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Photographer’s Guide To Bryce Canyon National Park

 

Earth shadow tints the sky over Thor's Hammer in pastel shades of blue and pink in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

Earth shadow tints the sky over Thor’s Hammer in pastel shades of blue and pink in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

I first visited Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park in 2005.  Melissa and I spent a half day touring the overlooks before unanimously deciding that we were unimpressed and should move on to a more interesting location.  In 2012 I was passing by Bryce Canyon on a motorcycle trip when something compelled me to give it another shot.  I rode through a summer monsoon storm along the scenic drive to the end at Rainbow Point, stopping at each overlook to enjoy the view.  I don’t know what inside of me changed but this time, I was awestruck.  I called Melissa and convinced her we needed to plan a trip to Bryce.  She reluctantly agreed.  We came back with our son later that summer and she too was surprised to find herself fascinated by this marvelous canyon.  We camped for two days and hiked among the fanciful hoodoos.  I’ve gone back a couple more times in the last year and am already eagerly planning another trip.

You would think it relatively easy to create beautiful photographs at a place this scenic.  You would be wrong.  Bryce Canyon is a complex place.  Finding a cohesive composition in the right light requires careful study.  Though I’ve visited a number of times I have exactly one photo from Bryce that I consider print-worthy and only half a dozen or so that are marketable (excluding outdoor adventure photographs).  With this post I hope to share a few lessons I’ve learned over several visits that may help to increase your chances of producing quality images.

General Strategies for Photography at Bryce Canyon National Park

The vast majority of overlooks at Bryce Canyon face more or less east so in the morning you’re essentially shooting into the sunrise.  Yes, there are exceptions at some of the side canyons but generally speaking you’ll greet the morning sun head on.  Use this to your advantage!  The light that Bryce Canyon is famous for is that soft, warm glow of reflected light and at Bryce it is strongest at sunrise.  The red hoodoos and badlands absorb sunrise light and bounce it onto the backsides of hoodoos, filling in shadows and giving the entire scene an amazing radiance.  Use a small aperture (i.e. f/16 or smaller) to create a sunburst just as the sun creeps above the horizon.  If you’re including sky in your composition be prepared to deal with the extreme dynamic range between bright sky and darker canyon.  In the past I used graduated neutral density filters.  Now I blend exposures by hand using luminosity masks and am far more pleased with the results.

Don’t stop photographing right after sunrise.  Mid to late-morning is also excellent as you’ll still find wonderful reflected light even hours after sunrise.  This is also a good time to utilize longer focal length lenses to isolate hoodoos or features inside the canyon for a more intimate view.

Afternoon and sunset is a more challenging time to photograph at Bryce Canyon.  The setting sun casts long shadows into the canyon at most overlooks and only the tops of the hoodoos are bathed in light.  Don’t give up though!  Ten to thirty minutes after sunset you may find a pastel pink and blue sky appear above the canyon – Earth Shadow – and a soft glow upon the landscape.  This light is exquisite and very easy to work with as it is low in dynamic range; you can usually record the entire scene in a single exposure.  Clouds may also offer an opportunity for sunset photography as they bounce light into the canyon, filling in some of the shadows just enough to prevent them from completely blocking up.

Choosing the right lens for photography at Bryce Canyon can be challenging.  You will be tempted to go wide by the seemingly endless views but beware of distortion that causes hoodoos on the edges of the frame to bend outward.  I’m not suggesting that you keep your wide angle lenses stashed away – just know that you will need to make some perspective corrections in post-processing.  There are a couple of ways to avoid this: use a tilt/shift lens or stitch two or more frames together to create a single image.  If I had one, a tilt/shift lens would be my first choice.  If you choose to stitch photos together I recommend that you use a moderate focal length of around 50mm and shoot in a vertical orientation.  This technique is often used to create panoramic photographs but if you only use two or three frames you can create an image with a normal aspect ratio.  Another benefit to this technique is that the final image will likely be of a higher resolution than a single-frame photograph.  Go ahead and make those large prints!  Jim Goldstein wrote an excellent tutorial titled “Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography” that I highly recommend for those of you who are new to this technique.

Every season has something to offer at Bryce Canyon.  Spring temperatures are very pleasant and wildflowers begin to bloom, adding dashes of color to the landscape.  In the summer, dramatic storm clouds build almost every afternoon.  Aspen leaves turn bright yellow in fall and contrast sharply against dark evergreens.  Winter snows create unique and peaceful scenes and also drive away most tourists but be prepared for brutally cold conditions.

