Landscape

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.

I'm Not An Artist

Like the title says, I'm not an artist.  

I've never considered myself to be an artist.  I've never painted anything (but I did watch Bob Ross).  I've never sketched anything.  I'm horrible with sidewalk chalk.  I've never even seen a pottery wheel.  Hell, I can't even draw a straight line with an old school, number 2 pencil.  You want to know what I consider myself?  A regular, overweight guy in his 40's from Alabama.  Well, there's nothing too special about that, you say.  You are right.  I'm just that.  

I do not delve deep into my connection with the arts to explain a photo I took, or justify why it is fabulous.  I don't include some strange quote, that the person being quoted probably doesn't even understand, with an image to help you connect to it.  I do not have any magical connection with the rock, or stream, or mountains.  I am not responsible for creating any kind of "magic" light at sunrise or sunset.  I simply put myself in a place at those times and what happens happens.  It's always great to see another one, I'll tell you that.  I am only hoping to create an image I like, and hopefully others will, too.

Despite being from an IT background, when it comes to cameras, I'm about as technical as an animal...you can pick the animal.  I think they are pretty much all on a level playing field technologically.  If you've ever heard one of my talks, or been to a class, you've probably heard words like "dumaflachy" or "do-dad".  If you got real lucky you may have even heard "dohickey".  

I first picked up a "real" camera about 10 years ago.  It was, at that point, I immersed myself in every piece of literature, every video (we still had these weird DVD things back then), every piece of online content I could find concerning photography.   I could care less about the super technicals...or the mechanicals.  I just wanted to know the basics of exposure and what creative controls I had.  I quickly learned about the exposure triangle, I learned how things like your aperture selection could help you tell a story.  I learned how shutter speed effects an image and can give it different feelings.  I also learned that there is usually more than one way to get somewhere, you just have to find the way that works the best for you.  I skipped the parts about learning how many millimeters the opening is at aperture F/8 of a certain lens (yes, I've been asked that).  I also skipped the parts about the processes of sensor production.   I simply wanted to take a nice photo and know how to repeat that process.  If you are new to this, my advice to you is do not get caught up in the technicals.  It will frustrate you, unless you are an engineer.  If you are an engineer, then dive deep into the technicals.  The point is knowing how many millimeters the opening is at F/8 on your lens is never going to help you.  Ever.

I am very grateful to photography.  It has allowed me to see and appreciate many things in this world I never knew existed.  When I was growing up, my family never went on vacation to The Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore.  Our "vacations" were to the Dairy Queen and then we continued onto Guntersville Lake.  They lasted the afternoon and then we were back home.  I never knew a world outside of the state I lived in.  Photography has allowed me to see phenomenal scenes all across this great country of ours.  It's allowed me to make some great friends, too.  Seeing these things makes me want my children to see them.  I want them to know how things outside of Huntsville, AL look and feel.

The whole point of this post was just to tell you how incredibly ordinary I am and I'll not try to be somebody that I am not.  I wanted to capture good sports shots of my son when he was growing up, so I bought a camera.  Next I learned how to operate it, which some may argue I still haven't learned.  Then I wanted to shoot waterfalls, and wildlife, and mountains, and flowers, and birds....

If this average, overweight, forty-something, donut loving, nontechnical ginger can figure this whole thing out....So.  Can.  You.  Don't be discouraged or intimidated.  Don't be afraid to take a short class, or workshop (with anyone...not just me, although that would be kinda great).

I guess I should share an image now, right?

Aperture-priority, 4 sec, f/16, ISO 100, Compensation: -1/3, 24 mm

This is an image I went back and re-processed from Portland Head Light in Portland, ME.  If you hover over the image with your mouse, you will see my camera settings, or metadata, for this shot.  I always try to include this information for a few reasons.  First, if I don't then it's the first question I get asked.  Second, was part of my initial learning process.  Many people will tell you that metadata is pointless because you would need to be in that exact same light and conditions in order for you to be able to use it and recreate the image.  I could not agree with that more, however, when I was first learning, I would look at this information and see what the shutter speed was and what effect it had on the image.  I would look at the aperture someone choose and see how it effected depth of field.  So, even though I knew I would most likely never be in those exact same conditions or light, I was still using the metadata to learn about photography.  Hopefully, my sharing this information helps you learn a little, too.

Image made with my Canon 5D III and Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (A007) Lens.  My equipment was steadied by my Sirui W-2204 waterproof, carbon fiber tripod and K-20 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.

Machine Falls

This past weekend I got the chance to meet up with a friend that was traveling from New York to Texas and show him a few waterfalls in Tennessee.

This turned out to be a much better trip than I had ever anticipated.  We've had so little rain here in the last several months I didn't really expect there to be much water anywhere.  The water level at our first waterfall, Rutledge Falls,  was OK.  It was definitely low, but it was still good.  Then we moved onto to one of my favorite falls, especially near my home, Machine Falls.  Machine Falls still had a pretty good amount of water, which made for great shooting.

I've been to and photographed Machine Falls more times than I can count.  It's always a bit of a challenge to come up with something different while I am there.  

