In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Starry Skies Adventure Workshop

Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon rising at dawn, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon rising at dawn, Mono Lake, Saturday morning

We had a wonderful time during our Starry Skies Adventure workshop last week. We managed to dodge the fires and had four clear, smoke-free nights. It was a really nice group, and photographing under a sky full of stars is always such a great experience.

One of the highlights of the workshop was viewing and photographing a dawn alignment of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon over Mono Lake last Saturday. It’s hard to convey how gorgeous this was in a photograph, but you’ll find my best attempt above.

We also photographed star trails and the Milky Way, and went to Bodie on our last night. I’ll save the Bodie images for a later post, but you’ll find a selection of other images from the workshop below.


Moody Weather at Mono Lake

Sunrise at South Tufa, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Sunrise at South Tufa, Mono Lake, Monday morning

Claudia and I have been in Lee Vining, on the eastern side of the Sierra, preparing for my Hidden Yosemite workshop. The weather over Mono Lake the last few days has been really interesting and moody, with some light showers, rainbows, and skies full of beautifully-textured clouds. In between scouting and setting up we’ve photographed a couple of sunsets and a sunrise at the lake, and I’ve included some of the images here.

The last photo might be the most unusual rainbow I’ve ever seen. Claudia, my workshop assistant Kirk Keeler, and I were walking out of the Whoa Nellie Deli after dinner last night when we spotted a rainbow. We drove quickly toward the lake, where we found a short, vivid section of the rainbow over a zigzag shoreline. The rainbow was formed by the sun poking through a small hole in the clouds and hitting a rain squall, which made it look like the rainbow was suspended in space and creating a sunbeam.

Forecasts call for similar weather over the next few days, so I’m looking forward to a great week with our group!

— Michael Frye


Where Should You Place the Horizon in Landscape Photographs?

Clouds and reflections, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

(A) Clouds and reflections, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

At Tenaya Lake last week my workshop student and I watched and photographed a spectacular, constantly-changing cloud display for over two hours. I made many images, including the one at the top of this post (you can see two more here and here). With the lake in the foreground every composition included a prominent horizon line, so I was often thinking about where to place the horizon in the frame.

It’s not always an easy decision. If you’ve ever read any books on composition you probably learned about the rule of thirds. And when applied to horizons this means you should place the horizon a third of the way from the top or bottom of the photograph. And you probably also read that you should, at all costs, avoid putting the horizon in the center of the frame.

As many of you already know, I’m not a big fan of the rule of thirds. It’s too restrictive, too limiting when applied to the infinite number of possible subjects and situations a photographer can encounter. It’s useful sometimes, but shouldn’t be taken as dogma.

I think this applies to horizons as well. Sometimes putting the horizon a third of the way from the top or bottom works. Sometimes it’s better to ignore the rule and put the horizon right in the middle, or near the top or bottom of the frame.


Under the Full Moon

Light-painted tufa towers at Mono Lake

Light-painted tufa towers at Mono Lake

My Full Moon Night Photography workshop ended just after midnight last night. We had a lot of fun. Once people learned the basics I think they realized that photographing after dark isn’t that difficult. Then their creative juices started flowing and they started light-painting tufa towers and juniper trees with abandon!

As a bonus, we saw a spectacular sunset at Mono Lake Friday evening. Here’s one of my photographs of that sunset, and a couple of images from South Tufa I made while working with students on light-painting techniques. I hope to post some of the participant’s images here also as soon as they’ve processed them.


So Long Summer

Rainbow over Mono Lake, September 7, 2006

Rainbow over Mono Lake, September 7, 2006

It’s September 1st, a milestone for photographers in the northern hemisphere. Technically it’s still summer, and in most of the United States the weather remains warm. In Yosemite the waterfalls are barely flowing, and fall color is still at least a month away.

But the the light is changing. Every day is a little shorter than the previous one. Gradually the sun is taking a lower path through the sky. Sunrises and sunsets last longer. For the next eight months the sun won’t be directly overhead anymore during the middle of the day, beaming down harsh, unflattering light on our favorite subjects. Best of all, we won’t have to get up so early for sunrise!

So although summer isn’t officially over yet, it’s days are numbered. Here’s to more interesting light in the months to come.