Lori Carey Photography

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shooting Sunstars for Creative Intent

Trona Pinnacles silhouette with sunstar
Late afternoon at Trona Pinnacles

I've been playing around with bringing the sun into some of my desert photos to give a better feel of the desert environment. The strong backlighting in this scene at Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark caught my eye throughout the afternoon and I shot it a number of ways, but this image with the sunstar is the one that felt right. This is what the desert looks and feels like in the late afternoon on a winter day.

Sunstars are relatively easy to achieve. They are caused by diffraction as the light enters the lens and the number of spikes you see is determined by the number of aperture blades in your lens. Each straight edge of the iris creates a pair of spikes, however if your lens has an even number blades you will only see one spike per blade because the blades are parallel and the spikes overlap.

To shoot sunstars:

- Use a small aperture (f16 or smaller, and remember the bigger the number the smaller the aperture)

- Remove any filters because they will typically add too much flare as the light passes between the filter and the lens

- Because you are using a small aperture you will want your lens and sensor to be spotlessly clean unless you want to spend a lot of time in post cleaning up dust spots

- Although it is possible to achieve sunstars when including the entire sun in the frame it is much easier to achieve good results if you have part of the sun blocked or hidden. Try having just a bit of sun peeking out from behind a rock or tree, or leaving most of it out of the frame as I have done here.

- Many tutorials recommend using Aperture-Priority. The problem with this is that the bright sun will usually trick your camera's exposure meter into underexposing the scene. It's better to shoot in Manual mode, bracket and determine the correct exposure that will achieve your creative intent. If you don't want your foreground underexposed you will need to use a slower shutter speed than what your camera recommends.

- Using a small aperture in low light situations usually means you will be using a slower shutter speed...which means a tripod is a must.

- Adding contrast and clarity selectively in post can help make the spikes sharper if that is what you want. Again, it depends on your creative intent. In the image above I did not want a sharply defined star and chose to give the impression of sun rays.

This same technique is used to make points of light appear as stars in night photography, especially cityscapes.

Have you shot any sunstars that you want to show off? Feel free to link to them in the comments!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Camp, Trona Pinnacles

Camping at Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark

He keeps camp while I wander the night. I couldn't ask for a more perfect location to spend the night than this spot where we set up camp at Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark. It was a beautiful evening with an almost full moon and I roamed the desert for hours.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Have a Seat

Sofa in Mojave Desert

This is not the shot I wanted...there was a television about a half mile back and we were supposed to go back to grab it so I could set up a shot after we checked out the airplane graveyard in the background at the base of the mountains. But then there was a turn that looked interesting, and then another and another...next thing we knew we were miles away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cathedral City at Night

Trona Pinnacles at night.
Trona Pinnacles at Night

I'd been wanting to do some night photography at Trona Pinnacles for a while now and finally made it out there last weekend. With the moon close to full it wasn't the best timing for dark skies but it was great for moonlight on the surreal rock formations. If you have a high-clearance vehicle you can get out beyond the main grouping to the younger Northern Group further out in the Searles Dry Lake Bed (where there are no other people!), an incredible beautiful place to spend the night, then take the trails out to Ridgecrest or Red Mountain.

These ancient spires once known as Cathedral City are tufa (calcium carbonate) towers formed formed underwater more than 100,000 years ago when the surrounding area was at the bottom of Searles Lake, part of a chain of lakes that once stretched from Death Valley to Mono Lake. They are the same as the tufa found at Mono Lake, California.

If the landscape looks strangely familiar, it might be because many science fiction movies were filmed here, including Planet of the Apes, Lost in Space, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek v: The Final Frontier and others.

I still have a couple hundred shots to work through. This trip was back to back with a Salton Sea trip so I think I might take advantage of the coming storm to get caught up on my processing!

Jupiter and Tufa, Trona Pinnacles
Jupiter and Tufa Towers, Trona Pinnacles

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dana Point Harbor

A view of Dana Point Harbor looking pretty as a postcard from up on the headlands. I hadn't been up to this location in about a year so this was the first time that I've seen the results of the construction along the Strand. There is now a road providing scenic views where before it was just open land. The view was so pretty this day that the road was lined with cars from people who had pulled over to take photos. And of course that means someone asked me to take a photo of them.

"Would you mind? You look like you know what you're doing." the woman said as she eyed my hard-to-miss white 70-200 (haven't we all wished to be able to camouflage that lens somehow at one point or another??). The truth is that I absolutely dread when this happens. I do know what I'm doing...with an SLR. It's not that I mind, I am more than happy to do so, it's just that I have absolutely no idea what to do with a P&S other than hold the thing at arms length, frame the photo by zooming with my feet and clicking the button they show me to click. I don't really understand how people can frame a photo by holding a camera at arms length, I've been looking through a viewfinder for 30+ years. I can't hold it steady (massive caffeine intake has a lot to do with that), I can't evaluate what I am seeing the same way I do when I look through a viewfinder. I can't choose my aperture and shutter speed, I can't choose the proper focal length for the image I want, I don't know how to tell you that the spot you are in puts harsh shadows on your face that will look terrible or that you are backlit because I know that you want a photo with you standing in that exact spot with that exact background and the last time I asked someone how to turn on the flash in the middle of the day they thought I was crazy. I have a panic attack because you think I know what I am doing and I am afraid I am going to disappoint you because I really don't know how to do anything with your camera except to click the button. You'd probably be better off asking the guy standing next to me using his cell phone. (I'm no good at cell phone photography either!)

