We woke up to a dusting of snow which by sunset, turned into about five inches. It’s now ten degrees and tonight it’s supposed to get down to -4, so things are looking good. And by the afternoon, the birds started to show back up in the feeders and bird baths. So we’re making progress. With all the big winds, the feeder protected from the wind was the most popular and sad to say, not even photographable. On the bright side, with all the activity at that feeder, our neighborly Red-shafted Flicker which normally feeds there decided to go to the other side to feed. Lucky for me!
I had the gallery all set up to go, D4, 800f5.6, SB-910 powered by SD-9 shooting through the Wescott Rapid Box Octa triggered by Pocket Wizard but there was this one little shaft of light, this one little glint in the eye that, well, I didn’t want to ruin with flash. I have the Function Button on the D4 programed to disengage the flash for just such occasions. And just when I got the lens trained on the Flicker, a Sharpie flew through the property which made the Flicker freeze (didn’t want to become a meal itself). This was important because even though the snow was bouncing what light that was available, my shutter speed was still only 1/6, f/5.6. I took some shots and then wondered if I could go tight on just the eye. I attached the TC.25e giving me 1000f/7.1 (1/5sec) and got one click off when the Sharpie left the yard. Seconds later the Flicker went back to feeding before I could move closer physically for the shot. So while I didn’t get “the” shot, at least we made progress in the right direction. Sharon’s grateful for the snow too, maybe now I’ll stop bouncing off the walls to shoot.
When you’re out shooting, you have two options, shoot or don’t shoot. Since I put a high premium at being out, I see it as we only have one option, shoot. That means that if the weather sucks, finding photo opps priority hasn’t change. Nothing drives me more nuts that when photographers say, “if only the weather was better.” Since we have no control over it, it is like all variables we must cope with once we leave our homes to go shooting. The huge down pour I talked about in Worst Weather post left a tremendous amount of water on the ramp, go figure. So even before the sprinkles had stopped, we were out shooting. With gray skies, it’s time to look down, not up.
Armed with the D4, 18-35AFS & 70-200VR2, Jake & I started looking for those shots not otherwise possible on a good weather day. The first photo is all Jakes, he saw it as I was looking for just the “clean” shot. I had blinders on. The reflection of both the B-17/clouds was so much better than reality (no hangar) is why reality is smaller in the frame than the reflection. i waited for the crowd to have the design element and color combo that you see before I took the shot. Had to wait for a couple of boys jumping in the giant puddle to stop as well (I wanted to join them). The photo of the B-29 came from the stories from my dad of the planes on the ramp at Clark during the war and the giant culverts along the ramps to drain them off from the constant down pour.
Now in the perfect world with the perfect weather for whatever you had previsualized, these photos probably would not have been on your shot list. The sunrise surely hadn’t unfolded as we planned by any measure but that’s how it goes. But then again, the images we came back with were in reality more of one of a kind from an otherwise common subject. And whenever you can take the uncommon of the common, there are good odds you’ll come out ahead. So when the weather isn’t exactly what you had planned, head out just the same with an open mind and make the most of the light at hand.
make for the best photography! My rule of thumb is, if I can handle the weather, so can the camera. In this case though, we needed the assist of a big ass hangar. It was Sunday of the Wings Over Houston airshow. As is normal, we got to the Texas Flying Legends Museum hangar well before sunrise to get to work on the sunrise shoot. Driving to the airport, saw the lightning in the distance and looking at my favorite lightning app, RadarCast, I saw a whole lot more was heading right for the airport. We pulled in, got our gear into the hangar and the skies opened up, oh my, did they let loose!!!
The hangar doors were wide open and chairs set up, SOP. Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and watching the run rise behind all the aircraft with friends is a simple joy, but that wasn’t going to happen this morning. Within minutes, the rain was coming down so hard, it was bouncing up off the tarmac and bouncing into the hangar pushing us back at least ten feet and making us partially close the hangar doors. The heavens were putting on one helluva show, lightning bouncing every which way. As is typical pilot nature, I turn to see everyone standing under the wing of the Shrike even though we were all in the hangar. Then I see Jake setting up his camera … it was one of those Duh…. moments!
