Poor girl…

out shooting in the harsh sunlight.

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There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself; for what we see is what we are.

Ernst Haas

I admit to getting a bit of perverse enjoyment out of strolling along, tripod in hand, in the heat of the day with sun overhead.

I see the looks and can almost hear the thoughts…poor girl, she doesn’t know that this is the worst possible light to shoot under. Hasn’t she heard about the golden hour?

But when I start to lose that glorious low angle light of winter I switch it up and pull out the infrared; and for that the light could not be better!

Composition is very critical in these shots and that is something that I am always playing with. I use a hoya filter, not a converted camera to capture these shots so they do require some planning. Most of them are shot with exposures of around 30 seconds.

These shots capture the light that is not visible to us: it is the near infrared. I always shoot in raw, although jpeg may be a little easier to edit especially when starting out.

Focus is a bit of a challenge as it is not the same as visible light. I focus and compose without the filter and then adjust the focus after attaching the filter. Likewise white balance is tricky and I create profiles to use in Lightroom for the imported raw infrared files. These profiles create a good starting point with more room for adjustment.

Lastly there are options for creating “false color” by swapping color channels but for me more often the beauty of infrared lies in the black and white conversion.

Ultimately this is about keeping your options open and seizing each opportunity to photograph.

Develop some skills to cover all light conditions. That way when you have the time to shoot, it won’t require that you wait for the perfect light.

Wind scoured snow…

and a hint of sun. Perfect for a winter landscape!

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Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last two weeks going through images, updating my website, and having prints made.

If you haven’t done something like that in a while it is really quite interesting.

It can go several ways I suppose. You might look back and think that it’s time to just put the camera on the shelf or start using it as a paper weight OR you might come away feeling energized. Hopefully it will be the latter!

For me it was a two-part process; deciding on prints that I really liked and then seeing how they looked in print. That did not always go in the way that I had expected. There were surprises in both directions. Some required more attention when it came to the edit while others just seemed to lose something on paper. Explore how things look printed on different paper. I tend to favor matte and for images like this one, Somerset Velvet fine art paper made it really special.

I’ve learned a lot more about handling RAW files and feel more comfortable with what needs to happen to them before they are ready to print. I pay a lot more attention to my histogram especially when it comes to shooting things like infrared. There’s no substitute for it especially when you’re out in the bright light and can’t see your screen. If you are not used to using it, bracket some shots and then compare each one to the histogram when you get home. Learn how it needs to look to make the shot that you’re envisioning.

Ultimately though it had the effect of refocusing me. I don’t feel the need to photograph everything but look for those special moments that pop up like today’s image. Moments that won’t ever look quite the same again. I was glad that I had opted to bring my camera and a lens change with me.

Snowboarding through the trees I was aware of the sun occasionally and ever so slightly breaking through the clouds; not staying for long but adding that one special element that I needed for this winter landscape shot.

The snow was windswept. It still clung to the trees from the storm the night before: the direction of the wind was evident. It was much calmer today but the occasional gust sent showers of snowflakes from these trees through the air.

Making a mental note of this spot I looped back around to the chair hoping to be able to get back before conditions changed too much. Racing down on my next run I stopped, mindful of being in a “safe” spot where I could be seen by others should they come downhill following a similar line. Sheltering my camera in my coat I dialed in the settings, removed the lens cap but kept the lens pointed down so that it didn’t get spotted with snow… and I waited.

When the next brief flash of sun came, I took my shot. I think this might become one of my twelve shots for the year and it was the icing on the cake after a good morning of riding.

How’s your crop coming for the year? Does it need watering?

Does your journey stop after taking the picture…

or do you actually edit and print them?

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Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

You know when you’re working on the computer and you might have several things going on at one time concurrently? Well this is an awful lot like that…

Sometimes I think that taking the photograph is the easy part. You work hard at learning your craft, shooting anything and everything. This changes over time as you develop a sense of what really moves you to capture what is really meaningful to you. Then, if you have the opportunity to exhibit your work, you’ll need to edit and print it.

So much of what we view today is on phones, tablets, ipads,and computer screens so it is a rather rude awakening sometimes when it comes to the print.

I tend to not print my own prints. I want to have the best quality available and the widest choice of print options. This does not come without its own set of problems though.

I shoot in raw to give myself the best range of options when it comes to editing. I don’t want the camera to compress the image into a jpeg and throw out information that might be critical to my shot. We do after all make a photo, not just take a photo.

Likewise when sending my image off to print, I don’t want the lab to make choices on how it gets printed.

I have set up an editing environment that has consistent light, I calibrate my dedicated monitor on a regular basis, and I do test prints which I then check against my monitor for accuracy.

All of which is challenging because so much of the general public viewing is done with that wonderful backlighting that has to be then factored in when you send an image to print. That file needs to be adjusted so that the print that comes back or gets drop shipped to a client, looks exactly as it should.

I took the opportunity recently to look back on years of images as I was putting a collection together to print. It was a fascinating experience to look at the evolution of my own journey in photography.

I would highly recommend doing this.

Then take it one step further, don’t just post those images… print those favorites!

An eclipse night trifecta…

or having a plan come together!

the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65
the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65

Everything that you can imagine is real.

