California

FINDING PHOTOGRAPHS IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

The light that appears just after sunrise is special. In this case, I liked how it made the sand colored mountains glow. I wanted something in the foreground and picked this lone josohua tree which I originally thought about shooting in silhouette, however, as the sun began to rise above the mountains behind me I knew I would have a few minutes where the sun lit the top of the tree, but before it lit me and cast my shadow into the scene. Sometimes missing the actual sunrise is fine.   Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/60 @ f14, ISO 200 .

The light that appears just after sunrise is special. In this case, I liked how it made the sand colored mountains glow. I wanted something in the foreground and picked this lone josohua tree which I originally thought about shooting in silhouette, however, as the sun began to rise above the mountains behind me I knew I would have a few minutes where the sun lit the top of the tree, but before it lit me and cast my shadow into the scene. Sometimes missing the actual sunrise is fine.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/60 @ f14, ISO 200.

It was still dark outside when I left Oceanside, Calif., on my way to Joshua Tree National Park, hoping to arrive in time to photograph the sunrise. As I made my way west on the I-10, still some 40 miles from my destination, a place I've never been, and the sky began to slowly lighten, it became evident that I was probably going to miss another sunrise.

It was only then when I recognized a familiar anxiety, which shouldn't exist, yet an anxiety that creeps in almost every time I decide to make one of these personal photo trips. Why do I put any kind of pressure on myself and why does it matter if I miss the sunrise? Am I really missing the sunrise if I'm watching it with my eyes? Do I have to actually capture the sunrise in a photograph in order to alleviate the anxiety? These are the questions I struggle with.

During the middle of the day I had a great time exploring a section of the national park called Jumbo Rocks. Lots of fun climbing around the granite rock formations in search of interesting shapes. I thought the light wrapping around this particular boulder which was balancing on an even bigger boulder made a nice composition. Choosing to convert to monochrome during post  processing helps to focus on that composition as does using a red filter, which turns the blue sky almost black.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/900 @ f8.0, ISO 200 .

During the middle of the day I had a great time exploring a section of the national park called Jumbo Rocks. Lots of fun climbing around the granite rock formations in search of interesting shapes. I thought the light wrapping around this particular boulder which was balancing on an even bigger boulder made a nice composition. Choosing to convert to monochrome during post  processing helps to focus on that composition as does using a red filter, which turns the blue sky almost black. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/900 @ f8.0, ISO 200.

The strange thing is that I rarely feel this kind of anxiety when I'm on a paid assignment, like the one I just finished the day before. I feel pressure for sure, but somehow it's not the same. I've reflected on this before, this feeling that I have to get a remarkable image or somehow the trip was a waste.

Of course, the reality is that I normally come back from all of these trips with at least some photographs that I'm proud of. What I am certain of though is that I do return from these trips with memories of a great experience. Maybe that is more of the point.

I kept noticing how these lines of a different type of rock  made their way through the giant granite formations. In this case, I used the line to lead the viewer into the photo.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/680 @ f11, ISO 200 .

I kept noticing how these lines of a different type of rock  made their way through the giant granite formations. In this case, I used the line to lead the viewer into the photo. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 35mm f2 R WR, 1/680 @ f11, ISO 200.

I'm fortunate that I get paid to take photographs. And I'm also fortunate that I get to travel in pursuit of those photographs. And when I can extend that trip in order to experience a new location with my camera, I try to take full advantage of it.

One of the best things about photographing during the winter months is that the sun sets early enough that there is still plenty of time for dinner. What is difficult, however, is with close to 800,000 acres of land, how do you find the perfect spot to photograph that sunset in Joshua Tree National Park. During my travels through the park earlier in the day, I found a section with a lot of trees, so I returned to that spot and after about 20 minutes of walking around as the sun dropped behind a distant mountain, I found a nice composition and made my final photo of the trip.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4 R WR, 1/60 @ f9.0, ISO 200 .

One of the best things about photographing during the winter months is that the sun sets early enough that there is still plenty of time for dinner. What is difficult, however, is with close to 800,000 acres of land, how do you find the perfect spot to photograph that sunset in Joshua Tree National Park. During my travels through the park earlier in the day, I found a section with a lot of trees, so I returned to that spot and after about 20 minutes of walking around as the sun dropped behind a distant mountain, I found a nice composition and made my final photo of the trip. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4 R WR, 1/60 @ f9.0, ISO 200.