Locations to Photograph at Bryce Canyon National Park

What Bryce Canyon National Park lacks in size it more than makes up for in opportunity, which is to say that you’ll find yourself in a target rich environment the moment you cross into the park.  Familiarize yourself with the park before you arrive by visiting the Bryce Canyon National Park website.  Here you can read the aptly named park newspaper, “The Hoodoo“, which also contains valuable information about hiking trails and a good map that provides a birds-eye view of the park.  For a map with more detail I highly recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated topo map, #219.

Locations that follow are listed in the order in which they appear as you drive through the park beginning at the park boundary just outside of Bryce City.

Fairyland Canyon

I only discovered Fairyland Canyon last year and have yet to make a dynamic image there.  That said, I believe this relatively small overlook has tremendous potential.  The hoodoos below are densely packed into the canyon with Boat Mesa rising to the south.  In August I found colorful rabbitbrush blooming alongside the trail and ominous monsoon storm clouds in the sky.

Sunrise Point

You don’t need solid detective skills to deduce that Sunrise Point is a great spot to photograph sunrise.  However, it is also one of the better spots for sunset photography.  Sunrise Point is on the northern side of Bryce Amphitheater, which is also overlooked at Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Points.

Sunset Point

I find the views from Sunset Point a little more interesting than those from Sunrise Point.  I wouldn’t call them better – just different.  Sunset Point is a very popular overlook and is often crowed with tourists.  Despite the name, I don’t recommend it for sunset photography unless you’re lucky enough to have great clouds to bounce light into the canyon.  There are some good opportunities here for panoramic photography.

Thor’s Hammer

A short walk down the trail from Sunset Point delivers you to an exceptional view of Thor’s Hammer, perhaps the most famous hoodoo in Bryce Canyon.  I’ve photographed Thor’s Hammer at sunrise, mid-morning and after sunset and all are good for photography.  The image at the top of this post was made 10-15 minutes after sunset using a 24-105mm lens at 47mm.

Wall Street

While you’re at Sunset Point you might as well hike the Navajo Loop that descends into the canyon through Wall Street.  It’s a steep hike but passing below towering walls glowing with reflected light is not-to-be-missed if you’re in shape to safely do the hike.  Look for an impossibly tall pine tree framed on two sides by huge canyon walls – this is an iconic location for photography at Bryce Canyon.

Inspiration Point

This is my favorite viewpoint at Bryce Canyon.  It’s fantastic at sunrise and early to mid-morning but may also offer some great options for sunset photography.  I also find this to be the best location for panoramic photography.  Instead of walking up to the designated overlook veer left and walk along the Rim Trail until you find a perspective that grabs your attention.

Bryce Point

Bryce Point is my second favorite location in the park.  It is on the southern side of Bryce Amphitheater and provides views looking mostly north and east.  It’s great at sunrise and, depending on the conditions, you may find some good sunset opportunities.

Rim Trail

If you enjoy hiking, the Rim Trail runs between Fairyland Canyon and Bryce Point, passing each overlook along the way.  I can’t recommend this hike strongly enough.  Along the way you will pass endless views into the canyon, many of which are as good, if not better than, the designated viewpoints.

Natural Bridge

I like to photograph Natural Bridge (technically an arch, not a bridge) in mid-morning.  The sun is high enough in the sky that it nicely illuminates the features around the arch and bounces ample light onto the underside of the arch, giving it a nice, warm glow.  This is a difficult area to work as you must stay behind the railing and there are a few small trees that require you to be creative with your composition.  But, it is a fascinating location.

Agua Canyon

Agua Canyon affords spectacular views looking east into the massive expanse of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Directly in front of the overlook are a couple dramatic hoodoos, one of which, The Hunter, is quite similar to Thor’s Hammer.  I’ve not been at this location for sunrise but I suspect it could be good.  Late-morning light fills the canyon below, eliminating harsh shadows, and sheds light onto The Hunter.

Rainbow and Yovimpa Points

Admittedly, I’ve never photographed at either of the two viewpoints at the very end of the park road.  I find the views less impressive and more open overall.  That said, I do believe there is potential at both overlooks.  At Yovimpa Point you are looking roughly south, which may offer impressive sunset opportunities.  Rainbow Point faces north and east.  You may find good light in the morning or afternoon.  The Bristlecone Loop is a relatively easy 1 mile loop that passes some interesting bristlecone pine trees.  These trees often make interesting subjects for intimate and abstract photographs in soft light.

