Summer in the City

Walking for Miles

My UP band said: 25,900 steps that day. It also said “17.1 miles”, which I don’t believe… especially since I never calibrated it. I hear calibration is key for reliability in mile measurement, though I’m honestly no expert on UP bands, only on walking.

MY POINT IS: we’ve been walking ALOT in NY! In so doing, you get see the light as it changes from hot to Awesome right before sundown. It’s different here… and creates an amazingly cool effect as it bounces off the buildings, especially if the building has red in it. I’m mesmerized! And of course, have to stop and shoot it down every street we pass!

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Sunsets, Art & The Masters of Painting

The Power of Exploring One Area

I found a new vantage point! Lake Tahoe is a HUGE lake (72 miles around)… but only offers a few spots where you can get a great shot. The east side is one of them. I love going back under different lighting and weather conditions – because it’s just never the same from visit to visit.

Sometimes I think that in an effort to always have that NEW experience, a lot of photographers run all over the world trying to one-up each other with even MORE danger, even MORE extreme conditions, MORE exotic locations and… well, you know the drill. But I don’t always see them exploring one area deeply. And I think that’s a shame. Not to say traveling the world isn’t awesome… but a sense of deepening is often underrated, IMHO. I’m trying not to make that same mistake – especially given that I live a mere 30 minutes from one of the most wondrous jewels of the world!

Sunset: That moment when we wave good-bye to the day, and light bathes us with the soft caress of infinite blessings. I love that moment.
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Portrait of a Lady… er, Lake

Whenever I post a photo of Lake Tahoe on one my social streams, there’s this one fella who always pipes up, “You sure like to photograph that lake!”
Now I ask you… wouldn’t you, if this were 30 minutes from your home? I mean, seriously!

I consider myself blessed. When I’m home, I actually DO go lots of other places around Tahoe area to shoot… but there’s just something so otherworldly and awesome about catching Lady Tahoe herself bejeweled in her aquamarine finest.

Aquamarine
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The Wide View

Another Panorama? Goodness, I’m on FIRE!

For someone who eschews the mighty panorama, I’ve certainly created a record number of them lately!
Mind you, two in the same month IS some kind of record for me… hahaha!

For some reason that I have not yet fathomed, I’ve been drawn to panoramacize certain scenes of late. This one – of the ocean just outside of Shark Fin Cove in Davenport, California, was taken on the exact same day as this image I showed you the other day. (and yes, I’m going to make the video I promised on that one… just seeking the time this week to sit down and do it).

Same Spot, 2 Takes

But where I was messing about with a 2-8 stop ND filter on the other photo to mystify and smooth out the water, I got a wild hair to produce this panorama as an HDR image. I just felt it would add to the wildness of the day. The water crashing and swirling, the sun setting so brilliantly (and so quickly!), so much going on all at once that I hardly knew what to look at! So I decided to bring the whole wide view home! hehheh.


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Sunset at Bendemeer

Bendemeer Estates

A year ago, I went to New Zealand to help teach a fabulous workshop given by Trey Ratcliff. It was his first New Zealand workshop – and my first visit to Hobbitland. I pretty much walked around the whole time with my mouth hanging open at the postcard views EVERYWHERE!

We visited lots of different places and scenes, not all of them reminiscent of “Return of the King”. One was at a new housing development called “Bendemeer Estates.” I use that term loosely, since there were no actual houses built on the property; a fact that made me chuckle (to myself, of course) as we wandered about the golf course, golf cart paths and lovely little lake that you see here.


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The Mists Over Milford

Early Morning Milford

Early morning at Milford Sound is really something. When the tide goes out, you can walk pretty far out there to photograph areas you’d have to swim to otherwise. Or maybe waist-wade. To that I say: “No thanks!” Slipping and sliding over the fantastically slimy rocks was exciting enough for me. hehheh.

I suspect there was a relatively low tide the day we were there; although I didn’t have a Tides app like I do now to verify my suspicion.

In any case, Milford is a pretty surreal place. I don’t think a person could ever get tired of it – especially on misty/mysterious days like this! You should Google Trey Ratcliff and Milford Sound… just to see how un-tiring repeat visits are!

