Category Archives: Scenery and Landscapes

The Great American Eclipse of 2017

Like most of us, I was eager to see the eclipse. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Oregon for a viewing in “totality”. Before I discuss the photograph that I took, I first want to stress in the strongest possible terms what an amazing experience it was. The only way to convey how sublime it was is to say that it is a post-event addition to the bucket list. If you did not see it or have no plans to see one in the future, figure out a way to make it happen. It lasts for a matter of a few short moments, but the effect is spectacular and will last a lifetime.

About the photograph… I did everything by the seat of my pants, meaning I did not do any research about photographing eclipses in advance. I know… pretty dumb, huh? However, I knew in my mind’s eye that I wanted to capture some detail in the foreground, whatever that foreground looked like. When I left Connecticut to travel to Oregon, I had no idea where I would be for the eclipse. I just knew I would be there with friends who live in Bend. Back to the foreground. I figured I would use two 3-stop split neutral density filters to bridge the gap between the sky and foreground. If you’re not familiar, a split neutral density filter has clear glass on one half of the filter and darkened glass on the other half. The greater the number of “stops” means the greater contrast between the clear and darkened areas. Three stops is generally the max, so stacking two to create a 6-stop differential is pretty extreme. The location? The Pamelia Lake Trail on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Willamette National Forest in Oregon.

The result is shown at the top of the page. I ended up lightening the foreground about another one stop in Lightroom to create what you see here. I am fairly happy with the results. Granted, it’s not a contest winner, but it does effectively capture an event that I will remember forever and I was able to witness it with my teenage son and friends (who are more like family), making the photo special for the shared experience.

Photo information:

  • Sony A7r w/Canon 16-35mm F/4.0L IS USM
  • 29mm, ISO 800, 15 secs., two Lee Filters 3-stop graduated Neutral Density filters, one soft edge and one hard edge (those are the two “flavors” that I own)
  • Tripod and cable released employed

The allure of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

bosquepond

While I would not consider this photo to be an artistic masterpiece, it does convey all of the things that make Bosque del Apache such an amazing place. The colors that I witnessed there, at both sunrise and sunset, are second to none. The conditions also varied every day, making for new opportunities to capture the beautiful landscape that surrounds Bosque del Apache and San Antonio, New Mexico. The other attraction, and the primary reason that most people visit, by a wide margin, is the birds. There are large wintering populations of the gangly sandhill cranes and the beautiful snow and Ross’s geese. There are many incredible things you can see on this planet, but in my life, I cannot recall a more moving natural spectacle than thousands upon thousands of geese lifting off in unison. It truly takes one’s breath away. (text continued below next photo)

bosqueblastoff

The top photo illustrates the amazing color of the sky just prior to sunrise when the geese and cranes begin to stir. A thin layer of mist arose just before the sun’s rays came over the horizon. The second image is just after the geese “blast-off” and does a very poor job of conveying how moving a sight it is to experience. Finally, the third image is of one of the sandhill cranes making its lumbering run to gain flight, reminding me of the old films of World War II propeller planes gathering speed on the deck of an aircraft carrier before gaining enough lift to get airborne.

If you are looking for a photographic destination or just an amazing place to visit, then Bosque del Apache should be on your list. You don’t even need a monster telephoto lens to get close to these majestic birds. It can be folded into a trip to White Sands, Santa Fe and Taos, and Albuquerque. For northerners, it is also a welcome respite to cold winter temperatures. Start planning!

In preparing this post, I realized I had not written about the landscape shots I took at Bosque del Apache NWR, either, so I will seek to rectify that oversight very soon.

P.S. – you will also likely see northern harriers, bald eagles, northern pintail ducks, kestrels, many species of hawks, Gambrel’s quails, roadrunners, eared grebes, northern shovelers, coots, herons and egrets, many species of sparrows, and other birds and often mammals, too.

sandhilltakeoff

“Abstract-ish” wave photos

cannonwaveno1

One of my goals when I recently traveled to Oregon was to produce some images of waves that would be displayed in panoramic formats. I ended up with two that I like and they are good examples of how playing around with a scene can yield different and pleasing results by changing key settings. First, what is common to the images: they were both shot using a Sony A7r and a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens with Metabones IV Canon EF to Sony E mount adapter at 100mm. I used a tripod and remote release to trip the shutter as well.

