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.

Use your Creativity to get “Something from Nothing”

Suzanne Mathia Photography

Author: Suzanne Mathia
OK…  So here’s the situation…  You’re at one of the modern-day 7 Wonders of The World, the Grand Canyon.  There’s a layer of fresh snow, but the only 
problem is, the Canyon is completely fogged in.  This is the situation our Arizona Highways Photo Workshop found itself in for our afternoon shoot (Grand Canyon in Winter).  None of us had ever seen fog hanging in the canyon, so thick, for so long.  To give you an idea of just how thick it was, the first image is looking into the GC from the South Rim from just behind the lodges.  Visibility was about 10 feet, so I could see the tree and the edge, which of course was important also to avoid falling down 6800 feet !
Has anything like this happened to you ?  It might be fog, rain, other inclement weather, a lake or river with unexpectedly low water level, or any number of things.  So you can either call it a day and head back to the hotel, or put on your thinking cap, bring out your creative spirit, and perhaps create something amazing !
So what did we do to turn around our foggy afternoon ?
We were out at one of the many Canyon Points, or vistas.  I was trying to get at least something of a shot with the rocky ledge projecting into the Canyon.  Hey, I could at least see it.  This photo shows you just what I was seeing.  Even though we could see the ledge, the scene was still quite blah.
But I thought “If we only had a photographer down on that ledge in a Red coat”.  That would stand out nicely, and create a sense of interest and contrast to an otherwise blah scene.  Now that could be something. Since I had a red Winter parka, that’s when I changed from a photographer into a model.
The result ?  Magic !!
We had all our participants lined up at the overlook to this ledge, and with help from our master photographer (Suzanne Mathia), using the scene to create
their own unique compositions.  You can decide for yourself, but I believe the results were creative, unique, somewhat surreal, and inspired.  A different
approach to capturing the amazing landscape.
The first of these photos is from Bob Blue, our other Volunteer Trip Leader on this Workshop, and the second is from Sharon Philpott, one of our
participants kind enough to share her photo.
You can see that Bob’s photo is oriented as a portrait, uses the trees for framing, and seems to capture the place and the moment of the emerging sun.
Sharon, by capturing the scene in landscape mode, shows off something about the breadth and grandeur of the Canyon.  Although the photographer is still \
a central element for the eye to land on, he’s seen as tiny compared to the giant Canyon walls.  Two photos with two very different feelings and messages.
In both cases, the photographer in red is the key to making these images work.  And I’m not just saying that because it’s me
When presented with adverse or very challenging shooting conditions, don’t just go back to bed…  Think differently, Trust your instincts, and come up with something unique and magical !!
Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Photographing with Extension Tubes

Author: David Halgrimson

Here is a little info on using extension tubes to get that super close shot.

An extension tube is used on a lens to allow for getting closer to a subject. It is mounted between the camera body and the lens. They come in many sizes, i.e. I have a 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm. They are hollow, no glass, and simply move the lens closer to the subject.

There are two types that I am aware of, those that have electronics which allows for auto focus and those without electronics. You can guess which is less expensive. Typically, manual focus will be used anyway as focusing becomes very sensitive the closer you get to the subject. The disadvantage of none electronic tubes is no adjustment for aperture unless the aperture can be set on the lens. The cost is very reasonable, a set of three starting around $40 and up unless Canon, Nikon or other brand names are preferred.

Extension tubes can be combined, i.e. a 13mm and a 25mm for a total of 38mm. The larger the mm of extension used the closer the lens can be to the subject. There is some light loss from using extension tubes and this will have to be adjusted for in the camera.

The use of a tripod when using extension tubes is almost a must as focusing becomes very tricky.  Extension tubes are great for flowers, insects and any other small subjects.

