Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Am Thankful!


Today was busy!  Shopping, cleaning, cooking... all the preparations for our Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow.  My mom taught me that setting the table the night before company comes not only saves time on the big day, but also creates a peaceful feeling and a few minutes to reflect on the reason for the celebration.  I continue my mom's tradition.  After setting my table tonight, I lit the candles and took a few minutes to enjoy the quiet and to say a little prayer of THANKSGIVING for all of my many blessings, far too many to name, and far more than I deserve!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

She Bows in Submission

She bows her head in submission 
to her inevitable fate as winter finally arrives. 
 I hope she knows I still see beauty and grace in her old age. 

It is a blessing to see the beauty in nature 
in all seasons of life and death. 

This was shot out of my bedroom window yesterday, 
documenting the first snowfall of the season 
at our northern Utah home.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Are You a PHOTOSNOB?

As noted in my last Tech Talk Tuesday, we all have our own preferences and personal style of photography, just as we do with other art forms, such as painting.  In the past decade photography has evolved and diversified rapidly into many new and wonderful art styles.  In my opinion, we have a responsibility to NOT be 'photosnobs'.  By that I mean, our own preferences should not be seen as superior, or of greater value than someone else's preferences......only different!

This week I've encountered several situations where photographs and/or photographers were judged solely on how their images were produced, not on the merit of the images themselves.  In other words, the process was viewed as more important than the result. 

For example, one might think the work of a photographer who composites several images into one shot, or who uses focus stacking to create a sharper image, or who digitally creates a beautiful 'painterly' look to a photo, is superior because that photographer has developed exceptional skills over and above the basic photography skills necessary to produce a traditional SOOTC image.  They view their computer and editing expertise as advanced photography processing skills.

In the other camp, the SOOTC shooter may think of himself as a purist, and he believes 'getting it right in the camera' and using traditional techniques should be the only way to create 'real' photography that holds the most value.  He may feel his photography skills are superior because he thinks the digital photographer is cheating or making up for poor photography skills by fixing bad photos.

In my opinion, both of these extreme attitudes show disrespect for personal artistic expression.  In my mind, this would be like saying the painter who uses something he sees with his eyes as his inspiration, is better than a painter who uses something he sees in his mind as his inspiration!  Ultimately, it's the end result on canvas that matters!

Consider the following.  You might be a 'photosnob' if:
*  You feel the need to ask a photographer if his image is edited. 
*  You tend to be critical of certain photo and editing techniques or methods used by digital photographers today.
*  You think that how a photo or image is made, does affect its intrinsic value.
*  You think that photographers who do not use Photoshop or other computer editing programs are old fashioned and are afraid to learn new skills.
*  You have changed your opinion or were disappointed in a photo you initially admired, when you found out it was produced in a way you think is unacceptable.

After many years as a photographer, (first traditional, now traditional and digital), I try to keep what I feel is a healthy balance between my 'in the field' skills, (just me and my camera), and my 'in the digital darkroom' skills, (just me and my computer).  There are many photographers I admire.  Some of my favorite photographers produce images that are minimally edited, and some produce images that are way over the top and blatantly manipulated.  I love them all!  I know the majority of the photos I love have been processed, some in traditional ways and others with modern technology, but often it is impossible for me to tell how they were edited, or how little or how much.  I don't know, I don't ask, nor do I care, because for me: 

 The beauty is in the image, regardless of how it was produced!!


To check your 'photosnob' meter,  decide how you feel about the following photo then answer the questions below:

*  Do you love this photo?
*  Does this photo not appeal to you?
*  Does it look like a SOOTC shot?
*  Does it look like a composite or heavily edited image?
*  Would you like it less if I told you I added the background?
*  Would you like it more if I told you I added the background?
*  Would it be easier to decide if you liked it if I showed you the 'before' shot to compare?
*  Do you want to know if I added the background?
*  Do you like it less because the background makes it look more like a painting than a traditional photograph?
*  Do you think I shouldn't call it a 'photograph' because I digitally manipulated the SOOTC original and didn't tell anyone? 

