This morning I took a hike with some friends and the overcast skies made for perfect shooting conditions. This oak was adorned with vines of poison oak beginning to show their fall colors. With the subtle light shining through, it looked like an intricate stained glass window.
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 by I Nancy, on Flickr
Yucca Bloom by I Nancy, on Flickr
Leaves and Light #2 by I Nancy, on Flickr
Do you ever look at the photographs you make and wonder where they come from?
Salt Flat Reflections by I Nancy, on Flickr
This is one of those images that I knew would be included in my portfolio the minute I checked it on my camera’s screen. I’m glad there were no technical issues, I had been pretty good about being technically deliberate the whole weekend.
Salt polygons are one of the iconic images of Death Valley and for two days we had scouted the east-bank of Badwater Basin for the perfect spot. However, due to unusually large amounts of rain this winter, most of the basin is flooded and the salt formations have dissolved under a foot of water. Badwater wasn’t a complete disappointment however, the sunset that night was spectacular and was reflected north and south of the usual vantage points (images will be processed and posted in a future post).
On our last afternoon we were debating where to spend our last sunset. There were unfortunately no clouds in the sky, it would be a relatively tame night. Should we return to Devils Golf Course? Will the Cornfields have good light? Salt Creek was on our mind and unexplored. We wandered into the Furnace Creek visitor’s center to try to get some clarity. The ranger there talked about Desolation Canyon and a few other places and then offhandedly mentioned “if you want to see salt polygons, you can find them off of West Side Road”. We were there! We scouted during the day, and snapped a few in the too bright light and formed our plan to return later.
We arrived in time to watch the sun go down in the west lighting up the mountains to the east. I had found this leading line of rocks heading into the water and lo and behold, a beautiful golden reflection of the mountains. Tripod was set, careful f-stop for full depth of field, live-view (for mirror lockup), and click-click, two for good luck. These conditions held for no more than 15 minutes, the glowing rim growing then shrinking. A bit more time in the afterglow but these I were the ones I knew I’d remember.
Salt Delta by I Nancy, on Flickr
Quiet Light at Mesquite Dunes. Death Valley, California, by I Nancy on Flickr
Some time ago, the assignment in the Martin Bailey Photography Forum was quiet light. It was an interesting assignment for me. Although I’ve always admired low-contrast images, the approach had alluded me. These images, taken this past weekend at Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley, are my tribute to quiet light.
On this morning we were treated to a light layer of high clouds, what my friend Darrel Priebe calls God’s Softbox. I like how the gentle shapes of the dunes match the mood of the gentle light. The sky was a beautiful powder blue with nearly the same B&W tonal value as the dunes themselves. These images are pretty enough in color but the color contrasts were contradicting the whole low-contrast, quite light, feel that I was seeking.
The RAW files were first processed in Lightroom to adjust dynamic range, then brought into Silver Efex Pro for conversion into B&W.
Peaks by I Nancy, on Flickr
It is always difficult to pick out your “best of year” images. Last year I started and never finished. This year, at the prompting of my friend Hutch, instead of picking out my best, I’ve picked 9 images that explore my 2010 photography journey with friends. I am an active member of two local photo clubs and, since I must mostly plan my photo outings, there is hardly a significant image where I haven’t also shared the experience with one of them. Happy new year to Hutch, Connie, Jerry, Judy, Roy, Anne, Rachel, Suzanne, Mike, Darrel, Randi, Jeannie, Chuck, Allyson, Art, Joni, Susannah, and of course Chick.
This image represents my first foray into seriously shallow depth of field macros. It was inspired by Martin Bailey, a nature photographer living in Japan. Martin is known for his incredibly beautiful low depth of field flowerscapes taken with 300mm and 400mm lenses at f/2.8. He graciously donated his image Lone White to your Thousand Oaks Photo Group picnic raffle. Whereas Martin often focuses on large gardens or patches of flowers in Japan, what I had at my disposal was smaller patches of wildflowers and blossoms. This image was taken on an overcast day in January 2010 the small Gardens of the World in the center of Thousand Oaks. On this same day I made the image Yellow Expanse which won 1st Place in Flowers at the 2010 Ventura County Fair. (And, no Randi, I don’t do flowers.)
