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Landscape Arch – Arches National Park

Announcing Our Next Photography Workshop!

I’m so excited to finally announce this! Registration is now open for the next photography workshop with myself and fellow photographer Mike Mezeul. We will be going to Moab in Utah and will visit Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park. We did two back-to-back workshops in Death Valley earlier this year and they were an absolute blast! They couldn’t have gone any better and I’m so excited to see who we get to meet and spend time with on this next one!

The workshop will be from June 20th through the 24th of this year, so just a couple of months away. All the details can be found over on the Moab Workshop page.

Landscape Arch At Night

Here’s just one of the many places we’ll be photographing during the workshop. Photographing Landscape Arch in the snow was quite an interesting and challenging adventure. Fortunately we won’t have to deal with snow during the workshop! A 1.5 mile hike on a path that is covered in ice with steep hills at several points is no easy task, especially when you’re weighed down with gear and a tripod.Then, when you get to your spot and right as you get settled in, you need to go to the bathroom. Yeah…not fun at all.

On the way back, in the dark, my buddy Cliff slipped on the ice and I saw him fly up into the air and fall straight down…his entire body horizontal to the ground. Knocked the wind out of him but luckily he and his gear were ok. Then we came up to one of the steep hills. They were uphill on the way in which was not that big of a deal. But on the way back we quickly realized that there was no possible way to walk down this path. So….we sat down on our bums and slid down the hill. For like…50-60 feet. It was so much fun!

Ok, so about the image. I used a +Formatt-Hitech 6 Stop filter (from the +Colby Brown kit) to drag the clouds across the sky. I believe it was just a 30 second exposure though. This was taken from the official path, although we did venture a bit beyond that too. It’s certainly a tough arch to photograph. And one that is well worth your time to see if you visit the park. Why, you might ask?

Because it might not be there next year. Or next month. Or next week. In the past 20 years, 3 large portions on the arch have fallen down from the thinnest point of the arch. Standing beneath the arch, you can tell just how fragile of a state it is in. Because of the falling rocks, the park has closed off the trail that lets you walk beneath it.

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As The Storm Moves Past

One of the things I love about storm chasing is just how target rich of an environment it is. Every phase of a good storm is photogenic and potentially breathtaking. Getting on the backside of a storm is a great place to capture lightning and all though we didn’t get a ton of CG (cloud to ground lightning) to work with, I managed to get this one before we called it a night.This strike was so flipping bright that that the entire sky lit up pure white. All three of us had to turn our heads away from it!

Earlier, while we were chasing the storm running from the storm we pulled off once we got a bit ahead of it. We had about 30 seconds to shoot before the hail started falling but right when I got up to the fence line of a field a passive bolt struck down in the field in front of us. What was really scary and a bit unsettling is that I felt the lightning bolt. When is struck, I felt the energy of it inside my body. I felt static electricity on my skin. I can’t really explain it but I basically said, “To hell with this!” and ran back to the car.

Getting the shot

So getting a shot like this is not easy! First you have to be on the right part of the storm and know where to point your camera. Lucky for me, I was chasing with two experts (+Kelly DeLay and +Mike Mezeul). Second, you have to have a good sense of timing or just take a bunch of 30 second exposures. I opted for the second method and that’s how I got this one. You really want to underexpose the image so that each image without a strike is more or less a throwaway. Because when a bolt does strike it will take that dark exposure and light it up. This shot was waaaay overexposed but I was able to bring it all back in Lightroom since I shot in RAW.

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The Most Amazing Storm I’ve Seen To Date

Granted, I’m only on my second season of chasing, hehe. My good buddies +Kelly DeLay and +Mike Mezeul (whom I was chasing with) have seen hundreds and hundreds of storms but I think even they’d agree this one ranked up there as one of the best!We started our chasing day in the early afternoon. After making it up near Gainesville (on the border of Texas and Oklahoma) we decided to head west toward a developing storm. By the time we got near it, the storm had fizzled out and collapsed on itself. And keep in mind, that was hours and hours of wasted effort. The storms had basically cleared out of north Texas and there were a few monsters way down south and a few storms at the bottom of a squall line in Oklahoma. Just as we were started to feel defeated, a storm near Ardmore, OK went tornado warned. We were a good 45 minutes to an hour away though. We decided at the last second to head that way and maybe at least get some shots of the storm as it was dying down to get something for the day. Little did we know that the storm would not only maintain its strength but would get stronger and more organized as we finally made it on scene!

I’ve never seen a storm with this much structure and rotation before in my life. It’s what I’ve dreamed of ever since getting hooked on chasing early last year! I’ve got so many more images to share but I thought this one would be a good place to start since I shared a quick grab of this RAW image from the back of my camera yesterday evening. Let me know what you think!

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The North Window On  A Frigid Winter Morning

Arches National Park is just awesome. I can’t decide if it’s more awesome than Zion though. They are very similar but also very different. If that makes any sense at all…So just how awesome is Arches National Park? Well, Arches is so awesome that I might just be announcing a workshop there pretty soon :-) So keep an eye out for that!

