Archive for November 2015

Transitions   24 comments

The edge of the continent, and the edge of night, at the westernmost point of the contiguous United States, Cape Alava, Washington.

The edge of the continent, and the edge of night: westernmost point of the contiguous United States at Cape Alava, Washington.

It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in the WordPress weekly challenge.  I like this week’s theme, Transitions.  A lot.  I think of it more broadly as the “edge”.  I love pictures captured at the edge, or within a transition: from the literal edge of a cliff to the edge of a human expression, and everything in between.

These photos are mostly about the transition from sunset colors to dusk (blue hour).  I think it’s my favorite time to shoot landscapes.  Even my blog’s header image, moonrise over Monument Valley, depicts an evening transition.  For variety, I included a photo where a Cambodian woman is at the edge of smiling, plus one captured at the dramatic transition from dry season to the rains in Africa.  To see an image displayed bigger and better, just click on it.  Enjoy!

The amazing Bolaven Plateau of southern Laos.

The amazing Bolaven Plateau of southern Laos.

Edge of a smile: Cambodia.

Edge of a smile: Cambodia.

I've never seen a more dramatic change of seasons than the one from hot & dry to the rains in Africa.  A lone wildebeest stands against the first thunderstorm of the season, sweeping dust ahead of it: Mbabe Depression, Botswana.

I’ve never seen a more dramatic change of seasons than the one from hot & dry to the rains in Africa. A lone wildebeest stands against the first thunderstorm of the season, sweeping dust ahead of it: Mbabe Depression, Botswana.

High up on Mt. Rainier, clouds filling the valley below helped to reveal the edge of night.

High up on Mt. Rainier, clouds filling the valley below helped to reveal the edge of night.

End of the golden hour transitioning to night: Portland, Oregon.

End of the golden hour transitioning to night: Portland, Oregon.

Friday Foto Talk: Winter Photography – Safety   12 comments

Skiing near Mount Hood, Oregon.

Skiing near Mount Hood, Oregon.

Winter Safety 101 – Driving to the Shooting Locale

Okay, now that we’ve made sure our equipment is protected (see Part I), it’s time to talk about winter photography itself – how to get the best pictures when it’s cold and snowy out.  Right?  Not so fast!  Be patient, we’ll get there.  There’s no sense shooting in winter if you’re not going to stay safe yourself.

A recent November storm moves into Zion National Park, Utah.

A recent November storm moves into Zion National Park, Utah.

And before worrying about coats, layering, snowshoes and all that stuff, it’s a good idea for all of us to take a good  hard look at our winter driving skills.  Of course most guys (and some girls) think they’re expert winter drivers.  But we’re literally talking life and death here.  So forget about ego.  No matter how much experience you have, before snow and ice arrive, do some brushing up.

  • To Go or Not to Go:  This would be an easier decision if stormy weather did not so often present some of the most beautiful, dramatic light.  So check the forecast, think about your tires, your vehicle, and most of all your skills.  Discretion is the better part of valor, but I don’t think avoidance is a good policy either.  Practice makes perfect in winter driving as in all else.
  • Leave Extra Time:  Being in a hurry when you’re driving can be dangerous at any time, but when it’s slippery out, driving too fast could be the last mistake you will ever make.  Head out to shoot earlier than you normally would.
  • Slow Wins the Race:  It’s worth repeating: going slow, especially on curves and down hills, is the most important thing to practice when driving in slick winter conditions.  Go slower than the conditions dictate (except when starting up a hill – see below).  This goes for every type of vehicle out there, from beefy 4×4 to rear-wheel drive sedan.
Waking up to a snowy morning at the rim of the Rio Grande Canyon, New Mexico.

Waking up to a snowy morning at the rim of the Rio Grande Canyon, New Mexico.

  • It Helps to See:  Keep your windshield clear.  Stop and scrape it if necessary.  If visibility is extremely poor, you may need to pull over and wait for things to improve.  Don’t push it whatever you do.
  • No Cell Phones Here:  Winter driving demands maximum attention.  First, increase your following distance by quite a bit.  And look further ahead than usual.  Keep a special eye on other vehicles to catch on to out of control drivers.  Use your mirrors when you slow to make sure somebody is not ready to rear-end you.
  • Light on that Brake!  As much as possible, stay away from the brake.  To slow, let off the gas well ahead of time, shift down (auto transmissions also have low gear options – use them) and avoid turning the wheels sharply.  If you must use the brake, alternate pressing and releasing, looking out for areas of better traction to hit the brake in.  If you have more distance, you can try feathering the brake.  Never press and hold.  If push comes to shove and you must stop quickly, stomp on and immediately release the brake, and keep doing it until the emergency is over.  This is one of only two times that it’s okay to make strong, aggressive movements when you’re driving in snow and ice.
A pause while descending a snowy slope near Mt. Hood, Oregon.