With the D4 / 80-400VR3 set up, I focused on the FG-1D Corsair parked right outside the hangar. It was to be the sunrise shoot but that was scrubbed at this point. What you see here are the photos taken during this time. They are 15sec exposures with all the lighting a combination of lightning and vehicles driving past. The rain pouring so hard created what appears to be ground fog and the long exposure with all the mixed light did the rest. No two images look anything like the next other than the Corsair which didn’t move.
What if there was no hangar? In this case, if I couldn’t find a wing to stand under, me and my gear would have been tucked away in the truck still. Those times when I can work in the rain, I don’t cover the gear with anything. I do have with me a dry, white towel that I will BLOT my gear dry (never, ever wipe). The thing is this, whenever you have a camera and you wonder if, follow that if especially in bad weather. If you wonder if there is a photo there, go for it! The least that might happen is, you delete that if. And the most, you’ll have a photo to always remind you of that wonder of nature you were able to capture in that click. The worst weather does produce some of the best photos!
Our fall B&H Photo / Lexar Moose Cruise was just a blast with a boat load of great folks! There was a father/daughter pair from Australia who were all smiles as we cruised. Now Chloe caught my attention right from the start. Now you might be looking at Chloe’s photo above (which is really cool) and thinking, “Photoshop” but such is not that case. And that’s how Chloe caught my attention.
Here, you can see one of the photos in the LCD and below, you can see Chloe’s technique. Yeap, the photo is a reflection that she creates on the surface of her iPhone and in one click, makes the photo. Now when I was across the deck looking at what she was doing, it really, really, really had me scratching my head. So I walked over and asked and got an education. Chloe’s smile the whole time she was shooting is what really told the whole story and whenever you see a photographer smiling like that, you know only good things are coming forth. Chloe, I applaud your creativity!
There is a magic to the color of white when you find it in landscape photography. The eye grabs on to it and than takes every other color in view and puts it on a higher level. Working the hoar frost in Yosemite, the icing lining all the meadow grasses along with the ever changing mist made for simple killer images. Standing on the edge of the meadow, shooting in with the D4 / 80-400VR3, we simply looked for the pattern that worked and shot.
I don’t profess to have the answer, but at least for my own photography, I have a hint. I’m using as an example these two photos with the simple topic, fall color. When it comes to telling the story and keeping it simple, quantity comes into play. Quantity comes in many flavors, quantity as in percentage of area and quantity as in sheer numbers. We can use either one of these by themselves or in combination but that danger is the lack of or over use of the subject. And I think the answer I like to use in solving this question is your imagination. I think that the more we can tap into the viewer’s imagination, the less we can have of the subject and still smack them between the eyes with the subject. The more the imagination, the more the storytelling takes over. Both photos were taken D4 / 58f1.4AFS so they are “normal” and they both have the same subject. But they both have different quantity. Which brings the subject to life? It’s for you to answer in your own photos.
We had some high, fast moving clouds and that got me to wondering. I’ve seen some marvelous images of very blurred clouds by static subjects. With the clouds I was seeing over our heads, I wanted to see if I could do the same. So we headed down the Merced to a classic view of El Capitan, I mean, can’t get more static that that big ass piece of rock! To get the shot, it’s the same basic formula as blurred water, you need a slow shutter speed so the fast moving subject blurs during the exposure. The question is, how slow and how to get there. With water, I have a pretty good idea where to start, but not a clue with clouds. You see, I’d never done it before but thought it was a good time to. Unlike water, the clouds are going to be lit by the sun, so extreme measures were required. Call in the, wait for it … Big Stopper!!! (you should be hearing that word reverberate on your computer right now).
