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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Overshoes Online - A Perfect Fit for Outdoor Photographers

Overshoes-NEOS-Navigator-5When Overshoes Online asked me to review a pair of their overshoes, little did they know that I had just come back from a trip where my feet got wet every day. I picked the NEOS Navigator 5 Overshoe. As the name implies they slip over your shoes. The NEOS Navigator 5 Overshoe is 15 inches high and extends to 20 inches. They are 100% waterproof and extremely well made.

I tried them out during the fall but I wanted to trek through some snow before I gave a full review. I can now say Wow! The NEOS Navigators are warm and comfortable. As a photographer I'm often standing around, waiting for that magic light. The overshoes are like wearing slippers.

Now for the good stuff. I crossed the Merced River several times and treked through the snow. The shoes have good traction and are 100% waterproof as they claim. The NEOS Navigators also dried out quickly. I take along an old brush to clean them off before I toss them back into the car.

The NEOS Navigators slip over your shoes and fasten with Velcro. I take a few steps in them and then cinch the straps. They have a heal that's snowshoe compatible too. They're rated to -20 F. I highly recomend the NEOS Navigator 5's for anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors. For the Outdoor Photographer they're a must!

Check out their website at OvershoesOnline.com
Plus a Yosemite Winter Photo Gallery from my last trip using Lightroom. (and the shoes)

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Photographing Mt Whitney & the Alabama Hills

Mt. Whitney & the Alabama Hills
Just outside of the small town of Lone Pine lies one of the best places to learn Landscape Photography. Heading west at the only stoplight in town is Whitney Portal Road which leads you to a web of dirt roads. The most popular is Movie Road. From here you can see the rust colored rock of the Alabama Hills with the gray granite Eastern Sierra in the background. I went several times on my own, but then I attended one of Don Gale's workshops there. Don taught me what photography is all about. How to follow the light.

Don schedules his workshops here during the winter months. The mountains face directly east. In the winter the sun is farther south and gives the scene a bit of side lighting. So here's Don's shooting strategy.

Alabama Hills Sunrise
1) Arrive before Sunrise and shoot into the pre-dawn light using the silhouettes of the Alabama Hills as one element and the sky as another. Some days you'll see stars and some days you'll have clouds. You can shoot right from Whitney Portal Road. You'll want to arrive about 45 minutes before Sunrise. Spend about 15 minutes here.

Mt. Whitney2) Then go north along Movie Road until you have some nice rock formations in the foreground and a clear site of Mt Whitney. The first rays of light will hit the top of tallest peak, which is Mt. Whitney. With a long lens isolate just the peak. Everyday is different but often you'll see the peak turn red. This is known as Alpenglow. A polarizer will help to darken the sky. If it's overcast you might try shooting in black and white.

Mt. Whitney & the Alabama Hills3) Just as the light begins to spill over into valley you can begin to shoot wide. You may need a split neutral density filter for a few minutes. Then as the sun hits the valley look for rock fromations to fill the foreground with Mt Whitney in the background.

Mobius Arch - Lone pine, CA
4) In recent years I've added Mobius Arch. There's a large dirt parking area along Movie Road and a well marked path to guide you. Clouds really help out here as the light can get contrasty if you wait too long. Just a few feet away is Lathe Arch.

Lathe Arch
Lathe Arch (Front)- Lone Pine,CAAs you can see here, my backpack is leaning up against Lathe Arch. This was taken from the front of the arch. It appears much larger using an ultra wide lens from the backside. I'm using a 17mm on a full frame camera. Watch your step as their is nothing below your feet. You have to brace yourself between two rocks. Again, if you want the Arch and the Mountains to have light on them, timing becomes critical. I sometimes shoot before sunrise so everything is evenly lit, but my favorite shots are just as the first light hits Mobius Arch.

Lubken Canyon - Lone Pine5) In the Afternoon the sun goes down behind mountains. At sunset they'll be in silhouette. You might try Lubken Canyon Road just across from the RV park. In late afternoon you'll find Cottonwoods in shade with the granite mountains providing a blue backdrop. A little earlier and you'll find them backlit. If you're there late fall you''ll find the cottonwoods have turn to a beautiful shade of yellow. Perfect for the blue backdrop.

Reflection in Owens River6) Then as the sun sets I like to look for reflections in the Owens River. There's a dirt road just on the other side of the RV park that goes to the pumping station. You can follow it along side of the Owens River. Walk along the banks as the sun begins to set and you'll find red mountain peaks or sunlit clouds reflectiing in the water. The rocks and reeds can add a zen like quality.