So that is why when you ask me to take your photo using your point-and-shoot I get a strange look on my face...it has nothing to do with you, it's all about me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sailing on Clouds II

Sailing on Clouds II. Two sailboats and clouds with reflection in Dana Point, California

This is the companion piece to the image I posted last week, this time with two sailboats and the spectacular white cloud reflection in the ocean off Dana Point, California.

I thought I had posted this image last week but this morning I realized that I hadn't because I didn't like how the automatic watermark looked since it covered an important element of the photo. No time to make up a new watermark right now if I want to get one more post out before October is over.

So why bother watermarking at all when so many people vehemently despise watermarks? I'm not silly enough to think that watermarking is going to prevent someone from illegally downloading/copying my images, anyone with a basic knowledge of image editing can easily remove a watermark, but since I do post large high resolution images on my website (which are embedded in my blog) I'm not going to make it too easy for them. The most important reason is that Section 1202 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to remove Copyright Management Information from an image to conceal infringement and each violation is subject to statutory damages of no less than $2,500 up to $25,000...whether or not the image was previously registered with the copyright office. Given that the protection afforded me under the DMCA is my primary reason for watermarking I have been rethinking the size and placement and believe that I will start using something a bit more discrete going forward.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sailing on Clouds

Sailing on Clouds. Sailboat and clouds with reflection in Dana Point, California

I don't ever in my life remember seeing such beautiful white cloud reflections on the ocean in the middle of the day. I used a polarizing filter to make the reflections pop and spent a few hours shooting with three different lenses as the sailboats sailed by. This was my first pick after reviewing my shots.

Prints here

Friday, September 28, 2012


Trona Pinnacles under stormy skies in black and white

When I first started photographing the desert I was in love with the rich sun-drenched colors. Over the years I gradually began desaturating many of my images because I felt that the strong colors frequently took away from the mood I was trying to depict. Most recently I have been doing a lot of black and white. I think it's partially in response to the hypersaturated overdone HDR images that seem so popular these days, but also because I believe that color can add to an image or it can take away from an image. When color doesn't actually add anything to an image I prefer it in black and white.

This is the Trona Pinnacles under stormy skies. They are tufa towers, similar to the ones found at Mono Lake, formed of calcium carbonate rising the from the ancient Searles Dry Lake bed. One of the strangest landscapes you can ever see, this has been the filming location for many movies such as Planet of the Apes, Lost in Space, Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek: The Final Frontier. The Trona Pinnacles were designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1968.


I just recently discovered that when my website host migrated their pricing function to a new system they messed up my pricing. I had checked a few galleries when they first did the migration and verified that all was fine, unfortunately I did not realize that most of my galleries no longer showed the option to buy prints. I'm not very happy about that, but it is what is. It has now been corrected (I think I fixed all of it). I also now offer mounting, matting and framing for all traditional prints in additional to my canvas gallery wraps and float mount metal prints. If you would like to purchase a print of Tempest you can do so here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Of Barbed Wire and Hubcaps

Hubcap on barbed wire fence, Mojave Desert

Sometimes I wonder if I should try explaining why I photograph the things I do and why I "ruin" a beautiful landscape with man-made elements. I wonder to myself if people will understand that somewhere along the line all of the pretty landscapes became just another pretty landscape to me, pretty to look at but with rare exception after a while they all started to look and feel the same. (This is not in any way meant to denigrate traditional landscape photographers, they enjoy what they do and the world loves and needs beautiful photos.)

I don't often share much of myself except through my images. Would you understand if I tried to explain that it's the story of the desert, the struggle of life and death, questions of mortality and immortality, man's constant attempts to conquer the desert ( Check says man, Checkmate says the desert), that it is all about the incongruous juxtaposition and meant to challenge your assumptions about traditional beauty, that it's about aloneness but not loneliness, that it's about strength and resiliency and loss and broken dreams but not loss of hope? Would you understand my need to roam around aimlessly for days on end looking for exactly this?

Does it even make sense to try to explain these things, or will it all sound too much like the pretentious rambling of some art school dropout wannabe? Should I post some random poem or song and let you make of it what you will? Or maybe I should post just the photo with no words knowing that most people won't understand because it doesn't meet their definition of beauty?

One day I will have this all figured out.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curator's Pick - Story Number 23

I was very honored to have this seascape image chosen as a Curator's Pick from among all of the images submitted this week in the G+ Fine Art Photography theme of MinimalMonday. Many incredibly talented photographers participate in the theme and I've only recently started sharing my abstract minimalism so it was a very validating experience to have it compared favorably to works by one of my favorite photographers Eric Fredine.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Last weekend of summer...

Beautiful clouds at dawn at the San Clemente Pier

Even though sunrise light is very hit or miss on a west coast beach it's still my favorite time of day to be there...no one around except the surfers, some joggers and a few workers getting everything ready for the crowds...I like to watch the world wake up. Every once in a while if I'm lucky and not socked in with fog, even though it's rare to get good color I might get some really cool clouds.

I'm selfishly glad that the official summer season is over; we'll still have summer-like weather here for at least another month or so but without the crowds and traffic and I'll actually be able to find a parking space close to my destination again. And hopefully soon we'll have some relief from the marine layer that has been hovering since March this year, making it more worthwhile to head to the beach for sunrise and sunset. All of my best beach sunsets were taken during the winter months.

