May 152016
 

Photo copyright Megan Vey

“The Descending Sun”

Now, I know what you’re thinking “oh gosh, another photo of a sunset.” I do agree that photographs of sunsets are over done, but I also understand why they are so commonly viewed and photographed. There is just something so majestic about sunsets; maybe it’s the beautiful colors, or maybe it’s the feeling one gets from watching the sun sink below the horizon. Sunsets can provoke thoughts and memories within one’s self. Sunsets are often connected with relaxation because it is a time of day when everything starts winding down. I like to think of the sunset as more of a symbol. The sunset can be a couple different symbols; the ending of a day, the closing of a chapter, or the battle between good and evil (light and darkness). I enjoy finding symbolism in things; whether it is a book, a movie, or a piece of art. I love finding hidden meanings, even if the hidden meaning was not intended. It is kind of like unearthing another part of the story. Understanding a story without recognizing the symbols is possible; but knowing the symbols and their meaning makes the story that much more interesting. It is the same for a photograph. A photograph could be beautiful without a story or a meaning behind it. But, when a photograph tells a story or has a meaning it is just that much better. Of course not everyone feels that way and that is fine, that is just my opinion on things.

This photograph represents light and darkness. Observe the battle between light and darkness in the sunset and shadows, but also the clouds. Some of the clouds are white and some of them are dark grey. I have always enjoyed photographs that kind of play with the lighting. A photographer can create any mood by changing the lighting and playing with the shadows. This photograph could have turned out very different if I adjusted my exposure or added an additional light source in the foreground.

I took this photograph in Sedona, Arizona while I was off-roading with some of my friends. I am so glad we decided to go right before sunset, so I could capture this image. I shot this photograph with a Canon Rebel T3 using the normal kit lens. My aperture is a little higher so I could get a bit of a sunburst. In post processing, I enhanced the shadows to get a dark feeling from the photograph.

About the Photographer

My name is Megan Vey and I am a junior at Northern Arizona University. I am majoring in anthropology and minoring in museum studies and photography. One day, I would like to be a museum curator. I am minoring in photography because I do not remember a time when I did not love capturing a moment. I have always loved looking at photographs. My parents have framed posters size photographs of Yosemite National Park taken by Ansel Adams and I think those photographs play a role in why I love shooting landscapes. I also enjoy shooting wildlife and I occasionally dabble in studio portraiture. I think my love of adventure and traveling also play a role in why I shoot landscape photography. I like capturing what I see on my travels so when I print the images I remember what it feels like to be there. The photograph triggers a memory and I instantly relax with a smile on my face. That’s why I love photography; the freezing of a memory.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/4th-annual-northern-arizona-university-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-projectPlease take a minute to leave your thoughts and constructive comments in the Comment section below – Megan would love to hear from you!

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.

May 162015
 

“The Subway” photo copyright Ariel White

At the beginning of the spring semester my roommate and I began thinking about what we were going to do for Spring Break.  Last semester we had gone hiking in Zion National Park, Utah, but we did not get to go on all the hikes we wanted, so we decided we would go back.  This park is known for its red rock, the amazing hiking experiences, rock climbing, and the photography opportunities it provides.

My roommate and I set out on our hike at 8 o’clock in the morning.  The sun was just starting to climb over the horizon and was bathing the landscape in light.  This was one of the more strenuous hikes as we had to scramble over rocks, wade through water, and climb up slippery, moss covered rocks.  We hiked The Subway for three hours before reaching the end.  The hike became visually appealing as we approached the end.  We stopped many times on the way to take pictures, but what I was most excited for was the end of the hike.  We had reached the end before the sun was fully over the mountain.  My roommate and I hiked into The Subway and were taken aback by the beauty.  It was amazing thinking about how it all formed.  It was very slippery due to the water and the moss covered ground.  Many holes had formed inside allowing pools to swirl and to flow and to make for a breathtaking experience.  I took a few photographs from inside as I knew it would be impossible to explain to people how amazing this was.  All the photos I took were handheld as I did not have a tripod with me.  If I had one I am sure I would have captured even more incredible photographs.  When I took the photo I wanted it to show the beauty of nature.  I wanted people to know that sometimes you have to go out of your way to capture something great.  I believe this photo encapsulates that perfectly.

