Steel Wool Spinning Under the Stars Insert steel wool into a metal wisk attached to a short length of light metal chain, light the steel wool on fire and spin it around, and this is what you get! Be careful: anything within 50 or 60 feet may catch on fire! This was done on the clay surface of a dry lake bed, where nothing could catch on fire.
While On My Way to Sunset Sometimes in landscape photography you're almost to your intended destination when you realize that the sunset may be better where you already are. In this case I was headed to Mono Lake when I saw great clouds over the entire basin as I approached. Knowing that the light of the setting sun would catch the Western (right) edge of the clouds but might not get much further, I decided to hang back on a ridge overlooking the basin and catch as much as I could in an ultra-wide lens. You can see the result.
If the color looks a little unreal to you here, then the image is a success... it looked completely unreal in person as well! Read post in Google+
Belt of Venus The shadow of the earth follows the sunset light into the sky as darkness creeps over the landscape below. The planet Venus is often visible close to the horizon at sunrise and sunset when this colorful effect can be seen, so it's often referred to as the "Belt of Venus".
These conditions at Mono Lake, the ultra-calm lake and intense sunset color, most frequently in the late fall and winter, when the sun is low in the sky and the heat, convection and winds of summer are practically nonexistent.
Meteor Reflection! When I was catching star trails around Polaris, the North Star, and playing with their reflections during the Orionid meteor shower last weekend, I also caught a meteor and its reflection. This was taken at an ultra-wide 14mm focal length, and the reflection is at best about 1/8th as bright as the direct view of the meteor, so that's one very long, bright meteor to show up!
Look for the Geminid Meteor Shower Dec 13 & 14 One of the most active meteor showers of the year, the Geminid meteor shower has a broad peak, so you can catch the peak action in the early morning hours of December 13 and 14, and the nights on either side of those dates may have a decent quantity of meteors as well. I'm going to catch it from the warmest, driest, darkest, clearest place I can find: Death Valley!
Golden Hour During the Storm Here's another shot from last night. The clouds were forming just a few miles west, so as the sun set, it shot golden light under and through the clouds for a few minutes. Read post in Google+
Sunset Moon Rise at Mono Lake Last Night Here's the result of my quick trip to Mono Lake last night. When I arrived there were 4-5 carloads of photographers capturing the sunset, but none of them were there for the moon rise. Having planned the shto in advance using +The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE), I told them to stick around for another 10 minutes.
I captured about 400 images, enough for about 13 seconds of time-lapse video. I'll get that conversion started while I go check out this morning's sunrise.
As I mentioned last night, here's my blog post on planning to shoot sunset moon rise events using TPE:
Sierra Nevada Fall Colors Fall colors arrive in California's Sierra Nevada at different times at different elevations. The timing also varies from year to year with weather. Conditions even vary from valley to valley given local microclimates and the passage of smaller storms. But over the course of chasing Fall colors here for weeks each year across many years, you can get a good feel for which distributed areas tend to turn color at the same time, and you can follow the progression of color from day to day and week to week and remain productive, with more time shooting and less time driving.
This was taken during a workshop in 2010. I'll offer two workshops this year; September 29/30 and October 13/14. I'll announce more details as soon as the permit approval comes through from the Inyo National Forest.
Joshua Tree National Park, California I'm working through photos I need for my guidebook to California landscape photography locations, so I'm looking at some of my photos from past trips. This morning I'm enjoying some photos form Joshua Tree National Park, so I've added over 40 photos to my Joshua Tree album here on G+. Enjoy!
Another Image Rescued by Lightroom 4 Here's another image from early 2011 which never quite grabbed me until I went back to the folder yesterday and applied some quick Lightroom 4 settings to it.
I can't wait to bring more folders into Lightroom 4, but it's bogging down pretty badly on my new Windows laptop running Windows 8. I may have to downgrade to Windows 7 or build a desktop with far more than the current 8GB RAM (unfortunately the laptop came maxed out in RAM and can't expand).
Edits: For something interesting, take a look at this time-lapse video capturing about an hour of the exact same sunset event from a different angle: https://vimeo.com/18626912 and stop it right when it first reaches 17 seconds. There are actually 30 photos used to make every second of video so you'll probably stop on a different one, but I think I happened to find the same moment and splash... blue sky, orange sun and sunlight, blue sky light illuminating waves and white foam in the shade. What I find really interesting is that like in the image above, the splash has a mixture of direct faint orange light from the last bit of the sun, and the blue light from the sky, and the result is a more pink-magenta shade of orange.
This is a fairly unique case where nearly all of the sun's evolving influence is shooting through the narrow cave. A previous splash I caught just two photos earlier is much more orange. It's amazing how lighting from all different directions can affect parts of an image, and for how short I time some of these effects can be!
