CapturetheWildLight: Blog en-us Jim Fox [email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Wed, 24 Jan 2024 08:47:00 GMT Wed, 24 Jan 2024 08:47:00 GMT CapturetheWildLight: Blog 80 120 My Blogging Has Moved Thank you so much for visiting this page, if you notice, I have not updated these Blogs in quite a while.

If you want to read my current blogs, please go to


I am running that Photography Website along with some long time friends. It's a great place to come if you want to catch up with what I am doing.


And if you are a photographer, it's free to join FocalWorld. It's a smaller Photography site, with the benefit of everyone being friendly and helpful. While being Mean seems to be the norm on most of the Internet sites, you won't find any meanness at FocalWorld.





[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) FocalWorld Wed, 24 Jan 2024 08:46:29 GMT
It's Good to be Green  

I don't know about any you, but I have found it's really hard to keep this blog up to date as I spend more time on the photography and less time writing. That is just something I need to be better focused on. I have always enjoyed writing. For as long as I can remember I have been writing stories. But equally, or perhaps I guess even more, I enjoy exploring this world we live and capturing and processing the photographs that I take of it.




The shots seen in this blog are from a location in Nevada called Fly Geyser. It's an incredible looking geyser. It did start off life though as a human error. Drilling in the wrong place many years ago in a valley that is just a thermal hotspot, led to this stream of hot steaming waters and minerals gushing through the surface. Out side of Yellowstone, I have never seen so much thermal activity in one location. Now while the geyser began life thanks to a human, it's growth is totally natural. It has terraces, and colors very similar to what you see when you visit Yellowstone.



This is not an easy location to get to, it's on private property with a locked gate. But it so happens that a friend of a friend of a friend has access to it, and I was able to go shoot this! It was a last minute call from my friend, and I was in my jeep early the next morning for an 11 hour drive to get there. I left with the idea that I could swing by Mono Lake for sunset, and my timing worked out perfectly! But those shots will be for another day.




Both of these shots are obviously shot after the stars came out. There was a quarter moon out that was behind us lighting the scene up slightly. But we added some light of our own, using a weak headland to paint the main geyser for about 15 seconds, and then using a smaller flashlight that we put some green filters over and then made a temp cone for the front of it to funnel the light. The bottom area still needed a layer mask in Photoshop to clean up some of the stray green light. The exposure was a typical star shot exposure. ISO 3200 at 25 seconds and f5.6.






The shots are pretty close to identical except for the pools being light painted with the green light. At the time I wasn't really sure how it would turn out. The idea of the pools being green sounded interesting, but just in case, I wanted a more natural looking version also.





So which do you choose? I admit that my first inclination was towards the more natural one. But I do have to say that the more that I look on these, the more I am really liking the one with the green pools. And that comparison brings up an important point. It always pays to hedge your bets. In other words, it's always good to shoot several versions of a subject. Whether it's changing the lighting, or changing the composition. Perhaps changing the depth of field or changing the shutter speed. Create several versions as you are shooting.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Wed, 16 Apr 2014 00:44:11 GMT
Twilight Goodness We all want to be shooting during the golden hour before sunset, and of course we will be shooting as the sun is setting and those glorious clouds are painted with colors too bold to be described. Those shots will make for masterpieces worthy of hanging in a gallery, or at least the living room!

But if you took off just as the sun set you will have missed half the show. Yes, once that sun sets it can get a bit nippy out. And yes, it's easy to get swept up with the stampede of others rushing to get out once the sun has set. But stick around a while, and work the light.

The twilight time is a great time to play around with longer shutter speeds without the need for an ND filter. Or with our ever improving camera's, it's a great time to try out just how good our high ISO is in that lower light. At the beach with the moisture in the air, it's an easy time to get the lights on a pier to sparkle without having to shoot at f22.


The twilight time is a time to be creative, have fun, and enjoy the solitude as most have left by then.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Wed, 13 Nov 2013 03:57:27 GMT
Shades of a Sunset I find it interesting how with some sunsets, the colors in the sky can go through so many shades. It seems to happen most on those evenings when the colors go nuclear, like they are generating energy to change their color.


And that’s what happened on this one evening earlier in the year. I was leading a private SoCal Beach Workshop with an eager student. She was getting ready to retire and wanted to learn how to use a DSLR so that as she and her husband traveled she would be able to capture the beauty of the travels better than she could have with a P&S camera. The photos in this article are ones that we took from that SoCal Beach Workshop.


The beach workshops are 4 hours in length and can cover several days depending on the needs and desires of the participants. In this case it was a 2 day workshop. They are both instructive, and also a lot of fun. The first several hours we spent going over the components of capturing a photograph since she was new to shooting with a DSLR. Explaining and demonstrating that a proper exposure was like a simple math calculation. A+B+C= Good Exposure. Or in other words Aperture + Shutter Speed + Film Speed (ISO) = Good Exposure. From there we went over the basic elements of a good composition. The Rule of Thirds, placement of items in a shot, creating a visual point of interest, etc.. With all of this, the student uses their camera and as we go over the theory, we get to put it into practice. This hands on time is very important to let the brain connect with the information.


One of the great aspects of being at a SoCal beach for these workshops is there are just endless opportunities for shots. Whether it’s people photographs with people hanging out around the pier, playing volleyball, etc. we can practice there. If the student is more interested in Landscape photography, then we gravitate more towards the water and the pier learning how to set up a good composition.  As we do this, we continue go over the rudiments of a good exposure. I help them to learn how to adjust the exposure of their shot. We go over the reasoning behind why they would choose to adjust the Aperture or Shutter Speed or ISO. Helping them to learn about the pro’s and con’s of each option. Do they want to maintain crisp waves? Are they looking for some motion in the water? Did they want movement as the surfer rides a nice wave?


