2020 Year In Review

Enjoying a quiet moonlit night in the Snowy Range of Wyoming

This year was unlike any other I have experienced. The first 2.5 months were not so bad and I packed a lot of travel into a very short amount of time. Ending 2019 in Oregon for a couple weeks and being able to see my dad was a blessing. Mid Dec 2019 we were learning of what was happening in China, hoping it would stay there. That wasn’t the case. I arrived back home just after new years and got to spend some time with my family before embarking on a journey to Eastern Europe where I spent 8 days in Tallinn Estonia with a friend. While traveling back home we had a layover in Amsterdam and before getting on our plane we were asked if we had been to China or been in contact with anyone who had been in China. I’ll admit that I kind laughed it off at the time. I mean, modern science/medicine had taken care of all the deadly viruses, right? Wrong!

I was home for a couple days before taking off to Texas with my family to see a concert and visit friends on Feb 8th. Travel was easy, no restrictions and we Uber’ed all over Dallas that day in total freedom before arriving at American Airlines Stadium for a concert that was sold out. 20k people less than a foot apart for 4 hours… It was amazing and one of the best times I had with my family this year. Next up was Bandon, Oregon to teach a 4 days photography workshop on Feb 20th…Still no restrictions. We had great weather and really enjoyed our time on the southern Oregon Coast.. March 6th-9th we took off to Delaware for a little east coast time. No restrictions but there was quite a bit on the news about it… We got home on the 10th and it was only a few days later the world came to a screaming halt……And you know the rest of the story… Well here we are, 2020 is over and 2021 has begun.

I would be lying if I said 2020 was a horrible year for me…it wasn’t. Aside from not being able to host our workshops and not being able to eat out in restaurants, things weren’t all that bad. I work from home since I am self employed, the work I do do doesn’t involve many if any people and I got to spend more time with my family (Wife and daughter). We did have to cancel some travel plans, I have not seen my dad since Feb 2020 and I am really missing the beach.

All this being said, I did get to travel stateside and do quite a bit of photography on a personal level. This is one of the true joys of being a landscape/astro photographer. Since April I have been to Kansas x3, Nebraska x2, Iowa x2, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota. So needless to say, I don’t let the grass grow under my feet.. People always say, “how can you do that?” “I wish I could do that.” Well, here is my secret. I travel alone, I pack my food before I leave and put it in a big cooler, my car gets about 50-60mpg and I sleep in my car 3 nights for each night I stay in a hotel. Trips that are 3 nights or less don’t require a hotel. I travel cheap and keep expenses low. This helps me pass on the great deals to those of you who purchase prints.

So like last year’s blog post I am going to do the same thing this year. I will showcase a couple/few images for each month of the year and talk a little about them. There is no way I could pick 10 or 12 images that would properly tell my yearly story. Without further ado, let’s get to the photography!

January

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 32mm, ISO 64, F/9, 3 seconds

“Monks Alley” AKA St. Catherine’s Passage

Tallinn Estonia – Built over 700 years ago and lined with predominantly 15th-17th century residences. It has a wonderful medieval atmosphere and was last restored in 1995. As I mentioned above, I like to travel alone or with very few people for photography trips. It was only a friend an I on this trip but one of the reason we decided to travel to Estonia in the winter was because of how few people were there. I had seen images from a friend who traveled here the previous year and that was what sparked my interest. The stonework and evening light played well with each other and the lack of people walking down the alley made it pretty easy to capture a great image like this.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 32mm, ISO 31, F/11, 20 min single exposure

“Viru Gates”

If you look up Tallinn Estonia on the internet, I can promise you an image just like this will come up. This might be the most popular structure/view in Tallinn. The Viru gates, entrance into Old Town, were built in the 14th century and the 2 towers you see here are part of the orig structure. The main tower of the gates was built from 1345-1355. Just to my left was one of the most beautiful flower markets I had ever seen. The flowers were bursting with color and they had a little bit of everything to offer us. It’s hard to believe from this image but on the day we were here it was actually quite busy with people. It rained most of the time during our trip but this was a very nice day and I think all the locals came out as well. Why don’t you see anyone in this image, you ask? It’s a 20 min single exposure. In order to make sure none of the people were showing I had to shoot a super long exposure in the middle of the day. I used a 15 stop ND Filter, the lowest ISO on my camera and an F stop of 11 to allow me a long enough exposure that all the people would disappear.

February

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 180mm, ISO 31, F/14, 0.6 seconds

“Splash”

I was so happy to get back to one of my favorite spots in the world. While visiting the beaches near Brookings, Oregon I found this unique overlook that gave way to a view of a secluded beach. You’d have to do some canyoneering to get down there. I used a long lens and shot several images as the waves came up and hit the rocks. This is only one small portion of the beach. I was fortunate enough to capture this wave just at the moment when it hit the rock and exploded. It’s hard to tell from this image but the splash is between 10-15 feet tall.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 35mm, ISO 31, F/10, 25 seconds

“Port Orford Pools”

During my Oregon Coast workshop, one of the evenings we visited the beaches of Port Orford, Oregon. Port Orford has always been a special place for me since the beginning of my travels to the southern Oregon Coast almost 20 years ago. It’s a gorgeous beach with very few people and nice views of the sea stacks. On this particular evening we visited during low tide which helped to create these pools of calm water in the sand. The tide was actually in the process of coming back in but we were able to take advantage of a wonderful sunset while the pools remained calm.

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 200mm, ISO 200, F/3.2, 0.5 seconds

“Fire in the Hole”

Bandon, Oregon is a photographers dream….Shhh…don’t tell anyone… Actually I think the cat is out of the bag now and the dedicated ones are willing to travel to photograph its beauty. I joke about this because years ago it was rare that I would ever see anyone on the beaches of Bandon and now now there are more people. Lucky, the beach is rather large and expansive so you’re never close to people if you don’t want to be. Also, I do most of my work there in the late Fall and Winter so there are even fewer people. The southern Oregon Coast is far enough from any major cities that most of the people who live in those cities use their time to go to closer beaches..

In February the sun set at the right angle to shine its light through this opening in the rocks. The water also pounds its way through the rocks when the tide is coming in. When I saw what was happening I had to get a shot or at least try. This image is the result of knowing my camera, understanding the histogram and being able to use the correct shutter speed to keep the details in the water. Not only was timing crucial, I also had to make sure that I was exposed properly so that I could capture as much data without blowing anything out so I could properly process it when I got back home. A shot like this would not work well as an HDR because of the water moving. Trying to take several exposures to blend later would have been a lot of work too. In the end I decided on shooting it properly with one shot. Exposing for the highlights allowed me to capture all the data I needed to work with. When the water comes through the hole it can totally block out the sun before pushing out like you see here. It was a tricky image to shoot and I welcomed the challenge.

March

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 98mm, ISO 1600, F/2.8, 1 second

“Moon, Venus & the 7 Sisters”

This year was filled with great things to see and photograph in the night skies. With Covid taking over the USA and things shutting down, it was time for me to stay close to home. By that I mean here in Colorado. With the uncertainty of everything going on I stuck very close to home. So close that I actually shot this image from my deck in Littleton, Colorado. When I was done I just went back inside. It was kinda nice but it doesn’t make for a great story and that’s life… I roll with the punches.

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 16mm, ISO 8000, F/3.2, 15 seconds, 36 images stacked for Noise Reduction

“Rustic Nights”

I had learned about this barn about a year earlier and I kept looking at it on google maps trying to understand why I hadn’t seen any other images of it. It sits out in the middle of a field, nothing else around it and it faces north. This means that it’s in the perfect location to shoot the Milky Way over it. With a little planning from PhotoPills I was able to nail down a window of about a week that it would be good to go shoot it. I kept an eye on the weather and when I saw a good opening I went for it. Sure enough, middle of the field far far from anything or anyone else and right on time the Milky Way was rising into the perfect position. This was shot in March and I still have not seen any other images of it. I hope this barn sticks around for years to come…It looks like it has some good bones. I am looking forward to shooting it again this year. Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are just to the left of the tip of the barn.

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 20mm, ISO 3200, F/2.8, 20 Seconds, 36 images stacked to reduce noise

“Spring Milky Way”

I always get a little giddy when late Winter, early Spring come around and the galactic core of our Milky Way shows itself just before sunrise. Again, I shot this image very close to my home on the first day of Spring at 4:30am. It was bone chilling cold as I was looking for a composition. I don’t generally shoot night stuff so close to my home so I had to doing a little scouting. I came across this fence that was going to have to work. During this time of the year if you don’t already have a place picked out or you’re late getting there, the sun will come up and the milky way will be gone. Again you can see Jupiter, Mars and Saturn on the left side of the scene.

