Aug 192015
 

“Into the Great Wide Open” || Blooming canola field and clouds in Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~Don Williams, Jr.

Earlier this summer, while en route from my friend’s home in Calgary to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, my companions and I enjoyed seemingly endless views of blooming yellow canola fields along the highway.  For a closer look, namely in search for a red barn to serve as a pleasing contrast between the blue sky and yellow flowers, we turned down a random dirt country road to continue our scouting.  When we came upon this particular field while driving a dirt country road, we all agreed: we had to stop to photograph it (yes,despite no red barn)!

When I surveyed the scene, I knew immediately that I wanted to showcase the juxtaposition between the yellow flowers and the non-blooming green weave as a leading line through the frame.  To draw more attention to the contrast and to reduce the visual tension (thereby offering a greater sense of peace and harmony), I intentionally positioned the green shape in the middle of my composition and allowed even amounts of space for the yellow on either side to create a more symmetrical balance.  I also wanted to give a broader context to the path as if it were leading into this great big sky – and into a great big unknown – so I dropped the horizon towards the bottom of the frame to emphasize the expanse above the landscape.

As I perfected my composition with my 24-105 mm set at a 50mm focal length, the mid-morning sun kept playing hide and seek. One minute, the scene fell in completely diffused light.  Then, the next minute, it appeared fully illuminated. Knowing that a viewer’s eye would travel along the green (darker) area to seek the brighter part of the frame, I waited patiently for the sun to dance across only part of the field, specifically the top part, where the path ends and meets the sky.  For a mere few seconds, the sun cooperated before moving on and spotlighting a different part of the field out of my frame.

I stayed put for several more minutes, hoping this lighting effect would return to the top of the ridge, but alas, it did not, and I chose to move on to additional compositions under almost completely diffused light.  We never did find a blooming canola field with a red barn (found plenty of both, just not together!) but we enjoyed the journey to find it immensely.

When I returned home to process the image, titling it came very easy.  I named the resulting photograph after the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, “Into the Great Wide Open” as that’s what I was humming while I made the image!

Tech info:  Canon 5DMII, 24-105mm at 50mm, ISO 100, f/11 at 1/250 sec.

Aug 062015
 
Skeletons of the Past

“Skeletons of the Past” / Remnants of old trees rise out of Goat Pond in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

My friends and I arrived to Goat Pond in the Spray Valley in Kananaskis Country in Alberta, Canada late in the afternoon, while the sun played hide and seek behind clouds.   Upon surveying the somewhat barren landscape, I saw the dead branches sticking out of the water and immediately came up with the title (“Skeletons of the Past”) for my photograph.

I grabbed my 24-105mm lens, and then set my camera to ISO 100 and  f/11 for the appropriate depth of field.  This resulted in a 1/40 of a second shutter speed.  Easy!  Click!

After reviewing this first frame, I gasped.  It was absolutely horrible and nothing like what I envisioned (see photo on the right).  The composition appeared as I had hoped, but the photo lacked the mood and emotion I felt about this particular scene.  I wanted it to feel more mystical, ethereal, maybe even dream-like.

The first frame

The first (horrible) frame I captured at Goat Pond with ISO 100, f/11 at 1/40 second.

I looked up at the sun.  Clearly, I could not rely upon the existing lighting conditions to help create that mood.  In addition, we hadn’t planned on returning to this location again, so I would have to make do with the hand I had been dealt right here, right now.

Paying attention to the words I associated with my vision – things like “mystical, ethereal, and dreamlike” – I turned to my 10-stop neutral density filter to help slow the motion in the pond’s waves to help create those concepts in my photograph.  After some experimentation with shutter speed, I settled on 30 seconds, as it provided enough “mystical” but retained structure within the water to still imply movement.

I used a Cloudy white balance to help offset the blue hues of the overcast day, but knew when I processed the image later at home, I would add a little blue coloration back into the scene to help convey a more gloomy feel to match the “skeleton” part of my image.  Since the scene appeared monochromatic, I tried converting the frame to black and white, but ultimately decided the blue tones helped communicate the coldness I aimed for in presenting the my final vision.

This experience reminded me just how important observation and problem solving skills are in a photographers bag.  Sometimes the final image isn’t “hit-you-over-the-head” evident.  However, as you continue to look at your surroundings and ponder how to creatively overcome natural and technical obstacles, your vision can eventually come to life.  As a Dakota Indian saying suggests, “When there’s nothing to see, look.”

Tech info:  Canon 5DMII, 24-105mm at 105mm, ISO 100, f/11 at 30 seconds, 10-stop neutral density filter.

Jan 022013
 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy 2013 Everyone!  A new year means a blank canvas on which to create new friendships, opportunities, and achievements!  I hope you each have big dreams in mind, and perhaps even more importantly, I hope you follow them relentlessly and passionately so they all come true for you in the new year.  After all, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” right?