Mt. Whitney - Lone Pine,Ca
Again, Don's strategy is to always let the light dictate where you're going to shoot. You need to anticipate what the light is going to provide. I use this technique on every trip.Where will the Sun come up? Is there a break in the terrain that will let the last bit of light peek through? Can I move to the shadow side to make the scene more three dimensional. Each place provdes different answers but it's always the same question, "Where's the light?". And of course, "What's for lunch?".

For more photos see my Lone Pine Stock Photo Gallery.
To sign up for a workshop see Don Gale's Photography Workshops.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yosemite Stock Photo Gallery

Yosemite - Tunnel View
I've added a Yosemite Stock Photo Gallery. It's a collection from the past. I was inspired after losing a one terabyte drive with all my photos on it. I had about eighty percent backed up, but that's not one hundred percent now is it. After getting a couple of outrageous estimates I found Eco Data Recovery. John Marshall gave me a quote that was half of what the others offered. They did a great job and I'm very grateful.

Yosemite FallsAfter getting the drive back I started to organize the photos and reprocess some of the files in Lightroom. Some of the photos were scans of 35mm Slides, others were from my 6 mp Rebel and most were from my 1Ds Mark III. I found that Lightroom improved them all. For a few I used a free Lightroom preset from Heather Green. It's called "Warm and Lighten." Photos taken in higher elevations tend to have more blue and can look harsh. Heather's preset was just the ticket.

Yosemite - Half Dome
I found that I had ignored many of the files and was pleasantly surprised by some. I can see plenty of room for improvement too. I can't wait to go again and try out some new ideas. For more info check out my previous post "Photographing Yosemite in Winter".

Yosemite - Half Dome

For more on Yosemite Photos see my Yosemite Stock Photo Gallery , Yosemite Winter Photo Gallery. and Yosemite Stock Photos - Fall Gallery

Take a look at Heather Green's Lightroom Presets

Great books to check out and take along are Andrew Hudson's PhotoSecrets Yosemiteor PhotoSecrets San Francisco & Northern California: The Best Sights and How to Photograph Them. The Yosemite Section is included in the San Francisco book.

Michael Frye's The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite is terrific as well.

Photos: The top photo is Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, 2nd photo is Yosemite Falls, 3rd is Half Dome from the valley floor, 4th is Half Dome from Glacier Point, and the last photo is the shortest fall in the park Fern Springs (near Pohono Bridge).

Yosemite - Fern Springs

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Photographing California's Wildflowers

Antelope Valley PoppiesOne in a million, or a million and one, the choice is yours. Whether you single out one bloom or shoot 'em in mass you can't go wrong with photographing wildflowers. California has some of the best wildflowers in the country. The trick is being at the right place at the right time. Some years they'll start to bloom in late February and continue on into August.

They bloom from the deserts, to the coast, to the valleys and up to the highest mountains. You can visit Anza Borrego, Death Valley, the Carrizo Plane, Yosemite Valley, the Sierra Foothills, the Eastern Sierra High Country, and many more. Carol Leigh's website Calphoto.com provides up to date posts on the best locations and when they're in full bloom. So far this year I've gone to Figueroa Mountain, Lake Elsinore, Antelope Valley, Gorman and even a hillside about 20 feet from my driveway.

Poppy RaindropsI like to shoot in early morning light and we got a little rain a couple of mornings which added variety. Poppies don't open when it's cold or windy, They like nice sunny days. Most of the time they open between 9 and 11. Poppies photograph well in full sun. Their thin petals are translucent and take on a glow. For most wildflowers cloudy or overcast works best. If contrast is a problem I'll try to shoot the poppy close up and have the background out of focus. This blurs the highlights with the shadows and cuts down the contrast. Back-light is another alternative to cut down harsh contrast. You can also use a diffuser. (I forgot mine on the first trip where I really needed it.)

Poppies and Bluebells
All 3 images, the 2 above and the one to the left, were made using a 100mm macro lens. (On a full frame sensor - a 60mm on a aps size sensor.) I used my "sneaker zoom". I changed my position by moving my feet. For the 2 above I only moved about 3 feet. The poppy to the left was on a hillside so it was easier to get underneath. Of note, when you point up away from the horizon the sky is a deeper blue. It's always the darkest blue to the north.

