Bending The Light

Mystic-Light
Light shines through the trees at Spirit Sands National Park Canon 5D II 200mm, F5.6

Summer is a great time for working with dynamic light sources. The best in fact. This is the time I like to get out and just pick a subject and watch how it reacts as the sun moves around it in the final hour of light. It will change more during this time than any other. And after the cold grey days of Winter and Spring, I can’t wait to see this stuff again.

One thing I like to do a lot for more often, as with this shot, is use a telephoto lens to separate your subject even more. It really helps stand out the parts of the image you need to shine. It also allows you to blur out the background more if you don’t have a lens that can open up wide enough. Or you just want to look cooler when your out shooting ;P

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Ruined Dam

Dam
Abandoned hydro electric dam Sony A7 II 16mm, F8

Over the Winter I have found it very difficult to find things to shoot. Especially because everything is covered in the same white blah… This has made me examine places around me that might make for good subjects.

One place I have discovered is a great abandoned dam, that has been converted into a park!  Looking like some ruined civilization, this place looks great in the Winter as well as the Summer. With lots of photo ops. It’s amazing how much can be found right in your backyard if you look hard enough. And one thing I have to remember, is that is something is familiar to me, that doesn’t mean it will be to someone else. And having your own take on a location is worth it’s weight.

One cool thing to note about this one, is it was taking in almost complete darkness. Now the A7 II is not the best and most toted Sony camera in dark conditions. And you do get a large amount of chroma noise. Especially with a long exposure time. This one was 10 minutes long!!! It does take a little cleaning up in Ps or Lr. But when the sun goes down before you can get to a local… What are you supposed to do! Thank god for in camera levelling 😉

Printers Alley/New Orleans

Printers-3
A private place in Printers Alley Nashville Sony A7 II 15mm, F8

I have not travelled to the South of the United States as much as I should. I have realized over the last few years of visiting, just how amazing it really is.

One thing I can never get over is the heat… For a Canadian, we get about 3 weeks of the temp they deal with all the time. I don’t know how anything gets done down there. I would be napping all the time, with an Amaretto Sour in my hand.

This shot is from the Printers Alley in Nashville. A very small section of the downtown area. But packed with history. One guy was telling me that Presidents would visit here for some under the counter activity back in the day. To me it looks more like New Orleans that cowtown.

I really like architecture in HDR. It has a really unnatural/natural look to it. I know how that sounds believe me. But I don’t know how else to describe it. I find that playing with the light is much easier with street light than moonlit landscapes for some reason.

Glacier Fields

Glacier-Cloudy
Cloudy days in the mountains of Glacier National Park Canon 5D II 21mm, F8

One of the toughest things I find when going out to take photos, is weather. it can really mess with your plans something fierce! You plan and plan to be somewhere at a given time, only to find that mother nature has her own plans for you. What do you do? Go home? Well yeah sometimes… But most of the time no 😡 So you try and make the most of it only to get home and realize all your shots are grey and lifeless. This is a problem. Fortunately through the miracle of photoshop you can pull some life back out of that limp sky. And draw something new out of your photo that wouldn’t be possible during a sunny afternoon.

I like to accomplish this using just the curves adjustment tool in Ps or Lr. I can really do wonders with the contrast between the clouds that is not visible to the naked eye. It also helps as I always say, to bracket your shots. This way you can have an underexposed shot for the sky, and another one for this like the foreground, and other elements of interest.

Cathedrals of Peru

Viva-El-Peru
The cathedral at San Blas square Canon 2TI 84mm, F8

As my Winter starts coming to a close, I start thinking about all the places I need to travel to get back my sanity! Winter can be fun… for a little while. Then you start going a little crazy with the cabin fever as we call it.

