As per my normal MO, I looked at the weather radar and weather forecast before heading out. Now when I saw small craft advisory and Gale Warning, I thought I’d best have my shell handy and white towel from my room along. As we drove the island, we couldn’t help but notice that the calm waters of the day before replaced with white caps. We stopped at The Reef to see the outdoor lounge chairs and tables being blown about the deck and folks scrambling to secure them. When I looked up, I couldn’t believe the speed in which I saw the lower level clouds rip past us! We didn’t stop, we just kept on going. We get to Glass Beach and I looked out to see this wall of black. I said to the gang, “Best get moving, we have minutes!” Two minutes later the rains from the gale combined with its winds hit us and I mean, hit us! Within seconds I was soaked except under my shell where I had tucked the D4 / 18-35AFS when I felt the first drop on my head. I’ve been in a lot of rains in my day, but never one like this with the wind speed rain felt like rocks. And just as fast as it hit, it was gone! In fact, it was gone so fast I found myself wanting it back to experience again. It was cool!
Had the great opportunity today to get out and play “tourist.” We woke to an Bermuda downpour of biblical proportions which, by the time we were finished breakie became a delightful day. Now Bermuda is this small island, 22miles by 1 mile but within that is packed nothing but really cool, gorgeous, quaint and spectacular land! We didn’t know it at the time, but the driver the Rosewood sent to pick us up at the airport would not only become our guide for the day, but now a good friend. Myron is this marvelous historian (and you know how I love history trivia) born and raised on Bermuda. And everyone on the island seems to know him so we are receiving the VIP treatment! Well, we started talking about the Shell Slate roofs that dominate the architecture of Bermuda and Myron wanted me to see the inside of one of the original structures using this material. Well, coming out, the light was great so I had to take his photo. This is a simple click with D4 / 18-35AFS of our new BBB (Best Bermuda Bud).
If you would have told me a short while ago that I would be “working” in Bermuda, I would have said something like my Joe McNally. “No editor is going to send this simple mtn boy to a resort island to shoot!” I get funny looks here when I greet folks with “howdy!” But yet because of that miracle box known as a camera, here Sharon & I are working this week. I’ll be honest, Bermuda wasn’t even on my radar screen and now that I’m here, I have to ask myself why wasn’t and what other incredible locations on this planet aren’t that should be? The island, it’s people, the photography and the food are all marvelous and we’re loving it!
We’re staying at the marvelous Rosewood Tucker’s Point, simple a gorgeous property! In doing some homework, I saw this photo of one of their infinity pools and I simply had to have it for myself. So I went down this morning to check it out. Well, the first thing you’ll notice between the two photos (mine and on their site) is that theirs was shot in the evening, didn’t know that until I checked it out (I got up early for nothing?) Next, the pool, pool house and in general in their photo is perfect, mine, not so much. The area is being “readied” for the “season” which starts in 10 days. The winter storms fill the beach with sand for example so they have to “carve” out the beach with loader each spring. A loader in the photo just, I don’t know, kinda ruins the reflection in the infinity pool. None the less, I got down on the deck with the D4 and 18-35AFS to make some test shots. It has nothing to do with why we’re here but I really love the shot on the site and want it for myself. So, if the photo Gods are with me, I’ll be back down to the beach infinity pool with loaders gone and gorgeous skies in place. And the whole time, I’ll be pinching myself to remind me the perks of the click!
Yeap, we photographed the base of Lower Yosemite Falls in the morning and ate dinner on Bermuda. Now the funny thing (not really but…) we went to Yosemite for a winter workshop during the driest Jan/Feb, ever, on record! And when we got the call to go to Bermuda right afterwards for a project, we thought the warmth would be nice. Dang…where’s my jacket?! It’s not that warm here right now but wow, is it gorgeous! For this simple mountain boy, this is going to be a great week in the sun!
I first visited the base of Lower Yosemite Falls in 1970 and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I can easily sit there and watch the power and listen to noise all day and never tire of it. Seriously, it just amazes me how the whole thing works! Photographically, watching the light move around the falls fascinates me. In this case, the light is bouncing off a rock face left out of frame and makes the water glow. It also brings life to the face of the cliff. It does this for a short time as the sun plays dodge with rocks, cliffs and trees. Without sitting there and watching, you could easily miss the whole show. That is probably why I just keep going back, it’s never the same twice.
