All Wet

Last Monday seemed like the perfect day for a poppy shoot in the foothills. I had the afternoon wide open—with the California media buzzing about this year’s “superbloom,” plus a forecast promising ideal conditions (calm wind and thin clouds), I couldn’t help dreaming about my own images of poppy-saturated fields. What could possibly go wrong? Getting on the road proved a little more problematic than…

Macro in Spirit

It’s poppy season in California, and this is turning out to be a banner year. I’ve already enjoyed one nice poppy shoot, but things are just getting started in Northern California so I hope there are more to come. When I photograph poppies, I don’t always use my macro lens. Even though my objective is similar to what I’d accomplish with a macro lens—a…

Practicing what I preach

The morning (last week) I started this post I was photographing South Tufa at Mono Lake in 26 degree temperatures. It’s hard to believe that less than three weeks earlier I was wearing a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops while photographing orchids in Hawaii. And later today I’m off to Moab, Utah. I’d taken my Hawaii workshop group to Lava Tree State Park, long a personal favorite spot…

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…

Wild about wildflowers

I’ve given up trying to predict California’s wildflower bloom. There are a lot of theories about the conditions that cause a great wildflower bloom: wet winter, early rain, late rain, warm spring, wet spring, and so on. For each condition correlation you can cite, I can cite an exception. So now I just cross my fingers and wait to see what spring delivers. Well, it turns…

The art of subtraction

Photography is an art of subtraction—presented with a complex world, we identify and organize objects of visual interest and (ideally) do our best to eliminate everything else. It’s this last point that’s often overlooked. The best pictures often work as much for what’s not in them as for what’s in them. Most photographers have no problem seeing what to put in their images, but many…

Among the wildflowers

Last year, a busy spring schedule and mediocre wildflower bloom conspired to thwart the wildflower photography I love so much. Vowing not to let that happen again this year, a few days ago I packed my gear and headed for the hills with fingers crossed. My goal was a familiar canyon off of Highway 49 in the foothill Gold Country south and east of Sacramento. This would be the…

Seven reasons photographers love rain

The difference between a photographer and a tourist is easily distinguished by his or her response to rain: When the rain starts, the photographer grabs a camera and bolts outside, while the tourist packs up and races for shelter. Seven reasons photographers love rain Smooth, (virtually) shadowless light that eliminates the extreme contrast cameras struggle to handle, and enhances color saturation Clouds are vastly more interesting than blue…

Feeding a growing photographer

Uniqueness When I started photographing nature, I couldn’t really identify (nor did I think about) what exactly it was that I wanted to show people—I just knew that I wanted to enjoy and record beautiful scenes. This was good enough for me, and the fact that thousands (millions?) of other photographers were capturing similar images, of similarly beautiful scenes, was no concern to me. But when I decided to make…