Sand Dune Sunrise, Death Valley National Park

What do you do when you are going on vacation and want to maximize your photography opportunities?  Obviously, do your research before leaving home and you will not be disappointed.  One of my favorite sources for out of town photography are the newsletters put out by Robert Hitchman at Photograph America.  Robert has put together 115 of these newsletter (and counting) that cover most everywhere you would want to take a photography vacation within the United States.  I have used these for several trips and have never been disappointed.

I took the above image at sunrise in the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park during a two day, one night trip to that park. To capture this image, I left my hotel room at 2:30 AM (I was on a business trip and had the weekend off).   I drove 2.5 hours to the park, hiked almost a mile into/around the dunes (mostly in the dark!), and set up my camera for sunrise.  I then spent the next two days photographing other areas of the park.  While I did not have time to hit all of the recommended locations at the right time of day, I did get the key shots I wanted.  More importantly, I did not waste time trying to figure out where I should be.  After reading the Death Valley newsletter I knew where I wanted to be every part of the day.

Exposure Settings

On September 26, 2010, in New Mexico, Photography Tips, by admin

White Grasshopper, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

During classes at the Washington School of Photography we spent quite a bit of time discussing proper exposure.  Because your digital camera will try to make the average color value in your image a mid-tone gray, there are scenes in which your camera will struggle to get the correct exposure.  Two classic cases in which your camera will struggle is the polar bear on a snowy surface and a black cat in a coal bin.  Since the camera will try to make the  average color value mid-tome gray, both the white polar bear and the black cat will appear gray.  Not very pleasing!

On a trip to the White Sands National Monument I found another scene where my camera struggled to achieve the proper exposure.  A white grasshopper on the white sands!  During a sunset tour of the park with one of the rangers we ran across this guy (almost stepped on him before the ranger pointed him out).

I varied my exposure compensation but just could not achieve a good exposure (from what I could tell using the small display on the back of my camera and using the histogram).   I finally let the camera set the exposure and then adjusted the image in Photoshop when I got home.  Since this was a difficult exposure, I did not feel it was “cheating” to use Photoshop to correct the image.

By the way, I also saw one of the local ranchers riding a camel through the dunes.  Now THAT was an unexpected sight!  The park ranger said that the rancher brought the camel to the park every evening for exercise (for the camel, not the rancher).

Nature Photography Away From Home

On September 9, 2010, in Maine, by admin

Surf Rocks, Jasper Beach, Machiasport, Maine

When you travel away from home, how do you find the scenic areas?  Talk to the locals!  While visiting the Maine Sea Salt Company during summer vacation, Pat (Mrs. Salt Man as she jokingly calls herself) told us about Jasper Beach.  The entire beach is composed of these amazing smooth stones.  The closer you get to the water’s edge, the smaller and smoother the stones become.

As the waves come in and out, the smaller stones rolling around in the surf make the most amazing sound.  Think of a bucket full of water and smooth stones.  As you pour the stones and water out you get a nice “ssshhhhhh” sound.  We actually sat on the beach for an hour listening to the sound.  Of course, we didn’t think to use our phones to record the sound until the next day!

This image was exposed for 1/10 second at f/22.  The slow shutter speed blurs the water as it rolls in on the stones while the small f-stop creates a deep enough depth of field to keep the stones in focus from front to back.

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