I took this photo with my Canon Rebel EOS T5i, with the 18-55mm kit lens.  The focal length was at 30mm with an aperture of f/4.0.  ISO was set to 400.  I had the shutter speed at 1/25 as I wanted to capture the motion of the water and make it look a little like mist.  There was some post processing involved.  I lowered the exposure on the rocks and upped the contrast to bring out the formations.  This also brought out the water pool and the light coming in through the tunnel.  I saturated the green in the pool to make it stand out and also saturated the light in the tunnel to show how it shined through.  I cropped very little on the top so as to not detract from the photo.  I am very pleased with the final result.

About the Photographer:
My name is Ariel White and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University.  I will be graduating with a major in Electronic Media and Film (renamed to Creative Media and Film) and a minor in Photography.  I chose Photography as my minor because I felt it went hand in hand with my major.  Coming up with visually captivating photographs would work almost exactly for setting up scenes for a TV show or film.  I had always been interested in photography, but I never had the means nor the money to let my interest grow until Spring of 2014.  Once that camera was in my hands I knew it was something I would use throughout my life.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at http://youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/3rd-annual-northern-arizona-university-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project/Please take a minute to leave your insights and constructive comments in the Comment section below – the student would love to hear from you!

May 052015
 

Photo copyright Parker Munsch

For this image, I wanted to get the red cliffs in Sedona, AZ. So I drove down to Sedona on a Sunday and took some pictures of them and other parts of the scenery. The photo shown is one of the other scenery photos taken. For this photo, I walked to the top of a parking garage just off of the main road in Sedona, and I just started taking pictures of all the scenery I could get. I thought this image ended up being the best picture I got because it had the best ratio of the mountains and the bottom parts of shrubs and trees. I really like nature so the great scenery of Sedona inspired me to do this photo. I do not think I was trying to say anything with this photo; I just really liked the scenery and wanted to take a picture to remember the beautiful view I had at the top of the parking garage. In terms of thought process for this image I ended up using the height of the parking garage as a good vantage point so it could almost look like it was the edge of the valley, which it sort of is there. For this image I had no filter on the end of the lens. I was using my Nikon D5200 camera, with an 18-200 millimeter 3.5-5.6, which was just zoomed in to 38 millimeters. When shooting the image my aperture was at f/14 my ISO was at 250 and the shutter went off at 1/100. It was a bright day so I wanted the ISO to be lower so I would not get any noise. I had my f-stop so high so I could get the full focal range I needed for the image. It was not until days after taking the photo that I decided to put it into black and white. At first the sky was a little bit duller than I would like it to be, however I liked the tones everywhere else. So after toying with the saturation and the vibrancy, in adobe Lightroom I ended up putting the sliders all the way down to the left so it became black and white. I cropped in the image a little bit from the right, because there was a distracting part on the end that took away from the image so I cropped it in and that is my final product.

About the Photographer:
My name is Parker Munsch. I am a photography and criminal justice major at Northern Arizona University. I have been legitimately taking pictures for a year and a half now, but before that I was interested in the backgrounds of the images, like how it was shot and what editing went into the image. I prefer landscape photography, because I love the outdoors and like taking photos when I am in a cool new place. I really do not like to do much in post usually I just play with the tones and saturation. I try to do pictures that I like and the outdoors is an area that is very inspirational to me.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at http://youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/3rd-annual-northern-arizona-university-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project/Please take a minute to leave your insights and constructive comments in the Comment section below – the student would love to hear from you!