John Muir called the Sierra, while in Yosemite Valley, “The Range of Light” and all it takes is to give it a moment, an open mind and heart and you can see exactly what he was talking about. With that simple phrase in mind (and he wasn’t thinking photography when he said that), B&W just seems to scream at me. This past week in Yosemite, the B&W possibilities were endless and I did my best to bring back those few that graced our path.
The top image was taken on the Merced below Mirror Lake on a gorgeous evening. Shooting with the D4 with 70-200VR2 with a polarizer attached, it was pretty much a simple click with the only real challenge was how much creek at the base to include or not. The next photo was taken from the sand bar in Lower Pool with D4 and my new favorite lens, the 18-35AFS with polarizer attached. And the bottom image was taken at sunrise from Superintendent Meadow with D4 with 70-200VR2.
The only real “trick” to getting these images is standing still and let the magic of The Valley work for you! When it comes to post, these were all finished in onOne’s Perfect 7 B&W which is all I’m using now. In every sense of the word, Muir had it right, it is the Range of Light and it does not disappoint!
I kinda pride myself on including those elements that help the story telling while eliminating those that don’t. This is all done in the viewfinder. There are times though when I see the smallest detail and I will wait to make that one detail at least in my mind, pop though in the final image, it’s the smallest detail. So it begs the question in my own mind, do small details matter? Case in point, the rainbow at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. By itself, it is so dynamic, so gorgeous and so full of life. What else can really matter in such a moment, a capture? Well to this shooter, the rock in the lower right corner. I waited and worked until that little kiss of light kissed its top. Why? Because to me, it looks exactly like Half Dome but only a fraction of the size. Now I think that, I know that I’m in Yosemite shooting Lower Yosemite Falls and Yosemite is the home of Half Done. But does any one looking at this photo know it’s “Lower Yosemite Falls” located in Yosemite and know the shape of Half Dome so well they connect all those dots? Honestly, that’s a stretch! So then why work to include some detail that in the final analyzes only you really know it’s there? I think we all SHOULD because the photo has to matter to US before it matters to anyone else! It is just possible that if you care that much about such a small detail, there might just be some bigger, more important ones that matter to you as well. If nothing else, it means you’re putting more heart than perhaps technical into your photo and that is always a good thing. You of course must answer the question for yourself and your own photography. But to me and my photography when all it said and one, small detail do matter.
“What is the subject?” When you’ve greeted the sun at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, your senses are so overwhelmed, you simply might not know that answer to that question. But as the sun starts to creep its way down the face of the wall, it all becomes very clear. The spray is hitting you in the face and coating all your gear. The breeze blows your hair and fills your smell with the sweet aroma of Cedar. And then the color hits and you can barely get out the words….”WOW!” The falls are simply spectacular!
Once you take those couple of overall, “I was here shots,” it’s time to get back to “What’s the subject?” The rainbow which appears for a short time under only the right conditions is simply so cool to watch as it dances with the mist. For the first time, many shot video this morning just to be able to take the experience back home. But when it comes to the single clicks, zooming in tight with the 70-200 and ripping the frames when you saw the highlights your wanted with the D4, the magic of the moment is forever captured. To me, it’s very rewarding to share this valley secret with the folks, even more when coated with spray, all you see are the biggest smiles! Life gets no better in photography!
Ya, back in Yosemite Valley again and you know what, the rocks are all in the same spot. And it’s still as gorgeous as ever! There is water in the falls (Upper Yosemite Falls at night pictured here) and clouds are in the forecast, it will be a great week. The challenge for me is, for some one who has been to a location hundreds of times, how to you approach it photographically to comeback with something new? The trick is there is one is two fold, follow the light and, make every click count! While the rocks are the same ones as on my first visit to the valley 45yrs ago, everything else is new which includes how my heart now responds to them. It does require not falling in the trap of shooting what I’ve shot before which means pushing because some views just don’t change. It means taking a deep breath and feeling more and lastly, remember to move the feet. The tripod has legs, so do you so move and look! Hope you’ll check back to see how I do this week as I approach my 1000 day in the Valley.
So I’m home for a few days, finally. I’ve only been home up till now since the 1st of the year, 8 days. I’ve got this really, really cool tool here, The Photo Trap that I want to use on a project I’m doing with our No Flying Squirrels. Well, to use the Photo Trap, I need to have flying squirrels. While I was gone, Sharon would check on them at night and most nights when she looked, they were there. All was good.
