The Rock Factory

I'm finally home from another trip out west.  This time I got to visit areas that I had never visited before.  The trip took us to Zion National Park for a few days, then to Page, AZ and finally to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was a whirlwind of a trip with very little sleep, but they are always a ton of fun!

While out in Page, AZ we met up with a good friend, Stan Burman, who lives in the area and agreed to take us to a spot he shoots regularly that he calls "The Rock Factory".  The Rock Factory is actually part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.  It has all kinds of interesting rock formations there that are super photogenic.  We arrived there to photograph the sunset and it did not disappoint!

Aperture Priority, F/16, 1/15th, ISO 100, Exposure Compensation +1

This is an image I made just as the sun was setting over the horizon.  I wanted to capture the starburst of the sun, so I stopped my aperture down to F/16.  Then, in order to keep the foreground from being too dark, I set my exposure compensation to +1.

The sunset turned out to be one of the best I had seen in a long time.  Stay tuned for more pictures of it!

Image made with my Canon 5D III and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  All resting atop my Sirui N-3204X tripod and K-30X Ballhead.

 

Delicate Arch

One of the places on the list while we were in Moab, UT was Delicate Arch.  It is a 65 foot tall, freestanding arch and can be found in Arches National Park.  Finding it does require a 3 mile round trip hike that gains 480 ft in elevation.  It also gets very hot here, but we got a break on our hike up for sunset...it was only in the high 80's and on our way back down it rained on us, which we welcomed at the time.

Aperture Priority, 1/100th second, F/11, ISO 100, 51mm

I shot this at "sunset". I put sunset in quotes because you really can't shoot this at sunset.  A shadow starts to come in and block the arch the closer you get to the actual sunset time.  Once that shadow starts to creep in your scene, the shooting is pretty much over.  We also had to deal with an enormous amount of people here.  People were all over the place.  They were lined up in a long line to take turns to have their picture made under the arch.  Trying to snap shots around the people was the biggest challenge.  

 I made this image with my Canon 5D III and Tamron 24-70mm Lens resting atop my Sirui tripod and K-40X ballhead.

Smoky Mountain Sun Rays

While in the Smoky Mountains for our workshop we decided to go up to Clingman's Dome for sunset.  The idea was that the full moon was rising 15 minutes before sunset, so we were going to photograph both the moon rising and quickly adjust for sunset.  The weather had a different idea.  We stuck with our plans, though and waited it out at Clingman's Dome.  It's a good thing we did, too.  About thirty minutes before time for sunset, there was a small break in some clouds near the horizon that allowed these amazing sun rays to display.  They lasted for about 15 minutes or so.  There was no real sunset, but seeing these rays light up the mountain tops was a pretty decent trade off.

I shot this with my Sony A7RII, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 70-200mm Lens all resting on my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and G-20 Ballhead.  The 70-200 is my favorite lens for Clingman's Dome.  I use it to compress the scene and get that nice layering effect in the mountains.  

No real trick to processing this image, but I will tell you using the Dehaze slider in Lightroom CC helps enhance the rays a bit.

Aperture Priority, 1/60th second, F/11, ISO 100, Exposure Compensation -2

 

Bluebonnets, bluebonnets, bluebonnets

You were warned yesterday that more of these were coming. ;)

This image was made in the same field as the image I posted yesterday.  This time I focused only on bluebonnets...and it seemed they went on as far as you could see.  It is very hard to see in this image, but in the background right along the horizon on the right side is a very large field of indian paintbrush flowers.  I actually drove over to check those out, but the land owner had placed private property signs up and roped off everything at the road.  So, I headed back over to this bluebonnet field.

Tech talk...I shot this at 15mm on my Sony A7R II using the Metabones adapter and Tamron Lens.  So, basically, I set the lens to 15mm and put it right at the edge of these bluebonnets at a very low perspective.  I wanted to get low for this shot.  Not too low, though.  If I had gotten much lower than this you couldn't see that the field is full of flowers.  It would have looked more like a dozen flowers than thousands.  Since the sky wasn't very interesting at all, I knew I didn't want to include much of it.  So, using my Sirui W-2204 Tripod, I positioned my camera just a bit above the tops of these bluebonnets and angled it down to exclude much of the sky.

