Posts Tagged ‘photography’

One Of My Favorite Photography Accessories: A Cozy Camper Trailer

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Those of you who know me, know that I often travel in my bright turquoise blue 2007 [email protected] teardrop travel trailer. My wife and I bought our trailer used in 2012, and it’s truly been one of our best purchases, and one of the most fun. Since then, we’ve towed it all over the western United States: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona…plus several Canadian provinces. In my experience, towing a trailer gives me much more flexibility, more options, and more comfort than other cost-efficient travel methods. As a lifelong tent camper (and don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy tent camping too!), a trailer provides shelter from inclement weather, warmth, and the ability to cook and make coffee indoors, which is a wonderful luxury. In areas highly populated by grizzly bears, such as the Banff/Lake Louise area of Alberta, a hard-sided trailer provides much-needed security and peace of mind. As a frugal traveler, I’ve stayed in my share of cheaper hotels and motels with terribly uncomfortable beds. A great thing about having a trailer is you can tailor the bed to exactly what is most comfortable for you. For me, this means firm, with a plush mattress topper. It’s worlds away from a cheap motel mattress. I know many people love camper vans and RVs, but for my family and me, we love the ease of unhitching the trailer, setting up camp, and then having the freedom to go explore in our tow vehicle. Our campsite can really feel like a home base. And after a long day of playing, hiking, and/or shooting, there’s nowhere on earth that’s more cozy. And it’s so nice to be able to just drive up, climb in, and go to sleep.

Over the years, I’ve done quite a few upgrades and modifications to our trailer. As we tend to camp a lot off-grid (without hookups), I wanted to make the trailer as power-efficient as possible. When I purchased the trailer, it had an air conditioner, which required the trailer to be plugged into a power source to run; plus it was heavy, took up a lot of space, and didn’t seem necessary to us. It also came with a 12-volt refrigerator that ran off the battery and was a huge power draw. I replaced that fridge with one that runs off propane, allowing us to camp without a power source for potentially up to a month. I installed a solar panel on the roof to charge the battery. I also installed a propane heater (originally manufactured for Volkswagen camper vans) that safely and efficiently keeps me warm and toasty. Lastly, I removed some extra storage cabinets to cut down on wasted space and go from a queen bed to a king. When our little son was about a year old, we figured it would be nice for him to have his own place to sleep, so I made a kid-size bunk bed that can fold up or be used as storage when not in use.

[email protected] trailers have gone through several different iterations and changed manufacturers a couple times since ours was built in 2007. I understand the newer ones are quite an improvement in quality of craftsmanship, but the tradeoff is expense and tow weight. While our trailer was certainly not made with our sort of extreme roughing it in mind (as is evidenced by the appliances that need to be plugged in at a campground with hookups to work), the modifications I’ve done have really made it the perfect camper for my family and me. I’ve towed it deep into the Wyoming wilderness on ridiculously rough dirt roads, I’ve camped in it in southern Utah in the winter, I’ve made priceless family memories, and I’ve taken some of my best images while camping in our trailer. Comfort and quality rest are so important to the sleep-deprived landscape photographer. When I’m in my trailer, sipping my coffee as the sun begins to rise, I’m in my happy place. The world is full of potential.

Feeling Blue: 10 Tips for Shooting on Blue-Sky Days

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

For a good part of my life I’ve had a comic posted on my wall of a guy sitting in a chair with the caption, “Dare to be boring.” Sometimes I embrace that in my photography when trying to get creative with abstracts in a mundane landscape, or when embracing the blue skies above. Maybe it’s all the smoke from fires lingering overhead, but these days I’m feeling blue and I would like to see a little of it in the sky too.

I like great light as much as the next person, but in these “Red or Dead” times of landscape photography, when some are shooting for another click on social media, then the redder the sky the better. But when I dare to be boring, it’s time to embrace the blue. Not only does blue sky photography sell pretty well to clients, it can also look good. What follows are the times I’m more apt to embrace the blue sky around me with a polarizer attached, and my white balance set to 5200 Kelvin.