Shooting with the D4, 18-35AFS and Big Stopper, (all on a tripod of course) started by composing the scene. This is important for besides the obvious, you need to set the focus and determine shutter speed. Once that is done, set the camera to manual focus, remember the shutter speed (aperture doesn’t change) and set camera to Bulb. Using this really cool app my bud Scott Kelby turned me on to when we were shooting at Lake Tahoe, NDTimer, you then calculate the shutter speed you need shooting through the Big Stopper. For example, it an original shutter speed of 1/13, NDTimer told me (and very accurately) I needed to use 1:18 exposure. How accurate is it, really? Within 15min, everyone else owned NDTimer and was using it. It’s that good! Unlike water, getting cool shots of blurred clouds is not really a slam dunk just because you have moving clouds. I don’t have a formula yet in my head, but with these tools, it’s pretty easy so I’ll keep playing with it until I do.
Oh man, what a week! It was simply a killer time in a gorgeous place with some down right really nice folks! Good food, laughs and photography sure does make the time fly. We had just one “moody” time in the valley so I took the group up to Glacier Point. Normally this time of year, the road is closed due to snow so regrettably while no snow, we had access. By the time we arrived at Washburn Point, the skies and light were perfect. The evening held a ton of promise for an amazing show. The clouds were wizzin by which always means great sunsets in the Sierra. When we finally arrived at Glacier Point itself and were in place, the wind and completely died and left the clouds stacked up and dark on our heads. It went from great to, OK at best but we still made the most of it. One of the best parts of the whole time was being with folks who had never experienced Yosemite or Glacier Point before. To see how big their eyes got when they looked over the edge, it was priceless! Another simple click made the the COOLPIX 7800
I had such promise. We were out shooting heavenly bodies when the first little puff of cloud floated in over edge of the valley. By the time we headed up the avenue of the giants, the scuz had settled in. When that happens (which causes the light to flatten out), I turn the lens to the trunks. I love design patterns in trunks especially in Yosemite where we have pine and cedar, naked and with lichens. All one has to do than is find the patterns that please your eye and shoot.
The shooting is pretty straight forward. Shooting with the D610 (which is doing a great job) and 80-400, I point in the general direction where I see the pattern and than with eye to the viewfinder, fine tune the pattern. What you don’t see in this photo is the yellow caution sign, happily removed in ACR. There was also a color cast from the dark, blue light, also removed via ACR. Otherwise, it’s a simple click making a little timber in the scuz. And yes, I love this type of photography!
By our best accounting, this will be my 100th trip to photograph Yosemite Valley. I’ve been there more times than that, I’m speaking of just going to make images. You can look at the first photos of Yosemite from the 1800s and than ours and Half Dome looks like the same rock. El Cap is still the biggest big ass piece of granite. So if you’re heading to a locale to the 100th time or just the second time, how do you keep your images fresh? Even more important, how do you grow your photography and come back with better images?
There are times when, you don’t even have to think about this question. All it takes is a blessings from the photo God and you have the amazing weather, the amazing light and you’re in the right place at the right time. With no other effort or mental strain, you’ve got the shot. And of course, we plan our trips, at least I do, putting the odds in our favor for this to occur. But as we all know, no matter how well we plan, there are times when you end up with bald skies and naked trees, no water and too many public. That’s when we dig down to stay fresh.
Your first option, chase the light. Often this means leaving the obvious in search of the unobvious. I head for the shadows, at Yosemite in the fall / winter, that means going to the south side of the valley or in the forests. Why? Here, stray beams of light or light bounced off those massive granite cliffs on the other side bring to life a photo otherwise not doable. Ya, you miss the grand sweep photos that scream Yosemite like this shot of El Cap as a storm breaks above, but at least you are still making great images.
At the same time, I switch up lenses. If your’e shooting wide, go long. If shooting long, go normal, force the view in the viewfinder to change to change your view. This tends to bring on more experimentation which leads to failure and failure, leads to success. For example, the clouds are thin and scattered, rather unattractive but are screaming by. Perhaps put on that Big Stopper and point the lens up to blur the clouds going by the granite walls.