Only two of the above questions are valid to me.  Guess which ones!!!  
If you guessed the first two, you are right.  These are the only questions that determine if your personal preference is based on how you feel about the image itself, and not on any prejudice about how it was produced.

(All right, a few of you might actually be curious to know if this is a SOOTC shot, or if I added the background from a second exposure in post processing.  Keep scrolling down and you'll find the answer.)


This is a SOOTC shot, with a slight crop.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Powell Plateau Wild Flowers

 Powell Plateau Wild Flowers

We were on a RZR ride late last summer near Bryce National Park.  One day we explored some of the surrounding area, and found beautiful 'secret garden', even though it was very late in the season for most Utah wild flowers.  (Would it spoil this picture for you if I said there is a very, large, very ugly cell tower right next to where I was standing!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Edit to Enhance or Degrade

As photographers, when do we know our work is done and our photo or image is ready to print or to publish on the internet???

This decision can truly be confusing for photographers.  Back in the day, we would choose what kind of film we wanted to use, we'd take 36 shots, and then hope that a few would be 'keepers' when they were developed.  Pretty simple!  (I'm talking here about the average amateur photographer who did not have their own darkroom and did not develop or retouch their own work, which in those days, took considerable time and effort.)

With the technology of today, the possibilities are endless.  We still have the option of printing or publishing SOOTC (straight out of the camera).  But with the editing programs, plugins, apps, that are readily available today on our computers, pads and phones, the sky is the limit.  We can alter our images in minor ways, or we can create composites or manipulate our images so they are unrecognizable from the original shot.

Here are some questions:  When is enough, enough?  How much manipulation should I do?    How many editing programs should I buy?  How many different 'looks' should I create before choosing the 'best' one? How much time should I be spending on the computer to edit an image?  Do you find yourself sitting at your computer, looking at your images, and asking yourself some of these questions? I do!

The variety and complexity of the choices today's photographers have to make can be mind boggling, because as you already can guess, there is absolutely no correct answer to any of these questions.

The following is a good example of what I'm talking about:

Here is my original image.  It is acceptable, but for me, kind of boring.  I tend to not like totally out of focus backgrounds.  So it's time to start editing and experimenting.

Adding Bokeh
Since I'm a big fan of bokeh and interesting lighting and lens effects, I came up with this.  I think it is a bit more interesting and holds my attention a bit more than the first image.  But is this the best I can do?

 Softened and Topaz Impression
Recently I've seen some beautiful images on the internet where the artists have used the Topaz Impression editing program, so I downloaded a trial version to play around with.  I softened this image, while keeping the ladybug sharp, then added a texture.  When I manipulate a landscape or nature shot, I usually want to viewer to feel the image is 'believable' and could be SOOTC, so I strive for editing that is not blatantly obvious.  This treatment created a different and interesting look, but was not quite believable to me.

Blended in a Second Image
I often shoot out of focus images of foliage, flowers and other nature scenes to use as background interest.  This is what I did with this photo.  For me, adding some form and a hint of background foliage makes this image more believable and interesting. 

Of course this is all personal preference.  Some would prefer the SOOTC shot, others might prefer one of the other versions, and others would have a totally different editing idea.  But at some point we all have too decide when enough is enough.  We need to develop the ability to learn when our editing improves an image, and know when to stop before we over manipulate and ruin an image.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Valley Sunset Near Cedar Breaks, Utah

Valley Sunset Near Cedar Breaks, Utah
Our fall color in Utah is starting to fade, and is a reminder to me that winter is just around the corner.  At this time of year I am always a bit melancholy knowing that I will miss the bright, beautiful colors of spring, summer and fall during the winter months that will soon be here.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Milky Way at Lake Powell

Milky Way at Lake Powell

On this beautiful Lake Powell night, as the day's fading light slowly revealed the splendor of the heavens, I paused from taking photos to be still and enjoy this profound beauty. The tranquility and peace of my moment was only interrupted by the sweet sounds of laughter that was music to my ears, as 12 of my 13 grandchildren were all together in the houseboat, playing twister and eating more junk food than their parents would allow in a year. And, I would like to think, that somewhere among the stars, my 13th grandchild, my precious angel grandson, was watching over his brothers, sister and cousins and he was enjoying this moment with me. I believe that families are forever, God is in His heavens, and all will be well!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Autumn Aspens Basking in Sunshine

