I know this is a sort of cop-out, but in lieu of a full-blown blog post (which I am working on regarding flash photography), I wanted to post the link to my latest article in the Photography in the Parks column of the National Parks Traveler website. I have noted before that I share space with another photographer. She generally has her articles posted near the end of the month while my articles are posted at the beginning of each month. Here’s the latest dealing with the use of telephoto lenses for landscapes. Check it out if you are interested.
Tag Archives: vista
I’ve been remiss about “feeding the beast” and making regular weekly contributions to my site (and don’t even ask me about the reading catch-up I need to do with my favorite blogs). It’s the holiday season and I’ve been involved with other photo business, which has kept me occupied with non-blog issues. I now have enough vacation to take every Friday off for the remainder of the year, so hopefully these 3-day weekends will give me more time to catch up on the blogosphere.
As previously promised, this article is not about any camera/lens comparisons. Instead, I want to tell you about an interesting, somewhat out-of-the-way viewing area I visited en route to Moab, Utah.
During the planning stages of my Mesa Verde NP / Arches NP trip this past August 2012, I was looking at Google Maps and noticed a side road off of Hwy 191 (the road to Moab), with the title “Needles / Anticline Overlooks”. An anticline! Yeah! I like geology. I have a couple of degrees in geology, as a matter of fact. I’d LOVE to see an anticline. So I added that to my itinerary.
The route to Anticline Overlook is a 31-mile, 2-lane (more or less) road – 16 miles of which is on gravel . It’s a well-tended gravel so I didn’t worry too much about driving the rental car along the road (I should have taken a photo of how dusty the car looked upon my return to the main highway).
Where the paved portion ends and the gravel begins, you have the choice of turning left to the Needles Overlook or continuing on to Anticline Overlook. I decided to save Needles for another time.
This prong horn antelope was standing in the middle of the road, but by the time I stopped the car and grabbed the camera, it had sauntered off, totally ignoring me and my pleas to look my way for a portrait shot.
The ultimate destination ends in a loop, with plenty of room for parking and a nice little pit toilet. A short trail leads to the overlook, with views northwest, north, and northeast. The view is expansive and the air fresh and clear.
Some thorny bushes along the path. Wouldn’t want to get tangled in this stuff!
Solar evaporation potash ponds near the Colorado River.
Looking north toward Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands NP. The Kane Creek Anticline is to your left. The Colorado River meanders its way from the left of the photo over to the right of the photo.
A dirt road winding through the canyon landscape.
Kane Creek Canyon, to the northeast.
A view within the canyon.
Heading back to the main highway and then on to Moab.
Prong horn antelope in the distance as I leave Anticline Overlook.
If you are traveling Hwy 191 Utah – north to or south from Moab – and your vehicle can handle the gravel, this is a neat side trip for a great view of Utah’s canyon lands and geology.
I had only 2 full days (plus a half day and a morning) within Arches National Park, Utah, but during those days, one of my favorite spots was a place near the park entrance called the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint. I’d stop there each day going into and out of the park. It’s the perfect place for sunrise images.
It’s also the perfect place to get an amazing overview of the La Sal Mountains, The Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Tower of Babel, The Organ, and some amazing views far beyond of such formations as Balanced Rock.
From this viewpoint, you can see interesting things like the hot air balloon that rose above the rocks each morning I was there.
This viewpoint is also a lovely place to stop and say good-bye to the park until the next time you visit it.
I’ve booked my airfaire for a February 2013 trip back to Moab and Arches NP. If anybody thinks they might be out there during that time, give me a shout; it would be fun to meet you and enjoy some photographic quality time together.
I once wrote that I would try to post every weekend (or closely thereafter); I’d read that to keep and increase readership, one needs to blog and blog (relatively) often.
I’m on vacation right now (Aug 24 – Sep 2, 2012). I packed up one of my Canon 5D Mk II bodies, two rented Canon 5D Mark III bodies, my 70-200mm + 1.4x teleconverter, my 16-35mm lens, 40mm pancake lens, and 24-105mm lens (in addition to the circular polarizers and Lee 4×6 .9 soft graduated ND filters) for this trip. I arrived in Denver, then flew to Durango, Colorado and am now staying at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park. Now you know which cameras and lenses I used to take all of the photos you will see in my future posts. FYI, I’ve used my 16-35mm more than any of the other lenses so far, with the 24-105mm coming in second.
Since I’m saving my photos (so far I’ve taken over 2000 which I need to cull through and edit) and commentary for the numerous travelogues I will post upon my return to Texas, I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, except to talk about a few things.
