Archive for November, 2011

Under the Bridge at Zion

November 30, 2011

Under the Watchman Bridge at Zion National Park

“Life isn’t worth living unless you’re willing to take some big chances and go for broke.”

- Eliot Wiggington

Earlier that day I was scouting for my Zion workshop further up the main canyon so I got here at the last minute and the huge mob was already 5 layers deep and in rows of 40 to 60 people across the famous bridge where everyone shoots the Watchman over the Virgin River.

I tried and tried to squeeze in to catch a view and maybe clone out a few ear lobes on the edges of my composition but it wasn’t going to happen. It was a game of tripod twister and I was surely losing. The mob wouldn’t let me in and I kept trying so they became angry and hurled me up and over the edge of the bridge towards the river bottom. After the impact from the fall I realized I was temporarily paralyzed from the pain and couldn’t try for another bridge shot so I just sadly shot from where I landed, knowing I wish I had the same old bridge composition. A minute later I was hit in the head with my cable release “ouch”, I must of dropped it and at least someone was nice enough to give it back. It’s better to be immobile for a minute then have the crowd of zombies on auto pilot eat my fresh brains!

All though this story didn’t really happen, the message is use your legs people. You shouldn’t take them for granted while they’re there working for you. You don’t need to do exactly what everyone else is doing. It isn’t necessary to go for broke but a small almost effortless deviation can change things dramatically.

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Half Dome’s North Face

November 20, 2011

Half Dome's North Face from Olmstead Point

Half Dome is no doubt the most heavily photographed icon in Yosemite Valley. It can be seen from so many vantage points through out the national park. This particular view is photographed very often and has a popular pull out parking called Olmstead Point. You’ll find many photographers and families shooting portraits up there. For us landscape photographers wanting the good light we can get a great view of Half Dome’s North Face from here. In this photograph it’s late light in the afternoon hitting the face of the icon with enough mixture of light and shadows to give it a three dimensional effect. Olmstead Point is located off highway 120 also known as the Tioga Pass road, it’s high elevation makes it’s easy access only available in the very late, early fall and summer months. In the winter you’ll need to snowshoe or cross country ski to access it, there is at least on company out there that will help you if you’re coming up from the bottom of the Tioga Pass on the East Side of the Sierra during winter.

Marmot at Olmstead Point Yosemite

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

The Power of Words

November 12, 2011

Just a little bit of inspiration.

White Balance – Another Approach

November 10, 2011

Court of the Patriarchs in Zion National Park

This image was taken the previous year at Zion. At this location it can be a little precarious getting down to the water’s edge so the average group will not be found here. It’s a man made waterfall despite it’s realistic look. I’d like to disclose that I cloned out part of a footbridge in the far right hand side.

While I was processing this image, I found there were so many different white balances inside the frame. The blue sky at dawn had it’s own, the alpen glow had it’s own, the peaks were in between the the sky and the fall foliage, plus the waterfall had so much of a blue cast and the shadows in the far right corner were even cooler on the white balance scale. You may often see some guru talking about white balance and if you set it to an exact setting it fixes all your problems, I find that very hard to believe when many scenes have so many different white balances inside them so it helps but it’s not a fix all. A general setting will help but it’s highly likely you will need to make adjustments during your processing or blend multiple RAW files with different WB* settings. For this image I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro (sieren discount code). The brilliance & warmth slider made some of the white balance adjustments pretty easy and I masked them with a brush to keep the parts I wanted and discarded what I didn’t want to use. Also, I used the Remove Color Cast option for the “too blue” waterfall because the selective color adjustment in PS didn’t do enough. Although it still remains cool, it’s personal taste how warm or cool you may want something to be. Tonal Contrast was also used to bring mid tones to only specific areas I wanted them in. I thought I would share a few processing steps some people may have trouble with.

This year there was a log jam from a flood here at this waterfall so I didn’t bother shooting it but found another little piece of Virgin River shoreline with a couple of golden cottonwoods that I hope to share later after I get back from the Joshua Tree Light Painting Workshop this weekend.

*WB abbreviation for white balance.

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

A Little Tent on a Big Hill

November 1, 2011

Backpacking amongst the bristlecone pines of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park

Backpacking on Telescope Peak amongst the bristlecone pines, in Death Valley’s highest point at 11,049 ft brings up memories the foothills of the White Mountains and slightly the peaks where the bristlecone pines flourish. Some of the best views in Death Valley can be found on Telescope Peak. We’ve done this backpacking trip before but I just happened to let Christina pick the trip from a list of backpacking trips that we have already done in Death Valley. We came back down with a little bit of water left over from the 2 gallons we each brought up. It was windier then it looked and we were weighted down pretty good. I built a good rock barrier around the tent to keep the wind out of the tent. Although we’ve been up here many times, the view of the Sierra always seems to get better every time! We could make out Lone Pine Peak’s side profile along with Mc Addie, Whitney and Russel.

Bristlecone Pines on the slopes of Telescope Peak in Death Valley. The Panamint Valley, Argus Mountains and Sierra Nevada Range are in the background.

These weathered bristlecone pines on the slopes of Telescope Peak can make one wonder how long they’ve been there. The Panamint Valley, Argus Mountains and Sierra Nevada Range lie in the background of the photograph above. I mentioned I let Christina pick the trip this time, but I was hoping we would of ended up in a canyon where it was a lot warmer. She got a new down jacket, figures she had to test it out somewhere. Anyway the view sure beats having to look through google earth. Even though I’ve been there before I still tend to look at Google Earth before every trip I go on. It’s just so much different in person. With a 360 degree turn there are views, views, views, I’m telling you!!

A fresh perspective on Death Valley

Here are a couple of fresh perspectives with light and shadow on a couple of buttes along the foothills of the Panamint Mountains in. I always like to keep an eye out for pyramid shaped peaks out there, I seem to enjoy composing images around them. I always plan to write and share much so much more from every trip but I never get the time do it so I hope you all enjoy this curt summary of the experience. Maybe I’ll come back to it again with more to share.

Light pyramids in the foothills of the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley.

*For those interested in workshops: Only 1 spot left in the Death Valley workshop this coming March, 2012. Only announced it last week and it’s practically sold out – The Death Valley Experience Guess a few happy students from previous workshops just can’t get enough!

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page


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