Terra Galleria Photography

Light Painting the Redwood Forest

When you think about natural subjects for night photography, things like the rock formations or bristlecone pines of the southwest often come to mind, not the redwood forest. In old-growth groves, the dense canopy obscures most of the night sky. I made so many visits to Redwood National Park in the 1990s that I haven’t returned there for a decade. In the while, digital photography had opened up new possibilities. When I revisited Redwood National Park last month, I was excited to try to photograph at night.

During the day, except when the forest is in dense fog, the light in the redwoods is often a challenge. Like in most other forests, sunny conditions are difficult to work with. The large contrast between sunlit areas and shadows appears as the main problem, but what I find even more problematic is that the shadows themselves break the organic shapes, creating a choppy impression. The soft light of a cloudy day is preferred by many. However, it limits the composition possibilities since you have to exclude the sky, which would otherwise present itself as an overexposed bright spot, distracting the eye from the trees.

At night, you start with a blank canvas. By bringing your lights, you can illuminate the dark groves with more brilliant light than you’ll ever be able to see in the daytime. Instead of showing up as a bright spot, the sky turns an intriguing dark blue. Because of the three-dimensional character of the subject, using a fixed light source creates uneven lighting. The best solution here is to illuminate the subject selectively with brushes of a hand-held light, a technique known as light-painting. The groves of Redwood National Park are particularly favorable for night photography since a short stroll from your car will often take you into the heart of magnificent groves. You will most certainly have them for yourselves! Here are some tips if you’d like to try your hand at light-painting in the forest.

How to compose. To photograph at night, you will need a tripod able to support your camera vibration-free for long exposures. Since it can difficult to see the composition well, the easiest is to operate by trial and error, adjusting the camera position and orientation after checking out the previous image on the LCD.

My settings. I prefer a wide-angle lens (from 14mm to 24mm) and found that exposing at 30s, ISO 1600, wide open works well. This exposure time ensures that any stars present will not exhibit significant trailing. It is also short enough for multiple attempts, which are usually necessary for light painting. Longer exposure times would allow you to use lower ISOs for a cleaner image.

Use a bright light. A powerful flashlight will allow you to reach the canopy and distant trees. With the previous settings, a headlamp is just not bright enough. I have a few different flashlights that are all based on the XM-L T6 LED. The one used for these images uses single LED for a light output of about 1600 lumens. For comparison, the maximum output of the Petzl Tikka+, which is quite bright for a headlamp, is 140 lumens. Other flashlights use multiple XM-L LEDs for even brighter output. One drawback of the LED lights is that the light is quite cold, giving the scene a nasty “electronic” look. I combat that problem by sticking a yellow-orange warming gel over the light.

Create cross-lighting. While illuminating the scene, do not stand next to the camera all the time, as the alignment of light and lens will create flat light, comparable to on-camera flash. Instead, for most of the illumination, stand sideways from the camera as far as you can to create cross-lighting, which helps define the shapes. You can prevent unwanted strong shadows by illuminating from both sides of the camera or adding a brief flash of front lighting.

Vary illumination duration. The light that a subject receives is inversely proportional to the squared distance to the light. That means that nearby subjects receive much more light than distant subjects. To avoid overexposing them, illuminate areas near you much more briefly than further areas. With the settings above, anything more than a couple of seconds of light on the background is too bright. A flashlight with a narrow beam helps to light more selectively, for example distant trees framed by nearby trees. Don’t worry about getting the illumination levels perfect everywhere, as you can always dodge and burn in processing. All the images on this page are single exposures.

I hope you’ve been inspired you to try something new. Please share your results. Do you have any favorite tips about light-painting the forest ?

Photographing Fall foliage in Olympic National Park

Part 4 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Last October, I visited Olympic National Park to photograph autumn foliage. In this post, you will find out about the places where I found the best color, as well as my tips for photographing in the rain.

The Olympic Peninsula home to the lushest temperate rain forests in America. When you think about the rainforest, you think about a world painted all shades of green. However, the trees that support the iconic hanging mosses are mostly big leaf maples. Like all maples, those trees turn brilliant color in the autumn. Set amongst a sea of dark greens, the yellow leaves produce small, but striking color accents. The Eastern forests are so full of warm colors that sometimes you just see a wall of color. It is the contrast and interaction between colors that gives a color image interest. Sometimes, more interaction happens with fewer colors, which is the case in the rain forest in autumn.

Besides the big leaf maples, color in the Hoh Rainforest is also provided by vine maples. Unlike the big leaf maple, their smaller leaves tend to provide clusters of color, rather than the accents of the individualized leaves. Those two images are from the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.75 mile) which have both.

