Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Well that pretty much wraps up 2011.  Its been a curious year for the photographic industry and the world in general.  The disaster in Japan in March had repercussions around the globe and had a pretty big impact on the photographic industry made only worse (for some companies more than others) by the flooding in Thailand near the end of the year.  Olympus has seen better days and there seems to be a general theme where executives high up at major corporations seem to be out of touch with their customers.  Well, thats enough depressing thoughts, onto the point of this post, recalling my favorite images from 2011.

I started off the year busily working on the images I had made at Bosque just before the holidays.

Then there was my second photographic trip to San Diego with my friends Bobby and Francisco.  At Santee Lakes, I made my first tight portrait of a Coot.

I participated in several workshops organized by Edward Mendes the first of the year being in Yosemite.  During one of the evening shoots I witnessed one of the most incredible sunsets.

My major trip for the year was on a photographic safari to Tanzania with Andy Biggs.  I had the chance to make many wonderful images, some of which are still in my queue to process.  It proved to be an experience that I don't think I'll ever forget and one which has changed my photography.

I saw and photographed by first Mandarin Duck this year, what a beautiful bird.

I participated in another Edward Mendes Workshop, this time in Big Sur where I was introduced to a variety of wonderful photographic opportunities.

I went back to Yosemite for some spring photography and though that part wasn't as successful, I did come away with a star trails image that I like and that has been popular.

In June, I went to the Grand Tetons National Park, again on a workshop with Edward Mendes.  We ended up having some challenging (though at times interesting) weather but made the best of it.

My major photographic equipment change (or more like addition) came in July when I added a Leica M9 to my kit.  Over the remainder of the year, I have expanded and refined my Leica kit and its a camera that I use often.

I set out in the late summer / fall to try and get to the Bristlecone Pine forest in the White Mountains.  Though I still haven't captured the exact image I have in my mind, there have been other favorites that have come of the various trips.

I photographed at Lake Tahoe for the first time this year.  Its a place I'm sure I'll be returning to in coming years.

I photographed a lot more people this year than I have in the past.  I'm not sure if thats because I'm using the M9 a lot more or if I'm drawn to the M9 because I'm shooting people more...

I photographed an event this year, namely my father's 60th birthday.

I returned to Mono Lake this year and was disappointed to find that the lake level had risen 2 feet since my visit in 2010.  Due to the crowds at the regular South Tufa area, my friend Greg and I decided to make an image at a slightly less traveled location.

Just before joining Edward Mendes for another fall color in the Eastern Sierras workshop I managed to capture an image with Bristlecone Pine and star trails.  Though not quite ideal, its a step in the right direction.

I made images at Pfeiffer Beach for the first time this year, again a location I'd like to return to several times over in the coming years.

I decided earlier this year that I was going to de-emphasize avian photography and spend more time on mammals and landscapes.  Looking back at the year, it appears thats exactly what has happened.  Though I've enjoyed all the landscapes I've made this year, I'm really itching to photograph more mammals.

The first while of 2012 is going to be very challenging photographically.  I'll be extremely busy, have no trips planned and will likely not get to make any new images (or even process ones on the queue) for a few months.

The latter part of the year will be exciting though.  I will finally get to go make images at a place I've been looking forward to for years, South Georgia Island and the Falklands.  Can't say I'm looking forward to spending 3 weeks on a ship but it should be a small price to pay.

Once again, here's to wishing that 2012 is a prosperous year for all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

La Jolla Pelican

La Jolla Pelican - 1D4, 500, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100
 Yesterday morning I went out for what is I'm sure my last shoot of the year (certainly my last avian shoot).  I had arrived at the La Jolla Cliffs a little too early the day before, so I chose to sleep in and arrive around 7 AM yesterday.  My timing was good, I hadn't packed a flash on this trip, so I couldn't make the usual flash lit images of the gulls against the pink ribbons of the pre-sunrise dawn sky.  My primary goal was to capture a Pelican performing one of their head throws with which I've had little success in the past and only moderate success the day before.  However, when I saw this composition available (with no other Pelicans cluttering the frame and a lot of negative space in the direction the Pelican was facing) I knew I had to make an image with it.