As a fellow blogger put it, water is the most important thing to mankind. It’s one of those required staples, without which one cannot live for maybe more than 3 days. Water creates the landscape, nourishes plant- and animal-life, and in many cultures living in arid lands, is worshipped. The longer I stay in Mesa Verde NP, and the more cliff dwelling tours I take in the hot sun and dry air, the more I understand the importance of water. Yes, I’ve heard others go on about the importance of water, but when I get my water from a faucet with a few twists of the tap, I guess I’ve just taken it’s availability for granted. Out here, I don’t.
Something else that I am trying to accomplish is to become more observant during my hikes. Oh, I look around a lot in search of a grand photo op, but there are times when I’m just putting one foot in front of the other to get from Point A to Point B. With this trip, I’m actually looking, observing, listening, and smelling. I’m taking my eye away from the viewfinder to just soak in the atmosphere around me.
I can smell the Utah juniper and pinyon pine. I can smell (and see) the brilliant yellow rabbitbrush that covers the land here. I can hear the songbirds hidden in the Utah serviceberry, I can hear the night wind whipping around my lodge room balcony. I stand on said balcony (with a Buffalo Gold Ale in my hand) and watch the clouds rolling across the mesas, casting blobby shadows hither and yonder.
I did not observe the little grass snake crossing my path as I tiredly trudged back to my car, until I looked down, saw it, and jumped sky high, scaring myself and the poor little snake. I did observe the black widow spider crawling up my lodge room’s bathroom wall (no, I did not take a photo of it – I hate those things – snakes and tarantulas I can deal with, but not black widow spiders).
I am also reflecting more on each thing I learn from the rangers guiding the tours I have taken (Ranger Pete, Ranger Pamela, “Willa Cather” – aka Ranger Paula, Ranger Denice. My backcountry tour to Mug House was lead by a ranger who is an adopted daughter of the Hopi Bear Clan. Of the many interesting and thoughtful things she said, the one that really stands out is that people must respect the land, and respect all life, for everything has a spirit. To disrespect life is akin to a mental illness.
An interesting thing to reflect upon, since I don’t much care for people, although I notice that I am much more loquacious during this trip, because I am happy. When I am in my element, then I am happy and I actually like people more (most of the time, anyway, until some moron tries to tailgate me because he wants to drive faster than the posted speed limit within the park).
So, stay tuned for more thoughts, travel tidbits, and of course, lots of photos. I’ve got 2 more days here in Mesa Verde NP before heading up to Arches NP in Utah.
….Peak and Pass.
I’ve been uploading more Colorado photos to my Rebecca Latson Photography website (which I’ve re-vamped, by the way), and I realized it’s been a week since I last posted a photo to my blog site. Been too busy working on the website, I guess.
Anyway, here are a couple of photos taken during my 2011 trip to Colorado.
This is the vista seen along Lizard Head Pass. After seeing these red-tinged mountains on various Flickr images, I decided I wanted to see and photograph these mountains myself. If you are traveling the area, you too can see this exact spot by taking Hwy 145 south from Telluride. You’ll pass Trout Lake on your left. Further up is a turnout to a historical placard/sign on your right. Across the highway is another, much larger gravel turnout where I parked to set up the tripod for this image.
Lizard Head Peak (I don’t see any semblance of a lizard in this mountain at all, I’m afraid).
My mind fails me (no big news there), and I can’t remember if the stop for Lizard Head Peak is before or after the Lizard Head Pass turnout described above. To get to this particular view, you must turn to the right and drive a very short gravel road to a gravel parking lot which is the starting point for a number of trail heads.
I’ll be returning to Colorado in about 3 weeks for a 5-day stay in Mesa Verde National Park, then driving on to Utah to spend a few days in Arches National Park. These 2011 photos are whetting my photographic appetite!
I was going to post this photo on one of the Montana- or GNP-related Facebook pages out there, only to discover, to my chagrin, that these pages not only do not allow for visitor uploads, but some of them are basically just place markers directing visitors to go to the actual website. Ok, that’s fine. I want people to visit my website (and maybe purchase something). And I don’t allow for visitor uploads on *my* Facebook page either (probably because the page says Rebecca Latson Photography – a rather specific page). Nonetheless, I have a bit of a beef with those public pages that *are* simply used as place markers and don’t have any interesting stuff or postings on them. It’s a bit of a turnoff. If you are going to have a Facebook page, then for heaven’s sake, post stuff to it! That way, if people really *are* interested in seeing more of your stuff (like your photo galleries on your website), then they will go visit that website. And, they will “Like” your page, showing visitors that your page actually has some merit to it.