This is technically an HDR image. The sun had only been up for a few minutes so the foreground was still quite dark, requiring multiple exposures. I'm not a big fan of overdone HDR for landscapes, especially ones that are oversaturated and have glaring halos. I blend multiple exposures quite often in my work but I prefer a more subtle and realistic look.

Monday, August 20, 2012

For Photographers: FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work
is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement
without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable
by fines and federal imprisonment.

As of last week you can use the same FBI Anti-Piracy Seal that you see at the beginning of movies on your copyrighted works, including your photos, as long as you follow the conditions outlined on the FBI website. It must appear on or in connection with copyrighted works (the work does not need to be registered with the Copyright Office) and must have the authorized official warning language immediately adjacent.

I personally think it's a bit much to put the seal directly on my photos, but I'm wondering if other photographers think that placing this warning somewhere on their website or maybe printed materials might help deter copyright infringement? Does anyone out there plan to make use of it, and if so, how?

Here's the link to the page on the FBI's site containing the specifics and the link to download the official FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal. Note that you will need to agree to the conditions before you can download the file.

FBI Anti-Piracy Seal

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

California Pepper Tree

California Pepper Tree  (Schinus molle)

There aren't many trees in the California Coastal Scrub habitat. It is unique to southern California, found from sea level to 1500 feet in elevation, the coast to the foothills. The shallow dry soil and Mediterranean climate is home to mainly soft-stemmed drought resistance chaparral. Other than ornamental landscaping trees, most of the few trees you do find were brought here from somewhere else (and now are considered invasive). The California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) is actually native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and was brought to the early missions by the Franciscans who needed a drought resistant shade tree.

Here a lone Pepper Tree provides a bit of drought resistant shade on the parched hills.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cinder Cone National Natural Landmark in the Mojave National Preserve

Cinder Cones National Natural Landmark in the Mojave National Preserve, California

Cinder cones are small hill-sized volcanoes with steep sides, conical shapes and a small crater at the top. There are over 30 in this area of the Mojave, along with thick black basalt lava flows and underground lava tubes for the adventurous to explore. The eruptions that formed these cinder cones and lava flows found in this area began 7.6 million years ago and finished about 10,000 years ago. It is thought that the lava came to the surface as the region was pulled apart creating the Basin and Range province.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I see my path...

I see my path, but I don't know where it leads.
Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.
Rosalia de Castro

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fly Me to the Moon - Shooting Fair Rides at Night

Orange County Fair silhouetted against twilight sky with moon

We went to the Orange County Fair Sunday night and I had my sights set on photographing the rides at twilight. Getting the new crescent moon in my shot was a definite bonus.

I love shooting lights at night because it takes a bit of skill. You can't rely on your camera's metering because a large amount of dark sky will cause you to blow out (over expose) the lights, especially the moon, and that doesn't look good at all. Three key things to taking great images of lights at night:

- Shoot at twilight when there is still some light in the sky.

- Using a tungsten light balance will make your sky a deep blue. If you shoot in RAW and use auto white balance you can always adjust your color temperature in post with Photoshop.

- Meter for the highlights. Have the 'blinkies' set on your image preview to show any blown highlights and keep dialing down your exposure until you have no blown highlights.

In this case I wanted a shutter speed low enough to give me some motion blur so it was a matter of finding the right shutter speed/aperature combination. With some of the riders closer to me than others I was able to show some motion while freezing the riders at the far right.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hiking in Mountain Lion Country

Los Ramblas Trail, San Juan Capistrano
Los Ramblas Trail

I love that even though I live less than a mile from the beach I have over 50 miles of hiking/equestrian trails right in my backyard (not counting the neighboring towns' trail networks they hook in to), most of it through wilderness areas. The signs placed every few yards remind us it is active mountain lion country. The photographer in me would love nothing more than to have an opportunity to photograph this beautiful animal in the wild but I will confess that sometimes I get a little nervous when I'm hiking alone, especially if there's been a recent attack or repeated sightings. Chances are you could hike for years in this area and never see this elusive animal, but as we continue to encroach on their territory the sightings have become more frequent and encounters occur more often. Since there was an attack in Norcal a few weeks ago and Whiting Ranch was closed earlier this week until they captured a young 100 pound male who was not afraid of humans and was exhibiting unusual behavior, it's a good time to review some best practices for hiking in mountain lion country.

- It's best not to hike alone. The noise and size of a group seems to deter attacks. Make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a mountain lion.
- Keep children close to you and dogs on a leash.
- Be extra alert at dawn and dusk when mountain lions are most active.
- Don't bend down or crouch. It makes you appear smaller and less aggressive, more like prey, and exposes the back of your neck and your head. If I need to bend down to get something out of my backpack I either put my back against something like a cliff wall if I'm alone or I have someone stand directly behind me.
- If you see evidence of a deer kill, immediately leave the area. Mountain lions usually drag their prey a short distance away from the kill spot and cover it with sticks and leaves, returning to feed on it for several days. Evidence of a kill is a good indication that there is a mountain lion waiting nearby.
- Hiking poles are good to have as they can be used to make yourself appear larger and to fend off an attack if needed.