There is a lot to learn, and one doesn’t pick it up instantly. But I think it’s important to lay a good foundation as to the “Why” of why a choice is made when adjusting the camera. Then as situations arise, we can intelligently make choices with the settings on our camera. Throughout all of this time I am not using my camera, it’s purely hands on for the student for several hours. But since we are at the beach, our common hope is for a great sunset with waves crashing, perhaps framing the pier or maybe a surfer. As we get towards the last hour of the workshop, I now pull out my camera and set it up on the tripod. I show the student what I am doing with mine, what I am looking for in the composition. As I set up the exposure, we again go over the priority of their settings. I then let them set up their camera, watching and answering any questions they have, making suggestions if needed. Then as the sun starts to set we both shoot away. We stop for a moment to compare their shot to mine. I check their exposure, their composition making sure they are getting good shots. The student can look at my shot to see how mine is coming out.


This time of the sunset is very dynamic and fluid. So typically after a few shots, we discuss what we are seeing, and move to a new location sometimes just 20 or 30 yards away, but one where our composition might be based on how the waves are breaking. Again we set up our camera’s and compare notes as we both shoot and compare. And this back and forth, this practical experience goes on for as long as the sunset goes on. Sometimes this can last 30 minutes or more. At the point we decide to call it a night, we walk back, and we go over what we have learned. The continual reinforcement by asking questions is a real important part of the learning process.


And that is the first day of a workshop. Now many who take the SoCal Beach Workshops are much more experienced with their cameras. They may have had a DSLR for several years now. So while I will still go over some basics and we will talk some theory in the beginning, once I know they have good grasp of their camera then we can move on to other subjects like using ND Filters, or ND Grad Filters, Multiple Exposures, etc.. But I have found that going over the basics for a few minutes to see where a person is at is very valuable. You would be amazed at the number of times where a person has owned their DSLR for years, but have really only ever used it in automatic because they had never fully understood what all the settings were for.


If you have any questions about a SoCal Beach Workshop or are interested in attending one, be sure to check out the Workshop page here in the website, and be sure to send me a note. While I have some set dates for Beach Workshops, most of my workshops are actually just private with one on one interaction. The cost for a private workshop is the same for you as for a group, I know most photographers charge much more for their private workshops, but I am a bit different! So come and learn more about your camera and have fun while doing so.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Beach California D800 Huntington Beach Nikon SoCal Sunset Workshop Thu, 01 Aug 2013 22:03:19 GMT
Sacrificing to get a Shot In this case, I had to sacrifice Supper to get the Shot. As it was, I had just gotten back from a long day hike back up into the high country in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. There was still a little over an hour before the sunset and there is a very nice café/restaurant in the Swiftcurrent area that serves some great hot meals. So I thought about going in for a nice dinner after the day on the trail, but as I looked up at the clouds in anticipation for sunset, I realized that sunset where I was at would more than likely be a bust. And that’s because there was a ton of cool clouds just to the south. They were too far away to really be included in a shot here, but… if I were down around St Mary Lake there just might be some good compositions. And doing a little guess work, it would seem that being there would place me right underneath all of those cool clouds!


So I sacrificed my steak and settled for two quickly made jelly sandwiches that I could eat while I drove down to the Wild Goose Island. It was about an hour until sunset and the drive would take about 45mins, so not much time to spare, but I was off and running! There is never a guarantee that the sunset will be a blazing with color, though the conditions were ripe it. I was making good time, not too much traffic on the roads now. As I entered back into the main part of the park and was rounding a curve in the road all of a sudden there were a half dozen cars stopped in the road! Now since it was a curve, I could not see what they were stopped for, but I could see the road itself was clear, so knowing I didn’t have time to just sit on the road, I went around the cars as there was no oncoming traffic. As I passed I saw this young lady from the lead truck that was blocking traffic and she out of her truck with a camera and photographing what looked like about a 1 year old bear on the edge of a meadow. Not sure that was the smartest thing for her to be doing, but I had a date with a sunset!


I got the Wild Goose Island overlook, and there were about 4 or 5 cars there, so not too crowded. So I found a nice composition and settled in to wait for the sunset. As I looked around, I saw below a nice pond area that looked like perhaps it could reflect the mountains and the color nicely. At first the clouds started being painted with a nice golden color that often will hit the clouds up high like this just before the sunsets. Then the real show began! A little bit of orange started painting the clouds, and then this thought popped back in about that pond down below… it wasn’t too far away, perhaps a quarter mile downhill, probably less, but it was downhill... but it could make for a really cool shot… so I grab my camera and tripod and like a jackrabbit I was darting off downhill!


The path at the bottom was slightly overgrown, but I slid my way between the brush the best I could and quickly set up my camera. The clouds were just now all a glow with orange! I took 3 or 4 really wide shots. With my 16-35mm lens I then zoomed in for a couple tighter shots, and because of the brush and lack of paths I knew that would be my best compositions there. But the color was still blazing in the sky and without a second to spare I realized that if I ran back up hill as fast as I could I might still get some color in the clouds back at the more typical view. Now at the close to 6000 foot elevation I was at one is not running back up any hills, especially not with gearing  35lbs of camera gear unless one stays in shape, so thankfully, I like staying in shape! So back up the slope like a jackrabbit again, at the top I am breathing a bit heavy as I quickly put the tripod back down, put the camera back on it, compose, focus and shoot! And yes… there was still color! I had made it in time to get color at both the top and bottom views here.


Now a note as to the exposing. While I will shoot a lot of my shots in complete manual mode, times like these are where Aperture Priority mode is a life saver! Especially with the changing light, and with me changing compositions like I did. Having my camera set in Aperture Priority with an exposure compensation dialed in of 2/3rds of a stop underexposing gets me a shot that will be very close to being just what I want. I will still check after the first shot at the histogram to make sure the exposure is okay, and if it’s not, with a click flip of the exposure compensation I can brighten or darken the scene as needed. But when seconds count, having the camera set so that it can take a usable shot without thinking can be so key.