I took these photos using the camera with no extension tube and then with 4 different tubes, 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm, I did not combine any. A Canon 5D mkII and a 24-105mm lens was used and the focus ring was set to the Macro area of the lens and ISO was 100 for all the images here. The camera was on a tripod and was not moved,

© David Halgrimson — This first image was taken with no extension tube attached, the settings were 70mm, f/7.1, 1/800th and about 10 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The second image was taken using a 13mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 9 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The third image was taken using a 21mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 5.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fourth image was taken using a 25mm extension tube, and settings of 70mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 4.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fifth image was taken using a 31mm extension tube, and settings of 73mm, f/7.1, 1/100th and about 3.5 inches from the subject.

I started getting shadow on the subject the lager I went with the extension tubes so this is something to keep in mind. Also, focus was getting more difficult and DOF was getting very narrow, I did not try other aperture settings, this is another thing to be aware of. This was not an exact science experiment, I only wanted to show what an extension tube can do for getting those very close shots.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

How to Capture Star Trails

By Megan P Galope
Twitter = @megangalope

At the end of January, I attended the AHPW Advanced Star Trails workshop taught by Beth Ruggiero-York. We learned how to take many photos over the span of a couple hours and stack them together to create incredible photos of star trails. The shape of the star trails depends on the direction you are pointing your camera. If you point east, your trails will arc across the sky:

If you prefer the classic circle, you will need to point towards Polaris (the north star):

Ever since the workshop, I’ve been excited to try this again. For the best results, however, you will need dark skies—meaning you need to get away from the city. I finally had an opportunity to try again when I traveled to Rocky Point, Mexico. The timing wasn’t the greatest as it had just recently been a full moon (it is better to do this closer to a new moon so that the moonlight doesn’t interfere). Luckily, the moon didn’t rise until a few hours after sunset, so that gave me a little time to take some star trails.

The first night I chose to point my camera south towards the ocean. Around sunset, I set up my camera for the composition that I wanted and determined the hyperfocal distance using my handy Depth of Field app on my phone. After getting the proper focus, I set my camera to manual focus and taped down the lens to avoid accidentally bumping it. Towards the end of astronomical twilight (about an hour and a half after sunset), I took some images of the foreground. Once it was fully dark, I took my high ISO test shot to determine the settings I would need to use for my images. I ended up setting my intervalometer to take 3.5-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4. I took a couple test shots to make sure everything looked okay, and then let it run. I had time for 36 images before the moon rose. I then took my 2 dark frames (same settings with the lens cap on). Using Lightroom, StarStax, and Photoshop, I was able to combine all of my images to create the final product:

The next night, I decided to try pointing towards Polaris for the circle effect. This would be a bit more difficult as it would mean pointing towards the houses and more light pollution. I determined that I would need to take 4-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4, plugged it into my intervalometer and let it run. Unfortunately, I decided to skip the test shots (I blame the wine), and instead of setting the intervalometer for 4-minute exposures, I accidentally set it for 4-hour exposures. Three and a half hours later, I found a very overheated camera with a dead battery and one unusable image:

It pays to follow all the steps!

If you’d like to learn more about creating star trails, come to our Symposium on November 4-5, 2017, where Beth will host a session on shooting and stacking star trails.

How I Got the Shot – Poppies under the Blazing Arizona Sun

Author: Ambika Balasubramaniyan

Settings:

  • Camera: Canon 5DMIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 II USM
  • Settings: Av (Aperture Priority)1/40 sec, f22, ISO 100, 16mm
  • Filter: None

Location: Bartlett Lake, Arizona

  • This location in Arizona typically explodes with poppies mid-late March if the rain and temperature conditions are conducive to good bloom. In March 2017, the steady moisture over winter delivered a great bloom year for the poppies. In other years, when the rain is inconsistent over winter – there may be very few poppies. Another note, you also find some white & orange poppies here in addition to the yellowish-orange kind!
  • Location guide: Wild in Arizona™: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How(Expanded 2nd Edition) by Paul Gill & Colleen Miniuk-Sperry Location #25 Page 102

Vision: An above average heat made for a blazing hot March and I wanted to capture the contrast of the delicate poppies under the blazing Arizona sun – a juxtaposition of hot and cool. I wanted to feature the sun as an integral part of the image in addition to using light the highlight the delicate poppy petals.

