Monday, March 07, 2016

Photographing Mt Whitney & the Alabama Hills

Mt. Whitney & the Alabama Hills
Just outside of the small town of Lone Pine lies one of the best places to learn Landscape Photography. Heading west at the only stoplight in town is Whitney Portal Road which leads you to a web of dirt roads. The most popular is Movie Road. From here you can see the rust colored rock of the Alabama Hills with the gray granite Eastern Sierra in the background. I went several times on my own, but then I attended one of Don Gale's workshops there. Don taught me what photography is all about. How to follow the light.

Don schedules his workshops here during the winter months. The mountains face directly east. In the winter the sun is farther south and gives the scene a bit of side lighting. So here's Don's shooting strategy.

Alabama Hills Sunrise
1) Arrive before Sunrise and shoot into the pre-dawn light using the silhouettes of the Alabama Hills as one element and the sky as another. Some days you'll see stars and some days you'll have clouds. You can shoot right from Whitney Portal Road. You'll want to arrive about 45 minutes before Sunrise. Spend about 15 minutes here.

Mt. Whitney2) Then go north along Movie Road until you have some nice rock formations in the foreground and a clear site of Mt Whitney. The first rays of light will hit the top of tallest peak, which is Mt. Whitney. With a long lens isolate just the peak. Everyday is different but often you'll see the peak turn red. This is known as Alpenglow. A polarizer will help to darken the sky. If it's overcast you might try shooting in black and white.

Mt. Whitney & the Alabama Hills3) Just as the light begins to spill over into valley you can begin to shoot wide. You may need a split neutral density filter for a few minutes. Then as the sun hits the valley look for rock fromations to fill the foreground with Mt Whitney in the background.

Mobius Arch - Lone pine, CA
4) In recent years I've added Mobius Arch. There's a large dirt parking area along Movie Road and a well marked path to guide you. Clouds really help out here as the light can get contrasty if you wait too long. Just a few feet away is Lathe Arch.

Lathe Arch
Lathe Arch (Front)- Lone Pine,CAAs you can see here, my backpack is leaning up against Lathe Arch. This was taken from the front of the arch. It appears much larger using an ultra wide lens from the backside. I'm using a 17mm on a full frame camera. Watch your step as their is nothing below your feet. You have to brace yourself between two rocks. Again, if you want the Arch and the Mountains to have light on them, timing becomes critical. I sometimes shoot before sunrise so everything is evenly lit, but my favorite shots are just as the first light hits Mobius Arch.

Lubken Canyon - Lone Pine5) In the Afternoon the sun goes down behind mountains. At sunset they'll be in silhouette. You might try Lubken Canyon Road just across from the RV park. In late afternoon you'll find Cottonwoods in shade with the granite mountains providing a blue backdrop. A little earlier and you'll find them backlit. If you're there late fall you''ll find the cottonwoods have turn to a beautiful shade of yellow. Perfect for the blue backdrop.

Reflection in Owens River6) Then as the sun sets I like to look for reflections in the Owens River. There's a dirt road just on the other side of the RV park that goes to the pumping station. You can follow it along side of the Owens River. Walk along the banks as the sun begins to set and you'll find red mountain peaks or sunlit clouds reflectiing in the water. The rocks and reeds can add a zen like quality.

Mt. Whitney - Lone Pine,Ca
Again, Don's strategy is to always let the light dictate where you're going to shoot. You need to anticipate what the light is going to provide. I use this technique on every trip.Where will the Sun come up? Is there a break in the terrain that will let the last bit of light peek through? Can I move to the shadow side to make the scene more three dimensional. Each place provdes different answers but it's always the same question, "Where's the light?". And of course, "What's for lunch?".

For more photos see my Craig Wolf Galleries

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mesa Arch Sunrise

The light bouncing around Mesa Arch at sunrise is unbelievable. The underside of the arch looks like hot coals. I shot this panoramic image in 2007. Then I was not able to control the dynamic range. The sky would blow out and the shadows were too dark.

I recently got a request for a large 24x72 of Mesa Arch, so I went back to the originals using Lightroom 4 Beta. Now I can control the highlights and shadows to my satisfaction. I also used lens correction to correct for any distortion. I shot this pano with camera in the vertical (portrait) position. (12 shots stitched - it's actually extends past both left and right frame.) This gave me the resolution needed to make a big print.