April

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 70mm, ISO 64, F/5.6, 1/200th second

“South Platte Snow”

Colorado seems to get more snow between Feb and May than it does between Nov and Jan. I can work with that. I prefer the snow over clear blue sky days anyway. During these snowstorms the skies are not always great but the snow creates lines and shapes that we can’t see otherwise. Not wanting to sit in the house and not being able to go much of anywhere I decided to head over to the State Park near my home. Never did I realize when I moved to Colorado that I would spend so much time at a State Park. Chatfield State Park is a 2 min drive and an easy “go to” spot when I just need some time outside to shoot. As I was driving around I looked back and this bend in the river caught my eye. I also liked how even in a snowstorm I could still see the warm colors of the bark on the tree on the left.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 95mm, ISO 64, F/7.1, 1/100th second

“Tree in the Fog”

This is another image from Chatifield Lake State Park. We have lived here in Colorado for almost 8 years now and on one hand I can count the times that I have seen fog in Colorado. I’m not sure if it’s just our location, but it doesn’t happen very often. When I entered the park and saw how thick the fog was I got excited. I already had in my head what types of shots I could get and was hoping for. Pre-visualization can be very important when doing photography. If you already know what you’re looking for or hope to achieve, it can make the shooting part of it easier. I was sure hoping to find a single tree like this and I did. The fog didn’t last long and as soon as I finished shooting this it started to burn off. The next image (below) was shot 3 min later.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 68mm, ISO 64, F/7.1, 1/160th second

“Morning Burn”

May

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 105mm, ISO 100, F/6.3, 1/20th second handheld

“Backroads Sunset”

It’s now May, I’ve been in the house and very close to home for 2 months and cabin fever is setting in. I need to get out…I need to explore…I need to scout places i’ve been collecting on Google maps. After careful consideration I decide to take a solo road trip over to Eastern Colorado for the day. Exploring the back country roads and checking out places I had pinned in my maps was just what I needed. Being in the car allows me to think and simply take time for myself. I had just finished scouting this amazing barn and was headed on to another location as I came upon this scene. This road I am on here is probably 8 miles long and loaded with these small hills. The sun was setting and very low on the horizon with the light being lightly filtered through the clouds. I loved what this scene said to me and the feeling it gave me as I was beginning to end the day.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 62mm, ISO 31, F/11, 1/4th second

“Sunset Lightning”

Another trip to North Eastern Colorado to shoot an old schoolhouse turned into a lightning storm and an epic fail on the schoolhouse. After scouting the schoolhouse I decided to drive around a bit more and see what I could find. Right behind me there is an old abandoned home I was checking out when I noticed the lightning striking on the horizon. The home did not offer any decent comps so I moved across the street where I saw this tree. I set up and braved the crazy winds. The sun was behind the clouds but about to set which gave a nice glow on the horizon. I took several shots and ended up liking this one the best as the road lets the viewer travel though the image past the tree towards the lightning.

June

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 28mm, ISO 200, F/4.5, 1/50th second

“Barn With a Sad Face”

In the corner of Southwest Nebraska is a very sad barn. It’s beautiful in my opinion and my goal this evening was to photography the Milky Way over it from the other end. I was able to do that eventually but during sunset the wispy clouds complimented the faded colors of the barn and I noticed that the barn looked sad and I wanted to get a picture of it. This old barn is tucked away down a dirt road behind a bunch of trees and it can not be seen from the main road. Because the homes down this road are abandoned (not lived in) there is not much need for anyone to travel down these roads. My friend does know the owner of this property and was supposed to meet up with me on this particular night but other but ended up not being able to. The barn and old home are something I am looking forward to going back and photographing again when he is with me so we can properly access the property. This image was shot from the public dirt road so no trespassing was being done.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 24mm, ISO 64, F/11, 1/125 second

“Roseman Bridge”

Built in 1873 and spanning 107 ft in length at it’s original location the Roseman Bridge was renovated in 1992 at the cost of $152,515. Featured in the movie, “Bridges of Madison County”. After being quarantined and isolated away from people for a while I decided it was time to go see part of our country I had never seen before… I can’t sit at home for too long or I go stir crazy, it’s just not me. Road trips are my escape. I have a niece who lives in Iowa so my daughter and I loaded up and went to visit. My niece had been quarantined for several weeks, we had been quarantined for several weeks so we felt safe making the 9 hour drive (my car can make it from Denver to Iowa without stopping for gas). While we were there we wanted to do things that would get us outside but not be around people and we decided to do the self guided “Bridges of Madison County” scenic tour. It was great. Iowa is so green and when I tell this to people who have never been there they don’t believe me. Remember I grew up in Oregon and it’s super green there but I have to say, Iowa is just as green if not greener. When the corn is growing you can see green for miles and miles. The day we did the bridges tour it was nice and overcast so the light was even and I was able to get decent textures in the clouds.

July

Nikon D850, Sigma 24mm 1.4, ISO 5000, F/2.5, 8 seconds, 42 images stacked for noise reduction

“Special Guest at Midnight Mass”

After a few months of road trips just to get out of the house to shoot and not really having any kind of a master plan, Comet Neowise shows up. I think I can speak on behalf of most people in the photography community or any community really, that this event was a true joy of 2020. Even people who were staying inside left their homes to see this amazing comet grace our night skies. It was here long enough that I think most people were able to see it and oh what a treat it was. There was so much info about it on the internet that anyone could find it and see it. This event was very exciting to me. After a little planning I knew that the comet would be in this exact location at 10pm on July 23rd. I arrived for sunset only to find lots of clouds. I also knew that based on my weather app on my phone that the clouds would start fading around 9:30pm giving way to generally clear skies from 10pm on. My PinPoint weather app has been the most reliable weather app I have ever used and I trust it. I set up my camera as the clouds started to part and just like clockwork, there was the comet. Neowise flying high in the sky right over this old church on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. I used a small light to illuminate the inside of the church and we photographed the amazing event.

Nikon D850, Sigma 85mm 1.4, ISO 3200, F/2.2, 4 seconds, 70 images stacked for noise reduction

“Neowise over The Citadel”

This is another shot I was able to capture of the comet over The Citadel in Colorado from Loveland Pass. Neowise was appearing just after sunset so the slight glow was still lingering around when the comet appeared.

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 200mm, ISO 8000, F/2.8, 2.5 seconds, 96 images stacked for noise reduction
<p class="has-text-align-center" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>"Neowise"</strong>“Neowise”

I had to get a close up of this amazing visitor. The 2 tails were very impressive to see and capture.

August

Sony A7r3, Sigma 14-24mm at 17mm, ISO 64, F/7.1, 25 seconds – separate shot for the moon to eliminate blurring

“Wild Night On the Plains”

Summer storms on the Eastern Plains – What a night this was to experience. I met up with a couple friends to shoot this old homestead and as luck would have it we ended up shooting a lightning storm just after sunset and then the stars came out later on. Meanwhile, during sunset, we had the pleasure of meeting the owner. He was a really nice guy and he gave us the story on the old home about how his grandparents used to live here. After talking to him for a while I told him I’d be more than happy to get some prints made up for him of the images I had taken over the years. He gave me his address and we said our goodbyes for the evening. I don’t think he really believed me but a few weeks later I went back to his place and found him working outside on his tractor. I told him we had met a few weeks ago and that I had promised him I would bring him some prints. I gave him 10 different 8×12 prints that I had shot of his place and he was super happy. He told me his sister was going to love them because the old place had a lot of special memories for her. We know this old place wont be around much longer so it was very nice that I was able to connect with the owners and give them some images.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 105mm, ISO 64, F/10, 255 seconds

“Sunset Rush Hour”

Colorado skies were filled with smoke this summer and my heart goes out to all of those who lost family members and or properties in the fires. It was really a horrible time compounding on the growing number of Covid cases. This is another image not far from my home which looks west towards the Front Range and Rocky Mountains. I captured this image of a smoke filed sky just after sunset. We had crazy orange skies for many many days this summer and at times it was hard to be outside and breathe. Nature can be brutal and harsh but at the same time it can create some beautiful scenes like this that help to put people at ease.

