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A little ode to the beach

We’re headed to San Diego tomorrow for a nice four-day weekend with friends in a giant vacation house that sits a couple hundred feet from the beach. It’s going to be awesome and it’s unbelievable to think I actually have to work today when all I want to do is get in the car and start driving.

In honor of the sand, surf and relaxation, I figured I would post a few shots from a beach near Den Haag in Holland. We were headed back to Amsterdam to leave the next day for the States, and decided to swing by the ocean to just take a look. We hadn’t been there yet and we needed to check it out.

The day was beautifully overcast, there were spots of darker clouds and rain, not to mention wind, and it all helped create some of my favorite photos from the trip.  The above image is my favorite of all of these…I felt so lucky to catch a sideview of that sail from the distance I was at. The dark crescent just stood out from the muted scene behind it.

I also like the one just below…like I said, the wind was blowing fairly good and the cloudy, wavy lines you see running along the beach are actually blowing sand.

Something about this beach cried out black-and-white to me, except for the surf board which just HAD to stay in color. Hope you enjoy!

Down that dark road

I’m lucky to have a few great friends at work and one of them is Jesse. He’s a car guy, loves to go “wheeling” every Friday night and would go out of his way to help you install a new car stereo, not to mention a bazillion other things. A week or so ago we had to drive up to Williams for work, which is something we love doing despite the 3-3.5 hour drive time. Especially in the summer when it’s 110 in Phoenix, but a cool 75-80 in the gorgeous pine country of northern Arizona. He’s such a good guy and let me pull over a bunch to satisfy my insatiable hunger to photograph cool stuff.

As a photographer, you sometimes get tunnel vision. It happens to me all the time. You get an idea in your head about a shot and you focus all efforts on making it happen. That’s usually when a shot you weren’t even planning on taking becomes the actual reason you went there.

Once we were up close to Williams, we passed a giant lake bed full of flowers. I posted that shot not too long ago. The thing was, I was so infatuated with the flowers and storm clouds, I wasn’t looking anywhere else. As I came back to the car, Jesse calmly points out this dirt road heading into the trees. Me, being the AWESOME photographer that I am, who knows ALL…said “Yeah…okay Jesse…looks cool.” So I walked over there to snap some brackets, almost feeling like I was doing this as a courtesy because at least Jess was trying to help me out a little. Figured I would just get the brackets real quick and we’d be on our way.

Back in the car when I looked at the results in my camera…I realized it was going to be one of my favorite shots from the day and maybe in awhile. I knew right away I’d do it in black and white.  It would end up looking much more mysterious devoid of color.  I was giddy thinking about what the final product was going to look like. This is a 6-bracket HDR using Photomatix, CS5 and Nik Silver Efex for the B&W.

I guess the moral of the story is to always listen to your buddy Jessie.  He may be obsessed with Family Guy and wear his sunglasses at night (inside joke), but when he points out an idea for a photo…you’d damn well better do what he says.

A few moments captured in Amsterdam

Sometimes you can get too attached to one kind of shot, one kind of lens and you forget that the world can be seen in a wide variety of ways. My first instinct when I landed in Holland was to capture EVERYTHING, hence my 17-35mm was the lens of choice. I wanted architecture, wide plazas, canals, cars, anything and everything…but in a wide scope.

For the first half of the trip, my 50mm 1.4 sat in the bag. But while I was in Bruges, I switched about halfway through and was thrilled at the shots I was getting. Tight shots, taking more time to compose and see what I wanted to get in the frame and mostly, the ability to get some great candid shots with my favorite lens.

There is no doubt…I can try to take candid shots with the wide angle, and sometimes they may work, but the 50mm feels like a weapon in my hands. How I love thee!

These are just a few random candid shots from Amsterdam on our last night there. Nothing earth-shattering, but I love these little peaks into the life of the city.

I read once that sometimes “travel photography” is more about capturing the people and moments, and not necessarily every famous structure or object. Everyone has seen the EiffelTower, but perhaps people haven’t seen a hard-working waitress at a little cafe down a quiet street.

It all depends on what you like. I happen to enjoy all of it.

(You can see more of my Holland pictures here: Holland Trip)

Boiling storm over Nuenen

This is another shot of the storm from behind my hotel a few nights ago. You can see some brightness to the right which was a wall of rain coming that I ended up having to outrun since I stood there shooting until it was almost too late.

This is a black and white, HDR photo from three handheld brackets. It’s got a looooot of grain. I kind of like it that way and it’s mainly why I decided to go with the B&W styling, but once I removed the color, I liked the scene even more. Getting rid of the grain proved too hard to do without losing the integrity and anger in the clouds. It just smoothed them out too much. I may look into other ways to do it later on when I refine it, but I also honestly don’t mine it looking this way.

Loved getting to see a seriously nasty cloud all the way here in Holland!

The Mercedes Benz of Amsterdam

I loved this old Mercedes Benz as I was walking the streets of Amsterdam and just had to take a few pictures of it. I have another view that contrasts the bike, but this one is something a little different than my normal HDR processing.

I processed the photo as a normal black and white, and then did a single-image HDR out of the color version of the RAW photo and then masked that into the B&W to come up with something a little more interesting to me personally.

I’m calling it an HDR Blend and would like to think up a better name for it, but jet lag has a hold on me and I’m a little bit sleepy *grin*

Anyways, give me some old buildings, cobblestones, bricks, and some nice sports cars and I could be taking pictures all day.

