Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Frozen Shore

A Frozen Shore by right2roam
A Frozen Shore, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

I hope you all are enjoying the holidays.

I came across this bleak scene while exploring the southern coast of Iceland. One goal of this trip was to try my hand at photographing the Northern Lights. I barely caught a glimpse of their surreal glow during my week-long adventure. Unfortunately the weather was extremely uncooperative. Dark skies, high winds, and so much snow! But not completely unproductive, photographically speaking.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 28mm
Aperature: f/20
Exposure: 1 second
ISO 100

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Final Stretch

The Final Stretch by right2roam
The Final Stretch, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

Keeping with the theme of "can't believe it 'til you see it", here is one of my favorites from a camping trip in Death Valley. I remember years ago when I was just getting into landscape photography, coming across an article in... I can't remember the name of the magazine... about the most unusual landscapes on Earth. The Racetrack Playa was rightly included in the top ten.

No one has actually observed the stones moving, but move they do, leaving tracks as evidence of their trek across the dry lake bed. There are several theories about the conditions that set the stones in motion. To me, the most plausible is simply a combination of wind and water. The playa's surface is composed of very fine clay sediments which become slick when wet during the winter rainy season in Death Valley. Winter storm winds can gust up to 70 miles per hour, which is perhaps more than enough to send a rock sailing across a nearly frictionless surface.

Check out these links for a little interesting reading about this unusual phenomenon.



Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 47mm
Aperature: f/22
Exposure: 1/13 second
ISO 100

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fireworks at Pfeiffer

Fireworks at Pfeiffer by right2roam
Fireworks at Pfeiffer, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

Has it really been that long since I've posted anything to my blog? I'm back from several months on the road, now spoiled with a reliable internet connection and a hard drive full of California backlog to sift through. So, congrats!... If today is October 7th 2011, you're one of the first to see this little gem that I came across this morning.

There is a narrow window during the winter when the sun sets in just the right position casting a beam of light through this natural arch at Big Sur's spectacular Pfeiffer Beach. The first time I saw a photo of this effect I thought that it had to impossible, some kind of trick. But I did an image search on Pfeiffer Beach and saw a large number of impressive photos of this arch at sunset, and from the dates the photos were taken derived that the beam of light effect can be seen November through January. I perused a number of websites and blogs looking for the precise dates, but couldn't find anything. During my stay in California I made a number of trips to this amazing place, but the weather and lighting conditions only aligned once for me so that I could capture this effect.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 105mm
Aperature: f/14
Exposure: 1/10 second
ISO 250

Friday, August 5, 2011


Hristos by right2roam
Hristos, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

As you can see, its been a while since I've posted to the blog. I've been on the road a lot these days enjoying being out and sort of disconnected from everything. I did bring my little netbook with a bunch of photos that I took in Greece a while back that I haven't shared yet. I've been gradually sifting through them for what I think are the good ones, and tweaking them here and there. Anyone who has been following this blog or my photostream on Flickr could probably guess that I rarely delve into portraiture. This isn't really by choice. While I really love a great landscape, I've always found portraiture to be really difficult. Every now and then I'm able work up the courage to ask a total stranger if I can take a portrait. Most of the time all I get is a weird look and varying dismissive hand gestures. But not always.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque by right2roam
The Blue Mosque, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

I was only in Istanbul for a couple of nights, just enough to get an impression of this amazingly diverse city. This shot was not by any means technically difficult. A shopkeeper in the old city invited me to his rooftop for tea and what he claimed was the city's best view of the mosque.

Visiting the Blue Mosque

This shot of the interior of the mosque was a little trickier. I probably worked this location for a half hour, trying for just this effect. Holding my Canon G10 by hand, I braced myself against a pillar in the corner hoping to convey the scale, detail, lighting, and movement within the mosque. Without a tripod, at 1 second and ISO 100, many of the shots were too blurry. But I got a couple where the lighting and color balance combined well with the movement of people.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwits by right2roam
Marbled Godwits, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

Here is my favorite from some early morning bird watching a few months ago at Moss Landing State Beach on the California Central Coast. During my stay in California I kept hearing about the abundance of wildlife that congregates in the area around Elkhorn Slough. When the stars finally aligned and I was able to time a shoot at sunrise, I was not disappointed. This single visit also yielded presentable shots of otters, sea lions, and a Great Blue Heron.

