It feels good to sit down with a little free time and finally write this blog. As bad as I wanted to write this before I left for my trip on Dec 21st, 2016 and just get it out-of-the-way, I am glad I waited. One of my favorite images of the year was captured on New Years Eve in Bandon, Oregon. Taking 2 weeks away from the chaos of the holidays was the perfect way to end the year and cleanse my mind. I spent my time along the Oregon Coast and the weather was really nice for December.
I am doing this a bit different from most other photographers. Many photographers simply pick their favorite images of the year. I am going to share with you 2 images from each month. That being said, obviously some will be much better than others simply because there are certain months of the year when I don’t do as much in the field.
January – Starting the year off with a bang
Holy Cow! If you were a Denver Bronco Fan then your year started off pretty dang good when they beat Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the AFC Championship and head to the Super Bowl. I had 2 options. Buy a ticket to the game and get a shot from the inside or find this vantage point and hope they won. Including myself there were only 3 photographers who had this view and only 1 other photographer who got a shot similar to this. We were on the overpass (in a pedestrian walk area) getting live updates from our phones so that we could time our shooting so we did not miss the fireworks. The fireworks only lasted a couple of seconds and they were gone. Given all the back story to this image, this is a once in a lifetime shot. Peyton Manning’s last game in this stadium. The last time he would ever play against Tom Brady. Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @82mm, 64 ISO, F16, 1/4th second. Multiple images at these settings combined to make the final image.
Steamboat, Colorado is such a beautiful small place. I had been wanting to photograph this old historic barn/cabin for several years and the right conditions never presented themselves when I could go. After learning about a massive snowfall and then a day of clearing, I took my chances, I arrived in the middle of the night and simply waited for this light. Sunrise this morning was a bust, it was very foggy. After a couple of hours the sun had come up and the fog had lifted. I feel blessed to have shot this with no footprints or any signs of people. What drew me to this particular image was the shadows and lines in the snow. I also loved how the wood grain of the barn contrasted so nicely as the sun was hitting it. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @62mm, F9, 64 ISO, 1/250th second.
Balanced Rock is an iconic location in Colorado’s “Garden of the Gods”. From the parking area the rock really doesn’t look like it’s going to tip over because the base seems so much larger. I was set on trying to find an angle and vantage point that was a bit more dramatic. Something that would really give the viewer the illusion that it was ready to fall at any moment. Even walking around while standing up was different from getting low to the ground, as I did in this shot. I used the widest lens I had, got very close to the ground and shot the image looking up. I waited for a few minutes until the clouds were right over the rock to add a bit more drama to the overall image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F11, 64 ISO, 1/20th second.
No scene is ever the same twice. This is 100% true when speaking about landscape photography. If you see something you like, you better shoot it now because it will be totally different when you come back. I was actually on my way to another location when I was driving into Chatfield Lake State Park near my home here in Colorado. I saw the sky blowing up with color through the trees and I had to stop and get this shot. It took a moment to compose it to my liking and while this image doesn’t have a huge impact at this smaller size. Imagine it as a very large print in the 50×50 inch range. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105, F5.6, 200 ISO, 1/160th second
A typical, classic overcast day along the Oregon Coast. I had spent most of the morning hiking around the various areas of Cape Meares and I could see a big storm rolling in out over the ocean. As I made my way back up the trail I found this scene with the layered clouds and seas that were just starting to get rough. The color version looks black and white with very little contrast. I decided to just go with the Monochrome on this one and bring out the drama I was seeing with my own eyes when I shot the image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @68mm, 64 ISO, F8, 1/80th second
Ahhh, those springtime sunsets. The ponds have thawed, there are still some clouds in the sky and the colors are so unique. When I was walking around the pond I couldn’t quite find the comp I was looking for so I decided to do a panorama image of the entire scene. My results fascinated me. I never expected the land to be perfectly level with the clouds forming a circle in the sky and reflection. I believe this is a 5 shot vertical pano covering 180 degrees as I am looking north. The clouds were the reason I decided to pick this image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @24mm, 100 ISO, F8, 1/2 second.
I live 11 miles from Red Rocks and when I am home and there are no concerts going on this makes a nice vantage point to get above the city. I could see these clouds building up and was actually going up there for sunset. The weather in Colorado is crazy, don’t let anyone tell you different. As the sun began to set behind us and this cloud started pouring down rain, this gorgeous rainbow appeared. This lasted for about 3-4 minutes before the clouds behind us got dark and angry. We barely had time to get to the car before the lightning was striking all around us and hail was pounding the ground. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105, 64 ISO, F8, 1/320th second.
