Archive for the ‘New Images’ Category

Misty Morning

Sunday, May 24th, 2015
Pines, sunbeams, and mist, Cook's Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Pines, sunbeams, and mist, Cook’s Meadow, 6:13 a.m.

Yosemite got some rain yesterday. In fact we’ve had a lot of unsettled weather this month, with frequent showers in the afternoon, especially in the high country. Tioga Pass opened May 4th, but has since closed and reopened several times due to snow. The total precipitation hasn’t amounted to much, but every bit helps, and we’ve even had enough rain here in the foothills to keep the grass from turning brown – at least in some places.

I haven’t had much time to get up to the park and photograph the weather, but after the rain yesterday it seemed likely that there would be mist in the meadows this morning, so Claudia and I rose early and drove up to Yosemite Valley. When I say early, I mean really early. Sunrise is at 5:40 a.m. these days, which meant leaving home at 4:30!

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Star Trails Over Manly Beacon

Sunday, May 10th, 2015
Manly Beacon at night with star trails, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Manly Beacon at night with star trails, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Manly Beacon is Death Valley’s most iconic feature, seen in millions of photographs from Zabriskie Point, including the image on the cover of the park map and brochure. So naturally I thought it would be fun to light it up at night.

One evening during our recent trip to Death Valley, Claudia and I, accompanied by our friend Robert Eckhardt, started down the Golden Canyon Trail from Zabriskie Point, carrying my powerful (3200 lumens), battery-powered spotlight, and radios for communication. Robert and I wanted a lower vantage point where the Beacon would poke up into the sky, and found a perfect spot. We set up our cameras and made some dusk exposures. Then after dark I hiked about half a mile further down the trail, carrying the spotlight and a radio, to a location I thought would work for the light-painting. Claudia acted as radio operator, and Robert tripped the shutters on both our cameras, while I used the spotlight to illuminate the Beacon.

We took a guess at the exposure, initially leaving the shutters open for 30 seconds at f/4, with the ISO set to 2500. According to Claudia and Robert’s radio reports, this exposure – surprisingly – turned out to be perfect. It did take several tries to get the lighting balance just right, but the problem was that the ridges underneath the Beacon weren’t getting lit from this spot. So I climbed back up the trail to a different location, closer to the cameras, which proved to be perfect for lighting those foreground ridges.

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Sand Dune and the Milky Way

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
Sand dune and the Milky Way at night, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Sand dune and the Milky Way at night, Death Valley National Park

One night during our Death Valley workshop we went out to the sand dunes. After some searching, I found this wonderful dune with it’s rippled foreground textures. Lighting it was a group project; we all set up our cameras, and took turns lighting the dune from the left and the right, trying to find the right angles to highlight those ripples. Then we set our interval timers to record star trails – and took naps on the sand while we waited for the star-trail sequences to finish. After that the Milky Way was in the right position over the dune, so before moving our cameras we made some more exposures of pinpoint stars as well.

Recording all these exposures of the same composition gave us the option of including either star trails or pinpoint stars in the final image, and having the dune lit either from the left, the right, or both. I liked the pinpoint stars better, and chose to include lighting from both sides. The final image you see here is a composite of three exposures (assembled in Photoshop using the Lighten blending mode): one for the sky, one with the dune lit from the left (colored blue), and one with the dune lit from the right.

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A Good Year for Dogwoods

Sunday, April 26th, 2015
Dogwoods and mist, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwoods and mist, Yosemite Valley, yesterday afternoon

I assumed that the dogwoods in Yosemite would have peaked and started to whither while we were down in Death Valley. But upon our return we heard reports that the dogwoods were still good. Yesterday afternoon was wet and showery, which seemed like perfect conditions for photographing dogwoods, so Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley, and found that yes, the dogwoods were still good – great, in fact.

Only one dogwood was clearly past peak, and that tree is always an early bloomer. The rest were rather mixed, with some fully leafed out, others with only small leaves, and even a couple with newly-emerging greenish blossoms. The cool and showery weather this past week apparently has helped preserve the flowers, and made this a long-lasting dogwood bloom. But what really struck me yesterday was how full they were. Many trees were just overflowing with blossoms, and we saw many strikingly-beautiful specimens.

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Nice Curves

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Peaks and curves

Peaks and curves

Claudia and I just finished a night photography workshop in Death Valley and the Trona Pinnacles with our good friend and assistant Robert Eckhardt. It was so much fun, with a great group of people in some wonderful places.

We made plenty of nighttime photographs of course, but we also got to spend two mornings in the Mesquite Flat dunes in Death Valley, once while scouting before the workshop, and the second time with the group. Both of these visits followed big wind storms the day before, and the dunes were pristine, with no footprints.

