Learning about Life and Photography by Jumping from a Plane

Posted November 20th, 2014 by
Categories: Aerials, California, Fossil Beds, Outdoors, People, Photos

Picture: Tandem paragliders floating down past the moon, Tres Pinos, San Benito County, California

Image: Tandem paragliders floating down past the moon, Tres Pinos, San Benito County, California

What can you learn about life and photography by jumping out of an airplane?

Last week I had an opportunity to jump out of a perfectly good airplane while flying at 13,000 feet over the Sacramento Valley. I hear some of you asking “Why would you do something like that?” For my 50th Birthday back in July, my wife bought us a certificate for a tandem jump from SkyDive Sacramento, which is located only 5 minutes from my sister-in-law’s house. We planned our jump to coincide with attending a baby shower for my niece, knowing we could spend the night and do our jump early the next morning.

Now understand that I’m not a adrenaline junkie or overt thrill-seeker, but I find even the biggest roller coasters pretty tame after the second or third trip through. Jumping out of a plane was something I’ve certainly thought about, and while it wasn’t on my #mustdo bucket list, my wife knew I’d be game for giving it a try.

Learning about Life: There is no doubt that contemplating jumping out of an airplane coincides with contemplating the possibility of death. In fact, our first minutes on site were signing legal contracts and watching a video wherein we acknowledge that nothing is perfect, nothing is guaranteed, and you are risking serious injury and even death by choosing to undertake this activity. They even say it again, … and again, just to make sure you understand what you’re getting into: “You Could Die.”

In the days leading up to the jump, I did Read the rest of this post »

That Crazy Nikon D800 HDR issue

Posted November 13th, 2014 by
Categories: California, Digital, Eastern Sierra, Mountains, Photos

Picture: Beaver Pond along Mill Creek, Lundy Canyon, Mono County, Eastern Sierra, California

Image: Beaver Pond along Mill Creek, Lundy Canyon, Mono County, Eastern Sierra, California

There are times when we come across a scene that we, as experienced photographers, know has an exposure range that is beyond what our camera is capable of recording in a single frame.

With that in mind, and looking at this image above, do you think it is:

(A) – A multiple exposure which has been manually blended to combine the best areas from each exposure?
(B) – A Single RAW image file that has been processed multiple times, and then manually blended using masks to create the final image?
(C) – A multiple exposure that’s been run through an automated HDR process like PhotoShop “Merge to HDR”?
(D) – An in-camera HDR?

Here are the original RAW frames from this image:

Back in the days of shooting slide film, you had very little choice on how to solve this kind of exposure latitude dilemma. You could adjust your composition to eliminate problem areas, or you could use lights or reflectors to bring your darker problem areas of the scene into balance with the brighter areas of your shot. In some cases you could possibly use a graduated neutral density filter to help solve the problem, but that didn’t offer much help if problem areas were in multiple locations throughout a frame.

With the advent of digital photography, we now have some very handy methods for solving dynamic range issues in scenes that exceed what our camera is capable of handling on its own. These methods include blending multiple frames with masking techniques using either multiple frames, or multiple-processed versions of a single RAW file. There’s also the grand-daddy of all solutions, the automated HDR software processing of multiple frames, each with a different exposure value. This is a great option for scenes which have lots of details and where the light values are mixed among fine details, for example inside a high-contrast scene like a sunlit forest with lots of shade. The big problem with HDR and Tone Mapping multiple exposures is that some people simply use the technique to wander so far off into the “Electric Kool-Aid Candyland” that all sense of reality is tossed aside.

My Nikon D800 camera is pretty nifty, in that it will do HDR processing for me in the camera. I don’t even need Photoshop to make HDR images anymore. (Not that I’ve ever really made that many HDR images to begin with.)

Well for those of you who are wondering, the answer is Read the rest of this post »

The recent Black and White Challenge

Posted November 11th, 2014 by
Categories: Black & White, Photos

Picture:Half Dome and Yosemite Valley as seen from the summit of Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park, California

Image: Half Dome and Yosemite Valley as seen from the summit of Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park, California

I do black and white photography. Surprised? Me too.

In recent weeks, many people may have noticed a surge of black and white photos being posted and shared across social media sites. This is due in large part to the viral spreading of a 5-day Black and White Challenge. This is where one photographer challenges another to post a black and white image for 5 days, and they in turn then challenge another photographer to do the same. My friend and fellow photographer Richard Wong, (who’s also co-moderator of the California & Western States Landscape Photography Community on G+) handed me the challenge.

I have to admit this challenge was really a bit of … well, a challenge. That’s because I’ve done so little black and white work across the years. My only formal photographic education was my Photography 101 class in college where I learned to develop my own Black & White film and prints in a darkroom. But when I first started working with the late Galen Rowell back in 1990, I was exposed to (read: inundated with) some of the best use of color in landscape photography on the planet. From that point forward, that’s where my own personal interest was directed. However, prior to that point, I once had completely decorated my college apartment with cut up Ansel Adams calendars and postcards. So it’s not to say that the art of Black and White wasn’t an early influence on my interest in photography. Nor have I ever ceased or wavered in my appreciation for those who pursue this fine craft. But this challenge has certainly done more to rekindle my interest in creating more black and white work more than anything else has in the last 20 years. (And for that fact alone, I probably owe Richard at least a few of my home-brewed beers.)