1) When there is water involved.
If there is water in the scene, then blue skies generally look appealing to the eye, since the water reflects blue like the sky and it might pick up the reflections of the land pretty well too. The images below show a photo I took in 2008 from the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon, and a garden I photographed for my upcoming book. I like them both, and the garden I photographed in southern California is on the cover of my new book.

Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon. summer. USA

Garden view of a household in Malibu, California. USA

2) When there are puffy clouds or dramatic skies.
Skies can make or break a landscape photo, and even during those blue sky hours they matter. I love those puffy convective clouds in the Palouse region of Washington, but any dramatic blue-sky clouds will do.

Two barns in the Palouse of Washington with a big sky above in the spring. Tekoa, Washington. USA

3) When there is a complementary color on land, such as yellow flowers, gold fields, or red rocks.
Need I say more?

Fall larch reflecting in a pond in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Enchantments section. Washington. USA

Golden wheat fields of summer in the Palouse agricultural region of Washington. USA

Canola grows in a field fronting the Tobacco Root Mountains in Montana, USA.

4) When there are harmonious colors on land that blend well into the sky.
These colors work well together, so why not?

Lavenderfields below the town of Siamiane la Rotonde, France.

5) Sometimes the blue light is just better.
At Canada’s Peyto Lake the early light is often not good. When all that beautiful turquoise water is below it’s best to show up at 10am after a few clouds have formed, and take advantage of blue on blue.

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

6) At the “blue hour.”
Well, duh. The light evens everything out during the blue hour in the morning and at night.

The Church of Assumption on Lake Bled in Slovenia during the blue hour. Fall.

7) When I’m in canyon country.
This is a great time to head for a slot canyon or stay in the shade to photograph bounce light.

Cracked mud, desert varnish, and canyon windows make for an interesting portion of a canyon in Utah. USA

8) When I’m in Yellowstone National Park.
This park—and other geologically active areas—have minerals and pools which show up better when there is blue sky and the sun is high.

The Terraces of Devils Thumb in the Mammoth Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. USA

9) When I’m shooting black and white.
I’m no Ansel Adams, but he did well on blue sky days and so can you. This is also a good time to pull out the infrared camera.

An old homestead in the Palouse wheat growing area of Washington. spring. USA

10) When I’m in a desert or in tropical climates.
If I’m on a tropical island or down in the Baja desert, then blue looks cool. Plus, I wanted to throw in this picture of Sean Bagshaw with his dorky straw hat.

Sean Bagshaw kayaking the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico.

Desert Southwest Trip Report

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Last Fall myself and a handful of my Photo Cascadia peeps headed down to the desert southwest region. I had only been down that way a couple times before, the only longish trip before I had the knowledge and desire to create art like I do today. Needless to say I was very eager for the trip not only to travel with great friends but also in hopes coming home with a few images for the portfolio and experiences to last a lifetime.

Although this time of year normally consists of chasing scenes with yellow, red and other similar hues that are planted in the ground, this was not that trip. In fact I came home after 9 days with over 2,300 files and no fall color in any of them. Beyond that it was likely one of my most productive trips of this length that I can recall. What I have in this post is a healthy dose from that trip yet it’s a series of folders I will dive into periodically to find more nuggets to process for years to come.

Day 1
David Cobb and I touch down in Las Vegas. Grabbed the rental car and headed to eat. I am always hungry for those that don’t know me well. David tells me if we were stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean he would throw me over before he started to look like my next meal. I can’t blame him. We scarfed down lunch sitting outside right next to the sports car race track. Damn those cars are loud in this setting. After raising our voices just to talk over lunch we get on the highway, we leave behind Vegas in search of tranquil nature scenes.

We meet up with Chip Phillips and Zack Schnepf as they were just wrapping up a couple days in Zion National Park. After a quick pit stop for supplies in St George we decided to make our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We planned to camp on the back roads outside the park yet seeing many of the backroads with head lights for the likes of hunting season, we opted for the modern day comforts of a hotel. We will camp this trip, just not here.

