Archive for the ‘New Images’ Category

Lunar Eclipse Over the Trona Pinnacles

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Lunar eclipse sequence, April 14th and 15th, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

Lunar eclipse sequence, April 14th and 15th, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

Monday night’s lunar eclipse didn’t seem to line up well with any of Yosemite’s features, so I started looking for other locations – preferably someplace with clear, dark skies, and an interesting foreground. Death Valley came to mind, but then I thought of the Trona Pinnacles, near Ridgecrest. I’d never been there, but it seemed like an appropriately “lunar” landscape – so much so that the pinnacles have frequently been used to represent alien landscapes in sci-fi movies, including Star Trek V and Planet of the Apes.

Claudia and I drove down there on Monday and arrived about an hour before sunset. And what a great spot! I wondered why it had taken me so long to visit this striking landscape. The pinnacles are actually ancient tufa towers, like those at Mono Lake, left high and dry by the evaporation and shrinking of Searles Lake.


Rainbow Weather

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, 5:59 p.m. yesterday

Yesterday was a wonderful day for photography in Yosemite Valley. When I arrived before sunrise I found two inches of unpredicted fresh snow, and lots of mist. I met my two workshop students and we spent the next couple of hours photographing beautiful, misty, clearing-storm scenes from several spots: Tunnel View, along the Merced River looking at El Capitan and Three Brothers, and from Swinging Bridge toward Yosemite Falls.

The snow melted quickly, and in the afternoon some small (also unpredicted) showers moved through the valley. Driving through rain I noticed the sun starting to break through, and realized that a rainbow might become visible from Tunnel View. Sure enough, when we arrived at Tunnel View we found a rainbow arching over the valley. We grabbed a couple of quick, handheld photos, but the rainbow faded quickly.

It was frustrating, especially since this was the second time I’d arrived at Tunnel View just a little too late to catch a rainbow. But I reasoned that the conditions were right, and the same thing could happen again, so we waited. Eventually another shower moved through, and a patch of blue sky teased us into thinking that a rainbow might appear, but that hole in the clouds closed up and it started sprinkling again. We finally decided to give up and go elsewhere. As we were packing our gear, I noticed that the sky looked a little lighter to the west, so we drove through the tunnel to see what things looked like on the other side. Promising, as the sun was breaking through and hitting the canyon near Cascade Fall.


A Trip Through the Central Valley

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Sunbeams and fog in a Sacramento Valley orchard, CA, USA

Sunbeams and fog in a Sacramento Valley orchard, California

The last few winters I’ve spent some time in California’s San Joaquin Valley photographing migrating birds – mostly snow geese, Ross’s geese, and sandhill cranes. Last week Claudia and I ventured further north, into the Sacramento Valley (the northern half of California’s Great Central Valley), exploring some of the backroads and wildlife refuges there.

One morning, while driving an obscure little road in the Sacramento Valley, Claudia and I stumbled upon an orchard filled with fog. As far as we could tell there was no other fog within 50 miles, because there’s very little moisture anywhere, but for some reason this one spot had fog – possibly because the trees had been watered recently, creating moisture that condensed in the cool morning air.

Seeing the sunbeams cutting through the mist underneath the trees, I grabbed my camera and tripod, and quickly framed a few compositions, one of which is shown above. Within five minutes the fog had burned off, leaving us with yet another clear, warm, dry January day.


Moonrise From Tunnel View

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Moonrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moonrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

During my Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom workshop last week for The Ansel Adams Gallery we photographed two moonrises, including this one on Tuesday from Tunnel View. The moon appeared right over Cloud’s Rest, between Half Dome and El Capitan, just before sunset – a spectacular sight. I’ve included two versions here: a black-and-white image just as the moon climbed into view (below), and a color version when the moon rose a little higher (above).


2013: Picking My Best Images

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve recovered from your New Year’s Eve celebrations. ;)

Like champagne, Times Square, and Auld Lang Syne, it’s become a New Year’s tradition on this blog to pick out my best images from the past year, and once again I’m inviting you to help make these difficult choices. I’ve posted 49 of my best photographs from 2013 below, in chronological order. After you look through these please post a comment listing your ten favorites. (Click on the images to see them larger.) Once the votes are in I’ll put the top ten on this blog, and submit the finalists to Jim Goldstein’s blog project, where he’ll be showcasing the best images of the year from over 100 photographers. The voting deadline is Friday, January 3rd, at midnight Pacific time.

As always, I reserve the right to override the votes if one of my favorites gets panned. But I have yet to exercise this power — the last three years I went with the votes because, well, we’re all better at judging other people’s photographs than our own.

