Is there an Artist inside?

By John Frelich

Do you find something lacking in your photography? Are you envious of others who get great close-ups and macro photography? I know I am but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an excellent image in your portfolio or where you may be taking a trip, local or far away.

Seek out variations of images that you’ve seen and liked before in planning a shot. Below, I had seen some nice flamingo images in the past and liked the flow of the birds, their coloring and texture. So I went ahead and visited a zoo, saw something I really liked and submitted it for a contest. See below for the result.

In a recent workshop I saw the flow of manes of some Scandinavian horses and think I will wait until something associated with the image comes up in a contest. Keeping a portfolio of “fun” images sometimes “pays off.” If not, you can always please yourself.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Life Lessons learned from Macro Photography

By Lisa Hanhard

I had never been what people would call a patient person. I’d always been very goal oriented and for my first 40 years on this earth I was charging through life. My quest was to aim for my next goal, whether personal, professional or physical until it was achieved. Then I would seek out my next challenge and charge forward again, single minded in my purpose of completing what I set out to do, learn or achieve. That was until I got my first macro lens, a Canon f2.8 100mm L series macro lens. And my life has never again been the same.

The day my life changed, started by taking a jaunt over to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Armed with my new lens I set out to see what I might discover that day. As I came to the little pond that day I saw the most magnificent creature, a gorgeous red rock skimmer dragonfly posing on a rock, and I was entranced. I stared at that little guy and took probably 200 photos. As I sat at the edge of the water it stared at me and I stared back, shooting photos. Every now and then it would do a little rotation, almost saying to me “you think this side of me is eye-catching, check me out from this angle.” Through the course or 15 minutes I just sat with that dragonfly photographing it from all angles.  When I got home to view my photos I was amazed at the detail and intricacy of this creature. I was astounded that in 40 years of life I had never even noticed a dragonfly before, let alone seen their delicate details. The dragonfly became symbolic to me of all of the breath-taking things in the world that I had never slowed down enough to see. From that day forward I have been peeking into flower buds, looking into trees, and crawling on the ground to see what else I have been missing, and I’ve learned there is so much beauty everywhere if we only take the time to look.

Some things that I have learned on the journey.

Patience – If you clear your mind and relax, beautiful things will happen. The best moments in life do not happen when you are in a hurry. Sit down, and plan to stay for a while.

For example, Dragonflies are very territorial and generally flit back to the same branch or two consistently. If you miss a shot, just sit quietly and chances are they will come right back to you, and even pose for you a few minutes later.

Most of my best dragonfly shots photos have come after missing a shot. It gave me time to prepare my focus and choose the best seat to wait for the dragonflies return.

Solitude can be a very nice thing – Spending some time with nature in total solitude can be very peaceful. Not only will you get some of your best shots, but letting your brain have time to totally shut down is very relaxing.

Beauty has many angles – Make sure to explore as many as you are able. If you don’t like the way something looks, change your perspective.

Life is short. A dragonfly only flies for the final few months of its life. Get out, explore, look for beauty everywhere, and make friends along the way. Arizona Highways Photo Workshops are a great place to do that 🙂

And, next time you see a plant or flower of bush, look closer. You might find a tiny little magical world waiting for you to explore.  Enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Hanhard is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Following Through

Author: John Frelich

Ft. Ross 03

To me an important aspect to photography is the ability to follow through with obtaining your photographic interests. To do so doesn’t necessarily mean getting award winning images. It can fill in certain voids you have for your portfolio and personal interests. In an earlier blog I wrote about the Russian colony north of San Francisco, Fort Ross.

At first I thought it was a story perpetrated by story telling guides. The more I looked into it I found there were mixed signals of its existence and purpose. Finally this summer I went to the last California mission, San Francisco de Solano that is now a California State Park in Sonoma, CA. What I learned in history was the fact that the fort not only existed but also remained active for around 30 years, a Russian colony here in the lower 48 states. That is not covered in any history books East of the Mississippi.Fort Ross 06

Because of that I now have the basis for what I hope will be an interesting short slideshow for our photo club. While there is not much to be seen from the remaining buildings it stands high in the minds of local Russians. While there, we saw caterers setting up tables because a wedding was going to be held in 2 hours on the grounds. To further set the scene all of the arriving guests spoke in Russian and the Ranger was cleaning a cannon that would be fired in celebration.

