Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cactus Bloom at Sunset

I love cactus blooms.  I love the combination of a delicate soft flower growing amid the inhospitable prickly thorns.  We have a cactus in our yard similar to this and the blooms only lasted one day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Thoughts

Death and Life

I was thinking about what to post for Easter and I initially thought about a photo of an Easter Lily.  But today, Saturday, while on a ride in our RZRs, I saw this scene and immediately knew this would be my Easter post.

 The day started out with perfect weather, deep blue skies, puffy white clouds and pretty scenery.  But by late afternoon, we were riding through acres and acres of dead and blackened trees, remnants from a previous forest fire.  To add to the scene, the sky had clouded over with dark and ominous looking clouds.  We drove on for several miles, then rounded a bend and came across this scene, where these beautiful spring flowers had popped up among the dead trees.  Death and Life. 

God reveals His divine plan for us in many ways if we just look, listen and feel.  We can read about it in His scriptures, we can ask about it through personal prayer and receive personal confirmation.  And, we can observe the workings of the world He created for us, which in many ways symbolizes death and rebirth.  We celebrate Easter in the spring, when the earth awakens and comes alive again after a long winter's sleep that represents death.  And even when forces of nature, such as fire, kills all living things, we know that eventually life will win over death, the grass will return, the flowers will return, and the trees will return.

God has given us the greatest gift of being born again, or being resurrected, and He sent His beloved son Jesus Christ to show us the way.  It doesn't matter if we die in the Spring of life, or in the winter of life, or some where in between.  It doesn't matter what our life's circumstances have been, whether we have led a charmed life, or a troubled life.  Eventually the ominous clouds will gather and we will die.   But because of the resurrection and atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we will all live again to meet our Redeemer and be reunited with our loved ones!!

'Oh what comfort this sweet sentence gives, 
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"'  
(I know That My Redeemer Lives

I hope you have a peaceful Easter Sunday.

P.S.  This photo was taken with my iphone.  I was sitting on the ground and had the phone resting on my foot for a low angle and to keep it steady.  I did a fair amount of post processing as well.



Friday, April 18, 2014

More Desert Beauty

Are you tired of cactus photos yet????  

The desert does not display it's spring treasures in a grand way.  In fact, sometimes one has to go on a 'treasure' hunt and look closely to find such beautiful and colorful blooms such as these.  I went on a little desert hike with a local photo club the other day, and the leader had already scouted out the route for the hike and lead us to some beautiful blooming cacti, some of which are rare in our immediate area.  I wish I could remember the names of all of them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

White Prickly Poppy

Two compositions of this desert flower.  Can't decide which I like the best.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Valley of Fire Bloom

Valley of Fire Challenge

On a recent trip home from a car show in Las Vegas, I took a detour through Valley of Fire State Park.  As is often the case when I can snatch some time for photography, it was in the middle of a bright, sunny, windy, hot, cloudless day.  So I didn't bother taking shots of all the red cliffs because the colors would be washed out, there would be deep shadows and the sky would be plain and boring.  So I found this scene with one lone bloom and used it as the focal point for my composition.  Because the flower was relatively small and not very colorful against the red sand, I used a wide angle lens and shot very close in order to exaggerate its size.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Light Show

I must be nuts to be posting this at 3:00 am, but I decided that I would try to photograph the eclipse and the full eclipse did not take place until around 1:30 am.  Then sleep eluded me, so here I am!  
This photo is a composite of two shots with two different lenses.  The moon was taken with a telephoto in manual: 300mm, 1 sec, f/11, ISO 2500.  The mountain was taken with a wide angle in manual:  16mm, 30 sec, f/11, ISO 1600.  I combined them in Photoshop.  In full resolution, there is quite a bit of noise.  I did not increase the saturation at all, but found it interesting that what I saw with my eyes was not nearly as orange as the color the camera captured. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Desert In Bloom at Dusk

The spring desert at dusk turns a sharp, harsh landscape of midday into soft blue greens, dotted with brightly colored blooms.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Desert Scene at Sunset

Desert Beauty - Up Close & Personal

To truly appreciate the desert, I think one needs to take a close and intimate view.  While there are some quite large and 'showy' desert plants like the saguaro, joshua and ocatilla, many are seemingly not very impressive or even noticeable if you are looking out the window of a moving car.  At the end of our day of ATV riding, (when I took the last two posts), the light was almost gone after sunset and while Jeff was loading our RZRs on the trailer, I took a short walk out into the desert.  I was surprised at all I saw that I hadn't noticed from a few yards away.  I love this combination of the interesting, sharp spined barrel cactus, along with the delicate look of the tiny spring flowers.  I couldn't see any of this from the road.

