January 29, 2012

Day Full of Photography

I love the days that begin and end with photography.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I got up extra early to make it to Park City before sunrise.  In such a photogenic setting and just off the main road, the Park City barn has been photographed more than a few times.  I was hoping for some unique light so I could come away with something different.  
I like to think of the photo canvas as split up into thirds.  Not only two dimensionally, but three dimensionally as well.  I know, a photograph is only two dimensional, but hear me out.  To create an image with real depth and visual interest, the photographer must make it seem three dimensional.  How do you do that with a medium that is obviously two dimensional?  Fake it.  Use leading lines, create layers, get a different perspective.  Every photo I take, I want it to feel like you are there.  Or to feel like you want to go there.  Which is why I try to create depth in every photograph.  Now, back to the photograph being split up into thirds.  The rule of thirds is an elementary rule in photography and essentially places your main subject in a more pleasing location other than just smack in the middle.*  The rule of thirds is basically this; split your image into thirds and place the main subject or horizon lines in the intersecting thirds.  This is a great rule and should be second nature to any photographer, but what if we took it to the next step?  What if the photo was actually a cube?  If you split your image’s depth into thirds what do you get?  A foreground, a middle-ground and a background.  Placing visually interesting objects in these thirds will create depth, and how you place them will either make it interesting or distracting.  The idea of creating a cube instead of a flat plane will improve your photography tenfold.  Now, It’s up to you in how you place objects within this cube. 
In my photo below, the cattails are my foreground and out of focus for a reason as I don’t want them to distract from the main subject, the middle-ground, the barn, is my main focus, and the mountains are my background.  With an aperture of 2.8 I wanted the focus to stay on the barn and kind of soften every other layer in the photo (ie. the mountains and the cattails).  I used my 70-200mm lens to compress the landscape a bit and make it feel like the mountains were right up against the barn.  

Back in Salt Lake I was able to catch sunset in the city.  I went up to a favorite location of mine to take photos of the City Council Building.  I try to pre-visualize what kind of photos I want to take in certain locations and I certainly had some ideas of what I was looking for here.  The sky was working again for me and I was able to come away with the images I’ve had in my head.  Gotta love a day full of successful photography! 

*This rule, and every other rule for that matter, is really only a guideline (as Captain Barbossa would say).  So, learn the rules and then learn how and when to break them.

January 28, 2012

Matted Prints

I got some of my prints matted today for the Nature Photography Competition and Exhibition at the M.L. Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University.  I was in a bit of a crisis to get them matted last minute (due to my reading the photo requirements wrong) and was saved by Travis at Tanner Frames located in downtown Salt Lake City.  Travis was nice enough to let me photograph the whole process as we talked about art and politics.  I ran them down to the museum and I couldn't have been happier with the finished product.  They looked incredible and I can't wait to see them up on the wall.  The exhibit will run from February 3rd to March 5th, 2012.  I will be there this Friday for the reception at 7pm, so hopefully I'll see you there!  And if you need any framing or matting done, give Travis a visit.

January 17, 2012

I need your opinion...

Which do you like better for a City of Holladay photo contest, black and white or color?

January 08, 2012

Location: Grand Teton National Park

Snake River near Schwabacher Landing

Sunrise at Snake River Overlook

Wind causing snow drifts along the road near the Tetons

I have returned from the Tetons with more than just photos, but a stronger friendship and greater photographic experience.  I was able to go with a very close friend, who is almost as crazy about photography as I am, which made it easy to drag her along in the wee hours of the morning.  We faced freezing temperatures, whiteout weather, and equipment failures, but came back with some really great photography.  

Snake River near Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing

Sunrise at Snake River access point

The first night we set out for sunset and managed to drive right into an oncoming storm which didn’t let up until the next afternoon, nixing both sunset and sunrise shots.  After attempting sunrise in the snow blizzard, only to retreat to our warm beds, we set out for some afternoon scouting.  We snowshoed down to Schwabacher Landing to get some views of the Tetons with the Snake River.  The light was great and we were finally getting some good weather.  I had gotten some good shots and was ready to move on to the next location.  I put my Gitzo tripod in the snow to set up another shot when, ‘snap’.  Two of the legs broke right at the top.  Clean off.  Like twigs.  I had the whole weekend ahead of me and I had just broken a crucial piece of my photo gear.  After the initial shock and disappointment, I realized I now had a perfectly good ‘monopod’ and would have to finish the trip with that.  Not ideal, but you do what you gotta do.  I could stick it in the packed snow and get it reasonably stable using every precaution to keep it from shaking; cable release, mirror lock-up with a 10 sec delay.  It worked out better than I thought, but I’ll be glad to get a replacement soon (future post to come).  We hustled back up to the main road and froze in 0 degree weather to catch sunset at Snake River Overlook and enjoy the last night of 2011.

Swans brave the icy ponds outside of Jackson Hole

Icy trees near Jackson Hole

Sunrise at Snake River Overlook

Alpenglow sunrise at Snake River Overlook

The next morning we got up extra early to snowshoe to a new location.  We headed down the snow blocked road, trudging through knee deep snow even in snowshoes.  We made it to the bottom clearing where it turned out the better views were back away from the river where the pine trees created some depth and foreground.  We had a much shorter hike up, but were met by a Park Ranger at the top.  He had seen our car at the top of the road and waited until we hiked out.  Apparently, river access is off limits in the winter at the Tetons.*  

Sunset in Grand Teton National Park

Icy tree near Jackson Hole

The Tetons are beautiful in the summer, but if you’re up to freezing temperatures, limited access, and raw conditions, the Tetons in the winter are a whole different experience.  You have to be prepared, but it is well worth it.  It was definitely a great way to start off the new year. 

Cold winter morning outside Jackson Hole

Icy lake outside Jackson Hole

Essential Gear:
-Graduated Neutral Density Filters (Singh-Ray)
-Lens cloths
-Tripod (a backup doesn't hurt!)
-2x gloves: one thinner for handling camera, one thicker while waiting for the light
-Extra batteries
-Hand warmers to keep batteries warm, as they drain quicker in the cold
-Patience, layers and wool socks.

*We had gone to the visitor center the day before to get information on accessing the river and were never informed of this rule. Not sure that's what the ranger wanted to hear. 

January 01, 2012

Happy 2012!

In the Tetons chasing light and celebrating the new year.  I'll give a full report upon return, but for now here is one of my first photos of 2012.  Wishing you all a happy and successful new year!