Always be a Beginner…

From January to the end of June, I was in Wyoming with my Dad as he transitioned to life without my Mom. I had a birthday while I was there, and my lovely bride sent me a book titled zen camera creative awakening with a daily practice in photography by David Ulrich. The book has been an enjoyable read, providing insight into the creative process instead of technical information. In the last couple days, I read a section titled ‘Beginner’s Mind.’ Two paragraphs in, the author says, “Always be a beginner.” The discussion then focuses on past experiences coloring what one does and thinks, and transitions into a discussion of why photography can change the pattern.

“Photography is an ideal entry to the beginner’s mind. It invites fresh seeing. It enlivens the commonplace, and can radically open your mind to what is. Since the world is always new – no moment ever repeats itself – you must flexibly adapt behind a camera.” (emphasis added)

The format of the book is discussion followed by practical exercises, identified by the title ‘TRY:’ In the ‘TRY: Cultivate Beginner’s Mind’ section, Ulrich writes, “Artists and photographers often engage the unending search for what is new and fresh. They shake things up from time to time, trying to break free of well-worn grooves of thought and expression. They resolve not to solely rely on past accomplishments. Innovation looks toward the future. However, newness for its own sake is a double edged sword. It can lead to gimmicks or forced behavior just to be different. I prefer the word freshness, like ripe fruit before it stales.”

As I read the book, I reflected on my photographic journey – the excitement of learning a new technique, trying new camera settings, seeing a different perspective of a longer lens or shorter lens. I appreciated the information provided by the author as much of my passion for photography and excitement to continue comes from the freshness of these new or different concepts. For some time, I realized that my view of the world has changed. I look at the light and the contrast the light creates. I evaluate all that I see with an eye to composing an image and then consider how I would record it. In some ways,

In some ways, I have gotten complacent. I know what I like (and don’t like) in an image of a raptor. I have my workflow for shooting a landscape and processing the image on the computer. I’ll heed Ulrich’s advice, however, and try to look at the world anew, with a fresh eye.

Recall that during last year’s fall colors, I was on the road working for FEMA and missed it. I’ve made up for it a little this year, catching color in Colorado and Nevada.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Colorado Rocky Mountains south of Avon CO.

This was mid-September. They had color much earlier than we did in the Sierras.

But the Colorado Rockies are a little bit higher.

A view along US Highway 24.

Echo Lake, on the way to Mt. Evans.

Along US 24, just downhill from Camp Hale.

I took a drive up CA Highway 4 to Ebbetts Pass.

The colors did not disappoint.

And the skies cooperated as well.

A wonderful shooting day.

I put on my hiking boots and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass on CA Highway 88. Not much color up there, but some beautiful photo opportunities nonetheless.

Downhill from Carson Pass is Red Lake. I found this scene on a back road nearby.

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Toot Toot!

Here it is, Labor Day already. The year is 2/3 gone, but only 114 days (or something like that) until Christmas.

I spent a couple hours at the Nevada State Railroad Museum for their Labor Day Steam Up yesterday with my Canon EOS 6D Mark II equipped with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is tiny compared to my other lenses with similar focal length because it does not have an image stabilization or vibration control system. Because of that, I shot primarily on a tripod but did make a few handheld shots (holding the camera to my eye with the tripod hanging down in front of me, if you can imagine).

Shooting with a prime lens (fixed focal length) instead of a zoom lens was challenging. I’m used to setting up my tripod and zooming the focal length to adjust the composition. With a prime lens, one must compose ‘with your feet.’ To zoom in or out means moving the tripod, not twisting a ring. At one point, I was standing on the median island in the middle of Carson Street to get a shot. Because of passing cars and a cyclist, I missed a couple that I wanted. Oh well!

Here’s a sample of my shots from the day. If you missed the Steam Up, keep an eye on their calendar because they steam up on a regular basis.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

It’s Still August – More Backyard Challenge!

The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, but the wildfires in California are still wreaking havoc on the views and the air quality. My lovely bride’s efforts in the backyard are paying great dividends for me, however – take a look!

This is a Julia Child Rose.

It’s beautiful from all angles. My lovely bride planted this on while I was away this last Spring.

These were the last Blackberries in our yard. We had a decent crop this year – very tasty at breakfast.

I love our Hibiscus and it’s a favorite subject when blooming. I saw this bloom with a portion backlit by the morning sun and the lower portion of the bloom in shadow. I made bracketed exposures, merged them in Adobe Camera Raw, and applied a custom filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted to emphasize the texture in the leaves, so I combined a little Glamour Glow with the Detail Extractor to make it happen!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Backyard Challenge continues…

The smoke seems to come and go. Our air quality is a little better, but seeing the mountains and sky is hit or miss. The flowers in the backyard, however, are doing just fine and loving the camera.

So far, I’ve chosen to shoot with the Tamron 150-600 lens handheld. To improve the quality of the images, I need to use a shorter lens and tripod. I enjoy experimenting, and using the big telephoto lens for macro and close up images is an experiment for me. I need to refine my processes, but there’s hope.

And so, here’s a sample of the last couple days.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Volume 5

While preparing my post this morning, I realized that I didn’t finish my ‘summer vacation’ series last year. This volume will showcase images from our trip to Yosemite National Park in August 2017. I was taking a night photography workshop and we decided to spend a few extra days enjoying the Park.

