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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bluebells & Bokeh


Another shot from Cedar Breaks National Monument.  It was hard to isolate just a few of these tiny flowers as they were clustered among so many flashier wildflowers that they didn't stand out very much.  I shot this from a low position looking up, and included dappled light filtering through the pines and aspens that created this dreamy looking backdrop.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Yesterday I took a 45 minute ride from our home near St. George, Utah, up into the mountains.  In that short time I went from a dry, hot desert climate with a day temperature around 100 degrees F, to a lush, green alpine climate with a temperature of 44 degrees F when I arrived.

Cedar Breaks National Monument
The wild flowers were in full bloom.

 Beautiful meadows and beautiful skies.

 Here is the view from the other side of the road.   It was a reminder that I was still in southern Utah and not far from the beautiful red rock cliffs I love.

 Brian Head Peak
After spending time taking photos of the wildflowers at Cedar Breaks, I drove up to this summit, where the wind was howling and I was surrounded by fast moving clouds.  The elevation here was over 11,300 feet.  (I came from an elevation of 2,800 feet in St. George.)  My car temperature showed 44 degrees, and I don't know what the official chill factor was, but I was freezing!  From this point not only can you see vast expanses of Utah is all directions, you can see parts of Nevada and Arizona.     

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Spotlight Please!!

Spotlight Please!!
Today's Fantasy Garden

It was early morning and I was in a little corner of my backyard waiting for some sort of performance to begin.  My little garden theater was in deep shadow but I could hear the rustling of leaves and the sounds of other tiny spectators waiting with me for the curtain to go up.  The stage was ready, decorated in a soft blur of the deep blues and greens of the flowers and foliage.   When the sun barely peeped over the Rocky Mountains to the east, a splash of morning light turned water drops and bokeh into a fantasy land.  Then a sunbeam found its way through the trees and hit a large boulder in the background, creating a perfect spotlight.   Finally, the leading lady took her place, making my garden fantasy show for the day perfect.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wildflowers - Mr. Nebo Scenic Loop, Utah

Nature Whispers Sweet Nothings to Those Who are Listening......
(are you listening?)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - WORK THE SCENE

Late yesterday afternoon I took a drive about an hour away from my home on the beautiful Mr. Nebo scenic loop,  (in northern Utah), that within a few short miles took me in elevation from around 4,500 ft. to near 10,000 ft.  I was hoping to find some late blooming spring wildflowers. 

I've mentioned this before, but since I just took my own advice with the following photos, I'll say it again.  When you find a location that begs you to pull out your camera..... make your time worthwhile.


Think out of the box and be as creative as you can.  Change up your view point, your perspective, the height you hold your camera, how close you are to your main subject.  Think of all the ways you can change the dials on your camera.  Use your aperture setting to create a sharp image from foreground to background, or the opposite with a narrow depth of field and only your main subject in focus.  Maybe you might try a slow shutter speed to purposely add motion.  Have you tried dialing up the exposure to try a 'high key' look.  So many possibilities.

After that it is time to switch lenses, if you have that opportunity.  A telephoto lens will bring the background closer, a wide angle lets you see the big picture, a macro will let you get close to a small subject.  Once again, so many possibilities.

And the fun doesn't end after you download to your computer.  If you are like me, you will delete most of your shots.  (Mediocre shots are not your friends.  If you can't decide if they are good, neither can anyone else, and to save them just takes up valuable computer real estate!)

You'll have a few that are 'keepers' for sure, and then a group that are 'maybes'.  First choose the ones you love immediately and are almost perfect, or need a minimal amount of editing, such as an exposure adjustment or a color correction and voila, you are happy with the result.  Then there are the 'maybes'.  These are the ones you just know have potential, but to bring that out you will need to use your imagination and your creative abilities.  Try a major crop, a change to B&W, or maybe experiment with a new filter or preset from one of the many photo editing programs available.  Yet again, so many possibilities.