Day 2
We head out before day break because well that is what we are here for. It’s a long haul from where we lodged to the rim but sunrise doesn’t disappoint. We stand along the edge at Cape Royal. I don’t really care how amazing the sky is or isn’t, it’s simply a great feeling to stand here. The warm light hitting the rocks and first time in over a decade to the area was a reminder why it was worth coming back to. After the sunrises we stop in a turn out along the road and eat a tailgating breakfast of champions.

After a few hours back at the hotel we cruise back to Cape Royal for sunset. This is a beautiful spot and conditions prime that evening with dappled light and showers rolling through. Complete with colorful rainbow and moody storm clouds, and of course among great friends. The light fades away into darkness; the photos will be here to keep the memories in the light.

Day 3
I am thankful for this time of year with less daylight and more opportunities for zzz’s between sunset and sunrise. This morning we head to Point Imperial. We pull in to a quiet parking lot. We are the only cars here. Any noise we hear is us and a gentle breeze.

As we setup the sky and steep jagged cliffs glow every shade of red I can remember seeing in nature over the years. We tell stories, we shoot, and we laugh. We shoot some more and more laughs. You don’t want it to end. Until for some reason while I am packing up I open my wallet and realize I am missing my credit card. Doh!

I didn’t mention it earlier but we are here for the last few days the North Rim is open for the season. The droves of tourists have long departed and the visitor center’s shelves look like a department store that had long been out of business, empty. It’s the right time to be here for photography, except the warm monsoon summer season which is too warm for me.

When we get back Zack walks out from the restaurant holding my credit card in the air. Whew! I had left it at the restaurant the night before. The cars are packed and it’s time to head to the next location.

After a decent drive we make it to a location of Grand Staircase Escalante that we had hoped to get to. There were a couple water crossings that fortunately were running low for David’s new favorite vehicle in the whole world could make it through, our rental Jeep Compass. And to think it didn’t even have a compass. Huh.

We do some scouting and find a good place to put our tents down to call home for the next couple nights. All we see is openness and desert cliffs from camp. It’s a great place to park it.
The next couple days here are an all you can eat buffet of scrumptious light, flavorful skies and delicious scenes. I told you my mind can revolve around food.

Day 4
This day brings more good times, good shots and good camp food. By the afternoon we see a trail of dust off in the distance slowly barreling our way. Erin has joined us for a few days of this desert adventure.


Day 5
We leave Grand Staircase Escalante behind for a bit to check out another spot. The Coal Mine. With no camping nearby we find a hotel to crash at after visting the location for sunset. We cross the street for dinner. Here we learn time is an hour forward from where we stood across the street. What?! It’s hard enough that Arizona doesn’t change their clocks for daylight savings yet some reservations do recognize it while others don’t. In this case the restaurant was on the reservation land and the hotel was not. We almost missed sunrise one day having our heads flopping back in this mini time warp.


Day 6
After peaceful and majestic sunrise at the Coal Mine, back at the hotel we say good-by to Chip and Zack who start their journey back to the Pacific Northwest. David and I had a few more days before heading back home via Sin City.

Erin, David and I make our way to one of many slot canyon options in Grand Staircase Escalante. The day is late and we know better than to hike miles upstream and come out in the dark. We explore enough to know it’s worth a full day.

Day 7
We come back to the same canyon from the prior day. We arrive just after sunrise. Spending all day exploring, photographing and crisscrossing the water with my water logged boots. We hike out and make back to the car just after sunset. The dim light almost calling for a headlamp, I enjoy dusk and let my eyes adjust instead.

Day 8
Erin needs to start her long drive back this morning. We part ways and now it’s down to David and me for the final couple days. Being in Page this day we decided to visit this little known place called Horseshoe Bend. Besides visiting The Grand Canyon during the off season with few people around, we have tried to avoid iconic landmarks. I don’t mind photographing them, and I will, yet I don’t seek out trips that I am simply trophy hunting. To me there is no fun in that. A sense of exploring places with few others around is part of the thrill of nature photography.

