Photography and Travel Journal
Welcome to my Photography and Travel Journal. Here I will take you on my travel adventures as well as share stories of my photography, give tips and tricks and anything else that seems exciting to me. Newer posts are displayed on this page with links for older posts listed near the bottom of the page.
The most difficult aspect about photography is how to achieve unique images with your own individualized style. As a beginner, it may be necessary to capture it all so that you can figure out what it is you really like to photograph. Once you figure out what you like to photograph, developing an individualized style using creative photography may be the next step. Even seasoned photographers may find themselves wishing to expand on their style due to changing technologies, lifestyles, or just a newfound passion for something different.
Here are three exercises that may help you explore different styles.
Your Unique Photographs, Your Unique Branding
If you have spent a good deal of time on the internet, you’ve noticed that different photographers use different means of adding a watermark or brand to their images. Some use logos while others use signatures. And many use the most common method of utilizing the Type Tool in Photoshop to type in their name. But what if you want something that is uniquely yours and not something someone else has created for you?
In this video, I show you the easiest way to create your own unique signature for any uploaded image. In addition, these signatures can be used for lab-printed images on products such as aluminum or face-mounted acrylics (many pens, even sharpies, can be wiped off using alcohol or acetate). Or maybe you are using a site such as Fine Art America that prints your work and ships it directly to the customer. For each of these situations, a permanent digital signature is a great solution.
Just as writers have writer’s blocks, photographers can have visual blocks. I often hear from my private workshop clients that they feel scattered, can’t find a direction, feel overwhelmed by the choices of post-processing programs, and start looking at the process of being a photographer as a burden. Or, as the professionals say, “photography has become just a job and I have lost some of that passion.”
This is a real concern for many people, novice and professionals alike. But it is comforting to know that most photographers, at some point in their life, experience this.
Just as emotional thoughts can lead to amazing creativity, it can also be the cause of a block. Here are a couple of ways to face the emotional part of the block.
Zion National Park. HDR Processing
The HDR photography of the past is nothing like it is now. Most photographers have gotten away from the intense “HDR Look” of the high saturation, high detail, and gritty look and have embraced using software to bring out tonal ranges that can result in realistic landscape photographs.
The most important aspect of HDR software is that it helps combine different exposed images into a single image where the highlights are not overblown and the shadows have detail.
With the use of tone mapping, ghost removal, noise reduction, and alignment, the software of today makes it much easier and faster to create beautiful images.
Building a Cohesive Landscape Photography Portfolio
Can you imagine if your whole landscape photography portfolio could only be made up of images from one location? Well, that was the challenge that Christine Hauber faced as she embarked on a several-month journey to photograph the Mojave Desert as artist in residence at the Mojave National Preserve. Not only was she challenged by the sheer vastness and desolation of the desert landscape, but she also needed to create a portfolio that was both diverse and cohesive - and that accurately reflected her personal experience and artistic style.
Shooting exclusively in infrared black and white, this 25-year veteran of photography achieved that goal beautifully. We were curious to hear how she did it and what advice she has for other photographers who would like to put together a cohesive gallery show or portfolio of their own. Here’s what she had to say:
This was the first show I’ve done that needed to be site-specific. Every image had to be shot in Mojave National Preserve. That was probably the biggest challenge. I stayed in the Preserve for a total of four weeks (luckily I have an RV, so that was easy to do) and created a portfolio exclusively using images I shot during that time.
In this article, I’ll talk about shooting, processing, printing and hanging your photos so that they make up a cohesive body of work, using my experiences in Mojave as an example.... Click Here to Continue Reading
Beginner's Guide to Creative Texture Blending
As an Art Photographer, I am always looking for ways to display my work in a unique and creative way. The competition is fierce out there for beautiful landscape and nature photographs with awesome sunrises or sunsets. Often, I am in a beautiful place, but the sky just doesn't cooperate. Regardless, I still photograph the beautiful subjects with the less than compelling skies knowing I can creatively work with the image later by using layers.
Texture blending is creative way to add an artistic component to your photographs. You can take an ordinary image and make it more dynamic or you can use texture blending to add more creativity to an already interesting image....Click Here to Continue Reading
Creative Photography to Overcome Midday Blues
Perfect light with the perfect subject is a desire of all photographers. But what about all of the times of the day when the light is not ideal... such as the times when you go on an outing with friends and they are not interested in getting up early for sunrise and need to be back home in time for dinner? Or how about the family vacations where photography is not the focus of anyone except you? There are also times when you plan a photography adventure, buy your plane tickets and set your travel plans, and get there only to find Mother Nature not cooperating. So, what are you to do with all the times when conditions are not ideal? Heaven forbid you leave your camera behind!
