Pumpkin Spiced Fall

After getting the new Nikon Z7, I was excited to experience fall colors in Virginia. This area has a lot of diversity to the landscapes, and I wanted to put the camera through its paces while exploring some of Virginia’s best offerings.

In total, I drove several hundred miles to each end of the state - from Southwest Virginia and the New River Valley, to the coastline of Virginia Beach - to capture these fall photographs. I promise they are also scratch and sniff… should smell like pumpkin spice!

We’re now entering the long winter months, where the photography can be a little more challenging, but there’s another Scenic Traverse Photography adventure on the horizon. Stay tuned for more great explorations soon.

Which is your favorite?

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Revisiting a Memorable Moment

It is amazing what a difference a few years makes. Photography, like any craft or art, is a growth. Look at the works of any famous photographer, painter, or musician and you will see history remembers them in phases.

And while I don't dare compare myself to the greats, I can still see huge evolution in my own photography. I spend more time looking at the light, looking for 'moments' and waiting for something special than I did before. I have a better understanding of the capabilities of my cameras and how to generate incredible results from them. And I have a more refined understanding of light.

All of this translates in my photographs, and I recently revisited a place where I took a photograph that was very special to me and attempted to elevate it. 

The location? Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. In 2013, I visited the park and made a photograph that would later win the honors for the 2014 Vincent Versace Award for Photographic Excellence. As a result, that location has been a special spot for me, but I had not been back since. I recently felt like I had grown enough as a photographer to revisit the location and wanted to see what sort of image I could create now. This is the result.

In a future blog post I'll break down this photograph and deconstruct making it - because it is actually a panorama of five images that took nearly 30 minutes of on-scene shooting with my Leica SL to create. Everything in the image is authentic - including the swirl of water - and required the full extent of my photographic know-how to accomplish. I'm very proud of the revised image, and hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Quick Shot: Urban Landscapes

I consider myself, first and foremost, a landscape photographer. But if I tell someone that I'm a landscape photographer, they assume I focus on trees and mountains..... which is partially true. I love a good nature scene. Yet I believe in many types of landscapes, and enjoy photographing all of them. 

Today I'm sharing a series of images that capture the urban landscape - that is a landscape that focuses less on trees and blue skies and more of the urban jungle created by mankind. When I photograph the urban landscape, I try to focus on capturing those little scenes that we've become numb to - the things we see so often that we no longer stop to appreciate their beauty.

As you look at these images, I hope you'll be reminded that there are beautiful landscapes and whimsical settings all around us. I captured these images using a Leica Monochrom with f/0.95 Noctilux (because that lens is not just for portraiture!).

This is a bit of a surrealist image - a photograph of a light pole with a reflection of a light pole

 A sign on one of the locks and waterways on the Danube River. This lock separates the boundary between Austria and Germany.

These old trollies in Austria looked like they were fresh out of 1970. I loved them!

Water spigot here.

Staircase running along a hydro electric powerplant

Tram tracks in a busy intersection in Vienna, Austria

Bridge struts in Budapest, Hungary

Inside one of the locks on the River Danube

Quick Shot: A Little Bit of Fall

These photos need little introduction! Fall is here, pumpkin spiced drinks are in vogue, and my camera has been busy soaking in all that action. Here's a collection of my favorite fall images from this season, taken with my Leica Camera SL Type 601 and 24-90mm lens.

Reflections on a perfectly calm day at one of the Tarns in the Lake District

Pine trees starting to yellow on the banks of Lake Buttermere

Yellow leaf on a log 

Quick Shot: A Walk In Dreamland

I took the photograph at Thetford Forest Park in central England on a sunny day. The path is actually part of a network of mountain bike trailers in the park, and the light through the treetops was perfectly illuminating this patch of grass that I put into focus. The dreamy effect comes from the soft bokeh and focus of the 50mm Leica Noctilux f/0.95, which has a very distinct style. Images made with the Noctilux are known for this softness, which was the perfect tool to really give the viewer the feeling of a stroll through dreamland. 

Quick Shot: Lush

Spring is fast approaching in England, and that was very evident last weekend while hiking through Thetford Forest. Although the temperature hovered near freezing and it actually hailed during the hike, there was also moments of brilliant sunshine casting through the green tree canopies, creating a lush forest scene that screamed of changing seasons. Using the Leica SL (Type 601) and the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, I took this photograph of the trees with the sunlight casting a brilliant green hue over the forest.

Quick Shot: Trees

Nothing too fancy, just a beautiful image of some pine trees lined up along the beach on Llanddwyn Island in Wales. I really liked the fence in the foreground and the fact that you could see parts of the beach through the trees. I actually took a few images with my digital Leica and my film camera before I settled on this being my favorite.

This is a film photograph taken with a Hasselblad 503CX on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Finnish Forrest

I have been saturating my website with aurora photos, so it's time for a quick change up! Today's quick shot features one of the landscapes I was most excited to see while in Finland --- trees sagging under the weight of months of snow. 

This was one of the easiest shots I took in Finland. We were hiking on a small trail with some snowshoes and the low sunlight on the horizon gave some nice color to the sky. All I needed to do was stand back and shoot!

PS - if a trip like this interests you, check out www.theaurorazone.com. They were top notch!

Quick Shot: Rocks and Waves

Like my 10 minute photograph from a few days ago, this is a merge of several photographs to create a temporal photo. Unlike the one from earlier this week, this photo only represents about a minute of time because the sand kept shifting my tripod, making it difficult to keep everything perfectly stable.