Inner Canyon

Pick a trail, any trail, that descends into the canyon and start hiking.  It won’t take long and you’ll be surrounded by huge canyon walls, funky hoodoos, arches and twisted old trees.  The entire character of the landscape changes dramatically when you immerse yourself in the canyon.  Some of my favorite inner canyon hikes are the out and back to Tower Bridge, Queen’s Garden Loop and Peek-A-Book Loop.  You will find interesting subjects to photograph in any season and at any time of day.  A word of caution: it’s always much easier going down than coming back up and the park may close trails throughout the year due to ice, snow and/or rockfall.

Wildlife

If you’re a long lens kind of person you’ll find an ample supply of wild creatures to photograph.  Deer, pronghorn, squirrels and a variety of birds are all commonly seen.  Meadows between Bryce Point and Swamp Canyon are often populated by grazing deer among the pines.  Less common but also native are black bears, bobcats and porcupines.

By no means is this a comprehensive guide of every location worth photographing in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Rather, it is a starting point. I wrote it with the hope that it might save you some time and effort as you plan a trip to this most amazing location.  Enjoy!

Looking for some visual inspiration? Here’s a gallery of my photographs of Bryce Canyon National Park.

COMING SOON: eFotoGuide – Essential Guides to Photographing the National Parks and Beyond

 

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 bret edgeBret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com.  Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

 

 

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Magnifying the World with the Canon 100 f/2.8L IS Lens

 

Canon 100 f/2.8L IS

Macro photography, what better way to make a praying mantis look like a huge evil invader.  Or to make water droplets look so big that you feel like you could swim around inside of one.  When I first ventured into nature photography, macro was something that interested me, but I was determined to make grandiose images with spectacular light that would awe people with the glory of landscape photography with intense light.  What I found as I began my photographic journey was that there were neat things I would see by the side of the trail or field.  Maybe it was a little flower, or a cool pine cone scene, or mushrooms on the bottom of the forest floor, regardless, I would stop and take in these scenes and wish I had a way to capture them.

Phlox at Fontenelle Forest

It  was not long until I purchased the 50 CM.  A solid macro lens, I really got it for the size, and the price. 

I also needed something to capture portraits of the kids.  There’s only so many cute portraits you can get of your children with wide-angle lenses before the grandparents start asking for a view that’s a little more “normal”.  It was a workhorse lens for me capturing thousands of macro images (and hundreds of portraits).  After a while though, and after one too many times in the forest where a slight breeze moved my subject before the sloooooowwwww autofocus of the 50 CM could lock on that I decided to purchase the 100 f/2.8L with IS. This article are my subjective experiences with the Canon 100 f/2.8L IS Macro lens.

Upon purchase, I immediately took the lens home and mounted it to my Canon 5D Mark II and was amazed at how fast the autofocus locked on my subject, and in low light too!  I then placed it on my SL1 and loved the combination with the added crop.  I could now lock autofocus almost twice as fast.  The 1:1 magnification of the 100 f/2.8L IS allowed me to focus closer than ever before on my subjects and without my extension tube.  With my extension tube added, I was getting so close that I felt like I was actually being miniaturized when I looked through my viewfinder.

Tulips

Of course, as they say the proof is in the pudding.  Actually, I’m not really sure who says that and what proof you can find in pudding, but no matter.  I downloaded my photographs and loved the crispness of the images and the bokeh, outstanding.  Don’t get me wrong, the 50CM had decent bokeh and crisp images, and it never held me back from making salable images, but the 100 2.8L I felt opened new possibilities for me.

The next test?  Portraits.  One of the advantages of macro lenses, especially in the 100 mm range is that they are at a good focal length for taking portraits.  On an unseasonably warm February day I took my daughter out to the park to capture some photographs.  Using theCanon 100 f/2.8L I experimented with various lighting and poses.  I was pleased with the autofocus and the bokeh at portrait ranges and felt the flare was well controlled.  It was almost as good as my 135 f/2L.  Almost.  By the way, I recommend taking a look at my 135 f/2L report if you are interested in seeing the best portrait lens at 135mm that canon has to offer or one of my favorite lenses of all time (even though it is one of the most rarely used in my collection).  Anyway, I digress.  the 100 2.8L IS Macro performed admirably.  The IS was a really nice addition with this as well and the focal length worked well on my full frame like the Canon 5D Mark II, but it was a bit close on a crop camera like my Rebel SL1.

Riley

Overall, I highly recommend Canon’s 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens.  Of all the macro lenses I’ve used this one by far was the one that has consistently performed for me.  Fast autofocus, close focus, IS, crisp, and a great portrait lens to boot.  Please take a look at my images and if you decide to purchase the Canon 100 f/2.8L macro lens please do so using the link below.  B and H has been a great provider of photography equipment for me and I recommend their services.