I went this last fall to Mesa Arch but it was too crowded to shoot. I'm glad I was able to go back in time and enjoy this shot all over again.

For more info see: Photographing Mesa Arch - you'll notice the pano there was shot well after sunrise when there was more ambient light on the arch.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Overshoes Online - A Perfect Fit for Outdoor Photographers

Overshoes-NEOS-Navigator-5When Overshoes Online asked me to review a pair of their overshoes, little did they know that I had just come back from a trip where my feet got wet every day. I picked the NEOS Navigator 5 Overshoe. As the name implies they slip over your shoes. The NEOS Navigator 5 Overshoe is 15 inches high and extends to 20 inches. They are 100% waterproof and extremely well made.

I tried them out during the fall but I wanted to trek through some snow before I gave a full review. I can now say Wow! The NEOS Navigators are warm and comfortable. As a photographer I'm often standing around, waiting for that magic light. The overshoes are like wearing slippers.

Now for the good stuff. I crossed the Merced River several times and treked through the snow. The shoes have good traction and are 100% waterproof as they claim. The NEOS Navigators also dried out quickly. I take along an old brush to clean them off before I toss them back into the car.

The NEOS Navigators slip over your shoes and fasten with Velcro. I take a few steps in them and then cinch the straps. They have a heel that's snowshoe compatible too. They're rated to -20 F. I highly recomend the NEOS Navigator 5's for anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors. For the Outdoor Photographer they're a must!

Check out their website at
More Yosemite Photos at Craig Wolf Galleries

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yosemite Stock Photo Gallery

Yosemite - Tunnel ViewUPDATE: Many New Yosemite Stock photos at

I've added a Yosemite Stock Photo Gallery. It's a collection from the past. I was inspired after losing a one terabyte drive with all my photos on it. I had about eighty percent backed up, but that's not one hundred percent now is it. After getting a couple of outrageous estimates I found Eco Data Recovery. John Marshall gave me a quote that was half of what the others offered. They did a great job and I'm very grateful.
Yosemite FallsAfter getting the drive back I started to organize the photos and reprocess some of the files in Lightroom. Some of the photos were scans of 35mm Slides, others were from my 6 mp Rebel and most were from my 1Ds Mark III. I found that Lightroom improved them all. For a few I used a free Lightroom preset from Heather Green. It's called "Warm and Lighten." Photos taken in higher elevations tend to have more blue and can look harsh. Heather's preset was just the ticket.
Yosemite - Half DomeI found that I had ignored many of the files and was pleasantly surprised by some. I can see plenty of room for improvement too. I can't wait to go again and try out some new ideas. For more info check out my previous post "Photographing Yosemite in Winter".
Yosemite - Half DomeFor more on Yosemite Photos see my Craig Wolf Galleries
Take a look at Heather Green's Free Presets (No Longer Available)

Great books to check out and take along are Andrew Hudson's PhotoSecrets Yosemite  or PhotoSecrets San Francisco & Northern California: The Best Sights and How to Photograph Them. The Yosemite Section is included in the San Francisco book.

Michael Frye's The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite is terrific as well.

Photos: The top photo is Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, 2nd photo is Yosemite Falls, 3rd is Half Dome from the valley floor, 4th is Half Dome from Glacier Point, and the last photo is the shortest fall in the park Fern Springs (near Pohono Bridge).
Yosemite - Fern Springs

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Photographing California's Wildflowers

Antelope Valley PoppiesOne in a million, or a million and one, the choice is yours. Whether you single out one bloom or shoot 'em in mass you can't go wrong with photographing wildflowers. California has some of the best wildflowers in the country. The trick is being at the right place at the right time. Some years they'll start to bloom in late February and continue on into August.

They bloom from the deserts, to the coast, to the valleys and up to the highest mountains. You can visit Anza Borrego, Death Valley, the Carrizo Plane, Yosemite Valley, the Sierra Foothills, the Eastern Sierra High Country, and many more. Carol Leigh's website provides up to date posts on the best locations and when they're in full bloom. So far this year I've gone to Figueroa Mountain, Lake Elsinore, Antelope Valley, Gorman and even a hillside about 20 feet from my driveway.