The Milky Way Rainbow over the Paint Mines near Calhan, Colorado. Away from the town of Colorado Springs far enough to take advantage of some really dark skies is a beautiful place known as the Paint Mines. We timed this image so that we could get the full moon rising a couple of hours before sunrise. This image showcases a few different things. A full 180 degree Milky Way. Roughly 8 images were used for the panorama sequence. The full moon rising under the Milky Way, the Milky Way bubble with the Lagoon Nebula and a very very rare siting of Comet 252p/linear. I am not sure if you can see that on this image but during April many photographers were noticing a small green dot in their night images. After doing a little research I found out that it was indeed a comet. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm – 3200 ISO, F2.8, 30 seconds.
During one of our workshops in Grand Teton National Park. While our Night Photography Workshops focus on shooting the night sky, we also like to allow our students to take advantage of sunset conditions when they present themselves. We could see this forming for miles. We arrived at this location with our students and it was fun to watch them all scatter and find a good vantage point. Mike stayed up top with some of the students and I went down along the creek with the rest and then the sky just started lighting up and put on a show for about 30 min. It was one of the most incredible sunsets I had ever seen. When we all gathered back at the cars we were all just speechless. It was a great bonus for our students to get to see such an amazing sight in such an amazing place. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @35mm, 64 ISO, F8, 1/15th second.
I’m not sure there is a better place to get a good nights rest. This particular night I went out with 2 other photographers down to 11 mile reservoir west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. We knew our timing was perfect for the milky way shots we wanted to get. One of my friends decided to bring his yellow tent. Towards the end of the night we decided it was time to set it up. The Milky Way was in the perfect location in the sky for the shots we wanted. Many people will argue that this is a composite image or multiple image blend but I can assure you this is a single exposure. We used some creative lighting techniques to properly illuminate the tent from the inside and the longer, blurry stars in the water are simply from the water moving a little bit during the exposure. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24mm 1.4, F2.2, 1600 ISO, 30 seconds.
Vacation time with my daughter. We set out on a 6 week road trip, traveling through many states and national parks. We left our home in Denver and drove straight through to Yosemite NP in California. Crazy I know. It was her idea. I will openly admit I had never been here before and I had not planned out any places to shoot. I wanted to experience it with fresh eyes and no set images I wanted. We car camped up at Glacier Point that night and what a great experience that was for her. My daughter loves car camping. It was a crystal clear night, billions of stars to see. The next day we wandered around the park in the early hours after sunrise and I found this scene. I loved the way the light was beaming down behind the rocks yet in the middle of the scene. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @90mm, F7.1, 64 ISO, 1/320th second.
As much as I love the Oregon Coast all year-long, there is one thing that makes Summer that much more special. The clover blooms along the beach. When you book a room at either the Overleaf Lodge and Spa or Fireside Motel these blooms are right our your front door on the beach. I happened to be here at peak season and they were beautiful . There was a very thin haze in the sky which made for a very colorful sunset in spite of the fact that there were no clouds. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @52mm, 200 ISO, F13, 1/80th second
Delicate Arch, Moab, Utah, Arches National Park with the Milky Way bursting out from behind. I had tried this shot on many occasions and was bound and determined to get it right. I knew it could not be done with 1 image so I started looking around for software programs that would zoom the stars for you. I didn’t find any that I thought gave good results. One night while out shooting I decided to use my zoom lens and do a longer exposure while zooming the lens. It worked. It took me a few tries to get it like I wanted but in the end I had the stars just how I wanted. I knew I could then shoot the arch and blend to the 2 together. For those of you who have been up to Delicate arch in the summer, you know the Milky Way does appear right behind the arch. It’s quite a sight to experience. I was happy to be able to make my vision come to life with this image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 20 seconds
Rocky Mountain National Park, 90 miles from my home. This particular morning I was scouting for Elk in the meadow and I noticed these clouds forming over the mountain. I walked along the stream to find a decent comp where I could include the foreground rocks under the water. A short exposure freezing the water would not allow the viewer to see the rocks. By using a slightly longer shutter speed the water moved over the rocks during the exposure and allowing them to be visible. When I took this shot I remember thinking how nice it was the way the clouds expanded from the mountain covering the entire sky of my frame. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F18, 31 ISO, 0.8 seconds.