So here are my thoughts for today.  Don't stand on the side of the road, or look outside your window and think that you are seeing all the beauty there is to see.  Take a stroll off 'the beaten path', or down the "road less traveled".  Take time to stop, listen, observe and look at the hidden beauty all around that most people don't see.  In other words, don't view nature as an outsider looking in.  Instead, be an actively, observant insider and you will not only increase you skills as a photographer, but even more importantly, you will gain greater reverence for our Creator who made this magnificent world we are privileged to live in and enjoy!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cactus Blooms

Cactus Blooms
Some people, like some plants, grow to their full potential despite harsh conditions, and make the world a more beautiful place where ever they are rooted.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cactus in the Spotlight

Cactus in the Spotlight

In the past, it seems photographers would avoid sun flare at all costs, thinking it ruined photos.  In recent years, however, many photographers are using sun flare creatively to add interest to all subjects including outdoor portraits, landscapes, nature shots, etc.  I wouldn't use sun flare purposefully in most of my photos, but sometimes it is fun and does make what might be a simple composition more interesting.  Since I recently posted several images using sun flare I thought I'd post this one I took yesterday.  Actually, the flare was an unexpected bonus as I wasn't planning on it.  This type of cactus, (can't remember the name), is beautiful when back light by the sun, creating fuzzy rims of light.  The sun was getting low in the horizon and I loved the way this cactus was highlighted while the surrounded area was not.  But I did not notice the sun flare until I downloaded to the computer.  A fun surprise.  I love the interesting streaks of light and how it lands on the cactus perfectly.  No skill here, just luck!

Friday, March 28, 2014

P.S. to Last Post

Jan's comment in my last post reminded me that I forgot to include an important bit of information.  To get the first shot of the temple I had to edit the heck out of it using different exposures.  The highlights were blown out and the shadows were very deep.  And of course I cropped and color corrected to the color I actually saw.  Here is the best of the original photos I took:

And here is my version, closer to what my eyes saw:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tech Talk Tuesday....kind of

St. George Temple, St. George, Utah

I haven't done 'Tech Talk Tuesday' for a long time, but it's Tuesday and I have a few thoughts, (amazing isn't it), so here's how my photo shoot went yesterday:

Years ago I took some sunrise photos of this beautiful temple, and so I wanted to take some sunset photos.  I was there well before sunset to see where the sun would fall, where would be the best angles, and if there were enough flowers in bloom to make an interesting spring photo.  First of all I found that there were very few flowers at the front entrance which was also in deep shadow.  I moved around to this side and I was early enough to have plenty of time to get my camera gear out and ready.  I was thinking about what lenses and settings I'd use to get late sunset and twilight shots.  You know, the kind with the reds and oranges of sunset, and then the pinks, purples and magentas of twilight.

About that time I get a call from my husband saying we were having friends come over for the evening.  I had forgotten!  That meant I had about a half an hour to pull off some shots before I had to leave.  Well so much for my sunset plans.  Now I had the harsh, bright light of late afternoon.  What to do?

What would you do?  Well, my first thought was to pack it up and go another time.  But I had just said in my last post that there is always something to photograph despite the conditions so I figured I better take my own advice.  

One way to improve your photography skills, is to think of how to counteract the challenges you face.  I realized that a beautiful sunset/twilight sky was not going to be what would make my photos interesting today.  (Remember that the most important thing about your photos is that they should be interesting enough so that the viewer wants to stay and look.)  The photo above is a good representation of the flat, harsh lighting I had to work with.

Below are a couple of ways I choose to try and create an interesting photo despite the harsh lighting conditions, or even better, use the harsh lighting to my advantage:

  Here I chose a fisheye lens which created an unusual perspective, at a very low angle, and included the sun purposely to include flare.  I left out the boring sky.  I also used a polarizing filter on my lens to cut out some of the glare.

On this shot I used a wide aperture, (small number) and was very close to the flower.  This turned the water streams and splashes from the fountain into big beautiful soft bokeh.  I chose a flower in front of the fountain that was highlighted by the sun while the fountain was in shadow which created the contrast.

Here is another flower composition I found interesting.  I liked the white flower spotlighted in the sun set against the deep gray shadows of the building with the splash of color on the bottom.

Another group of flowers basking in the sun and in the spotlight of the sun flare.  

What do you think?  I don't think any of these are 'keepers' but I think I met the challenge of finding a couple of compositions, angles and lighting situations that were unique and interesting.  Would a viewer pause and take a second look at these before deciding if they liked them or not?  I don't know but I know it was a challenge for me to come up with anything worth keeping in the few minutes and in the conditions I had to work with.  I stretched and that means I'm improving my skills (I hope)!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Near Gunlock, Utah

Seek and Find!

