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FIRST LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

NOVEMBER 2017

WELCOME

Sorry for the delay between newsletters. Meant to get this out a lot sooner but a fall put me in the hospital for a few days and has slowed me up quite a bit. Upcoming workshops are a go so if there's anything you're interested in go ahead and sign up. Typing is a bit difficult with a bad thumb and my hand in a brace but I'm going to be fine - I think. The latest is that I'm seeing a specialist and thumb surgery will probably be scheduled sometime in the near future. This will slow me down but not stop me as I'll be able to get around unlike when I had my knee replacement and neck surgeries.

EASTERN SIERRA RECAP

Scout trips are my vacations. When people sign up for a workshop, no matter who it's with, that's your break from the world. Scout trips to new locales are my chance to get away to a spot and just concentrate on having a good time and taking some nice shots. To make matters even better, my trip to the Eastern Sierras was one I didn't even have to do any of the planning for. I joined up with friend and long-time trip participant and sometimes helper Clyde Elmore who made all the arrangements. I just met up with him and did all of the driving.

Looking for a new destination for my Milky Way and star trails trip, I wanted to see what this area had to offer along with just exploring a new area that was a bit closer to me with now living in southwest Idaho. At first glance at each of our stops, I wasn't really sure how they would work for a workshop destination but after a bit of reflection the area seems a good fit for a trip. So, a trip here in 2018 is now set and I have chosen the dates (September 6-11), based on a new moon and Milky Way location.

On this journey, our first stop was at Mono Lake. The images I had seen made the place look other worldly, like some of the stops on my current night sky trip to Utah. I was surprised to find that the shooting is confined to one corner of the lake but that one corner has plenty to offer. The trip allowed me a good chance to try out a new light I'll be using for lighting painting (an LED panel with both variable brightness and color temperature) that did a very nice job. The variable one-two million candlewatt light I've used for awhile died and I haven't been able to get it working so I went in search of a new light source and this seems to do a pretty good job. I'll still carry a couple of lights with me on trips but this one will probably be my main one for light painting.

At Mono Lake, we found enough that will allow for several nights of shooting the tufa formations with the stars behind them. With everything confined to one corner, there is no driving between spots and just a little bit of walking. You're also situated very close to the tufas so painting has to be delicate so as not to add to much light. For most of the formations, the core of the Milky Way is right above them at this time of year so there are some great shots to be had. Star trail shooting can also be done in some different directions.

Morning also offers some nice shots. We didn't have any clouds for nice sunrises there but there still was some good opportunities. A couple of nights and mornings here will make for a good leg for this multi-location trip.

While in the Mono Lake area we made a run to the ghost town of Bodie. This is a fun stop we will also visit on this trip. It's difficult to get a night shoot set up here but it will be a good late day shoot on the workshop. There are lots of old great buildings to get some shots of in a good setting. The foundation has done a wonderful job of preserving these and it's a great step back in time spot.

Depending on how the schedule works out, we may do a jog into the eastern part of Yosemite. We had planned to spend a couple of days in the valley area of the park at the end of our trip but a couple of fires changed this as the park was filled with dense smoke and obscured most of the photographic spots.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Milky Way Core at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest: 16-35mm at 18mm,

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Tufa at Mono Lake


Heading south, our next stop was at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest up out of Big Pine. We did just one night in the area here and that's what we'll do on the trip as the road up and back out is a bit intense. I've done some pretty interesting roads in my time but I think one night up here is more than sufficient. My favorite shot of the trip came from the far end at the second forest area with a beautifully shaped tree. Getting there several hours before sunset also allows for some good shooting opportunities of the trees by themselves and the textures and details of the trees. For the trip this will be a very late night as you want to get as many trees shot as possible with it being a one night shoot. They date some of these trees to as old as 4000 years old, making them the oldest trees in the country. They offer some amazing character for some very interesting shooting.

Our next venture was to the Alabama Hills area near Lone Pine. At first this was not an area I was overly enthralled with but upon looking back there are some possibilities that it does offer. The Milky Way is not in the greatest of positions as this time of year so some day and sunset shooting is still a possibility.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Mono Lake Sunrise


FALL COLOR

Fall has to be my favorite time of year. The crisp temperatures, the beautifull blanket of colors from a variety of trees and the endless photo ops available the more you look around where you're at. Do a Google Images search on fall color and you can spend lots of time getting lost in the array of great shots out there. Everyone should have their own collection of images to leaf through to find great images. I only have to look around on the walls of our home to see a collection of some nice fall shots.

This may explain why I have two and sometimes three different fall color workshops on my schedule each year. This year I even went to a new area between trips to see what the Sun Valley and Stanley areas of Idaho had to offer. While there was a bit of color here and there, there wasn't enough to excite me enough to create a trip on the schedule. Still, it was a nice multi-day getaway.