I chose to share this shot partially because of the effort that went into it. First, there's that painfully early wakeup to catch the warm glow at sunrise. Then there's the equipment... I've chosen my gear collection so that everything fits into one medium sized Lowepro backpack, with a little extra space for lunch and some rain gear. I'm often on trails, scrambling up rocks, where weight and mobility are important.
I picked up a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L and a 1.4x converter. The lens has mixed reviews, but I find it suits me well. Combined with the converter its powerful enough and compact compared to a prime lens with the equivalent focal length. It takes some practice learning to work with its limitations, but overall I'm so glad I made the purchase.
Finally there was actually taking the shot. These little birds are skittish and fast, and on the tidal flat at Moss Landing there are no blinds or hides. After the first couple of shots I had the necessary ISO and shutter speed figured out, fast enough to stop any motion without losing too much detail. Then I spent a long while crouching as low as I could to the ground behind my tripod watching these little guys pull tiny crustaceans and worms out of the sand. The trick was moving slowly, finding a distance to shoot from that wouldn't make them uneasy.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 510mm
Aperature: f/13
Exposure: 1/400 second
ISO 400

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blue Beach

Blue Beach by right2roam
Blue Beach, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

Happy Easter everyone!

Here's one I took a couple of years ago. More of a snapshot really, but I thought you might enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Grey Matter

Grey Matter by right2roam
Grey Matter, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

I'm going through withdrawals. I've been pulled from the rugged and wild California Central Coast to the soft, gentle, rolling landscapes of the East of England. I'm still at least as determined to continue the fun of making my nature and travel images, but as you can imagine, I'm now forced to look at some subjects differently. I'm finding that the shift is forcing me to once again focus more on smaller, closer, and intimate details as opposed to the wider and wilder of the western U.S.

My last three posts to Flickr are examples of what I've been finding of photographic interest in this area so far. Please don't be offended if you're from this part of the U.K. and know of something more along the line of jaw dropping. I'm new here and on the hunt for new subject matter, and any pointers will definitely be appreciated.

Now back to those smaller details...
During a walk on the beach at beautiful Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve I came across stretches of sand with patterns like this. Maybe not exactly spectacular, but I think its interesting. Without explanation someone might think that this pattern is a vast stretch of Sahara sand dunes imaged by an orbiting satellite. But really the ridges and valleys are on the scale of mere inches, captured with my now outdated Canon G10 point-and-shoot.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Onward! by right2roam
Onward!, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

When I got back to my computer for a closer look at this shot, I immediately imagined this little guy charging off in a flutter of energy, followed by a squadron of Nuthatches wearing goggles and leather bomber jackets. I know... I have a crazy, cheesy imagination, right?

This image is the result of what was probably the most intensive post-processing I've ever applied to any of my shots. Even with my 400mm zoom, I just couldn't get in close enough to capture this bird in full detail. In the dim lighting conditions of this wooded area I had to use a ridiculously high ISO in order to use a shutter speed that could offer any chance of freezing anything as fast-moving as a bird. Then I cropped out about 50 percent of the original frame to get this composition. Finally in Photoshop I applied a noise reduction filter and a selective sharpening layer to help compensate for the graininess and reduced detail.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 400mm
Aperature: f/9
Exposure: 1/40 second
ISO 1600

While this shot will never make an appealing large print, I'm very happy with how it looks on the web. For comparison, check out this photo of a Steller's Jay that I took two days later, same branch. The Jay is a much larger bird and filled the entire frame, so no cropping was required. The difference in detail is clear, especially when viewing large.

Who are you calling punk?

Special thanks to Oma Darling for her bird watching tips and knowledge of the wildlife of Eastern Washington State, and for letting me borrow her cozy "hide". Now that I'm back in the UK, I'm sure to be spending more time at any number of nature reserves and wildlife refuges, and hopefully I'll be sharing more photographs of birds soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening by right2roam
Spring Awakening a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

I don't often get to retrace my steps, but I'll go out of my way for a visit to Chain Lakes any time. This shot is probably only possible for a couple of months out of the year when the streams of Eastern Washington are swollen with snow melt. On previous visits to this area during the summer, this stream had slowed to little more than a trickle.

I've spent a lot of time out here in the summer when Scotia Canyon is green and full of life, but I've also heard about the quieter winter-locked side of this secluded paradise. Its the tail end of Winter here and migratory birds are passing through on their way north, many will stay until Fall. The ice is finally clearing from the lake and snow melt is filling the streams and rivers. On my Flickr Profile I've posted several shots from Chain Lakes, and at least a few more are sure to come in the near future as I get out on the water for some long overdue kayaking during my first real vacation in over a year.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperature: f/20
Exposure: 2.5 seconds
ISO 50

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dante's Shore

Dante's Shore by right2roam
Dante's Shore a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

The shot you see here is nothing like what I imagined before I set out for the beach on this day. I didn't really have a plan other than to explore different afternoon composition possibilities around the Monterey Peninsula, and frustratingly my tests with long exposures just weren't coming together because of brighter than ideal skies.

