into the valley to eat while waiting for complete darkness. I wanted to test out my Fuji XT-1 at high ISOs required for star points of light (3200 and 6400) and also test out my new Fujinon 23mm 1.4 lens. The results were really amazing. I was so impressed by the way the camera handled the noise of 3200 and 6400 ISO. The 23mm f1.4 was a superb light-gathering lens, as well. But I discovered one ‘down side’ of such light-gathering. You see so many stars that the constellations themselves can get lost in all of that. I could see a strong definition of Orion in the sky, with my eye. But at f1.4 I saw so many stars that he disappeared in the picture. If I exposed at f2.8, I saw him better because I gathered in only the light of stronger stars. At least I know know that when I get the chance to photograph the milky way on a moonless night with this lens it will be awesome.

I then moved up the valley, to get a photograph of Yosemite falls and the cliffs under moonlight. Being a few days past full moon, I had to wait until about 11 PM for the cliffs to be bathed in moonlight. But heh, the best entertainment in the valley is being out under the billions of stars at night so I didn’t mind. I made a 6 minute exposure, at 400 ISO, for the blog image above. I love how at this time of the moon cycle you can get moonlit landscape and star trails. It makes for an unusual effect.

Some might be wondering how I could do this with a mirrorless system that uses an electronic viewfinder, and I’m here to say it was a challenge! To say they are noisy is an understatement. Even the best EVF’s will be challenging if not impossible to compose at night. You’ll have to get there early to compose while you can see, or use the point and hope method of composition that I used that night! With a few quick test shots, I got my composition, and was ready for the moon when it came. It rose later, as it was a few days after full moon, but by 11 PM it was bathing the cliffs in beautiful moonlight. I was glad there was enough water flowing over the falls to at least have that as a feature to work with, and I got a little ‘bonus’ of prismatic hues in the wispy falls – the beginnings of a moon bow, but not strong enough with the low water flow.

All in all it was worth the trip and I am looking forward to doing more night and star photography with my mirrorless system, now that I know it’s feasible.

Thanks for visiting,

firstnamesigntransp

 

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Puffins!

 

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My photo tour group  in Lake Clark National Park this past July was such fun, and they were all really good photographers. We were there mostly for the bears, so the horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata) were an added bonus – if the weather cooperated. It did and we got to take the boat ride to the island. When we arrived it was quite foggy, but the closer to the cliffs we got the more puffins we saw. Soon, the weather cleared a little, but still gave us mostly bright, diffused light – perfect for bird portraits. They would zip past us in flight and we tried to get them in action, but that was clearly a challenge – we were too close in most instances! A few of us managed to get them in flight, but several of us decided to focus on the ones on the rock and watch their behavior. Like other birds, they would often poop just before they were going to take off – which is pretty funny but it’s true. We could see the body language and after a while could tell when they were about to pop off the rock. I managed just one good image this, and a whole bunch of great portraits of them interacting and sitting around on the rocks. What fun we had!

I made this picture with a Canon EOS 500mm f4 IS lens, on a tripod with a Really Right Stuff Pro 55 Ball head and a Wimberly Side-kick. It helps to have the right gear for a photo like this, but ironically we could have done some of our pictures (and did) with a 100-400mm or 200-400mm lens, just as easily, as in many situations we were able to get pretty close.

 

Enjoy and thanks for visiting,

firstnamesigntransp

 

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