Instead, as sunset approached the sky went from one amazing display to another.
For the technically minded:
D800 with Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 @ 14mm
f/13 ISO 500
5 shot HDR
Heading home from Glasshouse Mountains after dropping off Kaylene and Paul's wedding photos and I could not pass up this opportunity. I initially stopped at the lookout on the Glasshouse-Woodford Road with the hope of catching some lightning shots but that was not to be.
Instead, as sunset approached the sky went from one amazing display to another.
For the technically minded:
D800 with Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 @ 14mm
f/13 ISO 500
5 shot HDR
We finished off Part 1 of our amazing Eastern Sierras photography tour about to head to Yosemite for the first time.
Day eight arrives and some of the group headed off for a chopper flight over the mountains before we packed up to make our way to Yosemite over the Tioga Pass. We stopped many times along the way to take advantage of the fall colours and then as we reached the gates to the park we were advised by the ranger that the park was closed and that the highway only to be treated a through road with no stopping for photographs allowed. Yeah, right! Nonsense.
We had only travelled a few minutes when we came across the first group of people stopped and it was the same all the way across. Our first images inside Yosemite were looking across a partially frozen stream to the distant mountain ranges. Wonderful!
We had a fantastic trip over to our huge house at The Redwoods in Wawona, right inside Yosemite. It was a trip of continuous 'wow' moments and when we caught our first glimpse of El Capitan, Half Dome, Glacier Point and the rest of the incredible sights of Yosemite we were awestruck. Stopping at Tunnel View we photographed the iconic scene looking up the valley along with other people who were taking advantage of a very empty car park. We almost had the place to ourselves.
Day nine and sunrise from Tunnel View was a must. We had wanted to shoot from Glacier Point but unfortunately that road was closed with locked gates barring the way. We then headed out of the park for breakfast followed by a trip to Nelder Grove to see the huge Sequoia Trees. 'Big Buck' was over 100 feet in circumference and over 2700 years old. Amazing.
Day ten was our first venture down to the valley floor. The plan was to park up and walk in along the road but we came across a ranger manned road block that diverted us past where we had planned to go. Instead we stopped further around at a place which we would probably overlooked and were rewarded with a fantastic session with wonderful reflections.
There had been a lot of progress with the government negotiations and there was a good chance that the park would open the next day, our last day in Yosemite as we were departing for San Francisco. We did another loop back to where the ranger was stationed to see if we could get an update but the park was still closed at that stage. The ranger was very helpful and advised us that he was the only ranger on duty and he wouldn't be moving from that spot. Basically, go for it :-)
Which we did. Sunset from Tunnel View was spectacular as the alpine light brushed the top of El Capitan.
Day eleven and as we were having breakfast at the Wawona Lodge we received news that the park was open. Woo hoo, we had done it again. We fueled up and headed in to Glacier Point to take in the stunning panoramic vistas. And then we down and into the valley proper for the first time.
We had had been on the lookout for Black Bear for our entire trip and as we entered the park there he was. Our first and only bear encounter. Excitement was at an all time high so we quickly changed lenses and tried to grab a shot, along with dozens of other people.
Although there were a lot of people in the reopened park, the numbers were nothing like what would normally be there. People we spoke to told us of huge traffic jams and long delays getting around being the norm. The government shutdown and subsequent re opening of the park on our last day there had really played into our hands.
We spent way more time than was originally planned before heading to San Francisco. It was quite an experience arriving into San Francisco in heavy traffic and negotiating our way to the Rex Hotel in the heart of town. We made it without incident, dodging cable cars along the way.
Day twelve and it's time to photograph the Golden Gate bridge. We drove along the coastline first and were amazed at the birdlife nesting on the small off-shore island. Literally thousands covered the islands. We made our way to the northern end of the bridge. Someone should have told the fog Gods we were coming because there was no bridge to be seen. It was a different story on the other side though with spectacular views back to the bridge as the fog layers rolled in and out.
We continued our journey and went on to the huge Redwood forests of Muir Woods. These trees were immense and thankfully Muir had had the sense and foresight to lobby for their preservation many years ago.
We took in sunset from Manon Point looking east to the Golden Gate Bridge and were rewarded with a stunning full moonrise beyond the bridge.
