Advanced Techniques

Ocean Moods

Creek and sea stack, sunrise, Oregon coast, USA

Creek and sea stack, sunrise, Oregon Coast. I used a slow shutter speed (30 seconds) to smooth the waves, which simplified the scene by eliminating texture in the water, and helped create a more ethereal quality to the image.

In one of my posts about Yellowstone last fall I talked about my attraction to dynamic landscapes. And Yellowstone is certainly dynamic, with its ever-changing array of spouting geysers and steaming vents.

But seascapes might be even more dynamic. In addition to the usual variables of landscape photography – light and weather – there’s the ocean itself. Tides, wave height, wave direction, and wind all have big effects on the way a scene looks. And no two waves are the same, so one moment will often look quite different from the next.


North Rim

Morning sunlight from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ, USA

Morning sunlight from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. I used the “thumb technique” to reduce flare in this image; see the post for more details.

On our road trip last month Claudia and I found ourselves in Kanab, Utah. We cooked breakfast at a picnic table in a small park in town, and discussed our next move. There are a lot of options from Kanab. Should we head to Zion? Detour east toward the Paria River area? Drive the Cottonwood Canyon Road?

And then I thought, we’re pretty close to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. And neither of us had ever been there. So the North Rim it was.


How to Get Everything in Focus

Sun rising over a field of lupines, Redwood NP, CA, USA

Sun rising over a field of lupines, Redwood NP, California. The focal length was 16mm, and the closest objects to the camera were the flowers at the very bottom of the frame, about two feet from the lens. I used my hyperfocal-distance shortcut to find the optimum focus distance, by doubling the distance from the closest object and focusing at four feet. Then I stopped to down to f/16 to get enough depth of field to make both the foreground and background sharp. 16mm, three bracketed exposures at f/16, ISO 100, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.

In this recent post I talked about the importance of having a solid, well-practiced field routine, so that you don’t forget important steps, and you’ll be less likely to panic when the light gets interesting.

One of the steps in my routine, focusing, deserves a little more attention, so I’m going to cover that step in more detail here.


Developing a Solid Field Routine

Sunbeams from Tunnel View, spring, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunbeams from Tunnel View, spring, Yosemite. Having a solid, well-practiced field routine helps me to calmly capture fleeting moments of light like this. 40mm, three auto-bracketed bracketed exposures at f/11, ISO 100.

Do you have a consistent field routine? Do you go through the same steps, in the same order, every time you take a photograph?

If you said no, you’re in good company. Most photographers I work with don’t have a solid, consistent field routine.

But I think having this routine is vital. Without one, you’re likely to forget important steps, like setting the right f-stop, or checking sharpness (and then kick yourself later when you realize your mistake). And when a rainbow suddenly appears over Yosemite Valley, or sunbeams break through the fog in a redwood forest, having a solid, consistent routine that you’ve practiced over and over will help you avoid panicking. You can just go through your normal routine and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that you won’t forget an important step.


Photographing the Lunar Eclipse January 20th and 21st

Photographer's Ephemeris 3d, Lunar eclipse sequence over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, January 31st, 2018, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Lunar eclipse sequence over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, January 31st, 2018, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

In case you haven’t heard, there will be a total lunar eclipse on the night of January 20th and 21st, 2019. The totally eclipsed moon will be visible in all of North and South America, most of Europe, and western Africa. This page shows where the eclipse will be visible, as well as the timing of the event.

Here in the western U.S. the eclipse will take place on Sunday evening, January 20th. The peak eclipse occurs at 9:12 p.m. on the west coast, and the moon will be high overhead to the east-southeast. In Yosemite, for example, at peak eclipse the moon will be 47 degrees above the horizon with an azimuth of 102 degrees (just south of due east). In the eastern U.S. the peak eclipse occurs at 12:12 a.m. on the 21st, and the moon will be even higher in the sky – 69 degrees above the horizon in New York City, with an azimuth of 183 degrees (almost due south).


Five Causes of Blurry Photos

Swirling dogwood blossoms, Yosemite. A deliberately blurry photos.

Swirling dogwood blossoms, Yosemite. I used a slow shutter speed (1/2 second) to deliberately blur the motion of these dogwood blossoms, but usually I’m trying to make my photos as sharp as possible.

It’s always disappointing to find out that one of your photos isn’t sharp – especially if it’s an image you like (and you weren’t trying to deliberately blur the image). Yet we all make mistakes. Even professionals like me sometimes take unintentionally blurry photos (as you’ll see below!). But after you’ve swallowed your disappointment, it’s important to figure out why the image is soft so that you don’t make the same mistake again.

There are basically five causes of blurry photos: camera movement, subject movement, missed focus, insufficient depth of field, and lens softness.