Thanks for your input — I appreciate your help!

—Michael Frye



Top Posts of 2013: Composition

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

California black oaks after a snowstorm, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

California black oaks after a snowstorm, Yosemite Valley. With forest scenes, it’s important to find as much spacing and separation between tree trunks as possible.

If light is the most important element in photography, composition is just a whisker behind. They’re both essential, and can’t be completely separated: a good composition has to take lighting into account, and you can’t think about light without considering how the light complements the subject. I already highlighted my post from last January about creating depth, but I also wrote three more posts this year about composition.

I’ve seen many otherwise excellent photographs ruined by a visual merger between important elements of the composition. When Separation is a Good Thing explains how to become conscious of these mergers and avoid this problem.

In Courting Luck, Part 2: Adapting Your Composition to the Conditions, I talk about what why I think it’s more productive to keep your compositions fluid and flexible when the light is changing quickly. And What’s the Least Interesting Part of This Photograph? is an exercise to help you tighten and strengthen your compositions.

— Michael Frye


Of Geese and Shutter Speeds

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Formation of Ross's geese taking flight, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA

Formation of Ross’s geese taking flight, San Joaquin Valley, CA, USA; 1/250th sec. at f/16, ISO 800

On Wednesday Claudia and I rose early and drove down to the San Joaquin Valley. We spent most of the day photographing birds with our friends G Dan Mitchell, Patty Mitchell, David Hoffman, and Charlotte Hoffman, and had a wonderful time. The human company was great, and we found lots of my favorite bird subjects – the white Ross’s and snow geese.

While composition and light are always vital, some aspects of wildlife photography are very different from landscape photography. With wildlife the subjects are moving, placing greater importance on anticipation, timing, and the ability to make quick decisions about framing and camera settings.



Friday, December 13th, 2013

Half Dome and moon at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and moon at sunset, February 18th, 2008

There’s something magical about the moon. Putting the moon in a photograph adds a sense of mystery and timelessness, and can elevate an otherwise ordinary scene into something special. Ansel Adams confessed to being “moonstruck,” and I suppose I am too.

The moon will be full next Tuesday (at 1:28 a.m. here on the west coast), and I’m sure many photographers will be trying to capture a rising or setting moon during the coming days, so I thought I would share some ideas about photographing the full moon, and clear up some misconceptions.

Misconception #1

One misconception is that moonrise or moonset photos are taken at night. They’re not: they’re almost invariably made near sunrise or sunset. After dark the contrast between the moon and the landscape is too great, and a good exposure for the moon will make the landscape completely black, while a good exposure for the landscape will wash out the moon. Around sunrise and sunset it’s possible to balance the light between the moon and the landscape and get detail in both, yet have a dark enough sky for the moon to stand out clearly.

Misconception #2

Another misconception is that moonrise or moonset photos are made on the date when your calendar says “full moon.” This can work if the terrain is flat, or you’re at a high vantage point. But if there are mountains or ridges blocking your view of the horizon, you’re better off photographing a moonrise one to three days before the full moon, and a moonset one to three days after the full moon. While the moon won’t technically be full, it will look full enough, and be in a better position than on the actual full moon night. Here’s why:


Aspens in the Snow

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA; 1/8 sec at f/22, ISO 50

In October I fulfilled a long-time dream: to photograph autumn aspens in the snow. I posted one photograph from that snowy day here, and two more from the following morning here. But I made a lot of other images during that storm, and now finally have a chance to show you some of them.

On that snowy October day it was a challenge to keep my camera dry, keep snow and water drops off the lens, and stay warm myself. But it was a rare opportunity, and I didn’t want to wait until the snow stopped, because the falling snow itself gave the photographs an ethereal quality, almost like fog.


Let It Snow

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

In a recent post I talked about adapting your composition to the light, rather than hoping that the light adapts to your composition. Nowhere is this more true than at Tunnel View. Sometimes the classic view – with El Capitan on the left, and Cathedral Rocks on the right – works perfectly. But not always. When I made this photograph the most interesting part of the scene was a small area in the distance where the light was hitting Half Dome and the valley floor below, so I zoomed in with my 70-200mm lens, turned the camera to a vertical orientation, and filled the frame with just those two spots.

Looking at this photograph made me think about clearing storms, and snow, and Christmas coming. I hope we get lots of snow this winter, not just for the sake of photographers, but for everyone in California. We’ve had two straight years of meager precipitation here, and we really need a wet winter. So let it snow!

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Courting Luck: How to Take Advantage of Special Light and Weather in Landscape Photography; Courting Luck, Part 2: Adapting Your Composition to the Conditions; A Beautiful Week in Yosemite

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.