Desert Solitare by MAPhoto

The right viewing environment/background is important to this one, as I struggle with how bright to leave it. This image comes from chasing monsoon storms this week in Arizona and New Mexico. By chasing, I mean being completely 100% locked in on the storms first, not just waiting around a tourist trap like Grand Canyon and hoping they show up. We drove more than 1500 miles in the last three days following big cells, this one near Mount Lemon in Tucson.

This type of storm photography is all about composing your image quickly, before the storm moves on…or on top of you. As such, it relies on making a portrait of the environment nearest you at the time as well as capturing the storm. Here I found this beautiful array of cactus and a few blooms. I mixed shutter speeds to keep the taller cactus sharp but let the strong outflow winds blow the grasses, adding some simplicity and a contrast which showed off the subjects. The sky was just on fire here, with a hundred flashes a minute at times. Made this exposure for the sky and most of the landscape at 6 seconds, ISO 200 and f/14 without filters about 25 minutes after sunset when the glow from the open sky to the west was still very strong. This is my favorite time of day to shoot storms because the lighting has such amazing luminosity but there is still enough residual light that it can be brought out enough to give great shape and direction to the landscape.

Thanks for looking

via 500px

Four Hundred Layers by MAPhoto

It is time for me to post my yearly abstract photo on 500px, so bear with me here 😉 Most of these usually just go to my website ….but a lot of us artists out there really love views like this!

In July of this year I was trekking high off trail in the Jefferson wilderness of Oregon and came upon a surprise. Here, on this extreme drought year, was a hole in the last of the seasonal snowpack with a stream running into it. I knew there must be a cave inside hulled out by the warm water, but what I found, upon enlarging the entryway to climb in, was the most spectacular snow cave I’d ever seen! Most snow caves (not to be confused with glacial ice caves) form seasonally as a result of warm water running under the yearly snowpack, but this particular cave had probably lay buried for decades or longer, as it descended into snow that was 30-40ft deep in places and probably hadn’t been visible to anyone in a long while. It was only the extreme drought and complete lack of mountain snow in most places this year that revealed it! By this last week, in August, I had to go back with a group I was leading. After a 4-hour trek we marveled at the 25ft-high ceilings of clean cool snow without even a speck of dirt in them. The cave was so dark we needed headlamps for much of it but this was taken from a spot only about 250ft from the entrance.

The title is a reference to the 400mm perspective I used to create this rendition, blending 7 shots for DOF.

via 500px

Dawn Above by MAPhoto

This might be the last one I have time to share for a little while at least. This view is from my Alaska travels this past summer once again, and depicts a glacier sweeping up into the mountains amidst a flaming sunrise, which was the most colorful light show we had in two weeks of photographic pursuits. The image is a single exposure at 1/8 of a second. This was an amazing spot to camp, in lush gardens 3000ft vertically above rivers of ice!

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Outward Bound by MAPhoto

After this week I am traveling for 14 weeks continuously, so I figure I’d better share a couple more now while I have the time. This unique view looking out from inside of a glacial ice cave while standing in rushing water was a type of image I’d always wanted to capture as well as what this place offered me. This location, deep in Alaska’s coastal mountains was where we spent several days and the unnamed peak in the background became a great subject when combined with the awesome light and skies we enjoyed. I hope you like this perspective as much as I do! Thanks for any thoughts you may have.

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Of All Wonders by MAPhoto

I decided I will share a few more here from my recent Alaska treks. This again was taken in an extremely wild area that is hardly ever photographed. These ranges of coastal mountains up and down BC and Alaska have been a ceaseless source of inspiration for me, offering nearly limitless possibilities for exploring grand landscapes. This particular region was adorned with so many waterfalls, that in places it made the Columbia River Gorge look pretty dry. The wildflower gardens are also the equal of any I’ve seen. Here I found a few to compliment things but other images show off the vast arrays better. I personally just really enjoyed the combination of subjects together here, particularly at higher resolution with the details on the unnamed background peak more visible. This valley proved excellent for light for us, offering four uninterrupted days of gorgeous conditions for shooting. Hope you enjoy it as well!

via 500px

Timeless River by MAPhoto

A remote overlook deep inside the grandest range of mountains on the North American continent, which is all but untouched by us modern photographers. Here there are no voices but your own, yet the landscape speaks clearly as it rises above. Man’s presence pales before the power of this wilderness eternally carved from the icebound rivers.

Most of my new work, including lots of new views from this range will wait until the release of my new website in early November of this year. However, I just recently had an opportunity to backpack here this past couple of weeks, so I have decided to share one with you now as well. These coastal ranges, spanning nearly 1500 miles, feature plenty of views like this as well as gardens of summer flowers as lush as any. Their vertical relief, on account of being so recently forged, is stunning, often exceeding a vertical mile sheer from the sea. They have been of ceaseless fascination to me the last few years due to their incredible remoteness as much as their limitless photogenic qualities.

I have am also in the midst of projects involving several other remote ranges and other areas around the world which I hope to share with you later.

