Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Photographing in June in Yosemite National Park

 A beautiful afternoon at the Valley View pullout

Winter sure did stick around for quite a while but warm weather is finally here.  As soon as the temperatures started to get hotter I decided it would be a great time to head down to Yosemite National Park to photograph.  I was especially excited because I knew that all of the waterfalls were going to be at their peak flow.  If you've never been to Yosemite to watch the waterfalls in the spring you should put it on your itinerary.  It is a true demonstration of nature's power and a sight that everyone should see once in their life.

 First light on Upper Yosemite Falls

Waterfalls weren't the only thing to photograph.  The photography opportunities in the valley are absolutely endless.  The light changes almost every minute and you could literally spend a lifetime chasing it, and some people do.  There have been so many occasions when I have been walking back to my car thinking that I'm done shooting a location and find myself scrambling to get my gear set up again to capture the ever changing light.  It always keeps me on my toes.

Half Dome at sunset

In Yosemite each season really has it's own character.  I can't wait to head back in the fall to photograph all the colors.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

10 Tips for Getting that Extraordinary Shot

  1. Go out when the light is interesting. Sunrise, Sunset, “the Golden Hour,” Storms, Misty Days, ect…
  1. Remember that light makes your picture. If you start to think about photographing light versus the subject you will probably surprise yourself.
  1. If you can, always have a tripod and shutter release cable with you.  You never know.
  1. Pick subjects that are interesting and that get you excited. If you aren’t excited, then your pictures probably won’t be exciting either.
  1. If you are going to shoot something that is photographed a lot (monuments, tourist attractions, sunsets, ect…) think about a way that would make the shot different from everyone else’s.  Use an ultra wide angle lens, go when the light is especially interesting, take the shot from a unique angle, experiment and have fun.

"Last Light" - taken in Baja, CA

  1. Shoot a lot of pictures. The great thing about digital is that you never run out of film.  Shoot, shoot, shoot and edit later.  I probably have one shot that I really love for every fifty I take.  Get the picture?
  1. Preview your images if you are unsure about exposure or composition.  Be aware though, this will burn your battery faster than normal, so if you're on the tail end of your battery life, don’t hit that preview button.
  1. If you aren’t sure about the right exposure, BRACKET!!!! The camera is smart, but you are smarter.
  1. Remember that taking the picture is only half the battle.  Making a nice print is something completely different. Make sure you have a program that you feel comfortable using to get the most out of every picture you take. Look at a digital file as a negative. Many times cameras do a great job of getting a good shot, but it’s in your digital darkroom where extra fine tuning can be done, to make a great picture outstanding.
  1. BACK UP ALL YOUR FILES!!!!!!!!!!! If your computer crashes or gets a virus you may loose everything. I highly recommend owning an external hard drive with duplicates of all your work. Can you imagine loosing every picture that you have ever shot?

"Dry Creek Sunrise" - taken in the Dry Creek Wine Country, CA

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Photographing in La Jolla, California

Last week I headed down to Southern California to relax, surf and photograph for a week.  The weather was all over the place.  I had a hard time catching a window of really good light until, finally, I was rewarded with a 5 minute window one evening in La Jolla.

"Sunset at the Cove"

A few hours before sunset I was wandering around on the coast scouting a possible location for a good shot.  The skies were completely overcast and I wasn't holding my breath for any sort of dramatic lighting.  About 30 minutes before sunset the clouds started to break up with the sun popping out in small increments.  I scrambled to get my gear out and headed for a location I looked at earlier.  When I arrived I knew my opportunity for a good photograph was very limited -- the sun was almost about to dip below the horizon.

The lighting was very dramatic and it required me use a 3 stop and a 1 stop Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter to account for the full dynamic range of the scene.  I also switched to my wide angle lens and used a vertical format so I could capture the beautiful purple flowers in the foreground.  Lastly I stopped my lens down to f 22 to create the star burst effect on the sun.  After taking 10 photographs the light was gone and that was it.