This next week, we’ll be shooting in Yosemite for what we think is my 100th time in The Valley and I can’t wait! And that is probably the best answer to keeping it fresh. Having a passion for photography, for the location, knowing that it only takes that one click you can share that says you LOVE where you were and what you did is all it takes. Never settle, always push and give yourself a break with the knowledge that some times the bear gets you and some times you get the bear is what photography is all about. See with your heart, tell your story with your photograph and it will always be fresh!
Sharon & I are taking a small group of photographers to Monument Valley 10-14 March, 2014 to photographically explore a magical world. You will arrive in Flagstaff, AZ which is the airport we will be picking folks up from and taking them back to. Transportation to & from the airport as well as for the week is provided. We are staying at The View and have the best rooms reserved giving those who want to, the opportunity to do time lapse / stars trails (and we’re there to teach you how) as well as sunrises and sunsets. We have no set agenda, that’s one of the trademarks of our workshops, we chase the light but that will over the course of the workshop take us to Monument Valley at the very least. If you’ve seen any of my Kelby Training videos, Romancing the Landscape, then you know that I not only have an intimate knowledge of Monument Valley, but many who call it home are dear friends. That get’s us some amazing photo opps.
The price for instruction & transportation (once in Flagstaff) is $2095. Half is due on registration and the other half is due 30 days out. Information for reserving your room will be provided once you reserve your spot in the workshop. Lodging & food not include in the price.
What do you need for the workshop? Utmost is an adventurous spirit! We’ll be up early and out late shooting and in between, we’ll be learning, laughing and working on images. This will be the most laid back, jammed packed workshop you’ve ever been on! Computers & camera gear are highly recommended and a packet will be sent to you with specific information some time prior to the adventure. Limited to 6, now full, call 760.924.8632 / 661.204.1506 if you’re up for the adventure in the land of the setting sun!
Photographers are challenged by all they read about Depth of Field and how to apply what they’ve read. Personally, I still prefer to think of it of how I was taught it back in the dark ages, Depth of Focus. You might want to get our FREE iBook Photography FUNamentals if you’re feeling frustrated by DoF. At the moment, I want to talk about DoF and infinity. While in science, infinity has one meaning, in photography it’s much easier to visualize. All you have to do is set you lens to infinity and look through the viewfinder, you’ll see what is and what isn’t in focus. In this example, the Tetons are miles away from the camera and whether shooting with a wide angle (above here using a 18-35AFS) or long (below 80-400), closing the lens down to gain DoF is a waste of shutter speed. Infinity while mathematically has DoF, in practice, you gain nothing.
This is photography so of course, there are caveats. In both of these photos, there is nothing else between the camera and the subject that we want in focus. For example, in the top photo, if we put a person in the foreground to take their portrait, than yes, DoF matters very much. Shooting with a wide lens, DoF is pretty simple. Shooting with a long lens, DoF can be a challenge. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the subject being at infinity and the belief that shooting at f/32 is going to help with the sharpness. It will not, you can shoot at f/5.6 as these were and be good to go. You can test this for yourself and I hope you do. It might help you move down the DoF road and make it work for you. In this case, opening up the lens, having a faster shutter speed and just a tad more fun.
It was another gorgeous morning at the Tetons. We were amazingly fortunate to have killer mornings every morning with none of them being the same. This morning was in particular gorgeous as the clouds danced around the peaks and the light played pick-a-boo. The K&M gang were really into the morning and asking tons of questions which is perfect! Well, I was bouncing around from camera to camera helping and realized I was missing the shot! I’m there to help not shoot but when it’s this gorgeous, I wanted a few of the clicks myself. Then it came to me so I ran off to the van and into my camera bag and came bag with the PERFECT solution. The CamRanger which I just acquired and wrote about worked brilliantly! I could walk around and help folks and then looking at my iPhone, see when the photo looked good at my camera, click the button and capture the shot. Ya, the CamRanger activates the LiveView and than broadcasts that to your device so you can see exactly what the camera is seeing. It worked great! There is only one, small, slight issue. To fire the iPhone, you need the use of your finger and this particular morning, it was damn cold!
Note to self … next time, stay in van, let CamRanger & camera deal with the cold.