Great Photography Weather in Yosemite Last Weekend It's hard to have a bad day for photography in Yosemite National Park, but some days are better than others. Saturday featured broken clouds to decorate the sky and reflections, as in this image of El Capitan reflecting in the Merced River.
My next workshop in Yosemite will be April 24 - 27 to catch Spring wildflowers, waterfalls at peak Spring flow, moonbows (lunar rainbows) and more. Contact me for details. Read post in Google+
Leaf Trails in Yosemite at Night I've captured long exposures of leaves floating down streams in the past, but the concept of combining them with star trails only occurred to me this Fall. When I arrived in Yosemite last week to find clear, starry skies, I had a lot of fun capturing leaves drifting down the Merced River. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect. There was wind upon arrival to knock the leaves out of the trees, but then it calmed down for nice sky reflections as I shot.
I'll be leading a workshop to pursue these types of shots in Yosemite in 2013... contact me for details! Read post in Google+
Winter in the Eastern Sierra The first 8 photos are new to the album, and those new ones were taken during past 24 hours. We've gotten a lot of snow in 3 waves of storms over the past 3 days, but we had enough of a break this morning to let some nice sunrise light through.
Twilight at Mono Lake No matter how many times I visit Mono Lake, I never get tired of it, because the conditions are always changing. Last Saturday we saw clouds forming on the Web cam, so we made the quick trip down to the lake. When we arrived, we enjoyed spectacular clouds, columns of rain, a double rainbow, occasional thunder and lightning on the horizon, and subtle shading of sunset and blue hour color. You can be sure I'll be back many times as I run up and down the Eastern Sierra chasing Fall colors over the next 6 weeks!
Lake Tahoe Sunset near Sand Harbor State Park< Nevada Last night I tried a photo cropped to a 1:2 shape to see how it would work, this one is 1:3: 300 pixels by 900 pixels. Let's see how it looks with the #NewLook G+ layout... Read post in Google+
Night Rainbows in the Mist, Lower Yosemite Fall A double lunar rainbow, or "moonbow", appears in the mist of Lower Yosemite Fall during the G+ Yosemite Photowalk on the night of Sunday, May 6.
+Lori Hibbett and I had over 65 photographers RSVP to receive the suggested four day itinerary earlier this month, and we ran into other folks from G+ once we arrived as well. We planned our schedule around full moon rise and set times and the moonbows appearing in Lower and Upper Yosemite Fall. It was exhausting shooting well in to the night each night, but as always, it was loads of fun meeting and shooting with other photographers on Google+! The first 4 photos in this album are from the photowalk (as well as 50+ of the later photos), the rest are mostly from my other visits to the park in the past year or so, images which were handy since I joined Google+.
So how did Saturday's moon rise at Mono Lake turn out? You tell me! It was fun hanging out with +Amy Heiden+Tran Mai and +Lori Hibbett in the Mono Basin for the day. There was fog on the lake all the way through 3 pm, but fortunately it cleared just in time for the moon rise. When we arrived at the Old Marina site +Blair Pountney joined us. He had seen my notes on the coming moon rise last week and drove up from Bishop. Then we ran into +Travis Theune and +Schmoo Theune of Smugmug, so we had a fun little group of photographers gathered, from various parts of the state!
I created a time-lapse video from this moon rise, but I had problems with a light tripod in the intermittent gusty wind which developed, so the result is pretty funny... I'll post it later so you can have a few laughs. After the moon rise, Amy, Tran, Lori and I went on to shoot into the night by the light of the full moon, so check their streams in the coming days for night snowy landscape shots.
Which Sites Protect Your Photos Best? Why You Should Care As you create and upload images to the Internet, your camera, your editing software, your tagging of information as you upload can all be associated with your photo and help people find you as the rightful owner if someone steals your image. Unfortunately, some sites strip off the critical information which identifies the photo as yours.
Once your image then becomes separated from you, it may get classified as an "orphan work". The UK has passed a law which protects companies using these "orphaned works", so your photos may start appearing in many unapproved and even offensive commercial uses.
People have proposed that preserving rights information is the key to avoiding having your work "orphaned" (taken from you and used without your knowledge or permission), but that argument is weak at best. The information associated with your photo is obviously easy to remove. If your photo primarily appears somewhere like Facebook which is not indexed by Google Image Search, the thief of your photo will say that they performed a diligent search and claim protection under that UK law. The new law shifts protection from the creator of the image to the unauthorized user. Even if you were inclined to pursue a court case in the UK over the incident, your compensation will be limited to someone's definition of what the "market value" was, not the amount you would have required up front before the image was used.
