Since moving to Kauai last year, I have been trying to allocate my time by doing only things that I like doing while spending time with people I enjoy being around. Seems pretty simple, right? So, when your oldest photo buddy starts pumping you for information about photographing wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park after a very wet winter, why not jump on a plane back to the mainland and join him? That is exactly what I did 2 weeks ago. I had been aware that California had a very wet winter and started reading about the predicted super bloom. Apparently, so did every one else, because even though we were only there for 3 days in the middle of the week, Borrego Springs was totally crazy packed with visitors. Fortunately, most other photographers aspire for the “best” light around noon time, which meant that the parking before sunrise was not a problem for us. I photographed this beautiful display of wildflowers near the visitor center on the one morning there were clouds in the sky.
On Tuesday, the weather was overcast, but potentially clearing in the late afternoon, so I took a chance and drove up to Mount Baker for the third time in a month. It is a 12+ hour round trip from my house, so it is a big commitment requiring a lot of optimism. I hiked up to Heliotrope Ridge to look down onto the Coleman Glacier and was surprised to still find wildflowers blooming. This group of fireweed seemed particularly nice for early September. I set up my camera and crossed my fingers that the clouds would lift in time for sunset. Just as I had hoped, the clouds parted 15 minutes before sunset and the scene was flooded with golden light. I created this image using my 36MP Sony a7R camera body with a Metabones Canon lens adapter, and my new Canon 16-35mm f4 IS lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CC 2014, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
While visiting Seward, Alaska last month, I was pleasantly surprised to see my brown bear in lupine image on the cover of the 2012 Animals of Alaska calendar. The calendar was put together by Accent Alaska, which is one of the stock agencies that represents my photography. This image has never been one of my favorites, however, I have licensed it several times for many thousands of dollars. One of the things that clients tell me that they like about this image is that the bear does not look scary surrounded by the beautiful lupine. I took this image while visiting Lituya Bay on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park in 2009. You can read my original blog post here.
I photographed this rugged scene while cruising Prince William Sound with my dad in late June. I had scouted Nellie Juan Fjord several days earlier in rainy conditions and observed a few dwarf fireweed blooms high above the tideline on the granite cliffs. In order to get to this location, I woke up well before sunrise, navigated my inflatable boat through hazardous submerged rocks guarding the entrance to the fjord, motored through tons of floating ice, and finally tethered my inflatable to the base of a soaring rock wall. I then scrambled high above the water to get to this precarious perch. Once I was in place, I was fortunate to experience perfect landscape photography conditions with clear sky to the east and a few clouds hovering over the mountains to the west. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
During my trip to Alaska last month, I returned to Harriman Fjord in Prince William Sound with ambitions of photographing wildflowers blooming near the tidewater glaciers. I was very lucky, as my timing was perfect and the weather was spectacular. I had seen a few images of this patch of dwarf fireweed from Alaska photographers that I admire and easily located it during my first reconnaissance of the fjord in my inflatable. I returned the next morning and was rewarded with beautiful sunrise light and clouds. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 3-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
During my recent visit to Denali National Park, I had a professional photography permit for the first time. The permit allowed me the unique opportunity to drive the Wonder Lake Road in my own vehicle and spend as much time taking pictures as I needed. The week started out with terrible weather, but quickly improved and kept getting better every day. I honestly had no ambition to photograph Denali based on how difficult it was to even see the mountain during my previous visits in 2005 and 2006. However, with all the clear weather that I experienced, I took advantage of every moment that the summit was visible. I created this spectacular image on the last day of my permit. After staying up all night for several days and barely sleeping, I had lunch at the Kantishna Roadhouse. After lunch, my intention was to start driving back to Anchorage, but as I was nearing Wonder Lake the mountain was again entirely visible. So much for driving that afternoon. I had scouted several nice patches of fireweed during the week, so I decided to set up my camera for the rest of the day and see what would happen. Not only was it sunny and warm with almost no wind, but the mosquitoes disappeared entirely. This allowed me to comfortably sit at the side of the road while working on my tan with my shirt off. Anyone who has ever been back to Wonder Lake during the summer will appreciate how incredible this sounds. Over the course of 6 hours waiting for the sunset, I listened to some of my favorite music, waived at the occasional bus passing by, and waited for the clouds to part again in order reveal Denali. Everything came together perfectly about 1 hour before sunset. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 3-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