If you see a mountain lion and it doesn't run away:
- Make sure to give the animal an exit route; most mountain lions want to avoid you just as much as you want to avoid them.
- Make yourself as large as possible; raise your arms, open and raise your jacket, wave a stick over your head.
- Make noise; yell and shout at the lion. Use a whistle.
-If you have small children, pick them up off the ground (without bending over).
- Maintain eye contact and do not run away. Running triggers the chase instinct. Back away while facing the animal.
- Be prepared to defend yourself. Hikers have successfully fended off attacks with sticks and rocks. If attacked try to remain standing and facing the animal.
- The most important thing to remember is to be the aggressor and don't act like prey!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Up, up and away

Red balloon against a blue sky with clouds

I'm not very good at talking about my successes. I hate people who always talk about how great they are so I tend to err too far on the side of caution, and that's not good for marketing or for myself. I suppose it's also partly because, as do most artists, I make the mistake of constantly comparing myself to others, which can be okay if you use it for inspiration and motivation but not so good if you let it make you feel like you're not good enough. It's too easy to forget that small achievements on the way to loftier goals are the secret to success, and it's hard not to fall into the trap of constantly pushing yourself to do better and never being happy with what you've achieved so far. If you don't celebrate your smaller successes you set yourself up for burnout.

So I've realized that I need to start talking about all of the good stuff that's been going on for me and today I'm celebrating some of the smaller successes I've had in the past few weeks, which actually aren't that small.

Thomas Hawk (yes that Thomas Hawk) recommended and circle-shared me as one of Google+'s Kick Ass Photographers.

Charles Lupica recommended and circle-shared me as one of Google+'s Most Interactive Theme Curators Who Rock (I curate Sign Sunday).

I competed in the Google+ Scavenger Hunt competition that is run by Chrysta Rae the last two rounds because it's a great way to push myself creatively. Each round competitors are given ten concepts that they have 30 days to photograph. The field is limited to 500 people and it's so popular that this month the sign-up limit was reached in just over an hour (fame, fortune and sweet prizes are at stake! Okay maybe not so much fortune...). And let me tell you, there is some scary good competition. The creativity and technical skills from some of these folks is mind boggling. When I think about who I'm competing against I'm pretty darn happy and proud that several of my photos have earned some firsts, thirds and honorable mentions, especially since shooting concepts isn't something I've done a lot of in the past. The first round I took a first, a third and two honorable mentions and tied for first place overall with my portfolio (but lost the tiebreaker.) Last month I really only put serious effort into one concept because I had so much on my plate, and that one image won a first place. Yeah, yeah, now imagine what I could do if I actually applied myself! Hey wait...this post is about getting rid of that kind of thinking!

I signed up for the next round. :)

Remember to give yourself a break and celebrate all of your little successes along the way toward your bigger goals...success is a journey and stringing all the little wins together is how you get there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Empty Nests

Empty nest

It's been really windy here lately and the other morning I found a brand new sparkling clean bird's nest floating in the pool beneath the palm tree. I fished it out and put it out to dry, then later that day I fished out another brand new nest. I don't know why birds build nests in the palm trees, they aren't very stable and there isn't much shelter. I'm fairly certain one of these belongs to the pair of Oriole's that are always in the tree but my best guess about the other would be the mockingbirds. The Orioles didn't learn their lesson because sure enough they are out there stripping strands from the palm fronds and appear to be building a new nest in the same place. When I looked up this morning I saw what looked to be the silhouette of a nest on a downward sloping palm frond.

Empty bird's nest #2

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Desert Salvation

Leonard Knight's bus, painted and covered with scripture, at Salvation Mountain in the California desert near Niland.

Leonard Knight's bus, painted and covered with scripture, at Salvation Mountain in the California desert near Niland.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Sailboat in fog

... This is grassland now. We are on the prairie. ...flatness and great emptiness as far as you can see... In my mind, when I look at these fields, I ... feel a thing about these prairies I have given up talking to others about; a thing that exists here because everything else does not and can be noticed because other things are absent. ...It's here, but I have no name for it.
- Robert L. Pirsig

Monday, June 4, 2012

San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon

Kenyan Nixon Machichim racing to the finish line to take first place in the San Diego Rock and Roll marathon on June 3, 2012 with an amazing time of 2:10:03

Desta Gebrehiwot on his way to a 2nd place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:10:13, just ten seconds behind winner Nixon Machichim.

Tesfaye Sendeku heading toward a 3rd place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012

1. Kenyan Nixon Machichim racing to the finish line to take first place in the San Diego Rock and Roll marathon on June 3, 2012 with an amazing time of 2:10:03
2. Desta Gebrehiwot on his way to a 2nd place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:10:13, just ten seconds behind winner Nixon Machichim
3. Tesfaye Sendeku heading toward a 3rd place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012

I was in San Diego early Sunday morning to photograph the Rock and Roll Marathon. Here are photos of the top five fastest men and women finishers.

As I was checking the site for race times I noticed how often some race photographers cut runners off at the knee or mid-shin when there was no compositional reason to do so. As a former athlete I want to see the look on their face, I want to see their muscles straining, I want to see a runner's feet in the air, I want to see how he moves. Don't amputate the most important part of a runner's body!

Weldon Kirui sprints toward the finish line for a fourth place win in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012.

