Let’s all take a breath and step away from the ledge

National Forest Service commercial photography policy (it’s not as bad as you think) I’ve received a number of inquiries (some quite panicked) in the last few days asking my opinion about the “new” National Forest Service policy regarding commercial photography. I’ve actually read some media accounts that imply that simply whipping out your iPhone and snapping a mountain lake risks a $1,000 fine. After doing…

Going for bokeh

  In this day of ubiquitous cameras, automatic exposure, and free information, a creative photographer’s surest path to unique images is achieved by managing a scene’s depth. Anyone with a camera can compose the left/right/up/down aspect of a scene. But the front/back plane, a scene’s depth, that we human’s take for granted, is missing from a two-dimensional image. Managing depth requires abstract vision and camera control beyond the skill of most…

Made in the shade

Imagine that you want to send an eight-inch fruitcake to your nephew for Christmas (and forget for a moment that you’ve been come that relative), but only have a six-inch box. You could cut off one end or the other, squish it, or get a bigger box. If the fruitcake represents the light in a scene you want to photograph,  your camera’s narrow dynamic…

Chasing the moon in Yosemite

The highlight of my just completed Yosemite Autumn Moon photo workshop was a full moon rising above Half Dome at sunset. But rather than settle for just one Half Dome sunset moonrise, I’d “arranged for” three. Clouds shut us out on sunset-moonrise number two, but sunset-moonrise number one was a huge success. (And sunset-moonrise number three, from Tunnel View, was so special that I’ll dedicate…

Up a creek…

(Okay, so technically it’s a river.) Spending last week co-leading Don Smith’s Bryce/Zion workshop, I got a taste of my own medicine: the first opportunity to photograph something I’ve long wanted to photograph (usually I’m the one showing others something for the first time). In this case it was Zion’s (aptly named) Narrows, a deep gouge carved in red sandstone by millions of years of…

Variations on a stream

In my November 4 post, I wrote at length about a recent morning spent photographing a single leaf I found plastered to a rock beside Bridalveil Creek in Yosemite (and my feelings about staged scenes). While my entire shoot that morning was all about one found leaf, it was just the latest in a long succession of focused visits to Bridalveil Creek. Each time…

No leaves were harmed in the making of this image

“Did you put that leaf there?” I’m not sure how many more times I’ll need to answer that question, but let me just say that my answer will never change: No. I feel very strongly that photography needs to be a source of pleasure, and my pleasure from photography comes from discovering beauty in its natural state. But that’s just me—others enjoy staging images…

Cliché for a reason

It’s actually even a cliché just to say it, but some things really are “cliché for a reason.” And as much as I try to avoid the cliché shots in Yosemite, sometimes they just can’t be helped. My Yosemite Fall Color workshop began yesterday, and even though I’d spent all day Saturday in the park, yesterday morning a storm filled Saturday’s blue skies with…

We have met the enemy and he is us…

It seemed like such a good idea at the time. The Grand Canyon North Rim, fall color, and maybe even a thunderstorm or two. What could possibly go wrong? Well, let me tell you…. I’ve wanted to do this trip in the fall since my first visit to the North Rim. On my visit in August I polled local experts for the best time…

Reflections on the polarizer

Polarizer 101 Photographers who think a polarizer is only for darkening the sky miss opportunities to saturate color and and emphasize texture in shade or overcast. Even worse, some photographers screw on a polarizer without understanding how it works, mistakenly believing that merely having it attached is sufficient. The amount of polarization any composition calls for is a creative decision that can make or…