With Aperture Priority as the light fades my fstop stays on f13 and the shutter gradually stays open longer and longer. But I don’t have to concern myself with that. I can focus on the composition as often with fading light one will want to move or change angles for the shot. I do always keep a close eye on my histogram on the back of the LCD, but with the camera adjusting the exposure based on my exposure compensation I can rest easy that my exposure will be very close to being correct.


I do recommend for more static scenes or conditions to shoot manual, to take charge of your exposure. But too many people think that the sign of a good photographer is that they only shoot in Manual Mode. That’s totally not true. Now it may stroke someone’s ego to feel that way, but the reality is for a Landscape Photographer where light can change so quickly, and one often doesn’t have more than seconds to get a shot right or you are walking home with blown out or underexposed shots. So be sure to know when using Aperture Priority should be your priority…

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Aperture Priority D800 Glacier National Park Nikon St Mary Lake Sunset Wild Goose Island Mon, 15 Jul 2013 20:23:30 GMT
Keeping an Eye Peeled Recently up in Glacier National Park I was up in the Many Glacier area and had driven by Swiftcurrent Lake on my way back to the campground. As I went past the lake I noticed a spot that would give me a wonderful reflection shot of the mountains and the famous Many Glacier Hotel in the background. So early the next morning I headed down to that location to shoot the sunrise. It was beautiful out, and just a sweet reflection in the calm waters of Swiftcurrent Lake.


But as I was shooting, there were not many clouds in the sky, but there were some on the horizon where the sun was rising, and that whole area was turning golden with the sun. I also the afternoon before had noticed that the outlet where the water flowed downstream out of Swiftcurrent Lake turned into a call rapids and waterfall area as it was channeled down a deep gorge. Putting 2 and 2 together, I quickly realized that while I was getting some really cool reflection shots, that the golden sun could very likely be putting on an even more golden show in that outlet area!


I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod, I knew I had no time to lose! I jumped into my jeep and hurried down the mile or so to the lake outlet. I parked, grabbed my gear and ran swiftly to the bridge that went over that lake outlet. As I went to plant my tripod in the middle of the bridge, I saw the golden rays of the sun as is it bathed the whole area in golden light. But in the middle of the bridge the sun was already too high, so I quickly slid to the left side of the bridge to get the sun just at the edge of the ridge, knowing that I could not only get the golden rays bathing the gorge, but I could get a sunstar if I let the sun come into the scene right along the ridge. Even in the 30 seconds it took me to get the tripod level, the composition set, the shot in focus, and the exposure right, the sun was once again too high. So I slid over another 3 or 4 feet to the left to get the sun back below the ridge. This time I didn’t need to change any settings, and seconds later as the sun broke the ridgeline I took a shot! I checked my histogram, adjusted the exposure slightly, shot it again. I next covered the sun in front of my lens with a finger, blocking the flares in my shot. In case the first shot ended up with any crazy ugly flares, I could use this shot as a flareless shot to fill in those flares.


Over the next 2 or 3 minutes, I repeated the sliding over to the left a few feet to get the sun below the ridge, shoot it as it came up so I could get the sunstar effect. Once it was too high over the ridge, I slid over some more and shot again. But quickly I was at the end of the bridge and there was a cabin off to the left that would come into the shot. So I then moved back into the middle of the bridge and composed a few shots where the sun was just off to the left side of the frame. The sun was not in the shot and so it would not cause any flaring, but I would still get that nice golden beam from it as it bathed the gorge in such delicious light. Just another 2 or 3 minutes of that though, and the sun was too high, the golden color had disappeared and it was time to wrap it up.


In the end, I got some even better sunrise shots than my initial plan, but keeping my eyes peeled, and having done some previous scouting during the harsh midday light of the previous day, I already knew a wonderful composition for sunrise. So don’t get so focused and fixed onto a location that when the light changes, or you see the light coming up in another area that you can’t quickly move and set up. Also having taken the time to practice shooting the sun and trying to get sunstars, will make it so you can quickly get setup, because often every second can count.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) D800 Glacier National Park Many Glacier Hotel Sunrise Swiftcurrent Lake Tue, 09 Jul 2013 00:56:54 GMT
Of Ducks and Deer I usually try to go on a trip to photograph when I know the weather will be in my favor. Now the timing for this particular trip to Yosemite National Park was chosen ahead of time because of the early spring water run off, which would cause the waterfalls to be flowing very nicely. I was going there a week or two later than I would like to catch Dogwood blossoms, but due to other committements this was week I would get to go, and I was hoping that to still find some Dogwoods worth photographing.


Thankfully the forecast heading into that week still had several days that were to be filled with rain clouds. Sometimes rain isn’t ideal, but with Landscape photographs, with the rain then comes the clearing storm clouds as the rain ceases, and those conditions can create some of the most beautiful landscape photo’s ever!



On this particular day, it was between storms, so there were very few clouds. So knowing there would not be any clouds, I chose not to shoot the sunset from the Tunnel View location which gives such a grand overview of the beautiful Yosemite Valley. Instead I chose to shoot from down in the valley itself, from an area in Cooks Meadow where I know from experience will have some nice pools of water formed in the meadow itself. These provide wonderful compositions where the setting sun will paint Half Dome with a gorgeous red color often.


On going there, I hadn’t expected ducks or deer to be in the shot. My main focus was the reflection. But upon setting up, I saw 3 or 4 ducks swimming in the marshy pool of water. So I composed my shot at an area where the ducks appeared to be swimming a lot. As the ducks are deciding to cooperate so nicely, I am getting some pretty cool shots. But then out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple of deer grazing in the meadow too, not too far from where I was at. I noticed that if I changed my position, I might possibly get them grazing in front of Half Dome which I hoped would look cool.


