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National Parks

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Year in Review

A year ago I would have never imagined all the amazing places I would get to visit in 2013. It was a wild ride. Because 2013 was all about national Parks for me I decided for my year in review I would post my favorite image from every national park I visited in 2013.

 

I learned so much in 2013 and I hope these pictures inspire you to go visit a national park. There are so many incredible places in this world. To finish things off I'll leave you with my first foray into time lapses, hopefully in 2014 I'll be able to mix in a few awesome time lapses with the rest of my photos.

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Thank you

I thought I would stop and say thank you to all of you who have supported my photography this past year. I am so grateful for everyone who has been encouraging me and supporting me. Photography has taken me to some incredible places in the past year. 

Hopefully the next year will have equally amazing things in store. I'm working on another national park project for 2014. This time in Alaska. Hopefully everything will work out in planning it and finding the grants and sponsors to make it possible.

 

The stars are amazing at the rim of the Grand Canyon

The world is an amazing place that I am very grateful for, get out and experience it.

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Kickstarter Prints

For all of my Kickstarter backers, this is the gallery of images you can choose from for your print from the project. Once you find your favorite image, remember the title and choose that option on the form I will send you. Be sure to click on the thumbnails so you can see the bigger image and the title.

If you are not one of my Kickstarter backers but are interested in prints please contact me for pricing.

 

 

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Glacier National Park

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Glacier National Park

St. Mary Falls

Glacier National Park was one of the highlights of the trip and I can't wait to go back there. The mountains and valleys are incredible. We also saw a lot of wildlife in the pre-dawn hours. If you visit Glacier National Park, I would go in early July when the Going to the Sun Road will be completely open.

Originally, the Going to the Sun Road was going to be plowed late this year to save money, but once again through private donations from the community this was avoided. In many of the parks we visited the surrounding community felt that they had to pay to keep things open or the economic impacts on their community would be too great. 

 

According to the NPS website over 90% of roads in the national parks are in poor or seriously deficient condition.

One of the biggest ways we saw Glacier impacted by budget cuts was on their roads. The main road was in good condition, but many of the side roads were filled with damaged sections. This is part of the almost $11 billion maintenance backlog that has been growing drastically over the last decade.

If you have never been to Glacier make plans to go, it is simply a magical place. Don't forget to take your passport so you can see the Canadian side of the park. 

 

St. Mary Lake

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Zion National Park

Orderville Canyon in Zion National Park

Zion is one of my favorite places in the world. This was my first trip down one of its famous slot canyons. When going down a slot canyon it is very important that you have the technical skill for the specific canyon you will be going down.

Orderville was gorgeous. The way water carves the canyon walls is simply incredible. When photographing slot canyons it helps to have the sun high in the sky so it will bounce off the canyon walls and provide a nice glow.

For this image a used a CPL filter and got nice and close to the water cascading over the rocks. I kept my tripod high enough so that you could see some of the water's path. This helped to creat more depth to the image.

Zion Canyon Museum

Because Zion is such a large park it has been able to keep the impacts of budget cuts relatively low, but budget cut impacts are not absent from Zion. The Zion Canyon Museum had to shorten its summer hours to cut costs. These shorter hours will make it so fewer people will receive further education about Zion.

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Bryce Canyon

The Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park from Bryce Point

Bryce Canyon is like no other place on earth. The rock formations combined with the forest make for beautiful scenes. The staff has been hit pretty hard by budget cuts this year. When talking with a park ranger I was told that the seasonal staff has been cut by 15% and vacant positions are not being filled.

If you want to shoot from Bryce Point sunrise is an excellent time as are the blue hours before sunrise and after sunset.

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The Watchman

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 15mm 

Aperture: f/6.3  Shutter Speed: 1/50

Filter: Lee 0.9 GND Soft Edge

Shooting the Watchman with the Virgin River is one of Zion's iconic shots. I didn't want to make my shot like what most people were doing so instead of shooting from the road I wandered down the Pa'rus trail a little bit until I found this spot. It was nice because I was the only photographer there and when I walked back to the road there were probably 15-20 photographers cleaning up. I used a little lower aperture number than I would normally use because I didn't like how my shots were turning out with the water blurred. The Lee GND was key for this shot and it really helped balance the exposure between the foreground and the sky. Lining up a GND is pretty easy. I handhold my filters. To start I hold the filter against the lens with the dark part of the filter completely out of the frame and then while looking through the viewfinder I slide the filter down until the transition between light and dark is against the horizon.