The differences are only two main ones, but they yield two distinct results. “Cannon Beach Wave No. 1” shown above had an exposure of 10 seconds, to create a more abstract and ethereal feeling. Note the two areas where it appears that something misty is rising from the wave tops at right and center left, although calling them waves when there is so little definition to them may be a stretch! The other difference is that it has a temperature (white balance) of 7,100k, a very “cool” and blue setting. A 6-stop neutral density filter was employed and the aperture was set at f/8.

“Cannon Beach Wave No. 2” had a significantly shorter exposure of 1 second. The shape of the waves is defined, but there is still some motion to create a softer representation (and feeling). The temperature is also a slightly warmer 6,900k. A polarizing filter was employed and the aperture was set at f/11. This second image was captured earlier in the morning, so the colors have a more pronounced purple hue.

cannonwaveno2a

The lingering marine layer of fog and low clouds offshore created a wonderful backdrop with its subtle changes and gradations in color and hue.

Click on the images to view them in a larger size

Like the typical parent, I like both images and appreciate their differences. It’s fun to see how changes, some out of my control, such as the changes due to the rising of the sun, as well as the ones I consciously make, like the change in exposure time, can yield different results. The lesson – get out and experiment!

Cannon Beach, Oregon

cannonbeach

I recently spent a couple weeks in Oregon and Washington, including a two days along the coast near Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park in Oregon, due west of Portland. Cannon Beach is famous for its “haystacks”, large rocks that sit squarely in the middle of the surf, dominating the beach like sentinels. I was out one morning prior to sunrise and captured a bunch of images. This is one that I particularly like. It was just after sunrise and the coastal fog and marine layer were still present around the hills and offshore (the cloud bank at right.) I love the wispy clouds that add some texture to the sky. For me, though, the key visual elements are the boulder in the foreground, with its barnacled surface, and the “lighted” path from it to the surf that creates a compelling visual journey into the image.

Interestingly, I believe this photo would work just as well as a black and white image and I will create an alternate in the digital darkroom. I will share that one at another time.

An interesting note: ALL Oregon beaches are public, for all to enjoy, and this right is protected through legislation. What a forward thinking idea!

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r with Metabones IV adapter
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM
  • 16mm, f/13, ISO 100, 1/5 sec., Lee two-stop hard edge graduated neutral density filter
  • Tripod and cable release employed

Cloudlight

cloudlight

When I visited White Sands National Monument early last December, in the few hours I was there, I was fortunate to have very unsettled skies that produced a variety of light and color to complement the incredible canvas of the sand itself. This image is probably the best illustration of the conditions. I had hiked westward across the dunes to reach the flats that separate the dunes from the San Andres Mountains and Lake Lucero, the source of the fine, white sand. As I started to head back, I stopped periodically to view the changing conditions as the sun lowered in the sky and the rapidly moving clouds created ever changing patterns of light.

The image shown here effectively distills what I witnessed into a single frame. The sunlight passing through the different types of clouds, with their varying thicknesses and compositions, at different elevations, gave the light an almost mystical effect. The layers of the dunes in the foreground and the San Andres range in the background added great depth to the horizon. The fact the the foreground dunes were “illuminated” made the image even more compelling. This is my favorite image from the afternoon. It has a lot of nuance and texture that I particularly like, from the light and the contrasts to details such as the ribbon-like patterns in the dunes. Enjoy!

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk. III
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
  • 70mm, f/16, ISO 100, 1/30 sec., circular polarizing filter
  • Tripod and cable release employed

A second look

chatfield-bw

I periodically go back and scroll through my image library in Adobe Lightroom. Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to find something particular and, at other times, I am just taking a stroll. I was strolling recently and came across this image. I had written about it in a different post and while I liked it as a color image, I wasn’t crazy about it, meaning I wouldn’t ever print it. As I was looking at it the other day, I thought that it might work as a monochrome. As soon as I made a copy and clicked the “Black & White” button in the Lightroom Develop module, I was hooked. I did a little more tinkering with things, but not much. The major changes were to accentuate the white portion of the water that draws you through the image and to crop the perspective from 2:3 to 4:5 to eliminate some of the top of the frame and its inherent imbalance due to the amount of white. I now really like this image and printed it. It holds up even better on paper than it does on screen. Sometimes it’s a good thing to take a second look at things.

