Tag Archives: desert

Shadows and Swirls :: NV

28 Mar

“Not all who wander are lost.” ‚̧

I’m not entirely sure why I never got around to editing these. I think it might have had to do with how special this sunrise felt to me….like I had the whole desert to myself, and I was hesitant to create something that wouldn’t live up to my memory of it. But in the end, beauty is meant to be shared. ūüėä
Quick shout out to David Pasillas Photography for his help with this edit. He’s a creative powerhouse, editing wizard and all around great guy….make sure to check out his page and leave him some comments to remind him he has a blog. Lol
This is a blend of 3 shots, two foreground (one with sun flare, one without) and the sky, combined to recreate the morning.


9 May
Caliche :: OR

Caliche :: OR


Strange name for a photo, eh? ¬†Well, it’s actually quite literal. ¬†This was shot in the Alvord desert of Oregon (a stunning place, in my opinion) on a mostly dry lake bed. ¬†I say mostly, because when we arrived, the northern end of the playa still had some water – not much, but enough that there was a thick mud along the water’s edge called “caliche”. ¬†(At least according to the locals! ¬†I am certainly no mud expert.)

Anyway, this whole set up was interesting in a few ways.  First, in the span of just a day, a slight wind caused the water on the northern end of the lake to migrate significantly south vastly changing the face of the damaged playa in just 24 hours.  Anyone who was silly enough to park / camp close to the migration area would have been in for a rude surprise.

Second, I have never seen such sticky mud before. ¬†Our hike across it got progressively harder…and taller, as the caliche¬†built up beneath the soles of our shoes. ¬†According to some of the people living on the playa’s edge, visitors¬†can easily bury their vehicles up to the axle if they don’t heed the subtle color changes that signify the transition from hard, dry earth to mud.

As for the actual image, this was our first sunrise at the desert and obviously, it was pretty dang stunning.  This was shot with a wide angle lens and a grad ND filter.

It was also taken as part of a series of images to be used in this month’s lesson, Hyperfocal Distance, that David and I are teaching over at Light & Landscape (a fun, online teaching and critiquing program that we helped launch in February….we have an online image review planned for later this month, so if you’re looking for some feedback and a taste of what we do in the L&L Member’s Area, definitely contact us for more information!)

The camera settings:  f/11, 1/8 sec, 10 mm, iso 100

Always Growing

23 Feb
Cracked :: CA

Cracked :: CA

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” – C. Joybell C.

As many of you know, besides just taking photos and authoring books (shameless promotion) I write for Light and Landscape Magazine (#1 landscape photography magazine through itunes), and teach local to my area.  A few months ago, the magazine approached David and I about a brand new venture involving a large-scale teaching format for their readership.  Basically, they asked if we would be interested in teaching photography to people all over the word via the interwebs.

Pfffttt. ¬†No way“, I said. ¬†“Why would I want to do that??

Oh. ¬†Wait. ¬†That’s not what I said. ¬†I believe my exact quote was, “Hells. F’n. Yes.” ¬†I adore teaching, and encouraging others to grow their passion and I am very excited to be able to help more people reach their photo goals! ¬†So, for those of you interested in growing your photography skills, in a nutshell, the magazine is offering¬†a monthly subscription to grant you access to the Member’s Area. ¬†That access gets you lesson plans, feedback, how-to videos, live hangouts to answer questions, etc etc. ¬†Basically, a whole bunch of awesome.

If you’re interested in learning more, Matt (the brains behind the magazine) is doing a 40% off sale until Thursday ONLY. ¬†You can (should!) watch a video¬†all about the new awesome learning program that all of the cool kids (you are a cool kid, right??) are doing here:¬†http://www.lightandlandscape.co/learn-with-light-and-landscape


As for the image above, for those of you interested, it was taken in Death Valley in December after some historic flooding (yes, I said flooding) in October. ¬†These mudtile areas were just drying out, and the patterns were so fresh and full of texture. ¬†Unfortunately, in some places, they were also full of people writing “I love DV” and “Sally wuz here” because, I suppose, some people just can’t help themselves. *sigh*

I know I just posted something about it recently, so I won’t preach, but please….as a good human being, make an effort to preserve the spaces we have and enjoy collectively. ¬†Just recently, a historic icon in California suffered some severe fire damage because people were thoughtless with their actions. They didn’t think about the consequences of spinning steel wool near the old, dried wood of a beached boat in Point Reyes and because of that, a local and tourist favorite spot is now partially destroyed. ¬†Leave no trace, friends, or future generations won’t have anything left to photograph.

Cracked: f/9, 1/40 sec, 22mm, ISO 100

The Badlands

29 Dec
Of Fire and Waves :: CA

Of Fire and Waves :: CA

Earlier this month I went out west to explore Death Valley National Park in California. ¬†During the month of October, they had a flood (yes, I said flood! ¬†In the desert!) that changed a lot of the landscape. ¬†Roads were washed out, some areas were completely inaccessible still, and the salt patterns in Badwater Basin got a bit of a reset. ¬†Zabriskie Point though? ¬†It was lookin’ mighty fine. ¬†Especially draped in such dramatic light.

