Photo Borders; a non-political border war

Posted April 25th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Photo Business, Photos, Point Reyes, Sunset, Trees

Picture: Trees at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Image: Trees at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

I’d really love it if you’d leave a comment with your thoughts, personal preferences, or any feedback in general on the following:

I’ve been struggling with my own Border War. I’m not talking between countries, and it’s not the TV Show on the NGS Channel. Rather, my dilemma involves the re-occurring debate about the use of Photo Borders and watermarks. There are many people who hate large intrusive watermarks on images, many of whom would prefer no watermark at all. Other folks dislike Image Borders, claiming they take away from the photo. The one thing I do know, as a professional photographer, I refuse to send my images out into the world without a shred of identifying information. This was recently strongly reinforced when I finally started to explore the web site, Pinterest. The one thing I quickly discovered was how many great photos appeared scattered like buckshot across the site, yet you rare;y see a clear indication of who the photographer was.

Up to this point, I’ve been Read the rest of this post »

A shout-out to BorrowLenses; Nikon D800 and 200-400 f4

Posted April 18th, 2013 by
Categories: Animals, California, Photos, Rants and Raves

Picture: Sunset through clouds at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Joaquin Valley, California

Image: Sunset through clouds at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Joaquin Valley, California

Several weeks ago I had to ship my (nearly) brand new Nikon D800 camera off to the Nikon Repair facility in Los Angeles. During those couple weeks I had a couple shoots scheduled, and BorrowLenses.com became my go-to rescue resource. Not only were they able to immediately provide a replacement D800 body, but I was also to use their great inventory to test out a prime piece of Nikon glass, namely the robust 200-400mm f/4 VR AF-S lens. Now please understand, I’m not a sports or wildlife shooter, but I love using a good telephoto for quite a number of my landscape and travel photos, and for me, this is a pretty big lens. Weighing in at over seven pounds, and when combined with the D800 and battery grip, this was a beast of a combination. Shooting handheld for any period of time was a real test of upper arm strength, and with an injured shoulder, my hand-holding times-until-exhaustion were fairly brief.

I must say, for a first time experience with BorrowLenses.com, I was totally delighted with the prompt and courteous service, and the clear and easy use of their web site. The equipment was delivered exactly as promised, and the loan period was just right to cover my needs while my own camera body was repaired. I loved testing the D800 & 200-400mm combination, and was delighted by the swift and accurate AF. In the long run however, and after a few dedicated shoots, I decide that was just too much lens for my own particular needs over 85% of what I typically shoot. If I do come up with a job where this lens is the go-to piece of equipment I’ll need, I’m delighted I now have a go-to place to get those specialized bits of equipment that just aren’t practical for me to own outright.

Below are a few other Read the rest of this post »

Take a look around; Seattle in 360

Posted April 11th, 2013 by
Categories: City Scenes, Panorama, Panoramic, Photos, Seattle, Travel, Washington

Picture: 360-degree view of downtown Seattle from the top of the Seattle Space Needle, Seattle, Washington State.

Image: view of downtown Seattle from the top of the Seattle Space Needle, Seattle, Washington State

Perhaps you’ve occasionally seen a 360-degree panoramic image on the Internet where you can virtually spin around in all directions. They’ve become hugely popular with hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. What you may not know is that these images can often be stitched together using as few as 4-6 images.

I just recently returned from a week’s travels to the Pacific Northwest. Before plunging into a week of non-stop (typical) gray skies and rain, we were treated to two spectacular days in Seattle, with crystal clear blue skies and their warmest temperatures of the year-to-date. (A fact that was incessantly repeated on the local news, so it must’a been a big deal for them.) I used this great weather window to my advantage by planning a specific shot from atop the landmark Seattle Space Needle, namely a 360 degree view as if you walked around the entire observation deck.

To create this image required shooting 61 vertical frames, shot over a period of nearly 20 minutes in order to make a full circle around the building, and of course weaving in and out of all the other tourists and visitors. In this case, like several other of my Panoramic Photos, I’ll sometimes create a full-sized draft version to isolate any mistakes. In this case, I forgot to check the “remove vignetting” option, so you can see some light banding issues in the sky. Once I’ve had a chance to work out other issues like blending areas of the water, I’ll make a second, and hopefully final render that I will prepare as a master file.

The image was shot using my Nikon D7000, and the original file is 18″ x 174″ @ 300 dpi. Between layers and making some transform actions, the file again pushed my machine to the functional max of 65.1 Gb before getting flattened and saved. I chose not to use my D800, as I can only imagine those large files would have broken my poor machine, creating the electronic version of a brain embolism.

Click here to see a large 400×3700 pixel version.

