Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category

Sunset in the Lamar Valley: Yellowstone NP

Road trips are amazing things. You could jump on a plane and pay to check three duffels… or you could pile ten duffels into a sedan and enjoy the drive across the country. I’ve made the LA/ATL drive twice now and each time has been a complete adventure. Two very different adventures, but two nonetheless. Unlike our first marathon-style 3-day trek two Decembers ago, we opted to turn it into a more leisurely vacation. I’ve been to Yellowstone twice before, but each was well before I was anything much into photography. This time, though, I was able to appreciate it in a whole new way. One thing I’ll always remember is getting to do the Lake Yellowstone Hotel “photo safari” one morning with my mom. She had done it the first time we visited Yellowstone (back when I was nine, I think) and it was really special for her to get to do it again but this time with me tagging along.

At some point during our stay in Yellowstone, we found ourselves driving through the Lamar Valley at sunset. (Typing this now I realize I’d like to “find” myself there a little more often.) We pulled off for a minute to climb a foothill and had no choice but to enjoy the stunning view the valley’s still water offered.

Yellowstone is definitively NOT on the way from Atlanta to Los Angeles... but I'm so glad we made silly plans and came back to YNP anyways: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Finally, Winter in Williamstown!

I mentioned in my last post that there’s very little to shoot in the dead of winter this far north. I was proven wrong, however, and I could not be happier about it. I was leaving the Clark Art Institute a few weeks ago at around 4 when I noticed some unbelievable colors in the sky. I decided it would be worth the cold, snowy hike up Stone Hill (in my gym shoes, no less!) to capture the sunset in all its glory. I arrived at the top of the hill with my feet literally soaking wet and numb, but that didn’t concern me as much as the sight that I was greeted with. I’ve been up the hill many times before, and the last time I went up there was during the fall, where I did a bracket of this exact same tree and the ending shot captured all that is autumn in Williamstown quite nicely. I normally would not return to a place like this, much less post the shot on the blog, but in this case it’s different enough to warrant a post, and I think it’s a fitting representation of just how different and beautiful each season is up here.

 

This one took a TON of editing to get right. There was a flag waving from the large branch that was ghosted horribly and ended up needing to be removed altogether.

On the beach

A brief reminder that winter does come to an end. At the end of last summer, I went to visit a friend’s beach house on the Georgia coast, and brought my camera out on a walk one day. Hopefully the sand and the sea can help ward off any winter chills…

 

A lonely conch shell in the sand. Many of the ones I saw had little inhabitants, but they were all too shy to let me take pictures of them

 

Unfortunately I didn't have my tripod, so I couldn't shoot a bracket. However, I liked this boat enough to do a single-shot process on the photo. I especially like the name, "Rip Tide"

Hawaii Revisted

It’s crazy that it was over a year ago that I was in Hawaii, and I was thinking about what to post I realized that I still had a ton of unprocessed brackets from that trip that could be fun to run through Photomatix, so that’s what I did! There is really nothing to shoot during the winter up here; snow makes for really gray and dismal looking HDRs, and beyond that it’s really hard to get motivated to go exploring around town when its -3° outside. So, to help make up for my inexcusable lack of posting I’ll post two shots here, both from Hawaii but that’s about where any similarities end. The first shot is from our walk across the interior crater of the volcano Kilauea-Iki. The volcano was active sometime in the ’90’s I think, but when we visited the lava had hardened into a black desert that enabled us to walk across it. It took the better part of a day to make the journey, and the landscape was truly alien. Along the way, and not surprisingly seeing as we were standing inside a volcano, there were many fissures where boiling steam would hiss up out of the ground. This seemed to be a good subject for a picture, and the dramatic clouds, as ever, add to the effect. The craziest part is that the volcano has erupted massively since we visited, meaning that most of the foreground in this shot is totally different now. I’d love to go back and see what changed!

The minerals that were in the lava that hardened give the rocks all sorts of interesting colors.

The next image is again from Hawaii, but in a stark contrast to the barren volcanic landscape, this shot is from the Limahuli botanic garden on Kauai. As you’d expect a botanic garden on a tropical island to be, the scenery was fantastic, with countless plants and animals that were foreign to me. As we got to the top of one of the hills, this fantastic view presented itself and, well, you know the rest!

After we visited the park, we walked along the beach and were able to see the mountains from a totally different angle. I’ll post those shots some other time!