2. Dawn Flight
Each winter for the last couple of years, I ask members of the photo group if they want to hit the Santa Barbara pier at dawn. Each year, something new emerges. In 2009 I made the image Misty Morning. This morning I was with Jerry, Roy, Anne, Jeannie, Hutch, and others. The year before I was working on the birds that fly around the water that catches in a deep spot just in front of the pier. I got nothing. This year, I was working with both long and slow shutter speeds. The birds and the sun cooperated in this abstract image of movement.
3. Fair Noir, Hot Dog
Who takes B&W images at the fair? I do, I do! At the Ventura County Fair with the usual photography suspects: Chick, Hutch, Jerry, Judy, Darrel, Anne, Roy, Rachel, John F., Susannah, and others. We would shoot and lose each other, then find each other, then shoot some more. My mission was to learn the power of the wide angle lens. I had no real intention of turning these into B&W, but when I got to processing them, the B&W brought out all the structure and contrast. I call this series Fair Noir.
4. High Anxiety
This was taken at the Camarillo air show, my first. There I was on the flight line with the TO Photo Group. I was sitting next to, and taking lessons from, the master air show photographer – Hutch. He was using his built-for-action 7D and clicking off frames at 8 frames-per-second – pbrrrrrrrr, pbrrrrrrrr. I was using a terrific 300mm image-stabilized lens that was lent to me by Roy. It was mounted on my built-for-lanscpaces-and-portraits 5dmkII at 3 frames-per-second – ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. Hutch would take a few, chimp, and exclaim his pleasure or displeasure (mostly pleasure) as well as the shutter-speed he was using. I was getting the hang of things. When Chuck Aaron and his Red Bull Helicopter aerobatic act came on I thought I was getting the hang of it as I listen to Hutch tell me how difficult it is to get the blades of the helicopter because they move so slowly. I start shooting and with each shot I lower the shutter speed: 1/250th of a second, 200th, 125th. I’m getting seriously close to loosing it hand holding a 300mm lens. Hutch tells me the secret of switching on the IS. Now at 1/80th, 60th – and eureka – High Anxiety.
5. Dancing Yucca
The guy they call Condor at the local Sierra club tells me that there are 4 hike ratings: Easy, Moderate, Hard, and Tanaka. Nothing deters Suzanne Tanaka from a good hike including winding roads and warmer than usual weather. Summer started late this year with an exceptionally cool July, but by August the heat of the summer was starting to bear down. This day we hiked the 6-mile Mishe Mokwa trail with Suzanne, Jerry, Connie, Chick and by happens-chance met Victor (a friend of Suzanne’s) at the trail head. By all accounts, this is a beautiful trail, but a little warm and we almost lost Jerry and Connie on this trek due to the heat. Dancing Yucca is at a spot about ½ through the hike at the top of a hill. It was a little drier, hotter, and dustier than this image would imply – ah, the magic of white balance.
6. Wall of Wave
What would a year of 2010 remembrances be without an image from The Wave? In late September the 6 Utah Trekkers set out on a week photo-adventure to various points in Utah and Arizona. The trip was built around a mysterious hike to a place called “The Wave” – an enormous sandstone chute out in the wilderness area of Coyote Buttes. They allow only 20 hikers per day and 10 of those permits are given by lottery 3 months in advance. We had but 18 chances to “win” and, our lucky charm, was the one-and-only Jerry “the King”. On September 29th Chick, Connie, Jerry, Mike, Suzanne, and I setout on the 3-mile, each way, trip over hill and dale, and sand dune, and red rock, and more sand, and did I mention the sand, and reached The Wave. It was an extraordinary sight and I wish I was able to do it justice with my lens, but an abstract will have to do.
7. Solitary Hiker
Did I mention that they day we went to the wave it was near 100-degrees? Here a solitary hiker rests at the mouth of the wave. Who do you think that is?
8. Lone Pine Peak
One of Jerry’s favorite places – Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. When Jerry makes up his mind to visit Lone Pine, nothing stops him. This time he invited his buddies Mike, Connie, and me. It was just a short trip with one goal in mind, the sunrise in the Alabama hills. For people who haven’t experienced the desert southwest, this area must look like the moon with the brown rocks of the Alabama Hills meeting the blue peaks of the Eastern Sierras. The colors were just too distracting for this scene.
9. Happy Holidays – Are You Home Yet?
Even though I was on a landscape shoot, I just can’t stop myself from framing up the city scene. Well, kind of a small town scene. Well, can you imagine a more depressing Holiday scene than this? This is my pick for next year’s holiday card. Happy Holidays – Are you home yet?