Poppy RaindropsI like to shoot in early morning light and we got a little rain a couple of mornings which added variety. Poppies don't open when it's cold or windy, They like nice sunny days. Most of the time they open between 9 and 11. Poppies photograph well in full sun. Their thin petals are translucent and take on a glow. For most wildflowers cloudy or overcast works best. If contrast is a problem I'll try to shoot the poppy close up and have the background out of focus. This blurs the highlights with the shadows and cuts down the contrast. Back-light is another alternative to cut down harsh contrast. You can also use a diffuser. (I forgot mine on the first trip where I really needed it.)

Poppies and Bluebells
All 3 images, the 2 above and the one to the left, were made using a 100mm macro lens. (On a full frame sensor - a 60mm on a aps size sensor.) I used my "sneaker zoom". I changed my position by moving my feet. For the 2 above I only moved about 3 feet. The poppy to the left was on a hillside so it was easier to get underneath. Of note, when you point up away from the horizon the sky is a deeper blue. It's always the darkest blue to the north.

One technique I wanted to try was a wide angle close up by using a 12mm extension tube on a wide angle lens. First I tried it on a 20mm (On a full frame sensor) but the petals had to almost touch the front of the lens in order to focus. Then I tried a 24mm lens. It was better but still hard to manage. I went home and did a series of tests and found that my Tamron 17-35mm lens focuses very close. Adding the 12mm extension tube allowed me to focus just a few inches from the lens at all focal lengths. I preferred it set to 35mm. There is very little depth of field so at 5.6 it might be an eight of an inch. I happen to like this look and plan to use it more it the future. It looks somewhere between a photograph and a painting. It is much more manageable at 35mm. You don't have to have the flower touching the lens shade and you can control the size of the foreground and amount of background by using small adjustments with the zoom and rocking back and forth. It gave me what I was looking for. The photo has more depth than with a longer lens. It's much easier to use in practice than described here in words.

Figueroa Mountain
Along the way I stumbled upon a few shots without wildflowers that I couldn't pass up. It's always fun to get out and explore. Whatever photographic technique you're trying to improve upon or if your just out for a good hike, wildflowers add an extra sparkle. Just Google "YOUR STATE Wildflowers" and add "Hotsheet" or "Hotline". Check out my Craig Wolf Galleries for more examples.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day and Photography

Poppies & Trash - Antelope ValleyI came upon this shot a couple of weeks ago in Antelope Valley. I always try to pick up trash whether it's in the wilderness or just the parking lot. Here it was too much for me to handle. There were piles of asphalt, a few mattresses, and lots of couches. I do my part and then some, but still it's never enough. That's why I give to the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. From time to time I also give to local efforts such as the Yosemite Association and the Mono Lake Committee. As photographers we should show the negatives as well as the positives. Too often I try to get the perfect sunset and avoid the parts that mankind has spoiled. I hope you'll join me in helping restore nature to all it's glory. You and your photography can make a difference.

For more Antelope Valley Poppies see my Craig Wolf Galleries

Friday, February 15, 2008

Photographing Yosemite in Winter

Peaks from Tunnel View
So often I hear "Why bother with Yosemite, it's been done." Well that never occurred to me as I walked along side the Merced River and looked across it's snow covered banks onto El Capitan. The black oaks were covered with a dusting of snow and the red cliffs popped out from the stark white snow. I was all alone in the dark and the sun was just starting to rise. It's the rush, that's why I come here. The camera is just along for the ride.

Black Oaks - El Capitan
Winter provides a magic spell over the valley. There are snow covered peaks, wildlife and small frosted treasures. It feels like you have the whole place to yourself. The North Road was closed, but I found plenty of places to go. I went to Swinging Bridge, El Capitan, The Chapel, Cooks Meadow, Sentinel Bridge, Ahwahnee Meadow, Tunnel View, and the trail behind the Ahwahnee. I never saw anyone at Sunrise and just a few people during the day. There were lots of cars in the parking lot, but it seems that everybody went skiing up at Badger Pass.

Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge
The Chapel, Yosemite, CAThe secret to shooting Yosemite in winter, is to wait for a storm and then go. I didn't have resevations until 2 days prior. I stayed at Yosemite Lodge and it couldn't have been better. The staff there is first rate. They made me feel welcome. The soup's great at the cafeteria and don't forget to buy chains for your shoes. I'm talking about Yaktrax Walkers. You'll slip and slide all over the place without them. Make sure you bring chains for your car too. You're required to carry them in winter. I always bring my Photo Secrets book on Yosemite and The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite by Michael Frye.

For more photos see my Yosemite Winter Photo Gallery.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hummingbird Flies

Christoper Grey was kind enough to include one of my photos in his most recent book "Canon DSLR: The Ultimate Photographer's Guide". His book covers all the basics in the first few chapters and then he goes over each and every button on your Canon DSLR. Chris covers Canon's software too.

I tend to use it in place of the Canon Manual. They're are several interviews with well known photographers and tons of examples. You can check the book out on Amazon.

The Hummingbird shot is one of my first digital shots. I was using a Digital Rebel with a 100-300 Canon Lens. I was still shooting JPG's and I did a bit of a crop to make a better composition. Still it holds its own.

Tech Info: Canon Digital Rebel - 6mp, Canon 100-300 Lens, f5.6,2000th of a second, ISO 400 slight crop.

For more info on Christopher Grey see his website. He has a great DVD on Lighting and many more books. His book on book on Portrait Lighting (Mater Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers) is one of the very best photography books out there.

Perennial Favorites

SunflowerFlowers are perfect for photographic studies. The 7 basic elements of design are line, shape, color, form, space, light, and texture. All of which be found in a single blossom. I love the early morning light as it's soft and allows the colors tend to stand out. That being said many flowers such as sunflowers and poppies can be photographed in direct sunlight. Since flowers are small you can shoot from the side, the top, the bottom, and in groups or patterns. It's hard to shoot a mountain this way. You may have to drive 50 miles to make a slight difference and you may have to wait days for the right light.

When I'm in the field I use my 100 macro or a 70-200 for most of my close ups. At home I tend to use the 100mm macro. (60mm in a 1.6 format.) The reason is I can usually get closer to my subject at home and fill the frame with the flower. In the field I'm more concerned with the background. I like to shoot wide open at 2.8 but not always. That's the great advantage to doing a study. Anything goes. It's the best way to really learn.

I'm not a full time professional photographer, but I can squeeze an hour in each morning for a couple of weeks. I like to set a goal of 50 shots. I'm sure stock photographers would laugh at that since they would shoot 50 in an hour or two. The real goal is to learn a little something each day.

Abstract Flowers
Tony Sweet is the master of Fine Art Photography. His books open up a whole new world. His books have many examples of moving the camera during a long exposure. This was very hard using film, but with digital it becomes much easier. That said, I've yet to get one as good as Tony's. Tony has 3 books and a DVD. I highly recommend all 3. The DVD is a little rough in it's production, but the info is terrific. I hear another DVD is on it's way.

Sometimes I feel like a nut - sometimes I don't. Once in while I just shoot stock photos. They won't change the art world but they do fine tune my photographic skills. These are simple clean images. Try one of these studies and you'll have as much fun as I do. It's a great way to keep up your skills when you can't get away.

So here's a run down.
The top sunflower is in direct sun, shooting up over my roof - hence the deep blue sky. (100mm Macro - f8,250th) --- The Dahlia is in very soft light. There's a diagonal pull from the lower left to the upper right. (100mm Marco f16,1sec) --- The 2nd Sunflower shows a us different side. It's just as beautiful. The soft light accents the detail. (100mm Macro f16,0.5s) --- The Abstract Flowers were shot with a twist. (100mm Macro f22, 0.6s) --- The Rose Bouquet was shot in very soft light. Early morning fog. (100mm Macro f16, 2sec) ---The last photo was taken at Carmel Mission. I moved from Iris to Iris until I had the Poppies as a background. (100mm Macro F2.8,320th

For more flowers see my galleries Flowers 2 & Spring Garden
For more on Tony Sweet see his site.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Photographing Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point Sunrise
Just 45 min outside of Moab is Dead Horse Point State Park. The parking lot is small but the view is on a grand scale. Early Morning is the best time to capture this classic view of the gooseneck in the river and Canyonlands just beyond it. Sunset is also good for a variety of shots but not for this classic view. The best vantage point is to walk past the observation deck and continue along the path for about a 100 feet or so. You'll find plenty of foreground elements to add here. I used f22 to keep everything in focus. Your mileage may vary. There are no rails here so watch your step. If you trip they may have to change the name to Dead Man Point. Those signs are so darn expensive.