Three weeks ago I was heading out to the airport, heading to Grand Canyon. It was my normal departure time for the airport, 01:00. I was just going up the onramp to the highway and crossing in front of me was a adult Bobcat! I stopped and watched because in my 50yrs in Mammoth, I have never seen a Bobcat. Bears, Mtn Lions, Coyotes, you bet. Bobcat, never! So I watched, texted Sharon and then headed up the highway once it passed. While I was gone, Sharon was talking to our neighbor, a second home owner who told them they saw a Bobcat one night staring in their window at them. Sharon found it hard to believe, figured it was somebodies lost house cat. Well, since I’ve gotten back home from the Grand Canyon, the last few nights, we’ve had no squirrels. I had the Photo Trap, D4, SB-900s and other goodies ready to go, but no subjects. Time is running out, about to be on the road again for three weeks.
So I’m taking the dogs out a 23:00 for their last trip of the day. As always, I do a 360 with my maglite to check the trees for owls and the like. I come over to our tree that has all the flying squirrels to see if any appeared and what do I see perched on the branch, a Bobcat! It’s just lying there, watching the dogs and me and not doing a thing! I go to the door and yell in the house to Sharon there’s a Bobcat in tree 3!. I hurry the dogs up, get them in the house and up the stairs I go. And there the Bobcat laid, watching us watch it. It’s a juvenile, pretty small and really cute.Sharon says, “Can’t you get a picture of it?” It’s 23:00, it’s just nine feet from the door. I said I don’t think so. But I still grabbed the D4, 70-200 & SB-900 and while knowing it was a no win situation, made the click. You see the results above. We then continued to watch it for quite a while. I finally slowly open the door trying to get a shot. I take a step forward and it slowly turned and climbed the tree. That was it. The next morning in the fresh snow I went looking for tracks. On the other side of the property I found its tracks. I also found the tracks of what appears to be a bunny family, most likely the reason for it being on our property.
Last night, we were looking every five minutes to see if it returned. Just before 23:00, fresh tracks appeared going right under our deck door and heading to the tree. We never saw it last night, haven’t got a photo of it but we have the vision of that Bobcat nine feet away, looking at us looking at it forever exposed on the thin emulsion of our minds. It was a good night!
As we had been doing everyday, we were in the field and shooting to greet the sun. This morning we were in sea kayaks in a croc filled lagoon shooting. Out on the lagoon once the light had gone hard, we had a few moments to paddle around to enjoy the incredible beauty of where we were (I insist on that!). By staying in one place and simply doing a 360 turn of the kayak, I could see three, THREE species of Kingfisher! All new species for me and as a birder, this is nirvana! I simply can’t express verbally or in photographs the immense richness of Costa Rica’s wilderness! We slowly paddled in birding our way back while trying to get out of the increasing heat of the sun (I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life!). I do have to admit, having the croc there watching us as we disembarked from the kayaks was fun, some others in the party didn’t see the humor.
I had two D7100 bodies with me, one with the 28-300 and the other with the new 70-200VR3 (I really love that lens!), both on straps and both in seabags just in case a croc got me, we could save the cameras. We have priorities! With the kayaks all brought back to shore, covered to protect them from the white wash of the locals, we started to walk down the beach, back to where we parked the Rover. We were walking along and our truly amazing guide Gary (this kid really impressed me!) pointed to a pile of white, what look like deflated balloons in the disturbed bowl of sand. We were quite a distance from the surf and on the edge of the vegetation. Gary said, “This is a Black Sea Turtle nest and it looks like it just hatched last night.”
Just then Gary dropped to his knees and started digging like a dog going after a long, lost bone. The sand was flying and before we knew it he was down to his shoulder in the pit he had dug out with his hand. Then he said, “Found one!” and he pulled out a “baby” Black Sea Turtle. It had hatched and got stuck behind a root deep in the sand. Lana & Gary explained that this was pretty common which is why Gary started digging. The first, then second, third, fifth, tenth baby sea turtle was placed in our hands as Gary continued to find more and more stuck in the roots. When our hands were full, Lana said to take just a couple of steps and put the turtles on the sand. It was bright, hot in the sun and the water was a longs ways off but the baby turtles have to make the trek themselves to embed the beach in their senses so when it’s time for them to comeback and lay eggs, they can find the beach. Damn, Mother Nature is just so darn cool! How in the hell does this biology start in the first place?