As this was officially the final day of the workshop we headed into the heart of the city for a superb farewell dinner. We were told of a laneway where there were numerous restaurants to choose from and we were not disappointed.
Day Thirteen and it's checkout day with some staying on and others leaving. I had a 5:30pm flight to LA to link up with the midnight flight back to Australia so I had time time up my sleeve. Four of us headed to the airport for a chopper flight over the Golden Gate Bridge and remarkably, as it turns out, under the Golden Gate Bridge. Stunning, amazing, wow!!!
Afterwards we made our way to the renowned fishermans wharf and Pier 39 for lunch at the Wipeout Bar. The activity on the bay was spectacular with numerous sailing boats out taking advantage of the strong breeze. And then there were the Sealions. I'd heard about the sealions in the bay coming up onto the wharf but I wasn't prepared for the sight of hundreds of them jostling for position or just lazing in the sun.
What an incredible time we had all had. We'd been rained on in a desert at the lowest point in the USA, snowed on in a ghost town, had a rare snowfall with the fall colours still in full swing, flown under the Golden Gate Bridge and had one of the most famous parks in the world to ourselves. Strong new friendships had been forged as we all experienced a once in a lifetime photographic event together.
Bring on Eastern Sierras 2015!!!!
And yet another amazing workshop has concluded. David Metcalf and I had the immense pleasure of presenting a spectacular 13 day workshop and tour commencing in Los Angeles and moving through the Eastern Sierras , Death Valley, Yosemite and winding up at San Francisco. Commencing at the Marriott at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles our group came together for a welcoming dinner. Too many restaurants to choose from but we settled on the fabulous Canoli near Venice Beach. Superb meal and a taste of things to come.
But before we start let's wind back the clock a couple of days. Our fun had already begun.
Geoff had arrived early and hired a car and as I checked in a couple of days before the workshop he grabbed me and said, "What are we doing today?". The best cure for jet-lag is to keep moving and sleep that night to get your body in sync. Who was I to argue and so off we went on a brand new adventure. Driving on the wrong side of the road with a sat-nav that always provided a few surprises. In fact we were fortunate that we had the dodgy sat-nav as we saw many things that we were not expecting :-)
Some how we survived and we did have a great time visiting the USS IOWA, a huge battleship with massive, massive guns, Huntington Gardens, LA Zoo, and impromptu model shoot in Hollywood and much more. Over the following days Neil and Sue also popped in early and joined in our adventures.
Hera are are few images from the pre-workshop.
Now where was I. Oh yeah, dinner at Canolis and then next morning Day two and our first day 'proper' commenced with a cruise north along the scenic coast road and then in to the quaint town of Ojai for coffee. Onto Death Valley and a night at Furnace Creek Resort. No jackets required here and heaven only knows how people survive there in summer. The drive in was full of many awe inspiring landscapes but we were not sure what to expect once we were right into the park. The government shutdown was apparently going to make our lives miserable and restrict our access to key locations.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We virtually had the place to ourselves. Having been told different stories from reception staff to other travellers we had no option but to check out the situation for ourselves. We headed off to Zabriskie Point to find it open and accessible with only a few other people around. A magic sunset and then a slightly cloudy star trails session and back to the lodge for dinner.
Day three kicked off with sunrise back at Zabriskie Point and we not disappointed. This place was fantastic with many changing colours as the sun rose. Check out and then off to the desert dunes with some stops along the way when spectacular scenes presented. Incredibly we encountered our only inclement weather for the entire trip in the desert of Death Valley where it rained. Bizarre!!!
Onwards towards Lone Pine, the home of many John Wayne movies as well as many others and again we stopped along the way to photograph fantastic landscapes. Arriving in Lone Pine we saw clouds building and thought that we may be in for a nasty change in the weather. A few of us headed off to explore the area and turned up a side street which just happened to lead into the Alabama Hills. Unbelievable as we were driving along we saw a BMW heading the other way covered in snow. We couldn't believe our eyes and as we continued on we were snowed on for the first time. Out of the SUV and into the cold as we all reveled in the white landscape.
We were somewhat disappointed that our hotel rooms faced away from the mountains that we had seen as we drove into Lone Pine. Little did we know what was in store for us in the morning.