Backing off from the pond, and quickly taking a route that lead me away from the deer so as not to scare them off, I positioned myself with the deer in a very nice composition.  I let the deer graze into the shot, making sure that my shutter speed was fast enough to freeze their movement. Even though they weren’t moving fast, it’s amazing how easily in dim light and a slow shutter speed where animals can get soft from just a little movement.


So the point here is that we just need to get out there and shoot. We can’t predict everything when it comes to a location. And also on days where the clouds may not be at their best, or may have even just disappeared completely, be sure to have other compositions in mind that will work with these other conditions.


[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Tue, 04 Jun 2013 00:53:23 GMT
Two Were Chosen I have lost track of how many years I have been photographing, but it started when I was about 11 and I bought my first home darkroom kit from money saved up from delivering newspapers and other odd jobs. In the vast majority of that time, very few people ever saw my photographs. Photography was simply my visual diary if you will, so it always seemed very personal to me.


But then at some point, some 20 or 30 years later, finally through my thick skull I came to realize that my photography was a gift from God, and a gift to share with others. So I then began to share my work publically, selling some prints, posting photo’s online, etc… But in all that time, I had never submitted any photographs to any contests. Oh, I did think about it a few times in regards to entering some photo’s at the local county fair, but I never did. For me, for so many years, my photography was simply my personal work, and I never felt a need to get it out on a stage in front of the world.



That attitude has slowly changed. Not only do I want to share the gift I have been given in my photography, I have also realized that often I am seeing sights that the vast majority of people never get to see. Whether I am getting back into places that is just too much trouble for most others, or I have been able to photograph locations in conditions that most just wouldn’t be out in, I have come to see that others get enjoyment out of my photographs. So with that in mind, I decided to finally enter some photographs in the Outdoor Photography Magazines annual American Landscape Contest.


I waited until the last minute to enter, always finding various reasons to procrastinate. So on the night of the deadline, I am frantically uploading photos, typing up all the required information needed for submissions. In all I entered 4 photo’s, and got the last one entered at about 11:59pm… with one minute to spare! Of the 4 photo’s I entered, there were 2 chosen to finalists. What an honor. There are 28 photo’s in that made it to the finals, and I have 2 of them. I had no idea what to expect when I submitted the photos, but that is a real honor. The two photos in this article are the ones that got chosen.


Here is the link to go view all of the Finalists, there are quite a few really nice shots in the Finalist group. It would be great if one of my photos is chosen to be the Grand Prize, I already know exactly what lens I would buy with the $1000 prize money! But no matter what, it’s just an honor that out of the thousands of submissions, that I had 2 that have made it all the way to the Final round. It’s very humbling.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) California Colorado D800 Fall Colors Mt Sneffels National Nikon Park Photo Contest Redwoods Sun, 26 May 2013 03:55:36 GMT
Looking Forward The day had been raining off and on, the light was nice, but nothing special. So I was looking forward to the sunset where often even the stormiest of clouds can take a little break and let sun light shine through. I spent this time doing some scouting and exploring of the area. Most of the shots I have seen of this area by others were from what I would call in front of the Temples of the Sun and Moon, with the Temple of the Sun taking precedence, and shooting it at sunrise.


I had an idea that for sunset, if I shot the Temples from the back side, behind them and closer to the Temple of the Moon, that I could get the sunlight illuminating the backs of the Temples. So off I went, being very careful where I walked. The desert soil there is very soft to begin with, and add to that the moisture from the rain, my footprints would not be hidden from view. I took thought as to where I walked, keeping one eye on the angle I would want to compose my shots, and another eye open to make sure I didn’t step through any potential foreground areas for my shots.



With that in mind, I typically tried walking in small gullies, or flat areas that didn’t have any of that cool cracked soil on it. Also keeping close to plants and not walking in the open areas to keep my impact in that fragile land to a minimum. With my exploring, I found a large wash area where the run off from storms had created, and also not too far from that vicinity some of that nice cracked soil. I stopped and set up some shots, taking them in the overcast light. While the shots were not what I was hoping for because of the sky, it gave me a chance to set up the compositions and to pick out my locations for hopefully a grand sunset.




As you may have noticed in your own photography, when sunset comes, it can come very fast, and leave very suddenly! So if you are able to have already scoped out some compositions prior to the sunset, then when that time comes, you can be much faster in shooting, and potentially get several compositions with some cool sunset color.


Fast forward now to sunset. I can see by the sun occasionally poking through thin areas in the clouds as it makes it’s decent, that the potential was  very likely for a cool sunset. I put myself in position for this shot as the sun dipped to the horizon and the rays began to shoot out. Then before my eyes, the grandeur and majesty went on display... What a beautiful sight it was, and what an exciting moment to witness. Make sure as you are out shooting and focusing on what the conditions are before you, to then fast forward in your mind to sunset and make plans as to where you will shoot. Don’t wait until the sunset (or sunrise) is bursting out in color like it’s the fourth of July, be prepared!

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Capitol Reef D800 Sunset Temple of the Sun Utah Thu, 09 May 2013 10:08:50 GMT
Being in the Right Place at the Wrong Time How many times have you heard or said to someone upon seeing a beautiful photograph, that they were in the right place at the right time? Certainly for me, more than once have I said that.


Something I have discovered in capturing beautiful photographs, is that so often, one has to be in the right place at the wrong time in order to be at the right time in the right place. That’s a bit of a tongue twister I know! And maybe at first glance, it doesn’t even make sense. But hopefully in short order you will see the sense in this slightly nonsensical saying.