The moral is the same for all elements in photography – follow through until you complete your objectives.

John Frelich is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

How the Desert Waves Goodbye

A wonderful introspection on the beauty of White Pocket and the Colorado Plateau. We are glad you enjoyed your experience.

Catchlightsb

I’m up!” It’s 4:30 a.m., as I grab my camera pack, water bottle and turn on my head lamp.

“Is she coming along?” I hear someone in my group whisper. I emerge from my roof-top tent. “I’m coming. Wouldn’t miss it.”

We hike in the dark, through ancient sand, then each of us motivated adventure seekers part ways to find what catches our eye before the sun begins illuminate the desert.

Patterned sandstone, panoramic views and chilled wind fill the landscape.

I watch as my travel companion, my dad, carefully perches aside his tripod. With razor-sharp focus, he has found his optimal spot.

Like the light beginning to emerge from the background of this incredible national monument, cliff-dwelling swallows swoop left and right, like kites without strings.

There are so many angles my eye wants to catch all at once. It’s beyond exhilarating. The light fragments jump over the prehistoric sandstone…

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Has software eliminated the need for filters in the field?

By Becky Chapman

When I started in photography, the in-camera exposure was one of the most critical aspects of the image. Now when I am out in the field shooting with other photographers, I hear “it doesn’t have to be a perfect exposure, you can always clean it up in post” all the time. So, the question arises, how perfect does the exposure need to be to make a beautiful image?

It used to be “processing time” was bringing the film to be developed. Now we are spending countless hours at the computer tweaking an image to get it right after the fact. The fact is that filters played a very big role in getting the exposure correct in camera and we spent our time in the field picking the right filters, adjusting exposure and figuring out what was needed to get it right. Since we can now achieve the same results with the software available, who wants to take all that time in the field?

You can certainly add creative filters in post, including colored filters, star filters, graduated neutral density filters and other compensating filters that we once had to use at the time of the shoot. There is still a lot to be said for getting it right in camera. Using a graduated neutral density filter in the field may keep you from having to shoot several frames for a HDR image. Using a color enhancing filter at sunset can give stunning results without having to play with it on the computer and it is very satisfying to get a fantastic image with minimal post effort.

There are still some filters that are an absolute must to have in your camera bag, especially if you are shooting landscape images. The first being a polarizing filter. When you are shooting any water images, a polarizer is crucial to remove the reflections and glare from the surface of the water. There is no amount of post processing you can do to remove a reflection from a stream when you are trying to get the detail of the rocks below the surface. That is something that, at the time of this writing, is simply not available once the image is shot.

A neutral density (solid) is also a must in my bag. If you are shooting a waterfall on a bright, sunny day, you are going to have a very hard time getting the water to get the beautiful wispy look you want even with the ISO dropped as far as possible with the fstop all the way down. ND filters also allow for very interesting cloud movement shots that are simply not possible as a single shot in camera.

I do like to have a split ND filter as well, although it is becoming less frequently used due to some limitations. With a graduated ND, you have the linear separation (even if it is graduated) and very often, your scene does not have a linear separation. If you are shooting a straight horizon, like at the beach shooting the ocean sunset, it is fine. If you are in the mountains or shooting a skyline, the linear nature of the filter is limiting. HRD processing is getting so much cleaner and less “crunchy” now, so that will typically be my choice in those situations.

When it comes down to the absolute musts, to me, the polarizer and the ND filters are the only ones I HAVE to have with me at all times. Creative filters are falling by the wayside as better software is released with the same effects that can not only be turned on, but also turned off if you decide you don’t need or want them. It is very easy to add color, starbursts, soft focus rings, and countless other creative effects. I will, however, continue to carry my filter systems in my bag to be used in the situations where software will just not cut it.

Whether you choose to use a filter in the field is a very personal choice. I still see people using them, but it is much less frequent than in the days of film and darkroom processing. So, if you are feeling nostalgic and want to see how it “used to be”, grab some filters and start playing!

This is the image directly OOC with only sharpening applied

This image had a graduated ND filter added in LightRoom added diagonally from the top left.