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 64, F/9, 1/15th second +1 EV

“Sunset in the High Country”

An old barn under the partially filled smokey skies near Grand Lake, Colorado at sunset. This was just another reason to get out of the house and click some images. I had not been here before and wanted to see this place for myself. I met up with 2 friends and we were graced with gorgeous sun rays coming out of the clouds and some really nice light on the face of the old barn.

September

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 24mm, ISO 5000, F/2.8, 10 seconds, 30 images stacked for noise reduction

“Orion Over Estes Park”

If you know me on a personal level, you know I am always early for everything. Being late is something I just don’t understand at all and don’t have much tolerance for. My wife and I wanted to go see and hear the Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park one day during their rut. We left early enough that when we got there we could hear the elk but not see them. I got out of the car to look around and noticed Orion over the town of Estes Park. The thin layer of clouds was doing a great job of diffusing the stars, making them brighter than usual. I set up my camera to capture this gorgeous scene from Moraine Meadows. Shortly after this image was captured it began to get light out and we could see the elk not far from us.

Sony A7r3, Sigma 14-24mm at 24mm, ISO 64, F/9, 1/40th , -3 EV

“Old Town Sunset”

With the afternoon storms still happening these gorgeous wavy clouds were mostly grey all afternoon until the sun started to set. They changed colors from pinks and blues to oranges and purples. It was probably the most beautiful sunset I saw all year. And just like most days in Colorado, the clouds went away and the stars came out. We had a gorgeous view of the Milky Way over this old store most of the night. We met one of the locals on this night and he told us about some of the shenanigans that went on around town when there were more people living here. Now, this old store sits on a dirt road corner, empty.

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 175mm, ISO 200, F/5.6, 1/60th second

“At the Water’s Edge”

I love Fall and I love how not all the plants and trees change colors at the same time. The color variations are a big part of what make the season so wonderful. My plan at this location was to shoot sunrise with a much wider view. As I was down near the water looking more to my right with a 14mm lens I noticed they way the light was hitting these bushes/small trees and reflecting in the water. I quickly pulled out a longer lens and was able to capture it before it was gone. I had trees behind me that the sun was shining through and in only a manner of minutes the light went behind one of those trees and was gone.

October

Sony A7r3, Sigma 14-24mm at 18mm, ISO 64, F/9, 1/125th second

“Great Filling Station”

After being in Colorado for the last 3 months, it was time, once again, for me to spread my wings and go see some new things. I needed and wanted to see some new places that I had never been to before. Being cautious and aware, I loaded up the car and took off on a road trip from Denver to Madison, WI. The 4 images I share with you from October will all be from this trip. Now I’ll admit that I did have a few places picked out that I planned on stopping at and visiting. My end point was an old Grist Mill in Wisconsin. This image above is one of those totally random finds and the reason I try not to take the main freeways or highways. The backroads are always filled with better scenery. After I had crossed into Illinois and was headed north I passed this little place… I kept driving for a couple miles and usually by this time I would have kept driving but something told me to go back..One thing to note is that I rarely come home the same way I get to a place so I knew that I would not see this place again on this trip. I drove back, parked on the side of the road and started taking images. A guy came out, got in his Jeep and pulled into his driveway like he was getting ready to leave. I asked if this way his place and he said yep it was. I asked him if it was ok to shoot some pictures and he said, “sure, just pull your car down into the driveway so it’s off the road”. I said ok, thanks. He then left and took off somewhere so I stuck around and got some images of the old truck and gas can. This was just a super unique find an I am so glad I went back to shoot it.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 35mm, ISO 31, F/13, 1.6 seconds

“Hyde’s Mill Sunrise”

Located near Madison, Wisconsin this was my end goal for the road trip before turning around and heading home. When I arrived here it was already dark and there were billions of stars in the sky. I was super surprised to see how dark the sky was in this area. It was also fairly cold. The water must come from someplace that warms it because at night in the dark I could see steam coming off the water and it really made the scene kind of murky. I did take a few long exposure shots to make some star trails but nothing that ended up being that exciting. When the sun did start to rise and I noticed the clouds and the fall color that was hanging on I began to get a little excited. I knew it had potential. Had I been there a week or so before, there may have been more leaves on the trees but I liked how the bare trees played into the scene with the old mill. The mill was built in 1850 on a stone dam with a beautiful wooden water wheel. After shooting the sunrise I explored more of the area and began my way back home.

Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 38mm, ISO 64, F/8, 1/2000th second, -4 EV

“Our Lady’s Sunset”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church aka Wilson Church – This is one of the places I planned to go, and I am glad I did. I spent most of my day here just enjoying the view, sitting in my lawn chair relaxing after being in a car for so long. I like to be patient when I need to be and this was one of those times. While I was sitting here a man came up on a 4 wheeler, he was the grounds keeper and just asked me what I was doing and keeping an eye on the place. I told him I was just here to do some photography and then some night shots when it was dark. He told me that the board of directors was thinking of tearing the place down because of all the recent vandalism that had been happening. He wasn’t sure when it was going to happen but that there had been talks. It wasn’t long after I got home and sure enough there was news about it being demolished in the near future. The cross came down on Jan 5th and based on friends IG post there is a gentleman who is working to save and reuse some of the wood. The pews have been gone for years. If you have anything you want to photograph or visit, go do it. Nothing lasts forever and you sure don’t want any regrets. I am very thankful I was able to photograph this beautiful church before the cross came down and they began the tear down. This gorgeous church was built in 1918, 103 years old…

Sony A7r3, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, F/8, 1/5000th second, -4 EV

“Old 55, Your time is Up”

Through photography I have been very fortunate to meet some great people from all over the world both on the business side of photography as well as the personal side. I am very thankful for these friendships and the opportunities they provide. On my way home from my trip I made a stop in Kansas for a few days. A friend of mine had lined up permission for us to do some photography on a private ranch. A very large ranch I should mention. With the help of a side by side 4 wheeler we explored the ranch and some of its offerings. There was old trucks, tractors, stone cellars, and homesteads. Towards the end of the day we arrived at this old 55 Massy-Harris tractor. It sits up on this little hill overlooking the valley below. The sky, still filled with smoke from the wildfires all the way from Colorado were turning this burnt orange color. We knew this was going to be the place for a sunset photo shoot. The rust on the tractor matching the smoke filled skies was a perfect combo. I was particularly drawn to the flat tires. When I close my eyes, I see this tractor in its working condition doing the work that needs to be done to keep the ranch going.

November

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 24mm, ISO 64, F/6.3, 20 seconds

“Little House Under the Stars”

Eastern Colorado, Sunset, Tiny house, Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. In this very very small town we met a young man who was willing to answer our questions about the nearby area and we told him what we would be doing so if he saw any lights not to be alarmed. He said there wont be any problems and told us to have a good night. The beginning of November was when people really started talking about the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn that was going to take place on Dec 21st. It was fun to watch the 2 planets get closer and closer together as the first day of winter drew closer. After I got home I did some research to see if I could find out any info about this house. I called the assessors office and they were very happy to send over what they had. The house had 2 sales on record and the last one selling for $300 back in the early 90s. Based on the news papers we found inside the house has not been lived in or had anything done to it for many years before that. I have the owners name and address now and hope to send them an image of it in the near future.

7 image pano – Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 62mm, ISO 100, F/13, 1/60th second

“Spanish Sunset”

Southern Colorado is still a rather un explored part of the state for me. I took a drive one afternoon looking for old abandoned places and doing some scouting for potential Milky Way shoots. At the end of the day I arrived at this small meadow looking towards the Spanish Peaks. I liked the way the warm light was hitting the lingering fall colors in the trees as it graced the small hills of the meadow. This is a location you may see in a couple months when I return to shoot the Milky Way over these gorgeous peaks.

December

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 64, F/10, 1/40th second

“Winter at Monument Rocks”

Last trip to Kansas for the year and what a great trip it was. We got to explore some old abandoned buildings with owner permission, I had the pleasure of meeting some distant cousins of mine that I did not know I had and I got to see snow at Monument Rocks. Monument Rocks is a unique feature in Kansas that comes from when the inland sea split the USA many millions of years ago and this was at the bottom. The Niobrara Chalk is a geologic formation that was deposited roughly 85 million years ago. It’s very fragile and crumbles easily. Harsh Kansas weather is slowly taking it’s toll and deteriorating the formations. Even in the 5 years I have been visiting and photographing them, I have seen the changes.