August was the month I fell in love with Kansas all over again. I used to visit all the time as a kid. We had (have) family that live there. I remember big hail storms in the summer and everyone running for cover. Broken windows, dented cars, ect… I met Barbara Mandrell in Kansas back in the early 80’s. Family got older, we quit going to the reunions and time passed. Then one day while scrolling through the internet I found this picture of an arch. An arch I had never seen before. When I found out it was in Kansas and only a 5 hr drive…I took off. Not knowing what to expect I figured I would get out there, see it and then turn around and come home. Quite the opposite. While the area is rather small and there are only 2 rock formations on the property, you can walk around all of them to get different views and angles, depending on what the weather is doing. I went out there twice for a couple of days at a time and there was never a dull moment. massive thunder and lighting storms all night and epic sunrise and sunsets in the morning and evening. This particular image was taken just as the sun was setting and these monster clouds were building. I kid you not. An hour after I shot this, we had major lighting bolts 366 degrees all around us. It was amazing. I left the person in here to give the area a sense of scale. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F15, 64 ISO, 1/2 second.
And then it happened. This cloud produced serious lighting all night long. While most of it was internal it still lit up the cloud very nicely. Again, this is a single exposure image. There are a few areas of the clouds that look like they are layered and the reason that it looks that way is because the lightning was going off multiple times during the exposure so the clouds were in very slightly different positions, therefore, showing the movement of the clouds. This was only the second time in my life where I had a chance to witness a storm cloud and lighting with the clear sky above. The previous time was up in RMNP and I was already at 11k feet. This image in Kansas was taken at sea level. Exif Data – Nikon D810 –Sigma 24-35 @24mm, F2.2, 1600 ISO, 30 seconds.
Mike and I plan our workshops roughly 9 months in advance. After looking at the dates for our final Arches workshop in 2016 I began to do a bit of research. I had been to this location several times for sunrise or sunset and even one time at night by myself. None of the images I go turned out like this. This was the image I wanted. I had been dreaming of this image for about 3 years. I quickly checked the position of the Milky Way and knew it would be lined up perfectly. I knew with both instructors we would have enough light panels to properly light each of the areas of the arches. We made the suggestion to our students on what was a crystal clear night and they jumped at the chance to do this. We had 2 students from Austria who were very excited about this location and were asking me about it even before the workshop started. Working together with other people to create an image that is rarely seen sure is a nice treat. Mike worked with one group of students back at Turret Arch and I worked with another group at this location. By using walkie talkies we were able to do test shots until we got the lights in just the right spot. We let after my group got their shots, we let the groups switch locations so that everyone who wanted a chance to shoot this got it. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 25 seconds.
Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Wyoming. Mount Moran reflecting in the very calm Snake river as the fall colors line the banks. When shooting this location ( and I have many times ) it’s amazing how just a few steps this way or that way can really make a difference in your composition based on the way you’re facing the mountains. We generally schedule our final workshop of the year in Grand Teton National Park. We are able to take advantage of the late summer Milky Way as well as the fall colors. When we have ambitious students like we normally do, it’s not uncommon to show up at class in the afternoon and hear how awesome their day was shooting the sunrise. We really like that they can take advantage of the other wonderful scenery as well as the gorgeous night sky. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F5.6, 64 ISO, 1/250th second.
I have a 4×4 Jeep but it’s not really suited for the kind of driving needed to get up to the infamous Crystal Mill near Crystal, Colorado. So, when a group of friends asks you to go along for a weekend of shooting and camaraderie up in the mountains, you don’t say no. Even better was the fact that we were going during the fall colors and we had a cabin right across the street. I had seen a billion shots of this mill and knew I wanted something at least slightly different for my own. Anyone who has been here knows that it’s a pretty cramped location. You can just pull out a 35mm lens when you’re down near the water and get the whole scene in the shot… I mean that mill is right there in front of you looking down on you. I used the widest lens I had at the time and did a sequence of about 7 shots to get this more than 180 degree pano and still include the entire stream and the sky. I had to leave a day early and when I left there was a nice storm blowing in and the next day all the fall color was gone and the trees were bare. Hearing that made me even more glad that we arrived when we did and not put it off till the following weekend. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, 7 images, F22, 64 ISO, 1/20th second.