Patrick Ivuti heads toward a 5th place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012

Russian Alevtina Ivanova comes down the home stretch to be the first woman to cross the finish line in the Rock and Roll San Diego marathon on June 3, 2012

4. Weldon Kirui sprints toward the finish line for a fourth place win in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012
5. Patrick Ivuti heads toward a 5th place finish in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012
6. Russian Alevtina Ivanova comes down the home stretch to be the first woman to cross the finish line in the Rock and Roll San Diego marathon on June 3, 2012

Meseret Legesse comes down the home stretch to finish 2nd in the Women's Elite division of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:28:00

Woynishet Girma comes down the home stretch to finish 3rd in the Women's Elite division of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:33:59.

7. Meseret Legesse comes down the home stretch to finish 2nd in the Women's Elite division of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:28:00
8. Woynishet Girma comes down the home stretch to finish 3rd in the Women's Elite division of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:33:59

Silvia Skvortsova in the home stretch of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, finished 4th in the Women's Elite division with a time of 2:23:10

Lyudmila Biktasheva finished 5th in the Womens Elite division of the San Deigo Rock and Roll marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:34:18

9. Silvia Skvortsova in the home stretch of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, finished 4th in the Women's Elite division with a time of 2:23:10
10. Lyudmila Biktasheva finished 5th in the Womens Elite division of the San Deigo Rock and Roll marathon on June 3, 2012 with a time of 2:34:18

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Salt Free Drinking Water

Aqua 2000 free-standing coin operated salt free water vending machine in Seeley, California.

This made me laugh because I never really gave much thought to the salt content of my drinking water unless I had just choked down a big ocean wave that caught me off guard.

Coin operated drinking water vending machines like this one in Seeley are common in the little desert agricultural towns of southeastern California surrounding the All-American and Coachella canals. At midday you'll see the farm workers lined up to fill their water jugs; that's where the real story is but my timing is always off...I usually stop here early the morning to fill up a jerry can before heading out on the trails for a few days.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Curves, Salton Sea Shoreline

Curves, Salton Sea shoreline

The images
We think
We see
Are not
The same
For you
Nor me
For images
Form in
A place
That has
Its own idea
Of space
Where beauty
By necessity
May vanish like
A shallow sea
By the Sun
It’s beauty lost
It's form
~ Egal Bohen

Although Egal Bohen is from the U.K. I can't help but think he was writing about the Salton Sea. Depending on who you ask it's either the most disgusting neglected place on earth, an area of surreal beauty, a birder's paradise, dangerous abandoned towns overrun with tweakers and outlaws or funky camps filled with wonderful outsider art and people who choose to live off the grid. For me it is whatever I want it to be when I'm there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A sign of things to come...

Signs at Slab City, a squatters' camp on an abandoned military base in the desert outside of Niland, California. Slab City, known as the Last Free Place in America, has seen a large increase in population due to the current economic situation of the US and California.

After auditioning as a guest curator for a little while I have been asked to officially take over as co-curator along with Jonathan Davis for Sign Sunday on GooglePlus. I'm excited about taking on a greater role in the G+ community and having the opportunity to meet and interact with even more photographers. If you're on G+ add our page +Sign Sunday and join in the fun by posting your photos of interesting or funny signs using the hashtag #SignSunday. If you are not on G+ and you are a photographer, what are you waiting for? G+ is without a doubt the most vibrant, active and friendly community for photographers of all genres. If you are new to G+, participating in themes is a great way to meet other photographers and make new friends. If signs aren't your thing check out the Daily Photography Themes page and see what else is going on.

The photos I've posted here today are some of the signs at Slab City, a squatters camp on an abandoned military base in the desert outside of Niland, California near the south end of the Salton Sea. Residents of Slab City call it The Last Free Place in America. Some people live here because they prefer to live off the grid, others are here because they have no where else to go. There is no running water or electricity. It's a funky place in the middle of nowhere filled with fantastic outsider art, an internet cafe, a library, even a golf course. This article in Time magazine gives a great description of what it's all about - Slab City, Here We Come: Living Life off the Grid in California's Badlands

AirRacket is the local band that plays at the range. J. Rae and I could hear them playing while we were doing the Supermoon shoot at Salvation Mountain. I could listen to this bluesy music all night long.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Searching for Salvation

Grafitti pointing toward Salvation Mountain in a burned out building in Niland, California

I love night photography and I love having a friend who is crazy enough to do it with me. Last week J. Rae and I made a night run out to the desert to shoot the SuperMoon. After the moon had risen high we hit a burned out building in what passes for downtown Niland. It wasn't until I was processing my photos that I realized the graffiti in the photo above pointed the way to Salvation Mountain.

Burned out building in downtown Niland, California

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Update to Security Issue in Photoshop

I was contacted by Adobe via my Google+ account this morning and they informed me that they have decided to patch the critical vulnerability I discussed in my previous post for Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash Professional CS5.x. You can read the Updated Security Bulletin on Adobe's site, and there is a good article explaining the situation at MacWorld.

Photoshop CS5 is still a supported product and it might not be in everyone's budget to upgrade immediately. I'm glad that Adobe chose to do the right thing and it was nice that they contacted me personally to let me know.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Critical security issue for users of PhotoShop CS5 and earlier

There is a critical security issue in Photoshop CS5 and older versions, a buffer overflow vulnerability which permits a maliciously crafted TIFF file to execute arbitrary code in both Windows and OS-X. Protek Research Lab reported the vulnerability to Adobe in September 2011 and rather than patch the existing version Adobe's solution is to address it in CS6. If you don't pay to upgrade from the previous verison you are SOL and should be very careful about opening any TIFF file that isn't your own.