Click here to see a sample of my first try at making a 360-VR image, so I downloaded a software trial. That’s why you’ll see trial watermarks as you spin around in a full circle. Also, there’s a special process to make a seamless blend in the 360 view, but since this is a first time experiment for me, and I just got back in town, I haven’t had the time to do that part yet.

Below is a sample shot of the city taken from the full res pano, and a 100% detail shot. Read the rest of this post »

The Trophy Shot; a follow-up conversation

Posted March 28th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Death Valley, Deserts, National Parks, Travel

Picture: Panorama photo of the salt formations at sunrise in the Badwater Basin, (at 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest elevation in North America) Death Valley National Park, California.

Image: Panorama of the salt formations at sunrise in the Badwater Basin, (at 282 feet below sea level, it's the lowest elevation in North America) Death Valley National Park, California.

I was really delighted by the responses and conversations which arose out of my recent post, “The Trophy Shot; a nature and landscape photographers dilemma.” To that end, I’d like to invite you to listen in on a webinar-style conversation (with image examples) I recently had with fellow photographer and multi-tasking guru Don Giannatti, who runs the very successful Lighting Essentials series workshops. Not only that, Don is a very talented designer, having designed of my web site and logo. Don was also one of the photographers who had a strong response to my post, and invited me to talk about the subject in more detail.

In this conversation, “The Iconic Image,” I discuss with Don the driving need many photographers feel to get their own versions of landscapes, and the conflict that more experienced photographers often feel when confronted with crowds of other photographers lined-up at some of the most scenic locations in the country. Without casting judgements against these (dare I say) herd-mentality trophy hunters, as there are many times when I’ve personally chosen to join in with the crowds. There are just as many times when I say I don’t want to be anywhere near these crowds. But when I’ve been part of the ranks, the one thing I’ve noticed is that most photographers are locked into this “Subject-Only” mode of thinking, and often miss great opportunities to create more unique, personal visions at these iconic locations; and some of these opportunities are staring them straight in the face.

While sharing a workshop experience with some friends in Death Valley, one of the prime photographer-centric icon image locations we visited was Badwater, the lowest spot in North America. In addition to the classic icon-type of image I shot, here are a couple other images from that same morning.

Picture: Morning light on clouds over the Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Image: Morning light on clouds over the Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Picture: Detail shot of salt formations in the Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Image: Detail shot of salt formations in the Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California


Extraordinary Vision

Posted March 8th, 2013 by
Categories: Deserts, Newsworthy, Photos, Reflections, Water

Picture: Striated sandstone reflected in seasonal pool of water at The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Image: Striated sandstone reflected in seasonal pool of water at The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

I’m delighted to announce that my photography as been included in a feature article in the current issue of Extraordinary Vision Magazine. Called the definitive outdoor digital photography magazine, this e-pub is a dedicated ipad exclusive, so you’ll need one of those devices to access the publication. If you own an ipad, you can download a free copy of the e-mag. through the iTunes store.

My article, which stems from an interview conducted by publisher Angelo Loanides, and deals with personal vision and creating dramatic landscape photos. I hope you ipad owners out there will enjoy the article and publication. And be sure to tell your ipad-owning friends about this great e-mag as well.

This also makes a good follow-up on my last post, which dealt with photographers flocking into now crowded iconic locations, all seemingly chasing the same photo. The location where this image was taken is an extremely fragile, remote location, and the area is equally extremely limited in terms of the access that visitors are granted. Only a small number of permits are handed out on a daily basis, and most of those are reserved well in advance via a lottery system. While many photographers seek out a few of the known and ‘popular’ photo compositions, one being The Second Wave, this small area offers a great challenge and many opportunities for photographers who are looking to break the mold, and bring home something more than the standard postcard compositions. I have a few of those standard compositions myself, but by far, my favorite is the image above, which to me represents a unique personal vision of a very special place.

The Trophy Shot – a nature and landscape photographers dilemma

Posted February 25th, 2013 by
Categories: California, Death Valley, Deserts, National Parks, Photographers, Photos, Workshops

Picture: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Image: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

This month I was fortunate to spend a week traveling through Death Valley as the guest of some friends who were leading a photo workshop. We arrived at Zabriskie Point on the first morning, which is one of Death Valley’s prime photographic postcard locations. Zabriskie Point is a true icon, in that it has become one of the ‘must-have’ shots for photographers traveling through the park. It was somewhat disheartening for our small group to crest the hill only to find a large workshop with two dozen other photographers lined up on the hill below and in front of the paved viewpoint. Their presence in front of everyone else made it difficult for anyone who arrived later, or those with mobility issues who were limited to shooting from the paved viewpoint to enjoy or photograph the scene with any sense of unobstructed natural beauty.