Dead Horse Point Sunset
The park has a small campground with 21 sites and covered picnic tables at each site. Showers are not available, but you can fill up your canteen. The park got its' moniker from some horses that died of thirst on the point. They could see the water, but it's a 2000 foot drop to get there. Please fill your tanks before visiting. You'll also want to take along Photographing the Southwest: Volume 1--Southern Utah by Laurent Martres. I have all 3 volumes.

Dead Horse Point Sunrise - TreeThe staff here is excellent. I asked about other photo locations and they were well versed on the entire state. The pictures here speak for themselves. This is a park not to be missed.

Note: the 1st pix is at just after sunrise and the next 2 are at sunset
For more info see Dead Horse Point State Park
and Issue 35 Canyonlands from Photograph America
For more photos see my Latest Additions Gallery

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Photographing Bryce

Bryce Point - Craig Wolf
It's not often that I get to sleep in a teepee, but that's just what happened on my trip to Bryce. I never like to plan things out I find it too restrictive. I like to follow the weather and the weatherman said that a storm was brewing in Bryce National Park. So packed up and headed from Moab down to Bryce. Now a teepee isn't great during a storm, but I didn't have a lot of choices since all the rooms both at the park and in town were full. Tourists were everywhere. I'd say about 50 percent of the people visiting were French and about 20 percent were either German or Italian. There were quite a few Japanese too, but not many Americans. The Europeans absolutely love Bryce! As for the teepee it was fun. It didn't rain while I was there, but I did get the clouds I was hoping for. Yippee kay ay!

Bryce Point,Utah - Craig Wolf
I went to Bryce once before and I really liked Bryce Point. Sunrise is the best time to photograph Bryce. I was the first one to get there. Many others showed up later. I imagine there were many more at Sunrise and Sunset Points. If you want to zoom in on some of the Hoodoos Sunrise and Sunset Point are the best, but if you want the whole enchilada I prefer Bryce Point. As for Bryce Point I like to photograph it just before the sun creeps over the horizon. It gets very contrasty after the sun comes up. It can be done if you have enough clouds softening the light.

Bryce Hoodoos - Craig Wolf
As for Sunrise and Sunset Point I like backlight. You might think that the face of the Hoodoos would be too dark, but they're so close together that you get light bouncing in from the other Hoodoos. You just have to pick out the ones that have that glow. It's truly amazing in person. The light show continues for some time after sunup. The shot here is from a previous trip because I just ran out of time on this trip and my back can only take so many days of sleeping on the cold hard ground. I hope you can make it to Bryce it's wonderful visit with or without a camera. There's some great trails to explore and if you like to gamble it's not too far from Vegas. If you really like to gamble try the teepee.

For more photos see my Latest Additions Gallery
Ruby's Inn RV Park with Teepees

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pixel Wrangler

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf
O.K. Here's a quick post of how light can change the mood of a photograph. While at Arches National Park the wind picked up and it changed from a nice sunny day into thunder showers. Then after standing in the wind and rain for hours I left.

As I turned out of the parking lot the light began to peek through the clouds and I drove right back and jumped out. I had been standing with a fellow photographer Robert Curtis who kept telling me that the clouds would break. Of course he had also left. As the sun poured onto the rocks, and the dark storm clouds remained in the background, Robert pulled up. He hadn't gone very far either.

The Sunset put on quite a show and I kept shooting right into twilight. I had plenty of time to make a couple of panoramas. It's amazing to see the dramatic change from photo to photo. It's the same subject only the light is changing. Ah the life of a Pixel Wrangler on the open range.

For more photos see my gallery.

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf

Balance Rock - Craig Wolf
A special thanks goes out to Robert Curtis for encouraging me to stay.