For most of the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) low elevation forests, and for the west side rainforests at Olympic, late October usually is the best time for fall color. However, I found most of the big leaf maples past peak on Oct 17-19 last year. I learned later that fall color started a bit early, but overall wasn’t great that year.

As implied by its name, along the Maple Glades Trail (0.5 mile) in Quinault, you will see plenty of majestic maple trees. The most colorful leaves were high up. Usually, cloudy conditions and soft light are much preferable to sunny days for photographing the rain forest. However, shooting up works better in sunny conditions with a blue sky than with a cloudy sky. I took advantage of a half-day weather break to create this image, unexpected for the Olympic rain forests in its perspective and color.

Although autumn color in the rain forests disappointed a bit, I found much more of it in the Sol Duc area of Olympic National Park. My favorite roadside spot was the bridge over the North Fork of the Sol Duc River. It’s the only bridge over the river on the road to Sol Duc, situated about 1/3 of the way in.

Sol Duc Falls (1.6 mile RT), is the most beautiful amongst the easily accessible waterfalls in the park, dropping 50 feet into a narrow gorge in a lush forest setting. The flow is good year-round. On the way, about 0.3 miles from the trailhead, I photographed a small stream, where in the spring water would cascade over mossy rocks. Late in the season, the stream had dried out, but the scene remained beautiful.

Although it was raining hard all day, I was able to keep myself and my camera backpack mostly dry by carrying an umbrella. I carried a rain cover for the camera, but did not use it, as it makes it difficult to change lenses. The forest I was hiking in cut all the wind, so the umbrella was sufficient to keep the camera dry. Since I always photographed on a tripod, I could operate the camera with one hand and hold the umbrella with the other hand with the proper ballhead friction settings. Whenever I needed to use both hands, I inserted the shaft of the umbrella into the collar opening of my rain jacket, letting the umbrella sit on my rain hat. Drops of water on the lens front element are inevitable and will show on the image as a fuzzy blob. To prevent them, I made sure to use a micro-fiber cloth to wipe out the front element of the lens before each shot. A small cloth quickly get saturated with water and becomes useless at drying a lens, so I carry a 10 inch by 10 inch cloth for rainy days.

After photographing a whole day in the rain, my lenses had trapped a lot of moisture. It didn’t dry because I was sleeping in the car where the air was damp and cool. When I photographed at dawn in the forest (with a bit of light painting), this did not affect the image because it was still cold.

However, as the temperatures warmed up during the day, internal condensation started to cause fogging and blurring. Upon discovering the problem, I immediately returned to the car, cranked the heat, A/C, and ventilation to the maximum, and placed the lenses on the dashboard. After less than half an hour, the lenses were totally dried, and I hiked back for a re-take. In retrospect, I kind of like the eerie and impressionistic effect, and I am glad I did not delete the pictures! What do you think of it?

More photos of Olympic National Park Fall Colors

Part 4 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Autumn in the Rain, Mount Rainier NP

Part 3 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Last October, I visited Mount Rainier National Park during two days of continuous rain. In this post, you will find out about the subjects I was able to photograph in those conditions, including some of the best fall foliage and waterfalls in the park.

After getting out of the ferry from Stehekin at sunset time, I drove immediatly towards the east entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Since the sky was still clear in Lake Chelan, I was hoping for some night photography at Tipsoo Lake. However, as I drove up towards Chinook Pass, it began to rain so heavily that I was barely able to see the road. This would set the tone for the next days of steady rain. Unlike at some other parks, the campgrounds in Mount Rainier all close in late September. The day before I flew to Seattle, the long-term weather forecast looked iffy, so instead of a sedan, I had rented a mini-van. In my experience, many US rental mini-vans are US-made cars in which all seats can be collapsed into the floor, offering much more living space than a SUV of equivalent size. I found a pullout that would put me at a sufficient distance from the roadway, and crawled to the back of the car, where there was plenty of space for sleeping, without even having to shuffle gear around.

In the morning, the visibility was almost zero. If this would have been my first visit to the park, I would have been disappointed not to see the Mount Rainier, but since it was my 7th visit, I was content with looking for more intimate scenes. Faced with rainy weather, you can stay in your room, or you can make the best of the conditions and find plenty of photographs not possible on a sunny day. Rainy weather provides excellent light for forest and waterfall scenes. I had come to the park in autumn only once, and this was in September. Being mid-October, I was hoping to find more autumn color at lower elevations in the south-east corner of the park. As this side of the park receives less rainfall than the western side, I thought it may be a good choice in rainy weather.