In this segment, I focus on midday light and how creative photography can help you to capture stunning images.
By watching the light from sunrise to sunset, you'll notice that during sunrise and sunset, colors tend to be warm and calmly subdued. It's beautiful light and, with the right amount of clouds, you can have an award-winning image. As the sun nears midday, the light gets cooler (more bluish) and more contrasted. Highlights and shadows can compete with your subject creating a busy and unappealing scene; it's important to know how best to work within these conditions.....Click Here to Continue Reading
Five Ideas to Develop Your Creative Eye in Photography
As a society, we're bombarded with images all day long, from billboards to television to social media. As photographers, those images can really influence us. We've all been guilty of seeing an image and wanting to go to that exact spot to capture that same photograph. But when creative photography comes into play, it means stepping back, assessing the scene, and finding a way to present it differently. Often creativity in photography is a personal choice and it's what can can really make it compete in the Fine Art arena.
First Rim 2 Rim Adventure In the Grand Canyon
My friend, Jessica and I decided to research the idea of hiking Rim2Rim of the Grand Canyon last year after spending countless days and miles hiking the mountains of the Greater Phoenix area. The Rim 2 Rim hike takes hikers from either the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim or vise versa. Being that we are both lifelong athletes, with her enjoying long distance running in the heat of Arizona and me with swimming, yoga and hiking in such places as Colorado, Texas, Wyoming and New Mexico we knew we could tackle this together.
While hiking Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale in February, I mentioned wanting to eventually do the Rim 2 Rim hike in the Grand Canyon. Immediately, she exclaimed, "Me too! I have always wanted to do that!" Well that got the ball rolling! So as artists (she is an amazing painter...click for her website), we both looked at our crazy art show and workshop schedules to see when we could possibly fit in the time to do this. We were highly motivated and did not want to just talk about this, we actually wanted to commit to it.
Based on our schedules, we both had a few weeks of June available and a bit of time in October. We had heard how difficult it is to get camping permits in the prime months of spring and fall so we decided we would first put in an application for June and if we were denied, we would try again for October. So, I put in the application for multiple days throughout the month of June and low and behold, we got chosen for June 22-25, which also turns out to be historically the hottest week of the year. What were we thinking? We received the acceptance letter from the Grand Canyon National Park Forest Rangers with strong advice to reconsider because of the heat. But, they did include information about staying safe in the heat. I also joined a Facebook page, Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers where many seasoned summer GC hikers were very helpful in giving sound advice.
Grand Canyon - First View
It was hard to believe we were going to be entering into this massive canyon.
We would be crossing the Colorado River (seen in the middle of the frame). It was all so daunting!
So skip forward to June 21.
Jessica and I met on the South Rim near the Backcountry Office. Luckily, we had to use the bathroom so while there, we asked the Ranger a few last minute questions. He proceeded to inform us that a pipe had just burst on the North Kaibab trail, essentially shutting down all fresh drinking water for the fourteen mile hike. He also let us know that the temperature at the bottom was expected to be 120 degrees. We were completely prepared for the hot temperatures but the lack of fresh water put a bit of anxiety into our minds. We had backup iodine tabs just in case, but didn't want to have to rely on the unknown (for us). We had originally planned to do most of our hiking with a start time, so the added weight of additional water was something to consider.
We left my car parked in the South Rim lot and drove her truck to the North Rim. During the four hour drive we considered our options. We had reservations that night at the Demotte campground and talked about setting up camp knowing we would have to break it all down at so we could start hiking at . We then discussed the idea of not sleeping but instead starting out soon after our arrival to the North Rim. I had already spent eight hours driving from Santa Fe, NM and then the additional four hours driving from the South Rim to the North Rim. Who really needed sleep? Funny thing, I had adrenaline rushing through my veins so I don't think I could have slept even if I wanted to, so the decision was made to "get rolling".