A friend remarked to me this week that nature and landscape photography has become like a competitive sport. I found that to be both an incredibly appropriate and sad assessment when discussing those many “must have” icon shots. Seeing this group, who set themselves up to arrive early and get the best location in front of everyone else, seemed to epitomize that competitive urge to ‘get the shot’.

So, “Why do photographers flock to the icons?” With a vast and increasing number of Read the rest of this post »

Announcement: I’m leading two spring photo workshops at Point Reyes

Posted February 1st, 2013 by
Categories: California, Coast, Fossil Beds, Photos, Point Reyes, Workshops

Picture: Sunrise light on coastal cliffs above Drakes Beach, Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

Image: Sunrise light on coastal cliffs above Drakes Beach, Drakes Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be leading two photo workshops this spring at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is located on the California coast, not too far north of San Francisco, and is believed to be where Sir Francis Drake landed for the first time in California back in 1579. Point Reyes is best known for its rugged headlands, the coastal cliffs of Drakes Bay, which are said to resemble the White Cliffs of Dover in England. There are also wide rolling hills and farmland, the great beach which stretches out over 11 miles, and its herd of resident elk.

Both workshops are being sponsored by The Point Reyes National Seashore Association, and presented as part of the Point Reyes Field Institute. To register, visit the PRFI Photography Page. You can also register by calling (415) 663.1200 x 373, or register by mail or fax. Click here to print a registration form. Classes are known to fill up quickly, so be sure to register and claim a spot early!

The first workshop: Read the rest of this post »

A heavenly companion

Posted January 22nd, 2013 by
Categories: Moon, Photos

Picture: Waxing gibbous moon and companion.

Image: Waxing gibbous moon and companion

Yesterday evening I stepped outside our kitchen door, and what to my wandering eye should appear, but the moon hanging high in the sky. The light of a brilliant star shone nearby. Having taken an astronomy class back in college, I knew by the brightness of this heavenly companion it was more likely a planet rather than a star. Without any expectation of figuring out what the companion was, I decided it was at least worth taking a photo of these two celestial bodies in close proximity to one another.

I proceeded to grab my tripod, my new Nikon D800 camera, and my 500mm f/4 lens. I then switched my camera to DX mode, thereby rendering the effective focal length at about 750mm.

Image: Waxing gibbous moon and companion Needless to say, I was pretty well surprised when I imported the few frames into Lightroom, and looked at 100%. There before me wasn’t just a star, but the easily identifiable striped atmosphere of our solar system’s resident gas giant planet, Jupiter. Not only that, I was able to make out clearly two of Jupiter’s brightest moons.

Now if I can just photograph a UFO with the same resolution and clarity….

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Edit: And here by special request is a 100% view of the lunar surface:

Image: Waxing gibbous moon and companion


A cosmic coincidence to start the New Year

Posted January 15th, 2013 by
Categories: Aviation, Clouds and Sky, Photos, Rainbows, Weather

Picture: Jet airplane with contrail flying through high cirrus clouds and a rainbow known as a circumzenithal arc, in the skies above Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Image: Jet airplane with contrail flying through high cirrus clouds and a rainbow known as a circuzenithal arc, in the skies above Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Back in 2005, after 15 years of shooting professional transparency film, I entered the digital era when I purchased my first DSLR, which at the time was Nikon’s first high-end digital camera, my affectionately termed ‘Battle-Tank’ known as the D2x. My very first picture with that camera was a portrait of my wife and two kids, which was my version of christening a new camera the way one might christen a ship. Immediately thereafter, I took my camera out to a parking lot where I commenced taking my first few ‘real’ digital photos. That day there was a large ice-crystal halo around the sun which I was photographing. At one point, while using a lamp post to block the sun, a pair of pigeons flew off the light, and which I captured in combination with the atmospheric phenomenon.

Seven years later, over this last Christmas holiday, I awoke on Christmas morning to find that Santa left me a Read the rest of this post »

Top Photos of 2012 by Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images

Posted December 29th, 2012 by
Categories: Fossil Beds

Here’s a quick collection of my favorite photos shot in 2012.

Picture: Sunset over the mouth of the Gualala River, on the border between the Sonoma and Mendocino County coastlines, Gualala, California

Image:  Sunset over the mouth of the Gualala River, on the border between the Sonoma and Mendocino County coastlines, Gualala, California

ID# 2012best_01

Picture: Clouds at sunset over the Sierra Nevada, as seen from the Sweetwater Mountains, California

Image: Clouds at sunset over the Sierra Nevada, as seen from the Sweetwater Mountains, California

ID# 2012best_02

Read the rest of this post »