I posted more than five images, since I missed a few days wherein I only had time to simply repost some images that I’d already converted, rather than taking on converting some fresh new images. In case you missed any of them, here are the images that I recently shared as part of this challenge.

Picture: Le Conte Falls on the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park, California

Image: Le Conte Falls on the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park, California
Read the rest of this post »

Photographing the Beaches of Point Reyes Nov 21-23

Posted November 10th, 2014 by
Categories: Bay Area, California, Coast, Photo Workshops and Tours, Photos, Point Reyes, Travel, Workshops

Picture: Photographers shooting the sunrise at Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Image: Photographers shooting the sunrise at Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

For any photographers located in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, or traveling to the area, I’ll be teaching another 3-day photographic workshop at Point Reyes on November 21 – 23, 2014. This will be my last workshop at Point Reyes for the 2014 calendar year. The focus of this class will be (wait for it….) “Photographing the Beaches of Point Reyes.” This workshop is being sponsored and run by the excellent folks at The Point Reyes Field Institute, which is part of the non-profit park’s partner organization, The Point Reyes National Seashore Association. For more information about this class, or to register, please visit the PRFI web site. I’m happy to answer any photography related questions before the class, while questions about logistics should be directed to the PFRI.

The cost for this class through the PRFI is an insanely great value, and includes accommodations at the Historic Point Reyes Coast Guard Lifeboat Station.

I’ll hope to see some of you there!

Cheers,
- Gary.

PS: I should mention there was a lot of expressed interest in this workshop at a recent photography conference, so if you are interested in signing up, don’t wait too long.



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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.

Pictures of Lake Tahoe & Carson Pass

Posted November 3rd, 2014 by
Categories: California, Lake Tahoe, Mountains, Photos

Recently added photos of the Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley, and Carson Pass region of the Sierra

I’ve just added a collection of recently edited and processed photos from the Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley, and Carson Pass region of the Sierra to my online searchable Image Archive, a.k.a. Photo Library. All images are available as either Fine Art Prints for home or office, or for use in publications or web sites. Please let me know if you’re interested in any of these images, or any other photo(s) available through my web site.

Click on any image to visit my Image Archive, where you can share a photo with your friends, see purchase options, or to access the Lake Tahoe or Carson Pass galleries. (You can also share this post by using one of the Social Media buttons at the top of this blog post.)

As always, thanks for looking.
- Gary.

Sunrise at Eagle Falls above Emerald Bay, near South Lake Tahoe, California (Gary Crabbe)

Sunrise at Eagle Falls above Emerald Bay, near South Lake Tahoe, California (Gary Crabbe)

Mount Tallac at sunrise over Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California (Gary Crabbe)

Mount Tallac at sunrise over Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California (Gary Crabbe)

Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California (Gary Crabbe)

Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California (Gary Crabbe)


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To Be or Not To Be A Panorama

Posted October 22nd, 2014 by
Categories: California, Clouds and Sky, Eastern Sierra, Moon, Mountains, Panorama, Panoramic, Photos, Sunset

Picture: Sunset light on clouds with full moon rising over Mono Lake from above Conway Summit, Mono County, Eastern Sierra, California

Image: Sunset light on clouds with full moon rising over Mono Lake from above Conway Summit, Mono County, Eastern Sierra, California

Question: Is there a definite point when something can or should be called a “Panorama” vs. a time when it shouldn’t? Is this image a Panorama? If it’s not a Panorama, what would you call it?

The shot shown here is a 7-frame stitched image taken with my Nikon D800, using a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens set at 30mm in the vertical orientation, shooting individual frames while moving from left to right with an approximately 30% overlap between frames. Even though this is a nearly square format image, I still call it a Panorama. Do you think this is a correct name / label / designation? Is there a better designation I should be using?

When I teach my Panoramic Photography workshops, I teach that there are two modes of thought when referring to a “Panorama” image. First is the traditional wide view format image we all think of when we hear the words panorama or panoramic. But I go on to say that the process of shooting images intended to be stitched together can also be said to be “Shooting a Panorama,” regardless of the format of the finished image. Some people might well argue that because of the finished format, this isn’t a true ‘Panorama’ as much as as stitched image.

In my opinion, the moniker of ‘stitched image’ is a Read the rest of this post »

Class Photos from Point Reyes On-Assignment Workshop

Posted October 21st, 2014 by
Categories: California, Photo Workshops and Tours, Photos, Point Reyes, Workshops

Picture: “Someone is awake.” First light on a foggy morning at the Historic Lifeboat Station on Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Image: First light on a foggy morning at the Historic Lifeboat Station on Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Prescript: My shot (above) was taken with my newest camera, the Sony RX100-mIII, a high-end 20mp Point-n-Shoot, which I’ve been putting through the paces and will be reviewing in an upcoming blog post.