That long distances in the hot sun though is not what the baby turtles are meant to do. They should have gone in the cool, protective cover of night. Knowing that the odds are that 1 out of 20 survive the first year and Gary had recovered nearly two dozen, we wanted them all to make it to the water. On this big, empty expanse of a beach, don’t think these humans making a fuse didn’t get some attention. Not from other folks as there are none on this deserted, gorgeous beach, but rather from those wanting to make a meal of the turtles. The magnificent Mangrove Black Hawks appeared out of nowhere when the first turtles were put on the sand. So in between bringing water to keep the turtles cool, we stood over them providing aerial assault protection. Now if them baby turtles would have stayed together and all gone at the same pace, things would have gone smoothly. One had a slightly injured front flipper and while it didn’t just go in circles, it didn’t make a straight line either to the water’s edge. Some went fast and some seem to be taking in all the sights and before we knew it, they were scattered about the beach. Then a scream went up as the aerial assault was launched!
With moves worthy of a Heismen Trophy winner, one of the group made a move foiling the hawk stoop on the baby turtle, ending up with with a talon of sand rather than an easy meal for its attempt. While mother nature is amazing there are times to us, it seems cruel. But that’s why so many eggs are laid, so many hatch because the odds of one turtle making it back are slim. Finally with what seemed like hours past, the turtles started to reach the water and safety. Smaller than the palm of your hand, it seems unbelievable they head out into the big expanse of the Pacific ocean without any hesitation. With our protecting duties comin to an end, I picked up the D7100 and started to shoot. The D7100 instantly grabbed focus, locked on and blasted away. I didn’t have to think about the camera, just the photograph…and protecting the baby turtles! I’d never seen such a thing in my life, doubt I will again and I was going to have at least one click of this miracle of life. To Lana and Gary from Luna Lodge, it’s just what they do because of their fulltime involvement with the environment and protecting of the rich biodiversity of Costa Rica. For our little posse though, this was a very special event, a wonder of nature none of us will ever forget!
As you might imagine, I get asked a few times, a minute, “What were you seeing when you took that photo?” This along with wondering what I was feeling are really great questions that might help one move their own photography forward. The one problem is, a lot of the time I’m not “seeing” and feeling on a level that honestly, isn’t like, screaming outloud in my head. I don’t want to say I’m going on auto pilot but I don’t want you to think I’m really thinking deeply either. So when folks as me this question, often my answer is a puzzled look on my face, like something else is about to come out. The other problem is, since I am constantly pushing my photography, the approach to going click is never the same. Hopefully, it’s getting better and more productive. So how to answer this question providing you with an answer that will help you? For the last few months, I keep bouncing this question around in my head.
One of my issues is, I don’t react the same way and approach each photographically opportunity the same way that can provide a meaningful answer. It wasn’t really that long ago, I shot like a madman, I mean astro blasting and I enjoyed it. Until I got back and had to deal with all the images, I didn’t enjoy that. That caused me to look at what I was doing in the field strictly mathematically in what I refer to “Calories in – calories out.” This basic animal instinct I applied to my photography. How much time and energy, camera clicks was I putting out to create those images that I really liked? Those images I wanted to take my precious time to finish and then share with others. With my huge push to shoot more, filing more just for the sake of filing lost its luster and doing the math, shooting like a madman wasn’t showing a huge increase in images that I finished and loved. If that was the case, was there a way to improve on the calories in – calories out results?
What you see here is a photographic answer to this question for myself. I realized that to tell someone else visually that where I had been, what I experienced and what I felt about a location really only took one photo, the photo. Ya, I would love a helluva lot more, I’m not insane but on the flip side, to feel successful for that outing, I only need that one. The problem is, getting to that one! During our Death Valley Adventure, we ventured out one afternoon to Stovepipe Wells Dunes. This gorgeous location is explored by many, you know by all the footprints in the sands. That was my first thought of what I wanted in my photograph, all the footprints to show the joy so many had exploring the tunes. But then I turned to an old theme I always love to explore, the sands of time. I love the patterns the winds creates in the sand, it seems to always suck me in. With the D4 / 24-70 I narrowed down my vision and looked for those lines and texture to make for me, at that moment, the photo. I only shot about 50 images the whole evening, but I came back with a high percentage of ones I finished (using onOne P7 B&W) and like. Now does any of this help you? I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s where my time behind the camera has brought me and who knows, it might be where yours takes you, if you know that’s a destination for going. Getting down to the photo.
Well, when that happens it tend to throw everything into chaos! Why, because taking what the mind’s eye is telling us and cramming that into the viewfinder can simply be sensory overload. When you see those magical, heart warming, soul stirring God beams the panic sets into capture them because we know, we just know how special they really are. No matter who you are or where you were raised, they stir something inside. And that’s what we want our photography to do, stir something inside. So you could say that capturing successfully God beam is an easy way to make that something stir inside. Just how so you do that, capture them God beams?
