New Zealand!

I’m back from a wonderful trip to the South Island of New Zealand. I’ll cut to the chase, it is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to. It takes a long time to get there, but it is worth it!

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I’ll start with a personal favorite from one of our first days out with our group. Most were shooting the opposite direction over a lake with mountains behind it. Not me, I was drawn to the soft light on the beautiful grasses in front of the stream and stand of trees. 

When I lecture, I often speak about the so called rules and ask why we listen to them? Should we? Or should we do what feels right? Who made the rules anyway? I’m of the mind that we should follow our heart and personal vision. While this image is not cut in half, it is very close. Does it bother you? Did you even notice until I asked? I did not notice until I was reviewing it in Lightroom. I asked my tour partner Dan Sniffin if it bothered him and he said no. In thinking more about this, I find it interesting that I even needed to ask. I knew I loved it when I made the capture and that should have been all that mattered. However, because of the MFA types out there who are eager to point out every broken rule, I’ve been conditioned to be concerned about it. Even if Dan had said that it did bother him, I would have stayed true to my vision and kept it as it is! That has not always been the case though. Approval from others was much more important than it is today. I’m happy to be in a place where my connection to and satisfaction with an image is good enough. If others like it too, icing on the cake!

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The Creature from the Valley

This scene quickly became a favorite. What do you see?

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Valley of Fire #3

One more from the Valley of Fire.

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Valley of Fire #2

 I love the more subtle tones in this detail image from Valley of Fire.

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Valley of Fire

The colors in the rock at Valley of Fire are stunning. I enjoyed looking for and finding these intimate landscapes.

I want to thank the good folks at the Portland Camera Club in Portland Maine for making me feel welcome as I presented one of my lectures for their club.  Thank you Pam!

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Cuba is all about the music

In Cuba, everywhere you turn, infectious Latin rhythms can be heard. The music is one of the best things about Cuba. I am impressed with the way the Cubans take their less than adequate instruments and make amazing music with them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high quality guitar being play on any of my trips. I do hope the renewed relations will eventually bring quality instruments to the Cubans. These talented musicians deserve them! I can’t help but make a photography point here. What a great example they are in cementing the idea that it is not the gear that makes a great image, its the person behind the gear. In this case, better quality instruments will stay in tune better, sound so much richer and be easier to play. That still does not take away from my point. You can feel the soul of these musicians as they play, regardless of the quality of the instrument.

As a guitar player, I am particularly drawn to fellow players, but of course I am a former trumpet player too! You’ll notice in one picture a yellow guitar pick. On this trip, I brought 100 picks and gave them to any and every guitar player I ran into. I also brought 6 sets of strings. The reaction to these simple gifts was heart warming. So glad I did this and would suggest you do too, if you travel to Cuba.

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A Gentle Reminder

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Recently, I was with a group photographing a location I’ve been to a few times. I was not inspired to photograph what we all came shoot which was fine, I was enjoying the company and just being there. And then, while waiting at the stop light to cross the street, I looked down and found todays blog image.

I’m enjoying Jay Maisel’s book, Light Gesture & Color, where he is confirming things I too have learned along the way.  Things like, always have a camera with you and its all about the light! There is not good or bad light, there is just light. Jay shows some wonderful examples of “bad noonday light.”  And then he speaks about a wall that he painted and how it transformed when the light hits it in a particular way. This is exactly what happened here. I was standing on the sidewalk on a cover of some sort. Probably access to wires underneath. I’ve stood on or driven over this type of thing many times, but this time because of the late day low angle of the sun, it took on a completely different possibility. I snapped three quick images and then the light changed. Yes, the sunlight and the street light!

Jay tells his students to just go out and shoot. Essentially asking them to put away their expectations and simply be aware, aware of what is calling them to be photographed. This is my gentle reminder to you as well. While it is wonderful to travel to exotic destinations and plan or even pre-visualize the great images we will make, great images are right before us. We just need to be open to seeing them. So, as you are out, have a camera with you, be observant and open to whatever gifts are presented and stop worrying about the light. It is what it is, its up to you to use it properly.

