Snake River Overlook

During our visit to The Grand Tetons last week, we were hoping for some great sunrise and sunset opportunities, however, mother nature doesn't always work on your travel schedule.  We did get a at least one decent sunset and sunrise, but there were several days it was all clouds.

This is an image I made at The Snake River Overlook.  The scene from the overlook is one of my favorite scenes in the entire park.  It really doesn't have anything to do with it being famous, either...I just love that scene.

This image was taken about 30 minutes before sunrise and as the moon was setting.  There were clouds that had a lot of promise of lighting up for a gorgeous sunrise, but there were also clouds to the east that did a good job of hiding the sun.  All was not lost, though.  I really like this image with the moon.  The exposure on this was 8 seconds.  Just enough to show a little cloud movement, which is another aspect of this image I like.

Aperture-priority, 8 sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24 mm

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70 G2 Lens and Sirui 2 Stop GND Filter.  I also used my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and G-20X Ballhead for support.

Top Ten of 2017

I didn't do as much traveling in 2017 as I have done in previous years, so I had initially considered it a "down" year...until I started looking through my images and trying to pick my favorite ten.  During that process I felt like I had underappreciated 2017.  Even though I spent a lot more time closer to home than usual, I still got to see a number of amazing things, and I'm always grateful for that.

Note that I said these were my favorite images.  That doesn't mean they are technically my best.  It means these mean something more to me.  It could be the subject, the stories behind the image or the people I was with at the time that made these special to me.

Feel free to browse the self-guided slideshow above.  I'll try to explain a little about why each of these images made the list.

1. Snake River Overlook, GTNP, January 2017 - This is probably my favorite scene in GTNP, although it is very tough to pick just one.  This morning it was -30 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest weather I have ever been outside in.  There was a ton of snow in the valley and the scene was just incredible.  It was a morning I will never forget.

2. Merlin, Mobile, AL, February 2017 -  This was taken on a trip to Mobile, AL when David Akoubian and I were scouting for an upcoming bird workshop.  The sky wasn't great here, but it was the first Merlin I had ever seen, let alone photographed.  It cooperated with us for several minutes, too.  

3. Backyard Bluebird, Huntsville, AL, April, 2017 - The bluebirds are always special to me, every year.  I am no birder by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll never pass up an opportunity to photograph any bird.  It makes it easier if they live in your backyard.  I've had about 3 or 4 years in a row now that Eastern Bluebirds have nested in my yard and I am thankful for it every year.  2017 was no exception. 

4. Tree Swallow, Huntsville, AL, April, 2017 - This image is probably not very special to many people.  I was just excited that a pair of Tree Swallows decided to nest in my backyard.  I had never had that happen and I had read that is a fairly rare thing.  As soon as I saw them bringing in nesting material I grabbed the camera and headed out.  I got several shots of them bringing in straw so it was hard to pick one, but I think this was my favorite.

5. Coyote, GSMNP, May 2017 - This was the year of the coyote for me.  I got the best coyote pictures I have ever taken this year in multiple locations.  This coyote in Cades Cove was special for me.  Although I had seen many coyotes in Cades Cove before, I'd never really had a good opportunity to photograph one until this day.  It having the spring wildflowers around it was icing on the cake.

6. Double Rainbow, Mormon Row, GTNP, June 2017 - This is another one of those "I'll never forget this morning" shots.  The weather was absolute crap.  Thunder and lightning everywhere.  I looked out the hotel room and told the guys I was traveling with we were going out despite the conditions.  I wanted someplace wide open in hopes of capturing some good lightning shots over the mountains.  I picked Mormon Row.  I had no idea what we were in for.  Right at sunrise the rain stopped and the sunrise broke through creating this double rainbow.  It lasted about a minute or two and then it rained the rest of the day.  This could have been my luckiest day of the year...I probably should've bought a lottery ticket that day, too.