Autumn Aspens Basking in Sunshine

Doesn't this just make you happy!!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Aspens in Autumn - Red, Orange, Gold and Yellow

Aspens in Autumn - Red, Orange, Gold and Yellow

All of the Autumn aspen colors mixed with soft meadow green, deep pine tree green, and brilliant blue sky.  What a beautiful world!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Aspen Fire in Autumn

Aspen Fire in Autumn

Many places in this area, were covered in thick forests mixed with both aspen and pine trees.  My photos of those scenes never looked as dramatic as they did in person.  I preferred compositions where the aspens were separated from thick foliage or other trees, like this one.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Walking Through Sunshine

Walking Through Sunshine

Such a beautiful place for an Autumn stroll in the woods!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Red Aspens in Utah

Color Pop

I love how the color pop of the grove of bright red aspens stand out from the otherwise neutral surroundings, and the cloud formations further draw your eye toward them.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Autumn Aspen Leaves

Autumn Aspen Leaves

As I was enjoying a few quiet moments surrounded by the aspens in my last post, I noticed the variety of colored leaves that had fallen from the trees.  I arranged a few of them on a lichen covered rock and took this macro shot, for those of you who have never seen aspen trees up close.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Red-Golden Aspens in Utah

Red-Golden Aspens in Southern Utah

I took a few minutes to enjoy this peaceful setting, beautiful weather and perfect autumn day.  Sometimes it is hard to isolate a distinctive 'subject' element to give a focus point to an image, but when I saw the sun shinning through this forked tree trunk, I found my composition.  I used a fisheye lens to add an interesting perspective and the sun flare. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Aspens near Cedar Breaks, Utah

Aspens near Cedar Breaks, Utah

Most people think of the northern Rocky Mountains when they think of aspens and fall colors in Utah.  But even though southern Utah is known more for red rock vistas and desert scenery, we have high elevation mountains down south with beautiful scenery as well.

This fall, I made several trips into the mountains near our northern Utah home looking for color, and have been disappointed.  At least so far, the colors have not been vibrant, and many of the aspen leaves have gone from green to dead, maybe because of lack of water, or weather conditions or whatever.

At any rate, we took a quick trip to our Santa Clara home this past weekend so that Jeff could enter a car into a car show, and I decided to take my one day and drive up into the mountains.  And was I ever rewarded! The aspens were at their peak with every vibrant fall color imaginable.   I had a wonderful day being inspired by this beauty, and felt very rewarded with the images I was able to capture.  I'll be posting some of my favorites each day for about a week.  If you don't have fall color where you live, I hope you can enjoy seeing what I saw on a perfect fall day in southern Utah!

As a side note, I have a few thoughts for you photographers out there who are specifically hoping to attract followers to your blog because they admire your photographic skills.  (Keep in mind I'm not talking about those of you who are writers and your blog posts contain wonderful stories that are more important or as important as the photos you post to embellish your words.)

I've said many times that for me, the measure of how much viewers like one of my images is determined by how long they are engaged in looking at it.  Are there enough attractive elements to sustain their interest and keep them looking and admiring.  In order to give them the chance to do this, it is important to avoid distractions.  And the biggest distractions are multiple photos in one post, because it is natural to only look briefly at the first photo, then move on to see what is next and what is next, etc.  This does not give each of your photos the attention they deserve!

My suggestion is to only post one or maybe two photos at a time, or three at the VERY max.  If you have a series of photos you want to post, let your viewers spent time enjoying the first photo and then say you will be posting additional photos each day.  If they have time to really enjoy the first image, this will give your viewers incentive to return to your blog regularly.

Another caution, and this is a hard one to do, and that is to be brutally selective about the photos you put online for everyone to see, because your skill as a photographer will be judged by your last few posts.  Be VERY selective.  We photographers are often not good at criticizing our own work and so we tend to post lots of photos.  Try not to post photos of the exact same scene shot at different angles.  This becomes boring.  Pick the best angle and post only that one.  When in doubt, ask a friend or fellow photographer you trust to choose between your best photos. 

