Pros do it too; on screwing up and loss.

Posted November 19th, 2013 by
Categories: Arizona, canyons, Horseshoe Bend, Panorama, Panoramic, Photos, Water

Picture: Photographers standing on the rim of Horseshoe Bend at dawn over the Colorado River, near Page, Arizona

Image: Photographers standing on the rim of Horseshoe Bend at dawn over the Colorado River, near Page, Arizona

On Screwing Up: For every photographer coming up through the ranks of learning, or who thinks professional photographers always get it right, have I got news for you. Yes, even professionals screw up and make mistakes. Just because we’re a professional in one area of expertise doesn’t mean we don’t experience our own trial and error learning curves in other areas. We may not brag about it in public, but rest assured, we make mistakes just like everyone else.

In my last post, I mentioned several “bumps” during my trip. This is Bump # 5.

The photo above may not look like a total screw-up,… but it is. This image was taken on my recent trip to the Southwest. It’s actually a multi-row, nearly 40-frame panoramic image shot with my Nikon D800. Because it’s a screw-up, I only processed a low-res version, outputting each of the frames at 1600 pixels on the long dimension at 72 dpi. Still, even at this low resolution, the composite was well over 100Mb in size.

So how is it a screw-up? Well my learning curve in this instance isn’t from the mistake I made on this particular morning, nor was it my first time making the same mistake. But having made the same mistake before, it’s a lot like sticking your hand back on a hot stove after you’ve already been burned. But it’s the repetition of the mistake which so brutally reinforces the need to learn; the screaming in your head as you tell yourself not to make the same mistake again in the future. Nope; my mistake happened the night before. You see, I don’t do a huge amount of night photography. It’s relatively new to me, and to which I consider myself still just learning. My mistake, discovered at the end of this morning’s shoot, was that I forgot to Read the rest of this post »

Quick Trip Report: Bumpy Roads in the Southwest

Posted November 12th, 2013 by
Categories: canyons, Fossil Beds, Lake Powell, Photos, Sunrise, Utah, Water

Picture: Sunrise light over Lake Powell and Navajo Mountain, Glen Canyon NRA, Utah

Image: Sunrise light over Lake Powell and Navajo Mountain, Glen Canyon NRA, Utah

Have you ever had one of those trips where you felt like for one reason or another, your head just wasn’t quite screwed on correctly. Well, I felt that way a few times on this trip.

I’ve missed out on a couple travel opportunities this fall, and my photo-travel buddy was reminding me the year was drawing to a close. Then I saw a clip on the hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Suddenly our thoughts turned to the area of southwestern Utah and Northern Arizona. My buddy isn’t a fan of death-inducing cliff-side heights, so instead we opted to hike the Subway. I was delighted when he agreed to do that hike, as he’s been there, and I hadn’t, and for a first time visit I didn’t feel like traveling solo on a moderately strenuous, route-finding hike.

The trip started out with a small bump. Even though we’re both from the Bay Area, the drive to Utah started with a confused missed meeting point along Interstate 5. After a few minutes of “where the heck are you” from each of us, we finally connected east of Bakersfield. After 8 hours of driving, my buddy is leading us through Las Vegas when he calls me on the phone. “Hey! Let’s go see the Peter Lik Gallery!” Now, I hate Vegas. Not a place I want to voluntarily hang out, but a bribe of dinner and my own curiosity, I caved and said Ok. After the torture of getting off the strip and parked at the Caesars Palace, and walking end to end through the shopping area, we finally found his gallery. The image presentations were nice enough; high-end corporate collector, but overall I was un-impressed by the photos being displayed. There were three or four images that I really liked, including a fall shot of aspens in the La Sal mountains, and one of the Columbia River Gorge, but most were merely good without being spectacular – for the loudly self-proclaimed “Most-Awarded Landscape Photographer on the planet.” There were also a couple images that left me shaking my head thinking “what the heck was that?” – But in the end, my buddy made good on his bribe, treating me to a decadent meal at the Cheesecake Factory.

Bump # 2 came the next morning at Valley of Fire State Park where we went to shoot sunrise. While my buddy was busy photographing an epic red-sky desert sunrise, my stomach was in full revolt over my rich pasta dinner selection; and it was all I could do to watch the pink glow from inside one of the park’s picnic area pit toilets. After about an hour of not feeling well and thinking my morning photography had been shot, my photographic luck changed when I came across a small herd of Desert Bighorn sheep.

Bump # 3 came during our hike at the Subway, including several mechanical failures with my camera gear, but more on that in a later post.