One technique I wanted to try was a wide angle close up by using a 12mm extension tube on a wide angle lens. First I tried it on a 20mm (On a full frame sensor) but the petals had to almost touch the front of the lens in order to focus. Then I tried a 24mm lens. It was better but still hard to manage. I went home and did a series of tests and found that my Tamron 17-35mm lens focuses very close. Adding the 12mm extension tube allowed me to focus just a few inches from the lens at all focal lengths. I preferred it set to 35mm. There is very little depth of field so at 5.6 it might be an eight of an inch. I happen to like this look and plan to use it more it the future. It looks somewhere between a photograph and a painting. It is much more manageable at 35mm. You don't have to have the flower touching the lens shade and you can control the size of the foreground and amount of background by using small adjustments with the zoom and rocking back and forth. It gave me what I was looking for. The photo has more depth than with a longer lens. It's much easier to use in practice than described here in words.

Figueroa Mountain
Along the way I stumbled upon a few shots without wildflowers that I couldn't pass up. It's always fun to get out and explore. Whatever photographic technique you're trying to improve upon or if your just out for a good hike, wildflowers add an extra sparkle. Just Google "YOUR STATE Wildflowers" and add "Hotsheet" or "Hotline". Check out my California Wildflowers Gallery for more examples.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day and Photography

Poppies & Trash - Antelope ValleyI came upon this shot a couple of weeks ago in Antelope Valley. I always try to pick up trash whether it's in the wilderness or just the parking lot. Here it was too much for me to handle. There were piles of asphalt, a few mattresses, and lots of couches. I do my part and then some, but still it's never enough. That's why I give to the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. From time to time I also give to local efforts such as the Yosemite Association and the Mono Lake Committee. As photographers we should show the negatives as well as the positives. Too often I try to get the perfect sunset and avoid the parts that mankind has spoiled. I hope you'll join me in helping restore nature to all it's glory. You and your photography can make a difference.

For more Antelope Valley Poppies see my California Wildflowers Photo Gallery

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Photographing Yosemite in Winter

Peaks from Tunnel View
So often I hear "Why bother with Yosemite, it's been done." Well that never occurred to me as I walked along side the Merced River and looked across it's snow covered banks onto El Capitan. The black oaks were covered with a dusting of snow and the red cliffs popped out from the stark white snow. I was all alone in the dark and the sun was just starting to rise. It's the rush, that's why I come here. The camera is just along for the ride.

Black Oaks - El Capitan
Winter provides a magic spell over the valley. There are snow covered peaks, wildlife and small frosted treasures. It feels like you have the whole place to yourself. The North Road was closed, but I found plenty of places to go. I went to Swinging Bridge, El Capitan, The Chapel, Cooks Meadow, Sentinel Bridge, Ahwahnee Meadow, Tunnel View, and the trail behind the Ahwahnee. I never saw anyone at Sunrise and just a few people during the day. There were lots of cars in the parking lot, but it seems that everybody went skiing up at Badger Pass.

Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge
The Chapel, Yosemite, CAThe secret to shooting Yosemite in winter, is to wait for a storm and then go. I didn't have resevations until 2 days prior. I stayed at Yosemite Lodge and it couldn't have been better. The staff there is first rate. They made me feel welcome. The soup's great at the cafeteria and don't forget to buy chains for your shoes. I'm talking about Yaktrax Walkers. You'll slip and slide all over the place without them. Make sure you bring chains for your car too. You're required to carry them in winter. I always bring my Photo Secrets book on Yosemite and The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite by Michael Frye.

For more photos see my Yosemite Winter Photo Gallery.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Photographing the California Redwoods

California RedwoodsAs I headed back from Mt. Rainier to Los Angeles I took a chance and went to the California Redwoods. I was there as a child and I had a vague recollection of it. The best time to visit is late May through early June. Since it was August I knew I wouldn't be seeing any blooms, but there would be plenty of fog and a beautiful coastline.

I stayed in Klamath which is about dead center of the 40 plus miles of the various redwood parks. The State and National Parks have combined and now act as one big park. The 101 Freeway runs right though the park, but there's the old highway and many dirt roads off the beaten path.

False Klamath CoveOn the first night I went to False Klamath Cove. The fog rolled in and I only had about 10 minutes of color. I got a few good shots but I would not see another sunset. The fog came in every afternoon starting around 4.