Bottom line...... only post your very best images, one or two at a time, and keep your viewers anxious to see more of your brilliant work!!

(Remember, this advise does not apply if you are posting your images for your personal enjoyment only, or to document a vacation, or to support a story that is the main reason for the post.)       

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

Just thought I'd post an image of another waterfall named Bridal Veil Falls.  Unlike the last post, however, this Bridal Veil Falls is in New Zealand!  Both so different, yet each lovely in its own setting.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah

These falls are located in Provo Canyon, visible from the main road and very near where I live.  I pass by this way quite often on my way to various destinations.  Sometimes we fail to see the beautiful scenery that is commonplace where we live.  

Saturday I was out looking for a little fall color and didn't find anything that was interesting enough for me to stop and photograph.  On the way home I glanced up at these falls and decided I'd stop.  The sun was down and there was not much light, the sky was a boring faded blue and the fall colors were scarce, but I'm glad I stopped anyway.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Golden Aspens

Golden Aspens in the Mountains above Richfield, Utah
(and some pretty cool looking clouds as well)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Happy Anniversary!

My wonderful son Dalin and his beautiful bride Emily recently celebrated their 6th wedding anniversary.
Wonderful memories!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Southwestern Utah Blooms

A friend of mine who is a journalist for a southwestern Utah newspaper asked me to submit a selection of my desert florals for consideration to be included in an article he is writing, highlighting four Utah landscape/nature photographers who live in southwestern Utah.  When I didn't respond, he contacted me and said since we own a home in southern Utah and spend part of the year there, that according to him, (and he makes the rules), I qualify.  I don't usually do stuff like this, but decided to honor his request.  Below are the images and the 'photographer's statement' I sent.

 Circle Dance

 Sunshine Shower

 Dancing in the Rain

 Beauty Among the Weeds

 Spotlight Please

 Stick 'em Up .....We've Got You Covered!

"My floral images are usually alive with vivid color, are busy rather than calm, and most always have unique lighting and/or interesting backgrounds.  Rarely do I place my macro flowers on a plain white or black backdrop, because this is too common or boring to me.  Instead, I try to fill the frame with unique and interesting elements that add information, such as the time of day, or unusual weather conditions, or dramatic lighting conditions, (I’m a big fan of sun flare and bokeh), that visually give the viewer a sense of how my subject flower fits into the scene around it.  While I most always have a main subject, I also try to have secondary subjects or additional points of interest that will attract the viewer’s attention.  I want to entice viewers to enjoy and stay involved with my image as long as possible!  My philosophy is that the longer an image can hold a viewer’s interest and attention, the more value it has for that person."  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Wildfire Smoke in Bryce National Park

Wildfire smoke in Bryce National Park added even more color and drama to the sunset in this beautiful place.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bryce Canyon Meadow

This was taken on our ATV trip to the Bryce National Park area.  Here we are just outside the park.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Shooting the Milky Way...the REST of the Story:

Please see previous post before reading this.

I know from my blog statistics, that more people look at my photos than make comments, and I'm sure that some of you are not photographers.  I feel the need to have a little talk with you folks first, before going into the details of making my Milky Way image.

(Note to you seasoned photographers out there:  just skip the next few paragraphs if you wish, and go right to 'The Rest of the Story' below, because you will know everything I have to say to the non photographers who might be reading this.)

With that preface, I'll start with a WARNING:  For anyone reading this who still believes that most of the spectacular landscape images you see on the internet are SOOTC, (Straight Out Of The Camera), I don't want to burst your bubble or your enjoyment of my photo, so I won't be offended if you stop reading right now!

The fact is, photographers, and most everyone else, know the majority of photos on the web today, speaking primarily of landscape images taken by professionals or serious hobbyists, (I would be inclined to say at least 90%, but that's just my opinion), have been edited in some way, if only with minor adjustments such as cropping to straighten a horizon, changing to black & white, or adding a small amount of contrast or sharpness.  