One bonus of enjoying taking photos of many subjects, is that if one looks hard enough, or is observant enough, there is always something interesting to photograph.  If the weather or light is crappy for taking landscape photos, maybe you focus on insect or flower macros.  Or maybe you head into town and look for interesting characters, people at work, or interesting architecture.  

There is always SOMETHING to photograph, and every time I go out specifically to take photos I challenge myself to come home with at least one keeper.  This doesn't mean it will always be a show stopper, but working hard to find an interesting composition, even when you are sure there isn't one, will help you become a better photographer.  It's the 'practice, practice, practice' principle.

Today just before sunset I took a break and headed out to a very small community called Gunlock, about 15 minutes away. The light was not good, flat with mostly high filmy clouds that made the orange cliffs muted and pastel-ish, so I was thinking more about finding old barns, fences, and a composition that didn't include the sky.  By the time the sun was behind the mountains I still hadn't found anything too interesting, except for a small herd of donkeys that were strolling down the middle of the road!  I took a couple of snaps from my car, but knew I didn't have my 'keeper' for the day.  I was about ready to give up when I glimpsed something shiny right off the road, but mostly hidden by tall weeds.  I turned around, drove back, and found a place to pull off so I stopped and walked around the weeds about 3 yards and discovered this scene.  It was a very small pond with greenish water, probably from a spring, nestled at the foot of this orange rock.  And just then, as if on cue, the clouds parted to allow some blue sky to peek through.  I had found my photo op for the day!

Since the sun was down and it was getting dark, I knew the camera could not capture the color of the water that I saw.  It would record as almost black if I exposed for the sky.  And the reverse was true.  If I increased the exposure to show the color of the water, the sky would be blown out white.  So I put my camera on a tripod and took three different exposures and then blended them together in Lightroom.  I also increased the vibrancy a little because the light was so flat.  This is very close to how my eyes actually saw this scene.


P.S.  Oh, and here is the very friendly donkey that walked up to my car in the middle of he road.  Luckily I was 'in the country' with no traffic so I could stop.  I took this shot out of my open window about a foot away from him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Almost Time for Moab Fun!!

Here is what we do for fun in Moab:

Our son guiding his Dad down a steep cliff.

 Smooth sand makes for a fast and fun ride.

Nothing like splashing in the water on a hot day.

Here's what crazy people (IMHO) do in Moab:

 They go places that are impossible to go.

 They pop tires and break axles and fix them on the spot.

They thrive on challenges.  It is truly a contest between man and machine verses rock and boulder!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Johnson Arch, Snow Canyon, Utah

About a week ago I took a late afternoon walk to Johnson's Arch which is at the end of a box canyon about 10 minutes away from our casita.  The cottonwood trees that grow near the stream beds are beginning to show their spring greens, and to the left is the path I am walking along.

Well, of all the spectacular arches in red rock country, this certainly isn't one of them!  In fact I had to look a while to find it.  It is hard to spot because there is another cliff close behind it.  Can you see it??

By the time I walked back the sun was doing its thing to the ruddy red/orange landscape.  Spring in the desert is beautiful!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Zealand Beachcomber

We have been home from New Zealand for a year and a half and I have yet to compile my landscape and nature photos into a coffee table book.  I'm determined to do this within the next month or two.  I've started reviewing and choosing which ones to include and as I do, I'm already longing to return to this magical place. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Deer in Zion

Cautiously Friendly

The valley in Zion National Park is a great place to go if you are interested in photographing deer, especially in early morning or around dusk when they are active and often in abundance.  They have learned through the decades that here there is nothing to fear from the humans they encounter, and so you can often get quite close.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bonus Photo!

When thinking about shooting landscapes, I'm usually looking up and out, searching for a grand vista that needs my attention.  Driving down the ruddy red road in the last post, I kept looking for a pleasing composition.  When I saw that view, I quickly pulled off the side of the road, where there was a very narrow space between the road and side brush.  I got out of the car to better look at the composition, the light, the line of the road, etc., and when I finally decided it was worth taking a few shots,  I reached back into the car to grab my camera, fumbled around to find my glasses so I could change the lens, blew my nose, etc.  When I finally had it all together, I moved back a few feet and slammed the car door.  Then I suddenly saw a tiny movement out of the corner of my eye, and about 3 feet away from my feet is this little guy who had been patiently staring at me despite the commotion I was making.  I stared back and expected him to scamper away immediately, but he just kept on staring at me.  Of course I had the wrong lens on my camera, so I quickly walked to the back of the car, opened the hatch where my camera bag was, and changed my lens again.  I walked back around to where he was perched, fully expecting him to be gone.  But there he was, waiting for me.  He posed patiently while I took several shots, and when he figured I had what I needed, he finally ran away. 
Reminder for me:  don't be so wrapped up trying to find the big picture that you miss seeing the little picture up close and personal!   

