In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog
Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
Just a reminder that the special Ansel Adams Gallery print sale ends Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time, so you still have time to get 25% off two of my images: Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, and Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River (shown above). You can see all the details about the sale in this earlier post, or go directly to The Ansel Adams Gallery’s website to purchase a print.
The response to this offer so far has been wonderful; thanks so much for your support!
Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California
The Ansel Adams Gallery is sponsoring another special print sale of two of my photographs, at 25% off the normal price. The two images we selected for this offer are Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, and Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River. I’ve posted these two photographs on this blog before, of course – in fact Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River was selected by you, my readers, as one of my ten best photographs of 2018. But these two images have never been exhibited at a gallery or sold before.
My signed, matted, limited-edition 16×20 prints usually sell for $325, but during this sale you can get one for only $244. Or you can purchase a 20×24 print, normally $475, for only $356, or a 24×30 print, normally $750, for only $562. This is a rare chance to purchase one of my photographs at a reduced price, but the sale lasts just one week, until Sunday, June 23rd, at 6:00 PM Pacific time. Visit the Ansel Adams Gallery website to purchase a print or get more details.
“Twins” – sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California. 25mm, 1/8th of a second at f/16, ISO 200. See the main text for a description of how I made this image.
Many people seem to have a deep, instinctive connection with redwood forests. I’m certainly one of them. Every year Claudia and I journey to the northern California coast prior to our redwoods workshop, and one of our first stops is at a favorite redwood grove. I’ll get out of the car, step onto the trail, and enter the forest. I’ll see the huge trees soaring into the sky. My nose will catch the familiar, earthy smell of the redwoods. I’ll hear the buzzing call of a varied thrush – the soundtrack of the redwood forest. I’m home.
We photographers often talk about gear, technique, light, composition, and image processing. And all those things are important. But I don’t think you can make truly meaningful photographs unless you feel a connection with your subject. More than once I’ve looked at a person’s portfolio of landscape photographs, found them so-so, then looked at images of their children – and thought they were fantastic. It was clear that while they liked nature and landscapes, they were truly passionate about their children (as they should be!).
Redwood and rhododendron in the fog, northern California. 90mm, 1.5 seconds at f/16, ISO 400, polarizer.
When teaching composition I emphasize simplicity, because I think the single most common mistake people make is including too much in the frame. I tell students to ask themselves, before composing a photograph, what caught their eye in the first place, and then try to include only that, and nothing else. Pare the image down to its essentials.
The more specific you can get the better. In other words, if a tree caught your eye, what is it about that tree that you find interesting? It’s shape? It’s color? The juxtaposition between the tree and something else? Part of the tree rather than the whole thing? Does something about the tree convey a feeling to you? If you can identify exactly what drew you to a subject or scene you’ll know what you’re trying to say, which is the first, essential step toward effective communication.
Sea stacks, late afternoon, northern California coast
Learning photography is often a process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. As beginners we usually learn what doesn’t work from our own images, and what does work from looking at photographs and photographers we admire. And that leads to a natural tendency to try to recreate the images and styles of others.
As we spend more time behind the camera we build up our own repertoire of ideas that work – for us. And naturally, when faced with decisions about where to go, or what light to look for, or what lens to use, we gravitate toward places, compositions, lighting situations, and techniques that we’ve used successfully before.
Dogwood and golden reflections, Yosemite. A telephoto lens (116mm) helped simplify the scene by isolating one small section of branches against the water. 1/4 second at f/22, ISO 100.
Claudia and I are up in the redwood country, scouting for our upcoming workshop. I’ll post some photos from this area later, but in the meantime here are a few more dogwood images from Yosemite.
One of the biggest challenges when photographing forest scenes, including dogwoods, is simplifying and organizing all the chaos. Trunks, branches, leaves, and shrubs are scattered about, growing where there’s sunlight and suitable soil. There’s an order to all that, but it’s an organic order that doesn’t translate easily into visual order. To find compositions that make sense, you have to look for ways to simplify these scenes.
Clearing storm, spring, Yosemite, 7:27 a.m. Friday. Five auto-bracketed frames, two stops apart, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.
We’re having some unusual weather for May. Higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada received over a foot of snow on Thursday. A second storm brought more rain and upper-elevation snow last night. A third storm is forecast to arrive on Tuesday, with another storm possibly coming on Friday.
This kind of weather pattern is fairly common during California’s winter rainy season. In May, as the summer dry season approaches, it’s not unusual to see a small system come through and deliver some light rain. But a series of strong, wet, cold storms like this is practically unheard of.
Northern elephant seals near San Simeon, CA, USA
I hope all you moms are having a nice, relaxing day!
Claudia and I found ourselves near San Simeon a few weeks ago, and decided to stop and check out the elephant seals. I became captivated by the patterns made by seals on the beach, so I got out my camera and we ended up staying for over an hour. A thin overcast created soft sidelight and backlight on the seals, which was perfect for highlighting their forms and textures – patterns of seal blubber.
Dogwood and late-afternoon light along the Merced River, Yosemite
While the big wildflower blooms in southern California are now well past peak, spring keeps progressing into cooler regions, like the mountains. It’s been a good year for dogwoods, and Claudia and I have had a few opportunities to photograph them over the last couple of weeks.
Most of my dogwood photographs have been made with telephoto lenses in soft light. The scene above didn’t fit that description at all, with a close foreground that seemed to demand a wide-angle lens, and late-afternoon sunlight streaming down the river, creating lots of contrast. But the backlight looked beautiful – and besides, I’ve photographed dogwoods many times, so I was in the mood to push myself and do something different.
Wildflowers and oaks in the fog, Table Mountain. I loved the s-curve created by the foreground flowers. But a strong leading line won’t work unless it draws your eye to something interesting in the background. In this case the two distant oaks provided that background focal point – a period at the end of the sentence. (And those oaks wouldn’t have stood out so clearly without the fog.) 50mm, 1/3 of a second at f/16, ISO 100, focus-stacked.
After our trip to Antelope Valley Claudia and I hoped to photograph wildflowers again, so I kept my eye on the forecasts, looking for calm winds, and – if we got lucky – some clouds.
There was one day that looked promising, with showers in the forecast for much of California. Clouds and rain could be a great complement to wildflowers. But it looked like those showers would be accompanied by wind in all of the southern California wildflower spots. So I thought about other locations that might have less wind, and decided to go to Table Mountain, in northern California.