Additionally, many of the amazing landscape photos we see on photography websites such as 500px and flickr, have been created by applying even more sophisticated post processing skills, such as focus stacking, light painting, combining multiple exposures of the same scene, (commonly called HDR), or by actually combining entirely different photos to make one image.  If you can recover from that shocking news, and want to know more about the modern photographer's world, read on!

For a few people, knowing this reality sometimes alters how they feel about an image; they think that an image's 'awesomeness' is compromised because it is somehow 'fake'.  Now, however, after many years since the invention of digital photography and the invention of Photoshop and other sophisticated computer editing programs, most of us welcome these advancements that have taken photography, combined with artistic imagination and interpretation, to whole new levels of beauty and creativity.  I've said before, that I bet if Ansel Adams were alive now, (who altered his images in the darkroom), he would have fully embraced and used this new technology to help create his images.

Now for a little background information for those not familiar with taking photos of the night sky.  And really, these are just my first impressions and observations after only a few hours of trying to take this photo of the Milky Way.  (You photographers out there with experience in this type of photography, please correct me if I am wrong.)

Taking only one shot with no editing, that correctly exposes the night sky, would render a distant mountain range in silhouette, and a close up foreground object that is not lit with any other light source, as too dark or under exposed. 

That being said, I think it would be nearly impossible to take a shot like mine with one exposure, where the wagon is positioned close to the camera and is artificially lit, for several reasons.  Focus: one couldn't focus on infinity or close to infinity for the stars, and still have a very close foreground object in sharp focus at the same time, without some compromise.  Exposure: if the night was black or very dark, it is not likely that one could correctly expose for the sky and at the same time correctly expose for the wagon.  If there was an artificial light source illuminating the foreground, and a very bright moon, or the photo was taken before the sky was totally dark, would this be enough of a compromise for one exposure to handle it all?  I don't know.  I do know that often, night sky photographers use artificial means to light a foreground object, whether by a portable lighting system, or even car headlights.  (Car headlights did not work for me on this image!)    But if you have light on the foreground object, how do you take a long exposure necessary for the sky, without 'blowing out' the bright foreground object?

The choice for many photographers dealing with this dilemma, who want an image with a properly exposed night sky and a properly exposed non silhouetted foreground object, is to take at least two exposures: one focusing and exposing for the sky, and one focusing and exposing for the foreground; and then combining them in post processing.

(I want to emphasis again that I'm a total novice here, and all this information, right or wrong, is what I came away with after just a couple of hours that night.  Being a non 'techie' person who barely understands how my camera works, I would love for you experienced photographers out there to correct me or add information that would help me understand night photography better.)

Now for The Rest of the Story:

When we got back to the motel that night, I looked at my images in camera, and from what I could see, I thought I had a few shots where I achieved a balance between having reasonable sharpness with minimal sky movement, acceptable noise level, and acceptable brightness.  (I wouldn't know for sure until I got home the next day and downloaded them to my computer.)  Of course, I had no interesting foreground, but I did have the silhouette of the distant mountain range and some trees silhouetted in the far foreground. That would have to do for my first attempt.

The next morning we were packed and ready to go home and I was waiting for Jeff to load our RZR onto the truck and trailer, when I glanced over at the driveway entrance to the motel.  For the first time I noticed that old wagon sitting in front of the fence.  I realized it was sitting in the right position and direction to have been in a composition with the Milky Way behind it.  I was SO upset when I realized I could have had a perfect foreground object and wouldn't have had to go any more than a few steps from our motel room!!! 

I stood there fuming for a few minutes, and then on a whim, I wondered if it was possible, however unlikely, for me to take a shot of the bright midday sun....  and then have enough editing skills to make this wagon photo look like it was taken at night and blend it into my Milky Way shot!  What the heck, I was standing in front of it and my camera was right there, so I quickly took several shots at different exposures, hand held and with not much thought.

Well you know where this is going.  First I went through my images and found the best one of the Milky Way.  I did some very simple editing here.  In LR I increased the exposure a small amount, I increased the contrast a small amount, I increased the vibrancy a small amount, I moved the temperature sliders to the blue and magenta sides a small amount and I decreased the noise a small amount.  Done in about a minute. 