California Redwoods - Coast Highway FogThe fog was so thick it made it tough to shoot along the coast. At times I wasn't able to see past the pullout. But fog and redwoods are a perfect mix. An early morning hike into the foggy woods is a surreal experience. The fog gets so thick it seems like you're walking though a painting. I went along the Coast Drive. It's a dirt highway off the 101 beginning at the south corner of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. It hugs the cliffs along the coastline. You can see some of my photos here on a previous post. All fog no coast.

Paul Bunyan - Trees of Mystery
Sky Trail - Trees of MysteryI headed back to Klamath around 11 and stopped in at the "Trees of Mystery". It's a tourist trap to be sure. Years ago as you traveled up the coast you couldn't miss all the cardboard bumper stickers tied to each and every car. They were yellow with "Trees of Mystery" in bold red type. The park has made improvements but it's trademark 49 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue with a 35 foot Babe the Blue Ox along his side remains out front. Loud music is playing and Paul Bunyan shouts over the P.A. to the all little kids. They look up at in amazement at Big Paul as if he was really talking. My favorite part (as if that wasn't enough) was the Sky Trail a tram ride up the mountain. On a clear day you can see the ocean from here. It was still foggy so I couldn't see the ocean but there are plenty of other views right from the platform. You can hike the trail that winds around the top too.

Trees of Mystery
ElkLast but not least there are several herds of Elk in the park. They're usually right off the 101 on Davidson Road. There are many pull outs to shoot from. I found that for days 3 bucks stayed in front of someones farmhouse. You better not get close. They're wild and (at when I visited Canada) they have been known to run down joggers.

California Redwoods
With it's rocky coastline, towering trees and plentiful wildlife you'll have a wide variety to shot. It's also one of the easiest parks to photograph as long as you play along with the weather. A rule of thumb is to shoot the redwoods in the mornings and check out the coast at sunset. Of course a foggy coast can look great if the fog isn't too thick. I hope to return one spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. They would add a little extra sparkle.

For more photos see my Redwood National Park Gallery.
For an excellent photo guide on California's Redwoods see Photograph America
Don Gale Workshops is planning a trip to the California's Redwoods in late spring 2008

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Last Days of Summer

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA - Sunset
A summer storm swept over So Cal in these last days of summer. It was a hold over from Hurricane Dean. Not much in the way of rain, but lots of clouds and humidity that only a summer storm can bring. I thought the clouds were thin enough for the sun to poke through so I headed to Malibu. I went to Leo Carrillo State Beach knowing that I would be able to see the setting sun there this time of year. El Matador Beach has cliffs that might block my view. In the winter the sun sets farther south and you can pretty much go to anyone of these coves, but in the summer you have to pick your spots.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CAA warm wind was blowing and the beach wasn't the way I remembered it. All the rocks that were prominent in my earlier photographs were covered with sand. I talked to surfer Kevin Ryan and he said that this is a typical pattern for this beach. The smaller summer waves push the sand up onto the beach and the bigger winter waves crash in to the rocks and pull the sand in back into the ocean. Looking for some foreground I was forced to perch myself on a small ledge on the side of a cliff.

One of the tricks to getting a good seascape is to catch the glint on the water. When the water moves out it leaves a thin layer of water on the sand and a beautiful reflection results. I like to frame up the picture and use a cable release. Then I don't have to look through the viewfinder anymore. I just look out at the ocean and when I see a good reflection I fire away. Often I use f/22 in order to get a longer exposure and gives a blur the water. When the suns in the frame I may chose f/8. At f/8 the sun is more of a soft edged glow and at f/22 it becomes a sharp edged circle.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA
I'm not sure how good the pictures are but the experience was unbeatable. The waves should come in from the west, but once in while they would get enough power to go up the hill and come straight back at me filling the small cove (North to South). The waves would even climb the ledge I was standing on and trickle down. After the sun went down I walked along the beach. I turned back and took a shot of the moonrise. I used a 30 second exposure in order to get that cotton candy look on top of the waves. With the warm wind, beautiful light and majestic ocean, I truly enjoyed the last days of summer. The photos are just a bonus.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA - Moonrise
For more on Malibu see Photographing Malibu
Some of the tips I got are from Tony Sweet's books
You can visit his site or buy his books on Amazon
For Photo Workshops see Don Gale's site

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

What! Using Flash For Nature Photography!

