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Welcome to today’s post with images from Alabama Hills. I’ll get back to that place in a moment. First, I’d like to discuss the unintended consequences of blogging.
One of my earliest posts ever was of a woman and her daughter on Nicollet Mall. They were homeless. I photographed the daughter and then posted a story and images on my blog. Long story short a gal in New Jersey found my post and recognized the mother as her old high school classmate and, I believe, they reconnected because of the blog post. I’ve cried telling this story to camera clubs many times. Thank you social media!
My most recent experience is more hilarious. In an earlier post I showed a panoramic image from Zabriskie Point. Apparently I found my way into an image shot by a very famous landscape photographer that morning at Zabriskie Point. Stephen Oachs, the famous photographer who’s images “grace” the pages of National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer Magazine, went 0n a Facebook rant about how another photographer walked into “his composition.” He put forth a challenge on Facebook to locate the individual who was so rude as to walk into his photo. With the stars aligned, one person was successful in finding my blog post and posting my name and web site on Mr. Oachs’ Facebook page. Our images were shot within moments of each other. Amazing. Mr. Oachs provided his image on Facebook and I was able to zoom enough to clearly identify the individual as me. I was wearing my Dark Horse Bar hoodie and was staring dumbfound at the scene, wondering how to shoot it. A few facts worth noting – I did not walk into “his” composition. My mates and I were first on the scene well before twilight. No one else was present. Hence, Mr. Oachs composed a shot with me in it and for that I am grateful. I can now say that I’ve been photographed by a very famous photographer. Also, since Mr. Oachs made a public campaign of identifying me I believe I ‘m due some royalties. Winking emoticon here.
Now, on to Alabama Hills, CA. This area is easily one of the more interesting places I’ve photographed, but is technically just outside Death Valley National Park.
Here is a geological description of the hills from Wikipedia:
“The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west. Though this might suggest that they formed from a different orogeny, the Alabamas are the same age as the nearby Sierras. The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.
Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, towers several thousand feet above this low range, which itself is 1,500 feet (460 m) above the floor of Owens Valley. However, gravity surveys indicate that the Owens Valley is filled with about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of sediment and that the Alabamas are the tip of a very steep escarpment. This feature may have been created by many earthquakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake which, in a single event, caused a vertical displacement of 15–20 feet.
There are two main types of rock exposed at Alabama Hills. One is an orange, drab weathered metamorphosed volcanic rock that is 150-200 million years old. The other type of rock exposed here is 90 million year old granite which weathers to potato-shaped large boulders, many of which stand on end due to spheroidal weathering acting on many nearly vertical joints in the rock.”
In my images you see these rock formations as well as a star trail shot. The star trail image was shot for 32 minutes with about a half moon providing all the foreground light. It also washed the star trails a little, but I like the shot nonetheless. I hope you enjoy today’s images and stories.
Technical Details: Canon 5d MkII, Canon 16-35mm @16mm, ISO50, f/16, 2.5 seconds Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
I need to apologize. Nothing heavy, but you must be tired of seeing images from the North Shore of Lake Superior and for better or worse you’re going to get a good dose of them in the next couple of posts. I don’t even have a good story to tell. No run-ins with animals, no crazy weather, I didn’t drop any expensive electronics into the water, I didn’t risk life or limb to get a shot, didn’t get lost in the dark. A fairly mundane outing by my standards. Nonetheless, last weekend I spent 30 hours racing around some familiar haunts on the shore, mostly asking myself if I had anything new to share; anything that in one way or another might be new or fresh for all of us. I was pretty sure I didn’t until I got home. After going through the images I realized that there are so many new ways to show a tired subject and today’s is no exception.
This is the upper falls or Glen Avon, on the Beaver River. Glen Avon is not in a state park, it’s not one of the quintessential falls like Gooseberry Falls, yet its one of the most intriguing falls I’ve shot on the north shore. Some falls are a one trick pony. Not Glen Avon. I’ve posted several images from Glen Avon going back to last April, the first time I visited the area. I’ve shot there many times since and captured many fun images.
On this day I found myself doing something I often do in my photography; avoiding commitment. I was gaming the weather, the clouds and trying to optimize an outcome. I was not convinced that exciting cloud cover would be around for a shoreline sunset image, so an hour before I would be on the shore I ran up to Glen Avon to scout the water level. Finding it at its lowest since spring thaw, Glen Avon had an entirely new personality and was literally in a new light! The sun has moved quite a ways to the south, presenting the landscape very differently. I shot for 30 minutes, chatted with some strangers that wandered into the area and then packed up to head to the shore for sunset. Some days I hunker down on a spot and some days I keep my feet moving. This weekend I just keep my feet moving – to remain productive, to remain fresh, to change routine, habits, and hopefully see things a little differently.
And I promise by next January I’ll have some new images from other parts of the county! Not sure where yet, but its happening.
Technical Details: Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm, ISO100, F/14, 0.3 second exposure, 3 brackets 2stops, Singh Ray 2 stop Rev. ND, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
Welcome to today’s post. Last week I ran my Lake Superior workshop. Students were instructed on the concept of dynamic compositions and techniques used in creating them. One tool is the a strong foreground, and sky that connects with the foreground, in a way that creates a whole image. The presence of a strong horizon line and a disconnect between sky and foreground can inadvertently create two different images from one. Generally, this is not a good thing. This is a particularly challenging tool to work with in landscape photography and really stretches one’s ability to see and to use a lens that creates/aides the relationship between foreground and sky.