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Like Peppers in a Pod

I’ll Take Mine With a Splash, Please!

I always love a scene that is essentially monochromatic with a splash of color. The day in Queenstown, New Zealand was all that and more! It had been raining a ton – with more due that day. New Zealand is already shades of blue… so this day it was shades of slate blue. Except for the boats on the shore, which made me think of my two favorite kinds of peppers. Hello, free association!

I loved that they could just leave them chained up to a tree and know they were safe. Unlike here in the states, where you’d have to take them home and store them in a locked, secure building with a security code and a guard to have any hope at all of seeing them the next day. I exaggerate. A little. Sigh.

In any case… that pop of color just made it for me!

Peppers in a PodQueenstown, New ZealandIn a tasty splash of color - just like my two favorite kinds of peppers.

Interpret the Sky, Move Your Feet

Inspiration in the Sky

When conditions aren’t inviting me to venture out for some inspired shooting… I just wait for the sky.

Without snow this winter in the mountains where I live, the dry, lackluster terrain just isn’t all that awesome to photograph all by itself. At least it isn’t for my taste. Maybe I’ve gotten picky from living here so long. But whatever the reason, I haven’t been so excited to get out and find new shades-of-brown vistas.

But when the clouds conspire to thrill and delight, all bets are off!


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Using a Gradient Fill Layer To Alter Color, Tone or Mood

The Courtyard at Castello di Amorosa

You can use them boldly or subtly, but the using a Gradient Fill Layer in Photoshop (I use CC) is a great tool for finishing touches on a photo. I’ll give you an example of subtle use from a photo I processed recently.

We visited Castello di Amorosa last fall for a photo shoot. A bunch of great images and 3 episodes of The Chat (owner Dario Sattui, photographer Annette Biggers, model Jennifer Freeman) came from that fabulous 2 day visit. I’m still smiling!

As our final evening was winding down, after a lovely glass of wine and noshes (The Castle is a fabulous winery), we wandering back toward our cars. The evening light was gorgeous… and the lights of the castle were on. Of COURSE, we had to shoot just a little bit more! This was a fun one of the courtyard… which I took with everyone tapping their toes, eager to drive down the valley for dinner. I could’ve stayed all night!


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The Stone Cabins

The Lesser Known Southwest

My friend Barry Blanchard introduced me to The Valley of Fire… and awesome place in the Nevada desert, about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. It’s got much of the cool factor of Southwest style ruins and petroglyphs – but without all the crowds you can get in Utah and Arizona. I love that!

I’ve taken some of my fave photos there, like this one, and of course this one.

Built For Travelers

Then there are The Cabins:

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Get The Most Bang For Your Buck on a Sunset Photo Shoot

If you’re shooting sunset at a location that lends itself to moving around AND if you enjoy photo processing, here’s a quick tip for maximizing the impact of an evening’s shoot: MOVE your butt around – and process each photo differently. The latter is if photo processing is your bag, of course. All the image in this post were taken during the same sunset photo adventure. I made a point of moving as quickly as I could through the time before, during and after sunset to snag as much variety as I could. I’ll show you some examples next – clicking on the images will let you see them larger if you like, too.

And for the curious amongst you, the next 6 images were all processed as HDR images…

TheSweep
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One Hot Idea

Birthing Dreams 

Like anybody, I have a vision for what I want; a dream. A few dreams actually. And I’m in action to allow them to spring to life. I thought I’d share how it sometimes comes through my photo processing, since it sometimes takes you places you didn’t expect.

I’m going about this vision-to-life process differently than I have in the past. And it’s causing me to access parts of myself I’ve only ever heard about, but never truly experienced. At times it alternately feels hot, messy, deep, uncertain, mysterious, inspired, unusual; also guided, lit from the inside-out, jubilant, a revelation, awe-inspiring, joyful. How’s that for bouillabaisse? I processed this image one night when I was in a particularly grapple-y mood : (you can click on it for a larger view)

It suddenly struck her. An idea so hot it made her brain sweat, her eyes glaze a little, her heart pound.
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Where The Heavens, Art and The Imagination Meet

The Splendid Sunset

It was a magnificent evening in Queenstown, New Zealand high atop Deer Park Heights. DPH is no longer open to the public, but the intrepid Trey Ratcliff had, of course, found a way to bring the entire group of us up there for a sunset shoot. It was a photo adventure workshop, so we were traveling in a pack.

