Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This shot was taken in Yellowstone National Park near the end of our trip. Storms moved through the region all afternoon and evening, and we saw four or five rainbows in different locations as we drove along. As the sun neared the horizon, we pulled over and parked the car near a beautiful meadow. The kids listened to music in the car, while Jay and I took a few shots. We were rather glad that the sky didn't do this every evening - with the kids along, we wouldn't have been able to shoot regularly.

I shot with a GND filter (click here for a brief explanation of GND filters) - but no polarizer. The GND let me capture the detail in both the shadows on the ground and the highlights in the sky. I nearly always use a GND filter to shoot sunrise and sunset. The dynamic range is simply to broad to be captured otherwise. In some cases, I use a circular polarizer when I'm photographing water. The polarizer cuts through glare and reflection, and allows me to see beneath the water. In this case, I wanted to see the colorful reflection in the water. And, you can't shoot a rainbow with a circular polarizer. The rainbow will disappear. :)

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Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm afraid I'm not feeling too well today. We arrived in Cleveland late last night, and I crawled into bed around 2am - but didn't sleep well. I did sleep in until about 8am. That was a treat. I've been working on my new website today. I'm finishing up the layout templates and getting ready to start dropping in content. The next step is easier - but not quicker. I looked at the tasks I have going on at the moment, and I'm hoping to get the new site up and running by the 1st of October. Meanwhile, I'm making minor changes to the existing site, but I won't do a lot of major updating.

Our next trip will be to Italy. We will bring our camera - we always do - but this trip is not about photography. We're going to visit our dear friend, Anna. She was in a car accident a few years ago, and suffered serious damage to her spinal chord, but she was able to come to visit us in the US last year. This is a shot Jay took at Canon Beach in Oregon.

Unfortunately, she's been unwell. So, we're going to see her for a few days. We'll spend as much time as possible just spending time with her. We're looking forward to the trip. She's a wonderful person - and we absolutely love her family. I can't wait!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hangin' at CLT

I'm stuck in Charlotte for a while. My flight is delayed by about an hour, but I can't complain. CLT happens to have free wireless access - so I'll be able to spend some time working, rather than just sitting around waiting for the airline to find it's plane. I'm still on California time, too - so I'm not that tired. I won't be home until after 1am, and the kids will be waiting for me... but that's tomorrow. I'll be tired at the end of the day, I think. :)

Ah dang - they're going to change my gate. Just when I'd found myself a comfy seat and an outlet. Oh well.

We spent yesterday driving from the Pacific Coast to Mono Lake. Driving through Yosemite is always a pleasure - what a glorious place. I guess as a landscape photographer, I should say something deep about inspiration and Ansel Adams and all that - but it's a bit late, and I've been sitting on my tail for most of the day. We were up at 4am - driving from Lee Vining to San Francisco took about 5 hours - waited for my flight - flew from San Francisco to Charlotte - and now I'm sitting on my tail once again. And then an hour from CLT to CLE - and another 40 minutes home. Oh boy. What I wouldn't give for a little chunk of wilderness right about now!

Unfortunately, our trip to Mono Lake was fruitless. We were hoping to catch the storm clouds at sunset, but unluckily, the storm cleared up early. We did take some shots, and I'll post when I've processed - but we'll have to return at a better time. Of course, summer is certainly not the best time to photograph Mono Lake... but it was worth a try. :) Even with the extra ten hours of driving.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008


We're ditching the coast and heading inland towards mono lake. The coast has a heavy layer of fog hanging over it - typical for this time of year. And there are no storms to bring interesting clouds. And when the fog lifts, the sky is hazy and dull. So, nevermind. We checked the weather conditions for the area, and the best we can hope for is the storm hanging over mono lake - East of Yosemite. So, we'll drive out this morning (about 4 hours) and shoot the lake at sunset. We'll stay out there tonight, and leave around 5am to return to San Francisco to catch our flights.

Yesterday, we drove along highway 1 to see what we could shoot at sunset. We stopped to check out McWay falls - but the park is closed because of fires. Too bad - the sun is at the right angle for a beautiful sunset shot at this time of year. At Pfeiffer beach, the sun was at the wrong angle for a good shot of the light coming through the natural doorways in the rocks. I did take a few shots there, but nothing spectacular. We headed Northward again, and stopped to capture a couple of shots along the highway. The light was beautiful at times, but the wind was exreme. It was nearly impossible to hold my tripod steady - and the wind nearly knocked me down, too. Maybe it's time to gain a few more pounds! Yikes! :)

We'd better get out of here. We have a bit of driving ahead of us - and we'd like to have some time to explore before sunset.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I have to do just to get a little work done!