Day four and I was awakened by Dave on the phone exclaiming, in a very excited voice, "Have you looked out the window?" I hadn't but when I did I couldn't believe it. Unbeknown to us we were on the side of the hotel that looked straight up to the highest mountain in the USA, Mount Whitney. What a magic sight. Snow capped mountains and clear blue sky. Wow, wow, wow!!!!
I was dressed and out like a shot to photograph the magic vistas before breakfast, and this was the view from my window.
After a quaint breakfast we jumped into both vehicles. Dave was driving a Chevy Impala and I was taking care of a larger SUV Chevy Traverse. We headed off and lost sight of Dave who had pulled the in for fuel. We turned down a side street to explore the views and then made our way back to the road we had travelled the evening before into the hills. We had no idea what was in store for us as we set off.
We began climbing and soon passed our turn around point from the night before. Snow was everywhere and we stopped many times to shoot the amazing mountain landscapes. There were fresh tracks through the snow so we continued climbing and climbing and climbing. The higher we went the more slippery the road became. We pulled over for more photos and a ute drove past so we thought, yep, no problem we can do this. One thing we had noticed in the USA so far was a distinct lack of guard rails that we are accustomed to in Australia. Here we were on slippery icy roads with no guard rails and huge drop offs to below.
After a somewhat tense drive we made the top and were rewarded with an incredible winter wonderland. Hot coffee in the warm cafe and we were set for a great shoot in the snow and ice.
We carefully made our descent and met up with the others to check out and head for June Lake and our home for the next few days, the Double Eagle Lodge. A few stops along the way and then we detoured into Convict Lake for amazing reflections of ice covered peaks and autumn colours around sunset.
Day five saw us up before sunrise in freezing conditions on the edge of June Lake. The edges of the lake were frozen with thin sheets of very slippery ice so some care was needed to get in close for that all important foreground detail but it was all worthwhile as we enjoyed a magic session.
That evening we made our first trip to Mono Lake for sunset and stayed on for star trails at this surreal landscape. The structures at Mono Lake are called 'Tufas' and are a type of limestone deposit. The lake was formed over 760,000 years ago and has no outlet so salinity and mineral levels continue to rise as they re deposited into the lake with nowhere to go. The lake is alkaline but stills harbours a huge brine shrimp supply and is an important stop-over for many migratory birds. We saw thousands of what appeared to be grebes bobbing around on the lake while we were there.
Day six saw us heading back past Bishop to head for the ancient Bristlecone Pine forest. No facilities were open but all the roads were accessible so we had no trouble visiting the site. Some of the trees here are over 3000 years old and the recent snow added a special touch.
Our day concluded with a stunning sunset over the snow clad mountains before heading back to the lodge for dinner.
Day seven and we opened with sunrise back at Mono Lake and then a magic breakfast at a very popular diner in Lee Vining. With everyone well fed we continued onto the old Ghost Town of Bodie again with a few stops along the way to take advantage of wonderful landscapes.
Bodie was another gem with many old abandoned buildings, cars and machinery. And then it snowed. It was all rather surreal wandering around in a ghost town in the desert and being snowed on. Wonderful.
To finish our day we headed to Virginia Lakes and Lundy Lake chasing the autumn colours. Another wonderful experience as we stopped in at the cafe on the lake to find a real character running the place. John was keen to let us know his political views and some friendly banter ensued as we discussed the government shutdown. It was also the last day the store would be open as they were 'closing for the season' the next day. They literally shut up shop and reopen in six months time when the snows melt and the lake thaws so that people can fish again.
So we are just over half way and already had the most amazing time and photographic opportunities. Soon, we'll be into Yosemite but that will be in Part 2.
Thursday 19th September 2013
Wow, another amazing workshop to add to the list. This was our inaugural Kangaroo Island workshop and I'm pleased to say, an outstanding success.
Michael carried out a recce back in January to set up the workshop and was astounded at the difference in colour on the island. The recent rains gave us a wonderland of green and our timing, arriving in early spring, saw wildflower in abundance.
Our first day saw an easy start with our superb guide and driver, Ron (from Exceptional Kangaroo Island) doing the run around to collect the group from various accommodation. Once Annette, Esther, Marg, Peter and Alan were safely on board we were off.
