Archive for the ‘Cedar Mesa’ Category

Tips for Night Photography Friday, October 2nd, 2015

With my annual Moab to Cedar Mesa to Monument Valley night photography workshop coming up, here are some tips for my attendees (sold out).

TIPS FOR NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

EQUIPMENT

  1. Camera: Not all cameras are great for night photography. I’ve had particular problems with the Canon Rebel T3i. If you have this camera you might want to consider renter a better, more recent model.
  2. Lens: You will want what is considered an ultra wide lens for most shots, something in the range of a 14-14. You may also want the next step up, something in the 24-70 range. What’s more important is the F rating of the lens. A lens in the f-1.4 – 2.8 range is best. Anything above a f4 is not suitable for night photography.
  3. Tripod: A rock-solid tripod is a necessity. If you’re using a tripod with a plastic head you may want to consider renting a better unit. If you are attending one of my workshops and think you may need a better tripod, check with me to see if I have a loaner available.
  4. Cable release or remote: A cable release or remote can help alleviate the issue of a not-so-rock-solid tripod.
  5. Filters: Remove and filters from you lens.

COMPOSITION

In night photography it’s fairly important to set a composition you like and stick with it throughout the shooting sequence of that particular location. This is because the biggest challenge in night photography is getting the focus properly set. Once the focus is set you can switch, say, from horizontal to vertical with no problem IF you can do so without touching/changing the zoom setting, but if you change the zoom setting you will need to reset the focus. If you are in the habit of frequently moving your tripod rather than adjusting the camera on the tripod head you will also have problems.

Setting the Focus: There are 2 methods of setting the focus:

  1. I will light a piece of the land-form that we are shooting. You will need to know how to move your camera’s focus point to focus on what I am lighting. With your camera on auto-focus, hold the shutter button half way down and let the camera auto-focus. Then, turn of the auto-focus. You are now ready to shoot.
  2. I often find it easier to manually focus. This is particularly easy on most Canon cameras because of their superior clarity of the LCD in low light situations.
  3. It’s important to check your focus after the first shot. Do this by using the LCD magnification button on the back of your camera. Blow the image up 2 to 4 clicks and make certain everything is in focus. If not, SPEAK UP and I’ll re-light the formation.

SETTINGS

Rule of 500: I will explain the Rule of 500 in the cause of general information so you will be knowledgeable about it, but please understand that I rarely use it.

This equation is used to determine the length of time of your exposure. It’s pretty simple:

500 divided by the Focal Length you are shooting at = Max exposure time.

If you’re shooting at 14mm, 500 divided by 14 = 36 seconds exposure

There are many if, ands and buts about this equation:

  1. It assumes an f2.8 lens at an ISO of 1600
  2. The results vary camera by camera, sensor by sensor.
  3. It’s widely stated, “Your camera may work better using 400, 450 or 600”.
  4. If your camera has a cropped sensor you will need to multiply the focal length that the lens is reading by your camera’s crop factor, either 1.5 or 1.6. So, a Nikon with a cropped sensor with an f2.8 lens set at 14mm, 14 x 1.5 = 19.6   500 divided by 19.6 = 25 seconds rather than 36 seconds.
  5. Even the quality/glass/brand of your lens can matter.

Still with me?

Now, let me tell you how I actually do it in the field. No matter what camera and lens you are using, start with these settings;

ISO 1600*     Manual Mode     30 seconds     Lens wide open (lowest f-stop number)

*Unless you have one of the very high-end cameras, say a Nikon D4s, you will need to become comfortable with a higher than normal level of noise and grain. You can correct for this with de-noise software, but at the expense of lost detail.

Start shooting at these settings and check your results. If the image is too dark you will need to go to a higher ISO. If it’s too bright you can go to a lower ISO to reduce noise/grain, or shorten the exposure to get more pin-point stars. It’s not practical to go to a longer exposure than 30 seconds. Thirty seconds is the longest you can go without getting noticeably ovaled stars.

A Caution: During the day we often have problems seeing the image on the LCD screen because the sun is so bright. The opposite problem happens with night shooting. The image on the LCD may look great, but when you load it into your computer it’s very dark, maybe even black. You will want the image on your screen at night to be very bright.