W-_Valentine---May-2014_prints_IMG_3749-droplets-snake-river-falls

A snail shell rests on a leaf at the bottom of the forest at Fontenelle Forest in eastern Nebraska.

Branch of Blossoms

Tulips

 

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Derrald_Farnsworth-Livingston

While growing up, Derrald’s parents took him on several trips across the United States to numerous national parks. It was on these trips that Derrald grew a love for the outdoors which we wished to explore and share with others. Photography was a natural result, an endeavor that Derrald began at a young age and continued to explore in years to come.

While pursuing a Bachelors degree at Creighton University, he enrolled in all of the photography courses. With these courses he learned the fundamentals of chemical darkrooms, light, balance, and exposure. After college he continued to explore the art and develop his own technique and style and choose to focus on nature and scenic photography as his primary subjects, although he is not hesitant to point the lens at anything.

Amongst the images of majestic mountains and the crashing waves of the ocean, one can find photographs of the prairies, lakes, and wetlands of the American Great Plains and Midwest. Some of these images are the artist’s favorites as they show the expansive heartland of the United States and the subtle beauty of the area surrounding his home. Through the right balance of subject, composition, and light, Derrald strives to transport the viewer into the composition.

Derrald has won numerous awards and exhibited in several solo and group shows regionally. His work has also appeared in several regional and national magazines, calendars, websites, and postcards. He continues to live and work in Omaha with his family.

Visit Derrald’s website Journey Of Light Photography http://www.journeyoflight.com/blog/ to read his other articles.   His images may be ordered from his store at http://store.journeyoflight.com.

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Early Morning Magic Hour…Free Of Charge

Magic hour…  the beginning and end of the day. As photographers, these moments are important to us. In most cases, they are the best time to be behind the lens and at the same time so much more then that. Although not every magic hour moment is as dramatic as the last, you can always count on them being there to open and close out the day.

Personally, I enjoy the early morning hours the most. Something about venturing out in the dark and watching the world come to life fuels my soul and provides me with experiences that words can’t always describe. These moments go beyond a dramatic sunrise and awaken far more senses then merely visualization.

Sounds and smells become extremely apparent. Fresh dew in the air, scents from nearby pines, the sounds of birds, beavers, crickets and sometimes even silence recharge my mind and always leave me satisfied regardless of the images I produce with my camera.

The memories that the morning hours have provided me with are ones that I’ll never forget, ones that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The soft pink glow of a winter sunrise, a misty fall morning with fog blanketing the forest or the warm twilight of summer bathing the land, every season provides its own unique moments.

And yet in a day and age where most things that are attractive (whether historical, landmarks, or popular geological features) all have a gate around them and an entrance fee, it seems a large majority of people don’t take advantage of the amazing moments that unfold daily all around us. These moments are as accessible or difficult as you want them to be, and the best part, are free of charge. 

So my advice to anyone reading this, photographer or not, is to get out there. Wake up early, venture outside where ever you live, and discover what the early morning hours have to offer. Regardless of the weather or location, there are always moments waiting to be found.

It’s the simple things in life that a lot of the times provide more then money could ever buy. 

A Trip Back In Time - Haliburton Highlands, Ontario

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Kyle McDougallKyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

 

 

 

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The Journey – Photography, Passion & The Road We Travel

Just the other day I was interviewed by a local photography student who asked me a question that really made me stop and think… “What are you most excited about for the future regarding your photography career”?

To be honest, this was something that I had really never stopped and thought in depth about. Obviously we all have goals and specific plans, but most of us, including myself, don’t always take the time to reflect on our craft and the journey we’ve created through pursuing a passion.

Common answers that some might expect would be things like securing large clients, getting published in multiple outlets, having booming print sales or gaining expansive recognition. From a certain standpoint,  these “victories” are important, especially for a business, because they usually stand for “making money”, and the truth is, making money is a pretty important part of running a business. From a personal approach, they can mean “acceptance” or “recognition”, which simply makes us feel good. That being said, I know from experience, and I’m sure others will agree, that all of the excitement and energy brought upon from these situations only lasts for a brief period of time before we move on to the next goal.

After thinking about the question, what truly stood out to me as the most appropriate answer was the “journey”. I enjoy all aspects of creating images, be it exploring, composing, learning, teaching or sharing. But really, the journey includes far more than just the most obvious aspects. In my opinion, the journey also includes everything non-photography related that this craft has taught me, such as self-discovery, passion, persistence, risk, reward, adventure and happiness. 

