Creekside Morning – Horizontal and Vertical

Morning at the Creek
Morning at the Creek by I Nancy, on Flickr

I’ve often heard the advice that for every vertical composition, you should also take a horizontal one. The idea is that you never know what you will need in the future as well as providing an automatic way to ensure that you continue to work through and think through the scene.

At this scene I love the feeling of the wide shot below with its tunnel of trees and forced perspective. I do wish, however, that I brought the chain saw to deal with the dead branches on the right. On the other hand, the vertical shot brings its own power as a more intimate view into the creek.

Creekside by I Nancy, on Flickr


Aspens lit like Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween

Into the Sun
Into the Sun by I Nancy, on Flickr

It was a quiet morning in the canyon on the road to South Lake outside of Bishop. We had been scouting around North Lake the day before and, as had been reported by others, much of the color was damaged by the storm the week before. We headed down the South Fork road, not too early, and stopped at a pull off with a promising grove and access to the creek. Being in the canyon, we had a couple hours of beautiful soft morning light before the sun would crest over the eastern canyon walls. These first images I’m posting are from the 15 minutes after the sun crested over the wall and lit up the aspens like jack-o-lanterns on Halloween. They were taken between around 10am and 10:15. (If you check the EXIF, I believe my camera clock is off by one hour, as I customarily never set it to daylight time).

Although, some talked disappointingly about the mix of green and yellows, I was delighted with the mix of colors. You will see even more of this mixture in my next post which will show the grove before the sun came up. I have also been fascinated with tree-scapes for some time and mentally I was really searching them.

Nature's Stained Glass
Nature’s Stained Glass by I Nancy, on Flickr

Figueroa Mountain Oaks – Subtle in HDR

Figueroa Mountain Oaks

I’ve heard that the best way to learn is to do, but I think the best way to learn is to teach. This weekend I was working on an overview of HDR photography for the Thousand Oaks Photo Group. My teaching philosophy is around motivation more then instruction. If you can motivate the learner into wanting to use a technique, the instruction takes care of itself.

I needed a set of images to explain why to use HDR and I remembered some images I took at Figueroa Mountain last spring. Figueroa Mountain is a beautiful place spread with old oaks and fields. We went for the wildflowers, but they were a bust this year. We had to satisfy ourselves with the groves of trees and mountain air. The oaks were just sprouting their light-green tender leaves and the sky was beautiful but bright. These were the conditions for neutral-density graduated filters or… HDR. I bracketed many scenes but never got back to fully process the shoot. This weekend was my opportunity to do some experimentation with the goal of creating a concrete set of guidance for approaching HDR.

My use of HDR is subtle and I typically shoot in 1-stop exposures. I use Photomatix Pro on my RAW images for the tone-mapping and then Lightroom and Photoshop for additional adjustments.

Figueroa Mountain Oaks

Yucca Abstraction

Yucca Bloom
Yucca Bloom by I Nancy, on Flickr

Each week, I change the wallpaper on my work computer with a recent image. The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate any recent image to see if it has holding power for me. Can I stand to look at this image for the whole week? The process is simple. On Monday morning, I surf on over to my flickr account, pick one of the images I processed and posted during the last week, view all sizes at the largest resolution (usually 1024 on the longest side) and “Set as Desktop Background”. My work computer is not a very ideal place to look at images. It is not calibrated, not in good lighting, and is often projected through a business-purposed projector for meetings which reduces the resolution dramatically.  There are images that I have taken down after a day, many where I notice a flaw (or two) that often can either be adjusted in post or convince me that the image is not up to snuff for any serious showing, and a few rare images that I don’t want to ever take down.

This is one of those rare images that I’ve been staring at for almost 2 weeks and it hasn’t lost its luster in my eyes. It is calming, simple, and complex all at the same time. I have grown fond of the white-on-white look and when I can find this in nature, I like to take full advantage. As I worked the plant, I noticed that in certain angles, you could see just one little, yellow, stamen peeking out from surrounding white petals. I liked this peek-a-boo act and the depth it added to the image. Playing with super shallow depth of field, I knew that this had to be the focus point, at it had to be in focus. I placed it in a powerful spot in the image and adjusted the angle to provide pleasing patterns. Even at f/7.1 the depth of field was pretty shallow given my distance to the flower (right up to it) and the distances between the layers of pedals. The bits of purple and green in the image come from areas of the stem showing in between pedals and I liked the contrast and contours they create.

I knew this year, that I wanted to get some interesting images of the local Yucca blooms. they bloom in a big stalk right out of the middle of a set of pointy spears. After the bloom they turn to these big seed pods. I have been concentrating over the past year on really working my subjects. Taking images at different scales and different angles. Here you can see a couple of the other images from this years season of yuccas blooms. These other images are beautiful and capture details in the blooms that most people never take the time notice. However they are not mysterious enough for me. Before the summer is out, I will also take a try at the seedpods.

Yucca Bloom
Yucca Bloom by I Nancy, on Flickr

Yucca Bloom
Yucca Bloom by I Nancy, on Flickr

All my Yucca images