North Rim - Grand Canyon
We arrived at the North Rim just after sunset and took a few photographs of the vanishing light. We then found the North Kaibab parking lot, ate cold leftover Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti and loaded our backpacks with water and four days of camping necessities. (my camera and tripod being part of those necessities!) We turned on our headlamps, lifted our heavy 40lb backpacks on our backs, grabbed our hiking poles and headed out into the cool 80 degree night. Our first campground would be at Bright Angel, a fourteen mile hike.
As much as we enjoyed the North Kaibab trail in the cool darkness, we did not get to see what the landscape looked like. If someone asks me what I thought of that leg of the trip, I would only be able to say, "the spiders and scorpions were cool." Someday, I will return to experience it during cooler daytime temperatures when I can really see the beauty of the North Rim area.
Sometime during the middle of the night, we happened upon some benches. We stopped to rest, eat some salty snacks and use the restroom. While sitting there, we realized how tired we had become and decided to take a short catnap. I am not one who can sleep anywhere but I soon learned that Jessica has the ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time. She was soon fast asleep while I struggled to get comfortable on the hard bench all the while thinking about the critters running about. I may have fallen asleep for a short while but its hard to say, because in reality, it felt like I was awake the whole time having somewhat crazy visions. If they were dreams, they were vivid and incomprehensible.
At some point, a noise alerted me. In the darkness, I could sense it was coming from the bathrooms that our benches were near. But after about ten minutes, the person was banging around and not actually exiting the facility. Many thoughts went through my sleep deprived head and after about five minutes more, I awakened Jessica. In her daze, she listened for a moment and then quickly became fully awake, throwing on her backpack and starting down the hill ahead of me. She was truly afraid we would be dismembered and stuffed down the compostable toilets, never to be heard from again. Once we had our wits about us, we concluded that it must have been a Forest Ranger cleaning the bathrooms. But we still wondered if was the time to do such a task. I figured with the heat of the day, nighttime was probably the best time to take care of such a task.
We hiked on with an occasional hiker(s) passing in the opposite direction. As the sun began to light up the landscape, we stopped and enjoyed the beauty around us. We had missed so much in the dark. It was amazingly beautiful as the sun began to light up the distant plateaus.
Sunrise on the North Kaibab Trail
Sunrise on North Kaibab Trail, looking back in the direction from which we came.
Soon after exiting the Box, we arrived at Phantom Ranch. We were almost out of water and luckily, fresh drinking water was still available there. They had restricted all other water usage so anyone staying at Phantom Ranch expecting a cooling shower to clean up was in for a rude awakening. After a quick bathroom stop, we hoisted our backpacks back on and continued the short hike to Bright Angel Campground. We had arrived at around 8am. We found a site on the river side, got out our sleeping pads, hung our backpacks on the tall poles provided and laid down in the quickly diminishing shade. Jessica promptly fell asleep, while I struggled to get comfortable on the hard sand. Eventually, I may have gotten about 30 minutes of sleep.
We spent the remainder of the day around camp, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, watching the silly ground squirrels and sitting in the cool creek that ran along side the campground. We walked back to Phantom Ranch to get more drinking water, listen to the Ranger talk and indulge in a cup of Phantom Ranch's wonderful lemonade. It was well worth the $3.
Sneaky Ground Squirrel
We had to hoist our backpacks up onto tall polls. But the Ravens could figure out how to unzip the packs!
My neighbor had a granola bar stolen.
We returned to camp and set up the 2lb Tarptent Jessica had borrowed from her uncle. After our nighttime experience seeing so many spiders and scorpions on the trails, we were reluctant to sleep out under the stars. We had two nights reserved at this campground, so it made sense to set it up. That night, I finally slept like a log. Jessica, on the other hand, finally had some issues with getting a good night sleep.
The next day, we both awoke with very sore calf muscles. Again, the temperatures were predicted to be around 120 degrees. We each packed a small day pack and headed the two miles back through the Box to find the small falls and creek that we could hang out in and stay cool. We ended up spending most of the day there talking to various hikers and Ranger Marty, who hikes down to the Phantom Ranch ranger station where he works eight days on and then has six days off. It was a perfect way to spend the day, with our feet in the cool water with little tadpoles and fish swimming about nibbling on our toes.
That night the wind picked up and because we may not have secured our Tarptent correctly, it started to cave in on us. Twice we attempted to fix it, but we were so tired and knew we had to get up at 2am so we could start hiking the next leg of the trip by 3am. We spent the night with the foot end of the tent flapping around on us. Luckily the head-end of the tent stayed erect so we were safe from being asphyxiated. So, I tried imagining that I was getting a specialty massage but then anytime the wind stopped blowing, the tent fabric would settle down on my legs making me sweat. As soon as I would get used to that feeling, the wind would pick up and the flapping would begin again. Jessica managed to sleep through most of it (holy cow!) while I tossed and turned all night.
