If you ask anyone “what’s your favorite whether” most people will likely respond sunny clear sky. It is indeed a pleasant weather. It cheers us up and lifts our moods. I bet you’ll see more happy faces on a sunny day than on a gloomy overcast day.
It is indeed most enjoyable weather for most activity. With a small exception of landscape photography. Clear sky is empty and boring in landscape photographs. How many landscape photographs have you seen that struck you with its beauty of clear sky? Not many, if any. The only image that comes to my mind is by Freeman Patterson with a wall by the right edge of an image, fence by the bottom edge and a person’s head in the right bottom corner, the rest of the image is blue clear sky. And it is not even a landscape.
So, when a photographer is met with such weather what is left to do? Right, turn to close-ups or abstracts or both. Such was the case on my trip to Alberta. On the third day by Abraham Lake I was greeted with sunny clear sky. It was warm too. Very pleasant weather for a little stroll somewhere in a park. I’ve enjoyed it and tried to make some images. But to my dismay nothing was working out. The air was so crisp and clear that even during sunrise there were now color in the sky. The sky was simply getting brighter and brighter.
Eventually, I had to accept that it was not a great day for landscape and started paying more attention to the things under my feet, which was mostly ice. And what a fascinated subject it turned out to be. There were so many different textures and shapes. Here look for yourself.
Day 2. Sunrise at Snow Lake
We woke up to quite morning. First thing first: locate the camera that I left for the night to photograph star trails. Next onto photographing sunrise, breakfast could wait just a little bit.
It was freezing but no wind at all, absolute stillness. Good opportunity to photograph reflections in Snow Lake. The water level was incredibly low exposing steep banks of the lake that typically lay deep under water.
The textures created by sand and dust deposits brought here by water then dried up when the water level dropped were fascinating. We could see golden larches at higher elevations. They seemed so close.
The tops of the mountains were lit up pretty nicely. I wish there were some clouds too to add to the light show but the sky was as clear blue as it could be.
After photographing sunrise we made breakfast from freeze-dried bags. Once both our creativity and bodies were fed we packed up and moved out toward Enchantment Lakes.
The first week of this September this year my family and friends went to Pacific Coast of Olympic Peninsula. We went to First Beach, Second Beach and Rialto Beach. We had a lot of fun. My son as always was heading numerous construction projects on the beaches or maintaining fire. And I as always used any time available to do some photography.
This time there were no breathtaking sunsets, no amazing colors but there were spectacular clouds, textures, reflections. Sounds like a good opportunity for black-and-white photography.
I’m mostly doing color photography nowadays but whenever I try converting some of my photos to black-and-white they still look great. Which leads me to thinking that color can add something to a photo but it cannot make a photo. The photo should be strong even without color. Color is just an icing on a cake.
Other times the color is weak, or unpleasant, or destructive. Like on this trip the color was boring, it was not adding anything to photographs. And sometimes it was unpleasant yellowish color on the clouds that I did not like. Thus I was completely focused on making black-and-white photography.
My family and I have just returned from a week long vacation in a small ocean shore town in an area with intriguing name "The Lost Coast". This is the only section of US Pacific coast that does not have highway 1 following the coast line.
This is probably the only remote place left on the west coast. No cell coverage, no internet for 5 days. And we’ve survived! More than that it was pretty enjoyable. Lots of fun for kids and parents. And a lot of photographic opportunities.
On the way back we stopped in San Francisco for a couple of days where I had fun photographing Golden Gate and Presidio in fog.
I’m just starting to dig thru all the photos I took on the trip. Meanwhile here is an image I made a year ago. A photograph of iconic Golden Gate bridge overlaid with a texture of a rock that I found just about where I took this photo of the bridge.
Golden Gate Post Card
PS I’ll keep posting to my blog from my backlog of photos while I’m digging thru the images from a trip to The Lost Coast.
Day 6, Dawn
It is my last day in Death Valley, to be more accurate my last morning at Death Valley since after sunrise I will be driving back to Las Vegas and flying home. I can’t wait to hug my wife and son.
On my last morning at Death Valley I decided to photograph at Zabriskie Point. Morning photos from Zabriskie Point has become cliché. I heard stories of tens of photographers showing up there at sunrise. Strangely enough with several trips to Death Valley I’ve never been there. It was about time to change that.
Surprisingly I was the only person there… That’s one hour before sunrise. By sunrise there were 9 photographers and about 15 spectators.
I took several panoramas before, during and after sunrise. The sunrise was not very impressive – there were not much clouds in the sky. Only while reviewing panoramas at home I realized that I created a tale of light of that morning – I was taking a panorama every time there was significant change in light.
So here it is, a tale of light at Zabriskie Point. (Click on the images to see them in larger size.)
6:07 Deep blue of twilight.
6:21 Sunrise moving across the sky.
6:29 Touchdown. The gap between horizon and line of sunrise closed. The clouds lit up.
6:32 Sun kissed the mountains.
7:03 The light is deep in the valley.
Day 5, Dawn
At night dunes are filled with animal sounds. By the morning there are lots of signs of creatures’ night life – all kind of tracks in the dunes.
Day 3, Morning
The most interesting thing for me in dunes is their texture. I just walk the dunes and collect different textures like a biologist collecting specimens. And sometimes texture leads somewhere like in this case lines of the texture lead into valley. White peaks of Sierra Nevada range are visible in the distance (barely visible on a small picture). It is amazing how such extremely hot and cold places are located so close to each other.
Day 2, Sunrise
My first sunrise on this trip was at Badwater. That’s a large flat with lots of salt deposits from drying out water. The salt is brought by streams running down the mountains surrounding the valley in those rare cases there is a rain in Death Valley.
I wanted to capture psychedelic twilight and early dawn colors that I saw long time ago here but now with better techniques. This time colors were too weak, so I had to put gold-n-blue polarizer to give them a punch. I use this filter very rarely because it saturates and shifts colors too much for my taste. The only exception when I use would be photographing sunrise or sunset when rich orange colors would be expected and I don’t get those colors without this filter.
I liked how sky came out with gold-n-blue polarizer but I did not like the color cast on salt flats. Thus in post-processing I removed the color cast and put back the color of salt flats without gold-n-blue polarizer.
My first attempt to remove cast was to do color balance. Unfortunately, I could not color balance uniformly across the whole field. That’s because gold-n-blue polarizer produces different color casts depending on an angle to light source (Sun in this case). Given that this is more than 180 degree panorama the color casts produced by the filter in the middle and on the sides was significantly different. As I color balanced middle of the photo, I’d have unpleasant green color cast on the sides. As I color balanced sides I’d get magenta cast in the middle.
After that struggle I decided that the only way to fix color cast on the salt flats was to get rid of color information completely and bring back color from a photo without polarizer. The first step was putting a black and white layer on top of salt flats to remove color completely. Then I put photo filter with color picked from photo taken without the gold-n-blue polarizer. The last step was blending that with original color of this photograph to add variation and make smooth transitions between colors.