The participants in my most recent Point Reyes “On-Assignment” photography workshop held last month were kind enough to give me permission to share samples of their work here on my blog. I’m so impressed by the diversity, creativity, and personal vision displayed by these photographers, that it’s a true pleasure to present these images here. I’m sure they’d love to hear a compliment or two in the comments if you enjoy seeing their work.

Also, I’m just now lining up a few classes for 2015, but if you’re interested, I still have one more 3-day photo workshop “Photographing the Beaches of Point Reyes” scheduled for Nov. 21-23, 2014. It’s the weekend *before* Thanksgiving.


Read the rest of this post »

Featured interview in PhotoShelter’s new Business Guide

Posted October 17th, 2014 by
Categories: California, Death Valley, Deserts, Newsworthy, Panorama, Panoramic, People, Photo Business, Photographers, Photos, Travel

Picture: Panoramic photo of photographers lined up to shoot the sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California.

Image: Panoramic photo of photographers lined up to shoot the sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been featured in an interview profile in PhotoShelter‘s newest business guide, The Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Photography Business. I’ve been downloading, reading, and enjoying each of the guides that PhotoShelter has produced, and I have to say, this is probably one of the best they’ve ever produced. (Ok, so I’m a little biased.) I’ll admit, I’m quite honored to be featured alongside so many other great and talented photographers in this guide, and the many preceding guides that have come before. If you’re not familiar with the PhotoShelter Business Guides, you really owe it to yourself to check them out. They’re always packed with some of the best and most useful information around, and presented in a really slick, easy to read pdf. (I’ve said this before, and I’d be saying still, even if I wasn’t featured in them; they’re that good.)

For those who don’t know, PhotoShelter is the company that hosts my Image Archive Library as the back-end part of my web site. Designed to be seamlessly integrated with my web site, whenever someone goes to look at the subject or location galleries on my site (via the Image Library link), or does a photo search using the search bar, those galleries and search results are all powered and delivered by PhotoShelter. Aside from looking at the actual URL, you can tell if you’re in the PhotoShelter portion of my website whenever you see a banner across the page that says “Archive.”

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Should instructors take pictures during workshops?

Posted October 1st, 2014 by
Categories: Coast, People, Photo Workshops and Tours, Photographers, Photos, Point Reyes, Workshops

Picture: Photography workshop participants shooting the sunset at the Point Reyes Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California – (All of the pictures in this post were taken of participants working in the field during my most recent “Point Reyes On-Assignment” Photography workshop.)

Image: Photography workshop participants shooting the sunset at the Point Reyes Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Should instructors also take pictures when leading photography workshops?

Let’s start with the question, “Do I take pictures when I’m leading photography workshops?
The short answer is, “Yes.”

This is something I definitely have an opinion about. With the boom of digital photography and the subsequent explosion in offerings for photography workshops, I’ve seen and heard stories of photographers leading photography workshops who seem more focused on using the workshops as an excuse to pursue or fund their own photography goals. From the stories I’ve heard, this always seems to come at the expense of a diminished quality teaching experience for their students. I’ve seen a well-known ‘Name’ photographer who promotes workshops with an emphasis on small groups and personal attention, yet over a 30 minute period, never left his tripod while students milled about or had to go to the instructor in order to ask a question. To me, this is the antithesis of what a quality workshop experience should be. Simply put, if an instructor isn’t ‘Making the Rounds’ to speak to individual participants while they’re shooting in the field, then said workshop leader isn’t doing their job very well.

I also know people who take the extreme opposite approach, and refuse to photograph anything while teaching so they can devote an absolute 100% of their attention to the students. And while strongly I agree with the ethics and principle of their approach, I don’t wholeheartedly agree in practice or practicality.

Image: Photography workshop participants shooting the sunset at the Point Reyes Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

At the start of every class I teach, I explain that Read the rest of this post »

Video: Chasing fall colors in the Eastern Sierra

Posted September 25th, 2014 by
Categories: Autumn, California, Eastern Sierra, Photos, Seasons, Travel, Video

Image: video: Photographing fall colors in the Eastern Sierra, California

Toward the end of last year I set out to start learning a little bit of my camera’s video capabilities and using Adobe Premier editing software. As part of that learning process, I decided as a bit of a self-assignment to make a photographer-friendly travelogue video about photographing the fall colors in California’s Eastern Sierra.

Although I shot the footage last year, I haven’t had a chance to really learn the editing part of the equation until just recently. This video is a raw, unscripted, off-the cuff travel diary in which I hope to give a few helpful tips and locations for photographers traveling to the area for the first time, or who just don’t have the same familiarity with the region as those of us who are more frequent visitors.

Even though I have a degree in the theater and feel fairly comfortable on stage or in front of a camera, now that the video is done and ready to be seen, I feel those same nervous twinges like I’m about to step out on stage totally naked. As Bill the Cat would say, “Ack!”

Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this video by leaving me a comment, and / or sharing this video with your friends using one of the social media buttons located at the top of this post. If all that results is the sound of chirping cricket, well… then I guess I’ll just have to return Steven Spielberg’s directors chair.

And now, on with the show….

Read the rest of this post »