Image information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk. III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM
  • 16mm, f/13, ISO 100, 1.6 sec.
  • Tripod and cable release employed

Afternoon Crags at Red Rock Canyon

Afternoon crags

During my trip west a couple of months ago, I flew into and out of Las Vegas. One of the main reasons for this was knowing that Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area sits just west of the city, practically abutting the western edges of Las Vegas. I was able to spend one afternoon and sunset session there and, given the dramatic rock formations and color, I intend to return. This relatively small area receives over one million visitors per year due to its proximity to Las Vegas and, naturally, because of its beauty.

This image is yet another example of the serendipity that occurs simply by being present. I was scoping sunset photo opportunities that would incorporate the few clouds lingering above and to the east. This shot occurred about an hour before sunset and the late afternoon light bathing the already light hued rocks, with their craggy, “old man’s” face, juxtaposed against the clouds and dark blue of the sky, made for a great black and white photo.

In post processing, I darkened the sky even further (as one would have done in camera with filters in film days), and bumped up the overall contrast to create a striking scene. I love this image because it evokes the sense of a classic Western landscape photo.

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and circular polarizer with Metabones IV adapter
  • 100mm, f/11, 1/30 sec.
  • Tripod and remote release employed

Death Valley Part Three

milkyway

This is a slightly different post about Death Valley. As is self-evident, this image is of the night sky. I must issue a full disclaimer that I have never done any night sky photography prior to this shot, save for one set of a handful of exposures in Connecticut that were badly affected by the stray light that is prevalent in CT’s night skies. Also, I have much to learn about post processing of night sky photographs. With all that said, you cannot go to Death Valley without marveling at the incredible brightness of the skies after dark. There are simply stars everywhere. Death Valley is considered one of the places with the darkest night skies that you can find. To give a sense of what it’s like, I awoke one morning in my tent, with only the mesh opening above me obscuring my view, as well as my poor vision without my glasses, and even without my glasses, I could clearly discern the Big Dipper above me through the mesh. It’s simply incredible!

Getting back to this image, I went up to Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road very early one morning to climb the hills there to get some sunrise shots (see Death Valley Part One). This was about one hour before sunrise, looking east/southeast. The brightness on the lower left of the horizon is the sun getting in position, but still over an hour prior to actual sunrise. The Milky Way is visible where the horizon rises on the right and moving across and to the left of the frame. It continued fully across the sky. What is shown here is but a small portion and this is with a 14mm extreme wide angle lens! Again, I will point out that my post-processing skills for shots of this type need to be enhanced!

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens (Canon EF mount with Metabones IV adapter)
  • f/2.8 @ 21 secs., ISO 1600
  • Tripod and remote release employed

Death Valley Part Two

furnacecrk

I enjoy searching for and finding images that represent a more abstract take on a scene. These can be the result of unusual light, colors, forms, textures or combinations of these characteristics. After shooting the image included in the first Death Valley post, I stopped at the Zabriskie Point parking area and took a few shots there. On my way back to Furnace Creek, I glanced to the left and immediately focused in on the area shown above. I saw the shot before I ever took the camera and tripod out of the car. I love the colors as well as the movement of the lines/curves through the image. There is actually a distance of many feet between the foreground area that fills the bottom of the frame and angles up to the right as compared to the background area that starts on the left and expands to fill the entire horizontal area at the top of the frame. I knew I wanted to blend these so I used a telephoto lens to compress the entire view. The sun was low on the horizon, giving the rock a relatively warm glow, while still providing a few darker areas to provide a little texture and contrast.

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • 286mm, f/10, 1/200 sec.
  • Tripod and cable release employed

Death Valley Part One

20muleteam

I was extremely fortunate to spend a few days in Death Valley in late March. Having only driven through once previously, without even stopping, I was unaware of what an absolutely amazing place it is. I took several photos and while there are some that I like, I can only imagine what opportunities there are when there are clouds in the sky to complement the amazing scenery. I will post several images in the coming days. I cannot wait to return and explore some of the other treasures that this park has to offer.

This image was taken at dawn from the hills above Twenty Mule Team Canyon, looking west toward Zabriskie Point and the Panamints, which are across the valley and are the distant peaks to the right in this image. I love the color of the sky before the first rays peek over the ridges from the east. I hiked up in the dark to the highest point I could find that featured a pleasing vantage and then experimented with many compositions. It is hard to find bad scenery!

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • ISO 100, f/11 @ 0.8 sec.
  • Tripod and cable release employed