The 2018 California Woolsey fire which burned through parts of Ventura County, Malibu, and the San Fernando Valley had a profound impact on families, properties, and the surrounding environment. The effects will continue to be felt for some time, however, for nature, fire - depending on its intensity, can have a way of enriching soil. Such seems to be the case at the Upper Las Virgines Open Space Preserve, whereby hills are as green as I can remember them, following several Los Angeles rainstorms. During a recent hike, I found that many areas of the Preserve were more accessible, as a result of the overgrowth having been burned away and in the process of regrowing. I walked around, interested at the contrast of lush hills next to charred wood remnants and came across the tree, pictured. The shot was taken in unremarkable mid-morning light, as AM clouds were beginning to clear, but the shape of the tree as well as the eastern sun hitting the trunk caught my eye. My intention was to convert this to BW in post, however, upon opening the image in Lightroom, I started playing with the tones and decided to take this into a more artistic direction. The result was a split-toned composite which relies heavily on its mood, composition (I felt the square crop worked best for the scene), and concept to capture the viewer’s attention.
I am not all that familiar with astral photography and my first few attempts several years ago resulted in what I would consider to be very poor results. Due in large part to the attention that social media and news outlets have given to promoting lunar eclipses in recent years, I become increasingly aware of and used the events to strengthen my sky shooting abilities. With the help of some YouTube videos and well as trial & error, I had my best showing on January 20, 2019, when a total blood moon eclipse could be “seen,” in totality from Los Angeles. I say seen in quotes, because the cloud cover turned out to be really heavy that evening. Luckily, they were fast moving and I was able to snap a few images during the moments of clarity. Learning from YouTube that the easiest way to obtain crisp images of the moon is to image stack, I stacked the phase shot using RegiStax 6. The second image is a composite of the total eclipse with a shot of the full moon behind a break in the clouds.
Although not uncommon, the AM fog in San Francisco is difficult to predict and requires some degree of serendipity. There are some moments that I want to witness firsthand and capture for myself. The scene of the fog rolling into the city and obscuring the Golden Gate bridge is one of these moments that I can cross-off my list now.
Prior to the trip, I checked in with a few friends / contacts about the conditions and was all told the same - good luck! I stayed for a total of four days and the first three were totally clear. I actually had no intentions to shoot on the final day, but woke up at 4:00 am looked outside of my Union Square hotel and could barely see the top of the buildings across the way. I immediately willed myself out of bed and into the cold dawn. On my drive over, I couldn’t even see the top of spires and really began to get excited. Exiting Alexander Avenue, turning onto Conzelman Road, I was racing with anticipation and upon arriving at the viewpoint, was amazed at the view. I wound up shooting at the lower viewpoint for an hour or so before making my way up to higher ground. I tried to stay true to the actual scene and it was quite marvelous to see in person.
Three Rivers, CA
Walking back to my Air BnB from during an early AM hike, I came across this beauty grazing in a large open area amid morning mist. I remained as quiet as possible so as not to startle her and continued to wait until her body shifted naturally. After about 5 minutes, she lifted her head up to take a break and I snapped the shot. Post involved clarity, color, and contrast adjustments to intentionally give the image an ethereal mood.
Although most of my photography focuses on landscapes and natural settings, my 1 year old daughter has inevitably become a favorite subject of mine. The pictured photograph was chosen as my "best" of 2017 for several reasons:
1. Every time we go to the grocery store, my daughter points at the mylar balloons that engulf the checkstands, so keeping her distracted her during checkouts, is a sporting event in itself. A week prior to this shot being taken, we gave in and got her a butterfly shaped balloon and of course, I had to make use of the last few days of helium. Enter the park, a hill, and mommy to help with the setup.
2. Prior to leaving the house, I already had an idea of the shot I wanted to capture. However, upon arriving at the park, it was more difficult to find a spot that would work with the composition and light, than I had expected. Trees were originally not part of my, "vision," however, I liked the way this one incorporated itself and it's such a great feeling as a hobbyist to have the final output match what was intended.
3. Perhaps the most gratifying part of the experience, was having a photo that my daughter can look at in the future and appreciate on its own merits, but also for the fact that she was the "model."
There were a few "winners," from the shoot, however, I decided on this one because her pose best conveyed innocence and joy we have as kids, playing something as simple as a balloon.
Prior to taking this picture, I had not visited a zoo in over 30 years. However, my young daughter has me doing many things that I was previously not, so I decided to take introduce her to various animals recently. Ironically, the only shot that I came away taking in a setting full of animals, was this one of a Bengal Fig.
Out of the camera, the shot itself, was quite flat, so I began experimenting with different techniques in post, to present a scene the way I remembered it. In this image, I forcibly showcased the elements which drew my attention to the tree in the first place. The result is one that teeters the boundary of realistic and fantasy, while exhibiting the strength of nature.
This was a single exposure and not a bracketed HDR shot.