Ok, I’m off my soap box. I admit to being a bit cheesed off about not being able to upload my photo to one or more of those specific pages. *Maybe* it hurt my inflated ego just a little bit, since I am proud of my work and want to advertise my photographic talents (in the hope of snagging some bizness). Nonetheless, I think what I wrote above is still true.
What do *you* think?
Normally, I like to stay home and go nowhere during my weekends and days off (when I don’t have a plane ticket to someplace out West, that is), because I commute 84 miles round trip to and from work every single day. It gets old and I’ve been doing this for a little short of 14 years. However, after an extended series of weekends at home, I began to get a little stir-crazy with cabin fever and needed to get out and about somewhere with my camera. So this past Saturday (Jan 28), I took my cameras and a couple of lenses (including a rented Canon 70-300mmL IS lens) and hit the road to Brazos Bend State Park.
I used to joke “if you’ve seen one alligator, you’ve seen them all”, but I don’t really mean it. This little photographic oasis out in the middle of nowhere is a wealth of photo ops – particularly of the winged kind. Herons, birds of prey, moorhens, grebes, ibis, egrets – they all make this place their home (or at least, their stopover). Deer, armadillos, snakes (poisonous and non-) also make their home in this park.
I don’t have much experience, really, with bird photography (or any wildlife photography, actually), but I’ve been looking at a number of birders who post their photos on Flickr, and I also had the pleasure of traveling with a bird photographer during my 2011 Ireland trip. So I figured I should probably work on my photo techniques pertaining to wildlife.
During the winter months at the park, the birdlife is not as varied as it is during spring and summer. And the alligators don’t really come out unless it’s a warm day. So I have decided I should make at least three more trips out to the park: spring, summer, and autumn, and blog about the differences I see during each of the seasons. This post is the Winter post.
I left my home at about 6:15AM and arrived at the park a few minutes prior to 7AM. The park doesn’t open until 7AM on Saturdays, so I just sat in the car outside of the entrance and listened to all the birdsong, including the deep hooting of a nearby owl. After paying my $7 entry fee, I headed down the road at 30mph, stopping along the way to allow some deer to cross. This image was taken looking outside of my windshield. Not the sharpest of images, but I didn’t yet have the correct camera settings and was in a hurry to get the shot before the deer scampered away (yes, I had stopped and the emergency brake was on – no photographing while driving for this kid).
My first stop was at Creekfield Lake, across from the visitor center. Aside from the crows, my first wild fowl view was of what I call the “Buzzard Tree”. Buzzards (aka vultures) are not a pretty bird, but their wingspans and appearance in the air certainly are impressive.
Creekfield Lake is a small lake but has the prettiest scenery around it, I think. Although the day was forcasted to be clear, sunny, and in the upper 60’s, that morning at 7AM, it was overcast, very windy, and downright chilly. I was pretty tickled because cloud cover always makes for interesting scenery shots.
Note the leading line of the trail and the fact that I used the rule-of-thirds for placement (ahem).
My next birdlife view (and audio experience) was of the coots (the bird kind, not the old men kind). Those birds are on every lake in this park. During this time of the season, they outnumber the other birdlife around the lake.
So I walked around the paved .5-mile interpretative nature loop, stopping now and then to photograph the coots and the various vegetative life, of which there is a wealth in that park.
They call these stumps “cypress knees”
Spanish moss drifts and lands everywhere (for those of you who have read my posts regarding “rules” of photography, you will note that I not only did not use the rule-of-thirds with this image, but I placed it smack dab in the center (as I have done with a number of other images in this post). Hah! So much for “rules”.
I was hoping to spot a heron or egret or duck, but I didn’t see any of that this early in the morning around this lake. I figured it must be the time of year. I did see a bright splash of red from the corner of my eye while walking and I spotted a couple of cardinals (or “redbirds” as the locals call them).
I also had the good fortune to see a little blue bird high up in the tree limbs – I was told that – like lady bugs – to see a bluebird means you will have good luck.
Having used my tripod only for the landscape shots of the lake, I realized it was going to be a bit of a hindrance for me. I tend to photograph “on the fly”, using a tripod mainly for landscapes and preferring to handhold the camera and lens when it comes to capturing images of moving subjects. These little cardinals, for instance, were constantly moving. So I lay the tripod down and began to test the handholding IS capability of this Canon 70-300mmL lens. I like it! Combined with a full-frame camera, the clarity of the images is wonderful – even after 75-100% crop. And it’s a light lens (compared to the 70-200 lens). I have small, arthritic hands, so this lens was great. I’d use it for weddings (I have an upcoming wedding shoot) except that the lowest aperture on this lens is 4.5; unless the wedding is held outdoors during the day, they are usually interior, low-light affairs calling for a lens with the capability of at least f2.8.
