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Shooting stars, Yosemite. Handheld (a rarity for me) at 1/200th sec., f/4, ISO 400. I’m almost always using medium to small apertures to get everything in focus, but once in awhile it’s fun to use a wide aperture to throw the foreground and background out of focus.

I just finished teaching a workshop, so I’m catching up on posting images from earlier this summer. As I mentioned in a recent post, Claudia and I made several trips in June to the higher elevations of Yosemite to look for wildflowers. We found many shooting stars, which are one of the early bloomers in the high country. They’re beautiful flowers, but they always grow in marshy areas, full of mosquitos. So over the years my brain has made an association between shooting stars and their accompanying insect pests, and just seeing these flowers triggers a psychological reaction that literally makes me itch.

But aside from that initial visceral reaction to the sight of shooting stars, mosquitos don’t generally faze me much. I’ve actually developed a partial immunity to the mosquitos in Yosemite, so bites don’t create welts or make me itch anymore. Mosquitos are still annoying, but a little insect repellent keeps them at bay and lets me concentrate on photographing flowers.

And I always enjoy photographing flowers – even those mosquito-plagued shooting stars – though I sometimes find the compositions challenging. I don’t often do closeups, as I usually prefer incorporating flowers into a wider landscape, or capturing an “intimate” landscape with a mix of flowers, or a pattern, or flowers juxtaposed with trees or rocks.

When compositions don’t immediately present themselves, I let my lens be guided by whatever catches my eye. I trust that if something catches my eye there’s probably a photograph there somewhere. I also try to absorb the feeling of the place, whatever that might be at the moment, and see if something catches my attention that might convey that mood.

And when I can’t find a composition that seems to work, I follow the advice I’ve given many students, which is to get closer, and simplify. Getting in really close to flowers is a last resort for me, because closeups require a great deal of effort and patience – and exceptionally calm winds. But if that’s what will work best to convey the beauty and feeling of the flowers at that moment, then so be it. And it’s great when they work.

Here’s a small portfolio of recent flower photographs, with wide and medium views, and even one closeup. Several of these images were focus-stacked in order to cope with the extreme depth of field. (For more about focus stacking, see this earlier post.)

Since I made these photos the wildflower bloom has continued to progress, and we’ve found some interesting flowers in both mid- and high-elevation meadows. I’ve been capturing whatever catches my eye or seems to convey a feeling at the moment – even closeups. I’ll post some of those images soon.

— Michael Frye

P.S. The Ferguson Fire is not close to our house, so we’re not in any danger. Thanks to all of you who have expressed your concern!

Shooting stars, sun, and lodgepole pines, Yosemite. I loved the stripes of light on the flowers, and decided to go wide to include the sun as well. I used Lightroom’s HDR Merge to blend three exposures, two stops apart.

Three shooting stars, Yosemite. With closeup photographs like this it’s difficult to get all of the flower or flowers in focus, yet keep the background soft and out of focus. Here I set the aperture to f/5.6 to make sure the background was blurred, and focus-stacked 12 exposures to get the three flowers and their stems in focus.

Backlit shooting stars, Yosemite. A fleeting moment of light, but luckily the wind was calm so I was able to focus-stack three exposures (at f/16) to get everything in focus with a long telephoto lens (190mm).

Penstemons, Yosemite. I loved the repeating pattern of these flowers. This was made with a 50mm lens, and again I used focus-stacking to get sufficient depth of field to make everything sharp. This time I blended five exposures, each at f/16.



Related Posts: Owl Encounter; Focus-Stacking Season; Why F/16?

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Summer Wildflowers appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Landscapes in Lightroom: Image-Adaptive Behavior in the Tone Controls - Vimeo

(If you’re viewing this post as an email and can’t see the video, click here.)