To say we lucked out with the skies during our trip is an understatement. ¬†Like….the traveler/photographer/nature lover in me was literally freaking out. ¬†A lot. ¬†Because holy crap, that light. *swoon*

According to the Wik¬†(always a reliable source of information), these badlands were the result of a little bit of water erosion (there used to be a lake here, with fish and stuff)…and then a little bit of lava action (so…also some volcano-y stuff). ¬†The rock formations left behind were otherworldly and breath-taking, from both above at the overlook and below along the Badlands Loop trail. (To read more about our hike that day, check out my stuff on The Outbound Collective. They just released a brand new app for the iPhone¬†and have a pretty rad new #protectthewild series of articles in their journal that are definitely worth a read!)

I had an awful lot of fun exploring Death Valley, and have put it on my “to re-visit” list, because a few days was just not enough time to see all of the awesome! ¬†For now though, looking at these photos will have to suffice. ūüėČ

Special thanks to David Thompson and David Pasillas for their help with this beast of an edit!

For those of you who like the details: f/9, 10 mm, iso 100, 1 sec

I <3 Joshua Tree

11 Mar
Key's View Sunrise

Key’s View Sunrise


Welp, almost exactly one year ago, I was dragging my butt out of a comfy-ish bed to yawn my way out to Key’s View in Joshua Tree National Park. ¬†It was one of my better decisions in life. ūüôā

I’ve finally gotten around to editing this pano and I’m not gonna lie…pretty darn proud of this. It turned out very close to what I envisioned when I was setting up for the series (aka, trying very hard not to slide down the scree with my tripod and camera!).

Hopefully, you guys enjoy the view!

We Never Stop Learning

12 Sep
Snow Clouds in the Desert

Snow Clouds in the Desert

I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk. ‚Äď Tony Robbins

Technology evolves, and to survive as artists, so must we.

One of the things I‚Äôve struggled with for a long time ‚Äď something I suspect most photographers struggle with ‚Äď is coming up with a well-defined plan for success in the photo industry.¬† In my case, specifically, the landscape/nature photography genre.¬† There are so many angles that need to be considered‚Ķ¬† How does one define success?¬† Is it simply being able to do what one loves?¬† To some degree, I think the answer is yes.


Love of what we do doesn‚Äôt pay the bills though, so monetary compensation needs to be considered as well.¬† How does one make a living as a landscape photographer?¬† Generally speaking, it seems you can pursue a living as a teacher/guide (running workshops, writing tips books, running blogs and G+ hangouts, or in the world of publications ‚Äď magazines, travel guides, etc.¬† Or both. Haha


So, how do we break into either world?  First, you absolutely need quality images.  You need to educate yourself, practice your photo skills and be an editing champ.


But that’s not enough, is it?  The world is filled with many many many amazing photographers, and chances are, you’ve only heard of a fraction of them.  Just like any other company or business, you need to market yourself.


But then…is that enough?  From my perspective…that of a female…seems like it might be.  But then again, it might not be.  Fstoppers put out a little editorial a few years back that broke down the disparity between salaries (men vs women), the numbers based on what type of photography your pursue, and the overall numbers of photographers by gender.  According to FStoppers, as of the date of publication, yes…photography is still a man’s world (though the numbers of female photogs is growing).  For the whole article and its references, go here.


So, while I‚Äôve always felt that landscapes tend to be a bit of a boys club, and sometimes struggle with how difficult it is to find a toe hold in the genre, the MOST interesting part of the whole read was the commentary at the end.¬† One of the readers mentioned that men are more gadget and math brained, therefore more interested in the technicalities of photography versus ‚Äúmaking pretty pictures‚ÄĚ.¬† This, as you can imagine, offended some of the ladies out there.¬† Personally though, I took it as a challenge.


Truly, we can never stop learning….there is always something to improve upon.  So rather than be offended at the potentially offensive view points expressed at the end of the article, I used it to fuel my educational fire.  These last few weeks I’ve been practicing my edits, trying to find new ways to attack problem photos that I had been putting off editing.  (At least one of those will be coming up in a future post, in which we are doing a group edit challenge between myself, David Pasillas Photography, WhereToWillie and Will’s photographer-in-training, Britta.)




 The finished edit (left) versus the RAW (right).

This particular image was one of those that required a little more work than just your standard curves and levels.  I took this bad-boy in Joshua Tree Nat’l Park in March, just as it was about to snow.  YES!  I said SNOW!  The sky was flat, so I took this image intending to change it to a black and white and rely on the texture of the rock and the interesting trees as points of interest.  The problem I was running into was that I wanted to adjust just a particular tonal range to make the trees pop without laying on heavy contrast throughout the whole image.  Now, there are a lot of time consuming, inaccurate ways to go about this that require a lot of work.


Or, there are luminosity masks, a super genius invention.  While I have used them before, I was not proficient in them.  I took my FStopper’s go-get-em attitude and applied it to practicing and playing with this image.  In the end, while I still don’t love the flat sky, I’m much happier with the tonal adjustments throughout the image and feel much more confident using luminosity masks.


So where am I going with this?¬† Don‚Äôt be afraid to try things that are intimidating, or outside of your comfort level.¬† The more tools we have in photo-tool-bag, the higher our chances of success become, by whatever definition you use. ¬†ūüôā