Hopefully the UK law will get overturned, not copied in other countries. In the meantime, here's an excellent article on ways to maximize the information associate with your photos, provided that the site you upload to doesn't simply strip that information off:
Fortunately the IPTC Photo Metadata Working Group tested how Social Media and photo sharing sites manage metadata embedded into images which are uploaded to their sites, so you can consider where your risk is the greatest. These are the results as of March 2013: http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/social-media-test-results.php
The short story: at the time of that test, +Google+ was among the best sites preserving the data associated with your photos, Facebook and Flickr were among the worst.
Pancake Cloud Here's another shot of the huge "Sierra Wave" lenticular clouds forming over Topaz Lake on the California / Nevada border a couple of nights ago. The peaks on the horizon, the Three Sisters, mark the California/Nevada border. The North Sister on the left is in Nevada, the South Sister on the right is in California, and the Middle Sister straddles the two states, with its peak lying just into California.
Fortunately I put two cameras out to shoot time-lapse sequences, because for at least part of the time with one of them I forgot to switch the lens into manual focus. That's really ironic, since for landscape I most often use a wide lens and use manual focus to control depth of field, but because I was using f/8 at a long focal length, I wanted the camera to focus more accurately than my eyes could. So I got both cameras set up and shooting, and went back inside. When I went back out to check the cameras, it had gotten dark enough that one of them was hunting for focus, and missing shots in the sequence as a result. That's what I get I suppose, for departing from my normal workflow, for complicating the setup with two cameras at once.. Read post in Google+
June Lake Loop Fall Reflection The aspen trees should be really colorful here by now if the storms this week haven't blown the leaves off of the trees. I hope to stop by here later today on my way to Yosemite Valley, since Tioga Pass has re-opened. Read post in Google+
Fall 2011 (Mostly Eastern Sierra, California) I had a few question about my Mono Lake sunset photo a few posts back. Here's the album of photos I shot back then, in Fall 2011. This first photo is a sunset reflecting in a pool of water. It was like a Crayola box full of blues, pinks purples and oranges had exploded. Photos 2, 3, and 4 are different compositions and images from that same sunset at Mono Lake I posted earlier.
I was asked on one of the colorful Mono Lake sunset shots whether I had adjusted the saturation. I double checked, and all of the settings which would directly affect color were set to zero, except of course white balance. It was simply one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever experienced. I wrote a blog post recently which touches upon the myths of "perfect exposure" and accurate color in photography: http://activesole.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-time-for-digital-cameras-to-depart.html
Most of the other photos in this album were also shot in the Eastern Sierra region within a couple hours drive of my house (with the exception of a trip I took to San Francisco to catch the full moon set). I shoot a lot of new work, so ones of these I've posted before would have been mainly back over 18 months ago when Google+ was still in beta, so most of my current contacts haven't seen them. Enjoy! Read post in Google+
Revisiting Work with a New Perspective; Finding Balance in Post-processing In the field when I revisit sites I've been to before I'll sometimes see something new about the scene, perhaps different weather or a different season which I'd like to have in my portfolio. Often, however, I find myself dismissing a site I've been to before... been there, done that... no need to fill up disk drives with redundant, near-duplicates of previous captures.
Lately though I've been re-capturing some shots I took only 3-4 years ago. My latest camera, the Canon 5D Mark III, has more than double the resolution of the Canon 40D I was shooting with in 2008, it has more dynamic range, and less noise, particularly in underexposed areas. It's true that buying a newer or more expensive camera won't improve your attention to the most important aspects of photography such as composition and exposure, but there are some potential benefits to being able to shoot in lower light, capture a greater range of light with more subtle color transitions, and being able to print in larger sizes.
The other problem with my 2008 images was the processing approach I embraced back then. HDR was becoming a popular fad, and it could produce catchy images which could get attention with other photographers and some image buyers. There was a major downside though, one described well in Tom Till's recent article "Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale" in Outdoor Photographer Magazine: "My conclusion, a few months later, is that I had wandered down a dangerous path. My innocent desires to imitate the colors of Velvia, to make a lifeless RAW file more interesting and to fix contrast problems with HDR were clearly failures, and I began to look at what I had done in a new light. As I viewed some images, I often said to myself, "What was I thinking?" I began to compare myself to an addict who had become enthralled with digital color and couldn't be satisfied until I had sometimes grossly overdone things. Just realizing this and seeing the beautiful subtle colors I had buried was enough to help me come to terms with my problem. "
I could really identify with that when I read it in 2012. I had already come to the same conclusion about my own work. Too often I was revisiting old work I had produced using HDR techniques and concluded "What was I thinking?" Of course the next logical question is, "And why didn't I notice this before?" Tom's article offered one possible explanation: "A friend of mine mentioned a syndrome familiar to painters where, after years of looking at colors, an artist can become desensitized to them." Musicians can lose their hearing from being exposed to loud noise, can our ability to assess the state of our photography become affected by overexposure to exaggerated color?