With patience and a little luck I was able to come away with an image that I am very happy with.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Mountain Biking on Gooseberry Mesa in Utah

With the winter season coming to a close in Lake Tahoe some friends and I decided it was high time to get the mountain bikes out.  With snow still in the forecast in May, the biking in Lake Tahoe wouldn't be ready until sometime in June.  That meant only one thing - it was time to load up the cars and head for Utah!

After hearing a lot of great things about the mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa, we decided that would be our destination.   With the car already packed, my friend Sean got off work at 11pm and we started the overnight drive through the Nevada desert.  After multiple cups of coffee, several delirious 4am conversations and 11 hours later we pulled into camp.  Sean and I set up camp and slept for the better part of the day - not too late though, since we had to fit in an afternoon ride.

"Wesley King takes a break at sunset on Gooseberry Mesa"

"Dan Keenan rides on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion National Park in the background"

Once we awoke we got the bikes unloaded and headed out to see what all the hype was about.  Within 10 minutes I could see exactly why we had heard so many good things about the biking on the mesa  - IT WAS EPIC!  Extremely technical slickrock combined with a mix of singletrack provided some of the most fun I've had on a bike in awhile.  The unobstructed view of Zion National Park in the background wasn't too shabby either.

Over the next couple days we really gave the place a going over.  It took a little bit to settle into the kind of technical riding style that Gooseberry demands. It is completely different from any type of riding that I have ever done.  In Lake Tahoe you become accustomed to long climbs with fast moderately technical descents.  Because of it's extreme technical nature, Gooseberry riding is much slower and precise.  Fast short sprints up very steep sections of slick rock, mixed with tight corners and sharp turns keep you on your game 100% of the time.

"Sean Cronin mountain bikes on the very skinny terminus of the North Rim Trail.  There is a 300ft drop on either side of him"

One of my favorite parts about riding on Gooseberry Mesa has to be the camping.  Because the mesa is on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land the camping restrictions are very loose.  You can pretty much camp wherever you want and it is all free of charge.  It is important though that you bring enough supplies with you.  There is no running water or much else in the way of home comforts on the mesa.  The only facility in the immediate area is a lone toilet that is, sometimes, stocked with toilet paper.

The biggest benefit to camping on the mesa is that all of the rides are accessible from camp.  You can simply crawl out of your tent, make breakfast and get on your bike and ride.  There is no need to drive anywhere. Within minutes of riding on one of the several double track roads you can be at the entrance to all of the trails.

"The view of Zion National Park from camp"

"Corey and Sean relax by the fire"

"The night sky from camp, note the shooting star"

After about four days we had ridden every trail on the mesa, in both directions.  We decided to go check out some of the other trails in the area.  We did a 15 mile loop on Little Creek Mesa (about a 20 minute drive from Gooseberry), and car shuttled the Jem trail (also about a 20 minute drive).

"Dan gets some air on the downhill section of the Jem trail" 

"Heading back after the ride on Little Creek Mesa"

Even though there was a lot of good riding off the mesa, the accessibility of the trails from camp won us over for the rest of the trip.  We continued to link up different sections of trails and come up with creative and cool lines all over the mesa.  Trails like God's Skateboard Park provided entire afternoons of entertainment. 

The possibilities on the mesa are endless and the trails are still definitely in the baby stages of development.  The appeal for a strong intermediate rider will be the ability to ride a lot of the terrain and simply have to walk sections one is not comfortable with.  On the other end of the spectrum Gooseberry has terrain for the most advanced rider with stunt possibilities that range all the way up to the extreme.  It all depends on how creative you want to get.  Our favorite trails included: God's Skateboard Park, South Rim Trail and Hidden Canyon.

"Corey finishing a climb on the South Rim Trail"

"Corey sprinting up one of the many short technical climbs on the South Rim Trail"

"Dan riding on a small ledge in God's Skateboard Park"

"Corey on the South Rim Trail"

"The merry go round section of the Hidden Canyon Trail"

"Sean climbing some slick rock in God's Skateboard Park"

The likely choice for many people heading to Utah for a mountain bike trip would be Moab.  Even though the riding at Gooseberry isn't as extensive as Moab, the mesa offers up some of the best slickrock and singletrack riding in the lower 48, with virtually no crowds.  So my advice to you would be to load up the bikes and get out there before everyone else figures out what they've been missing.

"Sunset on Gooseberry Mesa"

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Kirkwood Mountain Resort - THE Best Day of the Season - Light Dry Blower Snow and Photographing with the RSN Film Crew

Yesterday, March 31st, was probably the best day of the season at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Mother Nature graced us with almost 3 feet of light, dry snow that we don't typically get here in the Sierra Nevada. I woke up at 5am to make sure I had enough time to get my gear ready and dig the car out. It wasn't hard to motivate since I was headed out to Kirkwood for what I already knew was going to be an epic day. Even further motivation was provided by the fact that I was going to be able to head up with the RSN (Resort Sports Network) film crew an hour before the lifts were open to the public and photograph all of the RSN athletes!
Many people would claim that this kind of light dry snow only falls in Utah or Colorado - Craig Garbiel takes a face shot for the critics!
When I moved out from the east coast 8 years ago I was only planning on staying in Lake Tahoe for a winter. It was Kirkwood, specifically, that changed all that. Days like yesterday are the reason I will continue to make my home here, most likely, for the rest of my life. The photo above says it all.
It looks like we're not done yet either. We've got storms lined up for next week, and after that I'll be headed down to Tioga Pass with a group of great friends to photograph some classic Eastern Sierra big mountain lines. Stay tuned!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photographing the Kirkwood Powder Cat for Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Expedition Kirkwood

Last week I was contacted by Kirkwood Mountain Resort for what turned out to be my best assignment all winter - photographing the Kirkwood Powder Cat and the terrain it accesses. With perfect snow and blue skies I couldn't have asked for a better day. I'd like to give a big thanks to Jon Copeland and his staff for organizing the shoot! As we loaded into the snowcat for the first run everyone was completely stoked! The scenery around Kirkwood is second to none. The snowcat took us all the way up to Martin Point for our first run. The views of the Kirkwood Valley and the Sierra Nevada were absolutely breathtaking. Below, Jon Copeland unloads the gear. As I dropped in to set up the first shot I was greeted with over 2 feet of fresh powder. Here is my friend Alex ripping a turn in my first action shot of the day. It only got better from there. Skiing for the camera isn't easy but a seasoned veteran like Jon Copeland makes it look effortless. It took me a few minutes to set up this shot. I explained to Jon exactly where I needed him to make a turn and throw up some spray. He followed through, no problem. It turned out to be my favorite shot of the day. Photographing skiing and snowboarding is tough. It takes a combination of great skiers and snowboarders, great weather, good equipment and of course, a capable photographer. It's all about waiting for that perfect day with perfect light. They don't come around often so you have to watch the weather and have a crew ready to go at a moments notice. I love every minute of it. When you come back with great shots it's always worth the effort. Thanks again to Jon Copeland, his awesome staff, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort for making this shoot possible.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Skiing and Snowboarding Emerald Chute Overlooking Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, CA

What an EPIC day! Great weather and even better snow prompted my friend Sean Cronin and I to go ski and snowboard a line we both had been looking at for sometime, Emerald Chute above Emerald Bay. Because of the south facing aspect of the chute it was important we descend it in the early morning before the avalanche danger became too high. It took us about an hour and a half to gain the ridge from the road and about another 45 minutes to negotiate the top of the ridge to the entrance of the chute. The views from the top of the chute are absolutely unreal. It feels like you could just dive right into Emerald Bay. After we were back at the car, all Sean and I could talk about was how privileged we are to call such an amazing place home.
"Sean Cronin skis Emerald Chute with Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe in the background"