Then I started working on the wagon shots.  I first tried blending several exposures together to create an 'HDR' image, but that looked too fake.  I ended up taking one image, and began experimenting in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I did not do anything complicated or difficult.  My main concerns were the harsh lighting, the color temperature and tones, and the shadow under the wagon created by the bright sun. (I guess I can say that I did not use any 'artificial' light on the wagon - haha.)

Lighting -  I decreased the exposure and the brightness until I was pleased with the balance between the night sky and the wagon, making sure the Milky Way was the brightest.  I decreased the shadow slider and black slider in LR to see more detail on the side of the wagon and make the shadow under the wagon less harsh.  I wanted the lighting on the wagon to be soft and dim, yet light enough to see the details, like you would naturally see, if it were illuminated with a minimal amount of artificial light.  I also wanted to see the fence in the background but I didn't want the fence as bright at the wagon, so I used the graduated filter in LR to reduce the exposure on the fence and have it blend into the wagon.

Color tones -  Because the wagon was shot in bright sun, the temperature or color was on the yellow side and not the color tones of the sky or a typical night shot.  My goal was to have the foreground blend and compliment the color tones of the sky, but not overpower or upstage the sky.    After all, the Milky Way was the main subject of the image....or should I say the 'stars' of the show!  I used the temperature sliders and color sliders in LR to reduce the yellow and add a soft, cool color tone.  That's it.

Wagon Shadow -  Would there ever be a shadow under the wagon if this image were shot at night along with the Milky Way?  Yes, if there had been a bright moon or if there was an artificial light shinning on it from approximately the same direction as the sun was.  Somehow, it still didn't look quite right when comparing it with the Milky Way photo, so I flipped the wagon horizontally.  This worked for me.  The composition was more pleasing and the shadows looked more realistic.  The lower right side portion of the Milky Way photo was naturally brighter, I think because of the sliver of a moon that had just disappeared in that direction.  And, it was also believable that the shadow could have been caused by using an artificial light source, positioned high, close to the fence, and just outside of the right side of the frame.  Seemed believable to me.  I then burned the ground in front of the wagon on the left lower corner, to put that area in more shadow, as it would naturally be.

Finally I had to combine the two images, which was surprisingly quite simple.  I did this by using layer masking in Photoshop.  The first thing I realized was there was not enough room at the bottom part of the Milky Way photo to fit in the wagon and fence and still see the silhouette of the mountain and trees in the background.  So I added 1-2 inches of black canvas space to the bottom of the Milky Way photo, and that worked perfectly.  Behind the fence you can see the road and then a bit more of the ground on a little rise, before the light disappears and turns black.  That is basically where the two photos merge.  I don't particularly like the road in the image, and if I had been thinking, I could have shot the wagon from a lower angle so the road would have been hidden.   I think the lighting drop off  behind the little rise of ground past the road is believable, if the wagon had been lit by an artificial light source.  After combining the two images I cloned out the trunk and bottom part of the tree that was right behind the fence.  To finish, I cropped off a portion of the top of the image for a more pleasing proportion.

Well, that's my saga!  I'd appreciate any comments, or corrections, or additional information.   I think I could get hooked on night photography, but I have lots to learn!

Here is the technical information for the Milky Way photo (in the previous post):
Camera:  Canon 5dmk2, mounted on tripod, set on manual
Lens:  Canon 16-35mm L series wide angle, set at 17mm focal length
ISO:  5000
Temperature: 3800K
Exposure:  25 sec at f/3.2  (exposure time longer than 25-30 sec made star movement too noticeable)
Focus:  manual, set close to infinity

Here is a shot of the wagon:  (boring, no technical info needed)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Milky Way - While They Were Sleeping

The Milky Way.... 
(While They Were Sleeping!)

My very first attempt turned into a mini adventure and learning experience both in field and in front of the computer!