It’s not really worth stopping to think about where I would be in life without landscape photography, because really, that’s a question that I could never answer. But I do put a lot of weight behind both becoming and remaining mindful of all of the positive influences it has had in my life. Landscape photography has taught me to truly appreciate the simple things, has helped me through tough times and has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone in many different ways. It has allowed me to explore amazing places and experience beautiful moments,  and it created a path for me to follow that otherwise I may never have found.

 

The Ebb & The Flow - Muskoka, Ontario

  The Ebb & The Flow – Muskoka, Ontario

I truly believe that this applies to not just photography, but any passionate endeavor that we dedicate a large portion of our life towards. Really, the other elements that aren’t directly related to our passions  are the ones that last a lifetime. Self-discovery, personal development, and the moments experienced are things that never grow old, are never brief, and end up strengthening the foundation that we are constantly creating. When something has a direct impact on your values and outlook, it becomes more than just a tick on the map or a brief moment of happiness. It shapes you and leaves buried deep inside you a feeling that will always be there.

In the end, it’s important to keep your journey true to yourself. Everyone will move at different paces, pick different routes and experience different challenges. If the path we take shapes us both as artists and humans than it’s necessary to follow our own way and never try to re-create another, because as we all know, it’s not so much the destination that matters, but the journey itself.

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Kyle McDougallKyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

 

 

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Fool Me Twice…

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, I use Nikon Capture NX2 to convert my RAW files.  This, as much as anything, is a result of inertia.  When I first started shooting with a digital camera back in 2003, I made the transition from a Nikon film camera to the D100, a Nikon DSLR, in order to utilize my existing F-mount lenses.  At the time, Nikon’s software did a palpably superior job with NEF (Nikon’s RAW format) files than third party converters, including Adobe Camera RAW (part of Photoshop).  This is at least in part because Nikon’s RAW files encapsulate a series of proprietary algorithms, and the folks at Nikon know exactly how to decode them.  The third party folks, by contrast, have to reverse engineer the file format and that isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.

Bridle Path, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

As time has passed, the distinction between the results obtainable with Nikon’s RAW converter and third party options has narrowed and, arguably, has disappeared altogether.  Yes, I could have migrated to something else, such as Adobe Camera RAW, but my attitude was, essentially, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  I was already plenty facile with Capture, so why reinvent the wheel? Capture may have been effective, but it was never a very elegant, well-programmed or well-designed piece of software.

Forest Moon, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

In fact, Nikon has a rather well-deserved reputation for putting out lousy software.  (In fairness, I’m not sure any of the camera companies handle the software end of things very well, but some are worse than others [COUGH, Nikon, COUGH] and some have been better than others at realizing that they’re not doing very well on the software front (Nikon?  not so much).  Most Nikon software is buggy, has a relatively (or very) poor user interface, bucks a lot of conventional operating system conventions for no apparent reason and often performs fairly sluggishly.  (Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?) And yet, my complaining notwithstanding, I’ve managed to adapt to Capture’s quirkiness and make it work for me.

Sulphur Springs, South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

So what’s the problem? This is the problem.  Briefly, Nikon is beta testing a replacement for Capture NX2, called Capture NX-D.  The new program is actually a significant substantive downgrade.  NX2 is apparently going to disappear, as will support for it.  As a practical matter, a fully featured version of Capture will become orphaned software.  You may ask why this is a problem, and the answer is that as long as I don’t get a new camera (which would be unsupported by an orphaned program) and as long as I don’t need to change computers/operating systems, there is no problem.  And, as luck would have it, I have no plans any time in the foreseeable future to do either.  But eventually–particularly on the computer/OS front–something will have to give, so at the very least the clock is ticking, even if nothing needs to be done immediately.

Sunflower Morning, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois

Then there’s this.  The long and the short of it is that, if you’ve been using Capture software for RAW conversion and have been saving your edited changes using your original NEFs (as opposed to using copies), you have some real problems going forward.  Any saved changes to NEFs using Capture software were embedded in those files (as opposed to being written out as instructions to separate sidecar files, as virtually all other RAW converters do), and at least some of those changes can’t be recognized, edited or undone by any other software–including, at least at this time, the soon-to-become standard Capture NX-D.  In other words, your original RAW files aren’t truly original anymore; they were altered when you made changes using Capture and saved the files.  The article offers a few suggestions for dealing with this matter, and one choice is less palatable than the next, as Thom Hogan plainly states; the options, he says, “suck.”  (Seriously, take a look at the choices one faces and consider how viable they seem to you.)