7. Hops Barn, Swan Valley, ID, June 2017 - Another time being out shooting in a downpour paid off.  As we were driving over to this barn, it was raining sideways.  The rain had lightened up a little by the time we had arrived, but it was still coming down steadily.  In fact, we were taking turns shooting.  We would stand underneath the rear door of the SUV with our camera ready, then one at a time, would run out grab a quick shot and run back underneath the door.  As I sat in the car looking at the images on the camera I remember thinking "These won't be horrible, you can actually see some detail in the sky."  I had no idea until I started processing how much I loved theses images.  Especially in black and white.

8. River the Bald Eagle, Teton Raptor Center, June 2017 - You might have noticed in the two previous notes that rain was in abundance while I was in the Tetons this spring.  On a whim, with the weather not cooperating, we decided to visit this place we saw advertised called The Teton Raptor Center.  We initially went over on a day that they weren't doing shows, but the people there were so friendly and inviting that we went ahead and bought our tickets then for the next show.  It turned out to be a chance to get within feet of some majestic birds.  This particular Bald Eagle was named River.  She was recovering from some wing injuries.  After all of the cool, science things they told us about the birds, they let River fly around and pose for pictures.  She did a great job.  This particular image was just after she had dipped down into a small swimming pool they had setup for her and she was just drying off.

9. Osprey, Blythe Ferry, TN, July 2017 - I had visited the Blythe Ferry area before, but never while the osprey were nesting.  I thought I had missed it again this year since I wasn't able to get up there until July.  The osprey chicks had not fledged yet, however, and the parents were trying really hard to convenience them to.  That allowed me to capture many flight shots.  This one in particular was during a quick, summer rain storm.  You don't mind standing out in these rain storms near as much in July.  The rain made for a great element in the photo, too.  Being able to get so close to such awesome birds is a real treat.  If you are close, you should certainly go when the osprey start to nest.

10. Minnehaha Falls, Lakemont, GA, October 2017 - If you;'ve followed me for any amount of time you know I love waterfall photography.  I had to include at least one of them in this list.  I've only been to Minnehaha a few times.  Although we were there before the peak fall colors arrived, the fallen leaves around the rocks did give you a bit of the feeling of fall. So did the cold water!  This was a vertical pano that I put together in an effort to keep this composition but include the entire waterfall in the scene.

That's it.  My 10 favorite from 2017.  2018 is going to be starting off with a bang and I am looking forward to getting out and creating more images.  Thanks to all of you that like, comment, share and support me and my photography.  

More from the Madison County Nature Trail

This is a follow up post from yesterday's image from The Madison County Nature Trail.  The park is a very popular place in the fall, when the colors are great.  This means it gets photographed a lot.  When I am in a situation like that, I try to look for different and unique perspectives and compositions.

Aperture-priority, 1/40 sec, f/8, ISO 640, Compensation: -2/3, 76 mm

This was taken from very close to the same spot yesterday's image was made.  I stepped a little to the right, got lower and included the foreground foliage with the bridge in the background.  I choose an aperture that would give me a depth of field that would make the foliage stand out from the background.

Image made with my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm Lens.  Gear supported by my Sirui Tripod and Ballhead.

Smoky Mountains

Last week we held our Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop.  David and I arrived on Wednesday to get a little early shooting in.  We had plans to go to Roaring Fork on Thursday morning...promptly after a sop at The Log Cabin Pancake House, of course.  When we got to Roaring Fork, we realized we were in trouble.  I was getting out of the car every few hundred feet to move limbs and branches.  One time we came across a tree that was big enough we both had to get out and move it.  Then we started seeing the trees bend in half, it seemed.  The winds were howling.  We finally came to a tree blocking the road that was too big to move, so we had to turn around and go out the wrong way.  Once we got out, we notified the park service and by the time we had gotten to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, almost everything within the park was closed due to downed trees.  Our workshop started on Friday morning.  Everything was still closed in the park until late Friday afternoon, and then the only thing opened was Cades Cove and a small portion of the road to Tremont.  We photographed at Tremont Friday evening, then spent the next day and a half in the cove.  Our group was super, though!  They all had a wonderful time, despite our limitations and, from what I've seen, they all got some amazing images!