We were incredible fortunate to have many opportunities on our K&M Adventures Grand Canyon to have a whole bunch of God beam opportunities so discussing them was a hot topic. What I can pass along is what I’ve found works for me hoping it helps you. First, you gotta ask yourself, what’s the subject? It is the God beam so then you have to make sure in the viewfinder, that’s what you see. God beams often are associated with a hole in the clouds which is BRIGHTER than the beams. Since we know that the mind’s eye goes to light and bright first, if you want the viewer to see those God beams, that bright spot can’t be in the final photo. You can do that simply by not including it in the photo when you go click. You must follow through with that same thinking when you finish the photograph! How do you do that? Well, during our digital darkroom session, I demoed at least three different ways to make your finishing clicks compliment your camera clicks. I got a real kick when I showed how, with moving just two sliders in ACR, in a heartbeat I finished the photos and folks saying, “I would have never guessed you could do that!” These are simple D4 / 24-70 clicks. Photography is all about light, it is what makes the photo. It’s our job to find it, caress it, love it and then share it. You do that when you have just a droplet or when blessed with heavens of light!
Have you ever noticed how moths can find even the smallest drop of light in the night? Ever wonder how they do that (or why?)? I do especially when they are buzzing about bugging me. But I don’t really think we’re much different, other than we don’t have wings. We seem to gravitate to light just like moths, but I think at times we miss the smallest, simplest light in favor of the big, bright light. This past week in Grand Canyon, I once again thought about how much light we really need?
I’m not talking exposure here, don’t want to step on that land mind. Rather, I’m talking about in the overall scheme of our image, how much of the scene, subject, story needs to have light on it? Can we make do with the smallest possible amount and still have a successful photograph? I want to propose that ya, we can be successful with the smallest amount of area lit. Why?
With the mind’s eye going to light and bright first, does it take much to trigger this response? I think when the overall scene is dark, then no, the smallest amount will do. And when you add to that color, texture, sharpness and some other elements, how can the mind’s eye help but latch onto that spot, instantly? Then if all of is true, how much light do YOU need?
Read a good book lately, a mystery perhaps? Was the book really good because the author didn’t put everything on the table at once? You had to continue to read to get all the pieces so you could get to the light at the end of the tunnel. What if you incorporated this same communication technique in your photograph?
Rather than going and lighting everything, perhaps try adding more shadows, mystery to your photograph using just a dabble of light strategically placed. This is an example of what I’m talking about. The morning sun just peeked through a hole in the morning clouds. It was raining so the beam of light was displayed in the falling rain until it smacked into the temple and lit it up. Making the photo took no more than realizing that this was all the light the photograph needed. Anymore light and the beam would disappear and the small degree of detail lost in a sea of information. So next time you’re out shooting, be it with ambient light or flash, ask yourself as you peer through the viewfinder, “How much light do you need?”
So, have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? If you have, then what you see here probably looks familiar. Why? Because the rocks haven’t changed for a while, what we’re seeing has been around long before us and our cameras. As a matter of fact, it really begs the question, can we take a photo of the Grand Canyon that hasn’t been taken before? The answer is of course but more importantly, it’s a new photograph to us and that’s what really matters. With then in mind, the Grand Canyon is totally new but we of course want to do better than we’ve seen. This means you gotta simple put yourself in front of something interesting. That’s where light comes in!
Above is a click taken during the one hour prior sunset on our first day of our K&M Adventure – Grand Canyon. You can see the moment as you watch the Time Lapse created using the Time Lapse feature in the D800 and 24f1.4AFS. With the thousands of Grand Canyon images already in my files, just adding makes no real sense. But adding just a few that not only sum up the current visit but the magnificence that is the Grand Canyon, that makes sense. Here’s where that light thing plays such an important role. Because light is never the same, never! It’s this magical force that can turn your world upset down. The trick is to be ready for that moment. That’s why I made the Time Lapse. You can see during this hour that there are times when, the light really wasn’t special. Then you can see that moment when the D4 / 24-70AFS was the perfect tool to capture that moment of light on the down pour. WB is set to Cloudy, image underexposed and the final image, that one special capture that brings home the special moment. When somewhere where I’ve spent a lot of time, I put the challenge to myself that is pretty darn simple. Can one click tell the story?