In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Chasing Fog

Sunset and sea stacks, Redwood NP, CA, USA

Sunset and sea stacks, Redwood NP, CA. Sometimes the sun can slide underneath a fog bank (or marine layer) just before sunset, as it did on this evening before the workshop. (The shutter speed was 2 seconds.)

Claudia and I recently returned from another trip to the redwoods, and once again we had a great time. I love this area so much; it feels like one of my spiritual homes.

One of the reasons I love this area is because it’s so foggy. In fact I sometimes half-jokingly refer to our redwoods workshop as the “chasing fog” workshop. Every morning I get up early and check the weather, trying to find out if there’s fog, and if so, where. And wherever there seems to be the best chance of finding fog, that’s where we go. Fog adds so much mood to any scene – especially redwood forests – so it’s well worth chasing.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite, May 14, 7:13 p.m. 29mm, 1/45 sec. at f/8, ISO 100, polarizer.

It’s the classic dilemma of landscape photographers: whether to stay and wait, hoping for better light, or go elsewhere.

My friend Evan Russel from The Ansel Adams Gallery and I were standing at the stone wall at Tunnel View last Monday, hoping for a rainbow to appear. Evan told me he was thinking about going to Glacier Point. I was thinking the same thing. He told me that at times like this he thought of The Clash song Should I Stay or Should I Go:

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double


Milky Way over Yosemite Valley

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley. Four frames stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge. Each frame was 30 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.

Sometime around the middle of April a small weather system passed through our area, dropping about half an inch of precipitation on Yosemite Valley. In typical fashion, the temperature dropped toward the end of the storm, and rain turned to snow in the valley.

I kept my eye on the weather, as usual, and it became obvious that this small storm wouldn’t clear before sunset. It looked like it would clear sometime during the night, but it was hard to tell exactly when. My best guess, based on the radar and satellite images, was that it would clear sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. Should I grab a couple hours of sleep first, or stay up? Or just skip the whole thing and get a good night’s sleep?


Glacier Point Sunset

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite (7:44 p.m.)

The Glacier Point Road opened early this year – on Saturday, April 28th. Then it closed again two days later due to a chance of snow. When Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday to check on the dogwoods the Glacier Point Road was still closed.

On Wednesday afternoon I finished writing a post about the dogwoods, and then decided to look at the Yosemite webcams. The forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms over the high country, and sure enough, the webcams showed some cloud buildup. I called the Yosemite road and weather number (209-372-0200), and lo and behold, the Glacier Point Road was open! At this point it was already 4:30 in the afternoon, but the sun wouldn’t set until 7:50, so there might still be enough time to get up to Glacier Point. I told Claudia the Glacier Point Road was open, and she didn’t hesitate: “Let’s go!”


Yosemite Dogwoods

Dogwood, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood, Yosemite (yesterday afternoon)

Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley yesterday to check on the dogwoods. We had heard they were a bit late this year, but were starting to come out. And indeed they seem to be coming out quickly, and are close to their photographic peak now. Some are still greenish, a few looked a bit bedraggled already, and many seem to be leafing out quickly, but overall they were quite pretty. Some trees weren’t as full as I’ve seen them in the past, but others had more blossoms than usual.

Dogwoods bloom for two to three weeks, but I think they’re most photogenic when the blossoms are fresh (like now), and before the leaves get too big (which tends to hide the flowers a bit).


The Camera in Your Pocket

Carmel Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Carmel Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Even when a church or museum allows photography (as was the case here), a smartphone camera is less obtrusive than a big SLR.

Last month Claudia and I went to Carmel to assist our good friend Robert Eckhardt’s iPhone photography workshop. Robert is a highly creative photographer, a great instructor, and knows more about iPhone photography than anyone I’ve ever met. This is the second time we’ve done this workshop, and both editions have been really fun. Everyone (including me) learned a lot, and we had a great time photographing around Carmel and processing the images right on our phones.

Participating in this workshop made me reflect on how much smartphone photography has progressed in just a few years. Smartphone cameras have gone from novelty items to highly-capable devices, and a plethora of apps allow you to do just about anything imaginable to the photographs you take on your phone. (And some things that you would never imagine until someone makes an app for it.)


New Lightroom Update Should Fix Most Problems

In my last post I cautioned about updating to Version 7.3 of Lightroom Classic CC (released in early April), as many people were experiencing problems. Yesterday Adobe released an update (v. 7.3.1) to address those issues. Here’s a link to the release notes.

From what I can gather so far, this latest update seems to be working, and people are reporting that most of the problems have been fixed. That means presets are now ordered and sorted correctly, and, for the most part, profiles are no longer being inadvertently changed when applying presets. (Profiles are still sometimes getting changed when I apply a B&W Mix preset to an image. This may not be a bug, however, but an inherent problem with the new implementation of profiles.) And most of the crashes and other performance issues people experienced should be fixed.


Caution Required with the Latest Lightroom Update

Earlier this month Adobe released an update to Lightroom Classic CC (v. 7.3). If you haven’t already installed this update I would wait, as many people are experiencing problems. It’s not unusual for a software update to have some issues, but this release has more problems than usual.

Most of the issues relate to presets, so if you never use presets you’ll probably be fine. If you use presets I would definitely wait until the next update. If you’ve already updated and are experiencing problems, it’s actually pretty easy to revert to the previous version (7.2) of Lightroom Classic.


Sand and Stars

Milky Way over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Milky Way over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley. We set up continuous, low-level lighting on the dunes, using two LED light panels, so that we’d have consistent lighting for each frame while capturing multiple-image panoramas. I gave everyone a homework assignment before the workshop to practice capturing panoramas, as you don’t want to try that for the first time in the dark in the sand dunes! Everyone did really well and managed to capture a panorama that stitched together properly. I used Lightroom’s Panorama Merge to blend three images together for this final photograph. The exposures for each frame were 20 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 3200.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had two beautiful nights in the dunes during our recent Death Valley workshop. Photographically, the dunes work really well both day and night, as the sculptural quality of the sand that works so well with low-angle sunlight also lends itself to light painting.

One night we stayed out in the dunes through the wee hours of the morning, photographing star trails, then the Milky Way, followed by the moonrise and moonlight on the dunes. And when the sky started to lighten we decided we may as well wait around for sunrise.


Sunbeams and Sunbursts

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

We just returned from another workshop in Death Valley. The wind and weather in Death Valley always present challenges, requiring flexibility to adapt to the changing conditions. But this time, just to make things more interesting, Stovepipe Wells lost power during our stay. With high temperatures around 100 we definitely felt the lack of air conditioning. And simple tasks like charging camera batteries became difficult. But California Edison trucked in two generators, so luckily the most serious problems only lasted about 12 hours.

The power outage aside, we actually had very good photo conditions. Some wind just before the workshop cleansed the sand of footprints, and we had clear skies for our first two nights in the dunes. Then some clouds moved in, followed by a big sandstorm on our last night. Typical Death Valley stuff.