Half Dome Under the Stars

This has to be one of my favorite shots that I’ve taken over the past few years. It was one of those times when “everything came together” as they say, and as Andrew mentioned it was in a large way a group effort between the three of us. Knowing we wanted to get a night shot of the iconic Half Dome with star trails behind it, we scoped out the location early on in the day, while there was still plenty of light. We spent hours taking test shots to get the framing we wanted, and as night fell we had all 3 of our cameras constantly taking images, comparing exposure times, apertures, every variable really, trying to do our best educated guesswork as to what the final settings should be. We knew we had about a 15-minute window to get the “perfect shot;” there is a very small period of time right as the first stars begin to show before the sun truly sets, leaving you some light in the sky that we knew would reflect off the mountain and give some detail to the foreground as well as give the sky a much bluer hue. As luck would have it, the setting sun cast a reddish orange hue directly on the face of Half Dome, which translated really well in the long exposure that I ended up finally taking. That exposure was 868 seconds long, at an aperture of F/4, ISO 200, and 16mm. Of course, it was just a single shot, and I had to process it out in Photoshop to create the light and the dark images needed to make the final HDR image. If I could go back and do it again, I’d bump the ISO to 400 and go for about 1000 seconds, but overall this came out pretty well! It took a huge amount of time to get right, as I had to remove a ton of pixel-level noise manually, especially in the foreground trees (if you zoom in on the full-rez image you can still see there’s a lot of it!) but needless to say, this one’s been my desktop background since I got back from Yosemite! Now we need a new banner image….

In addition to noise, I also had to Photoshop out about 5 different airplanes that cut across the entire image... Yosemite may be far from LA by car, but the planes never stop flying over!

Disneyland Teacups at Night

My road trip earlier this summer ended in Disneyland, home of the iconic Alice in Wonderland Teacups. It’s a pretty cool attraction regardless, but at night, it’s quite a dazzling sight. Because the motion between and during exposures would have been just too much, this is a single-shot HDR of the ride in action at nighttime. I’ve never actually ridden the Teacups, but I have a feeling they’d make me sick: bring on all the crazy roller coasters you want, but as soon as a ride devolves down to concentrated spinning, I’m out.

Stay tuned for Tucker to post the full image of the current site banner from Yosemite. It may be the most planned shot on here and is certainly the most collaborative.

Just working on this image makes me want to go back... I've got the annual pass so I really have no excuse: Anaheim, CA

Australian Wildlife

One of the things I miss most about my time is Australia was the birds-every day when I was outside, I could constantly hear or see at least a dozen different species of birds, from lorikeets to cockatoos to curlews. At times, they could be quite annoying (especially the curlews-their call sounded like someone screaming bloody murder and they would call at night seemingly outside my window) but as soon as I got back I missed their livelihood and diversity. Australia had a lot of awesome animals, and fortunately I had the chance to go to a wildlife sanctuary that was near the University I was studying at and see lots of them up close. Here are some of my favorite shots from that trip – all 1 shot HDRs because most of the animals moved too fast so I didn’t bother trying to use my tripod with them.

I'm not sure what kind of bird this one is, but I only saw one in the whole sanctuary. It looks kind of like a small ibis...but it's not. Hmm

The scariest animal I saw in Australia, in my opinion. The salties could live in salt or freshwater, and swim in the open ocean...AND GO ON LAND. NOWHERE IS SAFE. Ok, I guess they move pretty slow when its cold, but they can lunge like, 6 feet in the air and are ridiculously good at hiding in the water.

Definitely the cutest bird I saw. These little ducks are about the size of a shoe and make a delightful little whistling sound (which explains the name). I even got them to eat out of my hand.

Fall in Williamstown!

So I did as I promised! Fall is so unbelievably gorgeous up here in the Berkshires that I just had to go out with my camera to get some shots. I took a short hike up to the top of Stone Hill (by short I mean a 200 foot walk…) which is located behind the Clark Art Institute where I’m currently interning. It was an overcast day, and lacking interesting clouds I decided I’d focus on the amazing natural beauty up on top of the hill. It really speaks for itself, but every single tree goes through the fall season at slightly different time, and the staggered colors let you see the entire process at one time. It’s truly breathtaking and I’m certainly not used to it as we have nothing like this in Atlanta! This particular tree caught my eye, as it was essentially done shedding its leaves, while the others around it were in the various stages.

This one was very tricky to process, as Photomatix kept wanting to make the different areas of sky in between the branches vastly different tones.

I also took a quick shot of the Clark a few days later when the skies were clear. The building is iconic, and although they are about to begin an incredible construction project that will really transform the place internally and allow for even more incredible art to be displayed, the front will remain the same. I love spending time at the museum and the surrounding grounds and trails; I’ve taken to bringing my homework with me and sitting on a bench in the middle of the woods. It’s just a wonderful place to be.