As you can imagine Horseshoe Bend was not a quiet spot. Mind you I have never been here and I show up in the dark before sunrise. I find what looks like a decent spot (can’t really tell) and setup more to enjoy the scene but do plan to take a photo or two. As dawn breaks on a gray day as if I brought it with me from Oregon, I hear another couple photographers pass behind me on the trail. One of them says “That guy is in my spot” and I turn to realize the only person he can be talking about is me since no one is next to me. Really!? This solidified why I am not drawn to visit the icons on a regular basis.

As I pack up David and I connect again. I realize I lost one of the feet on my Gitzo tripod. I was sure I had it on when I was photographing that morning. I have no extras this trip and thankful we are near the end and I can make do. Hiking the ~1 mile trail out about half way up I just happen to look down and I see a dark object. I bend down and pick it up. It’s a foot that fits my tripod perfectly! Whether it truly fell off my tripod or I picked up someone else’s I can’t say for certain. Either ways it worked out.

David and I start our trek back in the morning. We settle on the last night camping at Valley of Fire. We make it there in time for some brief photography before the ranger comes barreling down the road at dusk ensuring everyone is out.

Day 9
Up at sunrise we head back into the prime area of the park that is closed at night. We photograph The Wave while exploring other areas until the light is harsh and photography at this point is small scenes requiring the use of my t-shirt as diffuser. It’s November and for my Pacific Northwest body is downright hot outside. How folks living down here deal with this in the summer I have no idea. I love it down here yet my body prefers cold over hot. It’s easier to layer up; you can only remove so many layers before it’s an issue in multiple ways.

We enjoy our nice little camping spot for the morning and head into the city that never sleeps. I know David as our main driver was sad to say goodbye to our gutless and compass-less Jeep Compass.

 

Leaving I already make plans in my head when I want to return, both for a family trip and photography. I can’t wait another decade without a decent trip down here. If you have not been and wonder why, just try reading the work of Edward Abbey or newer work from Guy Tal. There is much to ponder, dream and explore in this area to fill a lifetime.

“In my mind these experiences are a kind of retirement savings – the moments and memories I will someday recall with the same bittersweet joy and immense gratitude I felt experiencing them, and I will know that I truly lived”
– Guy Tal, More Than A Rock

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

American Dreamscapes – Book Review by David Cobb

Monday, November 28th, 2016

American Dreamscapes – Book Review

By David Cobb

 

American Dreamscapes Stolen Car II

American Dreamscapes Stolen Car II

I’ve been friends with Christian Heeb for a number of years. An immigrant from Switzerland, Heeb first got his photographic start in the U.S. photographing the Native American. His wonderment in the American myth of the Wild West led him to a variety of places including the desert southwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada range, and Route 66 among others. During his career—which includes over 200 published books—his assignments have taken him to every corner of the states and also around the world. His newest venture isn’t for a U.S. or German publisher however, but a personal project titled American Dreamscapes.

 

American Dreamscapes is the American dream not as interpreted by Horatio Alger, but maybe one closer to the vision of film director Quentin Tarantino. Coming of age in Switzerland, Heeb’s photography has certainly been influenced by fellow countryman Robert Frank; but Heeb also has influences in the surreal imagery of Gregory Crewdson, and the more voyeuristic photos of David Drebin. His settings also remind me of the more banal locations of photographer Stephen Shore.

American Dreamscapes / Bunny Man III

American Dreamscapes / Bunny Man III

Many photographers of the lost America like Anthony Hernandez, Lewis Baltz, and Robert Adams show the blight of American expansion and decay, and those who have been left behind or forgotten. Heeb photographs the edge of American life in a Hopperesque way: from the wayward hotel to the diner, with guns, girls, cars, and sex being common themes. This is the dark side of “when America was great again,” and this is the America that would give Dorothea Lange nightmares.

 

USA,Midwest, Minnesota, St.Paul, Mickey's Diner, American Dreamscapes / Mickey's Diner

USA,Midwest, Minnesota, St.Paul, Mickey’s Diner, American Dreamscapes / Mickey’s Diner

These people are not only on the fringe of society, but also on the fringe of daybreak. These are the hours when the neon glows brightly, and the hours when folks are desperate enough to commit a crime as seen in his images “The Hold Up” or “Stolen Car.” His models pose with cold distant looks, disconnected from each other and reality. In the photo “The Fun Center,” they’re having anything but fun. These people inhabit a lurid world, and they’re all trying to hang on to make it through another day.