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 19mm, ISO 6400, F.2.8, 13 seconds. 30 images stacked for noise reduction and 28 images of meteors

“Sylvan Grove Meteor Shower”

Before I knew I had relatives in Kansas, my trip to Kansas was planned around the Geminid Meteor shower. I had a few places picked out that would work and this old stone house was one of them. On the night of Dec 13th we braved the frigid cold temps and let our cameras work for a couple hours capturing the shooting stars across the night sky. Each of the meteors you see here were blended by hand in Photoshop in the exact location where they fell. I loved that the late season Milky Way was still visible in this sky and in the right location for this image. This is the first meteor shower I have successfully shot in all the years I have been doing photography. Now that I have a better grasp on it, I plan to do more.

Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 31, F/14, 1/4th second

“Ice’s Eye”

This is kind of a random, lucky image. I had went over to the lake by our house one morning to photograph the sunrise not really know what kind of condition the water would be in. I knew it was cold but not sure how frozen it was. I was pleasantly surprised to see these unique patterns in the ice. The ice was fairly thick in this spot which allowed me to walk on it and set the camera up for a better shot. I was able to get down really low and use a wide angle lens to create a dramatic foreground while still capturing the colors of the sunrise.

Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport at 200mm, ISO 64, F/8, 1/800th second, -3 EV

“If It All Falls Down”

The final sunset of 2020…saying goodbye to an incredibly bizarre year. On Google Maps the back part of the house is still attached. I’m not sure when it fell off and at first I was a little upset that it has fallen since my plan was to shoot the setting moon over it the next morning. Then I realized it’s the perfect ending to a year that in so many ways has been unpredictable and full of surprises, what’s wrong with one more. I truly enjoyed this sunset. I enjoyed my time being here, alone in this part of Colorado. I had time to reflect on all that had happened and how thankful I was to be healthy with a loving family and a roof over our heads. Thankful for our friends near and far, thankful for the new connections I made in 2020. Thankful for all of you who take the time out of your day to read my blog, visit me on social media and help me be inspired by the work you do.

Some special thanks to the companies who help support my work and companies I work with

Robus Tripods and Ballheads – Vantage Series 5558 and RTH-1050 Ballhead

Sigma Lenses – currently using 14-24mm, 50mm, 85mm, 70-200mm and 24-105mm

Moab Legion Papers – Juniper Baryta, Entrada Textured, Somerset Museum Rag, Exhibition Luster

Englewood Camera – A great local camera shop and printers in the Denver Area

Nitecore Lights – Too many to list…check them out.

If you wish to view or purchase any of these images or any of my images you can do so a couple ways.

Darren White Photography Website – Contact me directly for best prices or simply use discount code CPJASS for up to $50 off your purchase.

Darren White Photography Instagram – Let’s connect and inspire each other.

Darren White Photography Facebook Page – Daily posts, what’s happening and special offers.

If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me, I am always happy to answer questions.

So Far in 2019…………

I know we are only into the new year by just over a month but I thought it would be fun to share some of my work so far this year. I have been trying to make the most of my free time by getting out and shooting. As a full-time photographer it can be pretty easy to just sit in the house and edit and catch up on social media. While those are parts of the process, the process I really enjoy is being outside and capturing the images. I wont share all my new images, just the parts that will put it all together.

In early January I hosted my annual “Oregon Coast Winter Workshop” in Yachats, Oregon. Our group all had Oceanfront rooms at the amazing Overleaf Lodge and Spa

We were truly blessed with good weather. The few days before the workshop was rainy and right after the workshop the rain came back. We just happened to time it so that the 4 days during the workshop were in between storms.  Needless to say this made the workshop students happy as well as myself. My friend, Chuck Rasco of Chuck Rasco Photography always comes along on these trips with me. After the workshop was over we spent the next 5 days on the southern Oregon Coast between Bandon and Brookings. We had a good and bad weather in both places. Having lived in Oregon most my life, I felt right at home walking along the beaches in the rain. We did some crazy hikes too.

Scale
Seal Rock Sunset, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105

On Saturday night of the workshop I took the group down to the Seal Rock area near Newport, Oregon. Once we parked the cars I could see the clouds in the sky and I had a feeling that the sunset was going to be epic.  I decided to grab just my camera and one lens, my workhorse, Sigma 24-105mm Art to use for some snapshots while helping the students. Right on cue, the sky just began to explode with color. Everyone was going crazy trying to find the best comps. Moving around and making sure they were not in each other’s way, the group really worked well together. Gary Kochel planned a big northwest trip around the workshop and I think it’s easy to say that he was extremely impressed with Oregon. Here is Gary getting an epic shot from his own vantage point.

Moving down the coast after the workshop, we headed directly to Brookings and had plans to stay in Bandon on the way back up. My friend Chuck and his wife Cathy had never really explored the Samuel Boardman State Park area of Oregon. I felt as a good host, I should show them around properly. That means with a few steep hikes that lead to incredible views.

Natural Bridges
Natural Bridges, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105

The first hike was at Natural Bridges. It’s a pretty common spot for good reason, the views are amazing. Not everyone can get down to see the views from here just because it’s pretty steep. This view isn’t too bad to get to but once you go further, down to the red arrow, it gets much steeper. So steep that there is a 50ft section where you need to repel down the hill with a rope…Once we were set up at the red arrow the views were just as good.

Pacific Views
Pacific Views, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

It was right here when I realized that Chuck wasn’t too keen on heights. The Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art makes this little path look wider than it actually is. Chuck was standing almost right next to me on my right and my left tripod leg is actually off the path, down a little ways being held up by a rock. The top of the arch that we are on is maybe 4ft across. That doesn’t leave much room for error when packing up your gear and turning around to head back up the trail.

Cliffside Views
Cliffside Views, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105, Haida 10 stop ND Filter

It’s fun to shoot the same scene with various lenses. You simply get different results. This was shot from the same place, tripod in the same spot, as the last image but with a Sigma 24-105mm Art at 52mm for 67 seconds with a Haida 10 stop ND Filter

Sunset Storm at Face Rock
Sunset Storm at Face Rock, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105 Art

After powering though a few days of pouring rain in Brookings and filling up on the best breakfasts ever (we ate here 3 days in a row) Mattie’s Pancake House we made our way up the coast to Bandon. Bandon is not an open book by any means. I have been visiting Bandon now for over 10 years, maybe longer and the weather is always interesting. After getting checked into our hotel and picking up some provisions for the evening the rain started. It was windy, blowing sideways and I was thinking that our chance for a sunset was out the window…literally. As it got closer to sunset the rain let up, the sky started to break up with a few holes in the clouds. We made our way across the street to the beach in amazement that our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The wind was still kicking pretty good so I decided to put the tripod away and shoot handheld with the Sigma 24-105. The OS on this lens is incredible. We were down on the beach for about 2 hours until sunset was finally over. There were no chance of shooting stars that night so we called it a night and began walking back to our hotel… I kid you not, just as we got back to the hotel it started pouring again.

Super Blood Wolf Moon
Super Blood Wolf Moon, Nikon D850, Sigma 20mm 1.4 & Sigma 85mm 1.4

Months ago, I planned a shoot with a friend who was interested in shooting the Blood, Super Wolf Moon on the night of the 20th of January. We used PhotoPills to plan the shoot and know where exactly the moon was going to be at what time when it was eclipsed.  Since I was just getting home from 10 days in Oregon, I didn’t want to travel too far from home. South Valley Park is right behind my house and because we are looking away from Denver the sky is a little darker.  Using these rocks as a foreground subject, we set up, shot the foreground and then waited for the moon to turn red. Because it’s impossible to capture the moon and the foreground all in one shot with the proper exposure, I used 2 shots for this image. The Moon is in the exact location it was when I shot the foreground. I used the Sigma 20mm for the foreground and the 85mm for the moon. A quick blend in Photoshop to bring the two together was all it took to create this image as I saw it with my own eyes.

Since being home from Oregon, I have been jumping all over Colorado searching for fun and interesting photos. If you have been following me for any amount of time, you will know that I am really intrigued by the smaller towns on the Eastern Plains of the state. On a trip out near Matheson, Colorado with my friend, Tony Lazzari we found this beautiful old seed mill.

Manaville Seed
Manaville Seed, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

The light was just coming up over the horizon hitting the metal siding. There were just enough clouds in the sky to make good use of my Haida 10 stop ND Filter and create this really long exposure of 2 minutes. I was able to get the camera low enough so that I was looking up, by doing this I was able to include much more of the sky.