 

 

 

Night Photography in Monument Valley, Cedar Mesa and Moab Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

There is only 1 space left for the October 9-12 night photography workshop.  Come learn shooting methods and processing techniques for creating stunning images of desert southwest landscapes and night skies.  These workshops are scheduled to coincide with new moons to aid in optimizing images of the Milky Way.

We’ll start in Moab’s 2 national parks, Canyonlands and Arches shooting iconic and lesser known sites such as Delicate Arch and Double Arch.  Long past are the days of light painting as now I carry in an array of lighting equipment that produces warm steady light and eliminates the haphazard and inconsistent results that light painting produces.  The lights are staged to either eliminate shadows or create shadows that are quite different from images produced with light painting from the same position as the camera is shooting from.

After 2 nights in Moab we’ll move south to Cedar Mesa with its densest collection of Anasazi artifacts and ruins in the desert southwest.  On Cedar Mesa we’ll hike into ruins where I’ll stage lighting both inside and outside the dwellings to produce images with light coming from the windows and doors as if some is home!  The final night we’ll spend with Navajo guide Ray Begay in the Monument Valley back country shooting arches and formations not accessible to the public without special permits or Navajo Guides.

The-Big-Crane---Night

Doll-House-Night-2 - Copy

Totem-Pole-Lighted

Sego-Canyon-1

Double-Arch-Nigh---Bob

Great-Gallery-left-side

House Fire Ruin Night20x41

Delicate Arch 2

Scheduled Photo Tours and Photography Workshop for the Remainder of the Year, including Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, Cedar Mesa, Monument Valley, Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and Colorado Fall Colors Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Scheduled events that still have openings:

August 1 – 2   Colorado Wildflower workshop.  I usually hold this to coincide with the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, but I’m holding it later than usual this year because of the cool, wet spring, AND I’m holding it in Ouray.  I discovered high altitude fields above Ouray last year that are far better than anything I’ve found in Crested Butte.
August 1 – 8   Colorful Colorado.  The first 2 days of this 8 day workshop are the Ouray wildflower workshop, then we do a whirlwind tour of the state, including Hovenweep/Mesa Verde/Canyon of the Ancients, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain National Park, Maroon Bells, Crystal Mill, etc.
September 26 – 27  Colorado Fall Colors  We will base this workshop out of Ridgway.  Field work will include Ouray and Telluride
October 9 – 12  4 Day Moab to Monument Valley Night Photography     We’ll do night photography in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks before moving on to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley.
My Yellowstone/Tetons and Grand Canyon workshops are full.Scheduled
Many Thanks to The Surveyor Magazine for the Feature Article about my Photo Tour and Photography Workshop Exploits in the Desert Southwest Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

I am humbled beyond belief to be featured in the spring, 2015 issue of the Colorado Archaeology Association’s quarterly publication, The Surveyor, that features 3 photographers who are passionate about the desert southwest. To be mentioned in the same context as Tom Till and Adriel Heisy, and with accompanying articles by Sharon Tinainow and Stephen H. Lekson, head of the archaeology department at the University of Colorado is beyond imagination. The 4 page article about me describes some of my exploits in photographing and guiding in the desert southwest. This is the cover photo for my part of the publication.

http://www.coloradoarchaeology.org/PUBLICATIONS/Newsletters/TheSurveyor-2015Spring.pdf

Doll-House-Night-2-DUNDAS

The article follows some of my exploits shooting and guiding photo tours and photography workshops in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Cedar Mesa, Monument Valley and the slot canyons around Antelope Canyon.

Portrait Work in Monument Valley Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

I added a new dimension to my spring Moab to Monument Valley photography workshop this year.  Our Navajo guide arranged for a mother-daughter team to pose for a portrait session among the scenery of Monument Valley.  The workshop started as usual in Moab, with night session in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, and still included a day on Cedar Mesa near Blanding, but we finished with both night photography and portrait session in the Valley.  We’ll be repeating this in October this year!

Portrait-3 Portrait-9 Portrait-8

Rock Art and Ruins Desert Southwest Photo Tour: Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley Monday, May 11th, 2015

Many of the ruins I posted images of in the last couple of weeks will be included in the May and November “Rock Art and Ruins” photo tour in SE Utah. We’ll do a combination of day and night photography and include some iconic and some relatively unknown petroglyphs and pictographs.  We’ll start in Moab, shooting site in both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, then head south to Cedar Mesa before ending up doing a night photography photo tour in Monument Valley.

