Winter is a Great Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

 

death valley national park, California. Image of the desert valley floor

Death Valley National Park, California.

A trip is a perfect way to start the new year so we packed up and set off to visit Death Valley National Park.

It’s 2017 and I still do not have enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I would like to. I’ve hear myself say “I don’t have time for anything” over the course of last year and I finally took the time to do something about it. Ha-ha-ha. I guess taking the time was the key.  With a busy  schedule it is not always easy to set aside the time to do all the things I enjoy.  When forced, it becomes counterproductive and overwhelming. At times, this even goes beyond physical limitations (not getting enough sleep?) to the point where ‘the moment’ itself no longer exists. When the a day becomes a list of check marks, rushed and unfulfilling, it is time for a change.
This year I’m making room for lovely moments again. It is amazing how the opportunities reveal themselves once you’re ready.  This year our crazy winter storm in California provided an incredible opportunity to experience Death Valley National Park in a unique way and we decided to take advantage.

Winter is high season in Death Valley due to cooler temperatures, but keep in mind that those degrees can still climb well into the 90s.

This year, however, things are quite different and, I’ll be planning another trip soon before this storm is over.
This is the first image I processed from our trip to Death Valley National Park in February. This stretch of beautiful landscape is just off the Furnace Creek Campground. It is probably the first image I chose because the experience of waking up and crawling out of the tent in the morning to this view felt completely surreal. We simply got dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee and, without even talking, we just strolled into the desert behind our tent for a few hours. It was a great morning.

Location: Death Valley National Park, California

Exposure: 1/125 sec at f/ 8.0

ISO: 100

Camera: Canon EOS 5 D Mark II

Lens: EF 17-40  f/4L USM

Happy Rottweiler Chasing Birds on the Beach

Rottweiler

Dog Chasing Birds on the Beach

Rottweiler, the flying dog. Image of a rottweiler ( i think ) dog chasing after the birds on a beach in Pismo, California.

Silly dog, I’m pretty sure it was a Rottweiler or a mix,  happily chasing the birds in one of my favorite places: Pismo Beach, California.

Sometimes ideas are born without much effort; I was having lunch with a friend and I went on as usual, raving about the colors, the smells and the magical feeling in the air at sunset in Pismo Beach…. I love how true friends just put up with you (almost unconditionally) and endure endlessly whatever you have to spill for the day, week, year, or lifetime. That particular day I was reminiscing about Pismo Beach and  we share mutual disappointment , no, more like borderline outrage, about the recent discovery of this hidden gem of a travel destination. Honestly, it is incredibly annoying is seeing your secret place publicized openly and in great detail on Yahoo News as a featured article, several weeks in a row!!!

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Image of Death Valley National Park Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park Sand Dunes


Sunset in Death Valley National Park Sand Dunes

As much as I love this shot I can’t help but remind myself of a very significant photo-life lesson I learned that day:  see a sunset – bring a tripod.

Some mistakes you only make once (I hope this is one of them).

 

 

 

 

Old train going through a solar windmill farm, changing California landscape

Windmill Farm California

Windmill Farm, California

Sometimes things just come together: the light is amazing, the lines are perfect….. and an old train just casually rolls into the frame.

 

Kodak Ektachrome 100G Simulation

Exposure 5:   Kodak Ektachrome 100G Simulation

Today, I unintentionally told a lie: the words “no, this is pretty much out of the camera” left my lips and it was not until hours later that I realized that I was talking about a very different image then the one I was asked about. It was the puzzled look that I could not quite place and then it hit me as I set down to work on this image. Whoops.. .

I love to process just as much as I enjoy shooting and today I found a new favorite filter for a sunset scene: Kodak Ektachrome 100G simulation  filter which is part of the Exposure 5 package. Slightly modified to remove noise as the original had an ample amount due to 1600 ISO, it’s an instant preset. I kept wondering why this was “the one” and after a little poking around, I learned that this was the one used by National Geographic for years in low light situations.

Familiarity…. film nostalgia satisfied once again.

 

Brandt’s Cormorants

 Three Brandt’s Cormorants, Pismo Beach

I’m not a wildlife photographer but these three guys were just hard to resist.

Beautiful birds with a funny name.

Found a great article on California coastal birds and very much enjoyed reading about these guys, turns out we have a lot in common: we both like fish and squid.

Three birds

Morro Bay, California

Beautiful Morro Bay

Just like that, 2013 is almost gone.  This is my beautiful memory at Morro Bay Beach; my daughter looking at a shell she found, just like she did when she was 5.

My wish for a Happy New Year is: More Happy Memories!

Hello Little Shell

 

 

Mammoth Lakes, always a perfect winter scene

Winter scenes on the way to Mammoth Lakes

First day of December, 2013.The foremost thing on my mind looking at the calendar is “how time flies…” but instead of dwelling on thoughts of time and it’s incredibly annoying ability to escape despite my best efforts, I focus on today: 75 °F outside in December.  I end up looking for season- appropriate shots from last year.

The drive from and to Mammoth Lakes on the beautiful Highway 395 is my favorite by far; it’s much longer than it should be because of all the extra “photo opportunity” stops but they’re worth it. The views of the Sierra Nevada Range are just breathtaking. Every single time.

It’s been a highly productive weekend and right after it’s highlight, putting up the Christmas tree with my family, I have found an amazing new toy: Alienskin software! Long, painstaking search and a review already in process but for now just a winter scene finished off by the trial version of Alienskin (AKA “present to self this Christmas”). I think it works beautifully as a finishing touch for the HDR image (thanks to the creators of Photomatix for HDR Software made just right); color correction hours gone and film nostalgia satisfied big time. And now I can add a new title next to the “Canon Lens Collector”: “Great Photo Processing Software Collector”.

I like the sound of that. I really do.

Image of the Mammoth Lakes scene

Yosemite Half Dome and Stoneman Bridge in HDR

Yosemite Half Dome Reflection under the Stoneman Bridge in HDR

I stopped counting  images of Half Dome I’ve taken over the years a long time ago.  This time, I wanted something different so I started planning as soon as we got to the valley as it’s not always easy to combine a family and a photography trips into one.

No matter how supportive my wonderful family is, I know that oftentimes they wish I had accidentally left my camera at home; so I chose the not-so-remote location just off Stoneman Bridge. It is conveniently located right next to the parking lot and just a couple of minutes walk from a nice coffee shop which also serves ice cream – all of the elements in the choice of location were vital to the success of my project.

Once the logistics were out of the way, the rest was pure fun: 9 exposures (11 originally) at sunset, same equipment setup as for motion blur (still missing the emote shutter release cable which I have now decided is NOT optional).

This image was processed using Photomatix Pro Software which I absolutely love and finished off in Photoshop.  I will not even attempt to write up an HDR tutorial as there’s a fantastic free HDR tutorial available by Trey Ratcliff (thank you Trey!).

 

Yosemite Half Dome Reflection5

Two birds at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Changing Guards at  Golden Gate Bridge

Our trips to San Francisco are never complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Golden Gate National Park.  It’s an amazingly fascinating and beautiful place which is never quite the same; this place it’s ever changing and captivating to the extreme.  Man-made marvel and pure beauty of nature all in one place, all at once is simply magical. These two sea gulls  seem to share my appreciation for it’s appeal  and took on the visual role of it’s  guards.  Maybe it was the play of a  whimsical mind or simply a result of exhaustion after a seven hour drive at the time but here I am, several month later, still seeing the same thing.  Interesting. Well,  after all, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” per Mr. Henry David Thoreau.  I could not agree more.

Two birds at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

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