October Light black & white, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia

I’ve been using Capture software for more than 10 years now, and in a sense, I feel kind of lucky.  Yes, you read that correctly:  lucky.  In addition to having four unaltered backup copies of every RAW file I’ve ever shot, I’ve never saved any of the changes that I’ve made in Capture to the files I’m editing.  Those changes are written to a TIFF and then opened in Photoshop for further work, and once that happens I’ve closed the original NEF without saving any of the changes.  (In that respect, I have five copies of every original RAW file, all of them unaltered.)  So the problem outlined above doesn’t apply to me; that’s why I feel lucky.  I really feel for anyone whose work has been impacted, however.

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

But just because I feel lucky this time around doesn’t mean I’m complacent.  Some of you may remember my near death experience last October,  While I certainly share in the responsibility for the unneeded stress that was experienced (due to an admittedly less than flawless in-the-field backup regimen–which has now been rectified, incidentally), the foundation for the entire problem was–wait for it–Nikon software…and Nikon’s exceptionally cavalier attitude toward dealing with a known catastrophic problem with one of its programs.

Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

In light of all this, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise  that the revelations about Capture strike me as yet another example of the (seemingly) never-ending catastrophic litany of problems that have bedeviled Nikon software for ages.  There’s no harm–I guess–in continuing to use Capture NX2 the way I’ve been using it (i.e. non-destructively) all of these years, but given that the “new” version of Capture is going to be less functional than its predecessor and the old version evidently won’t be supported anymore, I think this may well be the time to move on to a different RAW converter and simply be done with Nikon software once and for all.

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Kerry-Leibowitz

 Hi, my name is Kerry Leibowitz.  I’m a Midwest-based (I split my time between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas) photographer with a particular propensity for the landscape.  

You can read my other blog posts at my website Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog and see my photo galleries at Lightscapes Nature Photography

The entire contents of my web site, images and text, are the copyrighted property of Kerry Leibowitz and may not be duplicated or reproduced in any form without express consent.  Image rights may be purchased; please contact me to make arrangements.  Images may not be hot linked.

copyright Kerry

 

 
 

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AN ADVENTURE TYKE IN THE VALLEY OF FIRE

Not too long ago my friend and fellow photographer/dad/outdoor dude Greg Russell wrote a touching blog post titled “Little Mentors“.  I encourage you to read his post but if you don’t have time, the general idea is that we as adults stand to learn much from spending time in nature with children.  They needn’t be your own kids but I strongly encourage you not to randomly adopt one on the trail. Kinda creepy.  At any rate, Greg’s post inspired me to write one of my own about a recent family adventure.

We spent Thanksgiving week camping, hiking and exploring in Nevada’s gorgeous Valley of Fire State Park.  It had been a while since we’d gotten out as a family for more than a few hours.  Work and other obligations have a way of invading our lives, conspiring to prevent us from spending time with those we love.  The weather was perfect and we shared the park with only a handful of other visitors.  My son, Jackson, whom we have affectionately dubbed the Adventure Tyke, is now 2 1/2 years old.  He has boundless energy and I wish it was contagious.  From the moment he wakes to the moment his blue eyes close he’s on the go, charging ahead at 110 MPH.

On our first full day in the park we hiked the 1.5 mile loop at White Dome.  The trail passes an old movie set, climbs and descends sand dunes and passes through a short but scenic slot canyon – a highlight of the trip.  Hiking a mile and a half in as scenic a place as Valley of Fire shouldn’t take more than an hour, even with multiple stops to make photographs.  Being that Jackson is never short on energy we decided to let him start the hike under his own power.  Two and a half hours later, we were back at the trailhead with one exhausted little hiker.  He surprised us by hiking the entire loop on his own!

Of course, everything we passed was of great interest to him.  He would stop and play in the sand, pick up rocks and make me carry them, point out prickly cactus and, in the slot canyon, he announced that there was a tiger just around the corner.  Yes, a tiger. Must’ve been the rare Mojave tiger that lives only in colorful slot canyons and toddler’s imaginations.  We did see a bighorn sheep scampering over a giant mound of slickrock, which Jackson thoroughly enjoyed.

As one who came into photography in the late 90’s from a ten year “career” in endurance sports, where the entire point is to move from point A to point B as fast as possible, it goes without saying that in the last twelve years I’ve gotten slower.  Becoming a photographer caused me to slow down and look at the world differently.  I learned to appreciate the small things – a play of light, tangled branches among colorful leaves or subtle reflections in a gentle creek – all things I would have rushed past several years ago.  Becoming a Dad has slowed me down even more.  When you’re 2 1/2 and outdoors exploring nature, everything is new and interesting and deserving of a few moments of your time.  At times it can be agonizing, like when you’re running late for sunset and you’ve got to stop to thoroughly inspect the 1,000th lizard of the day.  More often than not, it’s a blast.  It brings me mountains of joy to see my son interacting with and enjoying nature.  He wears a perpetual smile when he’s outside.  As a result, I do too.