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Snow?!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015
Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, sunrise, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, sunrise, 7:02 a.m. yesterday

Some strange white stuff fell in Yosemite Valley Tuesday night.

Skies started to clear late Tuesday evening, and it looked like there was a decent chance of seeing an interesting sunrise Wednesday morning, so I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. (it hurts to even write that number), and made the drive up from Mariposa to the valley.

Before leaving home I checked the Yosemite road-and-weather phone line. It said that Highway 140 and Yosemite Valley were R2 – chains or four-wheel drive required. That usually means a substantial snowfall, so I brought my high-top snow boots in case I had to wade through six inches or more. But when I got to the valley I found only and inch or two of snow on the ground. I’m not complaining though, because that’s more than we’ve had all winter, and that’s the perfect amount to add a delicate coating to the tree branches.

But the trees would have to wait. There was mist on the valley floor, and clouds above, so the sunrise held some promise. I went to a spot near Tunnel View to wait, and shortly after sunrise the clouds started to light up. It turned into a beautiful sunrise, with, at times, three layers of fluff: high, broken clouds, ground-hugging fog, and mid-level mist wrapped around the cliffs.

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Early Dogwoods

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Dogwood along the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood along the Merced River, Yosemite, yesterday afternoon

I’ve been helping my mom recover from eye surgery and move into assisted living, so life has been hectic, and I haven’t had much time for photography. But yesterday a rare and much-needed storm came through, and there were signs of clearing in the afternoon, so I took the time to go up to Yosemite Valley.

It didn’t clear after all. In fact it rained most of the time I was there, with the rain turning to snow in heavier showers. But rumors of dogwoods blooming turned out to be true. I found one particularly full dogwood along the Merced River, and was able to photograph it during a break between rain squalls (above).

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March Light

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Late afternoon view of Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiratoin Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Late afternoon view of Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiratoin Point, Monday afternoon

It’s the time of year when both El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall get late-afternoon sunlight when seen from the west end of Yosemite Valley. In winter, El Cap get that late-day light, while Bridalveil stays in the shade. In summer it’s the opposite, with the cliffs to the right of Bridalveil Fall (like the Leaning Tower) receiving the last glow in the evening, while El Cap goes into shade earlier. But in early March (and around the end of September) the light balances well on both sides of the valley, making it a great time of year for photographs from Tunnel View and Gates of the Valley (aka Valley View).

Knowing this, I watched the weather closely on Monday. Some showers moved through, and it seemed like the last chance of seeing interesting clouds for awhile, so I decided to hike up above Tunnel View to a spot near Old Inspiration Point (I’ve described previous journeys up this trail here and here). I got there in time to catch one moment with beautiful cloud shadows. I especially like the shadow near the bottom of El Capitan (in the photo above).

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More Birds, and a Horsetail Update

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
Moon, Venus, and Ross's geese, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA

Moon, Venus, and Ross’s geese, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA

I’ve been working on a book deadline, so haven’t been able to get to Yosemite Valley and check on Horsetail Fall recently. But I did break away from the desk on Friday to go down to the Central Valley and photograph birds. At first the light was rather uninspiring, because the fog I was hoping for had lifted into a low overcast. But it turned out to be a great day. I photographed one of the biggest goose takeoffs I’ve ever seen, with perhaps 30,000 birds lifting off at once; one of the photographs below shows part of that group. Later, the sun broke through the stratus deck to create some beautiful sunbeams, and at dusk Venus and the crescent moon appeared (above).

As for Horsetail, the flow diminished quickly after the last rainstorm, and from reports I’ve heard there is basically no water in it – just a bit of dampness. There is another storm predicted for today and tomorrow. This is expected to be both colder and weaker than the last storm, with snow levels around 6,000 feet, but limited moisture. Horsetail might get some help from this system, but probably not much. Even if this storm turns out to be bigger than predicted, any precipitation in Horsetail’s drainage will fall as snow, so there won’t be a significant boost in flow until the sun comes out and melts some of that snow. It’s supposed to be sunny Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so maybe by Wednesday or Thursday we could see a decent water flow in Horsetail.

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Subject, Meet Light

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Ross's geese taking flight at sunset, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA

Ross’s geese taking flight at sunset, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA

It should come as no surprise to any photographer that the interaction between subject and light is important. In fact, I’d say that this interaction is the essence of the whole thing; it’s what photography is all about.

But which comes first? Do you look for an interesting subject, and then find the right light for it? Or do you look at the light first, and then find a subject that fits the light?

I think both approaches can work. But having said that, I almost always think about light first. What’s the light now? What might happen to the light in the next five minutes, ten minutes, hour, or two hours? I try to anticipate how the light and weather might change, decide what kind of subject(s) could work with that light, and only then decide where to go.

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