Schoolhouse Spins
Schoolhouse Spins, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

This old one room schoolhouse sits out in the middle of nowhere. In fact I have only seen a couple pictures of it online. It’s 150 miles from my house. While Bob Coorsen and I were setting up, a truck pulled up and asked where we were from. We told him and then he proceeded to tell us how his grandfather and father both attended school here back in the day. I have searched high and low and I can’t find any information on this school. The mad did say that a few years back he was going to buy it and put a new roof on it but something fell through and he never was able to make the purchase. The school is maybe 15 ft wide by 40 ft long. It’s really small. I used a Nitecore LA30 to illuminate the inside of the school. The image is a blend of 2 shots. keeping the camera in the exact same position I did one long exposure for the star trails and then a short exposure for the points of light stars. I simply used a blending mode in Photoshop and changed the opacity to blend the long exposure with the short exposure so that you can see both in the sky. I masked out the foreground so that only the long exposure for the school shows. This allows me to keep image quality at it’s best.

Train Station Tuesday
Train Station Tuesdays, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

I don’t venture down into the city too often. After some good snow and a warming up it’s easy to find puddles to shoot unique perspectives. It has been a while since I visited Union Station and I remember that the concrete wasn’t level. This means that pools of water form. With no wind it makes it easy to get some fun shots. Here I had the camera sitting on the ground behind held up by my L-Bracket. Using a Sigma 14mm lens really let me get quite a bit in the shot even though I was so close. The lens is really only an inch or 2 off the ground from the water.

Morning Mass in the fog
Morning Mass in the fog, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

Weather, in my opinion, is the most important factor in photography. It can be a make it or break it kind of thing. It can also give you images you never imagined you would get. Thus being the case here. My plan was to shoot this old church (1913) with the Milky Way rising up in front of it. The way it faces, I would need to shoot it from the backside. I arrived here early afternoon, met with the guy who owns the farm next to it. He was leaving for the day and I told him I would probably be out there shooting all night and that if he saw some lights, not to be alarmed, it would just be me. About 10pm I started shooting. I was doing star trails, shooting Orion, the Big dipper and getting pretty excited for the Milky Way that was going to be coming up around 5am. At 2am I hopped back in my Jeep to warm up and grab a quick nap. When I woke up at 4am I could not see any stars….I was puzzled..I turned my lights on and it was solid fog. I thought to myself, “well, hopefully it will go away in time”.  That was not the case. The fog began to freeze on everything (hoar frost). I soon realized that not only was I not going to shoot the Milky Way, I also wasn’t going to get a sunrise. About 6am it was light enough to get back out and shoot what I could. I actually really enjoyed the fog and the beautiful atmosphere it created. Living in Oregon I saw fog all the time. Since moving to Colorado almost 6 years ago, I rarely see it here…

Corn Stalk Tree Fog Color
Foggy Tree, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

I could have shot scenes like this all day long. If you follow me on either Facebook or Instagram you can see more of these foggy moody images in the near future. They are a nice change of pace from my normal stuff. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Iced
Iced, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

Last but not least…Boulder Canyon Falls recently opened back up to the public after being closed off. I am not sure what the reason was or for how long it was closed. I do know that in the 6 years I have lived in Colorado, I had not been to it. Odd because it’s only 31 miles from my house. Tony Lazzari and I decided to go check it out…The falls were half-frozen when we were there and I was able to find some intimate scenes like this that showed both the flowing water and the frozen water. Because the falls are in a canyon, the sun rarely hits on them directly this time of year. Getting a good exposure was very easy due to the flat lighting. The mist from the falls had frozen on the ground but being the cautious person I am, I decided to not get too close and chance falling in. I used my Sigma 24-105mm Art lens at 95mm to get closer to the falls and compose the shot. A shutter speed of only 1/4 second shows both movement and detail in the water while keeping the ice razor-sharp.

This brings all of you up to date on what’s been going on over the last 45 days… I am really trying to get out more, shoot more and just enjoy nature in all aspects that I can. Tonight a friend and I are headed out to find clear dark skies and possibly old abandoned buildings to shoot the stars over.  Give me a follow on social media, leave a comment about this blog as I would love to  hear from you.

What’s next?  I don’t have any set plans for the rest of this month. I’ll just keep and eye out on the weather and go where it takes me. Next month I will be spending 2 nights/3 days at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. I am very excited about this and thankful for the opportunity to see the night sky from a different vantage point. I am getting ideas on how and what I want to shoot while I am there and if the weather is good then I will be sharing those images with you as well as doing a separate blog post.

Send me blog post ideas if you have something specific you’d like to hear my thoughts on or a photographic process you’d like to see.

In April we will start our Night Photography Workshops for the 2019 season. We’d love to have you join us. This year we are adding Yellowstone to our list of events and we only have 1 spot left on that workshop.

Improve Your Landscape Photos With These Simple Tips.

When I started landscape photography back in 1988-89 I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I liked taking pictures, I liked seeing the images printed and I liked doing the printing.

Almost (99%) of what I know today is self-taught/trial and error and trust me…more error than I would care to admit. The people I shoot with can attest to my mishaps, mistakes and poor judgement in the field when shooting on my own and that’s what makes going out with friends fun.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips and trick along the way that have really improved my being able to capture good images in the camera. When I was younger, think 10/11 years old I would hold up my hands with my thumbs touching and fingers pointing up to isolate a scene that I thought looked nice. By doing so I could get rid of the elements that did not compliment the scene and while I did not know this at the time it has helped me to “see” better. People say that artists have an “eye” for things. This simply means that we see the beauty in something that others see as mundane, chaotic or ugly. By picking out certain little things from a bigger picture and composing so that only the good or beauty shows through our images.

I get asked all the time by people around the world who want to know the exif data of my images. While this question is very vague in terms of the desired outcome of an image, I gladly share. I will explain this a little more later on.

I have put together a little list things you need to help take a great landscape photograph.

  • DSLR Camera – Mirrorless Hi Res Camera
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Great Lenses – This really applies if you are printing your work
  • Patience
  • Good Light
  • Good Composition
  • Good Exposure

Today’s cameras really aren’t the issues behind bad images. Most of the newer cameras take great pictures and it doesn’t matter if it’s a crop sensor or a full frame, they all do a good job. The bigger issues lie with the rest of the list as I will explain.

Having a sturdy tripod may sound like common sense to most people but everyone defines “sturdy” as something different. I live in a very realistic world when talking and teaching photography. Companies I consider to have sturdy, solid tripods are Induro (that’s what I use) Really Right Stuff and Feisol. Ninety percent of all the photographers I know use one of these three brands… A few I know use Gtizo but not many. There is value when purchasing a tripod and in all honestly I see no need to spend upwards of $1000 for a tripod when you can get the same quality and sturdiness from a different brand.. I personally feel that $500 will get you and awesome tripod that will work wonders for your landscape photography. I don’t see any need to pay more. Chances are if your tripod has thin legs or comes in a fancy color, it’s safe to say that it’s not the best choice for doing landscape work. Investing in a sturdy tripod is the first step to getting good sharp images. One question I do get asked is this, “What if my lens has VR, IS or OS” all of which are intended to prevent blur from handholding your camera. This is all fine and dandy until you forget to turn it on or have it on but need a shutter speed that’s slower than what the lens will work with. Too many times I have just went out shooting casually and forgot to turn it on only to get home and find a bunch of blurry images..and no matter how long you keep a blurry image, it will never get any sharper. That’s a fact you can take to your grave.

What could be more critical to your work as a photographer than the glass the light passes though before it hits your sensor. If you are using a kit lens that came with your camera I highly recommend you purchase a different lens…  I used a 18-70 kit lens on my Nikon D70 for 2 years before I purchased a different lens and I can’t tell you happy I was even way back then. Lenses have come a long way since the days of 6mp cameras and with the High Res cameras we have today we NEED lenses that will give us the full resolution that our cameras can provide. Many of you know that I am a Sigma lens ambassador and have been officially for a couple of years. My first Sigma Art lens I purchased was when I got my D810 in 2015, it was the 24-105 F4 and I was blown away. After my first outing with the lens and getting the images back on the computer screen I thought someone had performed Lasik on me. I could not believe all the detail I was seeing. Images were razor-sharp and looked stunning… I don’t put my name with a company that I don’t believe in 100%. There is good reason why all my lenses are Sigma now. While I can’t recommend the Sigma 24-105 enough, the point of this is to ditch the kit lens, get something with an F4 or faster, if the zoom range is too wide like 18-300 then forget about that too. Be willing to spend a little money for a good lens.  You will thank yourself every time you go out shooting.