Apr 292015
 

Photo copyright Karli Crocker

One of my best pieces of work that I have composed within this past semester is a panoramic picture I took while in California for Christmas Break. Some of the most beautiful beaches are in California, and I had the opportunity to visit Davenport Beach. I love the beaches, and landscape photos. When it comes to nature and wildlife I find it to be the most beautiful part of the world, and since it always sparks my interest it is almost impossible for me to go anywhere without snapping a few thousand photos of my surroundings. Although I did not end up bring my camera on this adventure, I always have my phone that is what I was able to snap my favorite photo of the semester with.

I went on a hike just off the sandy beach with my boyfriend and dogs in Davenport. As we climbed up the cliff, I looked back and noticed the beautiful view that felt as if it was surrounding us. I was so disappointed that I did not bring my camera with me on this beach adventure, but I could not leave without taking a picture. I found a place to stand on the cliff and observe the entirety of the view. I looked at the landscape with my iPhone 6 camera, scanning as if I was going to take a panorama, from all different levels and angles from where I was standing. After taking a few test panoramas with my phone, I found the perfect place to set up for the exact picture I wanted to capture. It took me a few times to perfect the shot; I was waiting for the perfect sunset lighting too, but I finally came up with the perfect panorama picture of the beach.

I have a huge emotional attachment to the beach, and even though I have so many snap shots of beach scenery, this photo really captures my ideal imagination of the beaches. Like I stated above, I took this photo with my iPhone 6 on panoramic mode, and for a phone photograph, I find it to be very crisp and beautiful. I enhanced the colors just a bit in post process, but this photo is an accurate representation of what my eyes captured. I am now actually grateful that I had my iPhone so that I was able to take a panorama a lot easier than it would have been with my camera.

About the Photographer:
I am a college sophomore at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in Photography and Criminal Justice, and no I do not plan on using those degrees together to be a crime scene photographer, as much as everyone suggests it to me. Photography has always been a hobby of mine because my Dad was a photographer. He taught me from a young age about photography, and how to hold a camera, and the rest came naturally. Having a dual major makes time for photography very limited, but I am interested in building my own photography business, as well as start painting my images on canvases to display in art shows in the future. I am hoping that my photography business can help contribute to the debt I will soon acquire by going to Law School to become a lawyer.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at http://youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/3rd-annual-northern-arizona-university-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project/Please take a minute to leave your insights and constructive comments in the Comment section below – the student would love to hear from you!

Jan 032015
 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s hoping your 2015 has started off with a bang and ends up being your best year yet!

Almost every time I ask my Dad casually, “How’s it going?” he responds immediately with delight, “Living the dream!”  And I always nod back in agreement, “Yes, Dad, we sure are!” As we flip the calendar to another year and begin to reflect on all that was, I can’t help but smile about all that is: I’m living my dream.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping CD player, 2014 goes into the books as my most successful, most productive, and most thrilling year to date (I know, I know, I say this every year…but it’s true!!).  In my 7th year as a full time freelance photographer and writer, I increased focus on the places and subjects I love most, fulfilled aspirations for writing another book (and donating to a great cause), established new editorial connections, and thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with dear friends while meeting amazing new people in a multitude of speaking engagements and photography workshops.

I recognize, with certainty, that I would not be able to life this phenomenally fulfilling life if it were not for your continued support. Words can hardly express how grateful I am not just today, but rather every day, for your help, encouragement, friendship, and laughs along this journey.  Thank you!

In celebration of the close of 2014, I’d like to share my favorite 15 photographs from last year.  Here goes, in chronological order:

1. “Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (January 1, 2014)
As so many photographs I had previously seen of Mono Lake promised, my first visit to see the tufas here did not disappoint.  Given my ever-growing passion (obsession?) for bubbles, I was more drawn to the air bubbles rising from decaying algae along the shoreline than the iconic rock formations!

Ethereal Decay

“Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

2. “Rock On!” near Page, Arizona (January 9, 2014)
Of all the rock formations in the desert southwest, I have an affinity for the cracked brown Dakota Group sandstone found around the Page area in Arizona and southern Utah.  Although I had made an image of these rocks near Studhorse Point with my large format 4×5 camera years ago, I continued to develop visualizations for new compositions in this special spot.  After multiple attempts, all the elements came together on a cold morning in January, resulting in this image I call “Rock On!”

