In the past I have wanted to take photographs that toyed with having the sun in the frame producing sun burst and lens flare effects. You can add these in photoshop but they never look very natural so I have wanted to shoot them in-camera.
However, it’s a monumentally bad idea to look into the sun through a camera viewfinder. You can seriously damage your vision.
Fortunately most current DSLRs have live-view. You can compose the photograph by looking at the LCD display on the back of the camera rather than looking through the viewfinder. Live-view has it’s drawbacks but it does make it possible to compose an image with the sun directly in it. Viewing the sun on an LCD screen can’t hurt your eyes.
So, lately I have been experimenting more and more with that type of composition and this image as a great example.
This was shot as the sun climbed over the canyon wall at Zion National Park during our last visit. I ended up with a nearly perfect sun-burst effect. I really like the way the back-lit leaves make a border around much of the photo while the parts of the forest that are not lit up provide contrast and depth.
In the Southwest we are accustomed to seeing bright colors in our landscapes that are far beyond what most people experience. The layers of stone that define the Southwest have every shade of red, pink, white, buff, etc. Zion National Park has all of these, of course.
What surprised me was seeing other, more rare colors in the stone at Zion. A number of shades of blue, cyan purple and even green make appearances in the park’s landscape — provided you know where to look. Here’s an image of a slot canyon shot from above that I think illustrates my point.
Here’s the first photo I processed from the trip to Zion National Park last month. It was my first visit and although we spent only 3 days there, they were fully packed days. Photographically speaking this trip was mostly a scouting trip. I didn’t expect to take many great photos in the park. Mostly I was just looking to familiarize myself with the park, it’s locations and how the light worked so that future trips I could plan carefully. Even so, I believe I managed to get a few photos from the trip that are worthy of the permanent portfolio.
The park is so photogenic you can get nice images even when you aren’t trying very hard.
Based on what I saw, I really believe you could spend an entire lifetime photographing Zion. At the entrance to the park are several small photo galleries who’s owners have done just that. Their work is extraordinary. I envy them the opportunity.
Anyway, please enjoy this first image from the trip…
It’s easy to look at a setting sun and say well, there’s no clouds or haze. Nothing to make this a good sunset. Guess I’ll just pack up.
That’s what I could have done when I was shooting this photo in Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), Mexico on the Sea of Cortez. The conditions all looked like I was in store for a decidedly meh kind of a sunset.
But I kept my eye on the horizon, noticing the changing tone and the tour boat slowly making its way into the frame. Suddenly I realized the color tones in the sky were rapidly warming up. Things happen very fast during this part of a sunset. I lifted my camera up and took an exposure.
Good but not great. Then just as the colors of the sunset peaked, the tour boat moved into almost a perfect part of the frame to balance the setting sun and it’s reflection on the sea. Another shot and I had what I wanted.
Not a minute before I was thinking about packing my camera in the bag and leaving but I thought just maybe…
In photography you have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.
If you’d like to have a print of this image for your very own and genuine paper (or one of several other suitable substrates) you can find it here.
One of the nice things about being a photographer is that sometimes you get to be present to record nice moments in people’s lives.
Recently a friend asked me if I would be there to take photographs when he surprised his girlfriend with a proposal. I don’t do this sort of thing (or weddings or stuff like that) as a business but sometimes I’ll do it for a close friend and in this case I was honored.
So here is a selection of photos that illustrate the story of the proposal. I hope you’ll join me in wishing all the best to the happy couple.
I fell in love with the idea of living in Scottsdale way back in about 1983. I was working in Northern Arizona and had come down to “the Valley” (as Arizonans call the metro Phoenix area). I found myself in Scottsdale during the annual city-sponsored Culinary Arts festival. It was March so it was still cold in the northern desert (and back home in Castle Dale as well) but it was warm in Scottsdale. There was green grass, music, friendly people and amazing food everywhere.