For almost all of my images, the ISO was set to 640. I learned this trick from a Flickr contact. I set the ISO relatively high so that I could get super-fast shutter speeds in the sunlight in order to freeze a bird’s movement. My aperture was set to 6.3 and the shutter speeds varied from 1/500 to 1/2000.
After circling Creekfield Lake, I returned to the car and drove back toward the park entrance and 40 Acre Lake. While I am of the opinion that Creekfield Lake has the prettiest scenery, I believe 40 Acre Lake has the best wildlife viewing opportunities. I ended up visiting this place twice – once during the early morning hours, and then again between noon and 2PM. Turns out my second visit was a good choice; by then, the temperature and sun were warm enough to elicit the American Alligators to come out and bask in the warmth (I didn’t see them earlier in the morning, when it was much cooler and windier).
40 Acre Lake has a 1.2-mile trail encircling the water with an observation tower at the northeast corner.
As I was walking around the trail, a couple of photographers passed by, each one carrying two of the biggest Canon lenses on tripods that I have ever seen in my life! Good thing those men were large themselves, because it would take a large person to lug one of those things around. For a split second, I had “lens envy”, but after the two men passed on, I happily went about the business of testing the “little” telephoto lens I had rented.
Again, I saw plenty of coots,
but I also saw ibis,
roseate spoonbills (here’s an example of the great crop capabilities of the camera/telephoto combo about which I wrote earlier in this post),
The original image:
The cropped image:
a snowy egret,
a blue heron,
Original – can you spot the heron?
Fishing for breakfast:
plenty of Spanish moss,
fish (boats are prohibited but it’s free to fish, so many people were out with their poles and tackle boxes that morning),
and of course, alligators (6 different ones along the shore).
I saw a number of these “gator wallows” (my term, but maybe that’s what they actually are called) along the shoreline.
And another original vs. 75% crop:
While perambulating around the path, I naturally climbed up the observation tower for some views:
To the West
To the East
To the North
To the South
And to the Southwest (all of these observation tower images exemplify another one of those “rules” of photography: perspective)
During my walk, I saw the effects this long Texas drought has wrought. All along the non-lake sides, what once flowed with dark water and brilliant green pond scum was now a dry dusty green and brown.
As I continued along the trail back to the parking lot, I stopped to photograph some tree bark, thus bringing to mind another one of those “rules” I have written about: pattern (and texture).
Another stop I made while in the park was to Hale Lake. I didn’t stay long there, though, because I was beginning to poop out and feel the effects of my slightly sunburnt face. I had a little trouble finding the lake (drove right past the trail) and hiked about half a mile out of my way before realizing my mistake.
Hale Lake is what I call an “oxbow” lake – a part of the Brazos River that was eventually cut off and bypassed in favor of an easier route for the river water to flow.
By 2PM, cars and crowds had multiplied exponentially – time for me to head home and process the photos. I had a great day at the park. Cabin fever and stir crazies are banished and I came away with some wonderful images.
Plus, I know now that Spring is just around the corner (in Texas, that is).
While digging through my photo archives for images to use in the previous post, I happened upon several CDs with Raw 2007 files taken with my IR-converted Nikon D40 (camera long since sold). Neato, I thought to myself, I now have another subject for a blog post!
What is IR photography, and IR (infrared) in general? Without getting too tech-y (I’m not really a tech-y kind of person), this refers to the infrared (or, near infrared) spectrum of light which the eye cannot see. Let’s just say that the resulting images can look pretty funky/dreamy/spooky and definitely out of the ordinary. Skies and water are so dark as to be almost black, foliage is a dreamy white, and clouds are out-of-this-world detailed.
Back in the pre-digital days, the only way to achieve images like the ones you see here, was to affix an infrared filter to the lens and use infrared-sensitive film. Because of the opaque-ish blackness of the IR filter, focusing was difficult, to say the least, and the camera needed to be on a tripod since long shutter speeds were necessary to let in enough IR lightwaves. Even with the advent of the digital camera, the same issues are encountered because the in-camera filter over the digital sensor blocks IR light rays.
I never tried the lens filter route, because by the time I discovered IR, there were places out there (like Life Pixel) that would actually convert one’s camera’s sensor by replacing the IR-blocking filter with an IR-friendly filter. And Life Pixel isn’t the only IR conversion company around. LensRentals.com (my favorite rental place for lenses and cameras) has their IR cameras converted by MaxMax. And there are a host of other conversion companies out there, including Precision Camera.