Bump # 4 came during our visit to Lake Powell, but that was actually just a bumpy 4WD road, which I love, so it wasn’t a bad bump. The road led us to a spot on the rim of Lake Powell. (above) I must say, I was delighted by the absolute opposite of what I saw at the famed Zion Bridge, or for that matter in the Subway, namely photographers (including myself at the Subway) lined up to “get the shot!” – At Lake Powell we were alone; free to get shots which on that night and next morning would be ours; maybe not totally unique in terms of location, but certainly far less frequented than the line-em-up icon locations.

Bump # 5; Zion would not be my only experience on this trip where I lined up with other photographers to get a shot, and that bump too shall be the subject of another post.

Bump #6 came at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. After shooting sunset and heading out of the park, we came across an area along a dirt road where there was an open flame and smoldering logs. My buddy has forest fire experience, and he rightly insisted we had to report this. So we drove all the way back to the North Rim, spent 40 minutes driving around looking for the ranger… any ranger. We finally drove into the park residence area, walked up to the apartments, picked a door at random and knocked, hoping someone inside could tell us where the ranger was. Well darn if it wasn’t the ranger himself who answered the door. So we reported the fire, which it turns out must have been a spot flare up from some pile burning more than three weeks prior. We felt good about doing our good civic duty, even though it cost us several hours of our time late at night. Bump #6.5 came when I asked the ranger, saying I was already exhausted and was getting to the point where I didn’t trust my driving, would he allow us his discretion to sleep in the park. He said “No.” I certainly didn’t begrudge him for his answer, as he was just doing his job and following the rules. So my buddy and I once again turned our trucks and headed out of the park. But that bump came with it’s own unexpected perk the next morning, which I’ll also save for another post.

After 6 days, 2,030 miles, and a few bumps along the way, I finally got home. I’m not sure yet if I got any career-level or portfolio shots on the trip, but it was sure worth getting away for a few days in the glorious Red-Rock country of the great American Southwest.


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Bad, Flickr. Bad!

Posted October 31st, 2013 by
Categories: Autumn, Photo Contests, Photos, Rants and Raves

Picture: Fall colors in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

Image: Fall colors in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

You have to say it like you’re scolding a misbehaving pet; “Bad, Flickr. Bad!” (Again)

So you’ve probably heard about Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s attempt to revitalize Yahoo. I can respect that. For the last month or so, I started posting an occasional image or two a week on Flickr, Yahoo’s photo sharing site. This was after a multi-year hiatus. I figured I’d check it out again and see how it has been evolving. Several weeks ago I learned through a number of places that Yahoo was looking for new employees to begin strategically monetizing Flickr. Even before Flickr partnered with Getty (first bad) I thought they should facilitate photographers who wanted to sell their work. Instead, Flickr opted to enforce a strict non-commercial community. OK; that’s their choice. The stance was said to be photographer community-friendly. Photographers couldn’t promote or sell their own work via Flickr, but they could do it through partnering with Getty.

Now it seems that Flickr’s monetization scheme includes holding a Yahoo News-themed photo contest with the insultingly bad transfer of rights being requested not just of a few winners, but for every image submitted.

According to the rules, by agreeing to the rules, you’re giving Flickr & Yahoo:

irrevocably grants to Promotion Entities and their affiliates, legal representatives, assigns, agents and licensees, the worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sublicensable, unconditional, perpetual and transferable right and license to copyright (only as applicable, as described below), reproduce, encode, store, modify, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, exhibit and/or otherwise use or reuse (without limitation as to when or to the number of times used), the Entrant’s name, address, image, voice, likeness, statements, biographical material and Entry Materials, including, but not limited to, the photograph or digital image and performances contained in any of the above items, as well as any additional photographic images, video images, portraits, interviews or other materials relating to the Entrant and arising out of his/her participation in this Promotion (with or without using the Entrant’s name) (collectively, the “Additional Materials”) (in each case, as submitted or as edited/modified in any way, whether by the Promotion Entities, their licensees, or assigns, in the Promotion Entities’ sole discretion) in any media, format or medium throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from the Entrant or any other party, except as prohibited by law;

v. except where prohibited by law, forever waives any rights of privacy, intellectual property rights, and any other legal or moral rights that may preclude Promotion Entities’ use of the Entrant’s Entry Materials or Additional Materials, or require the Entrant’s permission for Promotion Entities to use them for any purpose, and agrees to never sue or assert any claim against the Promotion Entities’ use of those Materials;

That’s a lot of rights to take from an Entry. It’s one thing to ask these rights of the few images selected as winners, but asking for every entry to agree to forever waive all intellectual property rights, agree never to assert a claim or sue for any (mis)use, and make make every entry sublicenseable seems to say Flickr must be thinking of maybe taking some of Getty’s pie for themselves? Why else would you ask for all these encompassing rights?

