Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Year in Review

I thought I might join a growing trend among photographers and have a year in review of my photography and share some of my best images.

Many of these have already been shown on my blog but several will come from fall trips that I have not actually posted yet as I seem to post several weeks (or more) after a trip.

2013 has been a good year for me in photography.  I have had a chance to make a few photography trips, gotten out on several weekends, and even able to get some images when on business trips.  I have seen some neat locations and some great light.

The year started for me at sunrise on January 1st with my annual tradition of going out for sunrise on New Years Day.  It is something I have been doing now for many years and is something I greatly look forward too, although I think I have almost no good images to show from it.  This last New Years was what seems to be the usual clear sky.  No matter, I was out there.

A few days later I made a trip to New Mexico and west Texas.  A winter snowfall held the promise of snow and even though I was a few days after the snow it turned out to be pretty awesome.  I went out to the Lost Mesa and spent a couple of nights there on the cold and windy open range county.  The snow added a new dimension to the experience and I was rewarded with some great light in the very empty lonely landscape.

I stopped at Guadalupe Mountains for a couple of nights and although the NWS was calling for snow, it just rained.  However I caught an epic sunset on the salt dunes west of the park as magic gap light at the end of the day made for one of those amazing events.

In February the opportunity to go to Big Bend gave me a week in my favorite national park.  I visited some of my favorite locations and found some new things to photograph.  I got several nice images on the trip and am looking forward to getting back here already.

I spent several weekends in February and March photographing and exploring around north Texas and then during bluebonnet season in April, location, flowers, and light all came together for some of the best bluebonnet images I have ever made.  

I also picked up a new small camera in the form of a Sony NEX-6.  After moving to the full frame Canon 5D Mark II in 2012 (I know...four years after everyone else.....) I wanted to consolidate my backup 50D and little Panasonic LX3 into a single small body.  
The Sony fit the bill perfectly as a tiny camera with big APS-C sized sensor.  It has become my work travel and around town not really photographing camera.  A very nice companion to the 5D2.

May saw me in Florida for a few days and I had a chance to photograph the Emerald Coast of Walton County.  I am not really a beach person, but find the quiet part of the coast here nice.

I have been spending more time with Google Maps and Earth exploring for new locations to photograph.  I pegged a few locations as potentials and found a fantastic bluff on the Nolan River exactly one hour from home.  I love finding things like this.  Little known.  Rarely visited.  Basically never photographed.  At just one hour away, it is a great Saturday morning destination!

June and July took me on a few business trips but with no chance for photography. Then in August I was in Salt Lake City and had a chance to go watch sunset at the Great Salt Lake.  Fires burning nearby filled the sky with smoke which made for an eerie sunset.

September had another business trip, this one to Sioux Falls, SD, where I got to see the Sioux Falls.  I thought it was a pretty neat location and one I would certainly like to see again.

October was a very busy month for me.  I had a long weekend to Vermont where I caught some fall color.  The clouds did not cooperate but luckily we had fog making it moody mornings. 

In mid month I was in Oregon and Washington for a week and got to make a few stops in the Columbia River Gorge and a single sunset on the coast that turned out to be a good one.

It pays to look at maps and check out a few possible locations so when the chance happens you can get there for the light.  

Sunset in Ecola State Park was a chance evening and it turned out to be a good one with this great sunset standing on the rocks while the surf crashed in.

At the end of the month, I had a full week of photography at the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas, taking in the fall color, the magic of a fleeting lake having formed on the salt flats, and some great sunsets.  One of which was another epic sunset of gap light at the end of the day.

A trip to Las Vegas got me a few hours to spend in Zion where I waded the Narrows.  I also caught a fantastic sunrise at Lake Mead one morning.

 If you have ever been to Zion and waded the Narrows, you know it is pretty chilly.  Let me tell you it is very chilly in November, especially when you wade the river in shorts and Keens.  Wait to see more when I finally catch up to that trip on the blog.
Lake Mead is a fascinating place that one probably needs to explore by boat or air.  I got lucky finding a secluded cove view point that combined with a stunning sunrise made it a great stop early one morning.

November, had me photographing the fall colors of north Texas which kept me busy every weekend of the month chasing the colors in my favorite locations and parks around town.

The Trinity River is an unknown and little photographed area, even locally.  I have been exploring the West Fork and Clear Fork for several years and am surprised at the great locations right here in town for photography.  The fall colors and waterfalls I visit rewarded me with some good stuff this year.

December has already brought en early and icy cold snap that cut short our fall color season.  I tried to make the most of it and catch frost and snow with fog and fall colors.

I am finishing out the last few days of the year still sorting images from this year and planning for 2014.

I am looking forward to another year and where my travels might take me.  Hoping for great light and interesting locations.

Thanks 2013 and here is to 2014!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Vermont Lake Morning

In early October had an opportunity to spend a few days in Vermont.  It has been several years since my last trip to the Green Mountain State and I was looking forward to photographing the maples in color.

I spent some time with Google Maps looking at potential areas.  One of them I had picked out was a small lake.

I had decided to make it might first morning location as it was close to the road and would not require a long hike like some of the other spots would.

I awoke to clear starry skies.

As I drove down the mountain I entered thick fog.

Then as I approached the area of the lake I got right to the edge of the fog.

I had lucked out.  Too much higher on the mountain and it would be boring clear.  Too much lower and it was pea soup thick.