I had read that the East Side Trail had great waterfalls and cascades. However, I wasn’t keen on hiking its entire one-way 9 miles in the rain, especially since very light traffic would make hitch hiking a ride back difficult. Instead, I checked both ends of the trail, where waterfalls are accessed through short hikes. You want to be able to dry out a bit in the car! At the north end, I parked at the Owyhigh Lakes trailhead, situated on the west side of Hwy 123, half of mile south of the bridge over Deer Creek. After hiking down about a quarter of mile, I found an impressive viewpoint over multi-tiered Deer Creek Falls, next to the trail, above a sheer drop. I continued down the trail to the bridge over the creek, but did not find views.

At the south end of East Side Trail, I hiked to Silver Falls. There are several ways to get to this waterfall, but the shortest (0.6 miles RT) is down from a trailhead on Hwy 123 south of Stevens Canyon Entrance.

In between those two short hikes, I parked at a pullout next to the bridge over Panther Creek, and hiked down to the creek. Wearing shorts and river shoes (an odd combination with top rain jacket and fleece!), I walked into the riverbed for a less common perspective. Despite the creek not being glacier-fed, I found the water freezing, even with neoprene socks, so I did not wade to the cascades that I had spotted in the distance.

In mid-October, plenty of vine maple added bright touches of yellows and oranges to the dark forests of the area.

Mushrooms seemed to be growing everywhere. Those ground views (part of this series) were the most easy photographs to make in the rain. Since the camera was pointing down, I didn’t have to worry about the front element of the lens getting water drops. I’ll write a bit more about photographing in the rain in the next post.

After a restful night at another pullout (no night photography because of the rain), I started the next day by walking down the closed road to the Ohanapecosh campground in order to photograph the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center for my series The Window. I was pleased to be able to stay out of the rain under the building’s roof while doing so, before hiking the half-a-mile loop to the hot springs. Although they were not particularly beautiful, some steam was visible in the cold and damp air.

The Ohanapecosh area harbors some of the largest old-growth trees in the park. A 1.5-mile RT trail leads to the Grove of the Patriarchs, situated on an island on the Ohanapecosh River, accessed through a fun suspension bridge. The grove features some seriously impressive big trees, whose size reminded me of the California redwoods.

Although the grove is small, and spent hours there to find compositions that would hide the boardwalk. The soft light was great and rain brought out colors in the old-growth forests.

Although I found good autumn color in the grove, the most colorful spot was on the shores of the Ohanapecosh River from the north end of the island.

On the way back, I noticed those Maple trees leaves and branches lining up Ohanapecosh River along the trail, that I had missed in my haste to get to the Grove of the Patriarchs. Remember that the journey is as important as the destination and keep looking!

Driving west, I noticed a colorful carpet of ferns before Steven Creek Canyon. The TSE-24mm served double-duty of keeping the foreground ferns – which were less than a foot from the lens – sharp with tilt and the background trees parallel with shift.

Stevens Canyon was the only place in the park where I found autumn foliage on distant hillsides – as opposed to within a forest. Although it was raining steadily, since the wind was blowing from my back, keeping the camera and lens dry were not a problem.

A short distance up the road from the trailhead to Comet Falls, Van Trump Creeks drops 40 feet at Christine Falls. Its proximity makes it a great subject for a rainy day, but you can easily miss it because it is under the road bridge just below. A stroll starting from the southeast side of the bridge leads to a viewpoint from which you can frame the waterfall with the bridge. I tried compositions with and without the bridge, but liked the ones with the bridge better because they were more specific.

Less than a mile from the junction with the Paradise road, a large parking lot gives access to Narada Falls. It is normally a popular attraction, but on that day the lot was empty. On the way to the falls, you pass its feeding stream. During my previous visit there, I did not even stop. However, on that rainy day which made the trees recede in the distance, I found it just as fascinating the the falls itself.

A short but steep trail (0.4 miles RT, 200 feet elevation) leads you down for close views of the waterfall dropping in a steep amphitheater. Although the light was similar to when I photographed Narada Falls a decade and half ago, I returned to see if I’d photograph it differently than a decade and half ago. I did. Do you find your compositions change over time ?

More images of Mount Rainier National Park

Part 3 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Year 2014 in Review and 2015 Greetings

I wish everyone a year 2015 full of happiness, health, and success. My sincere thanks for your continuing readership and interest in my photography.