Now you have your camera, lens and tripod and you’re ready to go make some great images. This next time is by far my weakness when it comes to shooting great landscapes. Patience. I have never been a patient person, I don’t like to wait, I am an only child, I get bored easy but for great photographs we wait, and wait patiently for good light. Several years ago I flew into Flagstaff, AZ picked up my rental car and took off for Grand Falls (google it) I had been dying to see this place in person and knowing it was a long bumpy gravel road I gave myself lots of time to get there by sunset in case I got lost, had a flat tire ect… Well everything went perfect and I arrived there about 5 hours before sunset. It’s hot, I was in the middle of nowhere and in those 5 hours I only saw one other car and 2 naked people (that’s a whole other story) but dammit, I was there and I wasn’t going to miss the sunset. I came all the way for this one shot! So I waited, waited, waited, walked around, found a dog…found the naked people who owned the dog, did some more hiking and then finally….Little Colorado Sunset

Light is very crucial to landscape photography. Light creates depth, shadows, contrast and can be the difference between a good image and a fantastic image.

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These images were taken roughly 3 hours apart from each other and I think it’s safe to say that the top image is more appealing to most people. Just by having better light I was able to take the viewers focus away from the ugly brown pool of water and put more attention on the falls and the sky. Would you agree? As landscape photographers we have the ability to turn and ugly scene into something beautiful with just the right light.

Here are some various types of lighting I like to look for when shooting. The first is often during sunrise or sunset when the light is right on the horizon. This will allow to you get a naturally soft glow effect by placing the sun just out of the frame so that the light naturally bleeds in from the side.

Natural bleeding light

In the image above I am looking south, the sun is just ready to set and the light is all from just placing the sun outside my frame. This creates a naturally soft light on the scene you’re shooting.

I also like direct or isolated light. This is often times harder to find depending on the conditions. The image below was taken about an hour before sunset. The sun was setting behind me and because of the cloud cover behind me it was only allowing the sunlight to hit the front of this cloud as well as the small portion of the mountain. I liked how it kept the rest of the image dark. This adds a great deal of depth in the clouds as it goes from light to dark.

Isolated light direct light

Backlighting can be fun as well. It can make for nice silhouettes or light fringing around an object. In this example I was driving around Acadia National Park in Maine one early morning and these deer were in the shadow of some big trees while the sun was hitting the bushes behind them. This made for a nice backdrop for the deer. Had this scene been full shadow or full sun the outcome would have been totally different.

Backlight

Composition and composing can be one of the most difficult aspects of landscape photography. I have heard almost every photographer I know say, “I just can’t get my composition right”, at one point or another. Composition is a very mental part of this and we all go through some challenging times trying to find good compositions. Good compositions in landscape photography come from finding a good scene with a nice sky and a nice foreground. Don’t just point your camera up at the sunset sky with a tree in it and click the picture…Well, you can do that if you want but if you have a great sky that makes you want to photograph it, put a nice foreground in it to hold the viewer’s attention longer.  Some key elements to think about when composing an image-

  • Create visual interest – include foreground
  • Rule of 3rds
  • 50/50 reflections
  • diagonal Lines/Leading lines
  • Simplify/Negative Space

Leading Lines in the foreground

Creating visual interest, using a foreground and finding leading lines can usually all be combined into one. This image of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine does just that.. I have created interests throughout the image with the use of a big foreground with highly textured rock as leading lines that take your eye right up to the lighthouse. This image also uses the rule of 3rds as I have placed my subject in the upper left 3rd of the frame.

Clouds Water Offset

This is a non reflection shot that has what I like to call an X-Factor Comp to it. If you look at the water that is going down to the left and the cloud going up to the right, those combined make the / part of the X. The water coming over the rock in the lower right and the ridge line behind the tree in the upper left make the \ to form an X. This is a pretty common composition in landscape photography and one that’s worth paying attention to when you’re composing  your shot. Even if you don’t see the X you should see the clouds and the water mimic each other in reverse. It can also work with clouds and reflection shots as seen below.

Leading Lines X factor

Framing your subject when you can is important to keep the viewer’s attention in the image longer than usual. By framing your scene it doesn’t give the viewer’s eye an easy out, they have to want to look away. There are many ways to frame an image. Here are some examples.

Framing Example 1

The waterfall has been framed by the trees below, to the side and above. This keeps the eye moving around the image. The low fog helps as well by keeping the bright spots up top toned down.

Framing Example 2

Something as simple as the sun can be easily framed by an opening between 2 trees that are holding hands…..err branches.

Tunnel View

Naturally occurring frames like this cave entrance is a beautiful natural frame to the ocean landscape outside.

Balance

The 50/50 split works best in my opinion for reflection images. This is one time it’s ok to break the rule of 3rds rule.

Last but not least is exposure. Generally speaking if your image looks good to you on the back of your camera it’s not the best it can be. Using your histogram is the scientific way determine a good exposure. Even with today’s high-end cameras I still feel it’s important to expose to the right. This means taking your exposure as far as you can go to the right before you start to blow out your highlights. This helps to ensure better shadow detail, colors and tones and less noise in your image. An underexposed image will have more noise than a properly exposed image.. I am not talking about proper exposure based on your camera meter but proper exposure based on your histogram. They are 2 totally different things. This is really important if you are going to print your work. Anytime you shoot an image that’s underexposed and then try to bring up the shadows in post processing you create noise. Some cameras handle this better than others but it still happens.. By exposing to the right and getting more light in those shadow areas you will end up with a cleaner final image.

Exposed to the right

The image above is one of my RAW files with the histogram showing the data I collected. You may think this looks like crap and you are correct. By shooting this far to the right I was able to collect all the data I need to properly process the image. Nothing in this image is blown out and no shadows are clipped. Are you looking at the sky and thinking this is a total wash? Where are the details in the clouds or the water for that matter? Well, by bringing your exposures DOWN in your RAW converter you will get a much better image than if you are always pushing them UP.  By bringing them down we are simply darkening the info we already have. If you are pushing them up, you are trying to create data in pixels that were not properly exposed to begin with.

Tidal Cleansing RAW edit

As you can see, the colors, tones, shadows, and highlights are all in check here and this is only with the adjustments I made using the RAW converter. I haven’t even finished processing it yet. You will see that image a bit later on.

If you’re new to Exposing to the right, take a few shots like this the next time you’re out and work on processing them to see what you think. It works for every scene. The key is to watch your histogram and only expose just until you see a very tiny portion of the image blown out, like a cloud highlight. If you are shooting with an older camera the benefit will be much more noticeable.

Focus and Live View – I highly recommend that if you are using a tripod and taking the time to set up a great shot that you also take the time to use Live View and focus manually. I know this may sound silly since our cameras are amazing autofocus machines but it’s true. If you have spent the money on a great camera and great lens then why not make sure you get everything out of them you can. Even if your eyes are bad this will still work..  Set your camera on live view, zoom in to where you want to focus with the LCD zoom, not the lens zoom, then manually focus until the image is as sharp as it can be. If your eyes are bad use reading glasses or whatever helps you see up close. You can also use a loupe too to place right on the LCD to help you see better.

Things to keep in mind

  • Always shoot in RAW format
  • Always shoot in Adobe RGB color space
  • Use the lowest ISO possible/Native ISO
  • Use a sturdy tripod
  • Be willing to spend a some money on good lenses
  • Take your time – Wait for the right light
  • Include a foreground – give the viewer a sense of being there
  • Expose to the right – Collect more data to work with
  • Use Live View to focus manually
  • Leave no trace

 

Thank you for visiting. If you have any questions or comments please free to send them my way and I will respond in a timely manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art – Not Just For Portraits

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A couple weeks ago as I was getting ready to walk out the door and head to Moab, Utah for our 2nd sold out Night Photography Workshop of the year I heard a knock on my door and to my surprise he was delivering my new Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens.

I was happy to say the least. I opened my camera bag, made room for the beast and off to Moab, Utah I went. As soon as I finished with the workshop in Moab I headed north on a mini vacation with my daughter as we road tripped through Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. I used the lens frequently when I felt it was the right focal length. I am not a portrait photographer by any means so I had other uses for this lens. Lucky for me I was able to make all of my ideas work because I took my time and did not rush myself in the field.