We’ve all heard the phrase “kids are sponges”.  They’re also mirrors.  Everything we do and say, they do and say.  Jackson loves nothing more than to peer through the viewfinder of my camera and to press the shutter button, usually in rapid fire succession so it sounds like a machine gun going off.  He loves it so much we bought him his own camera, which you can see in the photo above swinging from his backpack.  He points that camera at anything and everything, and I’ll be darned if some of his photos aren’t pretty freakin’ good.  I’ll never force him into anything but if his interest in photography (and motorcycling!) persevere I’ll be the proudest Dad on the planet.  In the meantime, I plan on enjoying every last second in the great outdoors with my little Adventure Tyke.

If you’re a new (or not so new) Mom or Dad who wants to adventure outdoors with your kids, but you’re not quite sure how to start, my wife runs an awesome site called Adventure Tykes filled with tips and ideas to help motivate, inspire and teach you how to get started. Check it out!

don zeck lens cap

 bret edgeBret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com.  Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

 

 

 

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Alaska February 2014 Cover

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I am happy to share my first Alaska photo cover! This image of a humpback whale breaching straight out of the water happens to be one of my personal favorites, so I am pleased that it is being published so prominently. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this amazing moment in July 2010. The weather was perfect and my father was also with me. We were in my small inflatable north of the Brothers Islands in Southeast Alaska when this whale started repetitively breaching for over an hour. It was one of my most memorable days as a photographer.

See more at: http://cornforthimages.com/alaska-february-2014-cover/#sthash.WCrkUBft.dpuf

Don Zeck Lens Cap

 

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

Jon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth is an award-winning wilderness photographer whose images have been recognized internationally for their masterful composition and incredible detail. He’s compelled to express the beauty of the natural world through his photography, traveling all year, challenging himself in new locations and documenting the unique creatures who live there. All of his images are captured in the wild. He believes in supporting environmental groups and raising awareness through photography. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Daisy, daughters, Maddy and Chloe, and Boston terrier, Buni.   

Click here to visit Jon’s website.   

Cornforth Images are copyright protected. Cornforth Images are available to be licensed for a fee and can not be used without permission.

 

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Photo Friday: Solitary Bloom

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Normally, on Photo Friday’s I post seasonally appropriate images. Recently, in Nebraska it’s been cold, but we haven’t had any snow or precipitation and as such, I don’t have a lot of new winter material. This has give me a chance, however, to go back through and process additional images from the past year. Today’s image of a Richardson Geranium was captured in Rocky Mountain National Park near the beaver ponds last summer. These little flowers were blooming all over the area and my 6 year old daughter helped me find this little beauty. As we were photographing the bloom, it began to mist a bit causing some droplets to be caught on the petals. Whenever I view this image it reminds me of last summer in Colorado.

Technical Details:
Canon Rebel SL1, 50 CM, f/7.1, 1/250 sec.
Rocky Mountain National ParkColorado

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Derrald_Farnsworth-Livingston

While growing up, Derrald’s parents took him on several trips across the United States to numerous national parks. It was on these trips that Derrald grew a love for the outdoors which we wished to explore and share with others. Photography was a natural result, an endeavor that Derrald began at a young age and continued to explore in years to come.

While pursuing a Bachelors degree at Creighton University, he enrolled in all of the photography courses. With these courses he learned the fundamentals of chemical darkrooms, light, balance, and exposure. After college he continued to explore the art and develop his own technique and style and choose to focus on nature and scenic photography as his primary subjects, although he is not hesitant to point the lens at anything.

Amongst the images of majestic mountains and the crashing waves of the ocean, one can find photographs of the prairies, lakes, and wetlands of the American Great Plains and Midwest. Some of these images are the artist’s favorites as they show the expansive heartland of the United States and the subtle beauty of the area surrounding his home. Through the right balance of subject, composition, and light, Derrald strives to transport the viewer into the composition.

Derrald has won numerous awards and exhibited in several solo and group shows regionally. His work has also appeared in several regional and national magazines, calendars, websites, and postcards. He continues to live and work in Omaha with his family.

Visit Derrald’s website Journey Of Light Photography http://www.journeyoflight.com/blog/ to read his other articles.   His images may be ordered from his store at http://store.journeyoflight.com.