I have a real photographic fascination with Aspen Trunks. First, I don’t very often get to them in the fall when they are at their best. And I nearly get to them in the fall when they are wet. In the fall when they are wet, you have less leaves so you can see more of the trunk and when wet, the elbows where the branches have broken off with time turn black. White is the dominant color, black brings the eye to the vertical lines and then with the right hint of fall, you add in the warm tones. What you see above is what I’m looking for and like. How did I find it? I think that’s the trick. First, you’ve gotta find a grove you can shoot into. Working off a road works because the road often is the avenue into the forest. Next, overcast soft light really helps. Next, shoot with a long lens, anywhere from 200mm to 400mm (I shot this with 800mm). Lastly, focus on either the left or right edge of the grove and slowly, slowly pan to the other end. Look in the viewfinder as you pan and if there is a photo there, it will smack you right between the eyes as you pan. The mind’s eye is really good at that, when you let it tell you when all the elements come together. Finally in post, in ACR, bring the black slider down making the blacks darker. That’s all the finishing that was done. That’s how this photo was taken.
We are amazingly fortunate to be photographers! There are many things the can knock the wind out of our sails. From technology to park closers, but being photographers, story tellers, if we push past is all, than the wonders that is our wild heritage not only comes to life in our viewfinders, but in the imaginations of those who view our photographs! On our K&M Adventure that just finished in the Grand Tetons, Kevin & I had an amazing group of shooters who moved past this all and were rewarded with what can only be described as the photo gods best rewards! Use your spirit and camera to inspire and change, you can make the difference.
Or as I think of it, too lazy to walk closer, is a simple technique using long glass and its properties to extract the photo. This can be in many ways, this is just one of them. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I saw a photo long ago like this that has really stuck with me and I keep working on getting my own. The foreground and subject is the winterized Aspens which in themselves can be a very interesting subject. The background are willows that are at their peak of fall color. By using a long lens, in this case the 800mm, a very small slice of the scene is photographed. No, these are not perfect but they are the closest I’ve gotten in years of what I remember and I live them. Here’s the flip side to this, if I don’t push myself to keep looking for that “perfect” shot and fail along the way, then I don’t fail. If I don’t fail, than I won’t learn to make the better shot. In this case, I like the light, love the background color but the aspens themselves, one is too busy the other, to heavy on one side of the frame. Lesson learned, copy light, copy background color, need less branches and more character in small diameter trunks. Now, if I can only remember that combo.
It was late in the afternoon, dinner was done as we’re out heading over to where a griz was grazing. The wind was still blowing, gusts earlier that day hit 60knt on the gauge but it didn’t keep the bears or us inside. Now I was walking as I normally do with the 800, D4, Gitzo, Wimberley over my shoulder with D4, 80-400 on a Vulture strap also on my shoulder as we walked single file through the meadow. As you might know, I have the 800mm wearing a LensCoat. On this particular venture, I had the Hoodie on the 800mm covering the front element as well. all I was really pleased about because the sand was blowing bigtime! So we leave the beach and crest the small knoll and a gust of wind hits and the takes the Hoodie off the lens. I retrieve and keep on going thinking really nothing about it.
Three hours later finds us down on the other end of the beach walk back towards camp after photographing this great family group, a mom and three spring cubs. Well the wind had picked back up keeping our heads down as we walked. It was so bad the sand was sticking to the chapstick on my lips! Depending on where we were, the gust of wind would hit us with sand causing us all to protect our gear a little more than normal. Well, a huge gust of wind hit us again and this time, it took the Hoodie again. Man, can that Hoodie sail! Before we know it, it’s traveled the sixty feet to the waterline. Than another gust of wind hits it sending it out into the surf. Did you know them things float! Did you know that the part that hugs your lens barrel is a great sail? Well, I didn’t but I do now! I think that Hoodie got back to Homer across the inlet before I did. All I know if I’m Sooooo glad I have LensCoat protecting my gear. The stuff works! Oh, the bear photo above? They could care less about us or the wind or my Hoodie sailing across the inlet. It just kept on moseying on down the beach.