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

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.

Early Mornings

Bridge
Early mornings at home Sony A7 144mm, F16

I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time getting up early in the morning. I know it’s one of the best times to go shoot things. Most of my best, and unexpected pics have all been early morning. But when the time comes I just can’t seem to pull myself out of bed.

Now that Summer is approaching, the sun here in Canada starts getting up really early! Sunrise will be around 5:00am in the morning. And the next golden hour won’t be until 9:00pm! So if there was ever a training program for this sort of regiment, I want to know where to sign up…

 

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.

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 🙂

Yellowstone Lower Falls

Upper-Falls
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Canon 5D II 200mm, f8

One thing I never get enough of when travelling, is the super cool, super huge waterfalls! they are so immense and shake you with their thunderous noise.

The falls of Yellowstone are awesome. There are hundreds scattered around the park. But none as impressive as the lower Yellowstone.

This place has many different viewpoints, all easily accessible  for some great shots. I knew when going here I would end up with the same shot as most people. But it’s what you do with it after that makes it your own. I like to process most landscapes I do in HDR. And most of the time you can get some great results. Especially in the middle of the day. I really wanted to highlight the shadow areas in the canyon. Without blowing out the water from the falls. Sometimes the two ideas never make it in one photo. I’m happy I was able to do it here without much difficulty.

Side note here! This is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area. If ever going there I highly recommend camping here. It can get cold if travelling outside the high temps of Summer. But being so close to the falls is pretty amazing.

The Deep Dark Olympic Forests

The-Deep-and-The-Dark
Hanging moss in Hoh National Forest Canon 5D II 21mm, f11

Most place I like to go to, I research a little before I leave. Look at maps and really try and get a feel for the place before I go. In Olympic National Park I thought I had done this to the best of my ability. But even Google maps doesn’t represent the size of this park in it’s true form. I had planned to get to the Hoh National Forest, with enough time to set up some kind of camp, get something to eat, and explore a bit. Sure enough I ended up making way into the campground around 11 at night… So there’s that I guess. This is the benefit to travelling by yourself. Nobody is put out but you 🙂

So as rainforests go, this is the total West Coast version. Hanging vines, mist that lasts all day… rain. It has it all! Not your typical tropical stuff, but so green and lush everywhere. It’s amazing. Everywhere you look there are trees that have fallen down, and have three or four other trees sprouting from their dead bodies. It looks like something out of the Jurassic period.

The one problem here is trying to get a good shot when it never stops raining. I mean it never stopped the whole time I was there! I should have been miserable with the cold wet, but it was actually okay. I just couldn’t imagine that a place like this exists right outside of a city like Seattle. And no offence to Seattle, I love that city, but it’s dirty. Really dirty! This is like a dirty forest. Not clean cut like most, but falling over itself with death and decay, but with a sweet smell of new growth. And so full of Elk. I saw packs of thirty or so on the road the next morning. And these guys don’t move for anyone.

The Waters of Larch Mountain

Larch-Mountain-Stream
Flowing Waters of Larch Mountain Canon 5D II 21mm, F16

When I drove into the Columbia River Gorge area from Portland it was quite late at night. I could still see the immensity of the gorge even though it was so dark. Instead of taking the freeway, you still have the choice to take the historic highway that runs along the side of the steep cliffs that start the mountain range.

Along the road there are a number of pull outs that have great majestic waterfalls running down and under the road. Almost like they were put there on purpose.

I rolled up and grabbed one of the last remaining campsites near Multnomah Falls. Probably the most recognizable one of them all!

In the morning I started at the crack of dawn and hiked up the trail. I know I say it a lot, but I’m used to flat ground. This is anything but. The trail heads straight up with no place to rest really until you reach the top of the falls. And there’s always that one guy in the morning running the whole thing. Makes you feel so crappy about yourself ;(

Along the trail, which is long and very winding, there are so many other amazing waterfalls. Each with their own dynamics. Very cool to walk under a bunch of them. Not to mention the greenest place I have ever been.

My goal that day was to reach the triple falls on the way up to Larch mountain. Unfortunately some kids got there before me, presumably from the other side, and would not get off the top. So I knew I was going to have to wait to get a good pic. So I went further down the trail and found this amazing little bend in the river. It was so quiet and amazing, with fallen logs and moss growing everywhere. So I stopped and got out all my equipment and started to set things up when I heard a “Hello” come from behind a huge boulder behind me.

I guess I didn’t get up as early as I thought. Because behind me there were two couples in about their 70’s set up for a picnic! With a table cloth and everything! It was like a mad tea party in the middle of the forest. Very cool, and super strange at the same time.

So I had a little chat with them, as every time you take a picture in the middle of nowhere, people always want to know what your doing. Not my favourite thing, but in a place like that, and no rush, it can be fun. Plus they had beer 😉

 

Majestic Mountains of Glacier

Glacier-Mountains-3
The majestic mountains of Glacier National Park Canon 5D II 21mm, F11

Throughout the Glacier national park in Montana, you are treated to some of the most amazing views on the planet. The only problem with lots of mountains is the lack of sun during the morning. The great sunrises of the prairies are not what you can expect in the mountains.

What you can see more often than not is the great fog that starts to float around when the temp starts to rise. In this photo in particular I really wanted to highlight the shear volume of fog that you can see rising from the valleys. It’s amazing to me that all that moisture wouldn’t even make up one tablespoon of water!

Even though this is pretty early in the morning, and the light was very even, I still felt it would benefit from the HDR treatment. I really like to do HDR’s of landscapes because of the shadow detail that you get on the trees. They seem to have a clay model type feel I really dig.