Gradually the brighter afternoon sky dimmed as the sun set, and the dull browns and greens of this overcast day faded into the soft blues and grays of the often overlooked blue hour. I was finally having some success with the long exposure... enough success that I decided to see what happens when I push the limits of my camera.

A 25 second exposure at ISO 200 was sure to produce an image with less than ideal noise and graininess, but I figured I'd try anyway. It was already so dark that I was having a hard time climbing around on the sharp rocks, but a few more moments of studying the scene and the composition idea came together. I did something I almost never consider doing with nature photography. I combined an obvious human element with the movement of a set of large waves rolling into the rocks. Overall I'm pleased with the combination of glowing city lights and hauntingly cool blues of the twilight tidal action.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperature: f/22
Exposure: 25 seconds
ISO 200

Friday, March 4, 2011

Empires Rise and Empires Fall...

Empires Rise and Empires Fall...
Empires Rise and Empires Fall... a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

"In the last five or six thousand years, empires one after another have arisen, waxed powerful by wars of conquest, and fallen by internal revolution or attack from without."
- John Boyd Orr

For today's post I thought I would share something completely different...
...A simple tribute to the heroes of the spirit of reform and revolution that is sweeping the Middle East. May the winds of change bring you happiness, health and peace.

About the shot?...
This also marks my one-hundredth post to my photostream on Flickr. I took this shot nearly two years ago today with my Canon G10 while awkwardly riding on a camel. Cropping my images is almost always painful as I prefer that my work have as much detail as possible. But in this case I simply felt that cropping into a panorama was appropriate here. The composition of the original photo was terrible, with a crooked horizon and disproportionate amounts of foreground and sky that detracted from the Pyramids. The drastic crop was just the best way to balance the image and keep the dimensions of the scene in perspective. In hindsight I should have also tried to zoom in more and take several shots which could then be stitched together into a high-resolution panorama using photo editing software such as Photoshop Elements... a lesson for the next time I'm riding a camel around the Pyramids of Egypt.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Soberanes Creek

Soberanes Creek
Soberanes Creek
Originally uploaded by right2roam

Yesterday I woke up to a light dusting of snow and thought I should make a jaunt to the south in hopes of getting some rare photos of Big Sur covered in white. Unfortunately the little snow that did fall in the Santa Lucia mountains had mostly melted by the time I arrived. But never to waste a trip, I took the opportunity for an early morning hike into Soberanes Canyon at Garrapata State Park.

I've heard a few Monterey area locals say that to see the best of Big Sur there's no need to go further than Garrapata State Park, just a short drive south of Carmel on Highway 1. Its a small area but the park has everything Big Sur is famous for, from its rugged and craggy coastline with soaring barren highlands to secluded and mystical groves of old growth redwoods. Essentially its an outdoor photographer's paradise. But on most days of the year its difficult to shoot here because of harsh, rapidly changing lighting conditions that often give photos a washed out appearance, or result in a scene with too much contrast.

The time I chose for this shot was almost ideal. It was early and the canyon was still in the mountains' shadow. The sky was mostly overcast, providing lingering periods of evenly diffused light. In my first couple of exposures of this scene the bright spots on the water actually looked a little too hot on my LCD. And sure enough, when I checked the histogram I could see that some of the ripples and eddies in the water were completely burned out. I corrected the problem by underexposing just one stop, but this meant that much of the photo would now be too dark with too little detail. Without a second correction I would lose the details of the redwood cones and needles on the ground, and the bright fresh fern growth would appear dim and dull... A pale image compared to the magical reality of what I was seeing. This is where some of my basic post-processing skills proved useful. With sparing use of the dodge tool in Photoshop I lightened the ground around the trees on the far side of the creek and brightened the cluster of ferns in the background.

And this is where I diverge from the purists who insist that the only good photography is made completely in-camera, or even completely refuse to accept digital as a valid form of photography. I see digital as a form of progress, and with it come numerous tools to better represent the world around us.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 18mm
Aperature: f/22
Exposure: 15 seconds
ISO 50

Monday, February 21, 2011

Point Pinos

Point Pinos
Point Pinos
Originally uploaded by right2roam
The California Central Coast has really taken a beating from the weather the last couple of days, and gotten some much needed rain. Saturday the rain was so heavy that I hardly made it outside at all, except for during a couple of short breaks between storms where I ventured a foray onto the beach. Here's one of my favorites from the weekend's drama. The shot was taken just after sunrise, and a low-angled beam of light broke through the clouds and gently lit up the rocks and crests of some of the waves, and added just a hint of turquoise to the shallow water. Lucky coincidence you say?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Rushing Sea

A Rushing Sea
A Rushing Sea
Originally uploaded by right2roam
This photo is from one of my earliest posts to Flickr, and I thought its about time it makes an appearance on the blog.