“Rock On,” near Page, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

3. “Sailors Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 12, 2014)
After getting a delicious taste of winter in Acadia National Park as the park’s first winter Artist-in-Residence (my third residency) in February 2013, I could not wait to pack all the clothes in my closet and return to experience the snow and ice again.  During my fortunate second winter visit in February 2014, West Pond Cove quickly became one of my favorite places to photograph the fleeting ice at low tide at sunset.

Sailor's Delight at West Pond Cove, Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine

“Sailor’s Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

4. “A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 28, 2014)
To celebrate the anniversary of my personal Independence Day (also known as my escape from Corporate America and the start of my 7th year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer), I snowshoed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  Expecting epic winter views at the top, I packed my wide-angle and telephoto lenses, leaving my macro lens behind in an attempt to lighten my load for the 8-plus mile round-trip haul.  When I made it to the summit, I was shocked to see a Mecca of ice bubbles in the parking lot!  I needed my macro lens!  GAH!  Fortunately, I remembered to pack my extension tubes, which I used on my 24-105mm lens to create this composition.

A Frozen Universe

“A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

5. “A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (April 24, 2014)
Arizona’s spring wildflower bloom panned out to be a bit of a bust, but with what little rain we did get, the cactus enjoyed and put on a beautiful show.  Thanks to the recommendations from a couple of volunteers at Tohono Chul Park, I found this regal, night-blooming echinopsis cactus showing off in the early morning light.

A Single Triumph of Summer

“A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

6. “Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (June 13, 2014)
After completing a presentation/book signing tour through Colorado this summer, my parents and I decided to stop at the Grand Sand Dunes National Park for our first visit.  Although we only had a short amount of time to enjoy the park, we learned enough about it to know we’ll be back soon.  I wanted to make an image that shared the expansive nature of this landscape, so I chose to create a panoramic image stitched from 11 vertical frames.

Sequential Erosion

“Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

7. “The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (July 1, 2014)
My first (and very short) visit to Toroweap Overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon did not go exactly according to plan. In fact, it ended up costing me an additional $281 and four beers!  (Read about the entire adventure on my blog post, “My $281 (and Four Beer) Trip to Toroweap.”)  Following a nerve-wracking drive, I finally reached the rim with five minutes to spare before sundown and hastily composed this scene.  The trip – and scenery – was certainly unforgettable.

The Storm Within

“The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

8. “Where the Winds Blow,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (July 8, 2014)
In 2014, I had the great fortune of spending a month’s worth of time (over multiple trips) in my beloved state of Oregon.  Although the summer months draw hoards of visitors to the entire scenic coastline, gale force winds and threatening skies kept beachcombers away from this stretch of beach, leaving me to enjoy the windswept, ephemeral sand patterns in the late afternoon in joyous solitude.

Where the Wind Blows

“Where the Wind Blows,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

9. “Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (July 20, 2014)
En route home from my 22-day summer Pacific Northwest tour, I stopped at Sparks Lake to camp overnight.  Going into late afternoon, the thick clouds indicated sunset might be a grey one.  But for a few minutes after sunset, the sky surprisingly exploded into magical color.

Psychedelic Sunset Surprise

“Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

10. “What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine (August 6, 2014)
During my August visit to Acadia National Park, I convinced my Mom to take a formal lesson with me from Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Frenchman Bay near Bar Harbor.  I slung my camera (secured tightly in a EWA waterproof bag) over my shoulder, in case a photogenic moment occurred during our lesson (and my Mom’s first time atop a board).  Thanks to a clearing storm, we paddled across the perfectly still and serene sea beneath rainbows and moody skies.  With much pride for my Mom’s infectious adventurous spirit, I couldn’t resist snapping this peaceful moment of her soaking in her experience.