Dynamic compositions are created by capturing dynamic color combinations, use of leading and diagonal lines, movement of light, strong foreground/middleground/background relationships. Dynamic compositions can take your mind’s eye on a visual trip through the image. These aren’t requirements for an image to succeed, just helpful tools to work with along the way. In today’s image, I would have loved some additional dramatic twilight color in the sky, but it just never came around, so I get to go back and try again! I did enjoy the shape relationship and visual movement created by both the foreground rocks and cloud structure. For better or worse, I don’t generally shy away from tricky compositions and in this case I put on my rubber boots and risked limb and photo gear, traversing very slippery rocks, to find today’s image. Thanks to Robert Clark for the great capture.
technical details: 3 frame/2 stop Photomatix Exposure Fusion, f/10, ISO100, Canon 24mm tilt shift, Canon 1Ds MkII
This post is a rare event of commercial work I present on my blog – mostly because I don’t shoot architecture that is all that exciting to me right now. A lot of it is fairly dull and documentary, from an photographic artist’s perspective. Its still VERY IMPORTANT to the client, though, and that’s what I want to focus on today: finding a way to make the potentially dull more attractive!
For the non-photogs that visit my site, you’ll no doubt think this discussion is too technical, but perhaps you’ll appreciate the close relationship between artistic eye and technical action.
For the photogs, perhaps I can provide a tool or two for you to improve your personal vision for any image.
The Case Study: The new law firm space and a study in DYNAMIC
Situation: Developer Client wants pretty images to sell design and construction services. No particular features, just eye catching. This is a typical situation and gives me a lot of freedom to shoot how I want to – which is necessary in commercial spaces like this law firm.
Process: Walk through with client, visiting shot list, restrictions around time of operation, potential law firm client interruptions, etc. Staff considerations are big. People in shots? Who? Releases? In this case, we decided on excluding people from shots. Entry (first image) was the most architecturally interesting shot, so timing of shoot built around light in this space.
Day of Shoot: Varying cloud cover producing changing light conditions in lobby/entry. Begin shooting tests, reviewing, variety of camera positions, all the time keeping an eye on clouds and changing light conditions. Also paying attention to typical, distracting garbage that appears on a lobby desk i.e. taped up signs, calenders, staplers, etc. All this stuff needs to be addressed and managed by the photog.
Concepts: Dynamic Color – Dynamic Lines Looking for good lines and observation that interior colors are warm, colors on widows and TV cool. This gives me some dynamic color to work with…also observing dynamic lines created by furniture, patterns in ceiling tiles, etc.
Execution: HDR bracketing to manage variations in strong natural light with ambient artificial light, no polarization needed for windows. They were treated with polarization coating, giving rise to low level reflections.
Post Production: Manage hue and saturation of yellows/reds for interior and blues in window using Selective Color Adjustment layer. Specifically, my Canon tends to push blues to a very strong, saturated and unnatural hue. I pull blues back with +15 points of yellow. This makes a huge difference in reading the overall color pallet and dynamic balance of the image. I use Photomatix Exposure fusion to balance light without the harsh, surreal effects typical of the HDR engine.
Technical Details: HDR using Photomatix Exposure Fusion, Canon 1Ds Mk II, Canon 16-35mm, f/10, 10/5/30 sec exposures, ISO200, Singh Ray circular polarizer
Are these guys nuts – these people who surf Lake Superior during late fall/winter/early spring during big storms. Why do they do this? I haven’t got a clear answer to why any particular person surfs Lake Superior, but I have no doubt it may be difficult to articulate. There is a very real sense of why, just difficult to articulate.
I was recently asked to judge a photography club competition. On my drive to the club meeting to present my judging results a thought occurred to me. I realized I like judging – working with an audience, talking about photography, sharing some insights or experiences, meeting new people – but don’t like being a judge. The ranking, sorting, “this one is better than that one.” I found it odd, given my professional history, that I would be so uncomfortable with this part of the judging process. It took me a while to sort it out, but I settled on this one simple notion that we all learned as small children; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
As a photographer that has presented his images to many strangers and friends alike through this blog, I’ve had the beholder lesson reaffirmed many times over. Some responses to my work really hurt and some responses were amazingly kind and generous. All of it was true and all of it has me less concerned with WHAT (external judgment of good/bad, creative/dull) of my photography and more focused on the WHY (internal motivation and approach) of it.
Sharing our photography, like many endeavors artistic or otherwise, takes a great deal of courage. We tend to think of our photography as a reflection of the sum total of us because its a product of our energy. I see this in photographers, in musicians, in entrepreneurs and in parents. Its natural to feel this way. We put significant energy into these things and at some point we all want validation that the outcome was somehow worth the effort. We want our artistic work to be praised, our businesses to be successful and our children to be happy and secure. The EGO really needs this, but we shouldn’t boil our sense of self down to any one single event or image, or painting, or song or business. I contend that WHAT we produce says relatively little about us and WHY we produce it says relatively more about us. Just like the surfers on Lake Superior. Yes, they are surfing – the WHAT – but the motivation behind – the WHY – says more about the individual than the sheer act of courage and insanity to actually do it. The WHAT is easy to focus on – it hits our five senses – but the WHY is very difficult to observe. Each of us has to go out of our way to find the WHY.
The WHY aspect of our work was articulated by Simon Sinek in a recent TED talk. 18 minutes of your life well-spent watching this talk. Click HERE to watch video at TED.com
Which all leads us back to today’s images of my good friend John Benzik who regularly surfs Lake Superior. We here in MN had a classic early spring snowstorm this week that created some great surf on the Lake Superior. On short notice I grabbed my gear, my good friend Sam Sherf, and we all headed north to catch one remaining hour of daylight to photograph a Lake Superior surfer. Why? I think I’ve answered it for myself, but I’m curious to know your WHY with photography.