I shot this in aperture priority mode at F/16.  I had to raise my ISO up to 800 because it was so windy.  In order to keep the bluebonnets sharp, without blur from the wind, I raised my ISO so I could get a faster shutter speed.  Between bumping my ISO and waiting on times between wind gusts, I was able to capture a few frames where there was no blur.

I'll try to give you a break from wildflowers next time.  ;)

 

Texas Wildflower Sunset

I spent last week in Texas.  While I was there, I wanted to make sure I tried my best to find a good field of the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet.  These flowers could be found most everywhere along the roadside, especially so the farther you drive away from a city, however for the area I was in finding a really large field full of flowers proved to be a challenge.  After doing a little research, I was able to locate one field that was the best of any I found in the short time I was out there.  

The only problem was it was not too far from the main highway, so when I got there, 40 of my closet friends were there already.  Many of them there to take children's portraits in the flowers, or family portraits in the flowers...one photographer had a couple pull their truck out in the field of flowers to pose with the truck for engagement photos.  So I spent a lot of time waiting on these people to move or working around them.

Now, I think a field of bluebonnets is a pretty awesome sight, but when making a photo I like to add something in the foreground as a bit of an anchor.  It doesn't have to be anything really special.  In this case I used the only handful of Indian Paintbrush Wildflowers that were in this field.  I thought the contrast of the red flowers helped to anchor the foreground a bit and also adds a bit of a leading line to the rest of the field of blue.

It was very windy during this particular sunset, so I had to bump my ISO up to get a high enough shutter speed to "freeze" the flowers, so I bumped it up to ISO 1600.  I shot this scene in aperture priority at F/16 in order to get the nice starburst.  That yielded me a shutter speed of 1/30th.  While that isn't a "fast" shutter speed, if I waited until the wind slowed a bit, it was fast enough. 

This image was made using my Sony A7R II, Metabones lens adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  I also used my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.  I took this tripod because it is super stable and small enough to fold up in my carry on luggage.  It worked out great!

I also processed this image using Lightroom and On1 Effects.  

Warning:  More flower images coming soon.

 

 

 

The Boat Docks

I have returned home from our Apalachicola, FL Workshop and finally got a chance to look at a few images.

We photographed sunset at the boat docks in Eastpoint, FL on different occasions with different workshop groups.  This area offers several things that can be used as excellent foreground options.  Boats, piers, pilings and tools of the oyster trade can all be used as foregrounds for photos while the sunrises and sunsets provide colors for the sky and water.  It's an area that can be photographed at either sunrise or sunset and offers very different light during each time.

Here's an image I made at the boat docks at sunset on our last workshop day.  I was drawn to the pier and the fishing net someone had left there...probably just for me.  So, I kinda hung out here at this pier and waited for the colors to get just right.  The colors didn't disappoint.  I loved the colors and reflections, especially the reflection inside the half sunken boat.

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 0.6 seconds

I made this image using my Sony A7RII, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All attached to a new tripod I was trying out that I fell in love with, the Sirui W-2204. Not only did it hold the camera more stable than I could have asked, but the leg sections are sealed to make it waterproof and sand proof.  If you've ever done a shoot on the beach, you can appreciate that! 

More Yellowstone Sunset

Keeping with the theme of the last few posts...

Here's another sunset image I made in Yellowstone.  I was super excited to get these sunset images at Yellowstone.  I had this conversation with more than a handful of people that Yellowstone isn't really a "landscape" park.  Meaning, it's real tough to find a good landscape image there.  The people that had been there, totally agreed, while the folks that hadn't visited the park before couldn't figure out why I would say such a thing.  

The Yellowstone area is a lot of thick forest, which makes things a bit difficult.  The other thing about the park is if you want to include any of the geysers into your image, then you have to work on the geyser's schedule.  Many times that isn't the same as the sun's or yours.  

