Friday, October 20, 2017

I forgot my sunglasses..

After running some errands I went back to the UW Arboretum to retrieve the sunglasses I had left in the woods the day before. It was 10am and the light wasn't very good.

I took my camera anyway and walked the half mile to where I thought I had left them. I found the sunglasses after just a few minutes then set about making some images.

The light was flat as I walked through the woods looking for scenes I liked. The picture above shows what I saw and it wasn't very good.

I decided to take a break and lay down by a big maple tree. After about ten minutes of just lying there I noticed a bit of decent color and leaves lit by the sun in the canopy. Then I got an idea.

Normally I like my photos pretty straight forward. Beautiful light and a good subject and composition equals a quality nature photo. The problem was, I didn't have good light in the forest and I was having trouble finding an appropriate subject.

So I got creative and started playing with slower shutter speeds and controlled motion. I made the image at the top of the page by focusing and then moving the camera downward during the exposure. Focus, press shutter release while moving the camera down. That's how the top image was made.

I was using a 24-200mm zoom lens and started playing with the zoom to create different abstract images. Focus, press shutter release button, and push or pull the lens to zoom in or out while using slower shutter speeds.

The amount I moved the zoom during the exposure determined how much motion was in the final image.

I know others will think this is a no brainer and no big deal, but for me it was a leap.

I like colorful, beautiful, real nature images and these are something different. Colorful and beautiful yes, but not a straight depiction of what I was looking at.

At the time, this is what the forest looked like.

At the same time using the same camera and settings I was able to make this. I prefer the second image.

As I was looking up and making this photo I heard an animal running towards me through the fallen leaves. I made the image and looked in the direction of the sound just as a young white-tailed doe ran to within twenty feet of me and stopped where I had set a camera bag down in the woods. 

She waited and I waited. Then I said "hello" and she took a couple of jumps to my side, stopped and looked at me some more. I put the camera up and made a few more tree photos as she ran off.

I'm glad I lost my sunglasses.

Finally some fall color...

It hadn't been a very good year for fall color in Madison Wisconsin. So after I saw a few colorful maples at the UW Arboretum I went and got a camera and headed over.

There were a few trees with good looking leaves, while others had already lost theirs, and still others hadn't even started to change color.

Many of the trees I had photographed in years past didn't look good at all, so I started walking to the group of trees I had seen from the road.

It was a warm afternoon with a slight breeze and many leaves were falling as I made these images.

There was such a small group of trees with decent looking leaves and color that I just kept working that one little area for the hour and a half until sunset.

I had all I could do to try and find an interesting composition and create some images I liked.

Accessible and undamaged leaves with good color were in short supply.

So it was really great when I'd find one. 

Then it was just a matter of isolating the leaf, choosing a clean background (working the angles) and making some photos.

I switched lenses several times and found myself lying on my back on the ground in order to get the proper working distance and angles.

They weren't the easiest fall photos I've ever made, but I was glad I spent the evening in the woods finding a little color.

Monday, October 9, 2017

West Thumb. What a morning...

When I got to West Thumb it was still snowing heavily. I took a walk around the Geyser Basin and along the boardwalk near the shore of Yellowstone Lake.

I stopped at Black Pool and made images of the turquoise water and the snow falling.

A few other visitors were enjoying the weather.

It was like a winter wonderland with snow covered trees and steam from the thermal features.

It was a lot of fun standing in the snow making images, wiping the lens off and looking for more.

About an hour later there was a hint of sunlight through the clouds and I couldn't wait to see what the light would bring.

A woman from Spain told me it seemed like a different world.

It was easy to agree as the clouds started to part and the light made it through.

I didn't want to get to far from Black Pool as the water and steam made for great images, but I did walk over to Big cone Geyser as the sky cleared.

I liked how the clouds and Yellowstone Lake looked with the new snow.

This was the view as I walked back towards Black Pool.

I was smiling the whole time and glad I hadn't made it to the Tetons.

The clouds were beautiful over the lake.

It just kept getting better and better.

As the sun hit the water the colors seemed almost tropical to me.

I kept shooting as tourists walked through the steam giving the scene scale and perspective.

Nearby, Abyss Pool looked beautiful as well. 

What an excellent way to spend a morning in Yellowstone National Park.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I made it to the eclipse... part 2

I'm not sure what they meant by no services, as I drove past a crowded rest area after about 50 miles. Maybe they meant gas and such.

I had hand written directions of which roads to take to Casper. It was Newcastle, to Lusk, to Orin, to Douglas Wyoming.

By the time I got to Douglas I could tell things were a bit different due to the eclipse. Rest areas were parked full and parking lots to businesses were filled with cars and people. It was definitely a happening.

I saw a couple who parked their car on the shoulder of the expressway and were standing next to a road sign in the ditch with their dog, kissing each other and taking a selfie. I stopped at a gas station/ truck stop, on the east side of Casper and still had quite a ways to go. 

I got gas, bought a coke, and asked the lady where the exit for hwy 20/26 west was. She gave me excellent directions and I was off to Shoshone and then Riverton Wyoming. It would be about 250 miles on two lane state highways with the potential for lots of animals on or near the road before I'd get to Moran. With a little luck it'd be no problem.

Here's what my notes say from five and a half hours later after making it to Grand Teton National Park.

"That was one hell of a long and tedious drive."
"Stopped at 3 or 4 gas stations and several times on the side of the road."
"It was tough."

There were a lot more people out and driving around than I'd normally expect to see at 3 or 4 in the morning in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. They too, must have been trying to make it to the eclipse.