The awesome thing about New Zealand sunsets is that they go on… and on… and on! Here in California you have to be all set up and ready for the bloom of the set, because BAM! it’s over and done with in about 5 minutes. Over there… we had upwards of an hour and a half of gorgeous light to enjoy, frame, reframe, hike over there, stand over here, check out that knoll – for several compositions in one splendid sunet. It was amazeballs!

QueenstownDusk
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Changing Moods

Monochrome on the Brain

I’ve had monochrome on my mind lately. Not really sure why, I suppose it’s like anything else that floats through your muse’s consciousness for consideration.

I’ll be honest and say that I did shoot this auto bracketed, imagining it might end up as a color HDR image. I shot a whole series this day to great success that way. But I was struggling with it, since I didn’t like the way the colors looked, the textures responded… it was kind of strange, actually. And annoying, since I couldn’t seem to get fresh eyes on the situation. I loved the image, just not where it was going.

Then, since I just posted yesterday about playing with monochrome, I decided to find my fresh eyes with a black and white conversion. I was completely surprised by the result! In particular, I loved what the light did.

TheHush
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Forgiveness: An Everyday Miracle

I’m being very philosophical this week! But you can handle it, yes? I’ve been thinking about things.

In counting miracles everyday, there seems to be those formed around certain actions we take. One of those is forgiveness…

Unexpected Wisdom

It was brought home again recently when Vic Gundotra answered my final question on a recent episode of The Chat . He said: “Forgiving other people is really the best gift you can give yourself.”

Forgiveness is like having a direct line to the heavens for that warm, wonderful sense of the miraculous.
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Feel It. Now.

The Moment of Shift

I have a photographer friend (thank you for letting me name names, Michael Bonocore!) who’s apartment hunting in a REALLY tight housing area and market. He has a specific idea of what he wants, is super busy with limited time to hunt and is finding the whole search really stressful. Just today, he missed the perfect place by mere moments. “GAH!” I said… “But breathe. The perfect place will appear right when you let go and least expect it.”

That’s what this image reminds me of… that moment where you take release on the inside and suddenly everything shifts.

Cairn Reflecting
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New Zealand and The Chat

New Image: Milford Sound

Today I’m in the mood to share a couple of things: first, a brand new photo. It’s from my trip to New Zealand earlier this year for Trey Racliff’s New Zealand Adventure in which I co-taught. We visited Milford Sound, of course… got rained out one night, but woke up to a properly mystical morning!

MilfordStrand

The Chat with Annette Biggers: Sneak Peak!

Then… this coming Monday is an all new episode of The Chat! They just keep getting better and better… and more and more fun. This one was no exception… but add “inspiring as all get-out” to the mix. heh. My guest is photographer Annette Biggers… who is also an artist, humanitarian and Deep Thinker About Life.

In this clip, she talks about her belief that “artists are the creators or life in culture”… and explains what she means by that. You might find yourself agreeing with her! It was certainly true in the Renaissance… and I think its as true now as it ever was then! As artists, I personally think we need to consider carefully what we’re putting out there.

Tune in on Monday for the full episode!!

John’s Truck

Some time back, my friend Brian Matiash came up to Truckee for a visit… and we went out in search of some fun stuff to shoot. He’s known for his Urbex style photography, but also his gorgeous landscapes. Since we were in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I took him to some of my favorite landscapey spots. He wasn’t entirely impressed… until we happened by John’s Garage.

John'sCar

John lives near the summit of the Donner Pass… and has a garage in which he rebuilds vintage cars. In this case, the doors were wide open and there sat a fabulous 1937 Ford pickup. Brian shrieked “STOP!!”, which I did out of sheer panic from his shrieking – and we whipped a U turn back to this beckoning garage.

We introduced ourselves to John – and asked how he felt about us doing some photographing in his garage. He was such a sweetheart and let us have at it.