A pause on a ski descent near Mt. Hood, Oregon.

  • Momentum is Your Friend:  Keep momentum up on hills.  At the approach to an uphill, get up speed.  On the way up, if you slip, back off a little on the gas.  Knowing when to hit the gas is a feel thing when it’s slick out, and like braking, it helps to look out for areas with more traction and hit the gas there.  On downhills it’s the opposite.  Slow down on the approach and shift down before the steep part.  Gently feather the brakes if you need to slow more.
  • Curves: The Approach.    Recall what you were told when you learned to drive – slow on the approach, gentle acceleration through the curve – and take that to heart.  Slow well ahead of the curve then gently accelerate through it.  You should never have to touch the brake on a curve.  
  • Curves: The Fish-tail.  If your rear end slides sideways (a fish-tail), it means one of two things.  Either you are going much too fast or you hit the brakes when you shouldn’t have.  Turn your wheel in the same direction as your rear end is going, toward the outside of the curve.  The sooner you do this the better; the second you notice it starting is good.  By the way, this is the only other time it’s okay to make quick movements on slippery roads.  Just make it quick and smooth.

**But there’s a catch: it’s very easy to overdo steering into a slide.  Back off the second you feel your rear end coming back out of the skid and be ready to swing the wheel quickly the other way, in case you fishtail in the opposite direction. Again, it’s about feel: steer smoothly and no more than necessary.  Feel what’s happening and adjust accordingly.

  • Keep your Cool:  In any emergency situation, keep calm but react.  The sooner you make the (correct) adjustment, the better things will be.  The key is to not freeze up but also not to panic and over-react.  A relaxed focus plus action will get you through a lot!  Your attitude should be one of confidence up to a point; don’t get overconfident and go too fast.  If the conditions deteriorate, just turn around.

Next time we’ll talk about equipment specific to winter photography.  Have a great weekend!

The entrance to Zion Canyon, Utah.

The entrance to Zion Canyon, Utah.

Wordless Wednesday: Silent City   11 comments

_MG_4523

Color

B&W

B&W

Posted November 25, 2015 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

Friday Foto Talk: Winter Photography, Part I   8 comments

Winter's first snowfall: southern Utah.

Winter’s first snowfall: southern Utah.

This week I got snowed on for the first time this season, on the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah.  It’s been cold too, well below freezing some mornings.  So I think it’s time to talk about winter photography.

First of all, I’m assuming you want to keep shooting in wintertime.  There really is no reason to stop.  There is a beautiful crystalline light that is unique to winter.  And this is the time to go for fog and other moody atmospheres.  Most important, how else are you gonna get a shot for that Christmas card?

Fairy Falls in winter, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

Fairy Falls in winter, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

Don’t worry, your camera will be fine.  In fact, excessive heat and humidity are much bigger worries than cold is.  Camera manufacturers publish a lower limit of around 32° F (0° Celsius).  But modern DSLRs can function just fine down to 0° F and even lower with no ill effects.  You just have to follow a few simple precautions:

  • Be Gentle:  Cameras and even many lenses are mostly plastic these days, and plastic gets brittle and will break much more easily in frigid weather.  The metal parts also get more brittle.  So avoid knocks and be especially careful with both camera and lens.  Glass doesn’t care how cold it gets, but you’re already being careful with that spendy glass, aren’t you.

The old one-room schoolhouse in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

 

  • Beware Condensation:  When you bring a camera that has been in the cold inside, or anywhere warmer, there’s a risk of moisture collecting inside the camera and lens.  Obviously this is not good.  So before coming in from the cold, put your equipment inside your zipped-up camera bag at least.  A large ziplock or otherwise sealable plastic bag is even better.  Let your gear warm gradually inside that bag before taking it out.  The colder it is outside, and the more humid the warm place you’re bringing it back into, the more important it is to follow this advice.  It’s also a good idea to let it cool off gradually, inside your camera bag, before shooting.
Oneonta Gorge, Oregon.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon.

  • Battery Blues:  Batteries have shorter lives when they’re cold, and the colder the shorter.  So bring extra batteries and keep the spares in an inside pocket, near your skin.  If you know you’ll be shooting again next day, keeping the camera and lenses inside your trunk, where they remain cold, will avoid the whole condensation thing.  But remember to take the battery out and bring it inside to recharge.  If you take your memory card out to upload photos, stick it in a little ziplock before coming inside and let it warm up gradually.
Late afternoon light hits Silver Star Mountain, Washington, after a mid-winter snowstorm.