Sometimes on these personal trips, I just need to remind myself to slow down, realize that there is not a deadline and that there is not an editor waiting for the results. These trips are about me and my camera and capturing memories. And sometimes when I miss that photo of a sunrise, I need to remind myself that I still had the experience and know that I'm fine with that.

5 TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING IN MUIR WOODS

Occasionally, some light makes its way to the forest floor which adds some nice contrast. Fujifilm XT1, 0.5 sec @ f11, ISO 200.

Occasionally, some light makes its way to the forest floor which adds some nice contrast. Fujifilm XT1, 0.5 sec @ f11, ISO 200.

If you are visiting the San Francisco Bay area, I urge you to take some time and visit Muir Woods National Monument. Located just 12 miles north of the city in Marin County, California, and part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, Muir Woods features 240 acres of old-growth Coastal Redwoods and plenty of photographic opportunities.

I recently spent five hours exploring the park and hope that you will benefit from the five photographic tips below.

1. Lens selection. I would probably leave the telephoto behind, but that doesn't mean you need to bring only super wide-angle lenses. The Coastal Redwoods are big and everywhere, so you will not need a telephoto to see them, but adding something in the 70-120mm range would allow you to compress a scene or reach some trees that may be a little further off the path. A longer lens could also come in handy if you want to aim up into the canopy.

As someone who does not shoot a lot of verticals, this location was the exception. Fujifilm XT1,1/2.3 @ f18, ISO 200.

As someone who does not shoot a lot of verticals, this location was the exception. Fujifilm XT1,1/2.3 @ f18, ISO 200.

2. Don't forget the tripod. You will be doing a lot of walking during your visit and you might be tempted to leave the tripod behind. Don't. Even during a bright sunny day, not much light filters down to the forest floor, forcing you to shoot at very slow shutter speeds even if you have fast lenses. And even though tripods are allowed in the park and the paths are fairly wide, remember to be courteous to other visitors, especially during busy times.

"This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world". - John Muir

3. Stay on track. Photography is allowed throughout the park, but you must remain on the paths and boardwalks. There is an easy loop path with an occasional trail that branches off. It took me about four hours to make the loop, but you could certainly do it in less. My recommendation would be to spend the whole day and plan on making several trips around the loop or take advantage of a ranger-led program.

There are a few places along the trail such as Cathedral Grove where you are able to get nice canopy shots from the trail. Fujifilm XT1, 0.3 sec @ f14, ISO 200

There are a few places along the trail such as Cathedral Grove where you are able to get nice canopy shots from the trail. Fujifilm XT1, 0.3 sec @ f14, ISO 200

4. Get there early or late. Normally this tip would refer to taking advantage of the best light, but in this case, it is more about the parking and avoiding the crowds. Parking is very limited, especially on weekends, but even during my weekday visit, I noticed parking was gone, even a mile down the road when I left the park around 2 p.m. Another option would be to take the Muir Woods shuttle which runs weekends from April 4th through October 25th. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, or in this case, take the time and look for details among the trees.  Fujifilm XT1, 1/13 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, or in this case, take the time and look for details among the trees. Fujifilm XT1, 1/13 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200

5. Big picture - small picture. I was amazed by how much these Coastal Redwoods would impact me. Their size and beauty had me yearning to just shoot wide, take it all in with every frame. But that didn't always convey the true size of these magnificent trees as I reviewed the pictures. Force yourself, as I did, to try other focal lengths in order to achieve a different look. And if you have a macro lens, be sure to bring that too. There are incredible textures everywhere and plenty of interesting subjects on the ground if you can manage to look down.

Shooting from a low angle with a wide-angle lens enhances the grandeur. Fujifilm XT1, 1/8 @ f8, ISO 400.

Shooting from a low angle with a wide-angle lens enhances the grandeur. Fujifilm XT1, 1/8 @ f8, ISO 400.

Finally, be sure to take some time and relax during your visit. Since the lighting is fairly constant, there really is no need to rush, or limit your visit to the "best time" of the day for shooting. Find a bench, take a seat, and just enjoy this beautiful redwood forest that William and Elizabeth Kent donated to the federal government in 1908.

Download a PDF to learn more about the history of the park and the California Redwoods.