There’s a lot going on under the hood in Lightroom – things that aren’t obvious, and aren’t talked about much, not even by Adobe. For example, all the Tone sliders in the Basic Panel are image-adaptive – that is, their behavior changes based on the image content. The two most important image-adaptive behaviors are the automatic highlight recovery, and the automatic black-point adjustment, which kick in when a raw file has overexposed highlights or underexposed shadows.

The seven-minute video above explains how the automatic highlight recovery and automatic black point adjustment work. The full 44-minute video about the Basic Panel Tone Controls has much more, including an in-depth look at all the Tone sliders, an explanation of why Adobe’s default settings might not be the best starting place for many images, and demonstrations of how I approach processing both high-contrast and low-contrast images in Lightroom.

That full 44-minute video is just one of 17 videos included in my Landscapes in Lightroom ebook and video package. Other videos delve into the Adjustment Brush, Spot Removal tool, HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, and much more. And the ebook itself includes nine examples where I take you step-by-step through processing a variety of images – high contrast, low contrast, black and white, HDR, panorama, and a Milky Way photograph. Plus you get to download the DNG raw files so you can follow along with each example.

As a reminder, the new edition of Landscapes in Lightroom is available at the old price of $26.95 until midnight tomorrow. After that the price will go up to $39.00. To purchase the ebook and video package, just click the Add to Cart button:

 

Or you can click this link to learn more about all the features of this new edition, see sample pages, and so on:

Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: The Profile Browser in Lightroom Classic; Lightroom eBook Updated!; Big Lightroom News

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Image-Adaptive Behavior in Lightroom’s Tone Controls appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Michael Frye Photography Blog by Michael Frye - 2w ago

Great gray owl, Yosemite. This was what my first view looked like as the owl as craned its neck around the trunk and stared back at me.

Claudia and I have made several trips to the Yosemite high country recently to photograph flowers. We’ve mostly seen early bloomers like shooting stars, along with a few other species.

One afternoon we made a short hike to one of the high-country meadows looking for flowers. Whenever I’m near meadows in Yosemite between, say, 6,000 and 8,000 feet, I keep my eyes and ears peeled for great gray owls. These are the largest owls in North America, and typically live in boreal forests in Canada and Alaska. But some live in the Cascades and northern Sierra, all the way down to Yosemite, which hosts the southern-most population of these birds.

Great grays don’t just hunt at night; they sometimes hunt in the early morning and late afternoon. But despite their size and diurnal hunting habits they can be incredibly elusive. I’ve seen them about a dozen times in total, but mostly back in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I did a lot of wildlife photography. It had been at least ten years since I last saw one.

At one point, walking along the edge of the meadow, I heard jays and robins making a ruckus in the woods nearby. Smaller birds will often “mob” predators, like owls, to let everyone in the neighborhood know that there’s a dangerous character nearby. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish such mobbing behavior from normal bird noises; jays, for example, often squabble with each other, which can sound a lot like jays mobbing a predator.

But on this occasion the birds were making such a commotion that there could be no doubt that they had found a predator. And given the habitat, I was 99% sure it was a great gray owl.

The woods between me and the mobbing birds, however, were full of fallen trunks and limbs, making it difficult to make a quiet approach. Then the sounds moved, following the apparent flight of the presumed owl. I zeroed in on the new location of the mobbing, further down the meadow. Claudia was photographing some flowers, and I asked her if she wanted to come with me. At first she hesitated, absorbed in her photography. I said, “Don’t you want to see a great gray?” She said, “Yes, I do,” and followed behind me.

Again I found a thicket of branches between me and the commotion. Then the calls changed, indicating that the owl was moving again, and this time I caught a split-second glimpse of a large bird flying through the trees.

Once more, Claudia and I followed the bird calls. By then the jays and robins seemed to be getting tired of harassing the owl, and by the time I zeroed in on the location there was just one lone robin chirping. But that was enough. Luckily this time the calls were coming from a spot closer to the meadow, and there was a small bay where the meadow extended up into the forest. I moved slowly, scanning the trees carefully. I found the robin about 30 feet up in a tree, and knew that the robin would never position itself below the owl, so the owl had to be even lower. And close by.