Late afternoon light hits Silver Star Mountain, Washington, after a mid-winter snowstorm.

Friday Foto Talk: New Site!   22 comments

A recent image that made it onto my new website.  Colorado River bottom in fog, Colo.

A recent image that made it onto my new website. Colorado River bottom wreathed in morning fog.

This is a Foto Talk with more promotion than I generally believe in.  But I worked so long and hard on my new website that I just had to share it.  I updated many images and added a bunch of new ones.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  Please, if you see something that you think could be improved, make suggestions in comments below.  Don’t be shy!

Here it is:  MJF Images

Below are a few more examples.  Click on the image to go to the gallery on my site where it’s located.  Thanks so much for all of your support.  And please keep Paris in your thoughts.

Scenic ranch country, SW Colo., a recent image.

Scenic ranch country, SW Colorado, a recent image. 

A reddish egret, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico.

A reddish egret, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico.

I also have a gallery devoted to people, but I couldn't resist sneaking animals into a few.  I used to own these two horses.

I also have a gallery devoted to people, but I couldn’t resist sneaking animals into a few. I used to own these two horses.

And lastly, a Novemberish picture: last fall in the Ozarks of Arkansas.

And lastly, a Novemberish picture: last fall in the Ozarks of Arkansas.

The Okavango Delta in Botswana doesn't have termite mounds, it has termite towers!

The Okavango Delta in Botswana doesn’t have termite mounds, it has termite towers!

And finally, a soft desert sunset at Great Sand Dunes, Colorado.

And finally, a soft desert sunset at Great Sand Dunes, Colorado.

Posted November 14, 2015 by MJF Images in Friday Foto Talk, Photography

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Friday Foto Talk: Hidden Gems in the Archive   9 comments

The Utah monolith called Molly’s Castle is set aglow in early morning light.

This is a little different from most other Friday Foto Talk posts.  I’m only passing on one piece of advice.  If you don’t already do so, on occasion it’s a good idea to go back through your archives and look for hidden gems.  Select some that spark your interest for re-processing on the computer.

I’ve been doing this lately, as part of redesigning my website and freshening up the images there.  Some gems were just sitting there dormant, waiting to be found and re-edited.  I’ve posted several here for your enjoyment.  I’d like it very much if you were to share your comments on them below.

This photo of a lovely water lily floating in the middle of the Okavango Delta, Botswana is the very essence of a hidden gem.

This photo of a lovely water lily floating in the middle of the Okavango Delta, Botswana is the very essence of a hidden gem.

I’ll say right off that I am not the type of photographer who saves all or even most of the pictures I take.  I try to be fairly ruthless when it comes to deleting images that don’t really work for me.  But there is a limit to this kind of thinking.  The reason is this:  editing software, not to mention your editing skills, constantly improve.

You probably aren’t noticing your editing skills getting better, just like you don’t notice your photography skills improving, until you go back and look at pictures from several years back and have a go at re-editing some of them.

In my effort to remove some older shots on my site to make room for the new, I’ve re-edited some old favorites and found some “new” old ones.  Re-processing these images, in some cases with plug-in software that I’m now much better at using, has made them better, no question about it.

I always liked this picture of Elowah Falls in Oregon, but a simple re-edit made it worth putting on my website.

I always liked this picture of Elowah Falls in Oregon, but a simple re-edit made it worth putting on my website.

This young Himba girl from north Namibia didn't need much of a re-edit, just re-discovery.

This young Himba girl from north Namibia didn’t need much of a re-edit, just re-discovery.

You may think all this argues for keeping everything, just in case.  I don’t believe this is true.  For starters, I know I wouldn’t want to plow through thousands and thousands of images to find those few I want to spend more computer time on.

As long as the reason you’re deleting an image (forever) is because it just isn’t very good (compositionally for example), and not simply because you can’t manage to make it look right, go ahead and trash it.

This barn in Washington's Palouse wheat-farming region I now like better with a square crop.

This barn in Washington’s Palouse wheat-farming region I now like better with a square crop.

The rugged north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington in the typical fog that makes it a shipping hazard.

The rugged north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington in the typical fog that has caused many a shipwreck. 

So now, once a year I commit, and recommend you do as well, to go through my archives and thoroughly review the images on my website.  Keeping your website fresh is important.  But I think a better reason to do this is to track how fast you’re improving, and how your editing skills are progressing too.

Plus it’s fun to breathe new life into an older image, to share both the picture and the memories behind it.  After all, this is a big reason why we picked up a camera in the first place.  Have a wonderful weekend and happy shooting!

Previous to this I just couldn't get an edit I liked of this colorful sunset over Arches National Park.

Previous to this I just couldn’t get an edit I liked of this colorful sunset over Arches National Park.

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