The landscape of Cades Cove did change a bit.  There were several downed trees and limbs.  The iconic image of Sparks Lane will never be the same.  One of the trees had some massive branches that came down and virtually looks like it's half of what it used to be.

I guess because of having to deal with all of those issues (either that or as my late birthday present), mother nature rewarded us Sunday Morning with a morning full of beautiful foggy scenes.  The fog seemed to last forever and we were able to capture several different subjects in it.  One of my favorite scenes from the fog was this fence line, that I'm certain I've never noticed before.  We were parked along Sparks Lane looking for different shots, since "the shot" was not very appealing anymore, and we found this fence line off the road...and it just looked great in the fog.

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 31mm

When I composed this scene, I knew I wanted to have a solid anchor for the foreground.  I also knew I wanted to use a fence post for that.  I picked out a nice one, placed it in the scene where I wanted and let the fence line and fog do the rest.

Image made with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I stabilized my gear with a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ballhead.

Blue Hour at The Snake River Overlook

I enjoy shooting sunrises, but the time before sunrise and after sunset, known as blue hour, is another favorite time of day of mine to shoot.

On this particular morning I believe the temperature was somewhere around -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was very cold!  My camera and lens preformed flawlessly in the extreme temps.  The only issue was the cold zapping the batteries quickly.  I had plenty of spare batteries in preparation for this.  I also kept the spare batteries in my pocket, close to my body, in an effort to keep them as warm as possible.

Another exciting thing about this particular morning was the moon was setting behind the mountains about the same time the sun was rising.  We were hoping to get the moon setting with the sun hitting the mountain peaks, which we did ;) And I will share some of those at a later time.

Aperture-priority, 10 sec, f/16, ISO 100, Compensation: +1

Hover over the image to see camera settings.  Click on the image to view it larger.

This image was taken at The Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park.  It was taken about 30 minutes before the sunrise time.  The image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Lens.  The combo was resting atop my Sirui W-2204 tripod with Sirui G-20X Ballhead.

Portland Head Light Sunset

On our first day in Maine we stopped at The Portland Head Light to shoot sunset.  We ended up staying in Portland for the night and shot it again the next morning, too.  When capturing the sunset images I decided to walk to the opposite side of the lighthouse and see if there was anything interesting from there.  

I did find several small pools that had reflections of the lighthouse, which I may share later, but I also was able to get down right on the water.  This allowed me to capture the movement of the waves coming in and out in the foreground.

Aperture Priority, F/22, 1/2 second, ISO 100

It was still fairly bright, but I knew I wanted to get as long a shutter speed as I could so I set my aperture to F/22 and my ISO at 100.  This gave me a shutter speed of 1/2 second. That was just long enough to show movement in the waves that I was looking for.

I made this image with my Canon 5D III and Tamron 24-70 Lens.  I also used my Sirui W-2204 tripod with K-20 Ballhead. 

Nubble Lighthouse

I apologize for not posting more recently, I've been so busy with personal things in the last few months.  However, I did get a break from all of that chaos and made a trip to Maine this past week.

Nature In Focus conducted a workshop in Acadia National Park and we left out a few days early to get some shooting in.  We flew into Boston and drove up along the coast attempting to photograph as many lighthouses as we could.  Since we had a lot of ground to cover, sometimes we didn't get to shoot the lighthouses in the best of light...some we actually planned to be there for at sunrise or sunset, though.

One of the lighthouses on our stop was Nubble Lighthouse, sometimes called Cape Neddick Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is located on Nubble Island which is just off of Cape Neddick Point.  The lighthouse itself is not accessible by the public, but can be viewed from the mainland.  It is also one of the last remaining lighthouses in Maine to still use a  Fresnel Lens.