Illegal Shadows

That’s me and my shadow perched on the trunk of my car on Thursday night, watching the clouds develop along an outflow boundary. The sun was close to setting and I liked how my shadow looked as it stretched across the road, plus the clouds and the mountains were fairly interesting.

So what’s up with the shadows being illegal (if you read the title)?

Well, where I’m parked is about 10 feet off Gilbert Road, which runs through the Gila River Indian Community for a few miles before it hits State Route 87. While I sat there, a DPS officer went by, then came back, u-turned and drove up behind me.

He informed me that where I was sitting, on my trunk, taking pictures of the clouds and sunset, was an illegal location. I was on Indian land and it was against Federal Law to sit there.

Funny…last year I was out there in the dead of night shooting lightning photos, a DPS guy pulled up, saw what I was doing and informed me that a storm was coming from the south (ya, I already knew that) and I may get a few more shots. Then he drove off. He told me I was fine sitting there.

So back to present day, the guy next informs me that two Gila River RANGERS were on their way to explain this to me in a little more detail. I was like…”Really? Rangers are coming? Because I’m taking pictures of the sunset?”

Yup.

So this giant truck flies up, two bulky guys get out, strut up to me and tell me what’s up. Of course, these guys say I was basically OKAY sitting where I was, but nowhere else. I asked about a few previous photos I took further south of a graffiti-ed bridge we found, and one of them said I would probably get in trouble if they caught me doing that. Ugh, whatever.

Bottom line, they left and I sat around for a little longer, apparently just fine and dandy.

But what is it about photographers that draws this evil eye from law enforcement? Here I am, calmly sitting on my car, with a camera, watching the sky…and next thing I know, I’ve got two police vehicles and three officers talking to me. People passing by must have thought I was doing something PRETTY bad to warrant all that attention.

I’ve read countless stories like this, but it’s starting to happen to me with more frequency. I like what a friend of mine Allison said about a photog she knows…“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Mailboxes, etc

(click on the image for a larger view!)

The way to Grand Falls goes through Luepp Road, which was picturesque and almost as interesting to me as the Falls themselves. There were quite a few of these little mailbox clusters along the way and this scene above spoke to me so much, I actually turned around and went back a few miles to make sure I captured it before returning to my trip to the Falls.

There was just something about the way the mailboxes were all huddled together, the dirt road runs off for miles and in the far distance you can actually see the houses these boxes belong to. The sky was so great this day…the clouds perfection.

I’ve lived in Arizona my entire 35+ years of existence yet still I have so much to see and discover…Luepp Road is a stretch of country I’ve never seen before but am so grateful I got the chance.

Sunset from below Grand Falls

(click on the photo for a larger view)

I’ve seen pictures where Grand Falls is flowing with so much water it almost looks like a western version of Niagara Falls. In fact, the 184-drop of Grand Falls is higher than Niagara.

March of this year was probably the best time to actually see the water roaring over the edge, so I missed it by a few months. However, if I’d been there back in March, this shot wouldn’t have been possible. I’d likely be standing in at least 2-4 feet of raging water, if not more.

The shadows on the right side of the photo kind of reveal that the sun was going down behind me and it really cast a wonderful light on the waterfall itself. And those that follow my work know how much I love clouds in my shots, so I was extremely lucky and blessed to have some of the stormy stuff make it into the photo.

Technical jargon: I finally purchased some ND filters just for this very trip and this shot was created with five manually bracketed shots using an external shutter trigger, a 3 stop ND filter and a CPL filter.

Welcome to Grand Falls, Arizona

One of my “bucket list” items if you will was to visit this amazing place called Grand Falls. It’s in northern Arizona about 30 miles or so northeast of Flagstaff. The falls are located on Indian land and the last leg is a 10 mile drive on a bumpy dirt road, which in my little Toyota Solara, took about 45 minutes to traverse.

I have a ton more photos to post over the week, but this is the first one, it even may be my favorite of the bunch. So far.

While not a ton of people know about this place, it has been photographed a number of times. I was hoping to find my own view of it, my own angle and perhaps something different. I don’t think any HDR shots of it have been done before either, that was my other goal. Those are yet to come.

This shot is a simple black and white, and looks at the falls as scene through one of the covered viewing areas. I liked how the wood pillars and stone roof sort of framed the scene in front of me.

Much more to come…click on the above picture for a larger look!

The Flatiron cliffs in black and white

Nothing but Flatiron all week, although I hope you enjoyed the interlude with the alleyway yesterday. There is a slight chance there will be nothing but Flatiron and the Lost Dutchman area next week as I may go hike it again on Saturday *grin*

I loved all the color at Flatiron last week, as you can see from all the photos I’ve posted about it. The flowers were incredible, the yellow tones and hues were rich and everywhere. But I also went out there because the sky had some cool clouds going on from a cold front moving through and everyone knows how much I love photos with awesome fluffy things in the sky.

So during the hike, I see this view. It appeared almost like a scene from Close Encounters to me. A mountain with a cloud centered directly above it. Looked spooky, other-worldly.

Something about it cried out black and white to me, so I changed things up. This is a three-bracket HDR to bring out the details, but converted to a black and white to remove focus from the wildflowers/color and instead point it to the cloud hovering over Flatiron.

Plus when you are out photographing the desert, sometimes black and white just gives you that old western look that feels natural. I adore black and white so much, yet most of what I photograph cries out for colors and tones, so this was a fun little break in the action. Hope you guys like it!