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The power of light is the power in your photographs

Creating a stunning photograph is all about how you see and capture light. Lighting is one of the main differences between a snap shot and a great shot. I still remember being out on one of my first safaris with professional photographers where they were discussing how quickly the light went flat; I was baffled. I was looking across the savanna and the light looked fine, except that it was about 3 hours after sunrise.  I was so new to photography, I really had no idea what was meant by “Golden light”.  Being self-taught, it took time to even understand this basic concept, much less the idea of side-lighting, back lighting, and using light to create contrast and  shadows for impact.

My understanding of light and its impact on an image really began to develop when I started focusing on tribal photography as much as my wildlife. I began following commercial and fashion photographers who were masters of light. Drawn by the dramatic images they were able to create, I went from a wildlife photographer sworn to never bother with flash, to using several speed lights and radio triggers. Subconsciously this began to have a huge impact on the way I photographed wildlife and how I used natural light. I began seeking the light in unique ways for the “Wow Factor”.

It took me years to see light in the way I see it today, which is what  inspired me to create the spirit-n-light workshop. I wanted to help photographers learn to see the light and use it to create stunning photographs.  Below are several sequences of images, all using natural light. Each sequence starts off with a photograph of a subject lit directly with golden light, followed by one or more images where the placement of the light created a more dramatic image.

 

The first image has beautiful golden light creating a wonderful photograph, but the second has the sun placed at about a 45 degree angle, side lighting or rim-lighting my subject. When scrolling through loads of images, the second photograph stands out and grabs the viewers attention.

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The first image was taken in beautiful evening light with the sun coming from behind me,  to beautifully light up the zebras. The second image was taken early in the morning placing the light at about a 45 degree angle from the subjects.  The side-lighting allows the sun to filter through the dust particles, reflecting light on to the zebras and illuminating the entire scene. If the sun had been placed behind the zebra’s it would have been a silhouette.

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The first photograph is another example of an image using beautiful early morning light. In the second image the light is coming from a 45 degree angle from the subject,  glistening through the dust and creating a dramatic scene.

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The beautiful afternoon sun creates a stunning image of this Kara warrior, but the images that follow have greater impact because of how the light is used to create shadows and contrast.

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The next two images show how using the light changes ordinary to extraordinary.

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Again, the first photograph is wonderful with the light saturating the horses coats, almost making them glow, but in the second image the light creates contrast, rim-light, shows movement, the horses breath and is clearly  more dramatic.

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Lastly, the first image has beautiful light and movement, but the others that follow are more powerful, leaving the viewer saying, “Wow”.

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Sources to learn more about dramatic lighting;

” Seeing the Light” – ebook by Mitchel Kanashkevich ebook

Kelby training videos 

Spirit-N-Light workshop

 

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Motivation By Connection

Anyone who follows my blog will know I often talk about the importance of individuality, creative vision and uniqueness when it comes to photography. I always find it fascinating to hear from other photographers about their discoveries regarding both self and practice as they advance throughout their career. Being able to form a connection with others regarding similar thoughts and experiences motivates me by reminding me that I’m not alone in my struggles and that this does in fact not come easy to anyone.

It’s funny that we have to remind ourselves constantly about things like that. It’s pretty simple to understand, yet it’s all to easy for us to assume that others produce their best work straight away. To be honest, this is a large part of what motivates me to write this blog; Being able to share experiences, struggles, discoveries and change with the hope that others can both relate and be motivated in their endeavours.

 

Shoreline Details - Killarney, Ontario

 

I came across this Ansel Adams interview done by the BBC the other day and wanted to share it here on the blog. Among many things throughout the interview, I found it very interesting when Adams talks about and shows examples of his prints including multiple variations of the same one created over a number of years. Adams talks about how his feelings change throughout time which contributes heavily to different choices made when printing. He refers to his famous line “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways”.

I’m sure that we all can relate to these thoughts in a sense that images never seem to be complete. I know that at any point, I can look back at older work and find specific details that I now would approach differently. It’s embracing these moments with the realization of our progress that is the important thing; not stopping to get frustrated with ourselves for the so-called “mistakes” we made. It’s exciting to think about what lies ahead in this journey, and how our values, vision, likes and dislikes will change over time. Photography teaches us not only to see the world around us more clearly but also ourselves.

Click here to watch a video of Ansel Adams.  There are countless other great interviews with Adams to be found on YouTube.  Being able to hear the thoughts and opinions from one of the masters is extremely interesting and exciting. 

 

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Kyle McDougallKyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

 

 

 

 

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