Friday, July 22, 2011

As life keeps getting busier, Chris Moore is learning to make full use of the time he has for photography

Whether he's photographing close to his home in Florida or many miles away, Chris Moore always knows what the weather reports are predicting and what time the sun will rise and set. "With the birth of our second child in January, life at home has become increasingly busy. More and more I have to make the best use of my time that's available for photography.

"Near home, winter seems to be the best time to chase a good sunrise along the Atlantic Coast, as the abrupt changes in temperature and occasional rainstorms overnight will often bring some nice, soft light in the mornings -- in stark contrast to the harsh light and heat we have for most of the summer. During January and February, I check the weather reports frequently, and when conditions seem ideal, I drive out to one of my favorite spots along the mid-Atlantic coast. That's where I captured these first two images on different days of the same week during a higher and lower tide. This stretch of the coastline just south of St. Augustine is studded with coquina, a form of limestone that gives a nice foreground and reflects the light very well.

"For the first image, I exposed at a relatively fast shutter speed to freeze the water motion. I used my LB Warming Polarizer to bring out some of the warmth from the rising sun, but dialed the polarizing effect down just enough as to not lose the reflections of the light which I felt was a necessary component of this image. In addition, I handheld my Singh-Ray 3-stop soft-step ND Grad filter to keep the highlights of the sky under control. In contrast, this second image was shot just about 50 feet down the beach, but for this image I used the Vari-ND to make a 15-second exposure. With the longer exposure, the cloud motion and misty water gives this shot the mood I was looking for.

"Yearning for more exposure to the Southwest after my trip there last fall, I returned to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona for a week of shooting in late March with Marc Adamus and Vlad Sadovsky. During that week, I logged over 2,000 driving miles and more gigabytes of photos than I care to count. Two of my primary interests for the trip were the slot canyon system around Page, AZ, and White Pocket, an extremely remote location in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness.

"Seeing White Pocket for the first time is a magical moment, as anyone who has been there can attest. The trip is so arduous, the casual site seekers usually don't bother. It is truly reminiscent of another planet... 'otherworldly' would be an understatement.

"These two images were taken on two consecutive days, the first in the late afternoon just before sunset, and the second at sunrise the following morning. While the skies were certainly not epic, it is hard to go wrong compositionally here. Both these images were captured with the LB Warming Polarizer to help define the sky and emphasize the warm glow of the sun. In the first image, using a polarizing filter also helped bring out the reflection of the peak in the pool of water from a recent rain.

"Page, Arizona, is well known for Antelope Canyon. While the photography in Antelope is popular, I found the crowds there to be almost overwhelming. Save the fact that almost 100 people are taken through each day, and many leave with the exact same compositions. But just outside Page is a huge network of lesser known slot canyons, many of which are near impossible to find without someone who knows the area. I was shown a couple of such canyons in 2010.

"This particular composition caught my eye when I explored it for the first time, but the azimuth of the sun was in such a position that the reflected light really didn't lend well to a good image. Fortunately, when my travels took me back here, I went straight to this spot. I ended up having a lot less time with the good light than I anticipated, but was able to capture the image I envisioned.

"As more people have learned about this spot, I have seen a similar composition from others both before and after me, but nonetheless it is one of my favorite images from my recent southwest travels. To create this photo I used a 70-200mm lens to give some compression to the sandstone pillars. I took 4 shots at slightly different focal points at f/11 and manually blended the focus stack in post-production. I used my Warming Polarizer to emphasize the warm hues of reflected light which was essential to the photograph.

"Finally, just a couple hours away, at 9,800 foot elevation, Boulder Mountain, in Utah's Dixie National Forest, was laden with snow and aspens, a totally different landscape from the nearby desert. I was experimenting with a new technique to create abstract images, and this location was perfect. To create this abstract, I used a 70-200mm telephoto at .8 seconds, handheld, with slight camera motion during the exposure. Because the snow reflects a very bright light, I needed my Vari-ND filter to decrease my exposure by around 3 stops in order to expose properly at this shutter speed."