This was one of the lighthouses we stopped at in the middle of the day, so light was not that great.  I wanted to try to capture an image that I would still be proud of despite the fact that I was battling the not so greatest of light.  I knew I would be trying to slow my shutter speed down to get the effect of the water and waves crashing along the shore, so I threw on a 10 stop Neutral Density filter.

Manual Exposure, ISO 125, 30 Seconds @ F/16

Here's what I came up with.

 I used my Canon 5D Mk III, Tamron 24-70mm Lens and a Tiffen 10 Stop XLE Apex ND Filter.  Of course I had to use a tripod for this shot, as the filter caused me to have a shutter speed of 30 seconds.  I used my waterproof Sirui W-2204, which worked out fabulous all week for shooting along the coast!

10 Stops of Neutral Density

Recently I had been working on an article on long exposure and I had the good fortune of trying out a new 10 Stop ND filter by Tiffen, the XLE Apex filter.

This filter is unique int he fact that it has a IR blocker and Hot Mirror added.  These are added to eliminate IR pollution that you might get when shooting really long exposures with these types of filters.

Once I got the filter, I headed out with my Sony A7R, Tamron 24-70 Lens and Sirui T-2205X Series Tripod looking for interesting long exposure scenes.  It didn't take me long to fall in love with the filter.  I knew just playing with it a bit I needed to get to the coast for some daytime long exposure shots.

Luckily I had a trip to Houston already planned, so I went a day early and basically started in Galveston and worked my way up and down the coast looking for subjects.

ISO 100, 40mm, F/14 @ 25 seconds

I came across this pier.  It was actually The Galveston Fishing Pier.  I found a place to park along the roadside a few hundred yards away, walked down to the waters edge to find a giant pile of rocks.  This was a welcomed sight!  Not only did it make a great foreground anchor, but there was no beach area here, so I didn't have to wait on swimmers or people to get out of the way.  The waves were crashing over the rocks as the surf was moving pretty good that day, too.  Bonus!

I adjusted my composition to include the pier in the background and capture the rocks with the dreamy effect of the surf from the long exposure in the foreground. Without this filter, my exposure would have been a fraction of a second and the effect wouldn't be near as cool as it turned out with the 25 second exposure.

I mentioned my tripod earlier, the Sirui T-2205X.  I absolutely love this little tripod for traveling.  It is very light, folds up really small and still holds up for use for these long exposure shots.  A tripod is a must have for these types of shots, too!

ISO 100, 24mm, F/14 @ 20 seconds

This is the exact same spot only a slightly different comp.  I also choose to create both of these as black & white images.  I believe these long exposure shots tend to look better in black & white, but that's all personal preference.  I hope to be sharing more of these types of long exposure shots with you that I captured in the near future.

More from the Tamron 16-300

I posted an image a few weeks ago from the Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park that was taken with the new Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Lens.  One of the features that is super cool about this lens is is versatility.

Let me show you what I mean with a few images.

First, I was able to shoot on the wide end for landscapes. Like this one taken at T.A. Moulton's Barn on Mormon Row.  This was shot at 26mm.  

Next, as it would happen, as we were leaving the shoot from the barn, we came across this group of bison and all of these puffy, white clouds above them in the sky.  This one was shot at 28mm.

At one point during our visit, we stumbled across a bit of a "mountain bird rookery".  On one of our visits to this special bird area I had loaned my Tamron 150-600mm Lens to one of the workshop participants so I spent that morning using the 16-300.  Here's one of the woodpeckers exiting the nest.  This image was shot at 300mm.

And here's the male mountain bluebird hanging out at their nest, which is an abandoned woodpecker nest.  Again, 300mm.

Finally, I was also able to zoom in for some "telephoto landscapes" like this one at Oxbow Bend at sunset.  This was another 300mm shot.

That's it...for now.  Hopefully this shows you some of the versatility of having a lens that reaches from 16-300mm.  I ended up using this lens for much more of the trip that I thought because of that.