For the past few days we have been on a RZR riding trip in the Bryce National Park area with our friends.  Normally I don't take my 'big girl' camera on these outings because there is no time for any serious landscape or nature photography.  I usually just use my iphone to take snapshots to document our fun and to post on our blog, Timpanogos Trail Riders.  But on a whim, this time I packed up my camera gear and tripod, and I did shoot a few landscape photos while on our rides.

I always have trouble sleeping at night during these trips, and on the second to last night, as I lay awake at 3 am, I had this idea.  I don't have any time during the day for photography, but I have all night while everyone else is sleeping.  Maybe I should try a little night photography and see if I can find the Milky Way.  Heck, I'm awake anyway!!  I haven't done much night photography, with the exception of a few full moon shots, but I know that night sky photography is best done when in a very dark location away from city lights, and I was in a perfect place.

The next morning before our day's ride, I sent a quick note to my photographer friend Scott Law, telling him I had ONE night to shoot the Milky Way and NO time to prepare, and I asked if he could give me a few quick pointers, (i.e. camera settings, lens choice, timing, etc.), to get me started.   Scott is a very talented photographer and has recently posted some amazing images of the Milky Way.  (See his work on his facebook and flickr pages.)

After we returned from the day's activities, I checked my messages, and I was in luck!  Not only had Scott received my note on such short notice, but he graciously gave me just the information I needed.  So I grabbed my gear, and Jeff, and we headed out.  (Jeff willingly, well kind of, went without sleep to help me.)

My first problem was that I didn't have any time beforehand to check out locations.  It was pitch black outside by the time we left the motel and I couldn't see anything past the side of the road.  I was looking for some sort of interesting foreground subject, an old log cabin, an interesting tree, a unique rock formation, something that would be facing the right direction in front of the Milky Way.  I saw nothing but black!

We drove and drove and finally turned onto a lonely dirt road and drove some more.  Jeff was getting grumpy and I was getting frustrated so we finally just stopped.  I found the Milky Way and set up my tripod some yards away from the truck, to get the best view I could.  We only had our iphone flashlights for light, so I tripped, and squinted, and fumbled around trying to position the tripod and to see the settings on my camera.  I took some shots and experimented with different settings and compositions.  Finally I had Jeff shine the truck lights on an ugly tree for some foreground interest.  It was too far away and the light looked horrible.  Then I asked him to walk over to the tree and shine his iphone light on it.  What a stupid idea!  I would have been so embarrassed if there had been other photographers around to witness how ill prepared, ill equipped and comical I looked!

Then, during all of these antics, I heard a rustling noise in the trees not far from us.  I suddenly remembered that earlier, on one of our rides, two of our group were startled as a big bear ran across the trail in front of them.  (The riders who are in the first position on a trail often see animals that the following riders don't see.)  I realized that if a bear was irritated because we had invaded his territory and he started chasing us, we could never make it back to the truck.  So, it was time to pack it up and call it a night.  I was pretty dejected and sure my one chance to capture a shot of the Milky Way on this trip, was a bust.

But, skipping the rest of the story, I finally ended up with the above image, and I'm pretty pleased with the results of my very first Milky Way attempt!

This tale is already way too long, and can end now for those of you who just like to look at my photos.  But, for any hard core photographers out there, (or just the curious ones), who want to know the details of how I ended up with this image, which by the way, included lots of luck, some imagination, taking the advice of someone smarter and more experienced than I am for the technical in-camera stuff, (Scott), and stretching my own post editing, post processing skills, (big time), leave me a comment below that you are interested in learning all the 'down and dirty' details.  I'll share all my secrets and tell you....
The Rest of the Story......