One reason that it felt rather fitting was because I'd made an image with a lot of negative space featuring a California Brown Pelican back in January of this year.  It seemed fitting to wrap up the year making an image with a different theme.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays, whatever works for you.  Whether the religious significance has meaning to you or not, now is just a great time to hang out with family!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aged Branches

Aged Branches - M9, 18 Super Elmar, ~f/13, 1/250s, ISO 160
This is one of the first real images I've taken with the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super Elmar lens.  I bought this lens primarily for landscape work and it certainly lives up to its Leica name when it comes to optics and build.  I also have the viewfinder attachment (the M9 framelines don't go as wide as 18mm) but in this case, I ended up not using it, opting to take several images guessing where my frame was.  It worked out, of the 4 images I took of this scene, this one was framed exactly the way I wanted it, requiring no cropping in post.  I looked through the other images I took with the 18 SEM and I'm very pleased with this lens.  I compared it quickly to my Canon 17 TS-E on a 5D2 and it appears the 18 SEM is very slightly optically superior (small enough no not matter), but its miniscule size when compared to the Canon kit that makes it my favorite lens at this focal length.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Landing Manoeuvres

Landing Manoeuvres - 1D4, 800, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 800
It was exactly a year ago that I was returning from my trip to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  It was second year there and turned out to be more productive than my first time in 2009.  I was hoping to return there this year, but that didn't end up happening, maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lone Cypress

Lone Cypress - M9, 50 Summilux, ~f/6.7, 0.7s, ISO 160
I think this iconic Monterey Cypress has been photographed by virtually everyone who visits 17 mile drive, so when I went there one morning a couple of weeks ago I didn't have much expectation to make something unique. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lichens on Rock

Lichens on Rock - 5D2, 24 TS-E, f/10, ISO 200
I saw this formation on my drive back from Patriarch Grove this summer.  I thought the lichens growing on the rock had striking color and so set up to grab a quick image.  Though I took this at 7pm, sunset was still a ways away so the sky was still very bright.  I had to capture multiple exposures to get detail in all the tones.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rocky Shore

Rocky Shore - 5D2, 17 TS-E, f/5.6, 2min, ISO 200, shifted down.
This was one of the untended gems that came out of the 'bust' of the eclipse shooting last weekend.  We got to the spot where we wanted to capture the eclipse very early and so took the opportunity to do some long exposures by moonlight. 

I decided to experiment with several focal lengths and figured that the 17 was the ticket to get a very strong foreground element.  I have several more images from the area taken with lenses at different focal lengths which have a different feel to them which I will release as I process them in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Academy of Sciences

I spent this morning at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. It was a holiday event for work, and afterwards we went for a tasty lunch at 'Park Chow'.

We got "behind the scenes" passes which included a tour of areas that normally aren't accessible to the public.

One of these areas is all the machinery that goes into maintaining the gigantic tank in their aquarium.

The amount of salt they have on pallets all over the place was incredible, literally tonnes.

I used the Leica 21mm Summilux and the Voigtlander 12mm (above) for the most part. 

One of the vaults is another one of those places that you usually don't get to see.

Mmmmm, jars of pickled snakes...

 The gigantic tank in the aquarium is quite impressive.

And these are the guys I have to work with... :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Portal to the Sun

Portal to the Sun - 5D2, ZE 21, f/22, 0.6s + 2.5s + 10s fusion
I made this image at Pfeiffer Beach on Saturday evening.  It was a receding slow tide at sunset but I couldn't get as close to the rocks as I would have wanted since there were many other photographers there who arrived before I did.  I couldn't make the iconic image (with the sun's golden rays scattering off the mist) that evening since mist/spray disappeared shortly after I got there.  So settled for something wide with a 'sun star' in the frame.  This will definitely be a place I will visit several more times until I get the image I'm looking for.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Volumetric Eclipse

Volumetric Eclipse - 5D2, 500 + 2x TC, f/8, 10s, ISO 6400
 Yesterday was a very long day.  I woke up around 2:30 to get ready to go out and capture images with the moon under total eclipse.  I was already at the coast since I had spent the last couple of days at Asilomar for a work event.  Unfortunately, the weather was not entirely co-operative.  I had wanted to take a sequence of images showing the eclipse start and the moon set over the Pacific Ocean using the ragged coast as a foreground.  It ended up being partially cloudy with some pretty dense clouds right around totality.  To make matters worse, we were told that the area we were in was going to be closed at around 6:15 that morning due to a race that was going to happen in the area.  Still I'm glad I went out there, even if it was to just witness the eclipse.  I did some more shooting on the coast last night before heading home.  I'll post more images in the coming week.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

