In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Oak and Eclipsed Moon

Blue oak and eclipsed moon, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Blue oak and eclipsed moon, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 122mm, 1 second at f/11, ISO 6400.

On Sunday a total lunar eclipse was visible in many parts of the world, including our corner of California in the Sierra Nevada.

I’ve photographed many lunar eclipses before. I like capturing sequences of the moon above a landscape in various eclipse stages – if possible. But for this eclipse I couldn’t think of any nearby spot that would add a compelling foreground while looking in the right direction (southeast) for a sequence like that, plus it appeared that clouds might interrupt any attempt at capturing a long eclipse sequence.

Instead, I thought of a lone oak tree in the Sierra foothills that might lend itself to a different treatment: a telephoto view of just the tree and eclipsed moon at dusk. I had photographed this tree before, and it looked like the tree and moon would line up well. Using a long lens would make the moon look larger, plus capturing a single frame like this would require only a brief cloud-free interval to work, while a sequence would need several hours of clear skies.


Views From the Canyon

Dappled light along the Colorado River, Grand Canyon NP, AZ, USA

Dappled light along the Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park. Watching the cloud shadows move across the canyon from this spot was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Most people make their best photographs of places or subjects they’re familiar with.

In landscape photography, it helps immensely if you know an area well, and know what spots might work best under certain conditions, so you can put yourself in the right place at the right time.

I think it’s also natural and inevitable that we’re going to make our best and most meaningful images when we feel a connection with the subject or place. You can often trace a direct correlation between the depth of that connection and the depth of the imagery. And making those connections takes time.


Podcast Interview With Brenda Petrella

"Twins" - sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California, USA

“Twins” – sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California

A few weeks ago, before rafting down the Grand Canyon, I did an interview with Brenda Petrella for her Outdoor Photography Podcast. I thought Brenda asked a lot of great questions, and I really enjoyed the conversation. We talked about a wide range of topics, including light, my early photography career working at The Ansel Adams Gallery, the difference between style and vision, immersing yourself in nature, and so much more.

Brenda just released the podcast, so you can listen to it on her website, or through all the usual podcast sources like iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and so on. I hope you enjoy the interview!


Through the Grand Canyon

Ribbon of water, Colorado River, Grand Canyon NP, AZ, USA

Ribbon of water, Grand Canyon National Park,

Claudia and I just emerged from the Grand Canyon on Thursday. What an incredible journey.

This was my second raft trip down the canyon, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. Maybe even more so. As beautiful as the Grand Canyon is from the rim, the river is the beating heart of the canyon. We were deep in that heart for ten days, getting doused by the river’s (very cold) water in rapids, bathing in it, drinking it (filtered of course), and lulled to sleep at night by the roar of nearby rapids.

What made this trip even more special was the people we shared the journey with, including my amazing co-instructor, Jerry Dodrill, our wonderful guides Ed, Ellen, and Boh, and a super-nice group of photographers, who I’d now call friends for life. We couldn’t have asked for better companions.


Down the River

Dappled light, Grand Canyon NP, AZ, USA

Dappled light, Grand Canyon NP, Arizona

We are three-quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the great river shrinks to insignificance, as it dashes its angry waves against the walls and cliffs, that rise to the world above; they are but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands, or lost among the boulders. We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not.” — John Wesley Powell

Powell wrote those words to describe the challenge facing he and his eight companions as they began their epic journey through the Grand Canyon in 1869. They had already been traveling for two-and-a-half months down the Green and Colorado rivers, through territory that was almost completely unknown to Europeans at the time. They were low on food, their clothes had been worn to rags, and their boats were battered an in constant need of repair. Somehow, Powell and five of the men made it through the Grand Canyon, becoming the first to ever do so – as far as we know. (The three others decided to hike out of the canyon, and were never seen again.)

Of course the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is well known now. Every mile has been thoroughly explored and mapped. But rafting down the river is still a great adventure.


New Lightroom Course from Chrissy Donadi: Let’s Get Organized!

