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.
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…
I believe Winston Churchill once said that “They serve also, who stand and wait”. He meant that those who stayed home and waited for the return of soldiers from WWII were also serving their country.
Well, photography is not a war (usually) but there is a lot of standing, waiting, supporting and patience involved.
I’m talking about my wife and companion who is often with me when I am taking photographs. The photograph here was taken on our vacation over the week of the last Fourth of July. Together we explored and photographed many spectacular sights in Utah’s Arches National Monument.
To take this photograph in particular, we had to be up well before dawn to strike camp and drive to to the park hours before the sun was up (it’s almost impossible to camp in Arches in the summer – you have to reserve months in advance). Then we went to the location I had scouted out days before to wait for the light.
I spend a lot of time waiting for the light. I stand by my tripod looking at what the sun is doing as it rises (or sets). I think about the shadows and the colors and wait for that one second when everything just works together perfectly. Then I’ll take a photo and then wait some more for the next perfect instant to appear. I’ll be completely engrossed in this for hours at a time. My patient wife waits quietly for me while I wait quietly for the light. Then we move on to the next location.
Not the way I suspect most people like to spend their vacations.
So without my patient and kind companion this photograph (and many others like it) would not exist. I am fortunate beyond all measure to have such a willing and uncomplaining companion. Of course it has rewards for both of us. Together we have spent quiet time, thoroughly immersed in beauty, for hours. Hopefully you can see that in this image.
If you’d like to hang your very own copy of this beautiful panoramic in you home or at your office, you can find it here.
I’m just getting started processing the 1400+ images I came back with from Utah after my 4th of July trip. On the trip, my love and I spent the nights camped along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah. The mornings and evenings we spent in Arches National Monument. We spent four days that way before moving on to Emery County to visit the old family farm and my Mother.
I’ve wanted to get back to Arches for well over a decade. The last time I was in Arches my exploration of photography was still in its infancy. I had managed to buy my first more-or-less serious digital camera (with a whopping 3 megapixels!) and felt I was ready for big-time success shooting in the park.
While at Double Arch in the Monument, I spent quite a bit of time climbing around looking for the right spot to shoot and taking mediocre photo after photo. I did take one that I thought (at the time) was pretty good. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had sunscreen on the lens and part of the image was fuzzy. The whole thing turned into an exercise in frustration.
I still have a print of that photo in my library. When I printed it, I thought it was an OK image (or at least the best I had taken) if you could ignore sunscreen smudge. Now I just cringe and try to see it as an example of how far I’ve come.
In any event, on this trip it was important to me to shoot Double Arch at a number of different times of day and under different conditions with the hope of having at least some success while learning how to really photograph the arch. Hence, I have quite a few photos of Double Arch I’m still working through. In the mean time I wanted to share one from the set that I’ve finished so far.
In this case, I used HDR to compensate for the fact that the Arch was very backlit at the time I was shooting—not ideal conditions by any means. The HDR technique made it possible for me to get this starburst image as the sun went down behind the arch. I could not have realistically taken the photo in any other way—the dynamic range of the scene was just too wide for a camera to capture.
Comparing this image to the print I have from over a decade ago, I feel like I haven’t completely wasted my time.
If you like this version, check it out on my website. You can order a print of your own here.
I thought I’d post another image from my night shots of the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.
Also, don’t forget about my Night Photography Seminar on Thursday, October 8th in Tempe Arizona. Register here: http://www.chriscurtisphotography.com/seminar/register.html
Stability is the key to ruling the night.
I had a chance during a recent visit to Salt Lake City to photograph the Utah State Capitol Building at night.
Night photography is different from daytime photography. When shooting at night, you are dealing with very low light, long shutter times and difficult trade-offs in ISO and aperture.
All that aside, stability is the real key to night photography. The slightest movement of the camera will ruin your shot when shutter times are measured in minutes. I use a very sturdy tripod. I also use a remote control or the timer on my camera to trigger the shutter. I never touch the camera.
But that’s still just not good enough…
My camera is a digital SLR. That means there’s a mirror arrangement that allows you to look through the lens via the view finder to compose the shot. When you press the shutter button, the mirror pops up out of the way for the exposure. That causes vibration.
I use the Mirror Lockup feature of my camera to prevent mirror vibration (most DSLRs have this feature). When I use the camera’s menu to enable Mirror Lockup, pressing the shutter button once pops the mirror up out of the way but does not trip the shutter. Then, I press the shutter button again to take the picture.
The time between the first button push and the second allows any vibration from the mirror popping up to die down.
Of course, I still don’t want to touch the camera so the Mirror Lockup feature works with the remote trigger, the timer, or a cable shutter release. I always use one of these methods to trip the shutter without touching the camera.
Here’s one of my images from that night at the Capitol. Notice it’s sharp in spite of the fact that the exposure time was 30 seconds.