Bad, Flickr. Bad! Ask the winners to sign those rights away, but don’t just lay claim to every image entered by people who may well not be aware of what they’re giving up.

Oh, Yahoo, where for art thou? In the same bed with Facebook and Instagram’s lawyers, I fear.

< / RANT >


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How Landscape Photography Should Be

Posted October 30th, 2013 by
Categories: Outdoors, Video

I feel the same sort of nervousness an actor feels before stepping out on stage in front of a live audience. I should know, ‘cuz I’ve been there, and these are the same butterflies.

I’d like to present you with my very first video blog post. As I mention in the intro, I’ve been using some time this year trying to learn about the video features of my camera, and using video editing programs. So this is rough around the edges, but despite its flaws, I’ve decided to just step naked out onto the proverbial stage, and share with you some of my thoughts in a far more personal manner than just typed words and pictures can do alone.

Finally, I have no idea if people will enjoy this, or if I’ll be greeted with the sound of gagged crickets. If you do like this, I’d be especially appreciative if you took just a moment to let me know by either leaving a comment, like, share, RT, etc. If on the other hand you have an overwhelming desire to throw produce at your computer screen, please note I prefer Roma tomatoes and heads of Romaine lettuce.

Thanks for watching.

- Gary.

Point Reyes 3-Day Photo Workshop in November

Posted October 24th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Coast, Outdoors, Photo Workshops and Tours, Photos, Point Reyes, Travel

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 November 22-24, 2013. (The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.) Similar to the workshop I taught last spring, 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 for the Thanksgiving Holiday, this would be a fantastic chance to learn from me while out in the field at one of California’s most-scenic locations.


Image ID#: 130420a_BA2-0151



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Mount Diablo and East Bay Hills; a new Premier Photo Gallery (Where I live.)

Posted October 17th, 2013 by
Categories: Bay Area, California, Photos, Sunrise

Picture: Spring sunrise over green hills, near Orinda, California

Image: Spring sunrise over green hills, near Orinda, Californiaa

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve finally gotten a chance to post a new gallery on my web site, featuring images from my own local area. Introducing my newest Premier Online Photo Gallery, including pictures of Mount Diablo, the Diablo Valley, and the East Bay Hills. The East Bay Hills includes both the Oakland and Berkeley Hills, as well as the Diablo Range foothills, and especially my own local favorite hiking area, Briones Regional Park.

I hope you’ll please take a moment to check out all the wonderful images I’ve posted over three pages of lightbox thumbnail galleries. And if you’re so inclined, I’d really appreciate it if you’d click on one of the Share or Like buttons at the bottom of the gallery thumbnails. (Or at the top of this blog post.)

All of these images are available for publication and use by businesses, or as fine art prints or wall murals for corporate business offices or residential homes alike. If you have any questions about any image in the gallery, please contact me. If you’re a local business interested in putting a text-based web link to the gallery to show off this wonderful area, please feel free. But I do ask you contact me for permission before using any of the photos on a commercial web site.

While you’re there, please check out my two other Premier Photo Galleries, Yosemite National Park (Horray for re-opening!) and a collection of Panoramic Photographs.


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A Photographic Life… and then what?

Posted October 14th, 2013 by
Categories: Photographers

Picture: Photographer shooting sunrise light on North Peak, Hoover Wilderness, Eastern Sierra, California

Image: Photographer shooting sunrise light on North Peak, Hoover Wilderness, Eastern Sierra, California

What happens to our pictures after we’ve shed our mortal coil? What are our families left to do with all the thousands of photos we’ve taken during our life-long quest for those perfect shots? Keep them? Abandon them? Spend weeks of their lives sorting through them, deciding which to keep and which to let go of?

I ask this following a powerfully personal and moving experience I had last week. Some of you may recall that early this year I devoted some of my energy to selling some photography gear for a woman whose husband died after a bout with cancer. Unfortunately, they got married while he was struggling with the disease, and since he was convinced he wasn’t going to succumb, they really didn’t discuss much of anything to do with his photography or his photo business. Worse even, when he did quickly succumb to the ravages of the disease, he took all of his business and photo-folder encrypted passwords with him.

Now this woman is moving out of state. She doesn’t want to bring the many tens of thousands of slides her husband shot, everything from Antarctica, to polar bears, to climbing, to flowers galore, with her on the move. There are boxes and boxes of his slides sitting in her house. So to help her, I spent a full day culling through his collection, pulling what I as a Photo Editor would consider the best of his collection. My job was to Read the rest of this post »

A great but strange Yosemite experience thanks to the US Gov’t.