Moving slowly, scanning the trees, I spotted a dark shape next to a trunk. I raised my binoculars, and saw a great gray owl craning its neck around the trunk, staring right at me. Damn, what a sight.

I motioned for Claudia to come join me, and pointed out where the owl was. She whispered, “I see it! It’s looking right at us!”

At first I was content to just look. But then I decided to get out my camera. I only had a 200mm lens, and the light wasn’t great, but at least I could document the sighting. I took a few photos as the owl stared back at me. It looked down, focusing on a sound below, looked back at me, then looked down again. I gradually moved a little closer, but my path then became blocked by a shrub. We probably watched the owl for about 15 minutes before it flew a short distance to another tree. Here’s Claudia’s video of that moment:

Great Gray Owl, Yosemite - Vimeo

(If you’re viewing this post as an email, click here to see the video.)

We could have followed the owl to its new perch, but decided to leave it in peace. It was starting to get dark anyway.

The photographs turned out better than I expected (though they needed considerable cropping). But that was secondary. Just seeing the owl made our day, if not our whole week. What a thrill.

— Michael Frye

P.S. Here’s another great gray owl photo that I made in 1986 with a 300mm lens and 35mm film. I had seen my first ever great gray owl two days earlier in this same area. The night before I made this photograph I had a dream in which I was photographing a great gray owl surrounded by branches covered with staghorn lichen. The next morning I found this owl hunting along the edge of a meadow. It flew to another nearby small meadow, and I followed it. I slowly worked my way along the edge of this small meadow until I spotted the owl. I crept along, trying to get a better view, with my camera on my tripod, at the ready. Then I stopped in my tracks, as I realized that from where I was standing the owl was surrounded by branches covered in staghorn lichen – just like in my dream.

Great gray owl, Yosemite, 1986

Related Posts: First Snowfall; Telling a Visual Story

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Owl Encounter appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Landscapes in Lightroom: Profile Browser Overview - Vimeo

Free Video: Profile Browser Overview
This free video includes the first 9 minutes of the complete 33-minute video, and shows how to use and navigate the Profile Browser, how to add and remove profiles from your Favorites list, how use the Amount slider with Creative Profiles, and more. The complete video is included in my Landscapes in Lightroom ebook and video package. If you’re viewing this post as an email, click here to see the video.

In April Adobe added a new feature to Lightroom Classic CC: the Profile Browser. The initial release of this update (Version 7.3) had many bugs, but those problems seem to have been resolved now, so I thought it was time to delve into this new feature in detail.

Profiles are actually nothing new. Every raw file needs a profile to convert the raw data into the colors and tones you see on your screen. And ever since Lightroom 2 you’ve been able to choose different profiles (essentially different flavors of color and contrast), but those options were hidden down in the Camera Calibration panel, where most people never found them.

I think choosing a profile is a fundamental step, something you should probably do early in your workflow, so I’m happy to see that the new Profile Browser occupies a much more prominent spot in the Develop Module – at the top of the Basic Panel, where people are more likely to find it and use it.

Better yet, we now have many more profile choices. Most of these new options are the so-called “creative” profiles, designed to add a canned, “artistic” look to an image. That’s not something I’m particularly interested in, as I prefer a more natural look for my images, but I’m sure many people will find these creative profiles appealing.

But the extra choices also include several new profiles in the Adobe Raw section of the Profile Browser. In addition to the Adobe Standard profile, which has been the default raw profile for most cameras for many years, we now have Adobe Color (the new default raw profile), Adobe Monochrome, Adobe Landscape, Adobe Neutral, Adobe Portrait, and Adobe Vivid.

For landscape photographs, I’m not a big fan of the new Adobe Neutral profile (too flat) or the Adobe Vivid profile (too harsh). But I’m happy to have the Adobe Color, Adobe Landscape, and Adobe Portrait options. Sometimes one of these is just right for a particular image.