 

The darker stone building that you can barely see to the left is the Manton Research Center, home to a vast library that will soon be even more accessible to the public.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is an oddity. The geysers and bizarre geothermal features are the big ticket attractions but you find yourself forgetting about the “tamer” brand of landscape features that one comes to associate with National Parks. Really awesome waterfalls and crazy big yellow canyons would be examples of such. The next day, I went back to this lookout with a longer lens and punched in to see a bit more of the brink in a *gasp* non-HDR shot of the falls and the start of the gorge. Frankly, I’m appalled that none of my stuff from Yellowstone has made it onto the site yet so I will be working in the coming weeks to get more National Park material out of my Aperture library and onto TAG. Also, I’m working on putting together a ghosting walkthrough that should hopefully help you make sense of how to solve movement-heavy scenes in HDR (or at least how I like to do it, I’m sure there’s half a dozen different ways that work). Until then, enjoy the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park.

At the backend of the canyon lies the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, clocking in at a healthy 308-foot drop. If you view the image at full resolution, you can make out the specks of color just above and to the right of the brink -- park visitors who have braved the treacherously steep switchbacks down the far side of the canyon wall: Yellowstone National Park, WY

A more traditional take on Lower Falls... this is by no means the first time this exact angle has been taken, I'm afraid.

Finally, More from Yosemite

Admittedly, It’s been far too long since my last post, and for once I cannot attribute this to a lack of material, as I still have a lot from Hawaii and TONS from Yosemite to process. My problem now is time, as classes have started and I’ve got lots of work for those, in addition to beginning an internship at the Clark Art Institute here in Williamstown. I’m excited to continue working at a museum, as my experience at the High was incredible. Anyway, here’s a shot from Yosemite, from the first day we were there. We trekked out to Happy Isles, an easy walk, and spent hours composing shots and just generally taking HDRs. We waded out into the river after a while, and set up the tripod rather precariously on some rocks to get a neat vantage point. The HDR process really lets the color of the sunlight underwater shine through, something that is hard to see even with your own eye. I was afraid that this image would be a a pain to process because of the rapidly moving water, but I didn’t end up having to do anything with it and am pleased with the result. I will try my best to find time to process more images over the next few months, but for now, here’s this shot.

 

A series of fallen trees and well-placed rocks allowed us to walk above the river nearly endlessly, providing many cool places to shoot.

Fire on Mount Stewart

Although I was mostly unsatisfied with many of the HDRs I tried to take in Australia, there is one glaring exception. First, I should explain. Part of the reason I was unhappy with many of my pictures from Australia was the fire control practices there. The Australians prevent massive, out-of-control wildfires by continually doing small controlled burns that partition the unburned land into small harmless fuel deposits. This results in a constant haze and smoke in the air, which made me dislike all the pictures I took (kind of like in another city I know). On to the exception: the very last night I stayed in James Cook University, where I was studying, my friends and I decided to stay up all night and go for a hike. That very night, the controlled burns were raging in our very back door, on the slopes of Mount Stewart which overlooks the university campus. When I realized this, I knew this was a rare opportunity so naturally I busted out my tripod and camera. Here’s what I saw.

The red lights on the left side of the picture are the lights of the radio towers on the top of Mount Stewart shining throughout the blazing inferno that raged below. Alright, the fires were not as out of control as I make them sound. But spectacular nonetheless, especially when the long exposure makes them look like such towering walls of flame.

Half Dome from Glacier Point

This will be the first of many posts from our recent trip to Yosemite! This was a particularly fun trip as it was the first excursion that all three members of TAG have ever undertaken together; all of our other content on this site has been generated individually or in twos as we capture images from our travels. It was very fun to be hiking around with Giacomo and Andrew, each with their own backpack full of lenses/tripods and camera slung around their neck, and to come to a great lookout site and say “Ok, lets post up here for some HDRs.” Normally whoever you’re traveling with will roll their eyes and say “ok, but just don’t take as long as you did LAST time…” but we must have spent hours just setting up and shooting wherever we felt like it. We spent a particularly long time at the outlook on Glacier Point (we were there from about 5pm to 11pm or so!) Andrew and Giacomo had done the Yosemite trip last year around this time, and you may recall some shots they posted from that trip, but the Glacier Point overlook was one spot that they hadn’t come to, so we decided to check it out. It was a bit of a drive, but once you’re there you have an incredible panoramic view of Yosemite Valley and all of the mountains surrounding it, including, of course, the iconic peak of Half Dome. We plunked down all our backpacks, tripods, and cameras in a little corner, and literally sat there eating sandwiches, photographing chipmunks, and taking the occasional HDR as the light changed. The point of the whole thing was to get star trails and night photography, but this shot I’m posting to kick off the Yosemite HDRs is actually one from minutes before sunset. This was taken in that 1 minute span of time where the sun has just a sliver remaining above the horizon, and it cast this amazing red glow that hit just the top of Half Dome and a few other mountains. I will post at least 2 or 3 more from Glacier Point in the coming weeks, but the star trail images take a lot longer to process, particularly if I want to make pseudo-HDRs out of them, which I intend to at least try. Anyway, here is the view of Half Dome right before sunset, from Glacier Point.