Image Capture: I wanted to showcase the sun along with poppies feature the mid-morning sun – higher up in the sky rather than the typical sunrise – on the horizon treatment. I wanted the image to convey “hot” and showcase the sun loving poppies reaching up to soak up the rays. I also included a bit of the surrounding hills to set context. The image capture was set up was with the Canon 16 – 35 mm lens for the wide angle treatment, shooting upwards from below the clump of poppies on a roadside berm to emphasize the poppies reaching up towards the sun. Aperture was set to f22 to include the sun as a “sunburst” in the composition. The small aperture at f22 on the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II USM wide angle lens generates a pleasing starburst.  I also intentionally under exposed the image to ensure a sharp “sunstar” with a workable image that was not over exposed. Remember to remove ALL filters in front of your lens to minimize any lens flare. You may still get some lens flare from the internal elements of the lens but you can do your part in minimizing them!

If you are interested in learning more about sun bursts & different lens that make good ones: https://www.outdoorphotographyguide.com/article/how-to-create-a-starburst-effect/.

Post Processing: Images were post processed in Lightroom CC minimally – some cropping, opening up of the shadows, pop of clarity & saturation in Lightroom.  Some of the lens flare artifacts were also cloned out to clean up the sun.

The key post processing move for this image is the opening up of the shadows that show cases the color of the poppies against the blue sky!

Ambika is a Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Capturing Clouds : Tips

Author: Kerrick James

Most of my sixty or so Arizona Highways photo workshops have featured the pursuit of Landscape, the endlessly challenging chase for light and drama, texture and natural design that we hope will unite in an evocative slice of time that both defines a place, and your skill in rendering that reality. Somewhat paradoxically, it’s very often the atmospheric phenomena above the land that elevate the image to its greatest impact. In a word, Clouds, are key. Call them ‘icing on the cake’, or any descriptor you wish, but distinctive clouds are always worth waiting or planning for. I’ve whiled away thousands of hours over the years waiting for clouds to arrive or depart, to morph or reveal, and still they surprise, delight and confound me.

Storm clouds of all types are inherently dramatic, and indeed stormlight is my personal favorite situation. But having Clouds in place over a striking graphic landform is always my chief goal, as the clouds themselves without a hint of land are merely meteorological trophies. It seems there are more types of clouds than earthly gemstones, and here are some examples:

Shiprock, New Mexico (linear, horsetail Clouds)

Jungfrau, Switzerland  (clearing storm clouds)

Hunts Mesa, Monument Valley  (morning monsoon clouds)

Three Sisters, Monument Valley (morning monsoon clouds)

Sometimes the clouds are moving at surprising speed over the land, and by using a neutral density filter and very low ISO, you can attain long shutter speeds even in full sunlight. Obviously a sturdy tripod is essential, and don’t forget that you can shoot clouds at night if you have some moonlight to work with.

Colorado River at North Canyon, Grand Canyon  (30 seconds, F 11, ISO 100)

Sunrise light on Totem Pole (Yei Be Chi), Monument Valley (1/10th second, F/16)

Stars and clouds over the Bluemlisalphorn, Switzerland  (172 seconds F8, ISO 100)

And let’s face it, luck favors those who wake up early, or wait past the edge of patience. Last June I finally got sweet light after sunrise, illuminating clouds that featured patterns and weight and well, gravitas, flowing slowly over Double Arch. It only took thirty years to find them there, or to find myself in the right place, at the right moment, watching the clouds go by…

Sunrise clouds over Double Arch, Arches NP, Utah

 

Kerrick James is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
Space still available in Kerrick’s Glacier workshop July 24-28, 2017