What do you do when you wake up before sunrise on a stormy Sunday and can't get back to sleep? Grab your camera and head to the beach! Here is one of the outcomes of a restless stormy morning. There was so much energy in the air that morning that I couldn't sit still. By sunrise I was at this little beach at Point Pinos on the Monterey Peninsula where the sea was at a roaring boil. By the time I left I was soaked up to my knees in the Pacific, but somehow still had dry feet thanks to my amazing Gortex boots.

Shots like this aren't too difficult if you have a good wide angle lens, tripod, and a cable release. Before I even started shooting I knew that the streaking effect of the water was going to be the attention grabber. It was only a matter of getting multiple exposures, then while at home at my computer, choosing the shot that best produced my desired effect. To get the streaking effect you need to release the shutter as the water is running back off the beach... not while the wave is rolling in.

On days like this the biggest challenge is staying dry and protecting your equipment. There were a couple of times when larger waves forced me to grab my gear and make a dash for higher ground. Not that I was in any real danger where I was shooting as I had a clear path to escape any large waves, but I really wasn't in the mood to let anything expensive get ruined just for a morning of hobby shooting.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 16 mm
Aperature: f/22
Exposure: 1 second
ISO 50

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grand Teton from Oxbow Bend

Grand Teton from Oxbow Bend
Grand Teton from Oxbow Bend
Originally uploaded by right2roam
Oxbow Bend is probably one of the most photographed locations in Grand Tetons National Park, just behind the old barns at Mormon Row.

That morning I achingly crawled out of my sleeping bag about an hour before dawn hoping to find that perfect spot along the riverbank for a shoot during prime morning light. Still groggy from waking up without my habitual cup of Joe, I jumped from the tent to my car only to be stopped two miles down the road by a herd of buffalo ambling across the highway. This is where it pays to give yourself plenty of time to get to your location for the set-up. Even with the buffalo delay I still got the timing right, but to my disgust a dozen other photographers had already beaten me there and taken up most of the interesting tripod locations. Who knew that recreational nature photography could be so competitive?!? After studying the shoreline a while I found a bit of unclaimed territory where I could work these branches into the foreground, providing a needed break in the smooth monotony of the water. All in all, not a bad composition, I think. Then it was just a matter of breakfast, and patiently waiting for sunrise with the sounds of the Tetons waking up around me.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 80mm
Aperature: f/20
Exposure: 3/10 second
ISO 50

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dragonfly Hovering

Dragonfly Hovering
Dragonfly Hovering
Originally uploaded by right2roam
One of my contacts on Flickr asked if I could do a write-up for this photo, so here it is.

I took this shot while playing around with a 300mm zoom on my old EOS 20D. I was so amazed with the combination of the long zoom and the smaller APS-C sensor found in Canon's Rebel and 10D lines. Though some image quality is sacrificed with the smaller sensors compared to the full frame 5D I shoot with now, I sometimes miss the magnification power of that combination.

The photo itself took a bit of study and experimentation. Dragonflies were everywhere darting around, or bouncing, or hovering around the lily pads and cattails that line much of the Chain Lakes shoreline. I tried similar shots using the cattails and lily pads as the background, and found that the dragonflies just didn't stand out very well against the dark green foliage. Then I saw this one hovering in front of an aluminum rowboat. The light grey background worked great, and here's the photo. I admit that there's some room for improvement. More intense sunlight would allow for use of a lower ISO thus reducing graininess, and a faster shutter speed would reduce the blur at the dragonfly's wingtips.

Focal Length: 300 mm
Aperature: f/9.0
Exposure: 1/500 second
ISO 800

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach
Originally uploaded by right2roam
The perfect end to the perfect weekend! Finally, after several weekends of cloudless skies the Central Coast has some photogenic weather, and my camera is clicking like crazy. If you're looking for picturesque beaches in Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach wins hands down. The combination of fine, smooth sands and a number of interesting rock formations make for endless seascape possibilities. Add a little interesting weather and... magic!

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 20mm
Aperature: f/18
Exposure: 1/8 second
ISO 50