Friday, July 31, 2009

Reflections in the Morning

Lake Sabrina along with North and South Lakes were our destination for sunrise on the third day of the Eastern Sierra Workshop. What do you know, it was a beautiful morning. Not a cloud in the sky and with the slightest of breezes, a perfect morning for reflections and did we ever have fun with reflections.

After spending much of the previous two days in Owens Valley with temps above 100, the 47 degree temperature that greeted us at Lake Sabrina was a real treat. The alpenglow in the first image was replaced by the first light hitting the higher mountains on the second. The reflection was astonishing.

Another workshop group showed up between the alpenglow and first light. Seemed odd the group arrived when they did since we'd been in place for a good 45 minutes already and they missed a good show.

After shooting for a short while longer we quickly headed over to North Lake. We were in for a truly wonderful surprise here as well. The sun was lighting the surrounding mountains, the sky was a rich blue, the water was calm and we were located in the shade on the east side of the lake. Just the perfect setup.

It was such an incredible place to not only photograph but to just experience. It's important for me to 'try' to stop photographing for a moment and experience that places that I go and soak it in. Not all images are made with the camera. The body and soul take in the imagery as well as the smells, the sounds, the breeze, he temperature and the overall feeling of the location. It is these senses that I try to capture in the photographs I make.

Shooting went on until the sun rose to a point where we were no longer in the shade at which point the great light had slipped away. But we all came away with some stunning images as can be seen by the last three images.

We followed up our North Lake stop with a visit to South Lake but our 'time well spent' time put us at South Lake after the good light had disappeared for the morning. We stayed only for a few very short moments before heading off to a well deserved bacon, eggs and hash brown breakfast at Parchers Resort


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Minnesota's Arrowhead

I like to spend my weekends way way up on the very tip of North Eastern Minnesota on and around the reservation of the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe. This is known as the arrowhead region of Minnesota with the reservation located at the tip of the arrow. I started coming here four and a half years ago and I've been addicted ever since.

My first photography trip was with my brother Ralph back in the fall of 2004. It was with that trip that I discovered this wonderful place. Every year since I've spend many weekends along the northern Minnesota shore of Lake Superior.

It's not real close to home, 250 miles to Grand Marais and almost 300 miles to Grand Portage, but the time in the car gives me time to anticipate the upcoming visit or reflect on the last visit.

Last winter was my first along the North Shore and provided a very different and unique experience, as well as photographic challenges (photographing at -10 degrees takes some getting used to and I'm not so sure I got used to it.). The winter provides it's own beauty with the snow and ice and extreme weather conditions. I look forward to the upcoming winter, and all the weekends between now and then, with the anticipation of a child.

These images were made last weekend on Saturday night. My friend Travis and I went out on some rocks at his parents place and quietly experienced the evenings charm. (How would you like to have this view from your parents place.) I hope in some small way my images capture the moods of the North Shore from it's gentle side to it's angry side. It is these moods that I will continue to try to capture in the future.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cascade Impressions

On the theme of being inspired by techniques of Tony Sweet, see Bristlecomb Abstracts, I made these two 12 exposure impressions. Each succeeding image is moved vertically then the images are combined in Photoshop one image per layer. The layers opacity is decreased from the bottom layer to the top layer to get the effect. A minor saturation adjustment and this is what I got.

These images were made yesterday on the lake side trail at Cascade River State Park in Minnesota. I have been wanting to explore this trail during an overcast day and yesterday was the perfect day.

This is my first attempt using this method. I like the results and need to experiment more with the method.

What do you think.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bristlecone Abstracts

While on Ralph's workshop I was keeping tabs on some of the Blogs I follow from my iPhone. (I'm sure you've wondered what we did before the internet. Well I'm starting to wonder what I did before my iPhone. I'm terribly addicted.) One of the photography blogs I follow is that of Tony Sweet.

Tony is also on Facebook, something else I follow with my iPhone, and he and I are Friends. Tony had just been to the Bristlecone Pines a few days before we were to visit. Tony is a great impressionist photographer and as luck would have it he posted one of his Bristlecomb Pine blurs the day before our visit.

