Archive for the ‘16-35mm f/2.8L II’ Category

More at the Narrows

Back in April I had a weekend to myself in Zion again. I hadn’t really had a dedicated “go travel and be on the lookout for things to shoot” trip this year so when the opportunity came up to head to Utah and camp for a couple days again I had a hard time saying no. Pack some firewood, pop tarts, pb&j and you’re off to the races. Invitations went out for some friends to join me but it was probably equally good that everyone else had proper jobs and couldn’t be bothered to take Friday off. The solo trip left me feeling quite healthy and offered some great opportunities to make sure I was on the same page with myself. I didn’t go up there looking for a mental retreat, but it does seem that the more you can approach opportunities and new experiences free of firm expectations, the more likely it is that you’ll get something out of it if you allow yourself to pay attention.

 

I've yet to attempt the full length top-down overnight trip through the slot canyon but a great deal of the trail's finest views can be seen from the day hike from the Temple of Sinawava tram stop: Zion National Park, UT

I’ve yet to attempt the full length top-down overnight trip through the slot canyon but a great deal of the trail’s finest views can be seen from the day hike from the Temple of Sinawava tram stop: Zion National Park, UT

Sedona Sunset

It’s been a whirlwind of a year, with my graduation in December followed by my starting a full time job, and it has left me with very little free time to shoot. I now have a lot more time, however, and so I thought I’d post something that I took recently. After I finished school, my family took a trip to Arizona as a way to celebrate both the holidays and my graduation. We stayed in Sedona, which is about two hours from Phoenix, and we arrived very late at night, driving to our house in the pitch dark. We had absolutely no conception of what it was going to look like, and while I’d seen pictures on the internet, I knew enough to know that it would be nothing like seeing it with my own eyes. I was entirely correct, and I’ll never forget seeing that Martian landscape the first morning we were there. The red rocks, shaped by countless years of wind and water erosion, are incredibly strange and beautiful, completely dominating the landscape. The place that we stayed had a fantastic view out over Red Rock State Park (the naming conventions are all along these lines, with landmarks such as “Submarine Rock” and “Bell Rock” the norm. I suppose calling something “The Grand Canyon” should have tipped me off to this naming scheme…!) and the first night we were there we were lucky enough to have a fantastic sunset, courtesy of some great clouds. This is the view from the balcony of my room, and is one of only a few HDRs that I shot there that was done on a tripod. I took over 4,000 photos there, but a lot of that was handheld 5-shot brackets that have yet to be processed. So fear not, for in the coming days I will post plenty more shots from this amazing trip.

 

Sunset over Red Rock State Park in Sedona, AZ.

Sunset over Red Rock State Park in Sedona, AZ.

The Narrows at Zion National Park

When I’ve described recent camping trips to my parents, they’ve both turned up their nose in disgust at the idea of trying to sleep in a tent. Apparently, it was because they had each been drug along on their family’s camping trips when they were much younger and for whatever reason it had rubbed them such the wrong way that not only did they avoid it years later, but they also agreed they wouldn’t subject my sister and I to it because it was assumed we’d also dislike it. Oddly, despite their distaste for camping, they’ve engineered more National Parks trips over the years than I can count. I’ve been visiting these amazing places with my family for as long as I can remember — quite literally, as long as I’ve been capable of remembering things. To my knowledge the count stands at 17: Acadia, Arches, Badlands, Bryce, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Haleakalā, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Mammoth Cave, Redwood, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion. So parks? Absolutely. But I’d never really been tent camping until a couple years into college — and I’m so glad I did. In fact, I’d have never stopped kicking myself if I had passed on the half dozen camping expeditions that unfolded when I was in New Zealand in 2011. Would have been a completely different experience, and certainly not for the better. All that to say, I’m so thankful that being raised on National Parks didn’t burn me out on them. And now, return trips are like gravy because camping in each is a completely new set of adventures.

