Monday, April 29, 2013

Narrows Of A Different Kind

When people say the Narrows, they usually are talking about the amazing hike in Zion National Park. But with a little research or a local's inside info you can find some spectacular places outside of Zion while in Southern Utah. This photo is taken from a hike in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area just outside the city of St. George and can be just as much fun as the real thing. My wife and I hiked up to and past this little scenic waterfall. On the right there are footholds that have been carved into the sandstone from the visitors over the years that makes climbing up fairly easy and worthwhile. After going about another half mile further up you are rewarded with a very cool slot canyon that the walls can be touched at the same time by just spreading out your arms.

 The entire hike has beautiful surroundings at every bend it seems, just like almost everywhere in Southern Utah. I will be posting these photos and several others from our incredible trip for sale and on G+ this week. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Slow Down And Look

It's amazing at the things we miss on a daily basis because we are in a hurry or are too busy or we just aren't paying close enough attention. This waterfall is just a few hundred feet from a canyon road that I have been on what feels like a thousand times. Growing up ten minutes away from the mouth of this amazing canyon it is part of my home. I have used this road for it's access to fly-fishing, snowboarding, hiking, and taking pictures for almost as long as I can remember. Yet I never stopped to see or photograph this great little waterfall. In fact I didn't even know it was there until I started doing a little research on different places to photograph that were a little closer by.

As I set out to take this photo, the day was a nice overcast day that would give good detail in the shadows and no blown out highlights. The canyon is a little farther away than it was from my childhood home but not by much. When I pulled over in the small parking lot a total of about thirty five minutes had passed since I left the house. I grabbed my bag, jumped out of the Rig(This is what my wife and I call my Xterra) and  I could already hear the waterfall flowing. I crossed the road and started hiking the trail. As I looked up I could see the falls at just a few feet in and kind of sat dumbstruck at the fact I had never seen these falls before. How did I miss this all this time? I continued on casually hiking the few hundred feet to the falls and looked for a few different compositions. There were still icicles hanging along the rock walls and I think they add an extra little detail as to how cold of a spring day it was, except for these icicles I liked this angle the best because it was the falls with not much else to distract from the great view.

I am still in amazement of how if I had just stopped for a minute and looked I could have seen these wonderful little falls years and years ago. It begs the question what else could I be missing and how slowing down all the hustle and bustle could benefit myself in other ways as well. I'll just have to take a look.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Black & White?

First a little back-story on the photo. These docks line the water on a lake in Utah near a natural hot spring. So even during the coldest months of winter the water is open and free of ice. This is great for fishing, and especially for bass fishing because the water is warm enough in the middle of January to catch some lunkers (I'm sworn to secrecy and I can't say where this lake is). The other advantage is the hot springs create a dreamy layer of steam and fog that makes for some very cool photo opportunities. I loved the look of the frost covered dock and the way the sunlight highlighted the steam's ebb and flow. I shot from a few different angles but this composition stood out the best.

After uploading this shot and applying a little processing, I loved the finished look of the photo, but I couldn't help but see it as a black and white image. The subtle coloring of the original made it easy to see as a viable option for a B&W conversion and I always try to keep an open mind about making good shots better.
As for when to do the conversion I am definitely in the school of thought of taking pictures as color first and then converting them to B&W in your favorite software later. My main reason is that the majority of my time shooting is spent looking to capture the brilliant colors coming from or highlighted by the golden hours of the sun and I  don't want to give those colors up too often. The other reason for shooting in color is that you can always keep the original, while shooting in monochrome there's no going back.

For the conversion there are almost always just a few keys I follow. Whatever software I use to make the change to B&W the first thing I do is bump up the contrast until the blacks look just right (you know black). The second key is the brightness usually needs a small increase due to darkening from the conversion and as long as the whites don't blow out we're good. The last step is a little bit of noise reduction to clean up any contrast noise introduced and I mean as little as possible to keep the details as sharp as possible. And that's it finished.

So for this picture I really liked both the color and the B&W versions and luckily I don't have to choose, I can use both.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Shot In The Dark

Four in the morning comes way to early, but somehow I made it out of bed, got ready and was out the door for the two hour trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. If you haven't been on the stretch of road on I-80 from Salt Lake to Wendover it is a straight and lonely road. By lonely, I mean at four in the morning it's you, your car, and nothing else. In fact the only thing to keep your interest is looking out your driver's side window at the very bright stars and the occasional car headlights shining in your eyes. The two hours crawled along and just when I thought it was never going to end, boom the rest stop appeared and I was there.

I got my gear, jumped out of the car, and hurried to capture the salt patterns I envisioned against the stars and the awesome sunrise. At least until I got half way down and saw that the whole flats were covered in several inches of water. Nooooo! I regrouped, took some quick shots of the brightening sky reflecting in the water and gave myself time to compose the shot I wanted in my mind.

There were some good salt deposits along the shore to add some depth and the sun would light up the mountains shortly. I jogged down the bank and found a couple nice compositions. The images I got aren't the typical shots for the salt flats and add a different level of satisfaction. Sometimes what we picture before the picture doesn't work out and plan b still makes the day great.