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Wordless Wednesday: Intracoastal Waterway, FL:   8 comments

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Single-image Sunday: Surf Fishing   4 comments

I know it’s a bit lame, but I can’t help but apologize for my recently inconsistent Friday Foto Talk posts.  Blame it on that good old sense of guilt that everyone raised Catholic seems to suffer from.  Believe me I haven’t forgotten about it.  I’m also going to be collecting all of them into one or more e-books.  It surprises me to look back and see how many I’ve amassed over these past several years.  It’s a nice summary of my photography knowledge (which hopefully still has a long way to go)

In the meantime, enjoy this image from the other morning.  I’ve been rising in the pre-dawn every morning for work, but it mostly happens that the people I’m working with abhor starting before the sun is up.  The happy result is that I get to enjoy a peaceful sunrise somewhere.  On this morning I walked over the dunes just as the sun was breaking through and in time to see this fisherman casting into the breakers for snook.  In talking to him I detected an accent that made me think South African but with a small twist.  Turns out he was from east Africa.  Retired now, he walks up to the beach almost every morning for some surf fishing at sunrise.

Thanks for looking and have a great week.

Surf-fishing at sunrise, Atlantic Coast of Florida.  50 mm. Zeiss lens, 1/100 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Surf-fishing at sunrise, Atlantic Coast of Florida. 50 mm. Zeiss lens, 1/100 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Wordless Wednesday: On the North Rim   2 comments

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Posted June 8, 2016 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

Friday Foto Talk: Intimate Landscapes   14 comments

Beautiful Falls Creek in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Beautiful Falls Creek in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. 55 mm., 20 sec. @ f/22, tripod.

Last week I posted under the somewhat ambitious title How to Shoot Landscapes.  I mentioned that landscapes come in all sizes, so this week we’ll look at the small scale world of landscape photography.  Most of the photos here are of this type, what I call intimate landscapes.  But a few straddle the line or are definitely the more typical large-scale landscape.  I like sharing recent images with you here on the blog even if they don’t match the topic precisely.  But I also think they help to illustrate the difference between the two kinds of images.

No clear dividing line exists between the more photographed grand landscape and the less common intimate variety.  The same goes for the lower boundary between intimate landscape and macro photography.  In general if you’re shooting something less than the size of a football field/pitch (often much smaller), but you’re including more real estate than a typical macro photo (and not using your macro lens), then you’re shooting an intimate landscape.

Entrance to the narrows at Red Wall Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California.

Entering the narrows at Red Wall Canyon, Death Valley National Park.  16 mm., 1/4 sec. @ f/16, ISO 100, tripod.

A traditional home in west-central Cambodia, shot from the edge of the rice paddy about a hundred feet away.

A traditional home in west-central Cambodia.  Shot from the edge of the rice paddy about a hundred feet away, this one straddles the line between intimate and large landscape. 135 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/14, ISO 200, handheld.

HOW TO SHOOT AN INTIMATE LANDSCAPE

  • Which one to shoot?  Let your unconscious be your guide, but realize it’s easier to miss smaller, intimate landscapes.  When a grand landscape inspires you, shoot that.  But always be on the lookout for smaller scenes as well, and photograph those when they interest you in some way.  Try not to go out with the goal of shooting one or the other.
  • Composition is still king.  The same things that make large landscapes work well (subject off-center, sense of depth, use of leading lines, layers, tone and color, and balancing elements) will strengthen your intimate landscapes.
In central Oregon's Painted Hills, you can walk among colorful badlands.  19 mm., 1/10 sec. @ f/10, ISO 100, tripod.

In central Oregon’s Painted Hills, you can walk among colorful badlands. 19 mm., 1/10 sec. @ f/10, ISO 100, tripod.

  • Strong subjects help.  Of course a strong main subject helps any landscape image, but in smaller more intimate scenes, where all of the elements tend to appear the same size and are usually lighted similarly, a good strong subject is even more important.  Remember a striking color contrast can also make for a strong subject.

Shot under an overcast sky, Fairy Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is a very popular intimate landscape to shoot. 45 mm., 1 sec. @ f/10, ISO 160, tripod.

  • Issues of light and sky.  Oftentimes intimate landscapes are more appropriate when the sky is overcast and the light is even (image above).  Typical small-scale landscapes don’t include much (if any) sky.  But those aren’t rules!  Now we know that great light, whether it’s strong & directional or filtered & reflected by clouds is perfect for grand landscapes that include a lot of sky.  But that light is also great for intimate landscapes, even when you don’t include any sky (image below).

Beautiful light filters into Oregon’s Eagle Creek Canyon near sunset. 24 mm., 3.2 sec. @ f/13, ISO 100, tripod.

  • Careful with clutter. This point is closely related to the one about strong subjects above.  It’s important to be careful with clutter in all landscape photos.  But when your landscapes are composed of elements that are all close to you, it’s even more important to simplify compositions as much as possible.  With big wide-angle landscapes, more distant things tend to look small in the frame, so are not as likely to distract the viewer.  When everything is close, that stuff may easily distract.
These redwood trees grow not in California but in Oregon.  A very simple image shot from a steep slope out into the forest.

