Friday, March 30, 2007

Photographing Big Sur

Big Sur - Bixby Bridge One of the most beautiful drives in the world is along California's Highway One. Near the middle of the state, just below Carmel, you have soaring Redwoods on one side and high rocky cliffs dropping into the ocean on the other side of the highway. You'll often see this highway used in car commercials. Typically it's covered in a blanket of fog in the morning and then the skies clear in the afternoon. Big Sur with all it's majestic beauty and easy access is nothing but photographic opportunities awaiting you.

Big Sur - Ragged Point If you stay at the lodge inside the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you can just head out the door and take anyone of the many trails in the morning. There you'll find tall redwoods, waterfalls and a fern covered forest floor. You can also find many turnouts along Highway One that overlook the Cliffs. The fog helps to separate the cliffs. I like to keep my camera set on it's daylight setting. This captures the blue light and gives it a cool look. My favorite spot was Ragged Point, but the last time I was there they had a chain link fence around most of it.

Big Sur - McWay Falls In the afternoon if the cloud cover breaks a little you'll want to head down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It's another state park just south of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park also on Highway One. It's easy to miss so I always like take along Andrew Hudson's "PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California". It not only covers Big Sur but it also covers the San Francisco region and has a section on Yosemite. Complete with maps, beautiful photos and all the details. He even provides a clock face showing the best time to photograph each location. With Andrew's book you'll find an excellent map for finding Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is where you'll find McWay Falls. It's a 80 foot waterfall that flows into the Pacific Ocean. You won't want to miss this one even if it's socked in. Andrew has a beautiful photo of McWay Falls covered in fog. The fog gives it a mysteries mood. Often right at sunset there will be a clearing on the horizon and the sun will poke through.

Big Sur - Waterfall Another great way to get a feel for this location is Don Gale's DVD "Photographing San Francisco and the Central Coast." Don travels from Santa Barbara to San Francisco with many photo stops along the way. He shows a unique viewpoint at McWay Falls. You'll get an inside look to the thought process of working pro. Don provides many tips and locations. This video won a couple of awards including "Best Editing" by yours truly. I had so much fun. I actually went with Don on the trip and learned sooo much!A fun place to visit is Nepenthe Restaurant. It's a 4 star restaurant with a spectacular view of the coastline. Soak it all it in on their beautiful deck. It doesn't get better than this.

Big Sur - Forest
For great photoguides see Photo Secrets "PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California"
For Don Gale's DVD "Photographing San Francisco and California's Central Coast"
These can also be found on Amazon.
For accomodations see Big Sur Lodge

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Stitch In Time

Oxbow Bend, WY - Panoramic Final
After reading Don Gale's Blog on stitching I decided to try it myself. I pulled out some old images from 2004 at Oxbow Bend, WY. I downloaded the trial version of Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4. Now I had tried this same sequence of photos before both in Photoshop and Canon's software without success.

Panoramic Panels
I popped the photos in and within seconds the image appeared. It was perfect. Flawless! Wow! I know that I shot this with too wide a lens, and although I had used a tripod, it was anything but straight. I brought it back into Lightroom and tweaked the levels. This is what I love about digital. As time goes by the software keeps improving. Not only are the images I'm shooting now effected, but so are my images from the past.

Of course you don't have to use Panorama Maker just for panoramics. You can use it just to get more resolution for those extra big prints. I knew I had a shot a sequence of Multnomah Falls just for this purpose. I loaded the images, changed the direction to vertical, and let 'er rip. Presto. Success at last.

Multnomah Falls, ORArcsoft Panorama Maker is going to change the way I shoot in the field. After all these were worst case examples. I'll be shooting many more panoramics now that it's so easy.

If you'd like to try it yourself just follow the directions on Don Gale's Blog or join him on a workshop. Now as for that bigger printer...

For a more detailed review and panoramic tips see Don Gale's Blog
For a trial copy or to buy visit Arcsoft Panorama Maker