The Adobe Landscape profile is particularly interesting, because it seems to have been designed for high-contrast images. This profile dampens highlights and opens up shadows a bit more than other profiles. It also adds more local contrast, which is helpful for high-contrast scenes, where compressing the tones – darkening the highlights and lightening the shadows – can make the image look flat. Unfortunately the Adobe Landscape profile often completely over-saturates the colors, but that’s easy to fix. I find myself using this profile a lot for high-contrast images, and then doing something I rarely ever did before – actually pulling down the Saturation slider.

Here’s a comparison. The first image below has the Adobe Color Profile, the second the Adobe Landscape profile. All the other settings are identical, except in the first one (with the Adobe Color profile) I pushed Vibrance up to +20, and Saturation up to +15, while in the second one (with the Adobe Landscape Profile) both Vibrance and Saturation are set to zero to better match the saturation levels in the first image. In the second image, with the Adobe Landscape profile, there’s a little more definition in the clouds around the sun, while the shadows are slightly lighter. And there’s a bit more local contrast everywhere. The differences are subtle, I know, but every little bit helps:

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley, with the Adobe Color profile.

Sun setting behind Manly Beacon, Death Valley, with the Adobe Landscape profile. There’s a bit more definition in the clouds near the sun and the sunbeams, plus a little more shadow detail.

Along with these new profile choices for color images, Adobe has also completely changed how images are converted to black and white. Before, you could add a Black & White Mix on top of a color profile. Now, a black-and-white image has to have a specific black-and-white profile. And if you make a preset for a Black & White Mix, you have to include a profile with that preset. And if you sync the Black & White Mix settings from one image to another, you also have to sync the profile.

I delve into all of this in depth in a video that’s included in the new edition of my Landscapes in Lightroom ebook and video package. This video shows how to use the new profile browser, what to look for when choosing a profile for a raw image, and how to approach converting images to black and white in this new system. The free video at the top of this post includes the first 9 minutes of the complete 33-minute video, and shows how to use and navigate the Profile Browser, how to add and remove profiles from your Favorites list, how use the Amount slider with Creative Profiles, and more.

As a reminder, the new edition of my Landscapes in Lightroom ebook and video package is available at the old price of $26.95 for another seven days, but on Tuesday, July 10th, the price will go up to $39.00. This package includes the complete video about the Profile Browser, new videos about the powerful Range Mask tools, plus 14 other videos covering the Adjustment Brush, Spot Removal tool, HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, and much more. And the ebook itself includes nine examples where I take you step-by-step through processing a variety of images – high contrast, low contrast, black and white, HDR, panorama, and a Milky Way photograph. Plus you get to download the DNG raw files so you can follow along with each example.

To purchase the ebook and video package, just click the Add to Cart button:

 

Or you can click this link to learn more about all the features of this new edition, see sample pages, and so on:

Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Lightroom eBook Updated!; Big Lightroom News

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post The Profile Browser in Lightroom Classic appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Milky Way over a high-country lake, Yosemite. A five-image stitched panorama made with my Sony a7R II and Rokinon 20mm f/1.8 lens. Each frame was 30 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400. Stitched with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge.

Landscape photography doesn’t often lend itself to advance planning, because the weather is just too unpredictable. You’re usually better off being flexible, making last-minute plans based on the weather and conditions, and then being prepared to change plans again on a moment’s notice.

But some things require advance planning, and hoping that the weather cooperates. About 18 months ago I photographed the moon rising over May Lake. That image required quite a bit of planning to find a location where the moon would be in the right position. Later, it occurred to me that this same spot might also be a good location to photograph a Milky-Way panorama. That would, of course, also require the right conditions, including clear skies, and – ideally – calm winds, so that stars would be reflected in the lake. And it would only work during a narrow window of time in late May or early June, after the Tioga Road opened, and before the Milky Way moved out of position. (After about the middle of June the full arc of the Milky would be too high overhead for a panorama by the time the sky got dark.)