A friend had suggested an idea of visiting a bunch of the old California Spanish Missions as part of Easter week. That sounded like a fun project to me, there is so much cool history in those old Spanish Missions. When I found out that there were only 21 of them, and that we had 3 or 4 days for this trip, I came up with what initially sounded like a crazy idea, but I said, let’s visit them all! We did some mental calculations and realized that it was possible to see them all in just a short period of time. We knew we would have to be disciplined, but that it was possible to do.


Adding to the challenge and the excitement of this project, I knew that we would see some wonderful country as we traveled starting in San Diego and finished up in Sonoma, in the heart of the wine country. I then began the task of mapping out all of the missions, with distances between them, plotting out the best courses. In addition, very importantly I also scouted out via the map, where we might be around sunsets so that we could also hopefully get some really nice Landscape sunset shots in the process.


And so on Day two of this adventure with God and country, we were up in Soledad shooting the Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad late in the afternoon. This was mission #13 in our journey. We finished about an hour before sunset and as I looked around, the clouds looked kind of heavy to the west.  We were in an unfamiliar part of the country, but I knew from having looked at the map, there were a few side roads we could take that would put us out deep in the heartland of this beautiful farming community.


The idea I had was of a shot of a farm field with the rows of crops leading off into the sunset. Getting back on the 101 and heading north, the farmland just kept looking better, so keeping one eye on the map and one eye on the road I exited the 101 freeway and headed west, winding my way through a few roads until we got back out into the farmland.


Now at this point, there was some interesting looking clouds to the south, I still wasn’t sure if there would be any color at sunset, but I liked those southern cloud formations. As I drove,  along these back roads along various fields of crops, I was keeping an eye open for some crops that had been planted in a southern direction. My idea was to be in a place where I could get the rows of crops leading into the shot with the clouds just in case the clouds caught some color. Time was running short now though as sunset was fast approaching, so I turned around and back tracked on the back road. I had been taking mental notes of the fields that offered the most promise.


Making a U-turn and heading back the way we had come, I pulled off the road at curve in the road I had made a mental note of, and it offered the best of both worlds! There was a field with the rows heading west, and just 30 feet to the south as the road curved, there was a field with the rows heading south. So now where ever the color showed up, I had all my bases covered.


Now setting up quickly, the color came to the clouds, first actually to the west, so I set up for that shot first. There were irrigation pipes in the fields, so there was a bit of running around to get a composition where the pipes would not be seen in the fields. After taking a dozen shots or so, I observed that the cool clouds to the south were getting some color now, so I ran quickly down to that field and set up to get those shots. With heavier clouds in the sky, the color often doesn’t last too long, and to be able to get in two solid compositions like this was really awesome.


So as I packed up my gear and headed back to the truck it occurred to me how I had been in the right place at the right time for some beautiful photographs. But as I walked I also reflected on how I first had to get to this right place at what was looking like the wrong time. I took the chance to explore some new country, putting myself in a location that would offer opportunities for some great compositions. But I also took a chance that the color would happen. There was no guarantee that color would come to the clouds, in fact for a time it had looked like there wouldn’t be any color. But when you take the time, even when the conditions might not seem to be in your favor, that’s when that wild light can show up!

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) California D800 Farm Farmland Salinas Soledad Sunset Valley Wed, 03 Apr 2013 00:02:43 GMT
In Pursuit Often as we head out, whether it’s Yosemite, Zion, the beach, etc. and we take our camera with, hoping to capture a fantastic image. And that certainly can and does happen, we can stumble upon great images be choosing to go to great locations. The likelihood of that fantastic image coming into reality will increase if we add to that some knowledge about the seasons, the weather, the time of day to shoot, etc.


But then there are those times where very specific images are what we are after. Perhaps we see a photograph by one of the old or current masters of photography like an Ansel Adams or a Marc Muench, and that sparks in us the desire to capture a similar shot with similar emotion to it.


Now in the case of the photograph you see here, this was a shot I took back in 2006 in Yosemite up at Tunnel View. It’s a sunset shot, where at the right time of the year the sunset color paints itself across El Capitan. I really like this shot, and it turned out great, the cloud capping El Capitan is a bit unique, so it all makes for a really fantastic image. But rather than be satisfied, all it does is push me in in pursuit of similar lighting on El Capitan, but one where I am taking it from a lower vantage point, and that’s from the Gates of the Valley view area.


I was able to get a really fantastic image from sunrise this last year at the Gates of Valley. It has some very unique clouds that are arching across the scene as you see here. But still, it’s not the sunset shot that I am after. It’s not an easy shot to get, but I am in pursuit of it. Every winter I have gone up to Yosemite since that day in 2006, I keep pursuing that shot I outlined. This is one where the conditions have to  be just right for it to happen as I would like. So often when it snows in Yosemite, it stops in the morning, and so typically, by noon, the snow has melted off the tree leaves, and often off the rocks and reeds that make such great foreground interest in that Gates of the Valley shot.


Each winter I head back up to Yosemite when there is a fresh snow storm, and I certainly am open to photographing new and wonderful sights. I stay open to the grand ever changing scene that unfolds before me. But still, never far from my mind, is that one shot I am pursuing... And it adds a fun element to the chase. I have a goal, I have a challenge set before me, and that helps to drive me.


So while I hope you allow serendipity to lead and guide you to wonderful images, I hope you also have some specific shots that you are in pursuit of. Maybe it’s the Redwoods with Rhododendrons’ blooming? Maybe it’s fresh Dogwoods blooming in Sequoia or Yosemite? Maybe it’s a rain storm with distant lightning at the Grand Canyon? Be in pursuit of that fantastic image, and who knows, one day, you might just get it!