Thankfully, three photos was all I needed to catch the drama of the waves and some nice clouds! This photograph was taken near the fishing pier at Leesylvania State Park and I used two stacked neutral density filters to create a long exposure. To create the final image, I merged these into a 32 bit photo in Adobe Photoshop Photo Merge. I then used Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert the photograph to black and white.

When I took this series, I wasn't optimistic about the outcome, but the final result was much better than expected! In fact, it's one of my favorites from the weekend. 

The dramatic rocks and waves at Leesylvania State Park were captured with a merge of three photographs

Quick Shot: Leesylvania Fishing Pier

I posted yesterday about my adventure to Leesylvania State Park to capture my 10 minute photograph, but wanted to share another from that location of the fishing pier. Like my earlier photo, this was shot using a neutral density filter and a long exposure to blur the water and make the crowd of people milling around look as though they were never there!

Composing this photo wasn't very difficult - but the challenge was keeping the camera still. I was centered on the fishing pier, which is a wooden pier that extends some distance into the water. Unfortunately (for me), the pier bounces and shakes as people walk on it, so I actually had to time this photo for a break in the Memorial Day crowds to get 20 seconds without anyone tromping up and down the bridge near the camera. It took several tries - I felt like every time I clicked the shutter a jogger with metal boots came out of nowhere to shake the heck out of the bridge - but I finally prevailed over the lead foot joggers! This was the only one that was tack sharp with no vibrations from the bridge, which coincidentally also had the sun and clouds in the best position! 

I edited the photograph in Adobe Photoshop and using the Nik Collection of software. I think the end result looks very inviting - what do you think?

With a little luck, I managed to get a long exposure of the fishing pier looking back at the shore without anyone walking in my photograph! I used a neutral density filter to give a long exposure in the evening light.

Quick Shot: Frozen Geese

I'd been hiking my favorite local spot, Mason Neck State Park, when creativity struck and I found myself looking at one of my least photographed subjects..... Canadian Geese! I rarely photograph Canadian Geese - they're such a common subject and have never excited my creativity - until yesterday.

I'd been out looking for eagles and other raptors, but towards the end of the hike I walked up to the edge of the Occoquan Bay to watch sunset. I was watching some water fowl fishing amongst the ice floating in the bay as the sun dipped behind a cloud. As that happened, the scene went from a washed out "meh" to being absolutely spectacularly bright yellow. I have rarely seen the sun make the water so brilliantly bright! I decided the best way to capture the scene was to get two silhouettes of the geese feeding amongst the ice chunks.

Of course, that's easier said than done - I had to wait for both birds to offer a profile view because they just looked like dark blobs on the water when they were facing me! It was a challenge to juggle the brilliant light with birds that weren't exactly cooperating, but I was patient. When the bird on the right turned for just a second I fired away and got this shot..... and good thing too! Just a minute later, the sun had emerged back out and the bright colors were gone. 

Photography is often a waiting game to get the perfect lighting or scene and when the moment is just right, we've got to be ready to take advantage of it! As photographers, we refer to that moment in time when everything is perfect as the decisive moment - I think I got it this time!

Shot with my Nikon 80-400mm on the Nikon D800. Minor edits done in Adobe Photoshop CC. If you like this photograph, you can purchase a copy as a limited edition on my website.

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Quick Shot: Difficult Sunset

I am excited to present my first Quick Shot of 2014, which was one of the last pictures I took in 2013. 

Photographers are all about great lighting in a photograph - sometimes we seek out our most common light source (the sun) during sunrises and sets. On occasion, without pre-planning, we get really lucky and the sun just happens to be in the perfect spot at the perfect moment. Such is the case with today's Quick Shot.

I'd been out photographing Difficult Run, which is a stream that comes off of Great Falls National Park (located near downtown Washington, DC). The trip was designed for me to teach my friend Tim about using neutral density filters, but I was taking plenty of my own shots. With the neutral density filter, the goal was to shoot long exposures of the water to give a whispy and flowing effect, but as I setup for one shot, I realized I was going to get a whole lot more.

As I crouched down on a rock to photograph this section of the river, I noticed the sun was peaking through from behind some trees. It was several hours until sunset, but the timing and my camera position were just perfect to get this image without having the sun be super bright in my camera. I took a few exposures and crossed my fingers that they'd look as good on my computer as they looked in my mind!

I wasn't disappointed! The photo was just as colorful and dramatic as I thought it would be. Of course, this image was only possible for a few minutes while the sun was in precisely the right spot, which makes it even more special that I got this photograph.

It was my first trip to Difficult Run, and with the success of the first trip, I know I'll be back for more soon!

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Quick Shot: Isolated

I am always looking for the opportunity to take a photograph that is so generic that it could have been taken anywhere, but so interesting that you stop and wonder how it was taken. I think this is one of those photographs. 

A tree on a grassy field is the kind of thing we've all seen hundreds of times. It's simple. It's clean. There's no fluff. But to make a photograph of a tree in a grassy field interesting, you have to do something different. 

This photograph intrigues me because of the low sun, which casts a long shadow from the tree and how the light sun warms the scene. While the lighting is intriguing, it's the the angle this image was taken at that really captures my attention. 

But I didn't use a ladder to get this photo!

Conveniently, there was a taller hill where I could position myself and shoot down on the tree. As the sun was setting, I noticed the lighting on the tree suddenly transformed the scene below me from mediocre to spectacular and shot away. Moments later, the sun dipped below the tree line and the show was over. 

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