What's SUP, Mom?

“What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine

 

11. “The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
Thanks to a nomination by my good friend and amazing photographer, Floris van Breugel, I participated in the “Black and White Challenge” that ran wild on Facebook this year.  In preparing for the five-day project, I dug up various color photographs I thought might be more successful with a monochromatic treatment, including this one of a spider’s web at Schoodic Point.  To read how I created this image and why I chose to convert it to black and white, head to my recent my blog post, “Day 3:  The Black and White Challenge:  The Network.”

The Network

“The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

12. “Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
I could stand along the Acadian coastline for all of eternity and never tire of the awe and wonder this magical place offers.  Sometimes it’s stormy and fiesty; sometimes it’s quiet and tranquil.  But every time – including this past August – my soul sings in the reverie.

Schoodic Serenity

“Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

13. “What Lies Ahead?” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 17, 2014)
Thankfully, no government shutdown (like in October 2013) prevented me from helping not one, but two, photography workshop groups enjoy and photograph the autumnal beauty of Acadia National Park this past October!  I created this image of the boardwalk on the Jesup Trail during the second trip (read more about it on my blog post, “Persistence Pays Off:  October 2014 CMS Photography’s Acadia Workshop“).

What Lies Ahead

“What Lies Ahead,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

14. “Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (October 25, 2014)
Immediately after my three-week stay in Acadia, I headed to southern Utah to connect with my good friends Guy Tal, Bruce Hucko, and Michael Gordon for a few days in the desert.  I also had the fortunate chance to meet and spend time with Charles Cramer and Dan Mitchell on the same outing.  In between the many laughs, we explored some of the magnificent canyons found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  And I’m pretty sure between the six of us, we photographed every inch of cracked mud along the way!  When I saw this collection on the side of a sandstone wall, I immediately thought it looked like the blocks from the video game “Tetris.”  After snapping a few frames, at Bruce’s urging, Bruce and I switched cameras and challenged each other to change something about the others composition.  He zoomed my arrangement out a little wider than I had originally composed – and I liked it!  So Bruce gets a little extra credit for helping me perfect my vision.

Mud Tetris

“Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

15. “Winter Greetings” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (December 19, 2014)
I snuck in a few extra days along the Oregon coast before visiting with my in-laws in Montana for the holidays.  For four straight days, it relentlessly poured (as it’s prone to do during winter in Oregon).  I became so accustomed to the rain tap dancing on top of my camper that when all went suddenly silent in the early morning hours of day 3, I rushed out of bed and headed to the coast with my camera in hand to Cape Lookout.   The storm surge prevented me from walking along the beach, but I found a trail that hugged the coast that provided outstanding views of ephemeral waterfalls pouring into the stormy seas.

Winter Greetings

“Winter Greetings,” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

For additional inspiration to kick off the year, head over to Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project where he’s posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2014.  This is my third year participating – see my collections from 2012 and 2013.

As the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above suggests, my wish for you is that every day you’re on this planet – in photography and in life – is the best day of your year.

Keep shooting!
~Colleen

 

Apr 302014
 
Carlson_Ashley_Blog

Photo copyright Ashley Carlson

As a born and raised Flagstaff native, or “Flagstaffian”, I have always taken the beauty of Northern Arizona for granted and even at times hated living here. All throughout my primary education I had this grand dream of escaping Flagstaff to see if the grass is really greener on the other side. A series of events and decisions led me to stay in Flagstaff to attend NAU and that is when I began to realize that Flagstaff is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. After my freshman year of college I made a life-changing decision that came in the form of a Jack Russell puppy. That huge bundle of responsibility and endless energy made me take daily ventures out into the woods and that is when I fell in love with the place I had lived in my whole life.

Many adventures later led me to discover this beautiful open field right behind Pulliam Airport. After dozens of hikes in this field, I finally brought along my camera to take a picture I have been dreaming of capturing for years.