Doll-House-Night-2 - Copy Sego-Canyon-2 Sego-Canyon-1 Great-Gallery-front Mitten shadow Fallen-Roof-with-pots-2 Moon House Ruins Peephole   TIFF

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First Book Talk/Signing was a Success! Sunday, May 10th, 2015

We were totally blown away with the result of our book talk/signing tonight in Rocky Mountain National Park. Horrible weather all day and getting worse, 96 people showed up. Almost standing room only. We spent 30+ minutes afterward in the bookstore signing books; sold a bunch of books. Great applause, great feedback, and everything ran smoothly! Couldn’t be happier! This pic got the most OOOoooos.

Spruce House

Doing Photography in the Desert Southwest Thursday, May 7th, 2015

It’s All About the Search

Recollections about fieldwork in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Cedar Mesa and Colorado National Monument

I’ve retired twice. Photography is my 3rd career. I began the business side of this by conducting photo tours in Rocky Mountain National Park, a 45 minute drive from my home. That was in 2008. I think I had 4 clients in that first year. By 2014/2015 I was licensed and conducting private photo tours and group photography workshops in Colorado, Florida, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. I work in the Everglades, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park, Canyonlands, Arches, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Cedar Mesa. With all these spectacular places to call my office, my passion is the desert southwest. To quote Steve McQueen, “I’d rather be in the middle of nowhere than any place on earth”.

It’s not even conducting the photo tours and workshops that motivate me. Those are simply the means to the end. They provide the funds and the excuse for what really drives me, the search and sense of discovery. I have no recollection of my first visit to Mesa Arch, Delicate Arch or House on Fire Ruin, even though I have images of those places now considered iconic by some people. I do remember the 5 trips on 5 consecutive monthly new moons to Delicate Arch it took to get the lighting right for my night shot with the Milky Way.

Delicate Arch 2

I remember the 4 trips to House on Fire Ruin that it took to experiment with different lumen powers and light bulb Kelvin temperatures to get the look I wanted in this shot. I remember the 18 months of conversations with the powers that be at the Monticello office of the BLM over my rights to take and present this image to the public. Their first call to me was a 15 minute demand that I stop taking the picture and remove it from my website and all my promotional literature. It reached a point where they said “By reaching your hand inside the ruin to set a battery-powered lantern, you are, technically, entering the ruin” (which is illegal). Me: “What about the hundreds of people who stick their heads in to look around?” Them: “We can’t control them, but we can control you because you have a commercial permit”. This resolved itself in my favor when a scheduled meeting between us fell 3 days into the 2013 government shutdown.

House Fire Ruin Night20x41

My absolute favorite part of the business, though, is doing the field research in my never-ending hunt for new places to take clients. I began searching for Doll House Ruin in 2011. It was rumored to be in the age range of 750+ years old, in pristine condition and with a completely intact wood roof. There was no information available on the internet in 2011 about where it was located. I began by inquiring with the volunteers at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station on Cedar Mesa. After quite a bit of searching they came up with a set of GPS coordinates they translated from the government system to the public Degrees-MMss format. My wife and I spend 7 hours that day driving and searching, to no avail. I checked with the Edge of Cedars Museum and noted desert southwest archaeologist Winston Hurst. Later, I called the BLM office in Monticello. I expected them to deny knowing anything about it since the site was known to still have artifacts in situ. To my surprise, the ranger gave me another set of coordinates. Another search, another dead end. And so it went until early 2013 when I found a set of directions on a desert southwest site. I managed to find Doll House, even though the directions contained 2 errors! This is the image I got on that first visit. The next day I had a vision of shooting it a night with lighting. I went back in 2 weeks, carried in my lighting and came home with this.

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Doll-House-Night-2 - Copy

 My wife and I have just released our first book, A Photographer’s Guide to Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments. Before the printed versions even landed on my driveway I had a vision of doing another book, this one about night photography in the desert southwest. Who knows how many changes the concept for that book will undergo before it becomes a reality, but for now that is giving me the drive and focus to pursue new, uncommon images in that genre. A few weeks ago I spent parts of 3 days looking for The Big Crane petroglyph in Butler Wash. Even with GPS coordinates I just couldn’t rein it in. The third time was a charm (with the help of Jim from the Recapture Lodge in Bluff).