After getting back down to my Jeep I knew I had the whole day ahead of me. I wasn’t in a rush to get home. I took my time wandering around Colorado and enjoying the fall colors. We stopped in Crested Butte and had lunch at Secret Stash Pizza. So good. Highly recommended when you’re in Crested Butte, CO. After some pizza I continued on my way home, again not in a hurry. I was getting close to Buena Vista when I saw a sign for Cottonwood Lake. I had never been there before and decided to drive down the road to see what I could find. Well, let me tell you, that entire area is great for fall colors. As I was looking for a nice grove of Aspens I also knew I wanted some color mixed in. By this time the sun was getting low on the horizon and the road, which is pretty much just a canopy of Aspen trees wasn’t letting much light in. I was almost to the end and I looked to my left and saw these nice Aspens with some nice colors mixed in. I quickly grabbed my camera and took 2 shots before the light totally changed the entire scene. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F7.1, 200 ISO, 1/40th second.
One of the things I always tell people is that the light is never the same twice. Even if it looks close, it’s not. Your camera will read it differently each time. These trees are generally pretty ugly and not much to look at. I walk around this pond where they are located often, usually not seeing much to shoot. This particular evening happened to be different. The light was low and soft. Some fall color still remained and the way the light was hitting the grasses really struck a chord with me. I carefully composed the image with the trees offset so that nothing was centered. I wanted the viewer to be able to look around in the image yet not go out of the frame. By keeping a tree on each side I feel I accomplished this. I also liked the layers this image offered. From the golden grasses to the reds and then back to the sunlight coming in from the top. I felt as though there was just enough depth to make it work. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 105macro, F2.8, 64 ISO, 1/50th second.
Hallett Peak from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Yes, I like to shoot at night when it’s cold. Not only do the skies seem clearer but the cool temps also keep your sensor from heating up too quick and adding excess noise to your images. This image was actually shot as we were leaving. We had been shooting from the other side as the moon was rising and lighting up another mountain. As we were leaving I noticed the partially frozen lake and thought that might make a nice foreground in addition to the stars in the sky. As you can see here this is a late in the year Milky Way image. The Milky Way has already flipped over and is now leaning slightly to the north. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 30 seconds.
The Polar Express – Durango, Colorado. This gorgeous steam engine is historic yet well-kept up by the Silveton Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad. You can hear it all over town when it’s running and on a cold winter morning the steam is really thick and there is lots of it. When you are on a family trip it makes things a bit more difficult to get a particular shot you may want. Adding to that the schedule of the train and it can be near impossible. One afternoon before we went to lunch I asked when the train was going to be coming back into the station? They told me 2:45pm. That worked for me. As we were finishing up our lunch I noticed the sky getting darker as if there was a storm moving in. I went down to the tracks and found a good vantage point that would allow me to fill the frame with the steam engine. Just after I shot this it started pouring cats and dogs…I packed up my gear and found cover. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F7.1, 200 ISO, 1/500th second.
Last but not least, the reason I waited to write this blog until after my trip to Oregon over the holidays. In the 10+ years I have been going to Bandon, Oregon I have only been totally skunked one time. Even when the weather is overcast you can still get some great shots. It’s simply a photographers paradise. I had been in Bandon for 4 days and didn’t have many clouds. I, personally, like clouds in my images. I am not a fan of clear blue skies unless I am planning on shooting the stars at night (I did some of that too). Just as my luck would have it the clouds started forming early on New Years Eve day. I could see it was going to be great. I just needed to find a nice comp that would showcase not only the clouds reflecting in the wet sand but also the depth of the beach. I found my comp, made sure there was separation between the 3 middle rocks and then started shooting. I did some long exposures, short exposures, really long exposures, some with the water coming into the frame, some without out. While I am out shooting I generally will shoot though most scenes and then pick the best one when I get back to have a good look on the computer. Something about the waterline in this one as the wave stopped and then headed back out to the sea really caught my eye. I feel like when I am looking at this my eye initially sees the entire scene but then follows the white line through the frame. This lets the viewer explore more of what the scene has to offer. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2016. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @24mm, F14, 64 ISO, 2.5 seconds.
As you can see 2016 was a great year. I had a wonderful time with my family in various locations as well as co teaching our night photography workshops. All of these images are available as Fine Art Photographic Prints, Fine Art Canvas Gallery Wraps, Fine Art Metal Prints or Fine Art Acrylic Face Mount Prints. I will offer special discounts to those of you who contact me via the contact form below. Simply message me with the medium you would like, the image description and size. Thank you all again for your continued support throughout the years. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog,
Darren White – Darren White Photography