WHICH MEANS that when I had the chance to return to lower Utah for the Docutah Film Festival this past weekend, my going was largely contingent on being able to camp at nearby Zion National Park. In between the two days that our film was screening, we buzzed up the road an hour, pitched a tent, started a fire, and cooked cheese-filled sausages on whittled sticks. To my knowledge, the Narrows is consistently voted among the top 5 hikes in the United States. So, planning to tackle as much of the Narrows as we could the next morning before having to head back to St. George, we got up at 6am and rode the park shuttle as far into the valley as it goes. The paved trail gradually gives way to stone steps into the river and from there it’s up to you — venture as far up the river as you can stand before turning back. We made it to the Orderville Canyon fork. The original plan had been to stay an extra few days after the festival and do this properly: a nearly 16-mile top to bottom trek through the knee-high river with an overnight camp halfway down. But schedules changed and there’s always next year…

Also, first post from 6D! Step up to full frame.

Unfortunately, June and September are the best times of year to do the whole hike because of the water temperature. No wet suits, please: Zion National Park, UT

Unfortunately, June and September are the best times of year to do the whole hike because of the water temperature. No wet suits, please: Zion National Park, UT

Storms, Site Problems, and the Future

It’s great to be back up and running! Thanks to a bit of help from a friend, we fixed the (embarrassingly simple) problem with the site and are back in business.

I can’t believe that the last time I posted a picture was almost a year ago. That is… simply unacceptable. It was mostly due to being very busy at school and unable to travel to new locations to get new material, but luckily I’ve had the pleasure of spending the summer in LA and Maine, and have come up with a few good images from my trips. I have processed a few images from my trip to LA, but that hard drive is currently sitting in a bag on the floor somewhere and I don’t feel like unpacking until I’m home so… I’ll start off with two shots from a more familiar location, my house in Maine. This was taken back in June, and I’d just taken delivery of my new 5D Mark III. I really wanted to test it out, but it looked like it was about to rain, so I dashed down to the dock just in time to fire off a bracket before the big drops started coming down. The Mark III lets me do five shot brackets from ±5, which is a big improvement from the Mark II, which limited me to three shot brackets that were ±3 stops. The extra dynamic range of my new camera will certainly add to the HDRs that I take, especially in cases where there is a huge contrast between light and dark. I’ll update my bio page with all of my new equipment as I’ve recently picked up a lot of upgrades.

These images are interesting for me, because they are almost entirely “straight” HDRs; in other words I simply took the bracket, threw the images in Photomatix, and found myself satisfied. Rarely does this happen, and most of the time I find myself spending a lot of time in Photoshop color correcting, dodging, burning… not so with these two. The sky just spoke for itself.

In the future, I plan to post at least three images from my trip to LA, as well as a few from the most recent TAG expedition to Acadia National Park in Maine. We are going to be working on a Smugmug site that will allow for more e-commerce integration (if you want to buy prints or images, etc.) as well as simply improving the site, hopefully with a new theme and new look in the coming months. All in all, it’s great to be back!

 

The ominous clouds of the oncoming storm from an all-too-familiar vantage point.

The ominous clouds of the oncoming storm from an all-too-familiar vantage point.Maine Storm 1

 

 

Beaches. I like them.

Bet you’ve never been coast-to-coast in under 5 minutes. Me neither, but this post should hopefully accomplish something similar.

St. Simon’s Island has been a staple get away for my family for as long as I can remember. Growing up, summers were filled with 6 hour drives from Atlanta to Georgia’s Golden Isles to visit with grandparents. Sandcastles were built, lighthouses were climbed, and french fries were tempura-battered. Thanksgiving was synonymous with the island for a long time for me. Most years we’d use the holiday as an excuse to load up the White Chrysler Town and Country LXI and make our way down to the beach. Thanksgiving lunch was always at the sumptuous King and Prince and dinner was usually the comatose affair of living off our fresh fat reserves from earlier in the day.