Let's Get Organized!

My online Lightroom courses concentrate on processing your images in the Develop Module. They’re designed to help you get the most out of your photographs, and enhance your original vision without making the images look unnatural.

But of course there are other aspects of Lightroom. The most important of these – and the part that often causes the most trouble and confusion for people – is the organizational part: importing, setting up folder structures, sorting images, finding images, and so on.

I often get asked whether I can recommend a book or course about that organizational aspect of Lightroom, and I’m happy to say that I finally can. Our friend Chrissy Donadi just launched her Lightroom course called Let’s Get Organized! It’s a thorough, comprehensive look at how to efficiently setup, organize, and maintain your photo library in Lightroom Classic. Chrissy does a great job of explaining everything clearly, with all the information you need – but not more than you need.


A Rare Storm

Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall during a clearing storm, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall during a clearing storm, Yosemite NP, California

Something rare happened last Tuesday: it rained. We’ve received very little rain here in the central Sierra since January 1st, but on Tuesday Yosemite Valley got .43 inches – not exactly a deluge, but something.

Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to find some interesting light. We did see a faint rainbow at one point, but then clouds closed in, and it rained steadily until after sunset. We drove home in a downpour (and actually our town of Mariposa got more rain than Yosemite).

The next morning I rose early and drove out to the Merced River Canyon, hoping to find fog enveloping some of the late-blooming redbuds. But the fog and mist in the canyon hovered at least a couple hundred feet above the canyon floor – above redbud level – so I kept driving up to Yosemite Valley.


Live Lightroom Q&A

Redbud and oaks, Merced River Canyon, CA, USA

Redbud and oaks, Sierra Foothills, California

Next Saturday (April 2nd) I’ll be conducting a live Lightroom Q&A webinar. This is a chance for members of our Education Center to ask me any Lightroom-related question!

You can become a member of our Education Center by purchasing one of my Lightroom courses. My latest course, Lightroom’s Masking Panel: In Depth, is only $20! Or check out my other two courses: Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide and Landscapes in Lightroom: Advanced Techniques.


Endless Dunes

Last light on sand dunes, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Last light on sand dunes, Mojave Desert, California

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I love sand dunes. Dunes make great photographic subjects, but it’s more than that. I love just being in the dunes. When walking out to the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley, there’s this moment when you move off of the surrounding salt crust and onto the sand, and suddenly it seems as if you’re in a different world – a special realm that’s magical, beautiful, and a little surreal.

Children also love sand dunes of course. What kid wouldn’t love playing in a giant sandbox? When our son Kevin was little we took him to sand dunes whenever possible – not just in Death Valley, but to the Oceano Dunes along the California Coast, to the Kelso Dunes, and to the Imperial Dunes near the border with Mexico. He loved playing the sand, and when he was old enough we took him up the highest dune in the Mesquite Flat Dunes, which was a great adventure, and big accomplishment for him.


Wind, Dust, and Light in Death Valley

Dunes in a sandstorm, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Dunes in a sandstorm, Death Valley, California. Made before our workshop from a spot overlooking the dunes. I used my longest lens here (400mm), and even then had to crop this slightly. A brief lull in the wind allowed me to use a slowish shutter speed (1/10th sec.) at 100 ISO and get a sharp photo. As you can see, some photographers did make it out to the dunes that morning. One of them is kneeling down to take a picture, which I wouldn’t recommend, as there’s a hundred times more sand blowing around at ground level than at eye level in conditions like this. 400mm, 1/10 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

Claudia and I just got back from spending another two weeks in Death Valley. This time I was teaching a workshop for Visionary Wild with my co-instructor Jerry Dodrill.

Jerry, Claudia and I scouted together before the workshop, and hung out and explored a bit afterward. Jerry is a super nice guy, and a great photographer and teacher (you can find his website here, and Instagram feed here). We really enjoyed spending time together and teaching together, and our workshop group was wonderful, which made it all even more fun.