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Yosemite Addendum

San Diego/Yosemite NP – I have managed to prep a few more shots from the Yosemite trip and it has mercifully gotten my mind off of the idiocy of our state and federal governments.  There are few things which, for me, are more relaxing and able to clear my mind of junk than the natural places of the earth.  I know the appeal to see the beautiful places around the world but I have to confess, in my opinion, there are so many incredibly gorgeous places in our own country, I could easily spend the rest of my days visiting them and trying to render my reactions to them and never feel cheated that I did not get to see some of the other places that do interest me.

My previous images from this workshop showed evidence of the great amounts of water starting to flow from the snow pack on the upper elevations of the park.  But because I am slowly, and at glacial speed, putting together a book of my Yosemite images, I also like to take what I call “book” images.  These are shots that would never stand up as wall display art, but which contribute, sometimes as segue images, to the visual story the book is telling and are important for inclusion in that type of venue.  Below are a couple of those plus a fun experiment.

First is a shot of the very top of Bridal Veil Falls.  You can see the wind is already whipping the water into a spray that may end up falling anywhere in the valley and not just drenching the visitors at the base of the falls.

However, farther into the valley is a waterfall called Horsetail Falls.  It is famous because early each spring the sun sets in such a way that, when the atmosphere is just right, the raking sunset light makes it look like a cascade of molten lava or like the famous but now stopped “Fire Fall” over Curry village.  But when I was there, the angles were not quite right for such a view.  Nevertheless, when the sun starts to go down and the winds change, they can rip the falls apart to where the water is completely turned into spray to water the newly sprouting plants all through the valley.

And now, time for some fun.. at least for me.

Most of you know i was initially trained as a more traditional artist working in paint, sculpture, and printmaking.  So i’ve never been a “purist” of any media.  When I was setting up for one of the shots I took of a little cascade coming through the forest I really saw it as a colored pen and ink drawing.  I took a normal shot but then took one with a different approach designed with that vision in mind.  After a little work on it my initial idea started to come to life and below is the result.

OK, now back to getting ready for finals week!

Oh, by the way, to see some of the other Yosemite pictures I put a few in the post that is two posts below this one.  You can scroll down to see it or simply clock on the name in the right hand column…

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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Yosemite Field Trip Pix…Finally

San Diego and Yosemite – Finally I have a few images from the yosemite field trip to show.  It has been really hard to find time between prepping for finals and trying to figure out what workshops and seminars i might do over the summer to make up for the loss of all classes to work on these.  There are more shots to work on but I figured it was time to at least get a few shots up to show lest anyone forget that despite the posts that seem to draw the most hits, I really am primarily about being a photographer.  I was tempted to even throw in some shots from previous trips to flesh out this sample but decided that was cheating.  All of these shots were taken between April 28 and May 1, 2011.  And, for the techies among you, all of them were taken with a Canon 1Ds MkII.

So with that out of the way, let’s get started…

This is the iconic first view when entering the valley from the south.  It is called “Tunnel View” because it is taken from an overlook at the exit/entrance to a tunnel.  What always amazes me is that looking into the valley it looks like a pristine wilderness and there is no indication that hidden in the trees is a paved road that circles the valley along with camps, lodges, and a good sized village. As you drive down into the valley the first major area is Bridal Veil Falls. You can see it a little to the right of center in the shot above.  Millions of visitors each year take the little trail to its base where they can get absolutely drenched in the mist coming off of the water.  I’ve done that before and decided I did not need to get soaked again for the shot so did it from the valley. As you continue to drive through the valley there are waterfalls all over the place.  Here is an afternoon shot in black and white of the upper Yosemite Falls.

All of the shots above were taken in the afternoon, but mornings are also good, especially just after dawn.  So here are a few at dawn or close to it.  The first is of “Ribbon Falls” near El Capitan.  In this shot the sun was just starting to trace the rock faces.