Last year the Tioga Road didn’t open until June 29th – one of the latest opening dates on record, and too late for photographing a Milky-Way panorama. This year the Tioga Road opened much earlier, on May 21st. I had a busy stretch after that, first teaching our redwoods workshop, then going to the Bay Area for a Lightroom workshop. But when we got back from the Bay Area I kept my eye on the weather, hoping for a night with calm winds.

I picked an evening last weekend with a decent wind forecast. It was one of the last possible nights this year, as the moon was getting bigger, and would soon become bright enough to wash out the stars in the evenings. I got to the trailhead at about 7:00 p.m. and reached the lake just after sunset. It was breezy and cold, but I hoped the wind would die down. I huddled in the shelter of a small group of trees near the lakeshore, eating my snacks and waiting for it to get dark.

If the breeze died I planned to stay near the lakeshore in order to photograph the stars reflected in the water. If it stayed windy I planned to move up higher and show the whole lake with the Milky Way overhead. The wind never died, so I chose Plan B.

I captured my first panorama sequence from the exact same spot as my moonrise photo from 18 months ago, using my Rokinon 20mm lens oriented vertically. But when I looked at the sequence on the back of my camera I realized that the composition was unbalanced; the foreground trees silhouetted against the water were too centered in the panorama, putting all the most interesting parts of the photo on the right side of the frame.

So I moved further to the right, which pushed those trees over into the left-center of the composition, and captured another sequence. That looked better. By then the Milky Way was already quite high, and further attempts would have required capturing a multi-row sequence, and including more rocks on the left and right side of the scene, so it seemed like a good time to pack up. Working my way around the steep, rocky lakeshore in the dark was challenging, but once I reached the trail it was easy to follow back to the car, even in the dark.

In hindsight, I’m glad the wind never died. That encouraged me to move higher, away from the lakeshore, where I could silhouette those foreground trees against the water, show more of the distant mountains, and include the shape of the entire lake in the photograph. I think the resulting composition captures the feeling of a high-country lake better than a lakeside image would have. It works for me anyway.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Moonrise over the Cathedral Range; Embracing Uncertainty; Planning for Flexibility

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post High-Country Panorama appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Clearing rain storm with lupines and oaks, Redwood NP, CA; 11:44 a.m., 32mm 1/60th at f/16, ISO 400.

On our journey to far northern California last month, Claudia and I found some nice patches of lupines up in the hills away from the coast. Naturally I thought fog would add just the right touch to the lupines, but since the elevation was over 2,000 feet it would take a high fog bank or some low clouds to envelop this area in fog.

Luckily we got that high fog bank one morning. We drove up early, in case the sun broke through, but it stayed socked in for the first hour, with a light breeze moving the flowers and making photography challenging. Then the wind picked up and it started to drizzle. I heard a rumble. Could that be thunder? There were showers in the forecast that day. I heard another rumble: definitely thunder. That was a first for me – hearing thunder while wrapped in fog. It was kind of cool, but also a sign that I should retreat to the car.

Soon the drizzle turned into a deluge. It was still foggy, but impossible to photograph in the wind-driven downpour, so we decided to drive to a spot with cell reception so I could look at radar images online. Along the way we went through a construction zone, with flagmen standing stoically in their raincoats in the pounding rain. A tough day on the job.

When I did finally get into cell range I saw that the rain would probably let up soon, so we headed back to the lupines. It was still foggy there, and raining lightly, with the wind blowing rain right into my face, making it impossible to keep the front of my lens dry. So I scouted some compositions, then waited in the car, hoping for the rain to quit or the wind to die down. Preferably both.