Dewdrops on Spiderweb
I'm slowly coming to grips with using a flash for Nature Shots. I generally prefer natural light, but there are situations that call for additional light. Here's one example on a foggy morning along the coast in the Redwoods. There wasn't much light and the wind wouldn't stop blowing.

Now, I just wanted a small piece of this web to really show off the dewdrops, but I couldn't resist trying to get the entire web at 2.8. (ISO 400.) The background is too bright in comparison to the web and too close to the web for the background to blur out. Even at ISO 400 and f2.8 it's still too windy to keep the web tack sharp.

Pumping it up to ISO 800 helps the freeze the motion and moving in a little closer helps separate the background. (The more you magnify the less depth of field you'll have.) It's still not tack sharp.

Now my flash comes to the rescue! With a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 you can get the flash off the camera. Once it's off you can try it in different positions until you get the correct balance between the foreground and the background. At 2.8, only part of the web is in focus. Since I wanted all of the dewdrops on the web to be sharp I set the camera to f16. Not a problem since I'm using a flash and it will freeze the motion. You just have to set your camera up so it's not letting in the ambient light. Nice shot, I like it, but I'll try ISO 100. Nope, the background went black. (Just like I thought not enough power.) I'll stick with ISO 800 at f16.

So I was able to freeze the web and still pick up a little of the background at ISO 800 with one flash. With 2 flashes I would have been able to light them both up properly at ISO 100. Of course I left the 2nd flash at home. (What good was it doing there? Guarding the house?) I did run into some poison oak and picked up some rubbing alcohol to clean off my tripod. (And me!) Anyway, I like the shot, the dewdrops look like a pearls on a necklace.

Tech info: Canon 5d, Canon 580EX Flash, Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2, Canon 100mm Macro Lens, Gitzo Tripod, Kirk Ball Head and L-Bracket (No spiders were harmed in the making of this photograph.)

For more on flash photography go to strobist.com - a "Must See Website"

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Photographing Big Sur

Big Sur - Bixby Bridge One of the most beautiful drives in the world is along California's Highway One. Near the middle of the state, just below Carmel, you have soaring Redwoods on one side and high rocky cliffs dropping into the ocean on the other side of the highway. You'll often see this highway used in car commercials. Typically it's covered in a blanket of fog in the morning and then the skies clear in the afternoon. Big Sur with all it's majestic beauty and easy access is nothing but photographic opportunities awaiting you.

Big Sur - Ragged Point If you stay at the lodge inside the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you can just head out the door and take anyone of the many trails in the morning. There you'll find tall redwoods, waterfalls and a fern covered forest floor. You can also find many turnouts along Highway One that overlook the Cliffs. The fog helps to separate the cliffs. I like to keep my camera set on it's daylight setting. This captures the blue light and gives it a cool look. My favorite spot was Ragged Point, but the last time I was there they had a chain link fence around most of it.

Big Sur - McWay Falls In the afternoon if the cloud cover breaks a little you'll want to head down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It's another state park just south of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park also on Highway One. It's easy to miss so I always like take along Andrew Hudson's "PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California". It not only covers Big Sur but it also covers the San Francisco region and has a section on Yosemite. Complete with maps, beautiful photos and all the details. He even provides a clock face showing the best time to photograph each location. With Andrew's book you'll find an excellent map for finding Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is where you'll find McWay Falls. It's a 80 foot waterfall that flows into the Pacific Ocean. You won't want to miss this one even if it's socked in. Andrew has a beautiful photo of McWay Falls covered in fog. The fog gives it a mysteries mood. Often right at sunset there will be a clearing on the horizon and the sun will poke through.

Big Sur - Waterfall Another great way to get a feel for this location is Don Gale's DVD "Photographing San Francisco and the Central Coast." Don travels from Santa Barbara to San Francisco with many photo stops along the way. He shows a unique viewpoint at McWay Falls. You'll get an inside look to the thought process of working pro. Don provides many tips and locations. This video won a couple of awards including "Best Editing" by yours truly. I had so much fun. I actually went with Don on the trip and learned sooo much!A fun place to visit is Nepenthe Restaurant. It's a 4 star restaurant with a spectacular view of the coastline. Soak it all it in on their beautiful deck. It doesn't get better than this.

Big Sur - Forest
For great photoguides see Photo Secrets "PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California"
For Don Gale's DVD "Photographing San Francisco and California's Central Coast"
These can also be found on Amazon.
For accomodations see Big Sur Lodge

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