Pablo Picasso

On this special eclipse night, the fourth eclipse in a tetra, I wanted to do something more than just photograph a large frame filling blood moon. I kept being drawn to the idea of photographing the stars AND having a full moon in the shot. It just doesn’t happen very often that you can see the full moon and not have the stars washed out by its glow. I also knew that at 8:11 there would be an iridium flare visible for a brief moment. Not a very bright one but having shot these before I hoped that it would be bright enough. Could I capture this trifecta?

A great deal of planning needed to take place. First there was scouting out a location and figuring out where each element would be at that one moment necessary to capture all three. For this I turned to a wonderful ap called Photopills. It gave me all of the tools necessary to plot the placement of the moon and the milky way in relation to the direction and elevation of the flare. Taking some test shots showed me that shooting at 11 mm on my wide angle lens should just barely squeeze these three elements into the shot. What settings I would be using needed to be decided close to the time of the shot as I really did not know how much light would be present.

The one thing that I was certain of was that I would have one shot, just one frame, to get this. The girl likes a challenge though and certainly I filled my time before and after with capturing the beauty of this extra large moon, the likes of which will not occur again until 2033, as it rose behind the mountains, already partially eclipsed.

blood moon rising
blood moon rising

It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather and even a shooting star that exploded during a test shot. How lucky can one girl be? Or is luck when opportunity and planning come together…you be the judge!

More images can be viewed in the gallery idaho after dark by clicking on this link to my website.

 

Getting up close and personal…

with your fears.

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nephila clavipes

There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.

Hunter S Thompson

One of the great things about being a photographer is the complete control that you have over subject matter and something that I like to do when presented with the opportunity is to get out of my comfort zone and photograph something that I am not comfortable with.

While on a recent trip to Florida I came across this largest of North American spiders with the exception of the tarantula, the banana spider. I did in fact shudder but taking a deep breath I began to photograph her with what looked like her offspring.

While this spider is venomous, its bite is not fatal, at least that was what I kept telling myself as I moved around her trying to capture her and the color in that beautiful golden web.

I have found that looking at something through a camera lens has a  desensitizing effect because it seems that a different part of your brain kicks in and focuses on the light and other technical issues, over-riding the part that says “run, save yourself!” 

In the interests of full disclosure I will admit to using a telephoto and NOT my macro lens for this shot…after all these spiders are large with a body size of 1-3″ and leg spans of up to 5″!

I can make a mental check mark beside venomous spider now, what’s next you ask? Gulp…a snake?

I have a good reason…

for being behind on my posts!

Persei
10 week old staffordshire bull terrier

In a perfect world every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog…

I hate being behind in my posts but it has been a very busy week culminating in bringing home this little guy. Those who know me well know of my love of animals and dogs in particular and after losing a very special dog in the spring of last year we embarked on a search for someone try to fill his shoes.

This is my third Staffordshire Bull Terrier and while it is not the breed for everyone, they sure fit our lifestyle. In the AKC breed standard he is described as having “character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, and children in particular, its off duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it a foremost all-purpose dog.”

We have found them to be very social, intelligent, and game to try new things even those things that don’t come naturally to them. Every dog that we have owned has learned to swim with the staffies being no exception. It wasn’t very pretty at first but our 8-year-old girl is a now a powerful and enthusiastic swimmer who is also at home in a kayak.

This little guy in just one week has been in several vehicles, planes, and this morning in a kayak for his first ride. I am enjoying watching him experience everything with the courage that this breed is noted for having. This past week was one filled with canine portraiture which I just love doing. It’s relaxing and enjoyable to try to capture that thing that makes each one special. I will follow-up this post with some of the dogs that I have had the pleasure of photographing this past week.

Life gets busy, don’t forget to share a moment with your canine friend!

The journey of an artist…

follows neither a straight nor an easy path…

morning fog
morning fog

Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.

Michael Kenna

Tempting as it may be to shoot things like heavily saturated sunsets that draw gasps of delight from the general public I think it is important to stay true to what you personally find to be moving. If you sacrifice that inner voice, your own personal je ne sais quoi in the hopes of a sale, you will lose the joy that comes with picking up a camera.

It’s strange but when I find myself editing an image with just the smallest of adjustments using an almost exaggerated light touch I know that the image holds more meaning for me.

Likewise when I see the work of another photographer and it makes me hold my breath even for a moment I know that their work has resonated with me and it then becomes important to find out why.

Michael Kenna is one such artist who when I happened upon his work it was like time stood still. So many of his images were utterly simple and at the same time complex in their composition and tone.

30 seconds one evening
30 seconds one evening

I battle with color and sensory overload at the best of times so I do find myself drawn to black and white. As a young girl I was petrified of the dark with its enveloping blackness and things that might lurk in those shadows. Never one to give in to irrational fears I pushed myself to be in that darkness and I have found it to be meditative and calming in a world that has exploded with connectivity. Now I find myself more often than not, waiting for the sun to go down so that I can explore the night using long exposures. Certainly not something that I would ever have imagined doing but if you are willing to try new things and keep an open mind, you might find your journey taking a new direction.

I do still shoot color but I find myself doing so less and less and when I look back on photographers whose work really moves me, it is almost always minimalist and black and white.

For me it is about being authentic in your work and presenting an image that is true to your own personal vision and this year as I shoot the fireworks to celebrate America’s day of Independence they will more than likely be in black and white…

Happy Fourth of July to those celebrating…