I went through this procedure yesterday,   and here are a few of my 'keepers':

 wide angle 16-35 lens, taken at 27 mm

 My first priority was to find a composition with a leading line.  I need an example of this concept for a class I am teaching.  I thought the fence would work nicely, but fences are pretty common leading lines, so I positioned myself where I could get a bit of sun flare from the late afternoon sun.  (As a side note, my in camera flare was pretty weak so I embellished it in post processing.)  I also positioned myself very close to the flowers in the lower right hand corner so they would hold a fair amount of 'real estate' in the frame and give the leading lines something to.... well, lead to!  (One mistake new photographers often make is having leading lines that either take you out of the picture or that lead to nothing of interest.)  I also liked that the leading lines go from the background to the foreground which is less common that from foreground to background.

 wide angle 16-35 lens, taken at 19mm

After I got the above shot for my class, the pressure was off and I could just enjoy myself in these beautiful surroundings.  Here I was going for the big picture with interest in the foreground, (the flowers), the mid ground, (the fence), and the background, (another layer of flowers and the blue sky).
I positioned my lens within about 10 inches of these flowers so they would be the focal point of the image.  One thing to be aware of when taking grand landscapes is to figure out a focal point and make it stands out in some way.  If all objects are the same size, and all are similar in color and shape, there is nothing for the eye to rest on, and this makes the picture either boring or confusing to look at.

   100mm macro lens

After taking a bunch of wide angle shots, I then started focusing on single flowers.  As I've said before, my favorite macros are ones that include an interesting background which adds more color, or more texture, and more interest to the image.  Sometimes I like the background extremely blurred, and sometimes I like some definition.  In this photo, for example, you know you are looking at flowers in the background even if you can't see them clearly.

15 mm fisheye lens

When I'm through being 'serious', and it's time to be wild and crazy, I bring out my fisheye lens and see what happens!  One effect I really love is to use an extreme wide angle lens, (like a fisheye), and position my camera as close to my subject as the lens will allow me to focus.  The result is a subject that is greatly exaggerated in size.  This is an unusual perspective that most people don't see and unless they are photographers, don't quite understand why the photo looks 'different'.

15 mm fisheye lens

And finally, here is my best, really wild and crazy, out of the box shot that I kinda like.  Once again, taken with my fisheye lens, but this time, tilting the lens so that the curvature of the background forms a circle around the exaggerated flowers. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lady Bug on Daisy

Balancing Act

For those of you who have enjoyed my garden photos, here are a few thoughts:

Sit in a garden and be still.

Try for early morning when the world feels fresh and hopeful. Push all thoughts of schedules, worries, and unfinished tasks, to the very back of your mind for a while.

Be aware of your sense of smell, of sight, of sound, of touch. Be in the moment with the small creatures that frequent your summer garden....a bird searching for a breakfast worm to take back to her nest, a buzzing bee busily collecting his daily quota, a ladybug balancing easily on a gently swaying daisy petal, the graceful flutter of butterfly wings floating from flower to flower. Notice the vibrant colors of the flowers, and breathe in deeply of their fragrance. Take off your shoes and let the grass tickle your toes. And be sure to look up to see if there are a few well placed puffy white clouds skimming across a blue sky.

Let yourself be fully in the moment in order to balance your busy schedule with some quiet time. Let yourself feel refreshed, invigorated, and eager to make this a great day.

Finally, this would be a perfect time to say a little prayer of gratitude for the beauty of a simple garden, and the peace with which to enjoy this gift.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bee on Daisy

'Stinging in the Rain'........(I know, bad pun!)

Amazing how a little sprinkler shower can add soft circles of bokeh light and a watercolor effect to a nature image.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Garden Visitor

I spent a few minutes this morning in my garden with a visitor, enjoying the sunshine and the daisies!

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Men & Their Cars

I don't usually post family photos on my photography blog, (I have a family blog for that), but I thought since I have been posting so many flowers lately, that I should post something 'manly'!  Here are three of my four men and their classic muscle cars.  My husband has helped our three boys each restore a car and he has restored several himself.  (For you car buffs, you may be interested in Jeff's story of finding and restoring the car in this photo.  The story is HERE.)  The colors on these cars are original and I love their names:  Vitamin C, Top Banana & Plum Crazy.  There is almost nothing our boys, (now men),  would rather do than spend time with each other and their Dad, with their heads under the hood of an old car!!!  Our third son lives in another state now and is so jealous he can't share in the fun more often.  
I think this is a pretty handsome group, (especially my grandson).....and the cars aren't bad either!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Good Morning!

It was a GOOD MORNING in my garden!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Imperfect Usually Means Interesting!