When I got this shot into the computer I still thought the exposure wasn't balanced like I wanted it to be. So I loaded the single RAW file into HDR Efex Pro and tone mapped it. At first the result was WAY too strong so I dialed back the settings by about half in order to get a realistic result. I came away being very pleased with the shot. 


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Shooting the Stars in Joshua Tree

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 

Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

You don't have to stop shooting when the sun goes down. To get great pictures of the stars you will need a few things.

  1. A very dark place away from the city. In this picture from Joshua Tree you can see some light pollution from the city of 29 Palms even though the city was 15-20 miles away.
  2. Little or no moon. To have the best view of the stars shoot when there is no moon or the moon is just a sliver.
  3. A DSLR with long exposure noise reduction turned on. Long exposure noise reduction will essentially create a second black exposure of the same length as the original shot to see where the noisy spots are and then it will subtract them from your shot.
  4. A sturdy tripod. It is VERY important to have a good tripod when you are doing long exposures like this. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod .

You will need to shoot at a high ISO and at a very wide aperture. Notice that I shot at ISO 1600 and f/2.8.

When you are shooting the stars, remember your normal composition rules. You still want a foreground element to add interest to your shot. When framing the shot I like to hold my headlamp in one hand while I look through the viewfinder. This way I can put enough light on the scene to compose the image properly. The foreground was lit with our campfire and the moon. You can also light paint the scene with a flash light. In the image below you can see the stars better but there is no foreground element to add interest to the image.

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm   Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 

Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

A few notes on post processing. I really didn't do much for post processing in the first image, I tried to bring more detail out with some curve adjustments but it made the foreground too bright. In the second image I raised the exposure and adjusted the black point to keep the sky black.

One last tip. If you want to avoid star trails follow the 600 rule. Divide 600 by the 35mm effective focal length and that will give you the length of the exposure you can make. For example I shot at 11mm on an APSC sized sensor so the 35mm equivalent would be 16mm. So I take 600/16 and I get 37. So I could have made a 37 second exposure.

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Moulton Barn Part II

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 24mm 

0, -2, +2 ev

Aperture: f/8 

Quite often the key to good landscape photos is to chase the light. Usually this means shooting around sunrise or sunset. When I went to Mormon Row to have a look at this other barn, I wasn't expecting great shots. It was the middle of the afternoon and the lighting was not at a good angle. I snapped a few shots of the barn just for the heck of it and starting walking away. Then all of a sudden the sun lit up the  ground and barn beautifully. It made for a great contrast against the storm that was approaching. So I literally started running back to the barn to get this shot. The mountains and clouds make for a great background with the barn as middle ground and the grass as foreground. I processed these 3 exposures in HDR Efex Pro and brought up the lighting on the barn a bit with the dodge brush in Aperture 3.

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Subway

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 28mm 

-.33 ev

Aperture: f/13  Shutter Speed: 2.0s

The Subway is one of Zion's most famous places and it is also one of the top sites for photography in the park. Although it is so famous there are usually few people around because it is a very long hike in and the traffic is limited. The hike is about 10 miles round trip and is very strenuous. If you want to do the hike you will need to reserve a Zion backcountry permit. The hike is a bit technical and for the most part there is not a well defined trail. You basically follow the river once you are down in the canyon.

After about 5 miles of hiking you will get to the Subway portion, which is actually quite short. It is named for the tunnel like formation of the cliffs, see the image at the bottom of the post.

The image with the pools was a pretty straight forward composition. I wanted the lowest pool to be in the lower third of the picture to add foreground interest. The cascade of pools provided a great sweeping line that gives the image depth.

Subway+Small.jpg

As for the more technical details of the shot, I had a polarizer filter on my lens and chose the small aperture of f/13 so I could get the long shutter speed that would give the water a very smooth look. For post processing I took down the highlights a little, gave saturation a slight bump and sharpened it for the final result.

Subway+BW.jpg

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