The fog broke up from time to time, only to return. Finally it seemed like the rain was letting up, and the wind decreasing a little. I got out my camera, headed to one of the spots I’d scouted, and captured some foggy frames of lupines with oaks in the background. Just then the fog opened up, silhouetting the oaks against some distant, misty hillsides. I quickly snapped the photograph at the top of this post before the mist dissipated even more.

The fog came and went for awhile, and I spent another hour searching for compositions with lupines, oaks, and fog. Finally I had enough; I was tired and wet and hungry. But subject and weather had come together just as I had hoped. It was a great morning.

— Michael Frye

Lupine field in the fog, Redwood NP, CA; 5:55 a.m., 31mm, 0.7 seconds at f/16, ISO 800.

Lupines at the edge of an oak woodland, Redwood NP, CA; 6:50 a.m., 28mm, 1/4 sec. at f/16, ISO 400.

Lupines and oaks in fog, Redwood NP, CA; 11:54 a.m., 23mm, 1/60th sec. at f/16, ISO 400.



Related Posts: Chasing Fog; Lupines and Fog

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Lupines in the Fog appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Michael Frye Photography Blog by Michael Frye - 1M ago

Sunset and sea stacks, Redwood NP, CA. Sometimes the sun can slide underneath a fog bank (or marine layer) just before sunset, as it did on this evening before the workshop. (The shutter speed was 2 seconds.)

Claudia and I recently returned from another trip to the redwoods, and once again we had a great time. I love this area so much; it feels like one of my spiritual homes.

One of the reasons I love this area is because it’s so foggy. In fact I sometimes half-jokingly refer to our redwoods workshop as the “chasing fog” workshop. Every morning I get up early and check the weather, trying to find out if there’s fog, and if so, where. And wherever there seems to be the best chance of finding fog, that’s where we go. Fog adds so much mood to any scene – especially redwood forests – so it’s well worth chasing.

But while the far northern California coast is a pretty foggy place, the fog is almost completely unpredictable. Sometimes the fog will settle into a repeating, similar pattern for a few days, but that’s rare. In fact the more time I spend in this area, the more I realize how fickle and unpredictable the fog is.

The most “typical” pattern is for coastal fog to move onshore in the evening, or at night, then burn off late the next morning. But sometimes the day will dawn with perfectly clear skies, only for fog to roll in later in the morning and stick around all day. Or fog can move in during the afternoon. Or fog can start to follow the “typical” pattern, then abruptly dissipate – or just as abruptly reform.

The elevation of the fog matters too. Sometimes a fog bank (or marine layer) can hug the ocean at sea level; at other times it lifts to become a low overcast – which could become dense fog in some of the higher-elevation redwood groves.

And there’s more than one kind of fog along the northern California coast. There’s the usual coastal fog, the marine layer that moves and shifts and drops and lifts in hard-to-predict ways. But when the coastal fog goes away, leaving clear skies at night, you’ll often find valley fog in the meadows and river valleys the next morning. And sometimes you can get both coastal and valley fog at the same time.

Weather forecasts aren’t much help. I don’t think meteorologists in this area expend a lot of effort trying to predict exactly when, where, and at what elevation fog will appear, because fog is really hard to predict, and, well, it’s the northern California coast in summer, where everyone expects to see fog on a regular basis, and most people don’t care about its exact movements.

For example, there was no fog predicted for the first morning of our workshop. But we found fog in Del Norte State Park. In fact that was the only morning we found fog in that area. The forecast was a little more helpful on our third morning, when the National Weather Service predicted low clouds or high fog, and we got that – a cloud layer just low enough to engulf the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in fog. The coastal stratus then dissipated, but on our last morning we found some valley fog in the aptly-named Elk Meadow, complete with about 40 elk.

But while fog can add a wonderful mood, and makes photographing forest scenes easier, it’s certainly not a requirement. Any light can work. I made some of my favorite photographs of the trip on clear, sunny evenings along the coast and in the redwoods. We look for fog, or hope for interesting clouds at sunset, but when conditions aren’t ideal we have to look a little more deeply, and sometimes that’s when we make our best images. Here’s a small portfolio of images from our trip, with and without fog.