Fortunately there was a path out of my madness. Photoshop seemed like a similar trap, designed to help graphic artists manipulate and combine color images. The newer Adobe Lightroom software however was designed from the ground up to efficiently process photographs, with more of a focus on fine tuning adjustments than heavy-handed manipulations.
None of this is to say that there's anything inherently wrong with HDR, I explained why I used it in 2008 in a blog post in early 2009: Color Accuracy vs. Art in Photo Post-processing, the Case for HDR http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/2009/01/20/why-would-anyone-use-hdr-its-unreal/ Then I upgraded to a better camera and more powerful post-processing software. I do still use HDR some small percentage of the time, and I've gone out of my way to explain why there are some valid uses for it in other articles on my blog. I simply pay attention to not letting it become an addiction to flashy results. It can be a useful tool, but I don't want HDR to dominate my approach, affect my judgement, or limit my audience.
So back to the original topic of revisiting places, when I do return to places now, it's with a camera with greater dynamic range and a more successful workflow, with less of a need to use extreme post-processing to produce useful results.
G+ Photowalk May 4-7: Yosemite National Park - A World Heritage Site, one of the world's most incredible landscapes - Lunar rainbows ("moonbows") - waterfalls at peak flow - dogwood trees blooming by the Merced River - Spring wildflowers - reflections in Spring pools & the Merced River - full moon night landscapes
The second photowalk in my series this Spring, again coinciding with the full moon to maximize shooting opportunities, will be to Yosemite National Park. This is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and with lunar rainbows and night, full waterfalls, and wildflowers and trees blooming, this is arguably the best weekend of the year to visit.
Images from Sequoia National Park "You cannot learn the message that these trees have for you in merely passing by. A day in their presence passes quickly, and with each moment you will be better able to appreciate their singular beauty and the miracle of their existence. To be in harmony with them, cast aside your worldly cares. In our battle for wealth we are prone to forget the real things of life, the things that cannot play us false." - Herbert Earl Wilson, "The lore and the lure of the Yosemite" (1925)
I post-processed these in a trial copy of +Nik Software plug-ins for +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I used the Color Efex Pro 4 to further adjust a few images I had already take a pass at in Lightroom. So far it seems that the images can exhibit a little more color without taking on an over-saturated look. Some of the filters like Polarization can adjust complex areas of the photos much like dodging and burning in a darkroom, without a lot of tedious selection and masking work in Photoshop. So far, so good. I hope that I can find more time to play with this module and the others before my trial runs out in a couple of weeks! Read post in Google+
Cloudy Evening on the La Jolla Coast I enjoyed meeting other photographers in the San Diego area last Monday. The weather was cloudy, perfect for long exposures as the trace of sunset light on the horizon gave way to blue hour.
I've been pretty sick for the last 9 days. At first I thought it was a simple case of food poisoning which would resolve itself within a day or two. Whatever it is, I keep thinking I'm over it, then it comes back. I'm sick of being sick! Read post in Google+
Spring in Yosemite National Park Spring is one of my favorite seasons in Yosemite: redbud and dogwood trees blooming, the waterfalls roaring at maximum flow, rainbows and "moonbows" (night rainbows) forming in their mist, and the Spring ponds of snowmelt doubling the views of it all.
Unfortunately with the Sierra Nevada having received one of the worst snowpacks on record, and having observed a general lack of Spring pools with relatively weak waterfall flows showing up on Web cams, this may be one of the weakest Springs in Yosemite for photography as well. I've been watching the weather and snowpack measurement news for the past 6 weeks:
http://www.water.ca.gov/news/newsreleases/2013/032713snowsurvey.pdf March 26, 2013 - Season’s Fourth Snow Survey Scheduled for Thursday DWR currently estimates that it will be able to deliver 35 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water requested by the 29 public agencies that distribute State Water Project water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.
This all comes with the territory to some degree with landscape photography, but I did decide not to open registration for the Spring Yosemite workshop I had planned. I have high standards for my own photography, and I'm not going to compromise on those standards simply to run a trip. I had kept my lodging reservations hoping that we might still get a "March miracle" storm or two to improve conditions, but even the new storm system coming through in the next few days will be relatively weak (I'll be freeing up a room in Yosemite Valley in late April if anyone wants it).
Given the reports coming out of the Antelope State Poppy Reserve as well (sixty poppies on the entire reserve, and drying up), I decided not to open registration for a Spring wildflower workshop either.
We'll still have some excellent, less water-dependent opportunities in the Summer, Fall and Winter though, so I'll be looking forward to those! Read post in Google+