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 6 seconds

I tried a composition I have tried in the past, only this time I was able to do it with a very wide angle lens in the Tamron 15-30.  I basically climbed right up next to this lower fall and shoved the lens right in it's face.  Then I used a circular polarizer by Vu Filters to cut all the glare off the rocks and water.

Canon 5D III, Tamron 15-30, Vu Filters, Sirui W-2204 tripod and K-20 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. 

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

One of the lighthouses along our stop up the coast from Boston to Maine was Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.  We did get to shoot this one around 9:30AM, which wasn't the best light, but not the worst either.

Pemaquid has these rocks in the foreground which make for excellent composition elements.  From the angle I shot this, there was no waves crashing onto the rocks, so I did not want to use a 10 stop ND filter here, since there really was no movement anyways.  I did use a circular polarizer, however to cut some glare off of the foreground rocks and enhance some of the colors.

Aperture Priority, F/16, 1/15th second, ISO 100

When composing This image, I simply wanted to include as much of the foreground rock as I could, so I picked a spot in the rocks that had lines that lead you into the lighthouse and jammed my lens as close to it as I could while laving the lighthouse in the upper third of the frame.  

I created this image with my Canon 5D III, Tamron 15-30mm lens and Vu Filter system.  All resting atop my Sirui W-2204 tripod.

Marshall Point Light

One of the lighthouses on our list to stop at was Marshall Point Light.  Not because it was overly beautiful or picturesque, but because it was in Forrest Gump, of course!

Marshall Point Light was in the movie Forrest Gump.  It was in the scene where Forest ran across the country.  When he ran from one ocean to another, he ended up at Marshall Point Light.

Due to our schedule we had to shoot it during the middle of the day, with not the best light.  So, I was looking for a way to present it that you don't normally see it  while trying to make the best of the light we had.

Aperture Priority, F/16, 1/125th, ISO 100, 15mm Exposure Compensation +1

Here's one of the shots I came up with.  It's from the "back" side of the walkway looking back into the sun.   I used the handrail of the walkway to diffract the sunlight in order to get the sun star.

I used my Canon 5D III and Tamron 15-30 for this shot at 15mm.  I choose F/16 as an aperture to help enhance the sun star.  Then, since I was shooting directly into the sun, I set my exposure compensation to +1.  This allowed me to get detail in the foreground and lighthouse.  If I hadn't adjusted my EC, the image out of the camera would have had very little detail in the foreground, almost a silhouette.  

Canon 5 D Mk III, Tamron 15-30, Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-30 Ballhead

 

 

Portland Head Light

When we arrived in Boston on our way to Maine, we knew one of our first stops was going to be Portland Head Light.  In fact, we shot it once at sunset, went back the next morning for sunrise and again on our way back home when it was in immense fog.  We certainly got our chances at it, but I think sunrise offered the best opportunity.

Portland Head light is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. It's also probably the most photographed lighthouse in the USA. 

Aperture Priority, F/8, 30 seconds, ISO 1250

This image was made before the sun had risen.  If you look closely you can still see several stars in the sky.  You can also see another lighthouse way off in the distance.  That is Ram Island Ledge Light, which is now a privately owned lighthouse.

I created this image using my Canon 5D III, Tamron 24-70mm Lens and Sirui W-2204 Tripod.

 

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!

The Narrows

While on the trip to Zion National Park, I took a hike with the guys from the Tamron Mobile Learning Center up into The Narrows.  If you haven't seen the video we made you can check that out on the Tamron Mobile Leanring Center Facebook page here.

Being a guy that cut his teeth in landscape photography by shooting waterfalls and flowing water, this was one of the highlights of the trip for me!  I can not wait to get back there when there are less people.  The summer months are super crowded and The Narrows were the most crowded of any of the places in the park we visited.  We literally saw thousands of people along this hike and in the river.

The Narrows is basically an area where The Virgin River flows in between these gigantic, colorful canyon walls.  Although the hike is relatively easy, most of the hike is in the river itself, which often requires renting special equipment.  The water temp was 62 degrees when we were there, but we still rented special neoprene socks and shoes to keep our feet warm and comfy.  We also rented dry bags and backpacks to carry our gear in.  In the colder months you need to rent a wet suit due to the fact that the water is much colder and typically higher.  We never got in water that was more than waist deep on our trip.

When you do what is known as the "bottom up" hike, which is the most typical one due to the fact that it doesn't require special permits like the "top down" hike does, you can only go 5 miles up river before you have to turn around.  We made it about 3 miles up the river to the area known as Wall Street before we turned around and headed back. 

Aperture Priority, F/11, ISO 100, 4 seconds

There was no way I was making this hike along the river without my tripod!  I knew I was going to be getting some slow shutter speed shots to show the water movement.

This image was made using my Canon 5D III and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I took my Sirui N-3204X and K-30X Ballhead along for stability.  This was the only gear I took...aside from a circular polarizer that I kept mounted on my lens.  I traveled as light as possible.  After cramming my tripod in that backpack we rented I didn't have room for much else anyways.