McWay Falls

McWay Falls - M9, 28 Elmarit, ~f/11, ~1/60s, ISO 160
McWay Falls is a classic stop along the picturesque Highway 1 on the California Coast.  Its located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park and once you park in the lot, its an easy walk to see the falls.  I am headed to the coast today for several days, mostly for work but should have the chance to do some photography.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Sunrise over Buttermilk Country

Sunrise over Buttermilk Country - 5D2, 24 TS-E II, f/13, ~1/3s, ISO 100
This fall was my first time shooting in an area near Bishop, California called Buttermilk Country.  We set up in a field of sagebrush to catch the sun rise and strike the mountains in the distance.   It was a challenge finding a suitable foreground to anchor the image, but I eventually found what I was looking for.  In addition to using a few stops of grad filters, I also captured this image with several exposures and fused them together in post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Storm Approaches

A Storm Approaches - 5D2, 24-105 @ 60mm, f/9, 1/60s, ISO 400
Dark clouds approach in the late afternoon over the curious landscape of Petrified Forest National Park.  I made this image last year as I drove through the area on my way to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beach Art

Beach Art - M9, 50 Summilux, f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO 250
I made this image as I was wandering around Santa Barbara beach at sunset looking for interesting subjects.  There wasn't a lot happening (on the ground or in the sky) so I wasn't being to picky in my subjects.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Spiral - NEX 5N, 18-200 @ 200mm, f/7.1, 1/320s, ISO 1000
I had a pretty relaxing weekend since for a change we decided not to do any traveling, opting instead to just stay home.  On Friday, we drove to the coast to look for tide pools.  Since a low tide was expected around 4:30, I thought it would be a good time to try and combine with photography.  Sadly, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, where we ended up was almost completely overcast denying us a beautiful sunset.  I did however spot this wonderfully iridescent shell (occupied by a hermit crab).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ancient

The Ancient - M9, 35 Summilux ASPH II, ~f/2.8, 1/350s, ISO 160
I made this image while waiting for the sun to set on my trip to Schulman Grove last month.  The moon had just cleared the hill behind and it wasn't too difficult to find an angle where it could be 'held' by the tree.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Loon and Chick

Loon and Chick - D3s, 200-400 @ 400, f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 400
A loon and chick swim in the early morning light at Lac le Jeune near Kamloops, British Columbia.  If you're interested in bird photography, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sandhill Crane Landing

Sandhill Crane Landing - 1D4, 800, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 400

A Sandhill Crane comes in for a landing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pismo Pier Lines

Pismo Pier Lines - Leica M9, 18 Super Elmar, f/8, ISO 160
This is the product of some experiments I've been doing in making black & white HDR images.  There two things that I feel are the main challenges in processing HDR images:
  1. Maintaining some contrast as HDR tends to reduce overall image contrast
  2. Keeping the colors real
However, one advantage of having wild colors from HDR is that if you convert the image to black and white, you can use those colors to manipulate the tonality of the image.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friend or Foe

Friend or Foe - Canon 1D4, 500 f/4 IS, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 400
This is the final installment in the "animals that look like they want to eat me" series, in this case a Leopardess.  With her cub pretty close by, she's probably just looking to see if we are a threat, rather than her next meal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Just Say Ahhhhhh"

"Just Say Ahhhhhh" - 1D4, 70-200 @ 185mm, f/4.5, 1/160s, ISO 400
Continuing the theme I started with the last post (animals that look like they want to eat me) is this guy in the Florida Everglades. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Stalker - 1D4, 500 f/4 IS, f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 800
A Lioness looks like she's about to stalk her prey, in this case she's looking right at me [gulp]

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Storm over Thomas Alma Moulton Barn

Storm over Thomas Alma Moulton Barn - 5D2, 24 TS-E II, f/22, 20s, ISO 100
I made this image after the sun had set on my first day in the Grand Tetons this summer.  That evening had been mostly cloudy and so I thought that a long exposure would highlight the motion of the clouds.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Painted Desert

Painted Desert - 5D2, 24-105 @ 97mm, f/8, 1/25s, ISO 400
I made this image on my way to Bosque del Apache last year when I stopped off at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  The afternoon and evening was cloudy, making it ideal to make images that capture the subtle (and not so subtle) colors of the landscape.