I rented a Canon 6D camera body for this trip to enjoy the ‘full frame sensor’ experience. I liked it and subsequently purchased a Canon 6D Mark II body.

There were fires around Yosemite last year which impacted our time there. They were not as bad as this year, however. Without further ado, here’s my stuff.

We entered Yosemite through the Tioga Pass entrance, uphill from Lee Vining CA. We took our time crossing the Tuolumne Meadows to avoid the daytime traffic in the Yosemite Valley. One of my images of Tenaya Creek…

…and another image from Tioga Road…

…and more Tenaya Creek.

One of the iconic sunset views in Yosemite (El Capitan on the right) obscured by the smoke.

I got to looking around while making the previous image, and found that I liked this view of the Merced River at my feet much better.

One of the images from the famous Swinging Bridge during the night portion of the workshop. The glow on the rocks in the lower right of the image is Yosemite Village.

And the Milky Way did not disappoint. The photographer could have done a better job, however.

Tunnel View.

We were in Yosemite during the solar eclipse and had just arrived at Glacier Point as the eclipse was in progress. My lovely bride made friends with a family looking at the eclipse (they shared their solar glasses with her) while I made this image.

Everyone who goes to Yosemite should ride the Green Dragon. If you don’t know what it is, then you need to go find out. One of our stops was on the Merced River. I used a log as a tripod and made multiple exposures for this HDR image.

Yosemite Falls didn’t disappoint. I got up early one morning and took a walk with the camera and tripod. With few people around at that time of day, I had my pick of vantage points.

We had a wonderful time in Yosemite. We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a dinner in the big dining room at the Majestic Hotel. Go to Yosemite when you get the chance!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

What to shoot when there’s nothing to shoot…

Today started like any other day. I woke up, did my morning things, and went to the kitchen to make breakfast. I was just about to take breakfast to my lovely bride when she walks into the kitchen with her iPad showing a video presentation called ‘what to shoot when there’s nothing to shoot.’ We watched while we ate, enjoying the images on the screen and the commentary.

As we watched, I got to thinking about the current situation here in the Carson Valley. We have serious smoke from the wildfires in California – some news reports indicate that Gardnerville has the worst air quality in the country. Visibility is almost nil. We haven’t seen the mountains in a long time. Of course, the smoke makes for some interesting sunsets.

This has been our view of the evening sun for the last 4-5 days. I shot this with the Canon 7DII, big lens, handheld. Look close and you can see the outline of the mountains in the lower right corner of the image.

The guy making the presentation talked about a time when he was leading a photo workshop in Monument Valley and a snowstorm kicked up. The storm obscured the grand views and challenged his creative processes to make the trip worthwhile.

This is not the first time I’ve faced conditions like this. A year ago, my lovely bride and I were in Yosemite National Park and many of the vista shots were obscured by smoke, so I made the best of it and shot on a smaller scale. I came away with some beautiful images. And I see that I didn’t post any of those images – stay tuned!

With this year’s smoke, I’ve chosen to shoot on an even smaller scale – macro in the back yard.

This is a Rose of Sharon flower being pollenated. (Get really close and one can see pollen on his head and body.) Handheld Canon 7DII with the big lens, from about 9′ away.

Our Hibiscus has been a favorite subject for several years. More close up than macro, as these blooms range from 6″-12″ in diameter. This mature plant produces a large number of blooms for a couple weeks every August.

Another point the presenter made was to give yourself a challenge to make you get out and make images. Taking this to heart, I’ve decided to give myself a new challenge every month. I’ll continue my backyard challenge this month and set a new challenge for September.

Until next time…Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Wyoming landscapes!

While I was in Wyoming this spring, my Dad and I took many drives to places that neither of us had ever been or hadn’t been in a very long time. The landscape around Cheyenne is high plains, as opposed to the high desert and mountains around my home in Nevada. The mountains rise up as you travel west to Laramie. On most days, the skies did not disappoint. Montana advertises itself as ‘Big Sky Country,’ but we had them in our travels in Wyoming.

Traveling on Round Top Road west of Cheyenne, we came across this scene – one of the historic ranches.

Closer to Laramie than Cheyenne, this is one of the smaller rock formations in the Vedawoo recreation area. This image was taken from the shoulder of Happy Jack Road (Wyoming Highway 210).

Traveling on one of the dirt roads off Happy Jack Road, we drove past Crystal Reservoir on the way to Buford, and passed this little scene.

If you’ve ever been to or viewed images of the Palouse Region in southeast Washington state, you know what a photographic place it is. Dad and I took a drive around eastern Laramie County one day and found landscapes that, in many ways, rival the Palouse for its beauty. Here’s one…

…and here’s another. This barn is actually in the Burns township and an old friend if mine chastised me for not calling while I was ‘in town.’ He later admitted that he wasn’t home that day so I was forgiven.

I shot this from US 85 approaching the town of Hawk Springs.

This is also on US 85. I stopped here a couple times. This is the second shot where I got out the neutral density filters to smooth out the water on the spillway.

This image was made along Wyoming Highway 313, east of Chugwater.

This is the Snowy Range west of Laramie. I’m standing near the middle of Wyoming Highway 130. Snowy Range Pass (the road) tops out at 10,850 feet elevation and the views there are stunning!

Well, this is just a little peek into the beautiful scenery that can be found in my former stomping ground. I hope you can see why I refer to the area as God’s Country.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR