August 22, 2011

Lightning Over Salt Lake

I have wanted to get a shot like this for some time.  It seemed every time I tried I was too late, or in the wrong spot.  A few Sunday's ago the west sky was full of lightning and I knew it was the perfect time for some shots.  I wanted to add more elements to the scene instead of just taking a picture of lightning so I went to a viewpoint I had scoped out some time before and composed as best I could for the unpredictable lightning.  It may seem daunting at first, but capturing lightning is actually pretty easy once you know how.  So I put together some tips below.
Capturing Lightning:
    1. Use a Tripod.  This is a must for the length of time the shutter will be open.  To reduce any movement during the long shutter speed here are some other tips you should keep in mind*:
      1. Turn off IS (Image Stabilization).  If you have your camera on a tripod it is still going to try to compensate for hand holding and make your image a little blurry.
      2. Enable Mirror Lock on your camera.  Read the manual or search in your menu to find this.  One shutter click flips the mirror up inside the camera before taking the shot and a second shutter click will take the shot. 
      3. Use a Shutter Release Cable.  Touching the camera will produce camera shake.
      4. Use a low ISO.
    2. Use a longer shutter speed.  Lightning comes and goes quickly, so make it easy on yourself, use a slow shutter speed and any time lightning strikes while your shutter is open (say during a 15 second stretch like the photo above) will show up on the sensor, and on your photo.
    3. Find an interesting foreground/subject and work with the lightning around it.  It’s just a shot of lightning if there is nothing else interesting in the photo.
    4. Take lots and lots of shots.  You’re not going to get it the first time.  Keep at it.  Find the best (safest) place and shoot away!
*These tips should be practiced any time you use a tripod.  

August 15, 2011

Bonneville Speed Week (1)

Bonneville Speed Week is going on this week out at the Salt Flats in the northwest region of Utah.  Racing started last weekend and will continue through the rest of this week.  Densely packed salt on miles of flat land make this natural phenomenon a breeding ground for speed demons and motor heads.  Competitors line up to take their turn to try and break the speed records set in previous years.  Car bodies of all shapes and sizes are streamlined and modified to maximize speed.  Engines revved and spectators awed as each rocket-like car or motorcycle came up to the starting line.  Completely decked out in fire suits and crash helmets, each competitor was focused on the ride.  There was no joking around, no smiles for the crowd.  These drivers were focused.  Going down a speedway at 200 + MPH is serious business.  One small hiccup and your done.  The goal is speed.  No matter what the cost.  

August 06, 2011

Summer Storms: Sunsets

Cecret Lake Trailhead looking down Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.  

When the clouds gather grab your camera and get out there!

Photographing Sunsets

1. Tripod
2. Filters - Graduated Neutral Density Filters
3. Shutter Release Cable (or use the 2-sec timer)

1. Get set up before the sun sets - this moment lasted only a few minutes, if that.
2. Pre-visualize your shot beforehand so you can have everything ready (composition, lens selection, filter, camera settings, etc.)
3. Stay until the stars come out.  The most dramatic colors can, and usually will, be when the sun has set and just before it gets dark.  As the great Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over".
4. Be in the right place at the right time.  I would say this is possibly more important than any gear or knowledge you can have of photography.  Being there is half of it.  What good is it if your content is boring?  
5. Watch the clouds, watch the skies.  Dramatic skies during the day will most surely develop dramatic sunsets.  Figure out which clouds and conditions bring the best light and at what time?  This takes a lot of practice, but can be one of the most important bits of knowledge for a landscape photographer.