I know it looks a little off kilter but look at the falls.  The trees are on a slight mound.  Moving the camera only a few steps from where the shot above was taken and with a slight turn to the right is “El Capitan” itself starting to glow through the trees in the dawn light.  There were climbers on it but of course you can’t see them from this distance.  it is about a three day climb so at night you can see the lights from their flashlights as they sleep, roped in to the lines.

Still early in the morning but waiting until the light has come down the face of “The Sentinels” this shot was taken across a temporary pond flooded by runoff.

There were a gazillion people clamoring for this shot earlier but the light on the rocks was not, in my not-so-humble opinion, as good so I went and had breakfast and then came back when they were gone.  This is also a large mosaic created from 45 frames.  The native size of this file is over 1.6 gigabytes and will make a print about 10 ft wide.  The lens used was a Zeiss-Hasselblad 150mm lens adopted for the Canon mount and then using a spherical panoramic head to take all of the frames.  I’ve taken similar shots from here before but never any that would print so large.

And of course no collection, no matter how small is complete without a shot of the famous Halfdome.  So here is one taken standing ankle deep in a mud bog caused, again, by runoff water.

OK, so if those shots were taken in the mornings and afternoons, what does one shoot during the day.  some photographers hole up and wait for the so-called “golden hours” but I think shots can be found in all light so here is an example of a mid-day shot.

It is all about the angles of the light so if the light source does not cooperate (and you cannot influence the position of the sun — and if you can I want you to come along on my next trek) then you have to adjust yourself accordingly.  So this makes a good time for those detail shots like the Dogwood blossoms above.

Obviously there was water aplenty.  The falls were running heavy, the Merced River was running strong and Iwould be surprised if when the full runoff hit there was not some flooding this year.

The trip was, as usual, a great one.  I have many more images from the trip I’ve not had time to address (and which are calling me to work on them) and I even got some writing done, so it was extremely productive for me.  Yosemite is a truly magical place, filled with enormous energy and stunning beauty.  I never tire of going there although I’ve not yet made it in winter.  I’m slowly putting together a photo book on it, but feel it is incomplete without some winter shots so perhaps this next year I can get them and finish that project!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Good News, Bad News, & Approaches to Teaching a Workshop…

San Diego – i just got back from the Landscape Class field trip to Yosemite; something I always look forward to and enjoy very much.  I especially enjoy it because i am essentially out of touch for a few day and can just concentrate on photography.  I have several shots I’m working on and I will post a few of them here when I get them edited.  So, anyway, I return to civilization, always a trauma for me, to hear of two deaths: one a good thing in my opinion and the other a bad one.

The good news was that Osama Bin Laden was finally dead.  I confess I had been in error; i was convinced he was dead for some time since this most egocentric jihadist had been completely off of video exhortations for a number of years.  But there he was, cold as a mackerel filled with Seal Team lead — a most fitting end, though with far too little suffering for my tastes. Dropping him from a 100 story building would have been far more fitting in my opinion.  Hopefully the message sent is that we will be relentless in tracking down the crazed savages that attack us and our people.  But I already see that is a message lost on some of our own people!  Good grief.

Combined with the danger from Khadaffi remaining in power and bent on revenge, this probably makes for some serious short term danger for us and our citizens and holdings abroad.  But the message is important.  and if the apologist in chief will follow up any revenge attacks in like manner, rather than publicly apologizing for any offense given by offing this murderer, it could, in the end, make things safer when it becomes obvious the price of attacking an American is too great.  In this we should follow the Romans’ approach: mess with a citizen and your country is toast.

My quick sojourns in that part of the world years ago left me with a total change in attitude about others just wanting what we want, i.e. to get along, raise our kids, etc. was patently untrue.  They want us dead and off the planet.  i also learned that their mindset vis-a-vis respect is totally different than ours.  In our minds respect and fear are totally different points of view.  But in theirs, respect is only due those things you fear.  if you do not fear it then it is subordinate to you and ought to fear you.