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) El Capitan Gates of the Valley Sunrise Sunset Tunnel View Valley View Winter Yosemite National Park Thu, 28 Mar 2013 04:33:10 GMT
What's the Rush? One thing has stood out to me over the years as I am out shooting, and that is I am almost always the last one to leave. Typically when I am at the beach photographing, it can be packed with people, but when I finally  pack up my gear and fold up my tripod to go home, there won’t be a soul around and it’s usually pitch black. Well, as close as it can get to pitch black at a Southern California beach. Where did they go? Do they have any clue what they are about to miss?


So on this occasion I was out photographing with a friend at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. A rather remote place by all measures. No it’s not hidden by any means, but theturn off for it is about 50 miles south of Interstate 70, and then it’s still another 15 or 20 miles until you get back to the main overview. So this is a location that no one is going to just stumble across. Well, on this afternoon in March, there were maybe a dozen other people there in 4 or 5 other vehicles. Some were out walking among the Goblins and exploring. Others were just up at the main viewing area which stands above the Goblins and gives a person a nice birds eye view of the place.


We get there about 2 hours before sunset, so off I go with my friend as we hike and wander around the myriad of Goblins. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands, in all shapes and sizes. We stop to take a few shots, there is some nice clouds in the sky. Of course our goal is a sky full of clouds being painted with wonderful sunset colors. But for now it’s late enough in the afternoon that there are some nice shadows for depth, the sun light has softened it’s glow, and of course there are some nice clouds to work into the compositions. So we do take some shots as we work our way around scouting out nice compositions, but we never lose sight of our real goal as to when the light starts to turn golden, and hopefully the clouds turn red and orange and every cool color we can imagine.


As it gets closer to sunset, it’s getting pretty clear that some thicker clouds along the horizon to the west are probably going to interrupt our party of colors at sunset. And sure enough, as the sun dips below the horizon, the clouds instead of getting painted with color, simply get darker and darker from the absence of light. Now rather then leave at this point, which it seems everyone else has done but for my friend and I, we continue to look for compositions. I know that more often than I could count, that sun doesn’t go down without fighting. And that there was still a chance for an afterglow to do a little painting in the clouds for us. So I ran up to this little hill in the middle of the Goblins that gave a nice overview of the Goblins, but still let me be in the vicinity of them so that I could make a mad dash to some lower compositions that I had already spied out if some color did come. And then the waiting game begins.


Well I actually don’t have to wait too long and lo and behold, to the south there was an opening that started turning gold and then orange. It wasn’t much at first, but it was enough to add some nice color. And then as I was shooting from my birds eye view, I could see some of the clouds around that area were getting a magenta cast to them. It was ever so slowly getting more colorful. Now it was a pretty slow progression, taking a few minutes to really take shape. I took about a dozen shots, but I still wanted some more intimate shots of the goblins with some color. So before the color disappeared I closed up my tripod and ran like a jack rabbit down that hill to the first location I had picked out earlier. It was about ¼ mile away, and there was no time to waste. I got there, set up, and then took some quick shots because while the magenta was still on the clouds to the south framing the orange color on the horizon, I knew it would end up fading faster then it came on. So I took 3 or 4 shots at my first composition, then quickly moved to the 2nd composition.


 It was at that point that I noticed the Crescent moon was in the sky and in the general direction I was shooting. So I reframed a few shots, changing my angle to get the moon into the shot, balancing it with some Goblins and the color in the clouds on the other side. As the magenta color started fading away I was really satisfied and a bit excited about those last few shots. But now it was now truly almost pitch black, so carefully I made my way back up to main viewing area overlooking the valley of goblins. When I got to the top, I noticed that everyone was gone but my friend and I.


Had the others stayed long enough to have seen any color at all? More than likely they didn’t. There definitely wasn’t anyone else out in valley wandering around. Rather than stick around for the show, the others had taken off.


The lesson here is not to rush away. When you are out shooting, don’t fold up your tripod too soon. Even when it might look the bleakest, and the sun might seem defeated, stick around! So often the sun finds a way to get one last gasp of color out for us to gaze at and enjoy if we will just wait for it.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Crescent Moon D800 Goblin Valley Nikon Sunset Utah Thu, 21 Mar 2013 18:10:50 GMT
Focus on the Light The view I had hoped for of a sky that was full of clouds that were a blaze with color never materialized. Instead there was just a thin layer of clouds that arched across the scene as viewed in the previous blog. And while that turned out to be a beautiful scene on it's own, with the unique arching clouds, it still wasn't what I had hoped for.


As the clouds drifted to the south and gathered around Bridalveil, some new clouds were coming into view from the north and framed El Capitan with color. And while the whole scene looked pretty nice now with some balancing clouds that had caught color from the sunrise, I chose to focus on the clouds and how the light began to turn them on fire.


Here is the scene as I focused solely  on Bridalveil. As the sun continues to rise the clouds are changing from an orange to more of a yellow color. I resisted the temptation to overly brighten the scene. Having the scene darker allows for the colors to contrast more and then stand out.


In Landscape photography, we tend to shoot wider to capture more of a scene. I had been shooting at 16mm on my 16-35mm lens. But when I saw how the clouds were framing Bridalveil, and then also how the snow covered grasses in the foreground lined up nicely for anchor point, I went vertical and also zoomed in tighter to 35mm to capture this scene. In addition, I cropped in slightly on the top where there was mainly just clear sky. I didn’t want the interesting color of the clouds to get lost in the vacant sky area.


So as you are out shooting your wide horizontal landscape shots, keep an open mind and a quick hand to change your composition by focusing in closer on where the light is putting on it’s display. Eliminate elements from a scene, like an empty sky that doesn't add anything to the scene, and instead acts like a vacuum to pull the attention from where the viewers eye should be focused.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Bridalveil Falls National Park Snow Sunrise Winter Yosemite Yosemite National Park Thu, 07 Mar 2013 03:30:35 GMT
Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Do the quality of your photographs depend upon chance and luck or are you choosing to be in the right place at the right time? Yosemite is one of my favorite places to photograph. I am there usually 3 or 4 times a year. One of my favorite views is when there is fresh snow fallen down in the valley. So each winter I watch the weather and when a snow storm comes in and if my schedule is free, I am on the road heading to Yosemite!