So, being able to get a few landscape images of sunset in Yellowstone I was super excited.  Here's one of those.

ISO 100, 35mm, F/16 @ 1/10th second

This area was one of the many pools scattered along the Upper Geyser Basin in The Old Faithful area.  I'm not even sure this pool had a name.  It should be called The "this is where I knew sunset was going to be awesome" Pool.

This image was made with my Sony A7R, LA-EA4 Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All mounted a top my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Tripod and BBH-200 Ballhead.

Morning Glory

Yesterday I told you about how I got lucky on my way to photograph The Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone and was able to capture a bonus sunset image.

Well, this is the image I was originally going after:

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 1 second

While I am happy with this image, I'll take this and another good sunset image on the same day any time I can ;)

This pool is one of my favorites in Yellowstone.  Unfortunately, it's suffering from abuse.  Visitors to the pool have thrown coins, trash and debris into the pool over the years which has blocked the vents of the pool.  When the vents to the pool are blocked the water becomes cooler than normal causing more of the brown algae to thrive and the vibrant blue and green bacteria to die off.

The park service does attempt to clean the pool from time to time in an effort to combat this.  Remember, tossing your penny in might get you a wish, but does long term damage to the pools in the park.

This image was made with my Sony A7R, Sony LA-EA4 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All of this gear was stabilized using my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Tripod and BBH-200 Ballhead.

Sometimes it IS luck

Ok, so sometimes luck plays a very important role in a photographer walking away with a fantastic image or a dud.  You, as a photographer, still need to have the skills to know how to quickly adapt.  You need to be able to quickly setup your tripod, compose properly, adjust your focus, select an aperture, shutter speed, ISO...quickly, without even really "thinking" about it.  Then you can take advantage of the lucky moments.

On my first day in Yellowstone I wrote off sunrise because I got in very later because of travel issues.  My only hope for "magic light" was at sunset.  I put a plan together and took off that evening.  I knew I was going to stay in the Upper Geyser Basin that was near Old Faithful.  I shot Old Faithful at the last eruption that would occur before the sunset.  Then I started making my way down the trail to the Morning Glory Hot Spring, which is about a 1.5 mile walk.  Well, about half way on my journey the cloud cover rolled in and I had pretty much written off any kind of sunset, but I was halfway to my destination and I might as well finish the trip.  In a very lucky moment, as I got to the bridge that crossed The Firehole River, the clouds broke up just enough, the sun dropped below the horizon and lit up all of those clouds that had rolled in and created a pretty magical sunset.  I took a few images and quickly ran to Morning Glory to capture it at sunset.  Well, it was nice, but the reflections coming off of the river with the steam from the nearby geysers made a much stronger image, so after a quick few snaps at Morning Glory, back to the bridge I went.  It seems the longer I waited, the better the color got.  Well, until it gave way to rain.  That's right, rain.  I was 2 miles from my car and it's raining.  In another lucky twist, it only rained for about 15 minutes and not very hard.  I like to think I was being rewarded for suffering a horrible travel day on the previous day. ;)

ISO 100, 35mm, F/16 @ 0.4 seconds

This image was made with my Sony A7R, LA-EA4 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All gear was mounted on my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT tripod and BBH-200 Ballhead.

Snake River Overlook

Here's another quick shot from our time out in Grand Teton National Park.  This is from the Snake River Overlook.  Yes, the same place Ansel Adams took his famous image.  You, of course, aren't able to capture the exact image as Ansel did due to 70 years of tree and vegetation growth.  

We visited this place for sunset.  We were hoping when the sun dropped behind the mountains the reflections would create the god fingers from the bottom of the mountain up.  This didn't pan out for us...there must've been some clouds on the back side of the mountains blocking the reflection.  I did manage to shoot this image with the sun burst before the sun dipped behind the mountains, though.  

This was taken with the Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro Lens.  It really is an incredible travel lens designed for crop sensor cameras.  I found myself using this lens more than I had ever anticipated on this trip!

This was shot at 18mm, F/16, ISO 100 and 1/40th second.