Thanks for having a look.

This is six 14mm shots stitched, hand-held.

via 500px

Panther’s Fury by FilterKaapi

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
~John Muir

I just got back from one of the most epic trips of my life. Oregon and Washington are perhaps the most amazing places for landscape photographers, and I count myself lucky to have got the opportunity to see some of their best locations. I also got the opportunity to shoot and learn from a photographer who I’ve for long admired, Marc Adamus. It was amazing to learn from Marc, to see his vision in action from start to finish. The man was born with a camera in hand I tell ya!

This is Lower Panther Creek Falls. The hike down here is really interesting to say the least. The waterfalls are breathtaking to see in person, the sound from them reverberates through the forest.

Taking this shot involved getting into knee deep water which was freezing cold. Two seconds in, I lost sensation in my feet. It also took a lot of lens wiping to remove spray from the front. While taking the shot, sunlight began to hit the upper falls and created a golden glow which really enhanced the shot.

Most of the processing for this shot was done in Camera RAW. Some selective adjustments were done in Photoshop to bring out details in the image.

via 500px

Summer Pond by MAPhoto

STOP. Go inside, view on dark background. Thanks.

The primary reason I am sharing this image is to give ya’ll a little report on the situation this year in the Northwest. Thousands of photographers come to Rainier and the Oregon Cascades and the surrounding mountains to photograph the blooms every summer and this year it is happening NOW, about 5 weeks early. The flowers should be pretty much gone by the third week of July. Peak bloom at Rainier and the primary treeline locations should be this next week in most areas, and was at peak here near Sparks Lake an entire month ago! Happy shooting!

This is a single shot for the sky/mountain and multiple shots taken for DOF/perspective on the foreground immediately after.

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Window in Time by MAPhoto

Eleven years ago I made an image in Seal Rocks State Park, Oregon, which in many ways ended up shaping my future transition from purely a wilderness photography enthusiast to a full-time global landscape photography professional, and that image was of this place you see here. I exposed one and a half rolls of Velvia 50 film with my Canon EOS 3 at ¼ second apiece using a polarizing filter and 2-step soft grad. One of those fifty shots, without Photoshop, went on to win the highest honor in the Environmental Photo Invitational, one of the day’s biggest contests, and through that avenue I was able to meet Art Wolfe and later exhibit a dozen prints at his gallery in Seattle. More than the exposure though, this 26 year-old decided that maybe this pursuit of photography could lead to more than just winning a contest. And eleven years later here we are.

So it is interesting, the relationship with the art of photography this place has for me. I have been back here many times over many years and through those years the art has changed so much! How we capture images has changed, the way we process and blend now, even the look and feel that is most desirable or popular has changed. My own style has evolved with it because I am always embracing new ways of seeing, I am always trying new things. What would that 2004 image look like if it were taken today? Well, today I made one that looks like this. For one thing, time and repeated visits to the location have resulted in a lot of variations in the light and skies that I have photographed. More than that, the finite control over every tiny speck of color, contrast, exposure, etc. is more than any photographer in any past era could have dreamed and to suggest otherwise is nonsense. The addition of blending, shaping, perspective control, etc. has opened the door to fully customizable renderings of the action, with the artist in the driver’s seat and their imagination and artistic ability the only limitations. The addition of painting, literally painting, the atmosphere, diffusion, glow, light, mist, whatever….. sometimes it feels like there are no boundaries now if you have a good eye in the filed and a knowledge for how to use the tools later.

But somehow, in all of this seemingly limitless freedom we enjoy in this age of photography, I feel the art is harder in many ways as well. Any of us at the highest level know it is not about relying on software to do anything for you, and that the fundamentals of good composition and exposure always remain truly integral to success. But our final composition may be about visualizing many shots or perspectives or techniques in the field and knowing, while we are on the scene, how we might blend and create and fulfill our vision in post-production. In a way, that is the ‘performance’ in this age.

Today there are more photographers than ever before in history and more sharing of photography. From a technical aspect, everyone has tools these days to take the type of good photos that used to require professionals who were intimately in tune with their cameras. But to stand out from a crowd artistically often takes a special ability to visualize the many steps of a far more complex artistic process.

All this is not to diminish great photographs of the past, but rather say simply that I view this age as one filled with more possibilities than ever before. There have always been great images that will stand the test of time, but we now have more control than ever in the direction we take the art. On the rare occasion I return to a location to photograph it many times over many years it gets me thinking about this transition I have made, and we have all made. I never re-process my old photos anymore. I like that I have been doing this long enough at a time that has seen more change than any in the history of the art, and that my pictures will be representative of that. I like that I still have film shots on my website and images that could of course be brought up to a more modern vision, but why? Isn’t art about capturing a moment in history, a feeling or a place in time as well?

So right now, this is what we have. I caught a great moment of light at Seal Rocks, made a blend of 3 shots for wave action (albeit 80% of it was 1 exposure) and I spent about 2 hours in post production on the rest, fulfilling the vision that I had in the field.

via 500px