I must have visited Rodeo Beach ten to twenty times to take photos, and it seems like every time I go there's more photographers setting up tripods with the same hope of capturing something special. It's always fascinating to see what everyone is doing differently to get the image that appeals to them.
For me though, the most interesting thing is how it changes over time. The tide might be high or low, the weather clear or not, and the sun setting in a different spot. At certain times of year the sea seems to dump much more sand around the rocks than at others, so even the makeup of the landscape changes frequently. It makes it worth returning to old haunts.
Sometimes it's great to just take photos with no agenda: landscapes, wildlife, old places or new. Leaving the house with no expectations of taking any photos is like hitting the reset button.
A c90 MCMLXIV mixtape for strange lovers.
The more time I spend photographing wildlife the more I enjoy it, but what constitutes a good shot is evolving. At first I was just excited to see the animals in the wild and a photograph was a just a bonus to prove I witnessed it. Getting a shot that was well composed and in focus was obviously the next step up. And soon I was interested in capturing some of their environment too, highlighting how natural and adapted they were to their surroundings. But now I'm focused on characteristics and behavior.
Learning more about their behavior and studying their character not only reveals more personality, it allows you to predict how best to compose the shot or when the best time to hit the shutter will be. When I learned that herons also hunted on land I knew to wait patiently until it pierced the ground and came up with a gopher in it's beak. Knowing how a coyote moves made me think of composing it sneaking through the grass, partially hidden. And in return I now want to learn more about the animals I'm photographing so I can improve every time.
I'm really going down the rabbit hole of wildlife photography now. I'm still trying to work out a style, especially one that gels with my landscape stuff, but a couple of hours at Cosumnes River Preserve this weekend produced a few images I was happy with. And they seemed somewhat consistent in tone too, which I liked. I realized that one of the reasons I like long exposure shots is because they reveal something that's there in nature, but not immediately visible. The zoom lens gives me the same feeling because when I see birds in their natural environment I don't get to see them in detail until I use photography, so that reveals something too.
This week I had a great surprise: a photo I submitted to LEE Filters – Winter Storm, Yosemite Falls – was one of 5 chosen to be critiqued by landscape photographer David Noton. Great honor! Here’s what he said...
Dappled light on the landscape is so much more dramatic then blanket illumination, isn’t it? This is a wonderfully atmospheric picture. OK, Yosemite is epic, we all know that, but the most dramatic landscapes are often the hardest to shoot. To capture something special in such well known and overly photographed locations we really have to dig deep.
Derick has captured an image full of dark mood here. Too dark? Those shadows on the left are awfully dense, but then again there’s beauty in a rich black. I may have teased out a bit more detail there, but I applaud Derick’s courage in embracing the darkness.
He’s used his filters subtly too, with no obvious grad line darkening down the top of the mountain and good detail in the heavy threatening sky. I’m not quite sure what the use of a Big Stopper achieved though; an exposure just a few seconds long would blur the water fall nicely. But who am I to question? It’s worked, and by the way; it’s another minimal colour image! Don’t you just love them?
– David Noton
As to my “embracing the darkness”, I kind of like that!
With a powerful zoom lens it's tempting to just get as tight a shot as possible when you encounter animals in the wild, especially as you can give them the respect and distance they deserve. And to some extent that's been fun to experiment with this week at Point Reyes and Corte Madera Marsh State Marine Park. But I've found that zooming out a little and showing them in context is more interesting. You can see how perfectly adapted they are for their surroundings and suddenly the importance of the whole ecosystem makes sense. In these four shots each bird (a northern harrier, a yellow-rumped warbler, a snowy egret, and a red-tailed hawk) is so vastly different from the last, but they all have specialist skills to survive in close proximity. That blows my mind.
The wildlife photography safari I took in Point Reyes last year has inspired me to up my game there, and I just acquired a Tamron 150-600mm lens to make the most of it. Today was really just an exploratory trip to check out some new areas of the park and test the lens. I didn't see a lot of wildlife, but I was really impressed with the quality of the few shots I got.
Photo trips have been few and far between recently but this week I went out with a MeetUp group. I found it under the photography section of the site but the excursion was actually made of people from multiple groups and I was really the only photographer there. That was disappointing as we were hiking and nobody else was stopping to take photos. I got a few shots in though and got to explore a new part of the coastline.
This weekend I headed to North Beach in Point Reyes. My idea was to experiment with how minimal and serene I could make my compositions. It was hard to maintain those elements with the extreme light of the sunset. After I packed up and headed out I caught the very last of the light at Schooner's Bay. It was totally unplanned but they ended up being the best shots of the day. The best laid plans and all that...
A c90 MCMLXXV mixtape for holy grails... Neil Young, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen.
"It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every 12 minutes one is interrupted by 12 dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."
- Who Built the Moon? – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
- As You Were – Liam Gallagher
- Mountain – Howie Payne
- A Deeper Understanding – The War on Drugs
- For Crying Out Loud – Kasabian
- A Kind Revolution/Jawbone – Paul Weller
- Warbly Jets – Warbly Jets
- Humanz – Gorillaz
- Villains – Queens of the Stone Age
- Colors – Beck
This year on Instagram I created 143 posts and received a surprising 17,183 likes. I'm not ashamed to say that's a number I'm proud of. The images above were generated by 2017bestnine.com. These were my nine most popular photos, all of the natural world in California, but my favorite nine are shown below.
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull
- One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories – B. J. Novak
- Wintering – Peter Geye
- Welcome to the Monkey House – Kurt Vonnegut
- Mr. Dickens and His Carol – Samantha Silva
- Astrophysics for People In A Hurry – Neil DeGrasse Tyson
- Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – Stephen King
- On the Camino – Jason
- Walden – Henry David Thoreau
This week we took a trip to Tahoe to experience a bit of winter snow. It was our first time snowshoeing and staying in a backcountry cabin. It was a cold and rustic experience, but a fun adventure. Snow brings a magical aspect to any landscape and as I'm always drawn to minimal compositions I love the way it simplifies everything except the atmosphere.