Unfortunately, going to college in and ultimately moving to Los Angeles makes rocking up at St. Simon’s on a whim significantly more difficult. Thanksgiving has often been forfeited the last several years, opting instead for a longer Christmas home stay, but last year I was able to do both. To celebrate my first Thanksgiving at home in ages, we arranged for a return to the Georgia Coast. A fantastic few days of relaxation, unhealthy southern seafood, and trying to play tennis. One of the highlights of the weekend was waking up extra early the day after Thanksgiving to see a proper East Coast sunrise. I walked down past East Beach around 6:30AM and found a bench between the King and Prince pool and the nearest public beach access at the end of tiny Neptune Road.

A very peaceful morning to ease into a day full of digestion: St. Simon’s Island GA

And woosh. Fast forward three months and 2,500 miles to arrive at a sunset on the other side of the country at my other favorite beach. I must exclude Hawaii as it would be like allowing a dictionary to compete in a spelling bee.

In Los Angeles, March’s idea of coming in like a lion is a balmy 80 degrees at Manhattan Beach. Ice cream cones and beach frisbee… sounds a lot better than the snow my sister was getting in Alabama. Surprisingly, we arrived on the beach to find the ocean full of sail boats, something I’d certainly never seen at Manhattan Beach before. Unfortunately they had all moved south down the coast by the time I set up shop under the pier for the shot that evening.

I’ve seen this angle executed many times before but I’d never done it myself. Not an extremely flattering angle for the iconic pier but a textbook example of when HDR might be considered an appropriate tool: Manhattan Beach CA

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year (From Vegas!)

I’m not sure what it is about Vegas but there always seems to be something interesting to photograph there… It’s a pretty crazy place I suppose, a bit heavy on the visual stimuli so I guess it’s not all that surprising that I like bringing a camera when I go. At any rate, we had a couple things that needed celebrating last weekend so we did something truly irresponsible: an evening in Disneyland followed by a midnight push up to Vegas. The drive was simple enough, doable in under 4.5 hours but we were shocked to look up and find ourselves plunging along through a desert snowstorm! We rolled up to the Hard Rock Hotel’s parking deck around 4am and passed out in the car until morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, the Hotel Tonight app is a game changer. If you don’t mind a little drama, you can wait until noon on the day that you need a room and the app will release an assortment of incredible deals for the area. In Vegas, there’s literally no telling what could come up but there’s so many amazing hotels you’re likely to find great values. A room at Caesar’s for $69 last Easter, for example. This time we pulled the trigger on a room at the very small and off-strip Artisan Hotel for $45… not bad at all for a Saturday night. With a very out-of-the-public-eye vibe, it seems to cultivate a massive after-party scene with a spectacularly dark club that really only cranks up after 2am or so. In fact, upon checking in, the front desk warned that no room in the hotel would be “quiet” that evening because a DJ was playing (loudly) up until 10am the following morning…

The Bacchanal at Caesar’s was in full form. Crab legs, veal, sushi, and I was more than happy to help myself to the lava cake and gelato on the dessert buffet. As we sat there recovering and planning our hunt for $5 blackjack at reputable casinos, I reflected on the ridiculous decor we’d seen earlier that day. Most striking were the Bellagio conservatory, always a crowd pleaser, and the lobby at the Wynn, both decked out to celebrate the coming of the Chinese New Year last Sunday. While the Bellagio had actually placed a massive boat in their exhibit, I was still won over by the Wynn’s straightforward dragon dance costume. Suspended among their light-wrapped trees under the skylight, it really made for an impressive welcome sign at the Wynn.

This place exudes lavishness. Look at this walkway. Lavish: Las Vegas, NV

And as it happens I really couldn’t decide which of these two pictures to post. Fortunately I know the site’s administrator and we worked it out where I could just do both.

The amount of detail in the costume is awesome, in particular the texture of the teeth. I’d never really looked at one of these things for long until I was working with these images… Happy New Year! Las Vegas, NV