This week marked the 99th Anniversary of the National Park Service. 292 million people visited National Parks in 2014. What will the numbers be like this year? I don’t know. But I can tell you that I will be among those people this year. Will you? National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sights, and Memorials are some of the most inspiring and educational places in the United States to visit. I have spent a lot of time growing up in only a handful of the 408 National Parks in the U.S. and I can honestly say that every one of them is special.
From the red rocks of Bryce Canyon.
The valley floor looking up at El Capitan of Yosemite.
The geysers of Yellowstone.
The peaks of Glacier, everyone of these places holds a different story and a different photographic challenge. For some of these places I have still yet to capture that one image that symbolizes what that place has to offer but it is that challenge that keeps me shooting and hopefully, you as well.
As the tittle says these images were taken with new a technique, at least for me it is new. I have never done an HDR image before, these are the first two that i tried. For a while i was under the impression that it was just for making cartoons and had little applicable use. Well this past week in Yosemite i listened a lot to RC who went into a bit more detail about HDR’s. It seemed like a good time to play with a couple so that’s what i did. These two spots i thought were intriguing, and i knew by looking at them that the range of light exceeded what could be captured in one shot. The top was at Yosemite Falls and the bottom was at El Capitan Meadow beneath El Cap.
The top is a 5 frame exposure and the bottom is a 7 frame. Neither turned out quite like how i had it in my mind but it was a good start and I’m excited to keep playing with the matter. One thing i did pick up really quickly was it’s faster and takes up a whole lot less hard drive space doing single clicks.
Images captured with Nikon D3, Nikkor AF-S 24-70 f2.8, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f2.8 VrII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Out of the corner of my eye i caught Bridalveil Falls and it clicked in my head to grab a couple of shots of it, even though it was small and far away, everything else to work with it. Yosemite has always been a great place for black and whites and this trip added many more images to my files of just that. Can’t wait to go back.
Valley view is a very neat place. Standing at the view looks to the east which encompasses most of the valley including El Capitan and Half Dome. It’s a really great view that can be captured many ways. However Wednesday night there wasn’t any clouds, only lots of jetstreams. As i waited for the light to get better and more dramatic, i started walking down the road where there is a stone bridge that crosses the Mercede River. It’s one that i always liked but could never get a good shot of. The bridge is surrounded by trees most of which aren’t that great looking anymore but the water underneath was flowing quite nicely.
I know that the two shots are quite similar except for the addition of more rocks in the lower image, but they both had a little different flavor to them. These rapids were much wider than the ones at Bridalveil Falls, and after getting closeup shots at Bridalveil, i knew that keeping a rock somewhere in a corner made a better composition than in the middle. The nice thing about rapids is that they make such great black and whites. It’s the air bubbles of the rapids that make the whites so interesting. The faster the water, the more curves, the better.
I know i didn’t blog the last day of DLWS yesterday like i normally would have. Traveling across California makes that a bit hard to due. Well Wednesday morning was up at Bridalveil Falls. A beautiful place with many opportunities, if one can get up the path. The path up to the falls was covered in ice from the mist. This is the super slick one inch thick mega ice that forms from all the mist in the air. It would have been a perfect time for some ice skates cause it was smooth. In the end not many of us choose to go up to the falls because it was so slippery. Instead we worked the lower areas of the falls. the creeks, trees and rocks.
The creeks were just as slippery as the rest of the path but safer due to the path being flat. Small creeks and streams are really fun to work with because they can shot wide or narrow. Obviously i went narrow. The trick with shooting narrow is finding those spots where the water and rocks make a unique pattern or have some sort of symmetry to them. If a rock is dead center and all around it is blurred water it obviously won’t look good. Composition is very important with everything and this is scenario is no different. The other choice is what to do with the water, whether to have it blurred out or some detail left. Personally i don’t like having water totally blurred because it then resembles blown out or loss of information. That’s just my view, does it vary depending on the situation, yea sometimes.
This last image was really an experiment which I’m still not sure if i like or dislike yet. This was one rock with two currents surrounding it. The currents themselves weren’t very strong but it would be enough to make a simple black and white. It seems to have a texture to it that makes me question the image.