Our transport for the week was an Isuzu 4x4 fitted with a custom built 12 seater coach body. High seating gave us all a terrific view as we drove from place to place. After a pleasant drive through Flinders Chase National Park we arrived at Wallaby Heights for a BBQ lunch.
While Ron starting cooking the King George Whiting the group wandered around the picturesque setting taking in their new surrounds.
Then the hail arrived! Luckily we were under cover and enjoyed a delicious lunch straight after which the storm passed.
We then proceeded onto Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat to check into our home for the next five days. The retreat is located in the south west corner of the island and truly is surrounded by wilderness. It was the perfect staging point to visit the many wonders that the island had in store for us, the first of which was Admirals Arch and the resident colony of New Zealand Fur Seals.
Along the way we spotted dozens of Cape Barren Geese so a deviation from plan was called for and we held an impromptu bird photography session. Pretty hard to resist when chicks were spotted.
When we arrived at Admirals Arch the weather wasn't doing us any favours as the wind was extreme and the odd shower passed over but the fur seals more than made up for any discomfit. We watched as the young ones frolicked in the ocean leaping out of the waves practicing for when they would need those skills to escape predators. It was simply enthralling. As we proceeded down the boardwalk we found a number of juveniles very close. Ron commented hat he rarely saw them up this close so we were really given a special treat.
Back at the resort we cooked up a super welcome BBQ and hit the sack. It had been a big day and we would be up early for a sunrise shoot.
Friday 20th of September 2013
The weather had a sombre mood to it for our first sunrise shoot at Remarkable Rocks. We were treated to the odd sprinkle and a rather cool breeze but the scenery was spectacular.
After breakfast back at the retreat we headed for Little Sahara. This area of sand dunes offered some spectacular landscape opportunities with ripple patterns and dune grasses offering excellent foreground detail.
After another superb lunch of chicken and pesto with salad we headed to the Rocky River precinct. More Cape Barren Geese, kangaroos and Tamar Wallabies had the group captivated.
Vivonne Bay was our next destination with stunning coastal scenes followed by sunset at Point Ellen.
it was a very long day finishing with my Post-processing session to help everyone get the most from their images.
Saturday 21st of September 2013
After a small sleep in we headed to Seal Bay and the Australian Sealion Experience. Our EKI guide is also a trained National Parks guide and we were indeed in for a treat under his guidance. The sealions were in fine form with the teenagers having a few squabbles and the huge old bulls showing everyone who was the boss.
Then we headed off to the Raptor Domain free flight show for an avian treat. Kestrels, owls and other raptors were on hand and we were all able to get up close and personal.
Some free time for everyone to catch their breath and then we were off to Grassdale for twilight and sunset photography. Kangaroos and incredible grass trees abound. The grass trees were huge with many being hundreds of years old.
Another sensational meal at KIWR and then the group were treated to a Wildlife audio visual from Michael.
Saturday 21st of September 2013
Up early again for another sunrise shoot at Remarkable Rocks. Totally different conditions and light rewarded the group with another stunning landscape shoot.
Back to the retreat for brekkie followed by an Image Critique session followed by a macro shoot.
Off to Western River and another superb EKI picnic lunch. Grass trees and fields of colorful dandelions and then we visited Snellings Beach for panoramic landscapes and a gorgeous sunset.
Monday 23nd of September 2013
All too soon we are checking out from KIWR and heading for Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. There is a large wild koala population in residence easily spotted and bird life abounds.
Duck Lagoon for lunch and finally we nail one of the shots we had been pursuing all week. The tiny Scarlet Robin put on a show posing for us momentarily before flitting off to another tree with a hoard of photographers in hot pursuit.
Finally we visit the very picturesque Pennington Bay and Pelican Lagoon before saying our farewells.
What an amazing week with so many, many photographic opportunities. A fantastic group, fantastic island, fantastic guide, fantastic food, fantastic accommodation. Yep it was all pretty fantastic.
Bring on KI 2014!!!
What a fantastic day outdoors today. I felt it was the perfect opportunity for me to give you 6 tips for improving your photography in the garden.
1. Get down low and improve your composition. Watch your background and avoid clutter and distractions.
2. Use a large aperture to blur and soften your background to give you beautiful bokeh. Set your camera to Aperture Priorty or Aperture Value then open up your aperture to f/2.8 or similar to minimize your depth of field.