It seems that often as beginning photographers, we are just so in love with our cameras that it doesn’t really matter when or where we shoot. The joy of capturing an image, any image is fulfilling. It’s a love I hope that none of us ever lose.  But as we grow, there comes that point where we start to desire greater quality in our images. So we start to pick specific locations where we have seen beautiful photographs taken and head there to try our hand at capturing similar photographs.


As fun and as joy filled as those times are, there then comes that day when we realize that our photographs still seem to fall short except for the occasional shot that stands out. Hopefully at that point we realize that those fantastic photographs that we have seen from the likes of Galen Rowell or Ansel Adams are the result of being in the right place at the right time.


Those consistent great photographs come from learning whether a location is best  shot at a certain time of day, a certain time of the year and with a certain type of weather. All 3 of those components come into play. As artists, we get to the point with our art that we learn whether a location is best photographed at sunrise, sunset, midday or some other time. Then we decide what’s the best season? Is  this a Fall color shot? Perhaps a winter scene with fresh snow? Is it a spring time shot with flowers blooming? In the case of Yosemite, many of the locations are spectacular in all of the above seasons, but often with other locations that may not be the case.


Now when you have pin pointed the best season and best time of day for a photograph that you want, are you willing to be patient to wait for the right kind of weather? Sometimes our schedules limit us in this decision, but if you are able to at least get there in the right season, that is a big help. If you have the flexibility to wait for clouds, or to wait for a snow storm, that’s a huge bonus.


The photographers that consistently get the best photographs, are doing it because they research. They study, they observe, they ask questions, make phone calls, etc… All of this information is then used to determine when they go to a location to shoot. As you look to improve your photographs, I hope you don’t depend on circumstance, but decide for yourself when the best time to shoot is.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Snow Sunrise Winter Yosemite Tue, 26 Feb 2013 20:28:59 GMT
Moon Madness in Arches NP

I was on my way in Arches NP in Utah with a friend to shoot the classic sunrise shot of Turret Arch as seen through the North Window. The sunrise was close to 7am if I recall correctly, so that called for a 5am wake up and a 5:45 departure out of Moab so as to get up into Arches in time. Upon arriving, we were early still and we sat in the Jeep just talking for a few minutes when collectively we both decided to head on up there. We both had a feeling that maybe we could still get some star shots. I knew from having researched earlier that the moon would be setting an hour or so after sunrise, so I had dismissed the idea of capturing it.


So we set up first just taking some star shots, it took a shot or two to get the exposure dialed in. We ended up at f8 with a 20 second exposure, shooting at ISO 800 for most of the star/moon shots. Watching the histogram is key on these shots, it’s easy to get fooled by the LCD as it makes everything look brighter than it really is when it’s dark outside. After a couple of star shots, I noticed that the moon was positioned pretty cool in the sky. I knew it would get blown out, that these would not be shots where one could see the man in the moon! But I also knew that since the moon was so much brighter than the sky that it could also do a nice little moon star look… and sure enough it did. It gets taught a lot that in order to get the sun or moon to flare like a star, that you need to be shooting at f16 or f22. As you can see here, thats not always true. And while I had thought that the moon would not be a viable option to shoot, but staying open, and being flexible I was actually able to incorporate the moon into several of my shots.


After a few shots, we realized time was running short as the horizon was getting brighter and brighter to the east as the sun was making it’s steady roll towards sunrise. But it’s then that I thought that perhaps the moon would line up nicely behind Turret Arch. But I knew I had to hurry, so off I ran with my gear in tow along the snowy path. I got to a good spot, and the moon was dropping pretty fast. It was actually lower now in the sky than I would have preferred, but I thought it still offered a very nice composition, especially with the way the snow had draped itself across Turret Arch. We both took a few shots, and then we wrapped it up to get back on the trail to our original goal.


Looking back, I do like the shots of Turret Arch through the North Window at sunrise that we were able to shoot. But in reality, I think these unexpected shots, these getting there early shots, are my favorite from that morning. So the lesson? Get to a location early, and be ready to shoot the unexpected. If the idea of shooting stars or the moon seems a little daunting to you, be sure to check out my workshops. I have many group workshops, and also very reasonably priced one on one personal workshops for you to choose from.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Arches National Park Moon North Window Stars Turret Arch Utah Sat, 16 Feb 2013 08:14:02 GMT
More Than Just a Sky Don’t get caught up in the notion that wild light only concerns the sky and clouds. As much as we would want wonderful puffy clouds in the sky as we photograph the sunrise or sunset, more often than not it seems like we are stuck with clear skies. So what does one do then? Do we just pack it in and come back another day?


When there are no clouds to speak of, the window of wild light seems to really narrow itself, but it’s still there, we just need to know where to look. And to be ready to shoot when it appears.


Now the first point of business here is you will want to reduce the amount of sky in the shot as much as possible. You still want some sky, so you can set up the composition to take advantage of the Earth’s shadow and the Belt of Venus. That’s the key!  In the case of this shot here I composed the shot to get the edge of gold from the sunrise, and then next to it, the blue from the earth’s shadow and magenta from whats called the Belt of Venus. I like to compose as much as possible where I can get the intersection of all 3 of those colors. It can really add a nice appeal to an otherwise barren sky.