I thought the whole idea of a digital camera I could hand-hold, use regular ISOs, and capture IR photos without long shutter speeds was a pretty cool thing, so back in ’07, I purchased a used Nikon D40 on eBay and sent it off to Life Pixel. I purchased the straight IR filter conversion (they have other types of conversions, of varying costs).
Here’s the deal, though. With the typical IR filter conversion, your images straight from the camera are red!
You must bring them into your photo editor and from there convert them to black & white, or play around with the red, green, and blue channels for some funky results.
I had alot of fun re-processing these older images, and this is a good opportunity for me to remind all of you photographers out there to NEVER get rid of your photos; editing technology and your expertise with post-processing improve with time, allowing you to return and rescue images once thought to be total losers (but which now turn out to be incredible winners).
How did I process these photos?
First thing I did was bring the raw images into Lightroom 3, where I applied a preset I created and saved to the program: I clicked on the Enable Profile Corrections, moved the Recovery slider all the way to the right (100), and applied some Clarity (50).
From there, I tweaked/cropped/straightened or rotated as I saw fit. Then I chose which images I wanted to convert to black & white, and went up to the menu bar to select Photo-Edit in-Silver Efex Pro (a plug in I use in Lightroom). After playing around with selected images and converting them to monochrome, I exported all the images (the red ones as well as the monochrome-converted ones) as TIFs to a folder I titled “IR”.
I opened up Adobe Photoshop CS5 and brought in the TIF files – easy to open up lots of files at once because these were taken with a Nikon D40, with an effective resolution of 6.1 mp (as opposed to my Canon 5D Mark II, with an effective resolution of about 21 mp). At the end of all my edits, I applied a teeny bit of Unsharp Mask to these photos (instead of my regular 85%, I dialed it down to 60%).
I also had a little more fun with the IR photos by using the Channel Mixer (Image-Adjustments-Channel Mixer).
Here’s the Original:
Channel Mixed one way:
Channel Mixed another way:
or just Monochrome (as converted with the Silver Efex Pro plug-in):
Next to one side of my sister’s home is a little hidden area with a bench, surrounded by trees and plants – I call it their Secret Garden.
En route to Mt. Rainier (or, as the locals call it: The Mountain).
At a view area not too far from Tipsoo Lake in Mt. Rainier NP, I stopped to capture this image of the moon.
A view of the valley on the way from Ellensburg WA toward Wenatchee.
An image of an old barn located on the road to Wenatchee WA.
Scenery at the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainer NP. I didn’t realize I hadn’t cropped out the people, but decided to leave them in since they provide a nice scale.
The Mountain, framed.
I believe this is a Jimson flower.
IR photography is like HDR – it’s another medium allowing the photographer to express and improve upon their creativity. Unless you plan on working with infrared extensively, it is somewhat pricey to have a SLR camera converted for IR photography. Instead, why not rent a converted camera for a few days and enjoy experimenting with this medium to create something new and a little out of the ordinary for yourself and your viewers.
From Logan Pass Visitor Center, it’s all downhill….driving, that is. The photography on the eastern side of the pass is just as stupendous as on the western side, if not moreso.
This image taken just a mile or so beyond the visitor center has special meaning for me – some 20+ years ago, I made my first trip back to the park since my family moved to Kentucky when I was 9 years old. I of course only had a film camera, and I photographed this very same spot as you see below; years later, I uploaded the film version to my Flickr site, although the scanner didn’t do the image justice. So when I returned to this spot in 2008, I just had to take another photo with my digital SLR.
Further down the way is a large-ish pullout across the road from Lunch Creek, a glacial cirque with a waterfall far up near the top and a bubbling creek flowing along roadside. I don’t know where they got the name for this place, but as one friend remarked “it is a nice spot to rest and have lunch”. When I photographed this image in 2008, the sun shone and the sky was blue. In 2009, it was raining and the cirque was hidden by the cloud mist.
Just a little further down the road is the hairpin turn called Siyeh Bend (pronounced Sigh-yee by the locals). There’s a much larger parking pullout there because it’s one of the trailheads for the Siyeh Pass hike, which forks off at one point onto the Piegan Pass Trail.
Looking toward Siyeh Bend and the mountains.
From whence I came: looking the opposite way of Siyeh Bend.
The scent of pine.
Onward toward the east, with a stop along the way to hike the short trail (maybe a mile or a little less) to St. Mary Falls. This is an amazing falls with beautiful turquoise waters spilling out and down the St. Mary River.
Flowing downstream from the falls.
The trail to St. Mary Falls extends further to Virgina Falls. Although I made it a little ways further along the trail, I never quite made it to Virginia Falls during either of my visits to the park.
Next: From Sunrift Gorge to St. Mary Lake