Chris has plans to spend a few days on the west coast later this month, and then travel through the Cascade Mountains and Pacific Northwest in September. You can find more details on his website, and keep up with his photography projects on his blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

During an underwater photography project, Jon Cornforth also found time to shoot a few landscapes

Jon Cornforth is one of those intrepid photographers who looks for -- and finds -- potential images wherever he goes. During his recent trip to the Misool Ecoresort in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, for an underwater photography project, Jon noticed a number of "islandscape" opportunities on the various white sand beaches dotting the waters near the resort. "Although I was focusing most of my efforts and attention on my underwater photography, I kept looking at this lovely little tropical beach as I motored by while diving every day. Although it was only about 100 meters across the channel from the dive jetty, it was a week before I had the opportunity to stop and visit the island.

"Before I set up my camera, I removed the ever-present plastic debris that was cluttering the beach at the high-tide line. Unfortunately, plastic is everywhere in our oceans, and remote Raja Ampat is no exception. I was initially focused on using the sandy beach as my foreground, but could not figure out how to make that composition work, so I moved out into the shallow water. I was immediately captivated by the sunlight refraction patterns in the water and set about making them the foreground leading to the island. I created this image when the sun was higher in the sky than I normally photograph, but I knew the sunlight had to be intense enough for the refraction patterns to be visible. I named this beach in honor of Marit Miner, who is one of the owners of the resort and who’s home is also built on this island. I created this image and the two below using my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.

"While visiting the Misool Ecoresort, I tried to photograph as many landscape images as possible, but I was limited by the availability of a boat. On the return from one afternoon dive, a guide showed me some fantastic rock pinnacles backed by a palm lined beach on the far end of Warakaraket Island. He offered to take me back to this location at sunrise, so for several mornings in a row, I woke up at 5am and looked out towards the eastern horizon. Almost every time, it was super cloudy and pouring rain, so I went back to bed rather than enjoy a 45 minute boat ride in the dark while getting soaked. There are some things that are just not worth doing. After 3 days of waking up early and going back to sleep, the weather finally seemed to be cooperating so we went for it. Guess what? I still got skunked and returned without the image I was hoping for. So, I decided to try one last time, but rather than the next morning I went back that afternoon. In order to get back here, I had to skip the late afternoon dive. I got dropped off at this incredible location and had it all to myself. I had a bit of a Robinson Crusoe moment when I wondered what would happen if they forgot to come back to get me. Would I carry on conversations with “Canon” like Tom Hanks did in the movie Cast Away? I enjoyed my quiet time, but eventually the boat returned. I asked them if they would mind leaving me for a few more hours until the sun set and they agreed. My buddy, Brent decided to stay with me and I think he used my camera with his memory card to take this same picture. The sunset light was a bust, but we swam around these pinnacles for an hour, chatting the entire time about life. It’s moments like these that become the memories I cherish from my travels.

"Although I was putting most of my effort into underwater photography, I kept pursuing landscape images whenever a boat was available. Numerous islands beckoned to be photographed, but I was especially intrigued by a series of small, rocky islands that I could see on the northern horizon. From a distance, the Palau Jam group appeared to be barely above water and crowned by only a few coconut trees.

"After staring at these islands for almost 2 weeks, I had an opportunity to borrow a boat for the 45 minute journey. I invited the resort’s other guests on all of my forays, and on this afternoon two other guests from the UK decided to join me. As we approached the islands, I noticed that the largest one had a magnificent sandy beach which made the turquoise water glow in the afternoon light. While standing in the shallow water, I composed this scene to the best of my ability given the stormy conditions. I tried to photograph the sunlight refraction patterns, but it was too windy to see them. However, billowing storm clouds added the required layer of drama and made this my favorite landscape photo from the entire trip."

Jon has recently teamed up with renowned wildlife photographer Steve Kazlowski to offer a polar bear photography tour in Arctic Alaska this September. Steve has been photographing polar bears for over 13 years. Jon is also teaming up with underwater photographer Tony Wu to offer an impressive dual-hemisphere humpback whale photography adventure in 2012. Jon has been photographing humpback whales for more than five years and Tony has been at it for over 10 years. More information is available on Jon's website and blog. You can also find Jon on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.