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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Wildlife at Home

Bison
Bison in the Fall Canon 7D 400mm, F5.6

One thing I like to do every once in a while, is go shoot some wildlife. I never go in search of it. So when I do come across some animals, I feel like it’s something special. And I usually go through a whole card trying to get the perfect shot 🙂

There are a few places around me, or within a drive, that I know I can see something. And when I am in the parks of Canada and the U.S. I am sure to see some here and there.

This is when you want to know your camera very well! If you are like me, you have your camera set up to take landscapes most of the time. But when something stagers into your shot, you should be ready to switch to high speed mode 😉 I do this by switching from manual mode ( which I am in 90 percent of the time ) to aperture priority. I find this to be the best because you always want to be in control of your aperture for focal depth. But this will control your speed for you. I set an aperture, usually pretty wide like F4. Or if my lens will allow, 2.8. Then I adjust the iso as I go, and make sure I keep my speed up. Because, as like children, animals rarely sit still. So you need to have a fast shutter speed to get a good sharp photo. And keep your distance… did I mention that? That should be rule number 1 😮

Sunset #2

Sunset-2
Sunsets at the beach Canon 5D II 15mm, F16

Winter is almost over, and I can start thinking about going outside again. Winter here in Canada can be pretty rough. And long! But when it comes to Summer we have it made. This is a fantastic time to get out and shoot. For nature people like myself, it’s particularly amazing. Sunrise starts around 5 in the morning, and doesn’t go down until around 10 at night. So making the most of the days is paramount.

This is one of my favourite places to shoot in the Summer. And sunsets always make great shots 🙂

This is a really wide shot from up on a boulder. I love how the forced perspective gives an even grander sense of scale. The other thing I tried to focus on here is the colour. I love colour in my photos. Rarely do I process in Black and White. Not to knock it, I just really appreciate the warmth it can bring. Makes things pop a little more.

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…

 

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.

Karst Mountains of Guilin

Guilin-Rivermen
Guilin river men weave through the mountains Canon powershot S5 is 12.6mm, F8

A few years back, at the start of my photographic journey, we took an incredible trip to China. We travelled to three different corners of this amazing country, and met some fantastic people, and learned a lot!

One place in particular was the Southern edge of what I like to call tropical China. It’s very jungly and temperate. And where you will find the amazing karst mountain ranges. This is where you find all those great pics of fisherman, fishing with their cormorant birds on little Phoenix  bamboo rafts. The perfect mix of tourism and old world locked in an eternal struggle. The fisherman get so much attention from their practice, that they are not interested in progressing beyond the old ways. Which personally I hope never changes because it’s pretty amazing! And the Chinese do have a habit of getting carried away with things 😉

I’m not one for cruises. But I have tot say, spending the day floating down the Li river was pretty high on my list of great experiences. Snake wine and all. The place is very feng shui with water meeting rising bamboo, and the super tall mountains. Really is like no place I have ever been before. And a welcome change to the bustling cities we have become used to on our trip thus far.

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!

Frozen Lake

Lights-2
Frozen lake in the Canadian Shield Sony A7 II 35mm, F2.8

This Winter has really been horrible for seeing the stars at night. When you get a warm Winter here in Canada, it generally means cloudy. For like 3 months. Pretty depressing. But every once in a awhile I will throw on the snow pants and head out into the frozen tundra. Okay so it’s not that bad. But it’s still cold!

I was really trying to get a nice shot the Northern lights. Which can be see almost every night out here, when weather is working with me. But I need to test my camera with night shots more anyway. So the Milky Way is just fine too.

The trick with night shots, especially when you have little to no light whatsoever, is to up your ISO enough that you can deal with the noise. This has become a problem for me using a Sony camera. I’m sure the cameras they tout as super low light, are just that, but not mine. I struggle with what’s called chroma noise. Which are little, very bright, pixels that clearly did not get the memo about what we were all doing. They pick a random colour like purple, or red, and have to be taken out one by one. There are many other ways to get rid of standard noise I am aware. But there is always a trade off when it comes to noise reduction. Or else we would just be cranking the ISO all the time right!