Photographic Journey

As promised – here is my photographer husband’s guest post. It’s about time he received some recognition on this blog – most of the pictures I have used since I started the blog (at least the good ones) are courtesy of his skill and photographic expertise. So – I’ll turn this space over to Bruce.

Come on a brief journey with me – glimpses and explanations of the processes and thoughts, behind one of my favourite hobbies and creative outlets – ‘capturing’ images in time.

I use a zoom lens with a focal length 18mm – 200mm which allows me to compose photos quickly. Photographing people I’m able to stand further away and zoom in, making a more natural atmosphere. “Up close and personal,” produces candid shots – as people become hyper-aware of the camera it changes their reality; they either ham it up, or clam-up.

A family in the Sierra Nevada’s  

In this mountain scene I had already taken a few shots, when a family came trotting from behind the trees and into my frame – I didn’t believe my good luck!  Usually the reverse happens.

Notice the strong horizontal line of the fallen tree and the blue lake itself – it appears roughly 1/3 up from the bottom of the image. This compositional technique is known as the “rule of thirds” or “the rule of threes”.  Seasoned photographers never center their subject or a horizon line – well, almost never.

Depth is created in the photo with the trees on the left side and the patches of grass and the log in the foreground. To complete the picture the hiking family adds human scale as well as evokes interest.

A Study of Roses

The next 2 shots illustrate how depth of field changes using different lens apertures (f-stops).

1/400 sec.@ f14 – no depth of field


1/40 sec.@ f32 – medium depth of field


A Waterfall         

1/13sec.@ f16 with the vintage tripod …see Fran’s previous blog!

At 3PM in October, Burney Falls were in the shade – however, a lower light level is exactly what is needed to create the blurred effect. At the top of the falls the sunlight was hitting the trees which were ablaze in fall colours – but sunlight and shade doesn’t mix in photography; I had to frame and focus most of the photo down towards the waterfall. I often fine-tune photos @ the editing stage, so I later cropped out some of the trees on the right, to compose in line with the rule of thirds (again.)


An Era Gone By

De-saturating the colour ever so slightly moves this photo back in time, almost to a sepia image. Notice the truck is aligned using “the rule of thirds.” I keep mentioning this rule because it’s so important. I’ll speak if it no more.


Ancient Volcano      

The photo speaks for itself


Bird of Paradise   

1/250 sec. f4.8 – A very shallow depth of field creates the blurred background.


Boy with fish     

I love portraits! In this case, upon seeing the lad with his catch, I seized the moment and asked to take his photo. His beaming smile says it all.


Clock Tower   

Buildings! A favourite subject of mine – after all, I am a carpenter. An amazing thing about photographs is what isn’t seen in the picture. For example, located under this tower is a 10kw hydroelectric turbine. Out in the desert, no less!




Fall Colours

In the 3 photos above, I increased the colour saturation to enhance the yellows and oranges. In the last of this series of three, the blue of the sky could have been greatly enhanced using a polarizing filter (which I didn’t have at the time!)


Mono lake

Tree framed to the left created depth and interest.  I saturated the colours to give the clouds definition and deepen the blue.


Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills


Jackie and Mack Robinson – remembered and touched

A slight star effect (achieved in post editing) seemed especially appropriate for this photo.


Solemn tribute

Manzanar was a WWII internment camp for people of Japanese descent – many of whom were US citizens. The de-saturated colour of the image and the greyness of the background and clouds adds a solemn quality. What I really like is the light breaking through. I believe it evokes hope.

It’s Impossible to Bring a Photographer to Sanity

I’m trying to get your attention with this title but like most attention-getting stunts, a grain of substance exists. Photographers can get crazy when it comes to getting the right shot. When travelling in a motor vehicle with a photographer, this can mean steeling yourself for unexpected U-turns on both deserted and busy streets, sudden jolting stops and a seemingly endless amount of gazing around in all directions except the one you would expect the driver to be looking in. Due to scary experiences in the past, my photographer partner has made a solemn oath that he will never again try to get a shot while driving! To the more cautious people out there this might seem like a given but let me tell you about something I witnessed the other day while standing at a pull out on the winding road of the Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. A guy on a very big motorcycle came around a tight corner with one hand on his bike handle and the other hand holding a very large camera that he was shooting continuously as he drove. I mean a big camera, folks – not a little hand-held job like mine. Photographers don’t consider danger in the same way the rest of us do.

