Silhouettes!

A couple weeks ago, I participated in the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls OR. I took several classes to improve my photography skills and got to see a presentation by George Lepp. George has been taking pictures for over 50 years, and was recently presented with  Lifetime Achievement Award by the North American Nature Photograhy Association. He is a regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer magazine. I was able to visit with him for a few minutes before his presentation – a true gentleman, wonderful photographer, and a great presenter.

One of my classes was silhouette photography. The timing wasn’t great for the field portion of the class, but we did the best we could and I learned a lot about the technique. The key to a successful silhouette image is the background. For those fine art shots that people like to hang in their homes and offices, black outlines with a brightly colored background works great. Think sunsets and sunrises. Another key element is to be as low as possible to ensure that there’s a clear connection with the ground. Get low to ensure that feet aren’t lost in the foreground, for example.

For the images from class, I relied on pretty skies and the details in the trees to make the composition work.

Here’s a few images from the class.

I made this image with my trusty Canon PowerShot G9X Mk II. The instructor, Lisa Langell, told me I passed the class when I showed her this image in camera.

Not a perfect silhouette but still a fun image. Everyone was making images of the Eagle in the tree.

There were several Eagles in the area while we were there, and this one was circling before landing in the nest.

The sun was still in the sky, so I took advantage and made it a part of the composition.

This wasn’t my first attempt at silhouettes. In 2015, I made this image of my neighbor’s house and yard.

I was intrigued by the moonlight and the warm colors in the yard lights, but the tree silhouette on the right became a critical element of the composition.

And this from the Siskiyou River in Florence, OR.

I chose to not make the pilings and birds totally black, but it still counts as a silhouette.

My best silhouette to date was shot in 2016 in the Pinenut Range just east of my home.

A moonrise always makes a good picture – even better with a creative foreground.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Double D and PSC…interpretations on the Sierra Nevada Range!

In my last post, I talked about the Digital Darkroom (or Double D) and the fun I was having while exploring the application of creative filters. For today’s post, I used an image made with my PowerShot G9X Mk II point and shoot camera (hence the PS Challenge piece of the title).

I don’t remember where I was going last week, but I remember that the light on the Sierra Nevadas was gorgeous. I pulled over and got out of the truck, grabbing my trusty PowerShot, and began clicking. I always bracket exposures for my landscape shots to decide during post processing what I am going to do. I bracket up and down one stop with this camera. I used all 3 exposures to merge them into an HDR in Adobe Camera Raw, then applied filters using Topaz Studio.

Just for fun, I processed this using three different filters.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

The Digital Darkroom – How Much is Too Much?

“Owing to an inherently mechanical nature, a camera (be it film or digital) essentially produces raw images that, on their own, are rarely able to adequately communicate the enigmatic complexities and expressive nuances of a subsequently crafted fine art photograph. Post-camera image manipulation has always been a basic tenant of the photography process.”

That’s how Huntington Witherill started his article ‘Beyond the Camera’ in the November 2018 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. It caught my attention immediately! I enjoy reading Outdoor Photographer and have used information from its wonderful articles in previous posts. In the article, Witherill describes the time he got to visually inspect an original 8 x 10 inch negative produced by Edward Weston circa 1930. The negative had “…what appeared to be a considerable amount of pencil scrawling on the emulsion side …” Kim Weston, Edward’s grandson, explained that “…Edward had often used very soft pencils (and a small light-table…) in order to build density in chosen areas of his negatives…” After this experience, Witherill realized that what he refers to as ‘post-camera image management techniques’ “…comprise not only a significant part of the overall photographic process but also, in many respects, the very essence of photography technique.” He continued, “…post-camera image management techniques are a necessary and integral part of the overall photography process.”

Witherill talks about having a strong foundation in “…photography technique and craft…” to take what one sees, combined with knowledge of what a camera can record, and create a finished visual record. His process begins with knowing your equipment so you can start with a strong foundation (what I would call the best exposure) to build on using post-camera tools and techniques. The article talks about artistic expression and making the image say what the photographer wants it to say.

In the several years since I’ve been pursuing photography seriously, I’ve had similar discussions with my friends and mentors. Many of my friends have backgrounds in photojournalism which doesn’t allow for manipulation, save for minor dodging and burning (darkening or lightening) areas of an image. Other friends document events for clients, where the volume of images made does not allow time for post processing.

I consider myself an artist. I am not documenting, rather I am recording for artistic purposes. I have always favored manipulating my images, and have worked to make the subjects closely resemble the moment as I remembered it. After reading this article, however, I decided to pursue more artistic interpretations, depending on the subject.

I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun! And so, how much is too much? Only time – and future images – will tell.

With this new creative process, I have been playing with some images. The images below show a ‘straight’ version compared to  what I call a ‘more radical’ interpretation. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

This is an American Kestrel, processed to highlight the details of the raptor.

Same image, a little softer.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. I used a Topaz filter to make the composition a little bit abstract. I think this filter minimizes the foreground, accentuates the sky, and maintains the integrity of the beauty of the mountains.

The same image with a Nik filter to maintain the details but give more depth to the colors.

Shoot More….Share More!

A couple weeks ago, one of my photo buddies asked the question, ‘What are your photography goals for 2019?’ It’s a powerful question, asked during the frenzy of Christmas preparations so I had to stop and think about it.  After a couple days, I realized that I only had a couple photography goals for 2019: Shoot More – Share More!

My world had been disrupted so much in 2018 that my shooting had slowed to just a few times a month and I was posting here once every couple months. I wasn’t sharing much on other social media sites, either. What’s a photographer to do then? Shoot More – Share More!

I appreciated the question on several fronts. I’m not much for resolutions, but I like setting goals. As I considered the question, I realized that I hadn’t been out there as much and I definitely wasn’t sharing as much. And I found that I allowed my passion for photography to take a back seat to other things, and it was time to become passionate again.

And so, get ready for the onslaught! Not really. As I have tried to shoot more, I have been more discerning in my image choices. I’m not stopping for shots for which I may have stopped before. Even if I did stop and shoot, I’m looking at my images in the ‘digital darkroom’ with a more critical eye. What that means is that I expect a higher level in my photography which means more enjoyable images for you.

Let’s get to some images. Several years ago, I started noticing interesting trees along the roads, back roads, and trails I traveled. I started a series that I call Special Trees. No captions – I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

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.

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

 

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