That’s when I decided I would come back someday and see if living in Scottsdale was as great as it seemed it would be. After finishing a University education, obtaining a wife and fathering a first child the opportunity came to move to Scottsdale. I’ve never regretted it.
If you have to live in a large city (and I do because of my profession) I can’t imagine a better one. This photograph of Marguerite Lake is from last summer’s Monsoon season. As you can see from the photo, we live in an urban environment but it’s a beautiful one. The skies during the Monsoon season can take your breath away – particularly at sunset. Hope you enjoy the photo.
Here are the three best selling stock photos I uploaded this year:
This year’s best seller: Gaffer, a cute Blue Texas Heeler puppy photographed in my studio in March.
This year’s second best seller: Three Bears Falls in Maui Hawaii from my Anniversary trip with my wife last January.
This year’s third best seller: Sunset over the Phoenix Valley photographed from Silly Mountain park in March.
In my primary occupation as an Engineer, I admire machines that are designed for a specific task with the simplest possible implementation.
Some machines, when they are well designed are beautiful. Nature seems to reward good design with beauty. Bad designs not only don’t work well but they are also often not pleasing to the senses. Good designs are not only functional but often rise to the level of art.
This image represents this concept. This Ford deuce coupe is a classic design for the simple reason that its design is driven almost completely by its purpose.
My treatment of the photograph is intended to reflect this simplicity of design.
For example, the image was shot at a busy car show in Scottsdale, Arizona. This meant that the surroundings of the car were going to be chaotic and crowded. A simple documentary photograph of the car would have been junky. The car would have been lost in the jumble of the background.
So I took the photograph with in-camera settings to cause the background to fall out of focus while the car is maintained in tack-sharp focus. This draws the eye to the car and away from the distracting background.
I enhanced this effect when I processed the photograph by selectively desaturating the colors in the background and surroundings of the car. Again, the eye is drawn to the car and away from the background because the eye is drawn to color.
These techniques turn a documentary-style photograph into an art piece by adhering close to the purpose of the photograph just like the car’s design adheres close to it’s purpose.
If you’d like to hang this photograph in your home or office you can order a print by clicking here.
I’ve announced upcoming January dates for my two most popular events:
These workshops also make great Christmas presents if you know someone who wants to learn more about photography or for someone getting a new camera for Christmas. Check them out and subscribe on my workshops page:
Landscape photographs are supposed to have a clear and obvious subject. In addition, they should have a strongly identifiable foreground, middle ground and background. These are rules I always think about that when I compose a landscape photograph.
However, I wasn’t thinking about any of that when this image was taken.
I had spent hours shooting the ancient ruins at Wupatki National Monument. Now the sun was going down and I felt done for the day. I wanted to sit quietly and soak up that peace that comes over the Southwest just as the sun dips below the horizon and the evening breeze picks up.
There’s nothing like that moment – it’s as if the desert has been holding its breath all day and now it takes its long delayed and relaxing exhale.
While I was sitting there, with my wife Marla by my side, as that feeling of deep relaxation enfolded us and the breath of a breeze stirred on our skin, the colors in the sky and in the foliage around me suddenly seemed to pop into a level vibrancy that hadn’t been there an instant before. My camera was sitting next to me on its tripod and I simply reached over and clicked the shutter button. This image is the result.
If you critique this photograph as a photographer you’ll likely ask, “where’s the subject.” I understand what you mean. In reply I might try to make an argument that the clouds in the sky are the subject or perhaps the San Francisco Peaks far off in the distance. But really these are middle ground and background interest rather than a strong subject.
Then I guess you’d say it’s not a great landscape photograph from the perspective of the traditional rules of composition. For me, the image captures perfectly what it was like to be in that moment. Exhaling with the desert. Connecting with the desert. Feeling my love seated next to me joining in. For me that’s want counts. If you want to say it’s not a great photograph go ahead—you’re not wrong — but I don’t care
If you don’t care either and see something in this photograph as I do, imagine how it would look printed large and hanging in your family room. Go here if you’d like to order it.