The Last Petal to Open

To make macro flower compositions more interesting, look for a bloom with an abnormality, or an unusual feature to act as a focal point.  Draw more attention to your focal point by using a large aperture to create a very narrow depth of field so only the unusual part of the bloom is in focus.

A perfectly symmetrical flower is usually not nearly as interesting as one with a unique character or 'personality'.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Monument Valley - The Mittens

When we first arrived at this viewpoint in Monument Valley, the sky overhead was blue and soft sun light was filtering through a few white, puffy clouds.

A short while later, the storm caught up with us.

It passed through quickly leaving the mittens and monuments in a hazy, watery mist.  
So interesting how the same scene can look so different in such a short period of time when the weather is in control!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mirror Lake, Utah

Mirror Lake, Utah
(Taken in August, 2014)

If you love love love taking pictures and if you are anything like me, your computer, like mine, is always overloaded with photo shoots that I haven't yet gone through to decide their fate.  I always have a bunch of photos that I can't decide whether to keep or not, so they sit waiting for a decision.  Then there are the keepers that I will eventually get around to editing and posting on this blog or Facebook or 500 px, or save in my Smugmug account.  The result is, I have hundreds, (maybe thousands), of photos sitting in a temporary folder waiting for me to dispatch them to their final home.  I actually have more important things to do in my life other than photography, (did I just say that??),  and there are never enough hours in the day,  so I'm not real efficient about handling my 'post photo shoot' work in a timely manner.  

Which leads me to this photo.  This morning I was spending a few minutes shuffling through photos from last year that are still patiently waiting for me to notice them.  Well I noticed this one and was surprised it didn't catch my eye before now.  The sky in the background was covered with clouds, but the late afternoon sun was shinning in blue sky, lighting up the trees and water reflections.    I think it is worthy of a second look and a post.

(P.S.  I boosted the lighting and colors in the foreground as the boat was in deep afternoon shadow.)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

Red is the Rose

Red is the Rose
This was taken in my garden the same day as my last post.  I call this a common landscape rose bush, but have no idea what the actual name is.  It stands about 4-5 feet tall, and has a riot of these small blooms covering the branches.  When I look at it from a  distance, it is just a bright, red blur, with no distinct features.  

I love how a photograph can isolate, enlarge and draw attention to the details and beauty of one single bloom.  

(You might think this was taken with a macro lens, but I used a telephoto lens and I was standing several feet away from the flower.) 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pastel Pink

The peonies in my garden are in full bloom.  I enjoyed photographing them this morning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Storm in Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again:  when the weather is dramatic, when the clouds are ominous and low, when it's lightning (at a safe distance), or rainy or windy,  you will be well rewarded if you grab your camera and head outside to brave the elements.  (Of course you need to take safety precautions and be prepared to protect yourself and your equipment from moisture and lightning.)

I wanted to capture the 'feel' of power and intensity as the storm descended on the cliffs in the background.  I did this by using a wide angle lens to capture a large amount of sky, making the storm the focal point of the image.

 Here I used a telephoto lens to bring the background closer and to make the beautiful light in the foreground, the subject of the image.
 (These shots were taken on the same day and in the same storm as my previous post of Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.

When I find myself with this kind of 'weather' opportunity, the first thing I think about is how I 'feel' about the scene.  What is it that 'moves' me when I look through my viewfinder that I want to remember and also convey to others.  In this scene, I wanted to show how the weather dramatically affected the lighting, colors and mood of the landscape.  I wanted those who viewed these photographs to have a sense of opposing forces.  I wanted to show how 'mother nature' can cause a powerful and ominous spring storm to blacken the skies and at the same time allow soft, magical light to scrape across the beautiful desert landscape.  (I hope I succeeded with these two shots.) 

One thing to consider when deciding how you will photograph such a scene, is the focal length you use and how much of the scene you will include in the frame.  Both will affect the 'feel' and mood of your photos.  If you notice, I am standing within the same vicinity when I took both of the above photos, yet each one gives a vastly different interpretation of what I was seeing from my vantage point.  Of course which one you favor, or which one you are drawn to, is a personal preference.  There is no right or wrong image.

For me, both of these images capture what I was seeing and feeling at this moment in time as I watched the storm unfold, gather intensity, and transform the landscape with ever changing patterns of light and color.