In order to explore some of the corners of the National Parks that had escaped me so far, in 2014, I was going to engage in more water-based adventures: rafting, canyoneering, scuba diving. As you’ll see, this didn’t quite work as well as I had hoped. I’ve still kept water (in one form, or another) as the theme of this eclectic selection of images.

Moonset over Shwedagon Pagoda and Kandawgyi Lake, Yangoon, Myanmar

I spent most of January in South-East Asia, first leading a photo tour in magical Myanmar. For details, see the the 6-part Myanmar photo tour diary. After the photo tour, I visited family in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, during which time I added images to the series HCMC, a work which attempts to come to terms with Vietnam’s history.

Aerial view of salt marsh. Palo Alto, California

In February, I began to experiment with drone-based aerial photography using a DJI Phantom 2. Here is the first 360 aerial pano I made above my home with the standard GoPro camera. This is a natural extension of the ground-based 360 Degrees Spherical Panoramas explained here. I started to modify the aircraft to carry a much better (for stills) Ricoh GR camera. In the spring, results with early iterations of the new rig, such as this one, were promising enough.

Site of JFK’s assassination. Dallas, Texas

In late March, I took my first trip ever to Texas that didn’t consist of flying to El Paso to visit the West Texas National Parks (Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains). The occasion was to attend Fotofest in Houston, to seek feedback about a new direction I’ve been exploring in the National Parks – for an example, see The Window. It was the first portfolio review that I attended, and I found the experience very rewarding. During Fotofest, I photographed Houston. After my portfolio review sessions, I drove the “Texas Triangle” delimited by the cities of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, which I found to each have a distinct character. See the gallery of images of Texas I made in about a week.

Lithodendron Wash, Black Forest Wilderness. Petrified Forest National Park

In late April, I traveled to Flagstaff, AZ. It was supposed to be a flight, but as a snowstorm closed the airport, I arrived there by airline bus from Phoenix. I obtained an overnight backcountry permit at Petrified Forest National Park. Regulations stipulate that you need to leave your car at least one hour before park closing time. They are strictly enforced! As I was still fiddling with gear at that time, a ranger voided my permit on the spot. Next day, I managed to check out the Black Forest Wilderness as a day trip.

River-level view of red walls in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park

Petrified Forest was a prelude to the 12-day Grand Canyon by raft workshop that I was co-leading with Oliver Klink. Unfortunately, after an excellent first half of the trip, I was injured while riding the Horn Creek Rapids and had to be helicoptered out. For most of May and June, I was in pain and unable to move much, resulting in cancellation of canyoneering plans. By the end of June, I had improved enough to be able to make a quick trip to Yosemite, with the assistance of my wife, to be interviewed by Al Jazeera America for a short Yosemite Grant 150th anniversary report also featuring Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams, although you can see on the video that I was far from recovered.

Palm trees on Salomon Beach. Virgin Islands National Park

In August, we took a family trip to Cozumel. Afterwards, I revisited St John, Virgin Islands. The most interesting part of the trip was to explore the secluded south side of the island. However, I found the “tropical atmosphere” I was looking for on a beach only a mile from the island’s main town, Cruz Bay. Although one of the most pretty beaches in Virgin Islands National Park, it is relatively quiet because of the need to hike to get there. The tree on the left is quite small, I sat down on the sand for this composition, to make sure its palms didn’t overlap with the trees fringing the beach. My bad luck with water continued. I brought a underwater housing for my Canon 5Dmk2, carried at great effort and expense (Spirit Airlines charges outrageous fees for the third bag). It flooded on my first dive, ruining the camera – and any prospect of subsequent underwater photography. Despite this glaring miss, I’m still proud of my gallery of pictures of Virgin Islands National Park.

Aerial view of reef, Elliott Key, and Biscayne Bay. Biscayne National Park

Back in Florida, Biscayne National Park hadn’t found a new concessionaire in a year, so there was no public transportation to the islands. I couldn’t find any affordable boat to rent, even with help of friends from Miami. Instead, I hired a pilot for an hour of aerial photography. As great as drones are, they don’t get you there like a plane.

Meadow fire and moon rising. Yosemite National Park

On September 7th, I heard of the Yosemite Meadow fire on Twitter and saw a few dramatic photos on the 8th. Unlike others, the fire happened in the scenic heart of the park, next to Yosemite’s icon, Half-Dome. I drove to Yosemite, making a time-lapse video as well as photographs.