Standing in the middle of the field with my Nikon D600, 8mm Rokinon Fisheye lens, tripod, and my dog, I began snapping pictures. With my ISO set to 320, with a shutter speed of 1/80, and my aperture set to 22 I was able to avoid capturing the stronger shadows that surrounded me and also keep everything in focus. That day the clouds were wispy and moving quickly due to the wind so I wanted to track the movement of the clouds in one photo. Using my watch, I snapped a photo every minute for about 15 minutes. I had to stop after 15 pictures because the sun was setting extremely fast but I took enough pictures to give me the desired effect I had envisioned. I uploaded all the images to Photoshop as layers and created a stacked image, which I then saved into Lightroom to do the final tweaks.

This photo has a deeper meaning to me personally than any other photo I have taken. The time lapse of it represents all those days I never stopped to appreciate the place I grew up in. The field and mountains reminds me how much I have grown to love every part of the outdoors. The overall image gives me the warm, fuzzy feeling of home and how I have fallen in love with my hometown.

About the Photographer:
As a Flagstaffian, I have grown up around the gorgeous outdoors. So, I tend to photograph nature most of the time but I also strive to always push myself and broaden my horizons to other forms of photography. Photography is not just a hobby, it is a form of therapy; it relaxes me but also makes me exercise my imagination. I try to find the beauty in everything in life, to find inspiration in everything from people to nature. As a perfectionist, I am never happy until I feel my art has been completed to the best of my ability. My goal in photography is to capture something that pleases the eye and that I feel is my best work.

www.thealcstudio.com

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/its-back-the-2014-nau-photography-students-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project/.

Jun 042013
 
Washed Up

“Moved by the Sea,” Cape Blanco State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

With the blissful freedom to choose “where ever I want to go” for my photographic outings, I normally select my photographic destinations based on a number of factors, including, but certainly not limited, to the specific visualizations I’ve developed for a location or subject, the anticipated weather, and seasonal considerations (e.g. wildflower blooms, fall colors).

With that in mind, I ventured to Redwoods National Park in northern California last week in hopes I’d catch the tail end of the rhododendron (affectionately referred to as “rhodies”) bloom.  A storm brewed off-shore in the days prior to my scheduled departure, and I kept my fingers crossed that photogenic inclement weather like light mist and fog would help me record images with vibrant pink blossoms offset by the towering, gi-normous redwood trees.

Over the course of three days, though, the dark stormy skies unleashed in unrelenting, non-stop downpours. The storm arrived onshore earlier than predicted.  On top of Mother Nature dumping buckets, the number of rhodies on the ground far, far exceeded the number of blooms remaining on their lanky branches.

After making the most of the few rhodies still intact and with 100% chance of rain forecasted for my fourth and final day, I decided to seek refuge in a drier place along the southern Oregon coast.  I had no final destination in mind for the evening and made the decision that I would start looking for a campsite around 5 pm, wherever my travels took me.

Under partially clearing skies, I arrived at a lovely forested spot in the Cape Blanco State Park just after my arbitrary deadline.  Mentally exhausted from my Redwoods trip, I thought a casual stroll along the beach at Cape Blanco would refocus my creative thoughts.  One whiff of the ocean breeze as I hiked down the steep hill to the shoreline was all it took to rejuvenate my soul. (Oh, how I love the ocean!).

From a distance, I spotted this long bull kelp resting on the shoreline. Likely a remnant of the last high tide, as I approached it, I wondered where the sea would take it the next high tide.  Where had it been before this evening?  Where would it go in the days ahead?   Would it remain here and dry out?  Like me at this moment, it had no set, pre-defined destination.  It went where ever the waves and winds took it.

Now connected with this wandering whip, I knew I needed to record an image of it.  Watching the next storm develop on the horizon, I set up my camera with my wide-angle lens.  One snap to confirm my composition and exposure revealed the need for some adjustments.  I repositioned my tripod to intentionally align the bull kelp with the parting line in the sky, placing it in the middle of the frame and breaking the “rule of thirds” on purpose.  I then needed to balance the exposure difference between the land and sky with a three-stop graduated neutral density filter.

