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.


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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….

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Panorama overlooking West Maui from high on Haleakala

Posted September 23rd, 2014 by
Categories: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii, National Parks, Panorama, Panoramic, Photos

Picture: Overlooking Central and West Maui from high on the slopes of Haleakala, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Image: Overlooking Central and West Maui from high on the slopes of Haleakala, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

(See links below to see larger versions of this picture.)

During our family summer vacation last month, I only had one very brief chance to visit Haleakala National Park. As I mentioned in my last post, the common advice when visiting Maui is, if you’re planning on watching the sunrise from the top of Haleakala, to do it on your first full day on the island. This way you’ll have the benefit of some air travel working in your favor when the alarm clock goes off at 3:00am.

By the time the the sun had been up for a 1/2 hour or so, my wife and kids had already departed from the rim while I wandered around taking some photos. Feeling the pain of the early wake-up call, they were happy to see me finally arrive back at the car and toss my camera gear in the trunk. Apparently fatigue and hunger for real food was fueling their desire to head down from the summit of the Haleakala volcano, back toward civilization and breakfast. No sooner had we pointed our car downhill than Read the rest of this post »

Haleakala NP, HI – House of the (Rising) Sun

Posted September 12th, 2014 by
Categories: Fossil Beds

Photographing the sunrise at Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Picture: Sunrise as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Image: Sunrise as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

My family recently returned from a summer vacation holiday trip to Maui. Months before, my wife had asked what I’d like to do for my fiftieth birthday. As an almost off-the-cuff remark I said, “Watching the sunrise from atop Haleakala.” Now mind you, the mountain or place itself wasn’t the point, as much as I was saying I simply wanted to be watching the sunrise atop a mountain; any mountain. Haleakala was simply the one that came blurting out of my mouth. But my wife wanted to go to Hawaii, so this became her excuse to start planning our vacation.

A couple weeks after my birthday, we arrived in Maui. The last time I’d been to the island was with my wife on our honeymoon, 24 years ago. Research indicated the best time to catch a sunrise on Haleakala was the morning after your arrival, since you’ll have a few hours of time difference working in your favor. My kids weren’t too thrilled about waking up at 3:30 am, but they endured. Our research had also indicated it would take about 1.5 hours to drive to the summit from our location in Kehei. (Plan on 2 hours from Lahaina or Kaanapali.) I figured to be safe we should plan on arriving about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Picture: The Big Island of Hawai’i as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Image: The Big Island of Hawai'i as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

My first hint of what was about to come was as we turned onto the Haleakala road at 4:15 in the morning, along with about 7-8 other vehicles. “Honey, it looks like we’re not the only ones heading up the mountain.” Understatement. Another line of cars greeted us we round the corner to the entrance station, where rangers were happily collecting entrance fees. Silly me forgot (read: didn’t think to bring) my National Parks Pass which was resting comfortably in my truck back home. As we snaked our way up the mountain, you could see a bead-string of car headlights working their way along the switchback road.

We arrived at the Visitor Center just as it was starting to get light. The photographer in me was suddenly confronted by a dual-problematic scenario. My wife was squirming and reminding me for the 15th time she needed a restroom just as I entered the traffic-jammed and already filled parking lot. (Note to self: Next time, leave even earlier.) People were parked double cars thick, and smack dab in front of signs that said No Parking Anytime. We eventually fled the area for the even higher elevation Observatory where we managed to find a parking spot. Thankfully, and although still crowded, this area was not the completely crowded madhouse back down at the Visitor Center.

Image: Dawn over the observatory on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii

Picture: Dawn over the observatory on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii

When you’re photographing the sunrise at Haleakala National Park, one of the conditions you’ll want to hope for is a layer of tropical clouds off to the east and below the summit to provide a little extra visual drama, as well as providing a good subject to photograph in themselves. Because of the 10,000-foot elevation at the summit, you will also likely be treated to a vivid twilight wedge of color when looking in the opposite direction of the sun.

One of the best tips we got before our trip was to Read the rest of this post »

Point Reyes On-Assignment Photo Workshop Sept 26-28

Posted September 3rd, 2014 by
Categories: California, Coast, Photo Workshops and Tours, Point Reyes, Workshops

Picture: Cliffs of Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Image: Cliffs of Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

I’m again leading a 3-day Photo Workshop, “Point Reyes – On Assignment” at the beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore on September 26-28, 2014. This workshop is sponsored by the National Park’s non-profit partnership organization, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association and their Field Institute. For an amazingly friendly price, this special workshop includes accommodations at the Point Reyes Historic Lifeboat Station.