I've been playing with blurs for quite some time now, first inspired by Freeman Patterson and William Neil, but blurs weren't at the top of my list when preparing to visit the Bristlecones. Tony's post on Facebook was very timely since it inspired me to make a number of blurs three of which I'm sharing with you here.

Thanks Tony Sweet for the inspiration.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Night Descends on the Bristlecone Pines

We went to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the afternoon with the intention of staying for sunset. Once there we decided to stay a little longer and were rewarded with a cloudless, moonless star filled evening that begs for a return visit (some day).

The Bristlecone Pine forest stands high, 10,000 feet, in the White Mountains of Inyo National Forest in California. These pine trees prefer to grow in the white, rocky soil that gives this mountain range it's name. These white rocks, Dolomite, are a type of limestone created under a warm, shallow, inland lake that once covered this area. This highly alkaline soil presents serious growing conditions for most plants leaving the Bristlecomb to prosper without competition. The oldest trees on the face of the earth are found in this forest with the Methuselah pine estimated to be 4,789 based on core samples taken in 1957. It is an awesome experience standing among these ancient trees.

As the night fell upon us we began making long images, staying under 30 seconds to minimize the star trails. The last glow from the sun is illuminating the pine in the first image.

We had a fun time playing with light painting as we waited for the sky to turn completely black. I have a very strong flashlight that was making the tree look very harsh. So I had this bright idea. I went back to the car and got my sunglasses which have amber lenses. I then shined the flashlight thru a sunglass lens and bathed the tree with the warm light. It turned out really well.

The stars began to increase in numbers as the night sky turned a dark blue just before turning black. We concentrated alot of photography on this particular pine, as we called it Ralph's Tree. Just one look here will explain why.

I pointed my camera south and picked up the darkened sky with the Milky Way glowing in the night. A jet passed overhead as this image was made.

While there is no camping inside the Bristlecone Pine Forest there is a campground just on the outskirts. I hear it calling me for a future afternoon and evening of stellar photography.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Many Faces of Mt. Whitney

The second morning of the Eastern Sierra Workshop found us at Mt. Whitney, picking up where we had left off the day before. We had scouted this sunrise location and got setup before the alpenglow began to glow. This trip was the first when I'd seen alpenglow and it is the beginning of Mt. Whitney's transformation from night to day. I've put together a series of images, all taken from the same general area, that shown Mt Whitney awakening to a new day.

Alpenglow was making it's glorious appearance in the first two images. A reddish glow is cast across the mountain peaks before the sun makes it's appearance.

Alpenglow had diminished and the sun is casting it's shadow on the mountain.

A few minutes later and the mountain takes on a bold reddish glow.

As the sun continued to rise the mountain looses is first light redness and begins to show it's striking daytime presence.

It doesn't take long before all the color is gone and Mt. Whitney is proudly standing above all other peaks in the lower 48.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Mt Whitney

The first shooting day of the Eastern Sierra Workshop was spent in the Lone Pine area. The most notable feature in this area is Mt. Whitney. At 14,505 feet it is the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. This first image is shot from the arch in the Alabama Hills. The Alabama Hills is an amazing area of rocky formations in the Owens Valley below Mt. Whitney. Hollywood has loved this location over the years having made 400 plus movie and TV programs. Mt. Whitney is featured thru the arch with Alpenglow illuminating it's face.

The wind really picked up as the day wore on. Even though it was very bright I wanted to blur some of the clouds streaming by. The Singh-Ray Vari ND is perfect for this allowing me to extend my shutter speed up to 20 or 30 seconds. It's quite challenging holding back that much light since you have to compose the image before cranking down the neutral density as the image in the viewfinder goes black. The trees in the foreground are also being affected by the strong winds and have gone blurry as well.

As the day progressed and the heat rose to 100 we made an escape to Whitney Portal. Whitney Portal is the trail head for the climb to Mt. Whitney's summit. Water is rapidly running down the mountain here and capturing it requires isolation. The previous and following images show the power and force of the water yet it's simple elegance.