I'm in California today. That's what it takes. I have to fly across the country just to find a few hours to work. :) I managed to catch a couple of earlier flights, so rather than arriving in CA at midnight, I was here by 8pm. I had a fantastic dinner at Banana Leaf in Milpitas, and then went straight to bed. I'm still on Cleveland time. This morning, I drove back to the airport to get my bag - which was on the plane I was originally scheduled to take, and now I've holed up in my hotel room to try and get some work done.

The plan is to get some web design work out of the way. I'm learning Dreamweaver this morning and I should have some time to see what Adobe Fireworks can do, too.

I can tell you right now - if I were at home, I would not be able to sit down and work. I have far too many responsibilities there. Even when I'm supposed to have a free day, something always comes up. Unless I leave the state. :)

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Photographing Kids?

One question I regularly get from new photographers is this: What lens do you use for photographing the kids? Of course, it's not an easy answer every time - since the kids do a lot of different things, and the best lens depends upon the situation. Still, I do have one lens that I use more than any other when it comes to capturing my children in action. The Canon 135mm f/2 L USM lens. Why? Because it's fast, sharp, and not as expensive as other L series lenses from Canon.
If I want to capture my children in the pool or on the soccer field, this is the lens I choose. I can't jump into the pool and I have to stay off the field - but the 135 lets me get right into the action. If I'm shooting outdoors, I choose an overcast day if possible - that way I avoid blown highlights and shadows with little or no detail. Shooting at f/2 allows me to use a fast shutter speed, too - so I can capture the kids in motion. It also gives me a shallow depth of field - my kid is in focus, but everything else is soft. Perfect. :)

If you are shooting moving subjects, consider using the AI Servo focusing system (Canon EOS cameras). AI stands for Artificial Intelligence - the camera automatically adjusts the focal length in relation to the speed and direction of the subject. It's not perfect, but it sure helps when your kid won't stand still!
And then there are those school functions that take place in a dark auditorium. Your flash doesn't reach the stage, your sitting in the tenth row... and your kid is a grand total of two dark little pixels when you print your photo for grandma. But not with a wide lens like this one. I open it up to f/2 again, adjust the ISO as necessary, and shoot without the flash. I couldn't be happier with the shots I got of my son's graduation from preschool - and his friends parents were thrilled to have some closeups of their kids, too.
I use this lens for school plays, concerts, weddings, parties, soccer, and swimming - and when I don't want to be right in a kid's face. You can capture some fantastic "close-up" candid shots from across the room - without disturbing your subjects.

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I'll be spending some time in California next week. I'm looking forward to adding more coastal shots to my portfolio. We may also spend a couple of days at Lassen Volcanic National Park. That's not enough time to explore the park thoroughly, but maybe we'll get lucky! :)
This is a shot from a trip to Point Lobos last year. The temperature was abnormally cold that day - it actually snowed a bit in the morning. The water was icy cold, and it kept running into my hiking boots as the waves washed over my feet. I couldn't feel my toes. :) Should have had my neoprene water shoes along.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Photo of the Day

The Dreaming is photo of the day on PhotoBurst today. Check it out. :) This is a newer website - lots of very interesting photography. I think you'll be impressed.

I've been unable to focus much time on Photography these past few weeks, I'm afraid. The kids are keeping me pretty busy, and I rarely have time to sit down and put time into photo processing. I am working on web design - planning and building my new site. Photography by Varina is still up and running, though.

I have a large number of photographs waiting to be processed - and a large number of children who want to be at the pool. So... guess what... Pool.

I'll post when I can. I hope you'll all be patient with me. School starts mid-August, and I'll be back to work full time.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Storm

Norris Geyser Basin provided some absolutely fantastic foreground objects - and the sky went nuts for us. We headed for Steamboat Geyser - the worlds largest - which rarely produces a large eruption. However, it's small eruptions are pretty impressive in themselves. The kids hoped to see a major eruption, and while we waited and watched, we heard rumblings in the distance. At first, we thought the rumbling came from a geyser or hot spring nearby, but it soon became apparent that a major storm was approaching. We believed that the fastest way back to the parking lot was to continue on our trail... but we were wrong. The storm was moving fast, and the kids started to get scared. Jay and I took turns running with the kids and getting a few shots in before the storm hit - this shot of Pearl Spring took just a few seconds. I put down my camera, removed the lens cap, hastily adjusted my settings, and hit the shutter release. Two seconds later, I was running to catch up with the kids - folding up the tripod as I ran.

We reached shelter moments before the storm hit, and we watched from the safety of a stone shelter at the museum. Lightening, thunder, high winds, rain, and hail... it was one heck of a storm. Luckily, it was moving so fast that the worst of it lasted just a few minutes. The little kids were scared, and the big kids helped calm them down until we could return to our car. In the end, everyone decided it was a great adventure. I love this photo - in part because of the memories it holds for me.

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