This morning I was thinking about this, as I need to find more and more places to take my kids. It was great travelling with just my wife for years. But now my kids have got to the age when leaving them behind is not really an option. Plus it’s cruel! And my son would die if he knew I was on an adventure without him 🙂

I remember when I told my dad (the original world traveller, with more than 200 countries under his belt!) that we were going to Peru a few years back. And he was so worried. He made us come over and talk about our plans to stay safe, and where we were travelling. He even made us watch a slideshow!!! I know what your thinking trust me… ;(

We found out once we arrived that his fears were unfounded. This country has dramatically changed since the “Dirty 80’s”, or so they are referred to. And the people were more than welcoming. Even in the quiet backroads that we found ourselves most days. I think the most important thing about travelling to unfamiliar countries where people don’t speak your language, is just have some common sense! Don’t go down that dark alley at night, don’t go to the bar at the end of the street with no street lights. You wouldn’t do that stuff at home would you? Maybe you would I don’t know. I’m from Canada, so it’s hard to find an unfriendly person 😉

Giants Foot

Giants-Foot
A giants foot in Olympic National Forest Canon 5D II 21mm, F11

I have had many photographs over the years that I really like. Some a lot more than others. Some of them I look at and don’t understand why I can’t be in the mind frame to take shots like that all the time. My favourites are probably not the most conventional, or properly composed ones I have ever taken, but they strike a cord with me.

In the Olympic forests of Washington there are plenty of quiet places to get away and take your time composing. I think this is what makes those shots some of my favs. It’s more about the place, and how it makes you feel that produces great photos. Even if nobody likes them, or you never sell a print. Or like me, you don’t even hang them on your walls. They mean something, and over time you look at them, and are transported back to where you feel good. And isn’t that the whole point in the first place?

For this one I wanted to focus on the massive structure of these great trees. They are so old, covered in fantastic moss, even the wood is so saturated with water that it is soft. And they just goes on forever.

I treated this like I do with most of my landscape shots. It’s an HDR, with a couple of soft tricks you can do in Ps, or Lr. It is a cool little trick known as the Orton Effect. This is where you use a Gaussian blur, and push it really far, so that the image is so blurry it looks like it’s underwater. Then start pulling back the opacity till it’s around 15% or so. And you will start to see the image as it was, with this amazing glow about it. As if it were shrouded in fog or mist. Really amazing for forest shots like this.

The Watchman

The-Watchman
The Watchman stands resolute Canon 5D II 21mm, F

Standing high in the distance in a familiar site to anyone visiting the Zion national park in Utah. The Watchman mountain is to Zion, as Half Dome is to Yosemite, or even Old Faithful to Yellowstone. I had the pleasure of sleeping in the campsite beneath it, and it was amazing.

My friend and I had a few days traveling around the canyon taking photos and doing some crazy hikes. One in particular, the Angel’s Landing hike, is something I think everyone visiting the park should consider trying. It really is an endurance test. And if your totally out of shape like I am, it can be down right death defying!!!

Something I always find incredible when we talk to rangers in the parks, is the true power of nature that makes up these magical places. The river, quietly running through the park, can be turned to one of the most dangerous forces in the blink of an eye. It claims many peoples lives a year because of a hike they affectionately call “The Narrows”. Which is essentially a hike through shallow water in the gorge going up river. But if it starts to rain far off in the distance, the water can build and travel at tremendous speeds. Catching anyone in the tunnel completely unaware with very little to grab onto. The evidence of this is scattered all over the bank of the river where whole, mature trees, have been ripped right out of the ground with root still attached. Scary stuff.

I prefer to sit under the watchful eye of the Watchman, drink my Polygamy Ale, (Which is hilarious that they have this!) and watch the stars roll by.

Antelope Canyons

 

The-Tower
The towering sandstone of Antelope Canyon Canon 5D II 21mm, F11

One of the most photographed places of all time. Well, if you happened to live in North America anyway. But still a place that everyone should have the fortune to visit. It really is one of the most otherworldly sights I have ever seen.