If you travel with a photographer you will be regaled with endless talk of the wonders of the light during the golden hours – just after sunrise or before sunset. You can expect to be rousted out of a comfortable bed in the predawn light in order to arrive at some point where the sun is rising. You will see your travelling companion scrambling over barricades, beyond well-marked boundaries, and up dangerous looking slopes – all in the pursuit of the perfect shot. Expect endless delays while various antics take place. My partner demonstrates behaviour that could have a person who wasn’t carrying a camera locked up in a home for the hopelessly insane. Consider what I saw the other day, out of the corner of my eye – he was crouched low to the ground, running wildly across a yard with a large orange pylon under his arm. When asked later what the hell he was doing, he nonchalantly replied, “It was in way of the shot.”

Another important thing to  keep in mind – it is always the photo that got away that haunts the travelling photographer. My partner is worse than a fisherman when it comes to endless lamentation about how the photo he missed would have been the best one he could have ever taken.

The other day my photographer partner jumped out of the car with a wild smile on his face and said, “I love the smell of snow on the mountains in the morning.” He sounded exactly like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now and looked just about as crazy. I came on this holiday to California for a bit of heat. That morning I was standing outside in a wind that brought the temperature below zero so he could photograph snow-covered peaks. The mountains are breathtaking but it was still freezing out there.

The delays used to get on my nerves but I have come up with my own coping method. I now take advantage of this time to write hurried notes in my writer’s journal – blog ideas, little tidbits of this and that, impressions that I hope will spark my imagination at a later date. All I ask is to be parked in a spot that is safe and hopefully inspiring. I have feared for my life while waiting in a car pulled precariously over on a busy street, to say nothing of time spent with only a concrete abutment to stare at.

To be fair, I own up to the fact that I am no photographer. I love to take pictures but I have an eye for a different type of picture than my partner does. I like to take pictures of signs and odd things that I think will make my four-year-old granddaughter laugh. My observations of travelling with a photographer come from the place of the non-initiated, the non-passionate, the outsider. I’m sure all the photographers out there will say – what is she talking about? That guy is behaving just as I would in his situation. Everything she is describing is perfectly normal.

Since we crossed over into the US we had been searching for a camera store where the photographer might purchase a polarizing filter. In Bishop CA we got lucky. We walked into a quiet store on the main street and chatted with a soft-spoken man. He had the right filter for my partner’s camera. In the corner I saw a really nice tripod, very reasonably priced. I convinced my partner to buy it. His tripod is vintage 1970 – a heavy clunky thing held together by black tape. Days ago he accidentally forgot it at a rest stop and when we rushed back two hours later it was still standing in the same spot he had left it. No one in their right mind would steal that tripod, unless perhaps they were in need of a heavy murder weapon.

While in the store, I had a short and poignant conversation with the man behind the counter. He had been a professional photographer with his own studio but he told me it wasn’t a way to make a living anymore. “Everyone’s a professional now – ,” he said with a sad smile, “ – press automatic and shoot, auto adjust on the computer and there you go. No one needs a professional photographer anymore.” I looked up at him and said, “But you still need an eye.” He nodded thoughtfully and agreed, “Yes, you still need an eye.”

My next post will be turned over to my photographer partner and travelling companion. He will share some of his favorite shots from the trip so far.I told him to limit it to ten and he countered with, “Why not an even dozen – like the apostles?” What the apostles could have to do with the number of photos is beyond me. I do hope you will enjoy his work. I admit to often enjoying the product of his endeavours to a great degree more than the process – but not always. Would I have these wonderfully funny memories if I wasn’t along for the process, too? Nope.