Pleased with the results but wanting to see how different light would affect the outcome, I waited for sunset in hopes the sun would poke out one last time before disappearing.  The skies parted gloriously for a mere seven minutes about 8:30 pm (sunset officially occurred at 8:48 pm).  Though the beach received warm, glowing sidelight, the clouds’ shape had changed completely to a flat, even, overcast sky.  When comparing the two results, I preferred the earlier version which appears above.

As I trudged back up the hill to my campsite and considered how well my “casual stroll” along the beach turned out, I recalled one of my favorite Ansel Adams quotes: “Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself.”  Reflecting not just the serendipitous moment but also my experience during this particular photographic adventure, I decided to title this image, “Moved by the Sea.”

Tech info:  Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm at 16mm, ISO 50, f/22 at 1.3 seconds, three-stop graduated neutral density filter, basic post processing.

May 162013
 
Waves of Change

“Waves of Change,” Ecola State Park (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Almost eight years ago to the day, Craig and I celebrated the end of our first temporary stay in Oregon by standing on the headland at Indian Beach at Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach.

Sunset at Indian Beach

“Sunset at Indian Beach” from 2005 (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

I remember that evening in 2005 so vividly, I can still feel the memory today:  The gentle ocean breeze.  The smell of the tide change.  The warmth of the setting sun.  Two of the photographs I captured that evening – with my Contax 645 medium format film camera – now rest above our bed in our Arizona home to serve as a daily reminder of one of our favorite places and moments along the Oregon coast.

Months ago, as we prepared for our second temporary stay in Oregon, a rush of thoughts overwhelmed my mind based on our first experience.  Where to go, when to go, what to see, who to see, and how to record such ample and different beauty in Oregon. As they say, “So many places to see, so little time.” The list of places to see and things I want to do became longer than a child’s Christmas list.

Sea Stack Sunset

“Sea Stack Sunset” from 2005 (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Despite the seemingly endless new photographic opportunities this transition presented, I decided to start my photographic journey in Oregon in the same place I left off:  on the headland at Indian Beach at Ecola State Park.  It’s a place I’d been countless times before, and yet when I arrived on Tuesday morning, nothing, nothing, looked the same as 2005.

Upon coming to the realization that nothing, nothing, had remained the same, I smiled as big as the little girl who got everything she wished for on December 25.  In that instance, I mouthed the words as the wind whispered, “No man ever steps in same river twice, for it is not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  ~Heraclitus.

(Turns out Heraclitus’ quote applies to oceans and women too!)

I couldn’t have been happier to learn that in eight years, everything, everything, has changed.  Mother Nature altered the landscape such that I can no longer stand in the same place as I did before, thanks to landslides.   Those landslides pushed new rocks into the ocean, and each wave crashed a little differently on those new sea stacks.  It’s not possible for me to re-create the same compositions I did in 2005, even if I wanted to-I didn’t.

On top of significant natural changes and differing light/weather, I’m thankfully not the same person, photographer, artist that stood on that headland before.  I replaced my film camera long ago with two generations of digital cameras.  I now know what to do with a graduated neutral density filter.   I’ve embraced my love affair with the coast, despite living in the desert.  Endless experiences – conversations, readings, successes, failures, travels, and other inspirations – have challenged and changed my perspectives over time so that when I look at a scene I’ve seen before, I’m looking through an entirely different lens.

Ansel Adams summed it best:   “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Hang On!

“Hang On!” Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Whether we know it or not, as time passes, we and the world around us are constantly changing.  But, neither change nor creativity needs to be a passive activity.  If we seek to create new images in the same spots, we must change as a person.  Simply buying a new lens won’t cut it.  Oh sure, new gear can help execute new visions, but we need to start with new ideas and make different associations among the knowledge we already possess to see, and ultimately photograph, something new in places we’ve already been once or a hundred times.