Without further ado I would like to share with you some real world images that were taken with the 85mm lens at various settings and using various techniques which I will describe when needed… Each of these images are for the most part unedited. I did resize them a bit smaller to fit the blog better.

Dillion Reservoir near Breckenridge, Colorado – This was the first image I took with the lens. En Route to Moab this made a good first stop to stretch the legs. The sun was setting and I had time to get my tripod set up and wait for the water to calm a little bit. All the images in this blog were taken using a Nikon D810 and Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art Lens. The settings for this image are as follows: ISO 64, 1.6 seconds, F9

Dillion Reservoir

I had arrived in Moab, Utah and was checking out some new to me areas. I liked the early morning light hitting the canyon walls and figured this would be a good time to test out the shallow DOF… I was about 15 ft away when I shot this image and you can see that even at 1.8 it did a good job of isolating the front of my Jeep. Keeping it in tack sharp focus while allowing the rest of the scene to go soft.

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I was actually shooting the landscape behind the rock when I saw this little lizard crawl out and onto the rock to check out my new lens…I figured why not snap a picture of him.

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Shooting the layers of land from Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah. When shooting at a distance where nothing is directly in front of you, 6.3 f stop works well and keeps everything in check. The furthest hills may be a tad soft and in my opinion that is just fine..All the layers up front are good and sharp.

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During our workshops we like to include either sunsets or sunrises into our in field training to maximize shooting time for our students. This image was taken from the Lasal Mountain Overlook in Arches National Park as a small storm was blowing past us during sunset.

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Great DOF and razor sharp at 2.8.. I was about 4 feet away when I took this image. One of our students was making some adjustments on his camera.

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While the 85mm doesn’t have OS, IS or VR, I still find it very easy to shoot handheld in daylight hours.  Maybe because I have always shot big SLR cameras. This is an image just south of Devils Tower in Wyoming and when I crossed the bridge and looked over, I knew I had to stop and snap a few pics.

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One of the biggest reasons I wanted an 85mm lens is to create massive size panos. This image is made up of 7 vertical images to create a 179mb file which is 5x larger than each of the single images that come from my D810. If needed this image could be printed almost 20ft wide and 6t tall. Also when doing this it allows  you to crop if you need to or see another image within the image you want to use.

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Another reason for doing panos is to create a much higher res file… Below is a full 100% crop and you can see how sharp this is even at 100%.

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Night Photography is where I really plan on using this lens the most. By using the 85mm focal length and this lens in particular with its sharpness I can now create extremely high res, highly detailed images of the Milky Way. Using advanced Noise Reduction techniques and reinforcing the points of light not only creates a much cleaner image but also brings out some colors you would not normally see.

Made from 10 images by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0.

And last but surely not least…The most time consuming and most effort put into an image. 48 images total (8×6) to create an even larger file with a subject. 6 back to back images in 8 different camera positions. Each group of 6 first stacked to create one noiseless file. Each of the 8 noiseless files then stitched to create the entire scene. Shot at 6400 ISO as orig RAW imags. This file now has the noise of a 1600 ISO file when printed at full size..which is huge… When doing smaller prints the noise level will be around that of a 400 ISO file simply because of the massive file size. Think 16×20 contact print for those of you who are familiar with film.  Shots like this are time consuming both in the field and back in the digital darkroom. I don’t recommend doing something like this when shooting in a large group or you time in the digital darkroom could be increased exponentially due to any kind of light that would get into one or more of your shots during your sequence of exposures. < That will be for another blog all on it’s own.. For now let’s just take a deep breath and try to fully realize the crazy amount of detail you can get in your images with the Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens.

Made from 6 images by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0.

While I did not use it for any portraits or any people images, I am told it’s an award winning lens for that too…and I believe it. For me personally, it will be used to create massive panos, highly detailed images of the night sky and crazy shallow DOF images when needed… Also when possible I will use it just to create a wider angle of view..

I can stitch 2 85mm images together to create a 42mm wide shot, 3 images can create a 28mm wide image and 5 images can create an image that is as wide as a 17mm image yet all of these will have much larger file sizes and be able to print cleaner and larger than any single image.

I do plan on sharing more images from this lens as time goes on and I use it more. I think things are going to get pretty exciting.

Please feel free to leave a comment or message. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Shooting With Film Again

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1991 – High School

Good times for sure. Lots of friends, no internet so we had to talk to each other to communicate. My sophomore year I joined the yearbook and newspaper teams as a photographer. I spent a good portion of my days in the darkroom filling orders for the copy teams, developing film and making prints. I loved it. I got to work on my own or with 1 other person and didn’t have anyone telling me what to do.. As I look back on it now, I really consider it my first job. I was in charge of the darkroom by my senior year.  I made sure things ran smoothly and that prints and images were ready to go on time. We had deadlines to meet.

I graduated HS in 1993 and began college. I entered some images into our local County Fair and took first place in all the categories I had entered. After arriving back home from a trip to Montana my mom told me that the owner of our 1 hr film lab wanted to talk to me about a job. I was very excited…I had wanted this job for a while but was turned down about 6 months earlier. When I asked my mom why he wanted to talk to me now, she said that he saw my work at the fair.

I went to work at the photo lab for about 3 years  saving all my money and I was finally able to purchase my first Pro camera (Nikon F4s).  While working there I was also doing some sports photography for our local newspaper that just happened to be across the street. I did that for about a year. My real love was photography for me, for my soul, not working for someone else. The money and benefits weren’t good enough at those jobs so I had to grow up and get a real job…..with benefits. Photography kind of went by the wayside for many years…

In that time digital cameras had hit the market in a big way and changed photography. I jumped on that bandwagon and am still riding it today. I love photography in general. Digital is great, fast paced and fairly simply given my background with film. I was no computer wizard so that was the tough part of the learning curve.. Film went bye bye, I wasn’t working in a darkroom or making prints anymore. I felt as though something was missing from my life. The years went on, I moved a few times, had a few more real jobs, got married and had a child…

2016 – 41 yrs old and I’ll be dammed if I can’t do what I want when I want…

I want to shoot film again, I want to make pictures and I want to develop my own film – I knew this would not happen overnight. First, after deciding that I wanted to shoot film again I also knew that I wanted to shoot Medium Format as well as 35mm.

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Choosing a Medium Format camera that I felt was a good fit for me took a little while. I did not want a fixer upper but I also did not want to spend an arm and a leg – remember I have a family.  I finally decided on the Mamiya C330f – Twin Lens Reflex. It shoots 120mm film and each negative is 6cm x 6cm which is quite a bit larger than 35mm. I had never shot medium format before as well as I had never shot a camera that did not have a light meter built in. Now with a camera and some film I am ready to go.  I get out there and all set up and now I am not sure how to meter the scene. Good thing I had my Nikon D810 with me. I set all the settings the same and used it to meter the scene. This worked pretty well  but if I am going to be honest it was a bit of a hassle to have another camera just for that.. A month ago I purchased a handheld light meter that does a great job. Sekonic 308 because it was small, decent price and offered both indecent and reflective light metering.

After having a few rolls of exposed film I needed to get them developed and since I did not have the proper chemicals at my house I took them to Englewood Camera to be developed. I have created a nice working relationship with the employees there and they have always done a great job with my work.

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Now that I had some processed film and paper to print on, I was ready to get back into the darkroom and start making prints. Well there are not many darkrooms left that don’t want either an arm or a leg or for you to bring all your own stuff i.e chemicals. After a little research I found a place up in Boulder, Colorado that offers darkroom rentals for a very reasonable price. I rent it for 3hrs at a time and this allows me enough time to get a fair amount of work done.

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With the camera, film, a lab to process the film and a place to make prints I am pretty well set up to begin producing my own prints again. Over the last year since acquiring the camera I have had a lot of fun buying new films, light meter and chemicals so that in the very near future I will be doing all my own developing at home. I am not sure I will ever have a place where I can make prints at home and I am OK with that. I am simply very happy I have all the tools in place to begin this journey again.

Last week I took advantage of an expired film sale that Englewood Camera had. Some of the film has been expired for almost 40 years. I just shot a roll of black and white the other day that was expired 18 years ago and after getting it developed it looked really good…no light leaks or fogging. I will be printing from those negatives tomorrow.

 

So by now you may be asking yourself, “Why is he shooting film again?” and the answer is very simply. It slows me down, makes me think and let’s me appreciate what I am shooting/doing. From setting up the camera, getting a good focus, checking the light, taking the image, getting the roll developed and then choosing the best image to print can be a time consuming process. The center print above of Yosemite Falls was taken last summer while on vacation with my daughter. Starting next week I will be doing some scans of the images and while I plan on doing scans to post online. I am not going to do any prints from the digital scans unless I get an order for one that is bigger than I can print myself.