This is the same shot with the graduated ND filter, but also some of the local adjustments with the brushes and a graduated ND from the bottom right to increase the exposure in the rocks.

As you can see, the last image has addressed several issues with the original exposure that a simple ND filter on the lens would not have been able to address. This is a situation where an added filter on camera would simply not do the job that editing software can address.

Photo processing software is getting more powerful and can do many more things now that it could even a year ago. Who knows what is coming and what will be available to us in the future. For now, I will keep my polarizer and ND filters on hand and let the software address mostly everything else.

Becky Chapman is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Get off the trail and into the water!

 By Rick Sprain

Taking your camera on a nice trail is fun and good exercise but how about seeing the world from a entirely new perspective?  On the water. With all the rain we’ve had this winter it’s the perfect time to hit the lakes. Here in Prescott as with many of the lakes and  reservoirs around the state the rain has filled the lakes to the brim.

Since most of the small lakes prohibit motor powered boats, canoes and kayaks are a perfect remedy. If you don’t own one, many locations have concessions that will rent a canoe or kayak by the hour. By now you’re thinking there’s no way I’m taking my $3000 camera or smart phone anywhere near the water. If you just want to go out and enjoy the sites and tranquility that’s fine, but  you’re missing a perfect opportunity to photograph something that most people won’t be able to see.

To help with this problem, I have a number of items that can help you keep your camera safe and dry while still able to capture that perfect picture. You don’t have to spend $3,000 or even $300 on a waterproof housing for your camera. Most remedies range from about $15 to about $50. For you phone and point and shoot  photographers out there, there are a number of products that are available for under $15. The bag shown here is a perfect example. The cost is only about $15 and it lets you shoot right through the bag. There are similar products for phones. Even a tightly sealed freezer bag may protect your camera or phone  from a quick dunk or splash of water from an ore.

Personally I use a water proof bags shown here. There are many styles and sizes available that will accommodate just about any camera. Most range from $15 to $50. These are the same type of bags used by rafters in their boats as they go down the Colorado River. When used correctly they are totally water proof and will float if they end up in the water.

I also take along a towel to set the camera on along with a lens cleaning kit just in case a few drops get on my lens. I’ll take the camera out of bag, check it for water spots and to make sure the setting haven’t changed and take the picture. I then place it back in the bag and paddle to the next spot. Warmer weather will be here soon so get out and get on the water.

Rick Sprain is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Crested Saguaros and Horseshoe Lake

By Jeff Insel

My wife and I decided to venture out to Horseshoe Lake for a getaway of a couple of hours. We hadn’t been there before, even though we’ve lived within 32 miles for almost 30 years.  I brought my camera in the hopes that we might see something interesting along the way and I’m glad I did.

Once you make the turn off of Cave Creek Road to the Bartlett Lake turnoff you finally sense that you’ve begun to “get away from it all” and you have hilly, desert landscape all around. Before reaching Bartlett Lake, you’ll turn left onto Horseshoe Lake Dam Road – paved for a about 3 miles and then it becomes a graded dirt road – there several spots where the recent rain runoff had left dips and pot holes along the way but regular vehicles could still get along ok.

Our first surprise was seeing a Cristate or Crested Saguaro off to the west or left side of the road as we drove towards the lake, it was only about a mile or two on the dirt road and about 100 yards out. These are somewhat rare and you can for years without seeing one as you travel around the Sonoran Desert so I made sure to stop and get a photo.

As you approach Horseshoe Lake you first come to the Dam viewpoint turnoff and we thought we’d check it out. Turns out to be very interesting. It’s not a huge dam compared to Glen Canyon Dam or Hoover Dam and it’s easily accessible. There’s an overlook of the spillway to the left of the Dam and you’ll notice that it also has a walkway underway that spillway where you can walk and then go up to the Dam itself and view the lake and surrounding mountains.  It’s not too far a walk there and back with a slight incline on the road up to the Dam from the spillway. The spillway makes for some interesting photo opportunities.

On the road back out we noticed another Crested Saguaro about 25 yards off the road to the west between mile markers 7 & 6 and took a few minutes to capture a photo of it. I couldn’t believe we’d found two in just a few hours and not too far from each other, in 32 years living in Arizona I’ve only seen about four altogether.  Made for a very pleasant and pleasing few hours.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.