Friday, February 27, 2009

In Search of Sunset Light on El Capitan

Aftger popping into Starbucks in Coursegold for some Internet time, I continued on to Yosemite Valley just in time for sunset.

This is when the sunset light should have been striking Horsetail Falls as it spilled off or El Capitan, but the waterfall didn't seem to be flowing, and the light didn't reach that spot anyway. The sunset light selectively falling on Horsetail Falls is a rare annual event, so unless the weather forecast for this weekend clears up enough for me to make the trek to check it out, it looks like next Winter may be my next opportunity to catch this incredible natural light show.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Return to Joshua Tree National Park

After a luck break with the weather at the Grand Canyon the evening before, I decided to see if I could get lucky again at Joshua Tree National Park. Obviously, I was not disappointed.

You have to be careful when shooting under these conditions. People often discover the arms from these cacti hitching a ride on their clothes, resulting in the name "Jumping Cholla". It's almost as if they jump up onto you!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grand Canyon Sunset

I couldn't make it to the Grand Canyon from the Page, Arizona area the night before; I had to pull over at a "truck safety" turnout, apparently a resta rea without restrooms. Fortunately someone pulled up behnind me at something like 4am, shining their headlights to fill the van with light. I bolted upright, thinking that I had slept in. No such luck.

I did notice however that I might be able to make it to the Grand Canyon in time for sunrise. A couple of hours later I was racing the rising sun to the turnouts and viewpoints along the Canyon rim. The clouds started to show some nice red color before I made it to one of the better views, but I hopped out and snapped a few shots because I knew I'd most likely lose the light befoer the next stop.

At the next stop I noticed that my camera was telling me that I ahd no CompactFlash installed. It had been happily pretending to capture images, even displaying them on the back LCD like everything was normal. Apparently it saw how excited I was and didn't want to ruin the moment to break any bad news to me. What a nice "feature"! Thank you, Canon!

Anyway, I had a couple of minutes with the last glimpse of color, then there was literally seconds where the sun broke through and lit the canyon. I think this was captured during the last few moments of that light.

That pattern played out several times during the day. You saw a great shot, and If you didn't act immediately, it was gone. Forget setting up a tripod or changing lenses. You had to be anticipating where the moving light would hit next, and have a long lnes ready to grab the moment when it happened.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grand Canyon Dawn

The day arrived mostly cloudy, and progressed to deliver a lot of rain in the afternoon, but a few moments came where the sun broke through and revealed the canyon's color and depth. I'm glad I stuck it out though... I'm looking outside, and the sun may break free for a few moments at sunset yet!

Bryce Canyon with Snow

I successfully missed an elk driving in the night before, and got up early enough for a mostly cloudy dawn, The light stayed flat most of the morning, but a few occasional spots of sun enabled me to catch a few shots with decent contrast and color. The snow offered some interesting opportunities.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Golden Light in Zion National Park

Whenever I'm posting photos from Zion I feel like I should be making some kind of clever reference to The Matrix, but at the moment my metaphor glass is empty... Well, now it is.

Valley of Fire, Nevada

A Nevada state park that's a handy place to camp, not far from Vegas.

Viva Las Vegas!

Just a few quick night shots on the way towards Zion...


ZZYZX, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan (in Zion N.P. today).

"The last word in health"... a former health spa, now a desert research station in the Mojave Desert.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Join Me in Yosemite Feb 28

Given current economic concerns, I'm going to try a novel concept for an upcoming workshop on Feb 28... attendee-specified pricing. We'll shoot Winter scenes around Yosemite Saturday 1-6pm, and hopefull catch Horsetail Falls backlit by the setting sun. Afterwards, you decide if it was valuable to you and consider a voluntary contribution proportional to what you felt you received.

For full details, to RSVP and to arrange carpools, see the event listing on

Representative shots of Yosemite Valley and Horsetail Falls that we might find are included in my Yosemite gallery here.

I hope this concept works out. I'd love to offer a series of seminars like this as I travel around the Western United States this Spring, Summer and Fall!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse While the Full Moon Sets

With the middle of the eclipse forecast for 6:38am, the exact full moon time at 6:50 and sunrise time of 7:03, this was promising to be one of the easiest and most colorful eclipses to cover in a long time. The only challenge was the weather. Rain the night before caused me to give up trying to catch the moonrise or moonset in the Bay Area, and when I looked outside at 6:30am it looked like gray clouds were still dominating the skies in Auburn as well.

I decided to head to a nearby viewpoint anyway in case by some miracle there was a hole in the clouds that I could catch the moon through, and there it was, fully visible! More often than not when I take a chance on weather, it pays off handsomely.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco

This is one of my first shots taken with my new camera, the Canon 5D mark II. I was running around shooting in San Francisco at night without a flash, with the camera set at ISO 6400 and my lens set at f/4.0. I was also exposure bracketing, which sometimes resulted in surprisingly fast exposures. This one was 1/800th of a second!

The Chinese New Year parade crosses a cable car line in San Francisco. The shiny metal in the foreground leading to the parade is the metal cover over the cable moving under the street. The rails the cars run on are the thinner shiny lines leading into the picture.

For this shot to reveal the motion and brighten up the scene I boosted exposure compensation to +2/3 EV and dropped ISO sensitivity from 6400 to 1600, resulting in longer exposure times (1/3 second here).

Mono Lake Sunset

I couldn't resist planning my return to place me at Mono Lake for sunset... my fourth visit in December and January. When they're consistently this good, can you blame me?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Return to Whitney Portal

Whitney Portal in the Alabama Hills offers arches, boulders, and stunning views of the Sierra Nevada range, including Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The light is particularly good at dawn.

Return to Death Valley

There are at least 7 sand dune complexes in the Death Valley area, and only the Mesquite Flat dunes at Stovepipe Wells is overrun with photographers and other visitors. Ironically, the dunes at Stovepipe Wells are also probably the smallest (only about 200 feet tall) and take the most effort to reach (a 2 mile walk over sand, probably with high heat to cope with on at least one direction).

I have a new favorite dune shooting location... it's remote and it takes a bit of a walk, but there wasn't a single footprint on this entire dune complex. I won't broadcast the location on the Internet, but join one of my workshops to the area and I'll take you there!