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.
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!).
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.
Motion Blur Technique
How to create a perfect reflection with motion blur
Sometimes the best compliments are not completely intentional. Looking at this image, my daughter said: “mom, the reflection doesn’t look real, why’d you do it?! (The brutal honesty of a teenager). My reply was simply: “I did not. That’s how I took the photo.”
Motion blur adds a sprinkle of emotion to a scene; I find it fascinating because the results are not always predictable so there’s always an element of surprise. If, however, you’re looking for a predictable outcome and wish to create a perfect reflection with motion blur, it’s pretty simple to accomplish. To do this you’ll need three pieces of equipment in addition to your camera:
1. Tripod (this is NOT an option!)
2. Neutral density filter, I recommend the 9 stop Hoya (this allows you to shoot at 30 seconds in midday sun)
3. Remote shutter release cable (semi-optional but not really)
This shot was taken in Yosemite National Park, the waters of the Merced River, to my delight, were high for August. Taken at a 20 second exposure at F/22, ISO 200. The semi-optional cable release was missing from my bag so there’s a slight camera shake which I do not mind in this image but best safe than sorry.
Catching a fairy
As I write the summary on the lighting set up and exposure notes for a “natural light portrait setup tutorial”, I realize the importance of mastering the light under any conditions. In fact, it is absolutely essential to be worry free when it comes to any technical aspects of photography when working with people. I find that the real challenge is to capture the most subtle gesture, a momentary expression, or an elusive smile which results in a beautiful story being revealed.