I created this bold image of dwarf fireweed at sunset while visiting Columbia Bay with my small boat Serenity a few weeks ago. This was the second time that I have visited this area this year, after the dramatic and wild nature of the place got under my skin back in May. It is now one of my favorite locations that I have visited in Alaska. I experienced much better weather during this visit and there were loads of wildflowers, especially the hearty dwarf fireweed. This plant grows in areas recently exposed by glacial retreat. This particular patch of flowers was located on the northwest tip of Heather Island along the edge of the old glacial moraine bar. Before settling on this composition, I ran around like a madman trying to find the best group of wildflowers that would compliment the dramatic sunset that was unfolding. During brief but dramatic moments like this, a photographer must be comfortable with his/her equipment and methodically use the skills that have been mastered through years of practice. I photographed this scene with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
My latest article “Desert Song” is featured in the March 2011 issue of Popular Photography! The article gives suggestions for photographing California desert locations including Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Death Valley National Park, the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, and San Elijo State Beach, all of which are best photographed this time of year. The article is 6 pages long and showcases 6 of my images, including the double page opener of wildflowers in bloom from Anza Borrego. I created this image almost exactly 2 years ago. This was first trip using a digital camera to photograph landscapes rather than with my beloved Pentax 67II medium format film camera. I used my Canon 5DmkII body, Canon 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. It required minimal processing using Aperture 2. I also clearly remember signing up for Twitter during that trip at the urging of my client-friend, Mark Teskey. Wow! That seems like a lifetime ago back in the social media dark ages.
Since I won’t be visiting the desert this spring, I won’t be able to offer my own wildflower reports, however, you can read about the latest conditions by visiting the Desert USA Wildlflower Report.
This past Friday, the second in a row, I woke up at 2:30am and drove down to Mount Rainier National Park to photograph wildflowers at sunrise. I have sold a lot of images of Mount Rainier over the years, so it is worth taking the time out of my busy travel schedule to do the quick round trip for just 1 hour of shooting. I parked my car at 5:15am and ran up the trail in about 20 minutes to my favorite flower meadows on Mazama Ridge. I’m always surprised that I never encounter any other photographers up there at sunrise, but I also only visit during the week to avoid the weekend crowds. For anyone still planning a trip to Rainier, the wildflowers are at their peak, however, I would not describe this year’s bloom as more than ordinary. I did not encounter any diverse fields of wildflowers and the clouds from the day before had vanished, but I still hoped to create a new unique image. All of my previous well-known photos of wildflowers at Mount Rainier were created using medium and large format film cameras. What a pain in the ass that was. With my large format camera in particular, I had to compose the image using a dark cloth, focusing loupe, and dark ground glass where the image was upside down and reversed, spot meter the scene, stop down to f32, place a Singh-Ray non-LB Warming Polarizer on the lens, position the grad filter correctly, and hope that the wind stopped blowing for a 10-30 second exposure because I was using Fuji Velvia 50 film rated at ISO 25 due to reciprocity failure. Still with me? Let me just state unequivocally that creating this image with my dSLR was a lot easier. I like this picture because of the soft warm light illuminating the lupine in the foreground.
Pictures don’t get any fresher than this! I woke up at 2:30am today and drove down to Mount Rainier National Park to photograph the wildflowers around Reflection Lake at sunrise. I have always wanted to photograph the mountain and reflection in the lake with rosy spireas in bloom, and today I finally timed it right. I was surprised by how many photographers were there for a Friday. I have gotten spoiled in Alaska not having to shoot around other people. A slight breeze or surfacing fish occasionally disturbed the reflection, so this is as close to perfect as it got. I am happy with what I created.
For those of you aspiring to photograph wildflowers at Mount Rainier this summer, I did a quick drive up to Paradise before driving back to Seattle, and can confirm that the wildflowers probably need 1-2 more weeks to peak. There are tons of paintbrush and other wildflowers along the side of the road, but the big fields of lupine are only just starting to bloom. I hope to get back down there late next week before I return to Alaska on August 23rd.