Seeing double

People stay away from Yosemite in autumn because that’s when the waterfalls are at their lowest. But believe it or not, Yosemite isn’t all about waterfalls. El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, the Three Brothers (I could go on) are great subjects in their own right. Subtract the waterfalls but add the yellows, oranges, and reds of Yosemite Valley’s many deciduous trees and you have what…

My 2016

Tonight the calendar clicks over to a new year, ready or not. Most are ready. The general consensus is that 2016 has been a difficult year. Our warming planet lost too many creative souls, and was rubbed raw by contentious elections in every hemisphere. But here we are knocking on the door of 2017. I’m lucky to have photography and the dose of perspective it provides. Whether it’s a…

Enjoying Yosemite in a fog

One of Yosemite’s most underrated winter treats is the radiation fog that hugs the valley floor on cold, clear, still mornings. Unlike the advection fog that drapes the San Francisco Bay Area (among other places) when (relatively) warm, saturated air passes over the colder ocean and blows inland, radiation fog forms in place  when plummeting overnight temperatures cause airborne water vapor to condense. A sheltered valley with a cold river, soggy meadows, and a…

Photographic matchmaking

While everyone loves a pretty scene, I’m afraid our aesthetic sense has been numbed by the continuous assault of “stunning” images online. A picture grabs our eyes on Instagram or Facebook and we reflexively click Like and move on to the next (similarly) stunning image. The photography equivalent of pop music, formula fiction, or (most) network television, these images exit our conscious about as fast as they entered because they fail to make…

Fall color explained

Like most photographers in the Northern Hemisphere, my fall color season is about finished. But things are just ramping up along the streets near my home in California’s Central Valley (where winter doesn’t really begin until December, and spring’s first blooms start to pop up at the end of January—sorry). While there’s not a lot for me to photograph in my neighborhood, the opportunity to partake of the visual feast…

Here comes the sun

I rarely shoot at Mather Point because I’m usually working with workshop students struggling to corral the extreme dynamic range of a summer sunrise there. But on this morning a couple of weeks ago, about half the group had congregated at the rail in near the Mather Point amphitheater, allowing me to set up my tripod and occasionally visit my camera. When it became clear that…

From One Second to the Next

I don’t know about you, but my earliest memories of photography are of Dad pulling the family wagon up to an iconic vista, beelining to the railed viewpoint, and snapping a few frames (that would be quickly forgotten, until the slides came back from the lab and Dad sequestered the family in our darkened living room until each Kodak Carousel had completed its cycle). Though Dad’s photo stops were never timed for light or…

There’s no “never” in photography

One question that comes up in just about every workshop is, where do I put the horizon (or in more general terms, where do I break my frame)? Behind these questions seems to be a feeling (fear?) that there’s one “best” way to treat a scene. And I’ve noticed that many beginning photographers are constrained by two “rules” they’ve heard at their camera club or online: Never put the…

The limitations of human vision

Visual “Truth” is more relative than real “Is that the way it really looked?” What photographer hasn’t heard that question by skeptical viewers? For years I used to feel slightly defensive when answering, as if my honesty was in question. Now I simply try to educate the skeptic. Without getting too philosophical, it’s important to understand that, like the camera’s, the human view of the universe is both…

Secret locations (and why they should stay that way)

As a professional photographer with a pretty large social media following, I get a lot of questions from complete strangers. What camera (or lens, or tripod, or whatever) should I buy? What were your settings for this picture? Did you use a filter? What’s the best time to photograph such-and-such a location? Because I don’t believe there should be secrets in photography, I do my best to answer…