From the time Bin Laden watched us fail to respond to attacks and then run from Mogadishu and pronounced to his listeners that it was clear America was a paper tiger, a straw dog who would run as soon as it got its nose bloodied, that faction lost its fear and with it its respect, and the serious attacks on us got underway in earnest.  THe chatter on the Arab street is a melange ranging from disbelief, or that he died naturally from his health problems and we are simply taking credit for it, to calls for revenge and reminders it is still legal for them to “cut our necks.” That such attacks will come is the next best thing to certain.  And how we respond will determine whether we have finally begun to tamp this ignorant savagery back into its cave or will facilitate it for another generation of moronic thugs seeking cover for their asocial behavior in the cloak of religious mandate.

The bad news was to hear of the death of my High School friend, Dean King.  Many classmates thought we were  brothers though we were not at all related.  But we both went by our middle names (David and Dean) and our first names contained exactly the same letters.  We were both artists, were into music and writing.  But he was far more practical and became a Chiropractor while I became a photographer.  Back in the day he often used his training to fix my back when I hurt it, as Cyrano said, “…playing with the big boys…” and I enjoyed jamming in with him or standing in awe of the violins, banjos, mandolins, and guitars he made.

There are two utterly crappy things about getting old and one of them is the increasing frequency with which you are slapped in the face by mortality and more and more family, friends, and acquaintances get picked up by the cosmic bus and taken to some other plane.  Options are closed off, things unsaid are forever lost and now meaningless.  Future plans are pointless and frustrating in their unfullfillment.

I had not seen Dean since i came to California but some friendships do not need to be stroked continually and ours was one of them.  I will miss the opportunity to hear his soft accent or hear his playing.  Maybe now he has joined a more heavenly orchestra.  I do hope that is true.

But his sudden death reminded me once again: if you truly love someone, tell them.  But first search for my post titled “Whatever It Is… It Ain’t love” (use the search box at the top of the column to the right) and if what you are feeling, despite the cavalier use of the term it ain’t real love, please don’t use the word. The term “love” deserves better than to be used as a lever to manipulate emotions.  But tell them that you care about them, respect them, whatever is the case and don’t wait because that cosmic bus has no horn to warn you it’s coming.

Lastly… While in Yosemite with my class I had an occasion to overhear the instructor for another workshop getting his students set up for a shot.  He basically defined the shot for them and told them how to take it even showing the correct crops for other views, and even told them whether or not they needed to worry about depth of field or motion issues.  He also went on about several digital issues.  His conclusions were generally OK even though sometimes his rationale displayed a lack of understanding that analog and digital record values differently.  oh well…

The point is that it made me think about how I do not do that for my students — and why.  In classes before our trips we talk at length about different visions for a scene, how Adams might have seen it one way while White saw it another and Weston saw it yet a third way.  But in the end I want the students to develop THEIR vision and not be constrained to mine, so we cover concepts and approaches in class before the trips into the field. However once in the field i want them to start exploring their own visions and aesthetic concepts.

But unfortunately my approach imposes on THEM a large dose of effort and creativity.  I will, once in a while, have a student that wants to be spoon fed the answers such as where to stand or when is the light right or even which is the best viewpoint.  But I always tell them i know only the answer for myself and not for them.  Art is not a science where there is a single best view, it is, well, an art, where we all have our own viewpoints and our own visions to try to render.  My influences for landscapes came not from Adams or Weston, but from the 19th century painters Bierstadt and Moran. i approach my photos like paintings in which my captured file is more like an underpainting than anything else, then spend time developing the image into a portrayal of what I FELT at the scene and am not terrible concerned about just what I saw.

I know that makes me sometimes harder to deal with for a student but I have no interest in them being limited to learning only to copy my work and be constrained by that.  I want them to learn to go off and explore the possibilities for themselves, find their own way.  Then if there are questions to be dealt as to how best to use the technology and equipment to achieve THEIR vision I am more than happy to help.

Otherwise, get a map and photo guidebook and have at it, taking the same pictures as the last bazillion visitors.  But give up on ever making a powerful, personal, emotionally-laden shot such as those of Adams, Weston, Baer, et al.  Those come from the artists soul far more than just from their eyes.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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