About half an hour later all of the lights come on along the streets and in the houses on the valley floor.

Grand Tetons NP: Sunrise from Snake River Overlook

Haven’t posted anything for a while! Now that my computer has caught up to me in LA I finally have some time to sit down and look back at the last month or so of my life: Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, Disneyland. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot to sift through. This first one I’ve chosen to share is easily one of my favorites and it comes bundled with plenty of neat historical relevance. In case there was any confusion out there, NO I was not the first person to take a picture of the Teton Range from this convenient little pull off. Most notably, perhaps, would be Ansel Adams’s work from the Snake River Overlook, though his most famous image from here was framed to only include the Grand Teton (the largest and most golden mountain in my picture below) and the strip of the Snake River right in front of it. Adams is a fun topic of discussion by himself – actually, I like to think of him as one of the pioneers of the HDR mindset. His Zone System allowed him to measure the range of exposure “zones” within his frame, useful for determining the number of stops between the darkest and the brightest parts of the image. Based on that, development times could be tweaked to stretch a fairly flat image (with a small zone range) into a more contrasty image via careful overdevelopment or to compress an image with unavoidable over/underexposure into a smaller and more manageable zone range via underdevelopment. I have no intention of judging myself against Adams but the mindset and final goals are similar: tweak an exposure after you’ve taken it in such a way that the greatest amount of detail can be simultaneously shown in the highlights and shadows. He used darkroom magic, we use software magic.

Enough about him though, let’s talk about me.

We left the Jackson Lake Lodge about 5:15am and sped up the road a few miles to get to the overlook. Over the next 45 minutes or so, the mountains began to glow as the sun cleared the eastern horizon directly behind us. Half an hour later we were all asleep at the lodge again. It was summer after all and I was determined to get unhealthy amounts of sleep.

So what does "Teton" even mean? The early French who explored this area named the range "les Trois Tétons," or "the three breasts." Surprised? Grand Teton NP, Wyoming

Kaikoura Panorama

Finally.

The day after arriving in New Zealand (it feels like just a few days ago-it’s been over a month!) Andrew and I got up early to go on a boat ride, but first we went out to the beach in front of our hotel and I shot a panorama with his camera. The view from the east coast of the south island, from the Kaikoura peninsula where we were, was pretty much amazing, and I tried to capture it with this picture. I lack Andrew’s finesse in processing these HDR panoramas, so it took me a while to get it into good shape. Now that I know how, I want to do more!!! Argh. Unfortunately I’m on my way back to Atlanta now, so I may not have a huge amount of picture opportunities in the near future. Fortunately, Andrew, Tucker, and I just got done with a trip to Yosemite, and I have some pictures from my trip to Australia, and Andrew also has been around to several other national parks, so we should have some serious HDRs in the pipe.

 

The beach wasn't actually so curvy, the panorama just distorts perspective some.

 

Otago Peninsula

So while I was still in New Zealand…Andrew and I saw some stuff. I’m actually in Australia now, but I still have shots left over from NZ that I wanted to post. I’m still working on the panorama…(I hope I can work something good enough to post with it ever)… I think I lack Andrew’s finesse with the panorama stuff (I guess that’s his specialty). One of the things I CAN do, however, is 1-shot HDRs and the standard type. Andrew and I went around the Otago Peninsula, which is near Dunedin, and saw/photographed some awesome wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, and albatross. We were spectacularly lucky to see this pair of sea lions playing together at Sandfly Bay, which we later learned from a local were a male/female pair. Then, we went to the end of the peninsula at Taiaroa Head and saw two Royal Albatross within minutes of each other, which we later learned was a fairly rare sight. Next we went to a penguin reserve and saw this juvenile yellow-eyed penguin, which uniquely was unafraid of humans, unlike normal yellow-eyed which are extremely shy. Overall, we were exceedingly lucky and fortunately were able to take some pictures of this amazing wildlife.

 

Hopefully Andrew will post some of the stunning video footage we got of these two playing...We didn't realize how fortunate we were to see them until later when we learned that there are only approximately 20 sea lions living in the entire Otago Peninsula area.

I admit freely I processed this somewhat heavily...I really wanted to focus on the penguin and the somewhat epic pose it was in. I was fortunate enough to steal a few shots with Andrew's 70-200 f/2.8L IS, which I discovered is an awesome lens. Perfect for this kind of wildlife photography where you don't want to get close but still want to get a close up kinda shot.