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.