Monday, March 3, 2014

Color Coordinated!

I took this on the same evening as the previous POST.  A unique feature in Zion National Park is that the roads are paved in red to blend in with the rest of the scenery.  Makes for a visually striking composition of similar red, orange, coral and rust tones.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Sunset - Zion National Park

Now Here's a Cabin With a View!!

Our little Casita is about a half hour drive to Zion National Park, one of my FAVORITE places of all time.  I've been anxiously waiting for spring to come when the brilliant green leaves of the cottonwood trees and grasses make such a striking contrast to the red cliffs.  But yesterday, I just couldn't wait. 

I discovered a back road that skirts around the edge of the park that I had not known existed and found some breathtakingly, majestic views.  I spent an hour or so at sunset watching these beautiful cliffs catch on fire as the sun moved closer to the horizon.  

I'm assuming the land in this valley is privately owned, and just outside the park, since there were several privately owned cabins.  What a view they have, even in winter!    

Monday, February 17, 2014

Make a Statement!

Dare to be different, 
Dare to make a statement, 
Dare to stand up and be noticed,
Dare to stand for something. 

I was going through some photos I took last spring, (and longing for spring to come again soon), and this one reminded me of a lovely conversation I had with my daughter-in-law today. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MORE Deep Thoughts from Cari and Me!

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments on THIS recent post.

I'd like to comment on Cari's comment, which was: "This was a big huge enormous deal when I worked at a newspaper. There are very VERY strict rules about how much a photo can be altered using software. Pretty much it boiled down to, "If you can do it in a dark room, you can do it to a photo in the newspaper." And pretty much that means using the lasso tool and some dodge and burning. Anything outside that was considered "unethical" and actually while I worked there, a fella lost his job because he altered a photo too much and put the newspaper's reputation as a trusted unbiased source in jeopardy. As a photojournalist, you had to be clear about whether or not your image was documenting something or whether it was a piece of art. If it ran in the newspaper it had better not be "blessed" at all."

Cari is absolutely correct in stating that a photojournalist has a responsibility to accurately capture an event honestly and realistically.  But that being said, even if a photo is absolutely accurate, it can still mislead or influence or sway the viewer in one way or another.

An unethical photojournalist still has the ability to alter a viewer's perception of an event even if the photos she takes are accurate.  Say for example, I'm covering a protest and the scene is one with policemen and protestors confronting each other.  I may choose a photo angle prominently showing an angry policeman's face with a club raised, (influencing the viewer to sympathize with the protestors and have negative feelings about police brutality), or maybe I will choose to shoot one of the protestors throwing a bottle at a policeman, (negative feelings toward the protestors).  Or maybe I take a shot in one direction showing beautiful blue sky and cherry blossoms in the background (happy feelings about the protest), or maybe I choose to turn the other way and take shots with the background showing a dark alley littered with garbage (negative feelings about the protest).  If I didn't produce photos that showed a balanced view of the protest, I'd be unethical, even without any post editing.

But what if I did edit my photos.  What if I wanted to use software to crop in tight to better see the subject or action of the story.  What if my best image came out a bit soft and I wanted to use software to sharpen it and make it more presentable for print.  What if I shot in color and I wanted to use software to turn it into a black & white image?  In my opinion, all these types of computer software editing would be perfectly ethical. 

Here is another example.  Say I'm a commercial photographer and I'm hired to take photos of a tropical resort for an advertising campaign with the goal of attracting more vacationers.  Of course my boss wants the photos to look beautiful and inviting, with azure blue skies and the turquoise ocean in the background.  No problem, because the resort is beautiful, the sky is beautiful and the ocean is beautiful, and I can get all that in a photo.  But what if there is a huge, stinky, garbage dump on one side of the resort, and railroad tracks with trains that run throughout the night along the other side of the resort?  Would I be unethical if I left those elements out of my photo???

Well, for me, the answer is Yes, and No!  Yes, this would be unethical if I knew my photos were being used to accurately represent what the resort looked like from the eyes of a paying vacationer, because even if the resort itself was beautiful, I know that vacationers influenced by my photos would feel disappointed if downright cheated seeing the surrounding area.  But if I was taking the photo to show the beautiful architecture of the resort and the crystal clear ocean, and my goal was to show my blog viewers a glimpse of the beauty in a certain place, then it would not be unethical to crop out those elements.