For this one, I set up a tripod in the back bed – camera aimed forward through the back window. Fisheye lens. Brian did it first; I poached his shot. hahaha!

I shot this as a multiple exposure HDR image… and applied various post processing, er, processes to get it looking sufficiently vintage with the right kind of tones.
I wish I’d done a couple more exposures stopped WAY down, since the outside got pretty blown out … but it didn’t take away from how cool this truck was!

I guess the moral of the story is: keep your mind and eyeballs open when scouting locations… you might stumbled upon something that makes the day awesome in completely unexpected ways!

Perfectionism, Art and Life

Perfectionism and Rejection

Wow, I just named this post in a way loftier manner than perhaps this photo warrants. Then again, it helps make my point. Which is…

“Perfectionism” is a slippery slope when it comes to both Art… and Life.
Dictionary dot come defines perfectionism this way: “a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.”

My perfectionism rejected this photo for about 6 months.
It’s also rejected any number of impulses, ideas, experiences, personal self worth more times than I can count.
Good thing I’ve got longevity in my family! I’m quite determined to outlive and give the ultimate boot to the demon Perfectionism!

SunsetOverYonder
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Making Post-Processing Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

I love post-processing photos. Since my approach to photography means creating my own vision or “take” on what I see, I have no problem processing a photo in dramatic directions and find it all incredibly satisfying. I was raised in an artistic family, so I guess that just got baked into me. By the same token, I was trained classically in photography, revere Nature and have learned that sometimes Nature does all the work for you. When that happens, you really shouldn’t mess with perfection.

Such was the case on this day:

Nature is such a drama queen sometimes.
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Castello Di Amorosa & THE CHAT

The Castle

I visited Castello di Amorosa in the Napa Valley for the first time recently. I went to hang with my great friend Annette Biggers – and to help out on one of her fantastic fairy tale shoots. She’s done them at the castle before, so I’d heard a lot about the place. I couldn’t wait to see it! And yet… nothing prepared me for what I saw! My jaw about hit the floor when I walked in. This is basically the first thing you see when drive up. Y’know, just a basic Napa Valley winery. NOT!
Castle in gold. Its best color of all.
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A Grand Gift

As many definitions as there are for the word “GRAND”… none of them adequately sum up Zion National Park. We got squeezed out of our visit to Zion this year on account of the government shutdown. Idiots. But we drove through it on our way home.

This was simply taken at a pull off, shortly after exiting the tunnel entrance to the park. Storm was coming in, so the sky and light were doing fun things. I was feeling bummed that we hadn’t been able to stay… but then this happened. It was like a smile from above and a gift for the asking. And I did ask! It was one of those moments that reminded me that to ask, relax and quit trying so hard is a gift unto itself. Sometimes the results are even better than I imagined!

Grand

Sony A7, A7r, RX10 First Impressions

Recently, I was invited by Sony to go to Nashville as part of a group of journalists, photographers, press and bloggers to try their brand new gear. The ones I was most interested in were the mirrorless cameras: the A7, A7r and RX10. I wrote a full “First Impressions” blog that is posted on Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs, along with about a dozen photos from all three cameras and several different lenses. Exciting – because it’s rare that he has ever asked anyone to guest blog on SIC. I’m honored!

I’d never been to Nashville before. It is AWESOME!! I want to come back, because the whirlwind array of places Sony took us to shoot and experience only whetted my appetite for more. We visited the amazing Clearview Horse Farm hiked Lookout Mountain, learned the history and tasted the wares of the Jack Daniels distillery, visited the famed Ryman Auditorium – home of the original Grand Old Opry – where we shot backstage and during a special concert by the awesome Ben Folds, drove off-road jeeps, hang glided, dressed up for Halloween and a bunch of other activities that left me inspired, breathless and remarkably short of sleep! This photo was taken on the A7r mirrorless at Rock City… a veritable magic kingdom, carved out of rock:

I'd never been to Rock City Before. Fall colors: sublime.Dose of magic: perfectionDesire to visit again: absolute.

I’m hoping to have the opportunity to further test these cameras… they are truly a taste of the future.