 The-Big-Crane---Night

The Crane is in the upper left of this image

Like any other job with deadlines (even if self-imposed), everything isn’t always fun and games. I just returned from a 2 week scouting trip to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley where the goal was to find new sites suitable for night photography. It rained, snowed or blew walls of dust all but one day of the trip. In 2014 I went into False Kiva, in Canyonlands National Park, for night photography. When I arrived there was a group of 3 young Asian tourists and an older man. They were in a conversation that I wasn’t really paying attention to, but struck me a bit strange. The man intended to stay for night photography. The Asians were leaving and said over their shoulders “Well, if the sky clears we may come back for night photography and if we do we’ll bring you some water.” Clearly, he had no water. What I didn’t know until later, after we struck up a conversation with him, was that the Asians had found him lying unconscious in the trail at the bottom of the alcove. They had managed to get him and his camera gear up into the alcove… and then left him. He had driven 15 hours straight from California to the False Kiva trailhead, then hiked in with no water or food. After our night shooting session it fell to me to guide him back to his car. About 5 minutes into the climb out he began screaming and vomiting violently. My friend and I ended up carrying all our gear out plus his gear. It took us 2 hours to get him back to his car.

False kiva night 9

One of my more interesting experiences happened while I was researching Colorado National Monument for our book. My plan was to hike the Independence Monument Trail to get a sunrise shot of the Monument and the Kissing Couple. Because it would be a 1 to 1.5 hour hike in the dark on an unfamiliar trail I hiked it the evening before and got this shot of the moonrise over Grand Mesa.

 6--Moonrise-from-Liberty-Cap-Trail

 

 

 

I started hiking the next morning about 4 AM. About two weeks prior, there had been reports of mountain lion encounters in the Boulder area, so mountain lions were a bit on my mind. In all my night hiking I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a critter of any kind, but I admit that on this day I stopped twice to scan around me with my headlamp for any eyes shining back at me. About one hour into the hike I rounded a bend and saw 21 pair of eyes reflecting back at me. With my heart racing, I quickly set up my tripod and camera and ripped off one shot while having no idea what my settings were. After about a minute I had the presence of mind to shoot again with a very high ISO (6400), which allowed me to see that they were big horn sheep. I continued along the trail and got the sunrise shot I was looking for. When I returned down the trail about an hour later the sheep were up, moving, and standing in the trail. As I approached, they parted, leaving me at a 30 foot path between them for me to pass through.

7---Colorado-National-Monument-Big-Horns-in-the-dark-FIRST

 

8---Colorado-National-Monument-Big-Horns-in-the-dark

There is a big difference between “taking pictures” and “doing photography”. Photography is hard work. I wouldn’t trade the experiences it provides for anything!

 

Bob Maynard operates Colorado Plateau Photo Tours (www.coloradoplateauphototours.com) and has just published his co-authored book, A Photographer’s Guide to Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments. He lives in Boulder, Colorado and loves photographing the desert southwest.

Ancient Skies Through Ancient Eyes Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I stopped at Sego Canyon on my way to Moab and Monument Valley to do this night shot.

Sego-Canyon-1

Night Photography in Canyonlands National Park Thursday, March 19th, 2015

I’ve always had a motto of “You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the shot”. I’m fairly certain this one will forever rate as the toughest shot I ever got. The Great Gallery, in central Utah, is a difficult 6.5 mile out and back hike. It starts with an 800 vertical foot descent into Horseshoe Canyon. Horseshoe Canyon is where Aron Ralston had to cut off his own arm after getting pinned by a boulder that shifted (see the movie 127 Hours). This means, of course, that the hike ends with an 800 vertical foot ASCENT. I was carrying 56 pounds of camera and lighting gear. My wife was carrying another 25 pounds. Combine all this with my 5 herniated/bulging discs and spinal arthritis and, well…
Coming out at midnight was an incredible experience, though!

Great-Gallery-left-side Great-Gallery-front