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As of right now I can print up to 16×24 directly from the negatives. If I were to do a drum scan of the negative then the native print size at 300dpi would be 60×60 inches.  Yes, that is the power of shooting Medium Format film. In digital terms that would mean your file would have to be 18,000×18,000.  As soon as our living room is done being painted I will be printing an image 36×117 inches that is a panorama from my digital camera. The file size is 24089×7379.

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For me personally, this is something I loved to do as a kid and something I want to enjoy again. The images that I produce wont be available to the masses. Not everyone will have one and more than likely not more that 10 prints will ever be made from the same negative. From start to finish I will have my hand on the process the entire way. The images that I create on film will not be the grand landscapes you see from me today. I will be shooting people, cityscapes, close ups, abstracts, patterns, textures, shallow DOF ect…. I love shooting landscapes, big, colorful landscapes and now I want to incorporate images that tell more of a story and really make the viewer think about what they are looking at or the story that goes with the image.

I hope this gives you a little insight on what is coming up for me in the very near future. Do I plan to give up digital?, No. Just planning on shooting more film along the way.

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Be sure to contact me directly if you have any questions or just want to talk about photography. You can also find me on the interwebs, FB, IG, and TW..

2016 – A Year In Review

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 broncos-win-afc-championship-game-20161

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.

rustic-winter-morning

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.

February balanced-rock-mono

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.

sunrise-trees

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

Marchoregon-storms

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

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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.

April

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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.

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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.

Mayblack-ponds-1

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.

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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.

Junebleeding-light

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.

coastal-clover-sunset

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

Julydelicate-explosion1

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

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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.

Augustkolors-of-kansas

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.

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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.

Septemberwindow-to-the-heavens

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.

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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.

Octobercrystal-mill-fall-sunrise

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.

pumpkin-spiced-aspens

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.

Novembertree-trunks-in-the-sunset-light

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-nights

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.

Decemberpolar-express

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.

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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

New Luminar from Macphun

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Luminar from Macphun is here! 

I will start out by saying that I have only had the program a few days. There is quite a bit to learn and I have only touched the surface. It’s been a fun ride so far.

Whenever I try out a new editing program there are a few criteria that the software needs to meet for me to continue using it.

  • Simple
  • Responsive
  • Fast
  • No Crashing
  • Effective

Simple – This means that once installed I can push some buttons, move some sliders and things will happen that I like. I don’t want to have to go searching for results.

Responsive –  This is a big one for me. When I make an adjustment with a slider I want the effect to happen as I am doing it or within 1 second of the adjustment… I have used other programs that take minutes to apply the adjustment and quite frankly I can’t live my life like that.

Fast – No lagging. As mentioned above things need to happen fast. I didn’t purchase a fast computer to run slow software.

No Crashing – When things start crashing I get nervous… With some of my more detailed night photography where I am using a lot of individual images to create one final image.. Putting in an hour or so worth of time and then have the program crash is a deal breaker for me, and probably you too, right?

Effective – It has to be able to do some nice things and produce some great results. If you bought a program only to find out it didn’t do what you wanted or give you the desired effects you like, you probably wouldn’t use it much. I have found that what I am doing with Luminar works very well and keeps my images very clean. This is extremely important because my images are printed large…I don’t want any artifacts from processing showing up in my images.

I am happy to say that Luminar has met and exceeded all my criteria. The software was easy to install the first time. It hasn’t crashed, it’s fast and responsive to the adjustments I make and it’s loaded with a lot of great presets to get you to a fantastic starting point quickly. I say “starting point” simply because there are still things I do in Photoshop when I am fine tuning my images and preparing them to be posted online.

Let’s take a look at some side by side comparisons with a few images I have processed with Luminar.

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Here is a nice side by side comparison of my RAW file on the left with the “Warm Sunset” preset on the right. That’s 1 click to this point. In PS you would need to do 2 or 3 individual adjustments to get to this point. Here I simply found the preset that most closely matched where I was headed with this image and selected it. I took this screenshot before I made any minor adjustments to the panel on the right because I wanted to show you the effect it had on the RAW file. As you can see in the very top image of this article I did finish off the image in PS before creating a file for posting online.

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“Center of Attention” – This preset works great when you have a centered subject and you really want to put emphasis on your subject. This image is from 4 years ago and one that I never took the time to process before. As you can see from the Before and After and the final image underneath. All I did here was use the preset and then add a little warmth to the color tone and I was done… Less than 30 seconds to edit this image from start to finish. I want to spend more time out shooting when possible and less time editing so having a program that is this quick and easy to use really excites me.

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I could show you these side by sides all day. I think the best thing to do is try it for yourself and  Download the free trial and start creating your own amazing works of art.

If you wish to purchase Macphun Luminar <— click here this let’s them know you found it on my blog.

Please note that I do not get paid, or paid for anything that is in this blog. The opinions are my own and I am simply sharing then with you…  Will Luminar replace photoshop for me, probably not. It will become a very useful addition to my workflow. This program is extensive. You can use layer, masks, blend modes ect to create anything you want!

Transitions – Product Reviews – General Photography related stories

Welcome to a new resting place for me on the web. I hope you will enjoy your stay and find the blogs you read here to be informative and to your liking. This blog will be used to tell stories about my images, share product reviews and discus events that are happening in my photography world.

If you are new to my work let me get right to it and tell you a little about me. My name is Darren White. I own and operate Darren White Photography – Fine Art Landscapes based out of Littleton, Colorado. I have been in Colorado since 2013 and have felt quite welcomed here as the people are friendly and supportive. I am a native of the Pacific Northwest where I was born and raised. A lot of my work is from the Northwest in and around Oregon and Washington.

I am co-owner of Night Photography Workshop where we teach students how to shoot and process images of the night sky. Our work takes us to Wyoming where we teach in Grand Teton National Park, Utah where we teach in Arches and Canyonlands National Park and here in Colorado where we teach up on Mount Evans at over 14K feet above sea level. This keeps me pretty busy in the summer between late April and late September. I also do private workshops both on location and post processing.

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I have been doing photography now for over 20 years and through the years I have seen a lot of things come and go. I started shooting back in the film days. Back then I was doing weddings, portraits, sports, animals, and anything else people would pay me for. I worked at our local 1 photo lab as well as the local newspaper in their darkroom and shooting high school sports as well. I got into landscapes when I was 16 and could drive to the beach. I was always fascinated by the ocean so that is where I spent a lot of my time. I grew to appreciate the sunsets, sunrises and any great weather we had that created a beautiful scene. Maybe it was a foggy morning where the sun was trying to burn through or fresh snow at sunrise. I took a good hard look at what was around me and always was able to find the beauty in what I was seeing.

Over the years I have learned through experience, trial and error and the constant effort to get better. I have worked with a lot of companies in various sectors covering many subjects on different levels. I will touch more on this later.

What I am doing now?  Aside from teaching in the summers I specialize in Fine Art Photographic Prints, Acrylic Prints, Metal Prints and Canvas Gallery Wraps. I have spent 20+ years working with various labs to find the best one for each product I offer. I feel I am in a very good place now with the companies I work with Artbeat Studios and Reed Art and Imaging do my HD Face Mount Acrylics depending on where my client is located. American Frame does all my Fine Art Photographic Prints over 20″ and Englewood Camera does all of my smaller prints up to 20″ long. Using these labs has provided me the best quality possible while being able to keep my prices affordable for my clients, customers and collectors. I have been using each of these labs for over 2 years and have built a great working relationships with them that I feel will continue for quite a while. 11228026_10206695695283655_993119726573377078_n

The above image shows some of the inner workings of American Frame – a smaller lab that puts out amazing quality prints. American Frame offers a lot of great paper choices. I have found that not all images look great on all papers. My image of Sunrise at Nubble Light above was printed on gorgeous Hahnemühle Photo Rag fine art paper. This paper allows the true beauty to come though and be appreciated to its full extent by the viewer.

Over the next few weeks I will be uploading some previously written blogs from other sites before I close them down. I will be adding new blogs, at least 1 a week, on all things photography. From software to cameras to lenses. I will also be uploading some tutorials as well. Please take a moment and subscribe to my blog to be updated when new blogs are up. Thank you!