Consciously and subconsciously, we can gain fresh thoughts everywhere and anytime, not just while photographing.  Some ideas how:

  • Reverse engineer photos you like to understand the process they used to achieve a specific result.  How’d they do it?  Then how would you do it differently?
  • Keep asking “what if.”  What if you used a different lens?  What if you climbed the hill for a more aerial perspective?  What if you saw the ocean as the desert, metaphorically speaking?
  • Devour books.  Not just photography books, but anything that tickles your passion and stimulates your brain.
  • Listen to music, watch movies, attend plays.  And then think about how you can incorporate the concepts and ideas you hear, see, and experience into your photography.
  • Talk with and exchange ideas with others.  Not just other photographers, but also those who know nothing about photography, who explore other activities and fields you enjoy, and think differently than you.  Surround yourself with people who know more than you.
  • Screw up.  Often.  Then learn from the experience to develop even more new ideas.
  • Engage with your environment.  An experience you have in one location can help trigger ideas in a different location.  Ride a bike, go for a hike, take a field-based class – whatever gets you closer to your subject.

So last Tuesday, I brought with me to Indian Beach all my experiences from spending 90+ days in Acadia National Park in Maine over the last four years, every critique I’ve conducted during all the photography workshops I teach, the entire process of writing a book about Arizona wildflowers, and more simply, even the songs I heard on the radio as I drove to Ecola State Park, among so many other things.  And as a result, my photographs look nothing, nothing, like they did in 2005.

What other tips do you have to see the same place with fresh eyes?

Spring Emergence

“Spring Emergence,” False lily-of-the-valley at Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

May 022013
 
McCully_Christine_

Photograph copyright Christine McCully

This image, taken November 6, 2012, is one of my personal favorites. While I love taking all sorts of pictures in general, this particular one was a milestone for me. It reminds me, and will continue to remind me, of this highly challenging senior year at Northern Arizona University. It also reminds me that even when stressed to the limits, I can go out on an assignment and take something so stunning, and it will bring me back to Earth and ground every aspect of my being.

I hope that any viewers of this particular panorama see in it what I do, or something equally as wonderful, and enjoy every golden detail, every hill and tree, every flare of the sunshine as it begins to set behind the mountains and valleys beyond Flagstaff, Arizona. This view, for those who are interested in catching their own version of it, is taken just before the ascent to Snowbowl. From town, I decided to go North on Humphreys merging through onto Columbus (left turn), and then I continued my journey until I reached Snowbowl road. Here, I made a right turn and maintained my course up the mountain until I found this perfect spot. Parking on the right with this view on the left, I hurried to grab my gear and ran out there with my hiking companion, a boxer mix named Dozie. Luckily for me, while Miss Dozie was off running in the wilderness like grass and wind were going out of style, I managed to capture the last few shots of the day. I captured trees and stumps, boulders and far away wildfires, and of course Dozie, running around with her tongue trailing behind her like Taz, the Tasmanian devil.

Just before the sun began its descent into the sky the golden hour of the day hit and the only way I could capture it just they way I wanted was to make a panorama. Dozie resting at my side, I shot. At ISO 100, using only 50mm of my 300mm lens, and f/4.2 at 1/320 second, this photograph is what came out. Before I had a chance to shoot any other photographs my batteries all died and the golden light of this day was drifting away into darkness. The wind picked up with a cold November chill in the air, so Miss Dozie and I called it a day.

About the Photographer:
My name is Christine McCully and I am a Public Relations major, photo minor, at Northern Arizona University. I have loved photography since childhood but my most important photographical influence or inspiration is my godfather. He travels the world and photographs images that should be in National Geographic, in my opinion. I enjoy shooting a variety of subjects, not one is my favorite. I have shot models and landscapes, children and macro, pets and events, yet all of them thrill me. What makes my work so different is that the shots really encompass the feelings of that moment captured. I think Photography is my passion, it defines me and it grounds me.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction on our April 15 post at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/introducing-the-nau-photography-students-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project.