The North Window is an incredibly massive arch that is fairly easy to get to. The hike is about a half mile or so, uphill but on a well maintained trail. Sounds easy enough, but throw a few inches of ice on the trail, take away any amount of daylight and drop the temperature down to around 10-15˚F and things get a lot more…interesting :-).

Processing on this one was all done in Photoshop. Just a bunch of layer blending (one for the arch and one for the sky) and adjustment layers for contrast, color correction and detail.

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Another Spectacular View At Great Sand Dunes

Here’s the final version of the image from the start to finish video I posted this morning (http://goo.gl/aTPkhd). This wasn’t an extremely complicated image or anything, but it was in need of some color corrections and several layers in Photoshop to make the clouds pop, to separate the mountains and the dunes a bit and to bring out the colors in the sky and the dunes.All of it was done in Photoshop and Lightroom and in the video I walk through the entire image from getting it captured in the field to finishing it up in PS. Go have a look and let me know what you think!

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Clouds Over GSD | Start To Finish

It’s hump day! What what! To help everyone get through the rest of the week, here’s a video I put together showing the start to finish process of an image I made out at Great Sand Dunes national Park in Colorado. From getting the shot in the field to post processing it in Lightroom and Photoshop.I’ll also share the finished image a bit later today. Enjoy!

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Sunrise At Mesquite

There’s something so mesmerizing about sunrise/sunset surrounded by sand dunes. There’s just nothing else like it on earth. The patterns, the lines, the light…it’s just magical.During our first workshop in Death Valley, we took the group out to a little secret location off the beaten path. However, looking toward the sunset was also consequently looking toward the parking lot at Mesquite Sand Dunes where 99% of groups and tourists go. Therefore, we had this massive group of photographers perched up on this single ridge the entire time. They never moved an inch the entire time we were there.

It was odd because it was so different from what we encouraged our group to do. We were always moving. Find a composition, set up, get the shot and find something else. Sure, there are times when you need to wait in a spot for the light to get right, but you can still move around while you wait and look for other things to capture in the meantime.

It wasn’t that I was annoyed by their statuesque position, I just wondered what they were missing over there while most likely taking the same shot over and over and over again.

The good that came from it is that I really like them being in this frame. I feel it adds a great sense of scale to the image and compliments the curves, the contrast and the vibrant light nicely. I hope you agree :-).

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Redemption – Petit Jean State Park Fall Colors

Redemption is honestly a bit too dramatic of a word. Last fall we had ventured deep into the Ozarks and had gotten some decent shots at several different locations. The problem was that all the places we had visited thus far were just a bit out of peak color which meant that we were somewhat bummed on the drive home. At the last fork in the road we had a choice to make: Turn right, head back toward home and be there in 3-4 hours, or turn left about an hour in the other direction to hit up Petit Jean State Park. We were all pretty skeptical, considering the conditions up in northern Arkansas but we eventually decided to go for it.This image pretty appropriately sums up what we found. The gorge in the park was absolutely at the top of peak color and everything was just absolutely breathtaking. It was insane! There was moss growing all over the rocks and trees and I felt like I was up in the Pacific Northwest or something.

This little pool caught my eye on the trail to the waterfall we had our eyes on. The way the leaves were floating around the edge just begged for a low down shot with a wide angle lens.

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Zion From Above

I’m still having so much fun going through the images from an aerial tour of the Zion Wilderness I took with +Mike Mezeul and +Kelly DeLay last year. We booked the flight through Zion Helicopter in the town of Hurricane and they were so awesome. Let us take all the doors off and shoot freely under some incredible conditions.Your gut instinct is to go wide. There is so much beauty all around you and I certainly did get my fair share of wide shots. But then you’d see something like this beneath you. The patterns and texture and colors all caught my eye at once so I made sure to get a quick zoomed shot before flying over.

A Few Quick Tips For Shooting From A Heli

-Don’t take your lens hoods. They do a great job of catching the wind and jerking your camera around.
-Use zoom lenses so you don’t have to change lenses as much. And when you do have to change lenses, be very careful!
-Wear a strap like a Black Rapid to secure your camera to your body. The pilot should actually require this, but just in case.
-Use as fast a shutter speed as possible. Set your aperture to something really wide to get there. Having a shallow depth of field won’t make much of a difference because everything is so far away.

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Missing Seattle

And the entire Pacific Northwest for that matter. Le sigh….I’m going to do everything in my power to make it up there some time this spring. I’ve got some friends who are moving to Portland soon which will be a very good excuse to head up :-).

This shot is from the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. +Jacob Lucas and myself ventured into the city after a dismal day of shooting in high winds, rain and overcast skies. Then, at blue hour, everything came alive. The streets were wet from all the rain, the skies were a beautiful shade of dark blue and the lights and activity of Pike Place really set everything off.

I got the shot using a 30 second exposure. I just wait for a car to drive down the street and started the exposure right before it entered the frame.