P.S.  I thought this was the highlight of my day.  Of course I was unaware of the adventure I would have at Horseshoe Bend a few hours later!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, AZ
(This is probably one of the top 10 photographed landscapes in the United States)

First you have to read the story behind this photo to understand my 'Tech Talk' comments at the end:

 Recently Jeff and I spent 3 glorious days riding our RZRs in Moab with a group of friends.  Before returning home, I persuaded Jeff to take one more day to go to Arches National Park and Monument Valley.  This is a landscape photographer's dream drive.  We stopped many times along the way so I could take photos, but as the day wore on I felt rushed because there were so many pictures to take and so little time.  The day was quickly slipping away.  

The last stop I wanted to make was at Horseshoe Bend, just across the border from Utah in Arizona.  I've traveled past the turnoff to this landmark several times, but have never stopped to photograph this iconic scene where the Colorado River has carved a spectacular 'U' into the deep canyon walls.  Well, today was going to be the day!

At this point, however, it was late afternoon, and I knew we'd be racing the clock to get there before the sun went down.  It had been storming off and on all day, and thus far, I was thrilled with the weather because brooding, stormy skies always make landscape photos more dramatic.  (I'll post some of those shots in the future).   But now the storm was threatening to get serious.  It was thundering and I could see lightning in the distance, exactly in the direction we were headed.  

We pulled into the parking lot/trail head about 20 minutes before the sun would disappear, along with my photo opportunities.   I was hoping I could walk a couple of yards to the viewpoint, but that was not the case.  It was a 3/4 mile hike.  I was really nervous about leaving the protection of the car because I could see lightning and rain all around us.  We decided to go for it anyway and made the hike in record time, trying to ignore the howling wind that was announcing the impending storm  heading our way.  All the while I'm thinking what a waste of time this was, because the sun just above the horizon, was hiding behind thick clouds, making the landscape dull and gloomy.  The red cliffs were drab and I knew the water deep in the canyon would look black.

 Just at the time we finally arrived at this viewpoint, however, an amazing thing happened.  The sun broke out of the clouds just barely above the horizon, bathing the landscape in brilliant, golden sunset light, and creating this gorgeous scene!  I knew I only had a few short minutes before it would disappear below the horizon.  Even though I was out of breath from rushing to get there before the advancing storm hit and the sun disappeared, I frantically searched for a vantage point to take my photos, navigating between the 50 or so other people who were doing the same thing.  I had no time to set up my tripod.  I didn't even have time to think about which lens would be best, or even what settings to use, but LUCKILY, I had done all this beforehand.  When I found my spot I hurriedly inched as close to the edge as I dared, but when I looked through the viewfinder of my camera, it made me dizzy, so I yelled at Jeff to hold onto the back of my jacket so I wouldn't lose my balance.  I tried to steady my camera as best as I could in the wind that became worse as I got closer to the edge, and then I rapidly fired off a very few shots.  That was it!   Just that fast the sun was gone and so was this beautiful scene.

With the sunlight gone, it quickly became dark and threatening, as the rain and lightning were very close.  We left as fast as we could to get back to our car.  Now the 3/4 mile hike was uphill so we weren't moving nearly as fast.  (I was rudely reminded that I am now an old, out of shape person, as we watched so many younger people run past us without even breathing hard!)  About 30 minutes later, when we were just a few yards from the car, it started to rain.  I tucked my camera under my jacket and we made the final dash before the torrent hit.  With only having a couple of minutes of shooting time, I felt very LUCKY to come away with the few shots I took even though I had no confidence that they would be any good!

Was I really LUCKY to get those shots?  What part does LUCK play in getting great shots!  
Here are my 'Tech Talk' thoughts for today:   

We can learn all the 'rules' of photography.  We can take classes to learn how to be better photographers.  We can find the most interesting locations or subjects to shoot.  We can work to develop our artistic talents.  And so on.  But sometimes it just comes down to GOOD LUCK as to whether we get a great shot or not!  I didn't have much hope that my photos would be any good because of the poor weather conditions at first, and then my frantic attempt at a few shots, so I was surprised when I saw this result.  I realized that for the very few minutes when it all came together at this place, I had the GOOD LUCK to be there!  And here's another thought.  I bet almost every other person standing at that view point along with me at that moment, was LUCKY too, and got a beautiful photo as well, whether they used a $10,000 dollar camera or a smart phone.......BECAUSE IT WAS MORE ABOUT THE PLACE, THE TIME, THE WEATHER, AND THE BEAUTIFUL LIGHTING, THAN IT WAS ABOUT THE EQUIPMENT OR EXPERTISE.   
(Note:  I'm sure some photos were better than others, but I bet everyone ended up with a decent photo assuming their camera or smart phone was working correctly and pointed in the right direction!)   