This workshop will focus on developing a creative and personal vision of a place, combined with visual storytelling. In addition, we’ll conclude the workshop with a wonderful image critique and review. For more information or to register, visit the Point Reyes Field Institute’s Photography web page. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, or coming to Northern California in late September, this would be a fantastic chance to learn from me while out in the field at one of California’s most-scenic locations.

I hope you’ll join me for this fun weekend filled with photography. Also, if you know anyone in the area who loves outdoor photography and might be interested in this course, please consider forwarding this information or letting them know about the class. Thanks! – Gary. :)



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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.

Aerial view over Maui and tips for shooting from airlines

Posted August 26th, 2014 by
Categories: Aerials, Hawaii, Photos, Travel

Picture: Aerial view of clouds and sugar cane fields over south central Maui while on approach to Kahalui Airport, Maui, Hawaii

Image: Aerial view of clouds and sugar cane fields over south central Maui while on approach to Kahalui Airport, Maui, Hawaii

I started my last post with the idea that photography, especially travel photography, is often about finding yourself balanced between things you can and can’t control. And such is exactly the case when shooting out of a commercial jet airliner. For those of us photographers who aren’t pilots, any chance to fly becomes a great opportunity to get a perspective on the world that we just don’t get to see on a daily basis.

You can choose your flight, and ideally if you could, you’d choose a window seat in front of the wing, or if not, as far back from the wing as possible. In front of the wing, you won’t have to worry about jet exhaust distorting the air like you’d find sitting behind the wing. (Obviously this is for wing-mounted engine aircraft.) You can also choose the time of day that your flight arrives or departs.

A couple things you can’t control are delays, weather, and the plane’s flight path.

Image: Aerial view of clouds over the Pacific Ocean enroute to Hawaii Picture: Aerial view of clouds over the Pacific Ocean enroute to Hawaii

One other thing you can’t control, from a photographic concern, is the (visibility) quality of the windows. Are they clean, or are they scratched to all heck. Are they scratched on the inside, outside, or both. Depending on these factors, you might be able to get some great shots, or you might be shooting through the proverbial bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle. If the window are scratched, like mine were, one of the best tips for still getting a semi-decent picture is to shoot with a very wide aperture, like f/2.8 if possible, and look for a portion of the window that may not have as many scratches. At higher f-stops, even starting at f/5.6 scratches start becoming more visible, appearing like soft, out of focus blobs, akin to what a spray of water drops on your lens creates.

My other tip is to keep your camera Read the rest of this post »

Travel Photography is often about Get What You Can

Posted August 22nd, 2014 by
Categories: Hawaii, Photos, Sunset, Travel, Trees

Picture: Palm tree at sunset, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Image: Sunset behind palm tree, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Almost all travel photography has a combination of things that you as the photographer can or can’t control. Sometimes it simply boils down to a take-what-you-can-get proposition. Nowhere is this more true than when a professional travel photographer takes a family vacation, especially when the family doesn’t revolve around your photography. I’ve learned over the years that I need to balance out those moments when I do or don’t take my big bag of camera gear with me. When I do have my camera gear nearby, unless I specifically have my photographer hat on and am ‘working’ a scene, I often just look for those easy grab shots and Get-What-I-Can.

Image: Sunset behind palm tree, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii View from our rented apartment, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. (Shot w/ my S4 Android Cell Phone)

A perfect example of this was the very first evening after arriving at our rented apartment in Kihei, Maui. It was a long day filled with alarm clocks and air travel starting at 5:00am, and we were planning a 3:00am wake up to drive the next morning to catch the sunrise at Haleakala National Park. Dinner appetites, as they often do, begin to boil over in direct relation to the sun’s proximity to the horizon, and such was the case this evening. Rather than running across the street in the middle of dinner, I chose to stay behind and NOT play Mr. Photographer. But even so, as the sun set, the quality of the compelled me to grab my camera from the bedroom and step out on to our lanai (balcony). In the midst of a scene filled with condos, traffic, traffic lights, telephone poles & wires, etc, I simply focused on what I could get; a clean shot of a palm tree at sunset using a zoom lens to crop out all that other ‘citi-ness’ that I didn’t want in my photo.

Within a minute I was back with the family having dinner and watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel in advance of our upcoming snorkeling adventures.

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