When I got to the Moran gate of Grand Teton National Park and started to show my park pass and drivers license, the ranger told me that no entrance fee was required. They were doing things a bit differently to deal with the expected crowds. He also told me that I couldn't park at any of the nearby parking areas until 7am or something. That wasn't good.

I had planned to drive in and park at the Oxbow Bend pullout where I could photograph the eclipse and the Teton Range during the eclipse. He told me rangers had already kicked more than 200 people out of those areas, as people were sleeping in cars or whatnot.

"Whoa, whoa", I said. "I'm not planning to sleep in the car or anything, but I was hoping to do some night photography right there at Oxbow. Would that be OK?" With that he lit up a little and said he liked to take night photos as well and he thought it would be fine, as long as I wasn't in the car. I thanked him and drove the few miles to the Oxbow Bend pullout.

There were cones blocking each end when I got there and no cars. I drove around the cones and parked right at the end. I quickly got out and realized I needed some different clothes. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as it had been 90 plus degrees when I left South Dakota the night before. Now it was about 35 degrees with clear skies and plenty of stars. "Good" I thought, at least I'll be able to see the eclipse.

I put on jeans, boots, and an extra shirt. A scarf, jacket, and hat, got my camera and tripod and walked down to the river bank. I put a camera on the tripod and made a few images of stars above Mount Moran.

Now these images weren't going to win any prizes, but I wanted something to show the rangers if they questioned me. I was pretty darn tired and fell to sleep for awhile there on the ground next to the river. 

By the time some color was in the sky to the east I was awake and ready to make some images.

It had been a few years since I was last in the Tetons. I was glad to be back. Though I was photographing one of the most photographed and popular views in the park, I actually had my little spot down on the edge of the Snake River all to myself. 

After whatever the appointed time was, the park service did allow others to fill the lot. Then again they placed cones at both ends and rangers stayed to keep newcomers out and the traffic moving.

I stayed down by the river and kept on shooting Mount Moran and the Teton Range.

Just as in South Dakota, there was a lot of smoke in the air making for different light conditions.

About 10am I realized the eclipse would be starting soon. After making the earlier photos, I had slept awhile more on the ground where I was and was feeling pretty good.

I went back to the car, got rid of the coat, hat, and scarf and got my cameras and tripods. The plan was to shoot the full eclipse with a 700mm lens and also take photos of the classic Oxbow scene with a smaller lens throughout. Hopefully the photos would clearly show how dark it got while the sun was hidden.

I moved to a different spot on the river bank and set up the tripod for the larger lens. As I went to set up the second tripod, I promptly knocked it over into the river. 

The good news. It was just a tripod and they can get wet no problem. The other good news. It reminded me that I was still pretty tired and was going to have to pay attention to make sure I didn't dump a camera in the water or make mistakes with exposure and such.

Just then I heard people above on the road saying the eclipse was starting.

I repositioned both tripods so I could easily work from one to the other without knocking them over and got the cameras ready. At that moment, I heard rustling about 80 yards away in the brush across the river.

I half expected to see a moose or elk, when an adult grizzly bear walked down to the bank directly across from me. "No way! That's incredibly lucky" I thought. As I watched the bear, two cubs ran out and started smelling stuff right at the edge of the water. It was then I remembered I had a large lens mounted on a tripod beside me and quickly made some images.

It was the middle of the day and the light wasn't great, but there were three grizzlies right across the river from me just as the solar eclipse started. Unbelievable!

They only stayed for a few minutes and then mom turned and walked back into the brush. Her cubs didn't follow right away, I heard her snort or grunt a couple times and the cubs quickly scrambled into the brush behind her. I could hear branches breaking and some more vocalizations for less than a minute before all was quiet and it was as if they had never been there.

After they left I looked around to see if any other people were visible or near me. I could hear people up by the road, but couldn't see them. Just then a couple walked down to river about forty yards away. I walked over to ask if they had seen the bears. The man was really friendly, and very disappointed that they hadn't seen them. He and his wife had just gotten off a bus with a group of people. They were the only ones to walk down. 

I saw that he had eclipse glasses and asked if he would give me a heads up when it was in totality. That way I'd have the whole two minutes to shoot directly at the sun. He told me I'd know when it happened by how dark it was. Then handed me a pair of eclipse glasses, told me had lots, and said this was his third total eclipse.

Again, unbelievable. I show up to an eclipse unprepared and with no glasses, and a friendly stranger hands me a pair of eclipse glasses just as it starts. 

I thanked him and asked if he was sure he had extras, he pulled another pair out of his pocket and put them on. I visited with him about the eclipses he had already seen, and took a few photos of the two of them with his phone. I tried the glasses he had given me, thanked him again and went back to my spot.

With the glasses, this eclipse stuff was pretty cool. I started to make images of the Tetons in between watching the moon move across the face of the sun.


The light was funky and there was still a lot of smoke in the air from the fires out west.

As the eclipse reached totality the light was very different than any I had seen. It wasn't like shooting at night, it had an ephemeral quality to it. For a brief period of time it almost seemed the mountains had a glow to them.

I then switched to the larger lens and started doing what I could with the sun itself. You can see a ring as the moon almost completely covers the sun.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I kept saying "wow" out loud as I continued to work. "Unbelievable."

I was surprised just how cool it actually was, and really thankful I'd been able to get there to see it.  I couldn't believe the grizzly bears just across the river and was glad I had pictures, since I didn't think anyone else would believe it either. 

After totality, I was done so I lay back on the grass near the water and enjoyed watching the sun come back out.

When it was over, I was so glad I had made the effort to get out there. I had a huge smile on my face as I put cameras away and thought of all of the unlikely things that had happened. 

I was nothing but thankful as I went to find a shower and realized just how many people were in the park and trying to get somewhere as well. Well that's a story for a different day.