Whew, what a year 2012 was for CMS Photography!  Last year will go down as our busiest, most successful, and by far the most exciting year to date, with many countless “thank you’s” owed to you, as I could not do what I do without your continued support!  I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring, creative, and enthusiastic people.

Some major highlights for us from last year include (in no particular order):

And just when you think you can’t have any more wild fun, 2013 shows up!

Going into our sixth year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer, I couldn’t be any more pumped for the year to come, not just because of all the travel planned and the new projects we’ll announce throughout the year, but all the great times and awesome learning opportunities we’ll share together, whether that be during our upcoming Workshops and Presentations or simply out in the field sharing some light and good laughs.

But, before we start running down the 2013 street like a bat outta hell, though, I’d like to share my favorite 13 (a lucky number for the new year!) photos in celebration of a joyful 2012.  For more inspiration, be sure to also head over to Jim Goldstein’s Blog, hes posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2012 for his “Blog Project: Your Best Photos from 2012.

Here goes:

1.  Winter’s Serenade, Death Valley National Park, California (January 2012)

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Cottonball Marsh area along Salt Creek in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)


2.  Walk the Line, Death Valley National Park, California (February 2012)

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Cracked mud and stones in the Panamint Dry Lake in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

3. Sunrise at Boulder Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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er Beach and the Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

4.  Bunchberry Dogwood, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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Bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis) at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

5.  The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona (June 2012)

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The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei rock formations in Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

6.  The Colorado River Flexing its Muscle, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (June 2012)

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The sandstone cliffs of Marble Canyon reflect into waves in the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

7.  The RCMP Musical Ride, 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (July 2012)

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Abstract view of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Musical Ride during Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

8.  Reach for the Sky, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (August 2012)

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Abstract sky pool pattern in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

9.  Autumn on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (September 2012)

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Gambel oak line the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

10.  Autumn Regeneration, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona (September 2012)

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Abstract view of a regenerating burned forest during autumn in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

11.  Mother Nature’s Ice Cream, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona (October 2012)

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Striated bentonite clay beds in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order)

12.  Spell of the Sea, The Big Island, Hawai’i (November 2012)

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Waves and volcanic rock along the Puna Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

13.  Winter Solstice Eve, Canyonlands National Park, Utah (December 2012)

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Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Thank you for stopping by the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” blog!  Let’s all make 2013 a year to remember!

~Colleen

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Nov 152012
 
The RCMP Musical Ride

The RCMP Musical Ride from the 2012 Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Prints available – click on photo to order!

I’d have to look it up in the rule books, but it’s potentially sacrilegious to visit Canada and NOT photograph the world-renowned Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  Keeping this in mind as I prepared for my July 2012 visit to Alberta in support of the first Through Each Others Eyes Arizona-Alberta exchange, I naturally put photographing a Mountie in a flashy “Red Serge” uniform towards to the top of my shot list.

But it wasn’t just a portrait of these fine servicemen and women I was seeking.  No, no, the photograph needed to tell an intriguing story about the RCMP.  But what did that mean?  Hmmmm….

After some pre-trip research, different ideas danced in my head until we arrived at the Calgary Stampede Stadium in July 2012.  There, I had the honor of seeing my first RCMP Musical Ride during the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, thanks to the efforts of our hosts and fellow photographers Peter Carroll, Royce Howland, and Kerry Smith.

To open this historic rodeo, thirty-plus RCMP members – each riding an elegant horse  – flawlessly moved through an artistically choreographed series of formations and traditional movements within the dirt arena.  With obviously much precision, skill, and teamwork, the galloping horses and straight-backed riders holding stately flags somehow didn’t get tangled!

As I clicked away with fast shutter speeds during the event, I couldn’t help but feel all my frames were too static.  And there was absolutely nothing static about what I was experiencing!

Hastily, I visualized a new approach, one that would allow me to record the impressive formations but yet include a distinct sense of motion.  Within seconds, I set my ISO to its slowest setting (ISO 50), spun my aperture dial to its smallest (f/36), and added a polarizing filter to the front of my 100-400mm lens to slow my shutter speed down as much as possible in the mid-day light.  The result was 1/10th of a second, which in my opinion seemed a little too fast to capture the sense of movement I desired for the scene.

I tried holding the camera still during the slower exposure while allowing the riders to create red streaks and patterns.  Didn’t like it.  I tried panning – a technique where you move the camera from left to right (or vice versa) – to help freeze the riders while blurring the background.  Didn’t like it.  I was quickly running out of tricks…and time!

Then, towards the end of the performance, the troop gathered into the “Dome” formation, where all the riders form a circle and then lower their flags into the center.  Keeping my settings the same, I focused on a single rider in the front with my lens zoomed all the way out, then physically pulled the lens back during the 1/10th of second exposure (referred to as a “zoom pull” or “lens pull.”  You can also recreate this effect in Adobe Photoshop under Filter/Blur/Radial Blur).

Luckily, the combination of the slow shutter speed and zoom pull technique allowed me to capture more energy AND enough structure to provide much-needed context in this more abstract view of the RCMP Musical Ride.  Though my visualizations evolved over time, I felt this perspective successfully told an intriguing story about the RCMP Musical Ride and decided to include this photograph as one of my 20 selected prints to display during the recent Through Each Others Eyes Exhibition at the Art Intersection Gallery in Gilbert, Arizona. (Exhibitions in Alberta, Canada coming your way in early 2013 – stay tuned for more details!)

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 100-400mm lens at 285mm zoom-pulled, f/36 @ 1/10th of a second, polarizer, basic post-processing.

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Oct 242012
 

“Wait, why are there so many stars out?” I murmured to myself as I stepped out of our Lake Louise-based hotel door and into the darkness.

Just a mere six hours before our 4 am wake-up call, Royce Howland and I had dashed around Banff National Park in his 4Runner, watching mammatus clouds form overhead as we chased violent, fast-moving thunderstorms whirling through the scenic valley.  Serendipitously, we found ourselves capping off a thrilling evening with our cameras in the perfect position along the Bow River as the northern sky exploded into a fireball of color.  After experiencing such a spectacular show by Mother Nature, we asked ourselves, “What would the morning bring?!”

As I peered at the speckled sky out the car window, my hopes for capturing moody storm clouds at Moraine Lake – our sunrise destination – disappeared as fast as the coffee did that morning…

Image #1:  Though arguably half-asleep, I dragged my gear up the pathway to the top of the rock pile overlooking this gorgeous lake and found a high point to perch my camera.  I started the morning with the classic, ho-hum, “everybody’s got it” composition as the sun broke through a small sliver of clouds on the eastern horizon.  I normally try to avoid cliche shots, so what was my excuse for kicking off the shoot like this?  I’ll take “Photography While You’re Still Half-Asleep” for $500, Alex!  Jeopardy jokes aside,  this image is definitely not what I wanted to say about this iconic place, but it served to get the creative juices flowing in what I considered to be less than desirable conditions...at o-dark-thirty…

Sunrise at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Image #2: I needed some new ideas and inspiration – image #1 wasn’t going to cut it.  Immediately after snapping this shot, I noticed a small canoe leaving the dock (located on the bottom right hand side of the frame in the image above).  Since the broad landscape scene wasn’t evolving to my tastes, I hiked down the hill to see if I could record people interacting with nature instead.  Seemed like an easy way to capture something different here!  But as I approached the dock, I quickly acknowledged that finding people awake, active, and super excited about the papparazzi at 5 am is sometimes hard to come by…but there were lots of colorful canoes willing to pose for me!  With the sun tucking behind another cloud, the subdued conditions afforded me more time to undauntedly play and practice different wide-angle compositions along the shoreline, including this one of the resting boats:

Image #2

Image #3: The diffused lighting helped the colors of the canoe stand out, but I was less than enthusiastic about the boring clear blue sky and the lack of direct lighting on the peaks in the background.  Out they go!  To help eliminate the sky and background, I switched to my telephoto lens and repositioned myself onto a bunch of boulders lining the lake near the dock.

By taking the unimportant elements out of the frame, I was able to then emphasize the canoes and the mirror-like reflection, which resulted in image #3 below (just as the sun peaked out again!):

Image #3

Image #4:  My eyes widened with delight as I reviewed image #3 on my LCD – we’re getting warmer!  (At least the compositions were; this Arizona-based desert rat froze to death out there.  Just look at all that “weird” white stuff in the mountains!)  The reflected provided much needed context about where I was photographing without having to include a background I didn’t like.  That said, I felt the composition in image #3 was too tight, so I put my wide angle lens back on and stepped off and behind the rocks for a broader view to record image #4:

Image #4

Image #5:  At this point, I felt a little like a character in the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story – image #3 felt too tight but image #4 felt too broad.  I needed something “just right!”  By adding foreground, the scene appeared to have more depth, but the rocks didn’t really add to the story I was trying to tell.  The part I liked most fell right in the center of the composition of image #4, so I composed a little tighter with my wide angle zoom lens.   And voila!  Image #5 resulted and is the image I have selected to display in the 1st Through Each Others Eyes Arizona-Alberta Exhibition: (blog continues after photo)

Image #5:  “Reflections at Moraine Lake” to be featured in the upcoming 1st Through Each Others Eyes Arizona-Alberta Exchange Exhibition

Now that you’ve seen a sneak peek of one of the images I recorded from my time in Canada, I hope you plan to join us for the Artist Reception on November 7 from 7-9 pm at the Art Intersection Gallery in Gilbert, Arizona to see not only my 19 remaining selections, but also how my Through Each Others Eyes travel partner Ken Ross interpreted Alberta differently than I did and how Alberta-based photographers Royce and Peter Carroll viewed Arizona during their 10-day stay during our cultural photography exchange.  For more information about the exhibition and artist reception, please visit the TEOE website at www.teoe.org/?page_id=829.

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