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