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Utah Cactus

Forgotten But Still Beautiful

Spent a few minutes this morning organizing, filing and/or deleting photos which is a never ending task for me.  Here are a couple of spring blooms that on second look I decided were worth posting.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My BOYS and their TOYS



Saturday there was a car and airplane show in Heber, Utah.  They had classic airplanes on display, many from WWII, and one was called the 'Mormon Mustang'.  The show was all about classic airplanes and classic Mustang cars.  So what are these 'cudas doing here???  Our friend who was one of the organizers asked Jeff if he and our sons would bring their cars as well.  (Since this was the first year of the show, they might have been worried that not enough cars would show up.)  However, there was a great turnout, and the car owners each had a chance to park in front of the 'Mormom Mustang' and have a photographer take their picture.  When my men parked their three cars side by side, more than a few heads turned and all of a sudden there were a lot of people snapping pictures.  This may have primarily been a Mustang event, but I think the 'Cudas stole the show!  (Or I could just be biased!) 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

After the Storm

Beautiful Water Droplets

After the storm I walked through a group of these plants, (don't know what they are), and each leaf cluster had a perfect raindrop nestled in the center.  It was like looking down at dozens of little sparkling lights reflecting the shapes of the leaves.  So simple, so lovely!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wildflower Fantasy

 Wildflower Fantasy

Rocky Mountain wildflower meadows are breathtakingly beautiful, but sometimes overwhelming as my eyes and brain try to take in the jumble of vibrant colors, shapes, sizes, and textures in such large varieties and quantities.  When looking through my viewfinder, it was difficult trying to isolate and bring order to a scene like this, as I tried to find one subject flower that stood out and anchored the composition by being the main subject.  After some frustration of not finding a composition I was happy with, I decided not to fight it but to change my perspective and purpose, (every photo should have a purpose or tell a story).  With a new purpose I totally changed how I approached composing the image.  I decided the story or purpose of this image was to show the busyness and complexity of being surrounded by such a wildflower scene as I experienced that day.   

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Albion Basin, Utah

Albion Basin

The WORST kept secret in Utah.  Albion Basion is a small but beautiful area, and an easy hike up in the mountains near Salt Lake City.  It is above Alta and Snowbird ski resorts.  Around this time of year, it is a mass of beautiful wildflowers and not only does it attract many local people to enjoy the beauty, but photographers from all over the world.  It also draws local wedding and portrait photographers and families who want to take pictures for their Christmas cards, etc.  Many of these people, trample the flowers with people, chairs, picnic blankets, voluminous wedding dresses and large wedding parties.  Really sad.  I think the landscape and nature photographers are much more respectful than the general public who often are only thinking about getting their photo and not worrying too much about ruining the beauty for those who come after.  Yesterday was near the end of the wildflower season but there were still hordes of people.  Sadly, most of the wildflower fields looked kind of sad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Manti Temple After the Storm

Manti Temple After the Storm

A few weeks ago I had a scary and thought provoking experience.  I was driving all alone on a two lane road in rural central Utah, several hours away from both our northern home and southern vacation home.  It seemed from out of nowhere a violent summer thunder and lightning storm hit, and almost immediately the road became a raging river covering up the center and side dividing lines.  The black clouds were so low and the rain was coming down so fast and hard that my car was engulfed in thick sheets of water so dense and dark that my headlights were useless.  I could not see the headlights of oncoming cars or where the side of the road was, in order to pull off.  The only light came from continuous streaks of lightning very low and all around me.  The claps of thunder accompanying the lightning were close, loud and frightening.  Not daring to turn right or left or stop in the middle of the road, I crept along at about 5 mph for about 15 minutes and was grateful I didn't run into anything or off the road.  

Then after what seemed like forever, the storm relented a bit, the clouds lifted briefly, and for a minute I could see to the far end of the valley.  And there it was!  Sitting majestically on top of a hill, glowing in the horizontal rays of evening sunlight, was a beacon to help me find my way to safety; the beautiful Manti Temple!  I have always loved the picturesque setting of this exquisite temple, positioned to be seen for miles away and acting as a sentinel over this part of Utah, but it had never looked so beautiful and welcoming as it did to me on this day.

For me, temples are a reminder of my faith and hope in Jesus Christ.  When the storms of life gather around and seem ready to overtake and envelop me, I can always look to my Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ to beckon and guide me back to safety.      

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

RZR Ridin' above Heber Valley

Took a RZR ride with some friends in the BEAUTIFUL mountains above Heber Valley.  I feel so blessed to be just a short drive away from such spectacular scenery.  (All taken with my iphone and doctored in Lightroom):

Just before the rain hit.  Luckily we all have rain gear, and it didn't last long!