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.