As for my two workshops this year, Tetons and Maine Coast, it was a little bit of everything. Amazingly, the most enjoyable morning of shooting in the Tetons was a foggy, light snow day that created a lot of mood. There are some nice trees off the Park Road that created some very interesting settings for snow on the ground and the trees somewhat obscured by the fog. We then did some macro work of droplets and snow on the ends of a few pine trees. Those on the trip also really liked my hidden cabin that has a great reflection of the Teton Range in it. This is an old cabin that is hidden off the main road not many people know about and offers up some interesting shots. Another reflection shot not many people do is from the back side of the Chapel of the Transfiguration. As per usual, this was a popular spot.

What got peoples interest was the collection of wildlife we were able to see and get images of. For some strange reason, this was the first time I can recall not seeing any bison in the park but we were able to get moose, bear and trumpeter swans. The color was not ideal this year due to the very warm and dry conditions but there was enough to offer up a little bit of good color shooting.

What we did get was some Milky Way shooting with there being a new moon the week of the trip. I also did some light painting at one of the barns on Mormon Row and at Schwabacher Landing. Due to a weather day (rain all day) we did a computer session that day along with some shooting of a few leaves and plants on a light board I brought to show off some new shooting techniques. The Q&A was quite beneficial as they really got a lot out of this session.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Our timing was perfrct as they started calling the horses over to load them up to take them away for the season as we were wrapping up shooting them

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Milky Way at String Lake. Got lucky with the position of the Big Dipper in the lake.


Next on the schedule was the Maine Coast. Lots of new techniques were brought forward to the group with the different settings we came across in Acadia. We did a bit with very long exposures with the water coming up and over the rocks using a variety of filters ranging from a polarizer to a eight-stop variable neutral density filter to some people having fixed ND filters. Getting exposures as long as 15 seconds even during the day creates a very dreamy look to the water that is appealing to a lot of people. Multiple exposure stacking of groups of colorful trees was also a popular technique we spent part of one session doing. With some of our sunrise shooting we even used a combination of filters pairing a neutral density with a graduated split neutral density. I use a three stop split that helps balance out a dark foreground with the light sky around sunrise.

I was able too get us into the stable area of The Stables and people got some interesting shots here of the horses, carriages and other settings. The color at Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond was not as strong as I've seen in the past but they still offered some good shooting opportunities. The white foot bridge in Somesville and the old stone barn also provided some good chances to work on compositions. A lot more people probably found out about the stone barn this year as the main road into Bar Harbor was having a bit of work done on it and you had to do a detour that turned at the barn.

Another spot I like taking people is to Duck Brook Bridge. My favorite spot here was blocked with a somewhat recent fallen tree but getting beyond that was not too difficuly and there were some nice scenes of the stream with color along the water as well as reflections in the water.

Right now I only have the Tetons and Maine Coast on the schedule for fall color next year. If there's enough interest I can add a trip to Colorado between these two trips. Contact me now if you have any interest and I'll get something put together. I can do one that includes one, two or three areas among Maroon Bells, Crested Butte and Ridgway. My favorite area is around Ridgway / Ouray / Telluride which would be my first choice for putting a trip together but I've been to the others enough to include them as well. I'd prefer to have three people express interest to put this trip together.

As I stated in my August newsletter, think about purchasing trip insurance. Another person had to cancel their trip late and as it states on my website there are no refunds for cancels close to the start of a workshop. I try to work with people when possible, but it's not my responsibility if a participant has to cancel. The only way refunds are given is with the rare chance I have to cancel a trip, which has now only happened twice in 25 years of leading trips. It has to be an extreme situation for me to cancel a trip and those on the two that have been canceled know the reasons behind it.

fall color abstract
Historic Stone Barn outside of Bar Harbor

 

KODIAK BEARS JULY 2018

Just two spots remain for this great bear trip that is sure to fill up. If you're interested you should sign up soon. The max I can take is seven people due to plane space getting to the shooting sites. Dates for the trip are July 14-20 from Kodiak and the cost is $6,595. The cost is well worth it as we will do fly-outs to some very unique spots where the bears are located on four days and do a boat trip on a fifth day for shore bears, whales, otters, sea lions, seals, puffins, deer and fox. This year some of the action includes one spot with a sow and three babies, a sow and two babies and a third sow with two babies and one area has what every bear photographer going to Kodiak dreams of, a 10 foot male coming in to feed on the river chasing every other bear out until he has his fill before they return. One spot has been having up to 17 bear a day on a regular basis.