These redwood trees grow not in California but in Oregon. A very simple image shot from a steep slope out into the forest.  To limit clutter it isn’t a wide-angle shot.  55 mm., 1/40 sec. @ f/8, ISO 800, handheld.

  • Images with a sense of depth.  Shooting near to far compositions (one good way to lend a sense of depth) are more challenging when working on smaller scales.  But it’s possible.  You may be focusing very close to the lens, so choose a lens that has a so-called “macro” setting.  It’s not truly macro of course (marketing).  Always wide-angle with fairly short focal lengths, these kinds of lenses open up a lot of possibilities for intimate landscapes because they can focus very close, in some cases less than a foot away.  Getting down low can also help add depth.
Recent shot in Washington's Columbia Hills in the eastern Columbia Gorge.  Borders on a large landscape, the bit of sky and close-focus on the flowers giving it depth.

Recent shot in Washington’s Columbia Hills in the eastern Columbia Gorge. Borders on a large landscape, the bit of sky and close-focus on the flowers giving it depth. 16 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 100, tripod.

  • Sky and depth.  While we’re talking about a sense of depth, here’s something to try.  After shooting an intimate landscape that excludes the sky, zoom out a little or shift the camera up a bit and include just a small bit of sky, not much.  Compare and see if that doesn’t add more depth to the image.  The image above makes use of both this and the above tips on adding a sense of depth.

So next time you’re out photographing your favorite landscape, try to find more intimate scenes.  It adds variety to your portfolio and can yield some of your favorite images.  Tune in next week for Friday Foto Talk for some tips on focus and depth of field when shooting intimate landscapes.  Have a great weekend!

Landscape at larger scale but shot from the same place as the image above, just turned around to face the sunset.

Landscape at larger scale but shot from the same place as the image above, just turned around to face the sunset. 16 mm., 1.6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200, tripod.

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset Paddle   Leave a comment

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Single-image Sunday: The Super Bowl!   7 comments

It’s Super Sunday!  That day when nearly everyone in America gets together with friends or goes to sport pubs and watches the last two football teams standing duke it out for the championship.  It’s also the day when everybody overeats and quite a few drink too much.  This year it’s the Denver Broncos vs. the Carolina Panthers.  The storyline is that Peyton Manning, the veteran quarterback who owns most important records for that most important position, is likely retiring after this game.  And even if he decides to stay one more year, this is almost certainly his only chance to go out on top.

Peyton has been one of the best QBs to ever play the game, but his skills have diminished somewhat because of age and a devastating injury to his neck 5 years ago.  He still has what it takes from the neck up, but arm strength is not what it used to be.  His counterpart on the other side is the complete opposite of Manning in every respect.  Carolina’s Cam Newton is young, just coming into his own.  He is the odds-on favorite for most valuable player this year.  He runs and passes with devastating effectiveness (most QBs do not run much).

Newton is 6 feet 5 inches and 260 pounds, an unusual size for a QB and a nightmare to bring down.  He’s capable of running over a linebacker on one play and then throwing the ball on a rope into the end zone on the next.  His personality couldn’t be more different than Peyton’s, with his old-school business-like manner on the field.  Cam dances and plays to the crowd, and obviously loves the camera.  He’s gregarious and demonstrative, and this rubs some fans the wrong way.

Newton is also black, and while there have been plenty of black QBs in the NFL for years, it still seems to be an issue for some.  I think his dancing and other antics are absolutely no big deal.  It’s not my style, but I’m not him and you can’t argue with the way he plays.  As long as he doesn’t taunt the opposite team (and he doesn’t), I really don’t care how much he dances.  Others are really bothered by his style and personality, and some commenters point to race as the reason for this.  I don’t believe that either.  Other than the relative few but typically noisy outright racists, I think most of the criticism of Newton arises from an age/personality conflict.  Peyton, by the way, is white.

A bronco throws a panter, I mean a buckaroo! Small-town rodeo, eastern Oregon.

A bronco throws a panter, I mean a buckaroo! Small-town rodeo, eastern Oregon.

My team is out of it, but I’m definitely rooting for a team.  Can you guess from the photo which team?  I’m like many fans outside Carolina in that I want to see Peyton go out with a Super Bowl ring.  Also, the Panthers are favored and I normally go for the underdog.  Finally, the Broncos are a western team, and I’m a western boy.  In order to win, most agree the Broncos will need to run the ball well, play stellar defense, and not turn the ball over.  Peyton will also need to have a near-perfect day.  Carolina has a strong balanced team and can run the ball well.  Denver’s defense has been the league’s best for most of the year.  It will probably need to force two or more turnovers in order to win.

Okay, let the game begin!  Go Broncos!

 

 

How to saw a log   1 comment

I can count on one hand the number of re-blogs I’ve done. But this reminded me of the kind of travel photography I really have been missing lately. And of course it reminded me of that wonderful country Malawi.