We awoke to the smell of a skunk. Then as we were getting ready, I exclaimed, "Oh my gosh Jessica...a Ringtail Cat!!!" "Hmmm", she responded without an inkling of enthusiasm. We set out at 3am, headlamps glowing. We had lightened our loads a bit by donating some of our packaged food to the emergency hiker box in front of the Ranger Station. Our next destination for overnight camping was Indian Garden Campground. Being that it is located in a canopy of trees, the temperatures would be a bit lower but our five mile hike was to be all uphill. We felt great, energetic and the hike seemed easier than either of us expected. (we had crazy expectations, especially after our first day and the 14 mile hike)
This section of Bright Angel Trail took us from the Colorado River up to Indian Garden Campground
Upon arrival at the campground, we quickly found a nice shady spot. I again found the critters fascinating..."Look Jessica, a deer!" "Yea", she responded. "Jessica...look at the ravens trying to get in those camper's backpacks!" "Uh huh." Finally, I told her my story of wanting to be a veterinarian growing up and my enchantment with animals, birds and critters. If I wasn't a photographer, I could have been happy working with animals or being a biologist studying animals. She told me that she was good with dogs, but beyond that, animals didn't interest her. (gee, like I couldn't figure that one out) We ended up spending the remainder of the day napping, reading, watching the entertaining animals (actually only I did this), talking to other hikers and hanging out in the creek there.
Indian Garden - View from the Campground
Right before this photo was taken, his mother was teaching him all about backpacks and the great food that could be found inside, if they
could just figure out how to pull those zipper open.
Just Passing Through
That evening we did a 1.5 mile hike to Plateau Point to watch the sunset over the canyon.
After talking with other hikers and the Ranger, we chose to forego the Tarpent that night and instead sleep out under the stars. As we were getting ready, I heard an odd sound. I looked up with my headlamp and saw the cutest Screech Owl sitting in the tree. "Jessica! A Screech Owl!" Without looking, she attempted for my benefit, "Oh wow!" Luckily for her, I think that was the last unique creature I had the pleasure of seeing on that trip.
That night, Jessica quickly fell asleep while I tossed and turned half the night. I swore I was feeling things crawling over my hands and arms. Needless to say, I was ready to begin hiking at 3am. We headed out into the night to hike the final leg of the Bright Angel Trail.
We did well for the first three miles but I could completely feel my body running out of steam. I had not really paid attention to what I ate that morning but knew I drank a bunch of water. The electrolytes I had brought had previously given me bad headaches on two occasions during this hike so I did not want to drink any that morning. I was starting to feel a bit nauseous but continued to drink bits of water. I had to stop and rest every five minutes because my legs did not want to go any further. My mouth was dry. Finally, Jessica forced us both to sit down on the edge of the path, open our packs and pull out the food we had remaining. She gave me her salty pretzels that just stuck to the inside of my dry mouth. I swallowed them down with difficulty with the last remaining but amazingly delicious orange I had carried around. I ate some salty nut mix and drank a bit more water. Jessica then lightened my load a bit more by taking my now very heavy sleeping pad.
I rose and put on my backpack that now felt a bit more comfortable and we continued up the trail. Within minutes, I had regained my strength and the dryness in my mouth disappeared. As prepared as we were, not having an appetite during this whole trip was something I was not used to. I had been warned about the lack of appetite and how forcing yourself to eat was important. We had eaten so much the day before, so I thought that would hold me. But, also getting up at 3am after very little sleep did affect my ability to think straight. It was great that there were two of us so that we could hold each other accountable especially when it came to eating enough salt and potassium along with water and calories.
Almost at the Top
Bright Angel Trail. Getting so close to finishing this adventure!
As we climbed towards the top, we were met with many, many tourists and day hikers who smelled great and looked fresh and lively. They rooted us on, letting us know that we were almost there. I felt a sense of relief and a tear came to my eye. After four days, I can't imagine how we looked but we didn't care....
WE DID IT!!!