Tuesday morning was at another great spot, but then in Yosemite there aren’t many spots that are bad. Superintendent Meadow was our destination and its a doozy of a place. Not as many old Oak Trees as El Cap Meadow but with some very interesting ones. At first glance it seemed like it would be a boring morning, trees one side and Yosemite Falls on the other. I did my usual and started wandering away from the group. Across the Mercede River was a nice little grove and a white church, both were intriguing. The fog just wasn’t as grand as i was hoping for. Then, all of a sudden the light started to travel down the side of the falls and it became clear that it would be a magnificent morning
Slowly the light crept further and further down, lighting up the waterfall as it crept. Across the bridge was Dad and Kevin so i headed over that way to hang with the pack. We all stood in awe as the light just radiated between the granite.
Finally the light reached a point where two rainbows emerged. The first was at the base of the falls where the snow cap was and is normally seen everyday. The second was further to the side and stretched all the way above the treeline. Dad even said in all the years that he had been coming to the valley he had never seen this happen before. What caused the ocurrence, known of really know. The best explanation was that the snow cap had melted and that was enough to create the second rainbow. Whatever the reason we all enjoyed the sight.
Monday evening was spent at El Cap Meadow. This is the meadow that is opposite of El Capitan. It is filled with old Oak Trees that certain owls love to hang out in. So the whole time i was out there i was looking around trying to find that blasted bird which i have yet to find. A few nights back, RC got an amazing shot of El Capitan through the forest at its base, so that was one thing that everyone was looking for as we were out there. Of course i was one of those people who had to try and get that shot. Did i…. no, but i did have time and material to play with other things. Somewhere between 6 and 7 o clock, the fog started rolling in across the meadow and the Oak Trees began to get lost. Nothing looks better than an Oak Tree in fog, it’s just mysterious and spooky. I kept looking, and looking, and looking, didn’t find that one shot. A whole lot of bad shots were taken in this process, until right before we started to leave, the fog got thicker and this tree popped out. In the last second that shot was there, and it just goes to share that waiting does have it’s benefits.
In winter water freezes. I know brain dead right. Well up on top of the bridge next to the waterfall, one can’t help to take it all in and one of things that was most obvious, or at least stood out the most was the ice shelf’s that formed around the rocks and the moving water. When i saw the bridge over the water connecting the two rocks, i was like sweeeeeet i can blur the water and then have just part of it in light and it would be like beams going across the water under the bridge. Yea no didn’t happen. The light moved down and everything light up. This shot was before that happened.
However, trial lead to success! At least what i consider to be success. This shot and the next one are the two that i liked the most. They were simple, fun and clean. I like those elements, they keep the pursuit of finding new and interesting challenges enjoyable. The biggest element, this is totally personal choice, was i cleaned up the snow. In reality snow is dirty, it’s covered in everything that the forest and mountains have to offer; but in our minds snow isn’t dirty. It’s clean, soft, and fun. That was important when i did a little bit of content aware. Yes i do use that tool on landscapes, but it’s necessary in order to get that image that I’m looking for.
I know this is a little delayed being mid day Tuesday but if you’ve ever been to a DLWS then you know we keep pretty busy and there isn’t always time to get much processing or blogging done. With that I’m gonna have to leave, to go back out shooting, but I will add more to this when i get back. I’m back, after some shooting, some dinning and wine, of course.., so here’s the rest of the story. Yesterday morning was a great morning with a short walk over to the falls. It’s always nice being able to walk out of the hotel and are at the shoot just like that. Well the Yosemite Lodge is right at the base of Yosemite Falls, naturally it was a good place to start the week off on. Up and Up we go to the wet and icy steps of the waterfall, along the way we found bent trees, windy paths and a squirrel. It was the base of upper falls that was the target and it was spectacular.
I like the upper falls and the lower, combined they are quite nice, but it really wasn’t that wow shot that i was looking for and so i kept looking. At the Base of the falls RC had gathered a gaggle of photographers that were capturing the rainbow with the falls. Now there really are many ways to capture this image and it all depends on what is trying to be conveyed. I took this vertically, horizontally, HDR, zoomed in, zoomed out and they all are all correct. I liked the shot vertically and kinda tight. The only real meaning was the water, the light and the rainbow.
The last thing i wanted to try was a B&W. We had strong light on the face of the mountain and lots of light on the waterfall. Now the most important part of a B&W is in fact an absolute black, and an absolute white. This is something that is crucial and something that i didn’t really understand until my Dad looked behind my monitor and said, a Black and White isn’t a black and white without a black point or a white point. It was so obvious and yet escaped me for such a long time. Now when i look for these type of shots i look and plan for just that, a black point and a white point. Simple but hard to get good at.
Last night was the first time that i had ever done night time shooting. There are still many things i have yet to photograph and that’s partly why i continue working in this field. The subject matter was Yosemite Falls which glowed in the moon light.