In English - Unless and until you upgrade to CS6, do not use Photoshop to open any TIFF files unless you trust the source 100% or your computer could be hacked.

Adobe Security Bulletin APSB12-11

It's very disappointing to see that Adobe chose not to address the issue by releasing a patch at least for CS5. This is yet another move made by Adobe to force customers who choose not to switch to the subscription-based model to adhere to a shorter upgrade cycle. CS5 is two years old and cost $699 to purchase the base program or $999 for Extended. It costs $199 to upgrade from a previous version. This is not a small sum of money for an amateur, hobbyist or one-person shop. Most software companies support at least the previous version, and when we spend that much money on a software program we expect it to be supported at least for a reasonable period of time. As someone who has been using Photoshop since version 3.0 I've sunk $1600 into upgrades alone, and now they are telling me that unless I hand over another $200 I have to live with a critical security flaw? Shame on you Adobe!

On that note the free photo editing program GIMP recently announced that it is now able to handle 16-bit and 32-bit files in the development version.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dancing under the Super Moon in Slab City

Supermoon of 5 May 2012 rising over the Kama Sutra Tank, aka the Sex Tank, in Slab City behind Salvation Mountain in Niland, California

Last night my friend J. Rae and I made a crazy run out to the desert to photograph the Super Moon. Most of our photographer friends were in Yosemite to photograph the moonbow and since we couldn't think of anything interesting that was local, she proposed heading out to Salvation Mountain and Slab City in the desert near Niland. I threw my gear in the car mid-afternoon and headed out and I'm really glad that we're both crazy enough to do things like that. I got a lot of great photos, there are so many interesting things to photograph out there, but I got home so late last night (or I should say early this morning) that I only processed this one so far. It was a long night (actually the night seemed short but the drive home was endless!), but a lot of fun and very worth it.

This photo is the Super Moon over the Kama Sutra tank, aka the Sex Tank, in Slab City just a little ways behind Salvation Mountain. I just love the way the figures seem to be dancing in the moonlight. It is two exposures, one properly exposed for the moon and a longer one for the foreground, combined with layer masking.

We did a little shooting around Slab City before sunset, then after the tank we moved back to the front of Salvation Mountain to capture the moon rising behind the mountain, then moved on to do more night photography. Full moon nights aren't good for star trails, but they are outstanding for ambient light night photography.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

URGENT Call to Action for Photographers and other creatives

The US Copyright Office is proposing to raise copyright registration fees next year (2013). For photographers the fee for e-filing would increase from $35 per submission to $65, and a paper filing that now costs $65 would increase to $100. This is a huge increase, especially coming during tough economic times. Increasing registration fees would cause even fewer photographers to take this necessary step to protect their rights. We have until May 14, 2012 to provide feedback to the Office of General Counsel of the US Copyright Office via an electronic form on their site before the proposal is presented to Congress for review.

Please take a minute to submit your feedback to them and share this information with the photographers you know to help get the word out.

Form to Submit Feedback

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Copyright Fees

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Stone concretions at the Pumpkin Patch in Ocotillo Wells near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Wowee I have been out doing so much shooting lately that I can barely keep up with processing, let alone blog about it...I need to start catching up!

We were in Anza-Borrego two weekends ago to photograph the Lyrid meteor showers. It was 106+ degrees out there and not fun. My husband joined me on this trip and he was a pretty good sport about it. One thing about going to Anza-Borrego, which is in the Colorado desert region of the larger Sonoran desert, as opposed to the Mojave is proximity to civilization; good or bad depending on your viewpoint. In this case it was an advantage because we decided to run into town (Borrego Springs) for some ice cream in the afternoon when the heat was making us cranky. We spent the day checking out some trails in the Badlands area before setting up to watch the meteor showers at Vista del Mapais, a lesser-known viewpoint overlooking the Badlands.

The photo above is of some of the sandstone concretions in an area of Ocotillo Wells adjoining Anza-Borrego Desert State Park known as the Pumpkin Patch. It is said that the concretions form in a manner similar to pearls, started by a piece of shell, a grain of sand or even an insect. The concretions in the Pumpkin Patch were formed in the sediments of the ancestral Colorado River some three million years ago. Natural erosion caused by wind and rain gradually reveals the strange formations. The largest patch of them are fenced in to protect them, but erosion continues to reveal more of them up on the hillsides.

If you want to go see them, take the trail through the Arroyo Salado Campground into the Arroyo Salado Wash. At 3.5 miles from pavement make a right at the turnoff for 17 Palms Oasis. Continue past 5 Palms Oasis and when you reach the next junction at Tule Wash, stay left following the wash until you reach the Pumpkin Patch on the right. An unexpected added bonus is a very clean bathroom located at the site. The trail is deep loose sand and 4WD is strongly recommended.

These type of globular masses can be found throughout the southwestern deserts. A few other places to see stone concretions in the Anza-Borrego area are Arroyo Tapiado, Arroyo Seco del Diablo and Cannonball Wash.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Borrego Springs Sky Art

Night photo of Giant Eagle sculpture by Ricardo Bracedo for the Galleta Meadows Sky Art installation.