3. Use a diffuser to soften the light. A 90cm 'Five in One Reflector / Diffuser' is perfect for the job. Bring it in very close to your subject and watch the amazing colours come through.
4. Throw on a macro lens and get in super close for incredibly detailed shots. You'll be amazed at what you find.
5. Use a tripod to stabilize your camera. You'll be able to shoot at slower shutter speeds in shaded areas with greater success.
6. Keep things still. Use a Wimberly Plamp or similar device to stabilize your subjects if there is the slightest breeze.
Every day I have huge flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets come around to the garden to display their amazing colour. I love watching their antics as they hop around squabbling and working out who's the boss. Sometimes I think they all reckon they're in charge. It truly is hilarious.
I guess, as they are always around, you tend to get a little blasé and just take them for granted.
Sometimes, though, the camera has just got to come out to capture their amazing display.
The light was gorgeous but failing fast so I used a little flash fill to bring out the colours of the rainbow.
Have a great week everyone and enjoy the wonders in your garden
I've wanted to upgrade to an SSD (Solid State Drive) drive for quite some while. Originally, price seemed a little crazy but that's all changed now and I was recently able to upgrade my 2009 13" Macbook Pro to a 256gb SSD for well under $300.00.
Australian company RamCity have the extremely well priced Crucial SSDs available with full, easy to follow installation instructions available online. RamCity's service is excellent with the drive arriving the next day after I placed my order.
I went with the Crucial M4 256GB 2.5 inch 9.5mm SSD which slightly larger than the original standard hard drive. I purchased the transfer cable as well and proceeded to clone the old drive and install the new SSD. The whole process was ridiculously easy and the instructions available on the RamCity website were easy to follow.
Once the new SSD was in place I fired up the Macbook Pro and everything was there, identical to how it had been a few minutes earlier, except way, way faster.
It is seriously fast now and the computer is now, more than ever, a pleasure to use.
If you are wanting to give your computer/laptop a new lease on life, this is the way to go!
So, I've just completed a booked out Digital Processing Bootcamp weekender at Redcliffe with a great group and I got to thinking about a few things.
It is becoming more and more obvious that to me that photographers don't need all the whiz-bang tools and features in Photoshop.
In fact the user interface of Lightroom 5 is very easy to learn and most tasks performed by most photographers can be carried out without needing to resort to the 'heavy lifting' in Photoshop.
Sure, there are many professional photographers out there who have some unique and specific uses for Photoshop with tried and tested formulas, actions, scripts and so forth, me included. But, for the everyday 'hobbyist/serious amateur' photographer Lightroom will do the job.
When I talk about heavy lifting, I refer to layers, composites, large blemish removals and the like.
For most though, the import, library, cataloging, adjusting, cropping, straightening, colour correcting, exporting, printing, etc. etc. can all be taken care of more than adequately in Lightroom.
Of course, add in a couple of magic plug-in suites such as NIK or OnOne and you have a very powerful editing tool.
The reason I bring this up is that we spent less time in Photoshop over this last weekend's bootcamp but it really made no difference. We accomplished all that was needed in Lightroom and a couple of inexpensive plug-ins.
With the recent changes that Adobe have made to the way you can purchase Photoshop through the Creative Cloud (or rather can't purchase photoshop) you may be better served using Lightroom 5 (which has the very latest whiz-bang RAW convertor) and Photoshop Elements.
Elements is far cheaper and has many, many of the important features found in the full version of Photoshop. It could just be your perfect post-processing solution.
As an added bonus with the money you save, you can come along to my digital processing bootcamps and learn how to get the most out of your images with Lightroom
Here is our happy group at the end of their gruelling weekend bootcamp. Have a great week everyone. Cheers, Mark
For those of you joining Michael and I in Africa next year or if you are still thinking about it, here is some very interesting information on Namibia where our adventure begins. Enjoy!
Bali - Borneo Photography Workshop and Tour featuring Orangutans, Wildlife, Bali and Dayak Culture, Buffalo Races
Bali Culture, Volcanoes and Orangutans in Borneo - Just released for late November 2013
I have just officially released an amazing photographic tour and workshop for late November in Bali and Borneo.
Dave Metcalf (Dayak Dave) and myself will lead this incredible adventure over 8 days taking in (amongst other things) the following:
Read more here...