fall color abstract

THINKING AHEAD TO 2018

Now is the time to start thinking about your 2018 travel plans. No matter what your favorite susbject is, I probably have a trip for you. Just a few spots remain on my popular week one of northern lights and just a couple on Kodiak bears. Some new trips on the schedule include Eastern Sierras, Colorado Wildlife (mainly mountain goats) and a trip dedicated to White Sands with extended hours. Back on the schedule after a several year break iis the Oregon Coast and The Big Island of Hawaii. Several mainstays are also on the schedule such as Birds of Florida, Maine Coast, and the Palouse. Depending on how things go in Haines with the eagles, I may look to switch my eagle trip back to Dutch Harbor next summer depending on whhat flight costs look like from Anchorage. I'll also try to get in a couple of scout trips in order to add some new trips in 2019.

NORTHERN LIGHTS NEWSLETTER SPECIAL

Just for newsletter subscribers - order a copy of my northern lights book through Amazon, send me a copy of your receipt and get $150 off the price of my northern lights workshop for 2018. Take the $100 off when making your deposit by check. This offer is good now through the end of the year. This offer will not be extended other locations so take advantage of this offer now as this trip usually fills up.

NATIONAL PARKS FEE CHANGES

Not sure how many people are aware of all of the changes in store with the national parks. It's been out there that the price of the Senior Lifetime Pass has gone up to $80, but they are now proposing substantially large increases to 17 parks during peak seasons. Comments are being taken on this through Nov. 23 at https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/hot-topics.htm.

Some parks, such as Arches, are also considering a reservation system for entry from March through October between 7 am and 6 pm. The park is taking comments and suggestions on this at https://www.nps.gov/arch/getinvolved/tcmp.htm through Dec. 4.

There are numerous issues the park service is taking comments on with varying deadlines that can be found on their website.

One change that would effect you as workshop participants is a new fee structure for Commercial Use Authorization permits for workshop and tour operators. If it goes up to high, you will see fewer workshops to these places as the fees we would have to add to our price may be too high. Right now the proposal has three different fees that would be required for the permit. Keep this in mind when you sign up for a trip that goes to a national park as we do have to get these permits and pay fees but these are probably going up.

Fees are one reason my Eastern Sierra trip will not include a night shoot at the ghost town of Bodie. The filing fee of $500 plus $100 per person along with another $300 fee would add too much to the price of the trip to make it worthwhile for several hours there one night. Even with the fees, the amount of time there is restricted.

DIGITAL CORNER - FALL TECHNIQUES

While it may be to late to try this year, one technique I teach on my fall trips thatalways gets some positive reactions is with doing multiple exposures. While there are lots of different things this can be used for, fall color is one that always gets people excited. Most cameras today have a multiple exposure setting but just activating this is not the only thing needing to be done.

On the Canon cameras, in the Multi-exposure menu there are four options: Additive, Average, Bright, and Dark. After testing each of these, the best to use for this type of shooting is the Average setting. The next setting to control is the number of exposures. Canon allows for a maximum of 9 images to be combined together but on some Nikon bodies a maximum of 3 images can be set. A few tests showed 5 was the right number for blending together a nice abstract of trees in various settings.

Other settings are saving the images either individually or as a single merged file. Multiple Exposure saves the merged file in RAW format, allowing for easy post production work to be done.

To create the abstracts, either hand-hold the camera or use a tripod. I choose to use the tripod even though hand-holding would work fine as it can cause your horizontal or vertical movement to be offset a tiny bit for each shot. Next, move the camera up just a little bit for each of the images until all are complete. If using a tripod, each individual image will be sharper.

Another way to take advantage of this feature is to do a 2-shot image of flowers or something similar with one shot in sharp focus and one completely out of focus. This is what I used to do with film cameras and was disappointed with the feature being gone in the earlier digital cameras.

The best approach to multiple exposure is not to get caught up with the technical aspects of it but to experiment and gain understanding from experience and trial and error.

Two notes of warning when wanting to use the multiple exposure feature - Live View will shut off after the first image is taken and the feature can’t be activated if white balance bracketing or HDR is turned on.

With doing fall color I have found that both aa single color or multiple colors works fine as I have some nice shots of just cottonwoods and aspens from the Rocky Mountain region as well as multiple colors from my Maine trip. Do numerous shots as it's highly probably the first one won't be your best one. While I haven't tried it yet, the same technique could be done with a portion of a field of wildflowers and possibly with some leafless snow covered trees in winter.

cattle egret gatorland
Going up with each subsequent shot seems to produce a nicer image than moving from side to side

cattle egret gatorland
Using a tripod allows for better detail of the leaves as I tend to prefer having a bit of depth of field to the overall shot