Of course the color in a sky like this doesn’t really matter much if the composition doesn’t have a strong ground layer. In my earlier shots that morning from this location I shot much wider as I was including a setting moon, etc… But for this particular shot I decided to shoot tighter to so as to just get the color along the horizon and to focus the eye more on the wonderful canyon light as one looks down from Dead Horse Point in the State Park of its name in Utah. It’s a beautiful area where in early or late light, the contrast between light and dark play such a crucial role.


When processing this shot, I restrained myself from adjusting too much contrast into the shot. So it was just a subtle contrast adjustment to bring some depth to the shadow areas. I did not go overboard as I wanted to leave the viewer with a feel for the soft delicate light that comes with that early morning I experienced. Now in just a quick 5 or 10 minutes as the sun breaks the horizon and starts to beam down onto the canyons, the light quickly becomes harsh, and the contrast does indeed become extreme.


But there are a few moments in time, where if one is there in time to capture it, that even on a barren sky morning, the wild light does exist and shine upon all it surveys.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Dead Horse Point State Park Sunrise Utah Wed, 06 Feb 2013 22:31:37 GMT
Seeking the Light A key component to capturing the wild light is that one needs to seek it out. While we all can stumble across wild light, but how much better though when we actively seek out the wild light? And how much more consistently will we take home photographs of that wild light?


Typically as I get ready to go out and shoot for a few days, I will check the weather at locations that will work with the amount of time I have. In this case, it was a 2 day trip so I was limiting myself to a 5 to 6 hour drive. Being in Southern California, that leaves me with a wide array of places I can shoot. From Death Valley, to the Eastern Sierra, to Yosemite, to the Big Sur coastline, etc… So as I checked out the weather, Yosemite had old snow and clear skies, so that was out. Death Valley had clear skies. Big Sur was supposed to be socked with rain for 2 days. All of the big name locations if you will did not have what I would consider ideal conditions.  In the end, I went for a location much closer to home. The location I had in mind did not have the national notoriety of some places, but still I have seen some tremendous photographs from there.

The image today is from San Diego, from an area called Sunset Cliffs. The vast majority of my images are taken because I had done research. In the case of ocean shots, I checked not only the weather, but tides. I knew that for the days I was wanting to go shoot, that there would be a receding tide that was getting low enough that I could access rocks and reefs that under a higher tide would be submerged from view. In my research I also had found that while there was some rain in the forecast, it was to be breaking up, so that gave me the chance to have clouds.


Now I am sure most of us have seen the weather forecasts on TV, and have been amazed that most times or not, it seems that they are wrong! What a job that would be, to be able to be wrong 80% of the time and still be employed! Now, not to give the Weathermen and Weatherwomen too hard of a time, it can be hard to predict the weather, because it can change at a moment’s notice. But by our doing research, at least it gives us a fair chance to get the kind of weather that we are after.


The shot you see here was actually after the sun had set, but was still providing a lot of ambient light. The clouds were helping that light to bounce around so that I could get some nice light in the foreground. And there was still enough golden glow on the horizon to add some nice color to the sky.


With today’s technology, seeking out the light is so much easier than it used to be. With most of us having smartphones or tablets, there are a myriad of apps that can be found to help predict tides and weather. For keeping an eye on the tides, my favorite go to app is called “Tide Graph”.


I want to encourage all of you to get out there and seek out the wild light. Don’t wait for it to come to you. If you want to come capture the wild light with me, be sure to sign up for an upcoming workshop, it would be a pleasure and an honor to shoot with you.

[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Beach Nikon D800 San Diego Sunset Sunset Cliffs Tue, 15 Jan 2013 21:41:09 GMT
A New Year and a New Website

As the year gets kicked off so does this new website. It’s slowly taking shape, like many things it’s a labor of love and it takes some time. Beginning to blog on a consistent basis will be something not entirely new. A few years back I used to blog back before it was called blogging! So it hopefully won’t take me too long to get back in the saddle with the concept of blogging.


Now one of my goals as the year was drawing to an end was to go and shoot on New Years Day. I ended up heading to the Palos Verdes Peninsula here in Southern California to shoot the Point Vincent Lighthouse at sunset. Upon arriving there, the parking lot was packed, which wasn’t all that unexpected considering it was a holiday. But as I parked I could hear the people standing along the railing along the cliffs edge gasping and cheering. Not sure what was going on I rushed over to the railing to see what all the excitement was about. Whales!


Yes, whales in the water and not that far out. Standing up on the cliff gave us a unique vantage point. So I ran back to the truck and got out my gear. Now I wasn’t planning on shooting anything long. With Landscapes in mind, I pretty much am always shooting wide, and though I have long lenses, they most often stay at home as I would never have thought about there being whales to shoot. The longest lens I had was a DX lens, an 18-200mm Nikon lens that is a nice all around lens I keep on one of my backup camera bodies. On a DX body, that equates to about 320mm in length. Not too bad, and the whales were in pretty close.


Taking my Nikon D800 I used the DX 18-200mm lens in the DX crop mode. I haven’t really had a chance to try out that DX crop mode, but I do have to say, it worked to perfection! It allowed me to get in nice and close and I still was left with a 15.4mp image. That is pretty sweet! So even though I am not all that into wildlife photography, it was so fun to start out the year shooting those whales. It was totally unexpected, but it was also totally fun! And what we do as photographers should be fun. We should enjoy shooting!


A couple of lessons to learn here. Be sure to know the capabilities of the camera you are shooting with, so that when unexpected opportunities arise, you are able to take advantage of them. Second, keep your eyes and your mind open to what else is around you. Don’t be afraid to try something new.


If this is your first time visiting my website, I hope you decide to stick around and join me in this journey as we pursue capturing the wild light.



[email protected] (CapturetheWildLight) Nikon D800 Palos Verdes Peninsula Point Vincent Lighthouse Sun, 13 Jan 2013 08:41:25 GMT