I really enjoy the simplicity and elegance of this image.

The day ended with a spectacular sunset. We stopped on the road down from Whitney Portal to photograph the sunset. I shot a couple of HDR sequences but without Photomatics I'm not able to process them. But this image give the feeling of being there with us.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cruising Grand Portage Bay

After a very early rise for sunrise on the 3rd, 2am, Travis and I went back to his house. He hadn't really had his boat out on Lake Superior yet, other than going from the marina to his boat ramp. He discovered a gas leak during that short trip and hadn't had time to replace the hose. But morning he replaced the hose and we went for a ride over to Pete's Island, as the locals call it, officially it is Grand Portage Island. This was the first time I'd ever been out on the lake and I was struck by the clarity and beauty of the water. It was such a beautiful day.

We strolled the rocky beach and found the best skipping rocks I've seen in my life. Pete's Island used to be the center of shipping to the village of Grand Portage before roads were put in. Grand Portage Bay is so shallow the supply ships could not dock on the main land so a huge dock was build, along with the necessary buildings, on Pete's Island with the village supplies being offloaded there. There are still huge footings under water the last remains of what once was a large operation.

I was in good hands, in these very frigid waters, with the capable Captain Novitsky at the helm.

We ended our morning tour at the Little Spirit Cedar Tree. As we approached the shore I kept a keen eye out looking for the Spirit Tree. From the water it blends in well to the background even so I was able to pick it out pretty easily. Capt. Novitsky navigated the vessel close to the rocks and I was able to capture this image that would have not been possible from land. It was quite the treat to see this sacred place from the water where it has been observed for some 300 years or more.

Back to land we headed. Travis had to be at work at 10:00 that morning and I had to get back to Grand Marais to get some sleep. Yes, I felt for Travis having to go to work while I slept especially since we were to meet up again that evening and do some more shooting.


Star Trails from top of Mt. Josephine

The evening of July 4, Travis and I hiked to the top of Mt. Josephine to shoot fireworks and stay for sunrise the following morning. This gave me an opportunity to try a new method, for me, shooting star trails. After a couple of test exposures I set my shutter release to take a series of consecutive 5 minute exposures. The idea is to merge the resulting images together into a single image adding little by little to the trail of the stars with each succeeding image.

The last few evening I have been using a number of techniques to blend these images together. Some methods like Helicon Focus, OK don't laugh - you never know if it isn't going to work unless you try it and how many people have tried this, turned out to be a real disaster. I used a couple of methods in Photoshop using Lighten blending mode then another more involved method using Lighten and Screen blending mode. Each method left some artifacts that weren't pleasing to me.

Then last night I tried a little standalone program called Image Stacker. It's very simple, fast and quite inexpensive, $17, for what it does. I still need to play with it since some of the artifacts from the Photoshop method are present with Image Stacker. I need to make some prints to see if these artifacts show up in a print. I suspect in a smaller print they will not be noticeable but may show with something larger.

If you remember back to the 4th there was a nice moon in the eastern sky. These exposures were started at 1:42am so there was alot of light in the sky, not the best situation for star trails. This image consists of 17 5-minute exposures spanning 85 minutes. I'm looking forward to trying this process close to a new moon, with a dark sky, and let it run for hours.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Glorious Sunrise

Last weekend started off with a very early sunrise at the Little Spirit Cedar Tree. I had gotten up to the campground at around 9:30 and after unloading the car it was after 10pm when I got to bed. The alarm was set for 2am giving me enough time to have a bite to eat and meet my friend Travis at 3:30. Sunrise wasn't until after 5:00 so we had plenty of early light. And oh what light that was.

This was just the first of a weekend full of wonderous sights, sounds, smells and experiences.

The first image was made with a 17-40mm lens at 19mm, ISO 100, 13 sec at f/22. The second, same lens and ISO 23mm for 2.5 sec at f/8.