I've always wanted to photograph the giant metal sculptures by Richard Braceda that are scattered throughout the desert in Borrego Springs and I finally had my chance last month to do some night photography. These sculptures are impressive enough during the day but at night they almost seem to come alive.

Galleta Meadows owner Dennis Avery commissioned Bracedo to create many large metal sculptures for display on the open desert property he owns in Borrego Springs, California near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. He graciously allows the public to wander his private property to view the sculptures and enjoy the desert scenery. The original group of sculptures represented native animals that roamed these lands many years ago, later sculptures were added to reflect the history of the area, and the most recent are whimsical in nature. There are currently over 120 sculptures throughout the Borrego Valley.

The Giant Bird with a rattlesnake in its talons seen in the image above has a 30 foot wing span and is 24 feet from beak to tail. The Tyrannosaurus rex seen below is 20 feet tall. Since there were six of us all trying to shoot at the same time we were a bit limited in what we could do because we had to take turns and leave room for each other. Some of my friends have done incredible star trail shots here in the past but I was happy to do some light painting with shorter exposures. The top photo was done using my favorite warm light flashlight and the bottom photo was light painted by someone else using a colder light.

Night photograph of Tyrannosaurus Rex sculpture by Ricardo Braceda for the Galleta Meadows Sky Art installation.

There are many really cool sculptures there and I'm looking forward to adding more photos of the Sky Art to my collection soon. If you want to visit the sculptures in person you can get a map of the locations on the Galleta Meadows website.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

TDS Desert Safari Commemorative Prints

Fireworks over Ocotillo Wells for the 50th anniversary of Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari

In conjunction with the Tierra del Sol jeep club I am pleased to announce the release of a collection of commemorative prints celebrating the 50th anniversary of Desert Safari. These are photos from the fireworks show with the club logos. The collection has special pricing and 50% of all profits from the sales of these prints will be donated to their land closure fight.

You can browse and purchase the commemorative prints in my Tierra del Sol 50th Desert Safari gallery.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stormy Weather

Laguna Beach, California under stormy skies

Wow I have a lot of posting to catch up on! Have been shooting like a mad woman and have so much to share!

Storms can make for great photography with moody dramatic skies and big waves at the beach. The conditions are usually miserable and it's a lot more fun to do it with friends. Funny how I'd always been a solo shooter my entire life, but once I found others who share the same level of passion and dedication (and are great people) I found that I really like spending time shooting with them. The weekend before last I had so much fun with some friends shooting at the beach in Laguna during the storm. We actually got lucky and didn't get rained on until the very end (and then we got soaked), but the sunset made a poor showing despite what initially looked promising. That's okay, we had an awesome time getting soaked together and then wrapping it up with clam chowder and hot coffee to get warm.

Even with a weather sealed camera, when you are shooting in the rain with big waves crashing all around you (especially if you like to get down low to the action like us) it's a good idea to give your camera and lens some extra protection. A fancy expensive rain cover isn't necessary, especially if you don't frequently shoot in harsh conditions. My favorite trick is to put a plastic bag over my camera and lens, lens first, then screw on the lens hood. Screwing on the lens hood usually is enough to cut a hole exactly the size of your lens, and for extra security you can use some gaffers tape to secure the bag to the hood. A plastic grocery store bag will do the trick, a gallon-size ziplock gives heavier protection and is a good size for your camera and wide-angle to moderate length lens. Using the hood gives the front of your lens extra protection from rain drops and splashes. In the past two weeks I can count six photographers I know who had their camera or lens get a soaking while shooting the ocean during a storm so you can never be too careful.

I'm still working on my favorite image from the outing but wanted to share a couple others taken that day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shooting against a bright sky - 2012 SJC Swallows' Day Parade

Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) at the Swallows Parade in San Juan Capistrano, CA

Beginning photographers are often cautioned to always keep the sun at their back because shooting into the sun or against a bright sky requires understanding how light works and how your camera meters for exposure. Understanding the limitations of your camera's dynamic range (the ratio between maximum and minimum measurable brightness of light...white and black) is key; while the human eye can see a range of up to 24 f-stops, your digital camera can only see 10-14 f-stops. When a scene encompasses a range of more than 10 f-stops of brightness your camera simply cannot expose properly for both the brightest and darkest values. If you have it set to automatic exposure the brightest whites will show as gray and your subject will be greatly underexposed and look like muddy silhouettes. That's when you need to decide from a creative standpoint if you want to expose the brightest areas properly and let the darker values go black, or expose for the darker values (such as people) and let the brightest value blow out (go pure white).

Saturday was the annual San Juan Capistrano Swallows' Day Parade, part of the Fiesta de las Golondrinas (Festival of the Swallow). After just about any Mardi Gras parade this is the most fun parade I've ever attended. It is the country's largest non-motorized parade and that means lots of beautiful horses. The parade celebrates the legend of the return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano and is a wonderful display of heritage, history and culture with caballeros, vaqueros, wild west outlaws, local Indian tribes, mounted sheriff's posse from around the state, dancing horses, a group of tiny little padres, children dressed as swallows and the beautiful little dancers from Ballet Folklerico in their colorful dresses.

2012 Swallows' Day Parade, part of San Juan Capistrano's annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas (Festival of the Swallow) to celebrate the legend of the return of the swallows to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The parade is the nation's largest non-motorized parade.