A friend of mine and I arrived in Page Arizona the night before hoping to get a room at a hotel, or camp site, or whatever was available. No such luck. We were told that it was Summer. And if we had not reserved 3 months ago, than too bad. So we ended up camping in a camp site I can only describe as a parking lot. Parking lot that cost $20 a night! What a waste. We should have found the nearest Walmart and parked there. Wouldn’t be the first time 😉

The next morning we were told by a local coffee shop that if we didn’t head out at 8am we would miss our chance to be in the canyons by midday. Which is the best time to be there. So we slammed back some espressos and booked it to the canyons, which are about 10 minutes outside of town. Got in line with what seemed like every French tourist you could find in America, and waited.

After getting all worked up, we ended up being the first group of the day! Which was awesome because the guides were in great moods. They told us to pay the $5 Navajo passport pass, and that we would have about 45 minutes in the canyon as they guided us through. This was not going to be enough time for us…

We stuck to the back of the pack and let everyone go ahead… Far ahead. Next thing we knew there were group after group passing us, watching for tripod legs as they went. And one by one we started to pick up stragglers that caught on to what we were doing. After about 3 and a half hours we had a little group of our own. Going back and forth through the canyon, taking hundreds of shots. Teaching each other, learning from each other, and having a blast! Even our first guide came through at one point and said “You guys are still here! I’ll come back with some sleeping bags I guess…”

One note about shooting in places like this. You will want to get the clearest shots you can, so I recommend a tripod. This is one of the few, tight enclosed places that, last time I checked, you are able to bring one. Even though everyone has them, there is a certain amount of respect that comes with using it. Especially if hundreds of people are passing you. And even though you are in a small space, sometimes the focal plane goes further than you think, so I recommend a larger aperture than you are used too. I like F11, Or 16. These are usually the sweet spots on most lenses, and will give you the clearest view with the most in focus.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite-Falls
Yosemite Falls painterly look Canon 5D II 35mm, F11

Yosemite is probably the most visited park in the U.S. next to the Great Smokey Mountains. And it shows! I’m officially dubbing it the Disneyland of national parks. Complete with some of the people you find at Disney… Very strange and cool at the same time. It is California after all.

One thing I found myself doing a lot was giving people rides from one spot in the park to another. They have a bus system, but it’s not very good. And when you are driving around all day scouting good photo places, you tend to meet a lot of people. I got to talk to rock climbers, and learn all about the Dogwood flowers. I also spent a few hours taking a time-lapse shot with a guy from TSN! You never know what will happen when you go out in the wild 😉

Everyone I meet is so great when I visit the States. And they are always surprised to find out I’m from Canada. There seems to be a lot of questions when it comes to our health care, and marijuana! A lot of confusion going on there.

For this pic I tried something a little more extreme than what I normally do for HDR stuff. I see so many photos of Yosemite, that I tried to differentiate myself a little. It came off a little painterly. Which I kind of like. Not something I will do often, but when the moment strikes and all that!

Explorer of The Dark

Explorer-of-The-Dark-3
Of the beaten path in Glacier park Canon 5D II 21mm, F16

I’ve been to a lot of national parks in the U.S. and Canada, and one thing is always present. Lots and lots of people. Everywhere. So this makes is more and more important to find some out of the way places to get some really genuine photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I like getting shots of the really recognizable sites in some of these parks. But sometimes it helps to get out of the limelight and focus on something smaller. Something that will mean more to you and your visit, than standing with the crowds taking the same shot as everyone else.

So I found this great little place in Glacier national park. No path or trail, just following a stream until I found an area that opened up a bit. And definitely no people to worry about 😉

Just a quick word about some of the shots I like to take in these sorts of places. Most of the nature shots I take are HDR images, even if it doesn’t show, there’s usually a hint of it in there. HDR stands for high dynamic range. For those not familiar, it’s a great way to capture more ranges of light than would be possible with a single shot. The short version, taking multiple shots of a single scene, than blend the images. The result can be quite, illuminating… ha ha… More on that later 🙂