 

American Dreamscapes is a limited-edition book which may be purchased in both print and digital versions from the Christian Heeb website. The book is in the dual languages of English and German.

Here is a link to download your digital copy here at his web site.

dreamscapes-720jpeg

Advice for the Coffee Nerd Photographer

Monday, June 20th, 2016

I have to admit, I am a bit of a coffee nerd.  I am pretty picky about my morning coffee.  Also, if you don’t know me, I get really into the things that I love 🙂 I have tried pretty much all of the options for the outdoor coffee enthusiast so I thought I would share some of my findings.

The most simple and lightest weight option is instant coffee:

Starbucks via

Instant coffee has come a long way since Folgers Crystals, but it still just doesn’t do it for me.  I just can’t get over the slightly burt flavor and bitterness compared to coffee brewed with fresh beans.

 

I used to use a french press like this one:

 

java press

It is called the GSI Outdoors Java Press .  It only weighs 10oz and will make 30 oz of fresh pressed coffee.  All you need is access to hot water which is fairly easy to come by if you have a camp stove.  I have used this for many years and it has been my main source of morning coffee while camping or backpacking up until recently.  For some reason, I have never really enjoyed french pressed coffee as much as the drip coffee I make at home every morning, and my wife hates it.  It just seems too bitter and over extracted for my taste. I have tried everything too, including a more course grind, shorter brewing time, etc, and, I usually drink my espresso straight so I am used to a pretty strong product.

This year I set out to see what other options are out there.   My first thought was to try and seek out a drip coffee maker that would run on 12 volts for use while camping in our [email protected] travel trailer.  A quick search on Amazon revealed that this wasn’t the best option.  There were few available and they all had pretty bad reviews.  I also learned that, due to the large amount of current they draw, the only way to make coffee from a home drip coffee maker in the outdoors is to have a huge power inverter of a couple thousand watts, and a bunch of 12 volt battery’s.  Needless to say, not an option either.

All this digging around lead me to a method of brewing coffee that I had heard of in past but never really tried.  The “pour over” method.  I guess I always thought it would make bitter coffee just like my french press.  But, oh boy was I wrong.  I have recently come to the conclusion that in my opinion this the best tasting and most compact method for making coffee in the outdoors and at home.  This method of brewing coffee involves manually pouring water over the grinds though a filter and filter holder, allowing complete control over the brewing process and highlighting the unique character of the coffee.  After some extensive research, I learned quite a bit about this technique.  It is actually kind of an art form.  Check out this YouTube video and you will see what I mean.  Many of the products are Japanese and they even have brewing contests in Japan for this method of brewing coffee!  The best thing about it is, it is cheap, portable, and very tasty.  There are a couple of things that are very important keep in mind when brewing pour over coffee.  The first is kind of obvious.  Start with fresh quality coffee beans and clean tasting or filtered water.  The next thing is the grind.  It would be easiest just to forgo the grinder and buy pre ground beans, but freshness starts to suffer almost immediately.  It is important to use some type of burr grinder.  Hand burr grinders are fairly inexpensive and readily available on Amazon.  They take a bit of elbow grease, but I don’t mind that too much.  The first one I tried is the very popular Hario Skerton.  At about $25 this produced pretty good results but its main flaw was that the burrs didn’t line up very well so the grind was somewhat inconsistent.  Further research lead me to the Porlex JP-30:

jp 30

This one is a little bit pricier at about $50, but the results were far superior to the Skerton.  Its capacity is just enough for one generous 16 oz cup of pour over coffee.  At 11oz, this is even an option to take backpacking if you are a real coffee nerd.

If you have access to a power inverter that is at least 200 watts wired directly to a 12v battery, and have the room, an electric burr grinder is also an option.  I tried out two different burr grinders, first the $50 Cuisinart Supreme Grind Burr Mill, which was lacking in consistent grind and very noisy.  The next grinder I tried out and am very happy with is the highly recommended Baratza Encore.  At $129, this grinder is more expensive but well worth the extra money.  It produces a very consistent grind, and is quite a bit more quiet than the Cuisinart.  Build quality is also top notch.

Next, on to the coffee maker.  For lightweight travel I use the very compact GSI Outdoors JavaDrip:

JavaDripAt $12.95 you can’t beat the price, and at 4.8oz it is extremely portable.  For filters, I recommend #2 unbleached paper cones.  This device sits directly over your favorite lightweight coffee mug. My mug of choice is the GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug.

I like this method of brewing so much that I have invested in the iconic Chemex pour over coffee brewer for use at home:

chemex

At $40, this won’t break the bank and should last forever if the glass doesn’t break.

I you are a real nerd like me, you might want to invest in a gooseneck kettle like this one.  This allows for more precision during the pour.  It isn’t absolutely necessary, and is not really an option while backpacking, but can be used at home and for car camping.  The last piece of equipment that isn’t totally necessary but I have found very helpful for determining coffee amounts is a cheap gram scale like this.

 

That is basically all the equipment this really needed to start brewing pour over coffee in the outdoors.  The process is fairly simple and I have found it to be very satisfying.

-First, start with the proper amount of freshly ground coffee.  I use about 30 grams for a 16oz cup. This is about 1/4 cup of beans.  The grind should be medium to medium course, about the consistency of  sea salt.

-Next, warm up to a boil 16oz plus a little extra for wetting the filter and warming the brewer and cup.

-Once your water has reached a boil, remove it from the stove and pour the extra into the empty filter to rinse and warm, leaving about 16oz behind.

-Pour the grinds into the filter and add enough water to soak the grinds and let them “bloom”.

-After about 30 seconds, start slowly pouring water in a circular motion over the grinds until all of the water is gone.

That is basically it!  The whole process should take about 3 minutes from start to finish.  If it takes longer, grind a bit courser, and if it is too quick try a finer grind.  If you are a real nerd, for a more detailed description of the process check this out.

Hopefully you have found this helpful, and I highly recommend that you give the pour over method of brewing a try sometime.

Wildlife as Part of the Landscape

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Above it All

I don’t pretend to be a wildlife photographer; I do enjoy photographing wildlife and observing the behavior of animals in their habitat. If wildlife wanders into my landscape image I enjoy including it, and when I photograph wildlife I prefer to include it as part of the environment as opposed to creating a portrait image. Including an animal in the scene gives the viewer a gauge by which to measure the grandeur of a landscape; creating a sense of scale. It also tells the story of their habitat and under what conditions they live, which is far more interesting to me than a portrait. Of course, some wildlife is small, so the landscape adjusts accordingly to maybe a handful of leaves or the grasses of a prairie and entry to the den.

Prairie Dog Kiss

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

If I plan on photographing wildlife in a landscape, I first increase the ISO of my camera to 400 at a minimum. In addition, consider opening the f-stop up to f11 or even f5.6 for more shutter speed. Obviously this will create a shallower depth-of-field, but photography is always about trade-offs so consider what’s best for the image before you shoot. By increasing the shutter speed, the animal’s movement won’t be blurred. Of course, if you want to capture the motion of an animal with image blur, then keep your ISO on a slow setting and just pan your camera with the animal to capture the sense of movement. (I find this works best between 1/15th of a second and 1/40th, depending on the animal’s speed.) Be careful when approaching an animal, since it is wild, unpredictable, and there is no need to cause it undo stress–all good reasons to keep your distance and capture it in its environment.

Sow E

As a general rule it’s best to have the animal walking into the scene in order to create a suggested line of site, and to lead the viewer’s eye through the composition. A catch-light in the animal’s eye is also important since it suggests life. Keeping the eye sharp is key, so focus here first and then recompose if necessary. I also try and separate the elements; I may wait for the animals to spread out a bit or shoot before and after my subject is behind that tree and not while the tree overlaps my subject. I also wait until the animal has a clean background. I don’t need branches or sticks protruding from the back of my subject’s head, so I keep it clean and I keep it simple.

Virginia Rail

When it comes to wildlife photography ethics automatically come into play, and for me I think it’s best to be an observer and not a participator in the scene. I don’t want to stress an animal, I’ll never bait it, and I won’t call out to it for better eye contact. I figure wildlife already has it hard, and I’m not there to make it any harder on them. If an animal changes its course or behavior because of me, then I’ve failed in my approach. If you’re photographing in a group, keep your distance and don’t surround your subject. Always give it an outlet for escape, which will create less stress in the animal, better photographs, and probably more time with your subject. There are enough stupid photographer videos online already, and we don’t need to add to the collection.

Big Horn Sheep

Hopefully these handful of tips will better help your photography and also the wildlife you’re there to photograph-enjoy and observe.

Black-browed Albatross Chicks

Spotlit Deer

 

 

 

Telephoto Lenses and Landscape Photography by David Cobb

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Blossom Quilt

Most landscape photography is shot with a wide-angle lens to accent that leading line or capture that vibrant red sunrise. Using a telephoto lens to capture a landscape offers a different challenge and a different way of thinking. The goal now is less about distortion and more about compression to help create patterns or an interesting layering effect. Currently, about one-third of my landscape images are photographed with a telephoto lens.

Little Buffalo River

A few tips to help create telephoto landscape images:

• If it’s windy stay low or find a wind break. As you zoom-in camera shake is accentuated, so to keep things steady cut down on your surface area and get low to create less wind resistance on your tripod and camera–wait for a lull in the wind before taking the shot. If that doesn’t work, use a wall, structure, tree, or something for a wind break. Hanging your pack or a weight from your tripod may help create stability.
• Use the zoom function and live view together for sharpness. If you have a live-view function on your camera it comes in handy for telephoto landscape photography. I check out my scene through the live view and then press the zoom feature to get a closer look and to manually adjust the sharpness. The live-view feature can also offer mirror lock-up which will help with camera shake. If your camera doesn’t automatically offer this feature, turn on the mirror lock-up function when photographing with a telephoto lens to avoid camera shake.
• Use a polarizer. Compressing a landscape image over a great distance will also compress all the dust, haze, or fog in the scene. This can produce atmosphere in your image and help to create mood, but chances are more likely it will just generate blur. To cut through this mass of miasma use a polarizer, this will also cut down on glare.
• Use a lens hood. When I’m using a telephoto lens for landscape photography, I’m often shooting into the light for a backlighting effect. Using a lens hood can go a long way towards cutting down on lens flare and unwanted glare.
• Use a tripod. This may be a no-brainer, but I’ll state the obvious. Handholding to take a telephoto image only accentuates camera shake, for the best and sharpest landscape photo use a tripod.

Buttermilk Creek Cascade 2

When using a telephoto lens, it’s our job as photographers to simplify an image down to its prime elements—and to pick out order from the chaos. I pay attention to the light, patterns, key features, and leading lines to help me look for subject matter. Overlap and layering helps create depth, and the compression of these features helps create form from this flatter telephoto perspective. When practicing telephoto landscape photography, it’s usually best to take the high ground. By looking across or down on the landscape you’ll be offered a better view from which to pick out your subjects and shoot. If my subject matter is without much depth, I’ll usually use an aperture setting around f8 or f11; but if there is depth to my landscape, then I’ll shoot from f16 to f32.

I hope these tips prove useful and inspire you to take out that “longer” lens when photographing a landscape.

Lavender in Layers

Palouse Hill Country

Abstract Nature Photography Revisited

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

I did a blog post a number of years back on abstract nature photography yet it’s been a long time and thought I would revisit this topic. I really enjoy this type of photography especially when you find hidden gems that others may not have seen or might have passed over many times before you. Often what ends up being the final photo doesn’t jump out at you without surveying a scene for potential compositions. Sometimes I dig in and strike it rich finding those gems and other times I come up empty handed which is part of the fun.

Rather than a lot of typing for this post I will let the video do most of the talking this time around. I am not normally the video tutorial kind of person yet I am getting myself to branch out into this type of work. Below is the video and three photos I discuss in greater detail. For each scene I show several compositions I took leading up to the final to help understand my thought process to build a compelling abstract or intimate nature photo.

Standing Tall – In cold wet forest of the Columbia River Gorge in early winter

Standing Tall

Desert Lizard – In the dry cool desert Southwest in Fall inside Zion National Park

Desert Lizard

Final Flames of Fall – Above a forest in the Columbia River Gorge during the final days of fall

PonytailFalls-121212-026

Video covering the three photos above in much more detail. Happy viewing!

Photo Cascadia – Best of 2015

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Yet again another year has flown by which brings time to look back on the past and what might lie ahead for the new year. Going strong for six years with no signs of letting up on the gas. We grew by a whopping 16.6% with Erin Babnik joining our crew. We continue united with our mission “learn, explore, create” as we intended from the beginning. Just like a rock concert I was at last week when the band said they would not be where they are without their fans, a similar statement could be said for all of you. A sincere Thank you to all of our subscribers and viewers to the newsletter, blog, social media and any other rock you lifted up to find us!

It’s always a good time looking back at the photos each of us from Photo Cascadia captured over the last year. Wherever the road took you in 2015 for your photography we hope you enjoy looking back at what it means to you while giving a chance to reflect on what life is all about and what matters most. Photographing what mother nature has to offer reminds us that we learn as much or more from simply being out and about than anything we could read or watch online. This quote says it best.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
– John Lubbock

As we wrap up the year and take a few weeks off from the blog we invite you to take a few minutes to view a few of our favorites from the team this past year. Slideshow is best viewed in HD. Happy Holidays and New Year!

 

Book Review: More Than A Rock, review by David Cobb

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

 Rocky Nook Book resize 2

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” –Soren Kierkegaard

Guy Tal is not most men; his photography is deliberate and so is his writing. In his new book More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life (2015 Rocky Nook Inc.), Tal conveys his thoughts of being an artist through a series of essays. If you’re familiar with his blog you’ll find Tal’s signature style of writing here; if you’re not familiar then get ready for your creative mind to expand. Tal is a deep thinker, intellectual, artist, and critic with the logic of a lawyer. Citing influences such as Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White, (perhaps he is photography’s new Minor White or art’s new John Ruskin) with some of his “artist as critic” themes. More Than a Rock isn’t a “how-to” book on photography with a list of tips and tricks – far from it. This is a book on photography learned through reading, thinking, creating, or osmosis.

His essays are broken into four parts: Art, Craft, Experiences, and Meditations–with the section on Art being the most interesting and well thought out. In his essay “Contemporary Oligarchy,” Tal sometimes takes on the Sisyphean task of dragging one-by-one (not pushing) those in the “landscape photography is not art” camp into the “landscape photography is art camp.” He writes that art’s elite is “placing too much power in the hands of the few, and so I believe the time is nigh for another (peaceful, intellectual, and creative) revolution.” I’m not sure what that revolution might entail, but it did inspire me to pick up Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word and give that scathing satire of art a read.

Along the way, Tal refers to familiar master writers of the desert southwest such as Wallace Stegner, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Wesley Powell, Edward Abbey, and Charles Bowden. Tal lives in Utah’s Colorado Plateau, and like writers Wendell Berry or Rick Bass, his writing provides the reader with a lay of the land, a sense of place-home. He alludes to and quotes from some of the deep thinkers of the last two-centuries too, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Thomas Merton. Not something you encounter in most books about photography out there today. He’s also not a fan of the derivative, the trophy hunters, or those out to “get the shot.” In his essay “Finding the Needle,” Tal believes that next level of self-expression is much more complex than that. And whether you agree with him or not, you’ll admire his conviction.

During the reading of this well-written and beautifully photographed book, I thought more deliberately about what my photography, art, life, and purpose in this world means. I also thought more about my sense of place living in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, in that transitional land between the Pacific’s wetter clime and that of the high desert of the Great Basin. My photography takes me to a lot of different places, but I’m looking anew at that region I call “home.”