  Some would think that 'BEING LUCKY'  implies we have no control over whether we have good photo karma or not.  But I maintain there are ways we can tip the odds of being LUCKY in our favor.  I think that often GOOD LUCK goes hand in hand with PREPARATION AND QUANTITY.  The more often we are prepared for the unexpected by keeping our cameras with us, the more we look for great photo ops on our daily travels and the more photos we take each week, might determine how often we are LUCKY enough to be in the right place at just the right time to take an awesome photo!

Not only will I enjoy this beautiful scene for years to come, I'll remember how LUCKY I was to get it. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bleeding Heart Fantasy

Speaking of Boosting Your Photographic Creativity........ (previous post)

This spring in northern Utah we have had a lot of rainy, windy, blustery weather, and so I've spent as much time as I can manage, enjoying shooting the beautiful cactus blooms in the sunny, warm weather of southern Utah.  When we returned to our northern Utah home, however, I realized that I had neglected and missed many of my favorite spring blooms.  It has been so windy and rainy that I hadn't even been out to see what was blooming in my own yard.  When I finally ventured out, I realized with great disappointment, that one of my favorite spring flowers, my bleeding hearts, were pretty much done.  The lovely arching branches with dainty little rows of hearts were mostly dried up or gone. 

This is the time when I used to walk away and photograph another day, but now I force myself to think of other possibilities before I pack up the camera.  So I searched until I found one or two hearts that must have either been late bloomers or were sheltered from the strong winds, because they still looked fresh and intact.  The problem was that they were so hidden by foliage, there was no way I could photography them where they were as a natural, nature shot. 

So I immediately switched to 'Plan B'.  I knew this had to be a 'studio portrait' so the first thing I did was cut the little branch that had the best looking little heart and bring it inside.  I put it in a glass of water on my kitchen counter and put a piece of white foam board behind it as a backdrop.  I shot from various angles, some close ups and some including the glass. 

After downloading my images to the computer and selecting the one I liked the best, I then had to visualize how I wanted the final image to look.  I decided I wanted a colorful 'fantasy' look, so I knew I would do some major, (but simple and quick), editing.  The first thing I did was to combine the bleeding heart image with another image I took of a flowerbed that I purposefully shot out of focus to use as a soft, dreamy and colorful background.  Then I added a soft focus filter to increase the 'dreamy' look even more.  That's it!  The final result may not be what I originally intended, but I had fun using my imagination to create something unique, and definitely a fantasy!      

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday

One way to develop more creativity and diversity in your photography is to brain storm beyond the composition you initially had in mind and force yourself to think of different possibilities.  

I was driving on the outskirts of a small town near our winter home in southern Utah, when I spied a 'field' of cactus (cacti??) in bloom.  I then noticed the beautiful sky with big puffy clouds parting after the recent storm.   I immediately thought of a composition with a large depth of field showing the entire vista, which would highlight a cactus bloom in the foreground, and the lovely red hills and sky in the background.  I was there during midday, so I chose a view that also included sun flare, which you know is one of my favorite things!

(On a side note, while it is true that many landscape photographers think the times of day near the golden hours of sunrise and sunset are best for dramatic landscape photography, I believe that beautiful photography happens at all times of day and in all types of lighting.)

After I was satisfied that I captured what I was after, I could have packed it up and moved on.  But I always try to say to myself, "What's next?  Is there a different composition here?  Is there a more interesting perspective?"  Sometimes, I just walk around and change my location while looking through my viewfinder.  Sometimes I change my elevation, (shoot from a higher or lower perspective).  Sometimes I change my lens from a wide angle to a macro and look for an intimate view.  The possibilities are as big as your imagination.

I have found that when I expand my vision and think of additional possible compositions, often one of those OTHER compositions turns out to be my favorite shot of the day!