I watched the fog move among the colorful maples.

The sun rose and the light slowly lit the mountain and the trees.

I had a few decent images and a good start to my visit.  I headed down the mountain and thoughts of pancakes and maple syrup.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ephemeral Salt Lake and Magic Light

I made a third sunset trip to the salt flats to see if I could get a sunset on the ephemeral lake.  It was a rainy afternoon and after stopping to photograph El Cap in the rain, I made my way back to the salt flats.  I bundled up in full rain gear so I could be ready as there was rain in every direction.  Unlike my prior sunset where I wandered the western edge of the lake, I decided to set up at one spot I had found and watch sunset from there.  

I had the tripod set up there with the 5D2 and then I had my Sony NEX6 to use for shots in other directions.

I waited as light rain passed by, the wind was blowing, and it was overcast.

Then suddenly the rain lifted and the clouds parted in the west.  The light of the setting sun lit up the lake and the Guads.

It was that incredibly intense light you can only get on a rainy day.  There were images in every direction!  I was taking image after image.  First with the 5D2 and then in a different direction with the NEX.  I even ran up to the Element and grabbed the 50D with 70-200 to do some longer lens images.

The light went on.

It went from the lake to the clouds.  It filled the sky.

It was amazing.

I could not take images fast enough.  I was moving so fast from camera to camera.  Having the 5D2 set with an image framed helped as I could just snap on and let it set while I did a long lens shot.

The light continued.

I realized I was not wide enough at 17mm on the full frame Mark 2.  I put my fisheye on the NEX and took in the full sweep of the sky and was amazed at how big the sunset was.

The light show went on.

And on.

And on.

After what must have been an hour long show the light had faded enough to slow down and work some longer exposures.

After it was finally dark I stopped.  There were going to be hundreds of images to dig through, sort, and process.  I had seen an epic sunset here in January and I got another one in November.  Both days had rain and heavy overcast.  Both also had that magical gap light.

What an amazing sunset.  I knew there was little chance of seeing any light that good the rest of the trip. That night it rained in camp and we woke up to clear skies and 40+mph winds.........

We saw no clouds the remainder of the trip.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

El Cap

El Capitan is the signature mountain of the Guadalupes.  The dramatic cliffs of the mountain marking the end of the chain rise a mile above the salt flats west of the park. 

The view from above is like that of a prow of a ship riding across the desert.  It is my favorite mountain to photograph and one that offers up possibilities at sunrise and sunset.

It is a target for my camera on every trip and I work it into any image I can.

On a trip to the Guadalupes, I always look forward to that first view of El Cap across miles of desert.  It was an important waypoint for travelers and is still a beacon in the desert.

With the ephemeral nature of the lake on the salt flats, I knew I would spend my sunsets there, but I still managed to stop and photograph El Cap from different angles on the trip.

I have some of them here.  These are all different times of day but I think they begin to give you a sense of the size and the many angles to see and photograph this wonder from just these few classic views.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Light on the Salt Flats and Lake

More images from the salt flats, dunes and lake.  One of the things I find in a place like the west Texas is that you can have days of severe clear skies where you take almost no images.  Then you can have one of those epic west Texas sunsets and I can end up taking hundreds of images in one afternoon.

These are from a day that was the latter.  In fact, the same day as my last post where I had several images of the Guadalupes and the lake.  As I wrote in that post I was moving pretty fast chasing compositions.  That is one thing in my technique that digital really changed.  When I shoot 4x5, I find my composition and then wait for the light.  The slow nature of shooting 4x5, makes it very difficult to move and set up a second and certainly not a third composition in changing light.

Now with my DSLR, I can be constantly moving as it takes me mere seconds to set up a shot.  Sure, there are times I find "the shot" where I wait for it, but usually I am constantly moving and working all angles and directions.

So here are some examples of those directions.  I knew that the Guadalupes rising a mile above the salt flats and the fleeting quality of the lake would be my major compositional elements but as I chased the light I was able to work out several other images of the lake, or dunes, or clouds.

These are some of them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunset on the Salt Flats Lake

I was so enthused about the possibilities of the using the lake on the salt flats that I made a second trip out to the lake.  I decided to work the south end of the lake where it was closest to US 180.  

In the past I had seen small puddles form here and once after a deluge in the desert monsoon season there was a small lake.  However, none of that was remotely like this.

I started off just trying to work in the lake into any image since the very fleeting nature of it means it might be 20 years before conditions are like this again.

I photographed the escarpment of the Guadalupes, the distant mountains south and west, and looking north across the length of the lake.

It was a cloudy day and I hoped for a good sunset.

The light got interesting and I photographed from the west side of the lake.  Then the light was lost on the mountains.  It was still lighting up the west and I decided to move to chase it.  I knew there was a side section of the lake and I made my way across 200 yards of salt dunes to photograph it.  I no sooner made one image when the light shifted again and the Guads were bathed in reddish pink light.

I ran back across the dunes and paused at the edge of the dune field.  I framed up a composition and took it.  With the polariser on it was a long exposure, close to 30 seconds.  I got the shot and then just as suddenly as the light had appeared-it was gone.  It is the image at the top of the page.  Did I luck out or what?

I made a few more images as the light faded and then walked back around the lake shore.  When I got back to the vehicle, the sky was very blue but I decided to try one last long image using the fisheye to pick up all of the sky.  Again, a long exposure, and although the color of the sunset was gone loved the clouds.