As photographers, we must compose every shot we take, and unless we are using a fisheye lens, (which also distorts reality, as do any kind of camera filters, black & white images, etc.), we always have to pick and chose what we include in the frame, and what we exclude.

So it all boils down to integrity, meaning we should be governed by the purpose and intent of the photo and the message or story we are trying to tell the viewer.  If I'm using my camera as a tool to document reality, (photojournalist, scientist, etc.), I will have a strict and stringent set of guidelines.  If, however, I'm using my camera as a tool to expand my creativity and artistry, then pretty much anything goes! 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Valentines!

When I posted a photo of my most recent granddaughter a couple of posts ago, Diane suggested that I post photos of all my grandchildren.   Asking a grandmother to do that is the granddaddy of all photo requests for me, as I'm sure it would be for any grandmother.  The following are random shots from this past year going from the oldest to the youngest.  (I won't post their names, as I didn't get permission from their parents.)  With Valentines like these, who needs anything else!!!!

This is the last photo I took of our little angel who passed away several years ago.

(This photo was taken by his Mommy)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Deep Thoughts.........

Jan's comment about my last two posts sparked a few thoughts I'd like share.

I mentioned that I had taken the photos with my iphone, and her comment was:  "Those are spectacular photos from your phone. Those little cameras do a great job but I'm sure you added some "blessings" to the final product."  

Jan was giving me a sincere compliment, (thank you Jan), but I began thinking about what she meant by adding some 'blessings' to the final product.  I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking she was referring to editing or enhancing the photos on the computer, which I often do.  But in reality, that's a minor part of the process.

I think that years ago, before Photoshop, most of us did not realize that many photos, back to Ansel Adams and beyond, were 'retouched' in the darkroom, and more recently with the invention of Photoshop and other programs, 'edited' on the computer.  In those days when we saw a photo of a beautiful portrait or a spectacular landscape, we just assumed it came straight out of the camera and we applauded the artistry of the photographer.

Fast forward a few years and now most everyone knows about Photoshop and the ability photographers have to alter their photos.  Plus, sophisticated digital cameras are now owned by it seems most everyone, not just professionals.  It is easy to suspect that now every beautiful photo has been edited and that photographers can give every photo the 'wow' factor with just a few mouse clicks.  This idea goes hand in hand with the idea that the bigger and more expensive the camera, the better the photos will be.  (I can't tell you how many people have said to me, "I really need to get a good camera so I can take pictures like that").  In reality, both of these notions are not accurate.

First of all, no amount of editing can turn a bad photo into a wow photo, (unless you are going for something abstract, fantasy or unconventional in some other way).  Second, even the most expensive cameras take bad photos, lots of them!

The bottom line is that the photographer taking the photo is still the major factor that determines whether a photo is mediocre or awesome.  Learning to 'see the light', learning to recognize an interesting composition,  taking the time to put all the elements together, being at the right place at the right time, etc., these are the most important things that will determine the quality of a photo.

Here is a repost of one of the photos Jan was referring to, and here's how I came to take this photo.  Late afternoon I noticed that the sky was lightly overcast with thin clouds which created soft, beautiful shadows on the red rock, unlike the harsh shadows and washed out colors that direct sunlight causes.  I knew the weather conditions were right for beautiful light.  I picked the time when I knew the sun would be low in the sky, just before sunset when the warm light would enhance the red rocks.  I looked for a composition where the red rocks were facing the right direction and were bathed in the warm sunlight. Then I looked for an interesting foreground object, (the cactus), and studied the scene from several directions.  When it all came together, I took the photo.  I did very little editing on the computer, mainly cropped out a rock I thought was distracting.  And since I used my iphone to take the photo, I didn't use any fancy settings, lenses or filters.  I didn't do anything difficult, just took a little time and used a little easily learned knowledge, and that's what counts.

Just to show you the difference, I went back to the same spot the next day, not giving any thought to the things I took into consideration for the first photo.  I just walked to the same spot in the middle of the day and snapped a shot.  This time the sky was heavily overcast but still much brighter than the scenery.  The camera automatically reduced the exposure because of the bright sky, making all the scenery look dark.  A large part of the composition shows an unattractive road and boring white sky. 

Bottom line No amount of editing can compensate for an uninteresting composition and poor light.  Thoughtful decisions made by the photographer are always the beginning of a great photo, and then sometimes, editing can make a great photo even better.  (In the case of the two photos Jan was talking about, the 'blessings' did not take place in the computer, but in the field!)