— Michael Frye

Sunbeams and corona in a redwood forest, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, CA. I woke up early on this morning before the workshop, and didn’t see any fog, so I went back to bed. Later, about 8:00 a.m., I could see fog hugging a ridgetop in Del Norte State Park, where I knew there were redwoods. By the top I got there the fog was already dissipating, but it came and went for a little while, and for one fleeting moment I saw these beautiful sunbeams and corona.

Redwoods and rhododendron in the fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, CA. The rhododendrons bloomed late this year, but we found a few, including this one, well-positioned against some redwood trunks in the fog.

Redwoods in fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, CA. Fog helps add a sense of depth to scenes like this.

Sea stacks and surf near Trinidad, CA. There was a little fog here, just enough to lend some atmosphere to this scene. (The shutter speed was 4 seconds.)

Tidepool and sea stacks near Trinidad, CA. I liked the foreground circles and ovals, and used a slow shutter speed (10 seconds) to smooth out the water.

Photographer at sunset, Crescent City, CA. A 30-second exposure to smooth the water just as the sun met the rock.

Roosevelt elk in fog, Prairie Creek SP, CA. We found elk and a little bit of fog one morning in Elk Meadow.

Towering redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP, CA. This was a clear, sunny afternoon in the redwoods, and we found some great views looking up into the canopy.



Related Posts: Seizing an Opportunity; The Primeval Coast

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Chasing Fog appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite, May 14, 7:13 p.m. 29mm, 1/45 sec. at f/8, ISO 100, polarizer.

It’s the classic dilemma of landscape photographers: whether to stay and wait, hoping for better light, or go elsewhere.

My friend Evan Russel from The Ansel Adams Gallery and I were standing at the stone wall at Tunnel View last Monday, hoping for a rainbow to appear. Evan told me he was thinking about going to Glacier Point. I was thinking the same thing. He told me that at times like this he thought of The Clash song Should I Stay or Should I Go:

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double

Long before The Clash recorded that song, Ansel Adams said, “I have always been mindful of Edward Weston’s remark, ‘If I wait for something here I may lose something better over there.’ I have found that keeping on the move is generally more rewarding.” I’m with Ansel on that, as I have also found that keeping on the move is generally more rewarding. But every situation is different. I try to gather as much information as possible, then listen to my intuition, and hope for the best.

I had actually seen a rainbow just after I arrived at Tunnel View on Monday, but the standard spot along the rock wall was a sea of humanity, so I wasn’t able to get a good spot. When the rainbow faded and the crowds dispersed I was able to get a better spot, right next to Evan. While we were waiting I periodically checked the radar and satellite images. There were showers to our north, and they were moving south, yet they all seemed to fizzle when they got close. But all it would take was a light sprinkle and some sunshine to create another rainbow.

In the end, I decided to stay, and Evan decided to go. Most of the showers were east of Tunnel View, but west of Glacier Point, so I thought the odds of seeing a rainbow were higher at the tunnel. But you never know. There was a good chance that neither spot would work.

After Evan left I chatted with some other neighboring photographers, and kept looking at the weather. Finally, around 7:00 p.m., conditions started to look more promising. I could see a light shower to our east over the valley, and sunlight streaming in behind us. I couldn’t understand why were weren’t seeing a rainbow already. Then a slice of rainbow appeared next to El Capitan, and quickly grew to be quite vivid.

Luckily the rainbow lasted awhile – almost 20 minutes. I kept my 70-200mm lens on most of the time, making fairly tight compositions with El Capitan, Half Dome, and the rainbow. But at one point some cloud shadows created beautiful light on the valley floor, so I switched lenses and composed a wider view (shown at the top of this post).

I always use a polarizing filter for rainbows. Rotated the standard way, where it darkens the blue sky and cuts reflections, a polarizer will make a rainbow disappear. But rotated 90 degrees from that it will actually enhance the rainbow slightly.

