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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Moab Adventure

     As you probably all know by now, Moab, Utah and the surrounding area is one of my favorite places to photograph.  The rugged terrain of Canyon Lands National Park and Arches National Park are within just a few miles of the town.  There’s also Dead Horse Point State Park and miles upon miles of hiking and biking trails in some of the most beautifully rugged scenery in the world.  Last week was my umpteenth trip to those places and the more days I’ve spent there the better the pictures.  Exploring a place time after time allows for familiarity and that gives one the ability  to find hidden locations off the beaten path and use creativity to compose better images. 
     After a seven hour trip, Wayne and I arrived at Arches about six in the evening.  I found some out of the way petrified sand dunes to photograph, but more importantly, as it was getting dark,  we spied some small collection pools left over from a heavy rain storm two days earlier.  The water would make for perfect reflections of the surrounding cliffs and sky if we got a great sunrise the next morning.  The photo hint here is to always be looking for places that might give you better pictures under different circumstances.  About 8:30pm we found our way into town for dinner and after a short night of light sleep, I was on those pools with camera and tripod at 5:30am. Giving myself forty five minutes before sun up allowed me the time to see which puddles would set up for the best reflections.  The dawn broke without a cloud in the sky and my hunch paid off perfectly.  The mauves, burnt oranges and yellows of the massive sandstone monoliths and cliffs were captured brilliantly in those little ponds. 
     That afternoon we met up with a friend who mountain bikes regularly on the hundreds of slick rock trails around Moab and got some great pictures of him using incredible daring and skill on his cycle.  If you can capture adventure scenes among the cliffs, you’ll get some great perspective of the size and majesty of the scenery.  Use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second to freeze the blazingly fast action. 
     Our third day, the thermometer reached ninety which is still pretty mild when considering summer temperatures can reach over 100 degrees for days at a time.  We had a guide (required) who led us on a four hour hike into a place called the Fiery Furnace.  Inside the maze of three hundred foot cliffs, canyons, dead ends, poison ivy, slot canyons, reflecting pools and arches we found some spectacular photo opportunities.  There were some pretty tricky trails to navigate for yours truly and I must admit that some puckering was involved when teetering on narrow, sandy ledges looking into dark crevices at my feet.  Obviously and lucky for me I made it and was able to write this column.  Off to the next adventure!  Click 

Chasing Turkey

For several years I’ve tried to photograph wild turkeys with very limited success.  Following up on hints from my sources, it’s been a turkey chase of biblical proportions to say the least.  Jackson reservoir, out east,  has been on my tracking radar many times, but as fate would have it, it’s always the same old story. “You should have been here yesterday.  There were three big Tom’s (that’s a male bird)  strutting (that’s when they spread their tail feathers to impress the girls)  but who knows where they are today.”  More research  has taken me  to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Last year after much hiking and driving, we found some Toms on private property.  We talked to the land owners and they promised us that if we showed up at sunup the next morning, Mr Turkey would be strutting  his stuff just off their back porch.  Well, that night it rained like cats and dogs and after an hour drive in the dark and arriving at the appropriate  time, the old birds had vanished.  Several people have told me that the old strutters hide out around Masonville, but after many forays into that neck of the woods the results have been zero.  I did find them once about ten miles up the Poudre Canyon, but they saw yours truly first and made for a hasty getaway up a steep hill and through the timber.  Here’s a big hint: Don’t try chasing turkeys!  They’re  faster than us and by the time you get set to take a picture they’re gone. 
     Sometimes if you put in enough hard work, the odds start to swing in your favor and lady luck  might help out as well.  Last month, after a bunch of research on the internet, I found a little gem called Rattlesnake Springs in southern New Mexico.  Arriving on the scene about 4pm, several old guys were strutting right on the road and for the next three hours it was if all the turkey gods had placed a bunch of the birds right there for me to photograph.  Heck, for the next two days it was the same and after years of frustration I was able to add some good pictures to the portfolio. 

     When it rains, sometimes it pours.  Bruce Miller, a friend of mine here in Fort Collins and a buyer for Cabela’s  was watching out for me.  He happened on to a property in western Nebraska that was chucked full of  turkeys and invited me up for a day.  Sure enough, I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when a whole herd of the big birds trotted across a field in front of us.  They strutted up and down the place for most of the day and by sunset the camera and I had bagged a bunch more pictures.  Next week we’re heading back for more!  Thank you Bruce!  To all you photographers, be aware that sometimes fate hands you nothing and once in awhile  it sends you a turkey.  Click

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

On Mother's Day, we are made aware of the one person who has played such an important part in our lives.  Our mothers brought us into this world and sacrificed many of their hopes, dreams and desires for us.  We all take pictures, but nothing is more important than taking photographs of the people we love.  On this day, try taking a picture of your mom that celebrates and honors all that she means to you.  Here are some of my suggestions that might help.
     We've all seen images of people giving their best forced smile.  They just don't show the real character of the person.  Get your mom to relax and try to capture the spirit of what makes her so incredible.  That sparkle in her eyes or maybe a certain look you always seem to remember.  Don't have her sitting in a chair and posing for the camera. That's absolutely the best way to make someone feel totally uncomfortable.  Don't have her look up from the table with food in her mouth and say "smile"!   If you have a zoom lens, stand back and capture her true essence while she's involved in one of her favorite activities. There are so many ways to be creative here.  Photograph her in a conversation with someone else, especially other family members who are the love and pride of her life.  Doing something with her children usually produces  a special smile or just catch her in a quiet moment when she knows you're  not looking.  Playing her favorite sport or doing something she loves can be great too.  Don't forget to step out from behind the camera once in awhile and have someone else take a picture  of the two of you together.
     Sometimes I take hundreds of photographs of the same subject before I find the one that's best.  It gives me lots and lots of choices to choose from and shows me what really works and what usually doesn't.  Try doing the same and you'll be surprised  with something incredible.  More importantly, it will provide for many, many good memories. 
     Work on your lighting.  It can make or break a good picture.  Watch out for those mixes of  ugly light and shadow crossing  her face and don't burn those beautiful features out with a flash.  If you're indoors, look for places that have naturally soft light filtering through windows or bouncing off walls. 
     Try and  remember that you're taking pictures that honor your mother. They capture  moments in time that you'll enjoy now and will serve as a part of your family's  history.  Take photographs that show all that is special about her and realize that they might be passed on to future generations.  I've certainly spent hours at my parents house looking at the old family albums.

     Most importantly, let me say “Thank You” to my mother, Joanne Schendel who has given so much of her life for her children and made mine so special.  I love you Mom, with all my heart!  Happy Mother's Day.  Click