***Follow-up. It has been two weeks since this amazing adventure! I don't regret anything we did. What I learned and want to do differently next time is...I would like to do this hike in one long day or get reservations at Phantom Ranch so that I only have to carry a day pack. We had four days of food, extra water because of the water pipe break and camping necessities that really added a lot of weight to our packs. As a photographer, I felt I needed my camera, but in reality, the weight may not have been worth it. All the above images were taken with my iPhone, so I was able to get nice photos. Anyway, granted, hind site is 20/20 and everything we took felt like a necessity even to this day. I just would like to be able to hike more quickly and enjoy the beauty of the Grand Canyon rather than having aching shoulders.
I had the incredible pleasure of being asked to go to Iceland this year with one of my workshop clients, turned friend, Kathy. Iceland had been on my radar for a number of years so when she brought up the idea I was positively responsive! This was exciting because it was not only Iceland, it was also a one-on-one workshop!
I don't believe there is a bad time to visit Iceland, it was just a matter of what we wanted to focus our attention on. It is very well known for its waterfalls and luckily they flow all year round. With Iceland being just the size of Kentucky, massive lava fields, mountains and glaciers gobble up a large majority of the island. The winters are very cold and daylight hours are short but we had the Northern Lights and Ice Caves to consider. Summers are best know for the extended daylight hours but the wildflowers are growing, waterfalls running full force and the cute Puffin birds have migrated there and are nesting. With spring and fall, there is a possibility to get a taste of any of those things.
I am often asked....how do you find your creativity? I can honestly say that I was born this way...an introvert with a deep interest in seeing things more closely than what is presented on the surface. As a child, I would spend hours outside alone looking up into trees and seeing the little crevices the critters made, the flickering of the light on a backlit leaf and how the shadows and light created depth. Even now as an adult, I find solace in being able to absorb the natural world around me. But taking those feelings and translating them onto a two dimensional surface becomes less about creativity and more about talent and experience. Learning visually what is most appealing in compositions, how light affects mood and how to use the equipment whether it be a set of oil paints, a camera and darkroom or pen and ink is of upmost importance.
I have spent my life constantly learning about different forms of art and although most are very appealing to me, my talent seems to reside more with being able to capture what I see rather than what I can create in my mind. I tried my hand at oil painting and was fairly good at it, but I didn't feel extremely passionate about it mainly because it wasn't spontaneous enough for me. I also have enjoyed ceramics but have enjoyed it more as a hobby. When my chance to learn more about photography came about, it seemed as if everything clicked. I could capture in a split second, exactly what I was seeing and then take the film into the darkroom and experience what I thought was true magic. Now with computer software and digital cameras, I am able to extend my creative vision a bit further.
My creativity is constantly changing and evolving. I have learned to just enjoy the process because the few times I have forced a creative path that I don't have passion about, my work suffers and in turn, I start feeling empty.
Some of my newest work takes my love of the past and combines it with a touch of color.
I am finally back in Santa Fe, New Mexico for more than just a few weeks. This summer has been a crazy one. First, I had a two week photography trip to Texas where I photographed a wedding, had a couple of private one-on-one workshops, a mini workshop in Big Bend National Park and photographed family portraits. Then I had a ten day photography trip to Grand Teton National Park where I taught a five-day landscape workshop with Matt Suess and a ten day trip to Colorado where I had a couple of private one-on-one workshops in addition to a busy family reunion.
During my time in Colorado, I was able to photograph a hawk in a state park that just seemed as curious about us and our cameras as we were of him. This turned out to be an exciting private photography session. As I told them, "Expect the unexpected"!
Here are some of my favorite images from my time traveling:
Eye on the Prize
The Stare Down
Watching Over the Land
From Working in the USA - Behind the Scenes -
I left Strasburg, Colorado and continued east to Byers where I found my first Working in the U.S.A subject. Craig, who refers to himself as a treasure hunter, was selling goods from his beat up van at a corner in town. With everything from clothes to jewelry, he was basically a garage sale on wheels. Long hair held back with bands, black sunglasses, tattoos, and t-shirt with a naked woman artistically rendered as a motorcycle spoke of a man rough around the edges. But he was friendly. Craig had had some mishaps in life, which made selling used goods one of his best money making options. He said he wanted to stay out of trouble and spend more time with his children. He seemed content with this choice and commented that the biggest problem with is job is finding enough stuff for all the people out there looking for more stuff. Though he didn’t appear excited about me taking his picture, he told everyone coming to the van who I was, what I was doing, and that he would be part of my Project.