By the way and not that it matters, this is an iPhone 6+ image.

 

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Fire in the Sky

_DSF0393-Edit-EditThis is the scene that greeted us as we arrived for a morning shoot in Death Valley. This was one of the first images I made after running down the hill to where the water rivulets were. This was made well before the sun rose over the ridge behind us. It was nearly dark as we stumbled down the hill. I’ve chosen to keep the foreground dark as this is what I remember seeing. The intense color is what caught my eye and what I wanted to portray here.

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Dune Abstract

Another favorite abstract from Mesquite Flat Dunes. If you’d like to see more of my Death Valley work, check out my dedicated folio here.

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Death Valley in Their Eyes

With the positive feedback I received when I shared participant images from the Cuba tour, I figured, lets do it again! Here is a group of images from the participants on the recent Death Valley – Valley of Fire tour. Again, click on any of the highlighted links to view more of their work.  Enjoy!

Jo Johnson – In my life, I sometimes have a difficult time making choices. When I look at this image, with the white clouds mixed with rays of light and darker looming elements, it gives me great comfort in knowing that sometimes even Mother Nature has a difficult time making decisions.

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Dan Sniffin – I learned from Galen Rowell many years ago that placing a lighter subject in front of a darker background would create the feeling of depth and a third dimension. It’s a technique I’ve used repeatedly whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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Felice Willat – I’m choosing this image because of its simplicity, complementary colors and because it has foreground, middle ground and background.  The peek-a-boo rocks separate the soft dunes and the late afternoon darkened mountains.

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 Carla Francis – I love the anticipation of a beautiful sunrise in a new location. We arrived in partial darkness at the Salt Flats in Death Valley to shoot the rivulets. Wow, the colors were absolutely stunning! It was a very spiritual experience for me.

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Howard Grill –  “Our group was very fortunate in having it rain a day or two before we arrived in Death Valley or I would not have been able to make this photo.  Perhaps more importantly, we had workshop instructors that knew where to take us in order to take advantage of the prior rain shower, as this site was totally invisible from the road.

One of the nice things about looking at photos I have taken is that they seem to transport me back to where I took them, with very clear memories of being at the specific location.  In addition to the memory of being with a really fantastic group of talented and creative people the other thing this photo makes me remember is the sound of the salt crunching under my hiking boots as I walked.  I had never walked on salt before.”
 
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 Jim Milligan –  When I finished with processing, I found myself staring at the image for a period of time and it reminded me of how short mans presence is on this earth. The valley has weathered for millions of years yet it survives in some form. The wall, will disappear and mans presence will vanish, but the valley will live.

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Terry Schroeder – Contrasts.  Not just black and white, but straight and curved, rugged and delicate, short lived and almost timeless as well.  Great fun to try and capture all that in one image.

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 Donnie Fulks –  I attended this tour led by John, Dan and Chuck to work on my BW photography skills. I did capture many BW images that I am fond of, so mission accomplished. There was, however,  one sunrise in Death Valley after a recent rain that had glowing clouds and reflections in the normally arid salt flats that screamed color to me. This is one of several from that morning.

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 Bob Hansen  – I found the dunes incredibly beautiful, alluring and almost sensual, with a sense they were alive. While the dunes are often presented with the extreme contrast of lights and shadows this image gives a feel of the contrasts but also the softness of the sand and the fragility of these wonderful shapes.

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 Kathy Conway – There is something deeply satisfying, for me, about the “Last Shot” – the simplicity, the sense of a day’s work well done,  the solitude of the setting amidst a beautifully complex sky.

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 Cynthia Leeder –  I really like this one because I like how it worked out.  I like that they are walking in unison, carrying their tripods and gear off to discover their next picture.  I like the action of it.  I like the setting.  I like the light.  I like the complimentary colors of their shirts.  I just like it.

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