Lightning Trigger Season!

The Blackhills, SD captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

Get your MIOPS out, update the firmware and head towards them storms! Its summer and the thunderheads are calling us out to play. The key is watching the winds and staying so the winds are blowing the storm along the front in front of you and not driving the storm at you. You might want to use one of the many great apps available now to track the lighting strikes as a guide where you should set up. Depending on the time of day, I use either Aperture Priority or Manual exposure mode. Daylight hours are Aperture and darkness is Manual. Otherwise the MIOPS does all the heavy lifting. Have two days of big activity coming this weekend in the Bitterroots … can’t wait!

Yellowstone Starts Anew

The Yellowstone River prior to the June ’22 floods

At this point, many have heard about the floods that have scoured out the northern parts of Yellowstone Nat’l Park. While there was some real tragedy that took place, flooding is a natural event. Flooding use to be a common occurrence until man built dams in part to control flooding. In this case, the limited road system of Yellowstone took a hit in some sections prompting the closing of the park. It is now in stages of reopening with the southern loop now reopened. While this seems like a huge disaster, think of this from the perspective of the park, the trees, rocks, geysers and critters. The pandemic gave the park a chance to take a deep breath and now, with some natural house cleaning, an opportunity to renew and grow. It gets to do this without the pressure of us! Yellowstone is an amazing and gorgeous place for sure! Keep that in mind and look at the positive that the critters and the park’s infrastructure will get some sorely needed time to repair and improve!

The Power of White & Bright

Helmet Mountain, Kodiak captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8

It’s pouring raining, I mean giant Alaska raindrop rain. The wind could pick you up and set you down not so gently. It’s perfect wx to be out shooting, if, if you can find that one element the eye wants to latch on to in its journey to make sense of a scene. That’s when the power of white and bright comes into play. In a scene like you see above, the amount, percentage of total image the white inhabits is a really small percentage. Yet it’s enough to grab the eye first and then the rest of the image moves the eye around the frame taking in the storm until moving back to white & bright. Light & Bright at the top of the frame is the mind’s eye happy place but you can place it anywhere in the frame to grab the viewer’s attention. The question is, do the rest of the elements in the frame support that arrangement of elements to delight the eye and tell a story. Keep in mind that while light & bright can be an positive, it can also be a negative pulling the eye away from the subject. It’s totally up to you to control the power of white & bright!

Ice of the Ages

Portage Glacier captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8 w/Z1.4x

It’s totally abstract, not just the image but the concept that the snow and ice in the photograph could be thousands of years old. Now being exposed for the first time and the glacier melts away, time is literally being exposed to light for the first time. The patterns of how the snow was laid down, then slide around and finally carved by the winds of time so intrigued me. Shooting with the Z 9 in B&W, I went from shooting the Z24-120 to the Z70-200, back to the Z24-120 then to the Z70-200 with the Z1.4x. I couldn’t get enough of all the ice carvings glaring in the bright noon sun. It was a great hour just exploring the mountains with my camera looking for patterns the matched up with my vivid imagination. I have the feeling it’s one of those “you had to be there” kind of photos since there is no reference to place. But it was a place where I loved just staring at the ice of the ages.

And the Winds Blew!

Uganik Bay captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

The winds were howling down the Shelikof Straits and right up Uganik Bay pounding our Bear Camp. The otherwise flat water outside the cabin that were normally flat had white caps your could surf. Besides making boating up the river not possible, our long lenses would have vibrated off the tripods with the fierce winds. That’s Alaska, wind and rain is to be expected so we hunkered down by the fire and did what all photographers do in such circumstances. Had coffee, coffee cake and talked! I had the Z 9 / Z24-120 right next to me because the skies were changing every five seconds with the winds. At one point, a small break brightened a spot on the horizon so I grabbed the camera and ran out the door. Down the hill and up the beach looking out towards Shelikof Straits the view was stunning! The drama in the light was gorgeous so I went to B&W, dialed in -1/3 and shot. It was already dark, really dark but that point of light on the slope of the right peak was important to bring out. The easiest way to make something bright in a frame is making things around it darker. We were on that beach for maybe ten minutes before we had had enough beating from the wind and we ran back into the warmth of the fire. The storm kept pounding away so more coffee and yes, coffee cake disappeared as the storm range on.

The Freak Storm Magic

Yellowstone Grand Canyon captured by Z 9 / Z24-120f4

If you have the opportunity to be shooting in the Sierra or Rockies during the summer months, keep in mind the weather, especially the freak storm. You can see snow any month at those high altitudes and that opens up lots of photographic possibilities. We had that in Yellowstone recently. The trees in this photo the day before were just your basic pines on a slope. A storm blew through, a wet one which is normal for summer so the snow stuck on the trees. It coated them perfectly outlining every feature on every branch. You might think this is a B&W photo but it’s actually color. It’s this kind of subject detail that the freak storm brings out making it worth chasing. It might be cold, the driving slippery but the end results are well worth the effort!

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