Posted October 10th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Mountains, National Parks, Photos, Reflections, Water, Yosemite

Picture: Vogelsang Peak reflected in Vogelsang Lake at sunrise, near the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, California<

Image: Storm cloud over Lake Tahoe at sunset, from South Lake Tahoe, California

This last Monday evening found me driving home from the Eastern Sierra along Highway 120, crossing over the Sierra via Tioga Pass Road through Yosemite National Park. It was truly one of the best and most unique experiences I’ve ever had in Yosemite. Unbelievably, I owe the thanks to the United States Government Shutdown, which effected all of America’s National Parks, including the closure of Yosemite. Even though the park was closed, people were permitted to drive along Tioga Pass Road (Hwy 120), yet they weren’t allowed to stop or recreate.

Now every other time I’ve crossed through Yosemite at night, including the dead of night, I always though of the park as being ‘asleep’. I knew people were in the backcountry or camping, employees working, rangers doing their patrols, but yet the quiet park merely felt at rest.

Driving through the park on Monday night, I was hit with the palpable feeling that the park was EMPTY, as if people had vanished from the earth. I was getting to see Yosemite as she was, by herself, like a peaceful sleeping giant, untouched by the footsteps of humans trodding across her skin. This was a different Yosemite; a Yosemite that knew only of Planet Earth and the timeless processes by which she was created, evolving through the eons, and not beholden to the skitterings of tourists and recreational vehicles. I felt humbled and honored to be in her presence during this unique moment, even though I was just passing through.

How bizarre, to think I owe this unique experience to a government shutdown, by a government whom I’m sure will be but a mere blip of existence when defined by time as measured by the land we call Yosemite.

And how quiet was it? While a few cars passed me heading in the opposite direction, there wasn’t another vehicle in my lane, either in front of me or behind, from 5 miles east of Tioga Pass, until I pulled into downtown Groveland; a distance of almost 75 miles. It was one of the best, most-memorable, peaceful drives I’ve had in a long, long time.


Image ID#: tiga-2073



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Seeing the Light – A Free Presentation at the San Francisco Apple Store Oct 9th

Posted October 4th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Eastern Sierra, Newsworthy, Photos, Presentations, Sunrise, Water

Picture: Sunrise at Hot Creek, Eastern Sierra, California

Image: Sunrise at Hot Creek, Eastern Sierra, California

This next Wednesday, October 9th at 7:00pm, I’ll be giving a free presentation called ‘Seeing the Light’ at the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco for the Bay Area Photography Events Meetup group. At this presentation, I’ll be discussing how I use nature’s light while shooting my landscape and travel photos.

For more information, or to sign up, visit the BAPE Meetup page.


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Autumn Insanity Photo Workshop in the Eastern Sierra 10/18

Posted September 27th, 2013 by
Categories: Autumn, California, Mountains, Photo Workshops and Tours, Photos, Travel, Workshops

Picture: Fall colors on aspen trees below Mount Dana, Eastern Sierra, California

Image: Fall colors on aspen trees below Mount Dana, Eastern Sierra, California

First off, let me say this is just nuts; maybe even insane…

Just within the last couple weeks I was asked if I’d be interested in running a photo workshop in the Eastern Sierra for one of the Bay Area’s local Meetup groups. Timing for organization and dates was short, and the Meetup organizer only had one weekend in October available. Always up for an adventure or an opportunity to teach, I said, “Sure, why not?”

So if you’re interested in spending a few days in the Sierra, I’ll be leading an Autumn Sierra Landscapes workshop for the Bay Area Photography Events Meetup, from Friday, October 18th through Sunday October 20th. The insane part? It’s only $195.00 for the whole weekend. Given the late timing of the season, and the short announcement window, the organizer set the workshop fee. To be honest, I suggested a number of times the price should be higher. In fact, the price is a fraction of what I’d charge for my own group or private workshop. It’s insane, I say; Insane.

We’ll be exploring the areas from Mono Lake to Bishop, with specific locations to be determined based on fall foliage conditions and weather. Needles to say, with this incredible price, the workshop fee doesn’t include lodging, transportation, or meals.

So the question is, are you feeling a little insane and wish to join us? If so, you can check out the Meetup Information page, and if you have questions about logistical aspects, I’m sure the organizer will be happy to answer. If you have any questions regarding equipment, locations, techniques to be covered, etc., let me know and I’ll be happy to answer as best as I can.

And again, just to be completely honest, I think the price is too low. But since this is a Meetup Group Event, what I can also say is that you’d be insane not to recognize what an incredible bargain this is for the value of spending several days out on location learning how to take better photos.


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