I like to shoot a parade from down low (very low) for two reason; it isolates the main subject against the sky instead of getting lost in the crowd and it makes my photos different from everyone else's. If you see a crazy blonde lying in the street with her camera at a parade, that's me! The route the Swallows' Day Parade runs puts the sun behind the riders and if you don't compensate for this you will be disappointed with your photos. This year we had a heavy overcast sky but right before the start of the parade the sun decided to become strong enough to make the overcast sky and clouds very bright.

2012 Swallows' Day Parade, part of San Juan Capistrano's annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas (Festival of the Swallow) to celebrate the legend of the return of the swallows to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The parade is the nation's largest non-motorized parade.

There are a few easy ways to properly exposure the foreground when shooting against a bright sky:

- You can use fill flash.

- You can use spot-metering instead of evaluative and meter off your subject. This can be tough to do when shooting a fast moving subject such as birds in flight or horses galloping by.

- You can use exposure compensation, either in-camera compensation or manually. With dark subjects against a very bright sky you need to compensate about 2 full stops give or take. With digital it's usually easy enough to take a few shots and make adjustments until you get the exposure dialed in right where you want it. You can either use evaluative metering and +2 compensation in aperture-priority or shutter-priority modes depending on your subject(or programmed mode if that's where you are in your photography education...it will still give you a much better image than shooting straight program mode without any compensation), or you can set your exposure manually. Using a fairly wide aperture will help separate your subject from the background crowd.

2012 Swallows' Day Parade, part of San Juan Capistrano's annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas (Festival of the Swallow) to celebrate the legend of the return of the swallows to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The parade is the nation's largest non-motorized parade.

Using this technique does mean that you may suffer some minor problems from light leak around trees, hair and other fine objects at times, but it's a fair trade-off for having a properly exposed subject.

2012 Swallows' Day Parade, part of San Juan Capistrano's annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas (Festival of the Swallow) to celebrate the legend of the return of the swallows to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The parade is the nation's largest non-motorized parade.

Same as every year, when I looked behind me on Saturday I was drooling over how bright the colorful costumes were in the sun. I wonder if I can convince the parade organizers to run the route in the opposite direction for even prettier photos?

Click to see more photos from SJC Swallows' Day Parade

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Borrego Badlands

The beautiful colors and layers of the Borrego Badlands, viewed from Fonts Point, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

From up on Fonts Point this is my favorite spot in all of the Borrego Badlands. When you look out over the vast rugged terrain it's easy to miss the layers of subtle colors, an artists' palette that shows warm red, pink and gold when the sun is low and cool blues in the shade. If you could see the left slope of the hills on the right in this shot you would see that just the center of them has a cascade of yellow sliding down the center.

I don't think I'll ever tire of photographing this exact spot, but one of these days I need to be down there at the bottom finding my way through the washes that squiggle through the eroded hills to get to this very exact spot.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tierra del Sol's 50th anniversary Desert Safari Fireworks

Fireworks over Ocotillo Wells for the 50th anniversary of Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari

Last weekend in Anza-Borrego was fantastic! Jeff Sullivan is a fantastic landscape photographer who also leads photography workshops. While he was out here in California working on images for his upcoming book he generously invited a few of us to tag along with him on informal photo-walks to Anza-Borrego, Joshua Tree, Valley of Fire, Yosemite, Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra and more. I wish I had planned to follow him and Lori straight to Joshua Tree after Anza-Borrego (especially after seeing that he got some great light out there), and I had so much fun that I'm contemplating joining the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite trips.

I spent Friday-Sunday in Anza-Borrego and made some great new friends, had fun exploring slot canyons and some new trails I had never been on before during the day, then hung out until 2am every night doing night photography and was up before 5am every morning for sunrise. The only disappointment was the boring light at sunrise and sunset every single day...no clouds.

I've always been a solo shooter and this was my first experience shooting with a group. This was the perfect size; eight of us altogether and four of us who spent our nights (and mornings!) doing night photography until the wee hours. Even with such a small group it can be hard to learn to 'share' if you've never shoot with a group before, and sometimes you just have to realize that you're not going to get the shot you had hoped for. Four people just can't do star trails with the same subject in a narrow slot canyon while the moonlight is good. But that small downside is far outweighed by the upside; getting to meet some fantastic local photographers who are a lot of fun, finding some new locations, the camaraderie of others who live and breath the same stuff, having good company when trekking around the desert in the middle of the night, drinking tequila sunrises while doing long exposures...sure is a lot more fun than being out there by myself! Thank you Jeff and Lori Hibbett for your hospitality and putting together such a fun weekend, it was really great to meet both of you. And special thanks to John Moore, Tony Payne (no website Tony??) and J. Rae Chipera for all of the fun under the stars...you guys rock!

It was the same weekend of Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari...tough decision because Bill really wanted to do TDS but since he ended up working all weekend my photography won out. I did get to hang out with some jeepers Saturday morning when I had to head out to get gas but I never found any of my jeep friends. I was there in spirit with you! This was the 50th anniversary of the Desert Safari and Saturday night they celebrated with fireworks. Jeff found us a great overlook to photograph the show.

Fireworks over Ocotillo Wells for the 50th anniversary of Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari

You can see more fireworks images in the gallery here and I'll be posting more photos from this trip soon.