Saturday, January 31, 2009

A taste of winter

I've spent the past two weeks in Ontario - a brief trip for which I had grand plans of winter photography. But the weather was damn cold when I arrived (-20C) and snowy.... and I was lazy. So I spent far more time socializing and having fun than taking photos. I'm now packing for my return flight to the southwest and thought I should post a few of the photos that I did manage to get during the past couple of weeks.

Photo 1: It snowed a foot one night while I was staying with friends in Penetanguishene. Here's my friend Andrew clearing the driveway with his new snowblower.

Photo 2: I found this porcupine feeding in young trees near Dyers Bay on the Bruce Peninsula. Although just above head height, the white sky background made it a tough situation to photograph. This closeup of the head and face was one of the more successful shots I manged to make. EOS 1DsmIII; 500/4IS

Photo 3: I did some work with the tourism department at Bruce County photographing a crew from the Snowtrax (snowmobiling) television show..... it was a ton of fun!

Photo 4: For much of the snowmobile shoot, I photographed from the back of one of the sleds. Here's an image of us going through a tunnel, with a slow shutter speed to create motion blur. This is from the camera, with no special digital effects.

I'm looking forward to warm southwest weather again!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Desert Museum

I'm back in Ontario for 2 weeks to shoot winter stock images and do some assignment work. What a shock this cold weather is... I'll be glad to fly back down to Arizona again soon! While I'm here, the van is down south getting some major work done on it including new head gaskets. It should be like new when I return.

Here are a few photos I've just caught up on processing from the last couple of weeks. All were shot with an EOS 1Dsm3 body.

Photo 1: The road into Death Valley National Park at dusk. 24-70/2.8 lens; Singh-Ray 3 stop hard edge ND grad (4x6" handheld in front of lens)

Photo 2: Joshua Tree against starry sky (light painted the tree with a flashlight). I had very limited time in Joshua TreeNP and my photo mojo was off. It's an incredibly scenic park with gnarly-shaped trees and otherwordly rock formations. I'll be going back next month to make the most of its photographic potential! 24-70/2.8 lens; 44s exposure at f5.6

Photo 3: Mountain Lion (captive) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM). This world-class outdoor living 'museum' has great opportunities to photograph wildlife in a natural looking setting. 500mm IS lens + 1.4x TC

Photo 4: Great Horned Owl (captive) at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. If you make it to the desert museum, be sure to see the live raptor shows offered twice daily... and have your camera ready! 500mm IS lens; 580EX II flash at -2 for fill (the bird was backlit by the natural sunlight)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Death Valley sand dunes

With broken shocks on the van and nightfall approaching, it made sense to camp out for the night and sneak in a morning shoot before leaving the national park for repairs the next morning. As luck would have it, the Stovepipe Wells campground was right next to Death Valley's famed sand dunes. We hiked out before sunrise..... the best dunes were much farther than it looked..... and had an incredible morning of photography out there. The combination of soft light, sand ripples, undulating dunes and mountain backdrops makes this an absolutely awesome spot for landscape photography. It would be hard to take a bad photo there!

Below are some of the results (hope they look ok, because it's difficult to get the raw conversions right when working on the laptop in the van!). All were shot with EOS 1DSm3 body, Singh-Ray LB colorcombo polarizer and 2 stop hard edge ND grads. Lenses were either 24-70 or 17-40. Cable release and mirror lock for every photo.

Raven tracks across the top of the dune:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bacon below Sea Level

I'm in Death Valley National Park in eastern California. The park is a landscape photographer’s dream, with its varied and almost surreal terrain. Yesterday I visited the Badwater Basin – the lowest spot in the US - where I fried bacon for breakfast at 282ft below sea level. Very cool!

The afternoon plan was to make it to the “Racetrack", a salt flat where small boulders, presumed to have been blown by strong wind, have left their tracks across the playa. This is one of the top 5 places I wanted to photograph in the southwest.

Getting to the Racetrack requires driving 27 miles on a gravel road which is described as "famously bad". The park ranger told me to drive very slowly or it would cause serious damage to the vehicle. I should have listened better!

Approximately 5 miles down the washboard "road", one of the rear shocks on my van exploded. Abandoning hope of getting to the Racetrack, we turned around to figure out where the heck we'd find auto parts and a mechanic. Halfway back to the main road, the other rear shock also exploded. Thankfully the van was driveable and there was a town about an hour and a half away where we found new shocks and a mechanic who was open on Sundays. Everything worked out well and it turned out to be a fairly cheap fix (you can't say that often on VW vans). As a side bonus, this unexpected issue ended up causing changes in plans that lead to two spectacular photo shoots. I'll share some of those photos in the next post. And rest assured, I will get back to the Racetrack... next month. But I'll drive slower - much slower.

Here's the first exploded shock on my van. I used string to stop the bottom half from dragging on the road.

And here's me “communicating” with my buddy Chris while I surveyed the damage. He was laughing hysterically about the incident. Can't really blame him, I would have done the same!

By the way, I always carry a point and shoot camera (a Canon G9) to capture special moments like these!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Grand Canyon

Photo: Pima Point, Grand Canyon
EOS 1Ds3; 17-40mm lens; Singh-Ray LB colorcombo filter and 3 stop hard edge ND grad

Just made a short overnight visit to Grand Canyon National Park which allowed one sunset and sunrise shoot. I was elated to find a trio of yucca growing on the edge of the canyon last night and make a photo that I had been dreaming of for years!

My buddy and I are now in the epicenter of American culture.... Las Vegas. We're heading out for a walk on the strip with point & shoot cameras - should be fun! Tomorrow we drive to Death Valley in California. Can't wait!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tucson ducks

I'm killing some time at the Phoenix airport waiting for a friend to arrive... we're going on a whirwind tour to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Joshua Tree over the next couple weeks. So for those of you who are tired of all the bird photos, don't worry.... landscapes are coming!

During my few weeks in Tucson, I was focused (almost obsessed) with capturing good in flight photos of Canvasback and Redhead ducks. It may seem funny to be photographing ducks in a desert city, but any pond is an oasis for waterfowl. Out of literally thousands of attempts, here are my best results.

Photo 1: Canvasback drake in flight
EOS 1Ds3; 500mm IS lens + 1.4x TC

Photo 2: Redhead drake in flight
EOS 1Ds3; 500mm IS lens + 1.4x TC

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Years!

Hola 2009!
What a great start to the year! I spent the morning photographing ducks in flight and finally nailed American Wigeon and Canvasback. During mid-day, I lounged next to the pool drifting in and out of a nap with some classic U2 cranked on my iPod. For evening light, my Mom and I went to shoot landscapes at Sabino Canyon - a scenic park in northeast Tucson. When we arrived back home, my stepdad had BBQ hamburgers ready. Life is good!

Photo 1: American Wigeon in flight
500IS + 1.4x TC; 1/1000s @ f/7.1 (manual exposure)

Photo 2: Saguaro Cacti
17-70mm; Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer; 1/15s @ f/22

Photo 3: Sabino Creek (flowing well due to rain a few days ago)
17-70mm; Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer; o.8s @ f/22

Photo 4: Saguaro Cactus reaching up
17-70mm; Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer; 1/4s @ f/20
-gold reflector used to illuminate the right side of trunk

Photo 5: Saguaro Cactus against the Catalina Mountains
70-200mm; Singh-Ray LB Colorcombo polarizer; 2.5s @ f/18
The Colorcombo polarizer is quickly becoming one of my favorite filters for helping to bring out vivid saturation.