Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

There are always surprises lurking in your past photos. This image taken December 2010.

This was from a sunset outing in the Alabama Hills with my good friends Jerry Koenig, Connie Wade and Mike Sugar. The light was quite low and I was a bit worried about being able to capture the images I wanted. When I think back, however, this is the perfect lighting for this location.

Over and over we hear the admonition to look for good light. What is good light? I had always thought of good light as interesting light, and interesting light was something that created highlights and shadows. In this situation, however, the good light was flat light. The rocks themselves provided all the texture I needed and the sky, well, talk about a gift. Previously, I have only been at this location during dawn and after dawn. At dawn you are fixated on pointing your camera west-ward to get just the right light on the lower Alabama Hills and the Eastern side of the Sierras, like the image below. However, once the sun is up, as you can already see in this image, the shadows begin to form and, with nothing to diffuse them, they create problematic obstacles in this rocky landscape. This image above, however, was taken after the sun went down. It turns out, all  I needed was the contrast of the rocks to the sky to make this area sing.

Lone Pine Peak

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Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays
Home for the Holidays by I Nancy, on Flickr
Holiday cheer in the small town of Lone Pine, California

How many times have your heard this advice, “Follow your heart”? Most photography blogs that I read offer this guidance fairly regularly. But how do you know what is in your heart to follow? What is true to yourself? Do the blogs offer any guidance?

This is an image after my heart. Is it pretty? Will win any awards? Will a local professional judge it meritoriously? Is it technically perfect? These are all rhetorical questions. Does it strike me as poignant, interesting, emotional? The answer here is yes.

I am first attracted to this image by a visual feature; the starburst on the tractor-trailer’s headlight. However, there is also symbolism in this single star and in its the echo on a vehicle down the road; a lonely star, a lonely person but brightly lit. Look at the understated Christmas tree decorations on the lampposts. They are not large and bright and gregarious like you would find in a large town; the holiday spirit barely shining through. The large MOTEL sign sings out to visitors, they will not be home for the holidays.

I know that this image follows my heart because this is the image I chose to process first. I chose this image before my lovely black-and-whites of snow covered Lone Pine Peak and before my images of the chocolatey Alabama Hills. This is the image for which I packed that extra lens, a fast-fifty. I knew that there would be opportunity to find some bit of street photography, some bit of irony, some bit of Holiday spirit, that only this lens would do justice to.

I was forwarded a story today about a woman, Vivian Maier, a Chicago nanny who took more than 100,000 photos during her lifetime but never showed them to anyone. By some fluke her vast collection of negatives have been found and are being curated. From what I’ve seen, and others, her work ranks among the best street photography of the 20th century. Saul Leiter, a famous fashion photographer, also did street photography that was virtually unknown in his lifetime but is now highly acclaimed.

Everyone loves a beautiful photography, but you must follow your heart. Shoot what you love and love what you shoot. But don’t do as these two did, tucking these often-unflattering slices of life away for haphazard discovery. Share them. Who knows who might appreciate them and be influenced by them.

2010 Photography Journey Reflections

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.

1. Blossom

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.)

Blossom Photography

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.

Dawn Flight Photography

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.

Fair Noir, Hot Dog Photography

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.

High Anxiety Photography

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.

Dancing Yucca Photography

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.

Wall of Wave Photography

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?

Solitary Hiker Photography

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.

Lone Pine Peak Photography

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?

Happy Holidays Photography