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. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

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!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Seeing Red

What Karen Saw

 What Karen's Camera Saw

Some of us are able to travel to exotic places where one could point and shoot an image anywhere and it would be memorable!  But for those of us who are not always able to do this, we must find beauty in our everyday world.  Then we must figure out how to isolate it from the mundane, and highlight that beauty to our own photographic and artistic interpretation.  
Learning to SEE the beauty that is where you are will greatly improve your photographic skills and increase the number of memorable images you will make!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Mother - the Sweetest word!   Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Desert Beauty

Sometimes it is hard to believe that such beautiful blooms appear on harsh, unfriendly plants, like this cactus.  Cactus blooms are often on display for such a very short period of time, that many people rarely get to see the lovely side of a desert landscape.  I hope those of you who live far away from the south western deserts of the US are enjoying what I see at this time of year. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Salt Lake Temple & Daffodils

Salt Lake Temple & Daffodils

I haven't done a Tech Talk Tuesday for a long time, so today is just a mini chat..... really, just a couple of ideas for you to consider that might help improve your photography:

For those of us who are not fortunate enough to travel to far away places and photograph majestic wonders around the world, we need to concentrate on making great photos of what we see in our own backyard, neighborhood, city, etc.  But because we see these familiar landscapes, objects, flora & fauna, buildings, all the time, we need to be creative and look for ways to make these familiar objects more interesting.  There are numerous ways to do this, but the above photos demonstrate two of my favorite ways:

Lighting - Lighting can have a dramatic effect in creating interesting photos of familiar scenes.  Soft light, harsh shadows, directional light, bad weather, sun flare, back lighting, are a few ways to make your photos stand out.  I have taken many photos of the Salt Lake Temple in spring time, but I try to make each one unique.  This day, I purposefully found an angle where I could use the setting sun to back light the daffodils and create an interesting sun flare.

Background Interest -  This time of year, many of us love to photograph the never ending array of colorful spring flowers.  Sometimes I like to get up close to capture the beauty of a single bloom or petal,  but that often includes a dark, boring background.  I always look at my composition to see if the background is adding to the image, detracting from the image or doing nothing for the image.  Once in a while a solid black or white background is dramatic and adds to the image, and often a softly blurred background of supporting flowers makes the image more interesting.  But my favorite background is one that is unique, not easily recognizable and causes the viewer to take a second look.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Beautiful Light

Beautiful Light!

Sometimes it really is all about the light.  This beautiful cactus bloom was back lit by warm early morning sunshine, tickling all the right places.