Africa far and wide

We had an old log at the back of our garden. Old logWhile it added an element of charm, I thought I’d enjoy it more on my verandah, as a table! And so I began to enquire about ‘Sawmen in the Nchalo area.’  It would be an easy job no doubt. Just one log. Switch on the machine and slice it up like piece of paper.

I was given a number for a Sawmen by the name of Jofrey. I called him and he said he’d be there at 6am the next day. He gave me a daily rate and we agreed. He’d bring his friend too, Luca.

It was going to be another scorcher. We were in our 3rd week of temperatures reaching the mid forties. The rains were late and Al Nino was in full force; sucking the countryside dry of all moisture. Plants drooped, baked alive by…

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Posted January 11, 2016 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Silent City   11 comments

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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.

The Border   14 comments

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a beautiful stretch of desert along the border with Mexico in southern Arizona.  I had not been here before a couple weeks ago.  There are cactus flats and naked-rock desert mountains (The Ajos), with canyons marking the transition between the two.  Best of all, it is relatively unvisited.

There are a few reasons for Organ Pipe being mostly empty of people.  One is the distance from population centers.  Another is name recognition (after all, Yellowstone is far from population centers too).  A third reason is climate.  Summertime gets very hot here, hotter than most people like.  Nearly all of its visitors come during the “snowbird” season – that time in winter when caravans of retirees from the north show up in RVs to swell Arizona’s population.

Organ Pipe's namesake cactus fruit in late summer.

Organ Pipe’s namesake cactus fruit in late summer.

But the most interesting reason for Organ Pipe being empty is its reputation for being hazardous.  It’s not the animals that are particularly dangerous, though there are rattlesnakes.  And it’s not the terrain, though hiking off-trail is a good way to get stuck by cactus (ouch!).  Much of the terrain is flat.  Actually the reason the area is considered dangerous is the proximity to the Mexican border.  Organ Pipe for years was a favorite place for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants to cross the border into the U.S.

Thanks to the guy with the hairpiece (who shall remain nameless), as well as the crisis in Europe, immigration is the topic du jour right now.  In the case of Organ Pipe, the flow has definitely slowed.  Border patrol is a constant presence, operating out of their huge base just to the north.  I camped in some lonely spots, but they always drove right on by in their SUVs, probing the dark desert with spotlights, looking for dark-skinned travelers.

Cholla bloom, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ.

Cholla bloom, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ.

Saguaro cactus 'buds'

Saguaro cactus ‘buds’

Organ Pipe is a classic case of a great destination being a prisoner of its past reputation.  To be sure, illegal crossings still take place here.  But their over-riding goal is to avoid people.  The place just does not seem very dangerous to me.  I never saw any immigrants or smugglers, even though I strayed off-trail numerous times.  In fact, I saw only a few other people period.

I did see signs of past crossings, some of them weathered and old.  I saw old backpacks, the small cheap kind you find being sold in markets throughout Central America.  I found tattered blankets and sweatshirts beneath bushes, and single sneakers.  I found plenty of black water bottles.  These are for some reason the favorite way for immigrants to carry water.  I even found a blood-stained rock.  Perhaps some were reduced to going barefoot by this point.  Not a pretty sight in this cactus-filled desert.  By the way I could not bring myself to photograph the more disturbing of these remnants.

Another empty black water bottle: AZ-Mex border area.

Another empty black water bottle: AZ-Mex border area.

 For the shot of the Ajo Mtns. below I wanted to show some of the rugged country these people have to traverse, guided by the infamous “coyotes”.  These nefarious guides often leave immigrants stranded without much (if any) water as soon as they are across the border.  If you’re an immigrant you follow the Ajo Mountains not only because they run north, but because springs, though sparse, are scattered all along their base.  But you have to know where they are, so being abandoned here puts you in a very bad spot.  Thankfully some kind souls have set up water stations, marked with blue flags (below).

A water cache near the Mexican border, southern Arizona.

A water cache near the Mexican border, southern Arizona.

Looking south into Mexico from a perch in Arizona's Ajo Mountains.

Looking south into Mexico from a perch in Arizona’s Ajo Mountains.

As I walked the desert here, I followed washes and used the terrain to screen myself from view, getting a feel for what an immigrant faces.  But not really.  I had plenty of water, was well-rested and had good hiking shoes and clothes.  I also tried walking on a moonless night, when the immigrants must do most of their traveling, but I kept running into cholla (ouch again!).

Evening falls along the U.S. - Mexican border in southern Arizona. Time to travel!

Evening falls along the U.S. – Mexican border in southern Arizona. Time to travel!

This sad situation aside, Organ Pipe really is a beautiful desert.  So many times I looked out and thought of a garden not a desert.  The variety of cactus and other plants is simply amazing.  Although late summer is hot, it also is the time of the monsoon, when common thunderstorms provide rain for blooming cactus.  All this desert beauty is set off against the spectacular backdrop of the rugged Ajo Mountains.  If you ever find yourself in southern Arizona, definitely consider a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Sunset over mountains along the U.S. - Mexican border, southern Arizona.

Sunset over mountains along the U.S. – Mexican border, southern Arizona.

Posted September 22, 2015 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

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