In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Photo Critique Series: “Another Lousy Sunset” by Ken Hornbrook

"Another Lousy Sunset" by Ken Hornbrook

“Another Lousy Sunset” by Ken Hornbrook

The critique is finally here—thanks for your patience!


This week’s photograph was made by Ken Hornbrook at Bandon Beach along the Oregon coast. There’s some wonderful sunset color in the sky, plus blue and orange reflections in the water, creating great color contrasts throughout much of the frame. Any photographer standing at this beach that evening would be excited about the possibilities. But what do you do with that light, that color?


Ken found a great camera position to take advantage of the colorful sunset and interesting shapes of the rocks. It looks like he moved into a small cove or gap between cliffs or sea stacks. This created a nice window, with dark shapes on the sides framing the view of the stacks beyond. The curving, colorful V-shape of the water in the foreground leads our eyes smoothly from bottom to top. It even has a bit of an S-curve. I’ve pointed out problems with foregrounds in previous critiques, but I think this one really works, and adds a lot to the photograph.


First Look: The Evocative Image by Andrew S. Gibson

The Evocative ImageCraft & Vision has just released their latest eBook: The Evocative Image by Andrew S. Gibson. It just came out today, so I haven’t had a chance to read all of it, but I really like what I’ve seen so far.

The subtitle for this new volume is “A Photographer’s Guide to Capturing Mood.” If you’ve attended one of my workshops, read my Digital Landscape Photography book, or looked at some of my critiques, you know that I place a lot of importance on mood in photographs. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Andrew’s previous eBooks on black-and-white photography, so I was anxious to read what he had to say about mood. So far, I’ve seen lots of interesting ideas, like this:

“One idea I’ve been exploring is that good photography (and moody images) is created on the ‘edges.’ Sunset and sunrise are edges—the border between night and day. Low light (many moody photos are taken in low light) is the edge between light and dark. The beach—one of my favourite places—is the edge between land and sea. A clearing storm is at the edge of rain and sun.

“There are edges in technique too. Try shooting at a shutter speed that is just a little too slow to get a sharp image. You’re at the edge between sharpness and blur, and exciting things can happen here.

“Wherever I look, more edges reveal themselves, and it’s at these edges that moody photographs happen.”

Nicely said. I hadn’t thought about “edges” in that way, but I certainly will now.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book, but I wanted to let you know about it as soon as possible, since for the first five days, until midnight February 28th, you can get this volume for only 4 dollars. Just use the code “EVOCATIVE4” on checkout. Or buy five Craft & Vision titles, including my December release, Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, and get 20 percent off by using the code EVOCATIVE20. Here’s a link to the Craft & Vision site, where you can see excerpts from The Evocative Image, as well as all their eBooks.

I’ll be posting a critique tomorrow. Here’s a sneak peak at the photograph I’ll be reviewing, by Ken Hornbrook. I thought it might be fun to let you look at it now, think about the light, composition, and technique, and form your own opinions before reading what I have to say tomorrow. Until then…

Happy Birthday Ansel!

Ansel Adams at 100, from Outdoor Photographer magazine, February 2002Ansel Adams was born on February 20th, 1902—109 years ago today. For his 100th birthday, in 2002, Outdoor Photographer magazine asked me to interview four photographers who had been influenced by him—William Neill, John Sexton, Galen Rowell, and Chris Rainier—as well as write about his influence on my own work. It was an interesting assignment, and I certainly felt honored to be included in the company of these outstanding photographers.

Bill Neill is an old friend, and I’d met John, Galen, and Chris before, but the assignment was a great excuse to ask them questions. All the interviews were conducted over the phone except Galen’s, which I did in person at his office in Bishop. Without exception they were gracious, open, and generous with their time. In short, it was a lot of fun—although editing the interviews down to 500 word segments later was a lot of work!

Sadly, Galen died in a plane crash soon afterward, in August 2002, so that interview was the last time I saw him. And I never got to meet Ansel: I began working at The Ansel Adams Gallery in 1985, shortly after Ansel passed away in the spring of 1984. But I almost feel as if I knew him because I’ve heard so many stories and read so much of his writing.

I think the article highlights the tremendous impact Ansel had on the way all of us photograph today. Here’s a link to a PDF version of the article, titled Ansel Adams at 100. Hope you enjoy it—and Happy Birthday Ansel!

Did you ever meet Ansel Adams? Has your photography been influenced by him? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Horsetail Fall, Snow, and Other Yosemite Events

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 11thLast Friday I was in Yosemite Valley being interviewed by Steve Bumgardner for a segment of his Yosemite Nature Notes video series. After the interview I decided to head over to the Southside Drive viewpoint for Horsetail Fall. Skies were clear to the west, so the waterfall got that last orange light, but as you can see from this photo there wasn’t a lot of water. It’s a decent flow for this ephemeral fall, better than in some years, but a little below average. Compare the accompanying photo to this one from 2010, or another from 2009. Of course none of these approach the tremendous volume of water in my image from February 1995.

Despite the less-than-spectacular flow, clear skies last weekend allowed many people to capture some nice Horsetail Fall images. You can find links to a few of those photos in the comments of my last post about Horsetail from February 8th.

Meanwhile, a snowstorm deposited about six inches of snow on the valley floor yesterday. Another larger storm is predicted to bring snow tonight through Saturday. We may get a break Sunday or Monday, so Horsetail photos might still be possible again this year. The cold weather has diminished the flow in Horsetail even further, but one warm, sunny day could revive it.

But hey, Horsetail, schmorsetail—we’ve got snow! And clouds, and the chance for clearing storm photos when the next system departs. After six weeks of rather bland skies, it’s nice to see some interesting weather. We could have some great photo opportunities in Yosemite over the next week.

I’ve had a busy workshop schedule, plus a last-minute writing assignment, so I haven’t been able to devote time to the next photo critique, but I should be able to post that next week. I think it will be an interesting one, so stay tuned!

Natural Beauty in Motion—Two New Videos

On Wednesday Claudia and I returned to the San Joaquin Valley with our friend Kirk. We had another great day, capped by watching more than 10,000 Ross’ geese land in a pond right in front of us, silhouetted against the dusk sky. Claudia and I came back the next morning and watched them all fly out, the white birds reflected in the still water.

Video is a great medium for showing the incredible sights and sounds of these birds, and Claudia did an amazing job of capturing these events with our little Flip Mino video camera. At the end of each video you’ll also see some stills that I made.