It was a beautiful rainbow, and figured I had made the right decision to stay at Tunnel View. Then Evan texted me his photo of a double rainbow from Washburn Point:

Half Dome at Sunset and Double Rainbow from Washburn Point, by Evan Russel

So I guess this was one of those rare occasions when staying and going both worked. As Dewitt Jones likes to say, there’s more than one right answer.

— Michael Frye

El Capitan, Half Dome, and rainbow from Tunnel View, Yosemite, May 14th, 7:16 p.m. 70mm, 1/30th sec. at f/8, ISO 100, polarizer.

Related Posts: Double Rainbow; Rainbow Weather

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Should I Stay or Should I Go? appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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Milky Way over Yosemite Valley. Four frames stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge. Each frame was 30 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.

Sometime around the middle of April a small weather system passed through our area, dropping about half an inch of precipitation on Yosemite Valley. In typical fashion, the temperature dropped toward the end of the storm, and rain turned to snow in the valley.

I kept my eye on the weather, as usual, and it became obvious that this small storm wouldn’t clear before sunset. It looked like it would clear sometime during the night, but it was hard to tell exactly when. My best guess, based on the radar and satellite images, was that it would clear sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. Should I grab a couple hours of sleep first, or stay up? Or just skip the whole thing and get a good night’s sleep?

Around 10:00 p.m. I realized that the storm was starting to clear sooner than I expected. Like right now. I hurriedly packed clothes, food, and camera gear, and made the hour-long drive up to Yosemite Valley. When I got there I found a couple inches of snow on the ground, and only a few shreds of mist. Maybe I arrived too late for the mist, or maybe it was too cold, so there never was much mist. In any case, I was there, with snow on the ground and stars in the sky, so there had to be something to photograph.

There was no moon that night, and it occurred to me that the Milky Way would be rising around 2:00 a.m. But that was still a couple hours away, so I headed to one of the oak groves and made some photographs looking up through the trees at the stars. I spent about an hour there, trying different compositions, and ended up with one or two images I liked. Here’s one:

Oaks and stars, Yosemite. 20 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.

Then I drove back to Gates of the Valley (aka Valley View), and found the Milky Way just starting to rise above the cliffs. I spent another hour there, capturing panoramas of the stars, cliffs, river, and snowy trees. My favorite panorama is shown at the top of this post. It’s four vertical images made with my Rokinon 20mm lens and stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge.

Many people are surprised to learn that it’s possible to stitch nighttime images together like this. How does the software align and stitch everything seamlessly when there’s at least a 45-second interval between exposures and the stars are moving? Honestly I don’t know the answer to that. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Or at least it usually does.

It helps to leave plenty of overlap between frames; that gives the panorama-stitching software bigger areas to match up and align, and more room to stretch and bend things when necessary. Day or night I always try to leave at least a 50% overlap. More can be even better, but the more the frames overlap the more exposures it takes to complete the panorama, which means the sequence will take longer, leading to more star movement, and a greater chance that car headlights will mess everything up. So I try to make the overlap right around 50% – no more, no less.

Of course it’s hard to see anything through the viewfinder at night, so I use bright stars to guide my compositions. If I’m going from left to right I’ll look for a bright star near the right edge of the frame in my first shot, then move that star to the middle for the second exposure. Or find a star in the middle, and move it to the left edge. And so on.

The Milky Way kept climbing higher, and eventually I couldn’t fit both the Milky Way and river into a vertical frame anymore. That meant either capturing and stitching two rows together, or declaring victory and going home. I chose the latter. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. But it’s always fun to be out in the wee hours of the morning, when the often-bustling valley is quiet and still.

— Michael Frye

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

Related Posts: Sand and Stars; Misty Moonrise; A Clearing Storm by Starlight

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

The post Milky Way over Yosemite Valley appeared first on Michael Frye Photography.

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