Lake Chelan, Stehekin, North Cascades National Park Service Complex

In October, I returned to the Pacific Northwest to try and capture autumn foliage in this part of the country. My timing worked well for the North Cascades Alpine Larch, which I was even able to photograph at night on the last dry day of the trip. I also reached my second goal, an autumn visit to Stehekin, arguably the most remote community in the lower 48 states, on the final days of the year with services.

Confluence of North Fork and Sol Duc River in autumn. Olympic National Park

In both Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Park, it was raining steadily. I didn’t see a single sunset nor sunrise, but the soft light was great for capturing the foliage as rain brought out colors in the old-growth forests. A blog post will follow, in the while, see images of Olympic National Park fall colors.

Aerial view of Bay Bridge, downtown, and piers. San Francisco, California

I had lost some motivation in flying the Phantom 2 due to the NPS ban. It wasn’t until the summer that with great help from my brother-in-law Nhon Vo (a mechanical engineer by trade), I had a better Ricoh GR rig. By the autumn, we had a complete solution including tilt control. I used it to create the photograph that illustrates Seasons Greetings, as well as this Ricoh GR 360 aerial pano that I invite you to compare resolution-wise to the one made in February with the GoPro.

As I reflect on the past year, I realize that despite difficulties that initially led me to view it as a disappointing year, I have been more privileged than most. Part of my job, I visited several great destinations worthy of being on a lifetime list. I expanded technical skills to include drone aerial imaging, and found some validation for a more conceptual approach to photography I’ve been pursuing for a few years. Although I still feel some pain in my shoulder, I’ve regained enough functionality that my therapist discharged me in December. I am grateful for 2014, and I wish you also found reasons to be grateful too. Looking forward to a great year 2015!

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas wishes to who celebrate, and seasons greetings to all!

The photograph depicts Christmas in the Park on Plaza Cesar Chavez, the heart of downtown San Jose, California, with the landmark Fairmont Hotel and the new City Hall designed by Richard Meier in the background.

Here are a few technical details about this unique photograph. Measuring 5000×6500 pixels, it is assembled from two images captured by a Ricoh GR flying on a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter using a custom camera mount with remote tilt control. No off-the-shelf aerial platform could have produced this photograph:

  • images were shot at f/2.8 1/30s & 1/90s, ISO 1600
  • total vertical field of view is about 80 degrees (equivalent to 20mm lens on camera in portrait orientation, or a 14mm lens in landscape orientation)
  • Ricoh GR is a APS-C camera with 28mm (equivalent) lens sharp wide-open
  • due to crowded location, a larger drone would have been problematic.

New Series: “The Window”

The photography for which I am known so far depicts the National Parks as wilderness. However, while collaborating with Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, I became more aware of their nature as a human construct. The National Park Service Organic Act states two goals: to conserve the natural scenery and to provide for its enjoyment by the public. In parallel with my nature work, I have been working on a few series that examine how the components of this construct direct the way we look at nature.

The Window looks at the landscape through the visitor centers, the architecturally diverse buildings most associated with the national park experience, which form a conceptual reflection of the park. By focusing on a window, I create a richly layered photographic image, merging inside and outside to reveal relationships. The land, to which we turn our back, is framed as a small, blurred reflection in the window – with careful camera placement and the use of lens shift, my own expected reflection was excluded without using digital manipulation.

The series reference aesthetics that have influenced the development of the national parks. The Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal which arose as a mediator between the ideals of the beautiful and the sublime in the late English 18th century. Picturesque-hunters used Claude Glasses – tinted portable mirrors to frame and darken the view – named after the 17th century landscape painter Claude Lorrain.

National Parks have been photographed from their creation – with photography heavily impacting their history. Some people think that with the huge amount of pictures made in the park, there isn’t much new to say there. In this work, I tried to raise to the challenge of creating a fresh body of work about the National Parks. Did the series surprise you ?

See the whole series

Best Photobooks 2014: the Meta-List

Here’s this year’s meta-list of best photobooks, seeded with the Aperture/Paris Photo PhotoBook Awards Shortlist and based on the phot(o)lia compilation, which I encourage you to visit to follow the links to those lists. The methodology is the same as for the Best Photobooks 2012 Meta-List and Best Photobooks 2013 Meta-List. Note that some links consists of compilation of lists by multiple contributors: BJP (6), Emaho (15), Vogue Italy (28), Fotopolis (8). In that case, each of the lists has been considered independently, so the total of lists used to derive the Meta-List is actually 113! For the sake of independent comparison, the Meta-List does not use the Photo-Eye 2014 Best Photobooks compilation, although there are some overlaps between their 29 contributors and the Meta-List’s.

Update Jan 3, 2015 – from 52 links (113 lists)

(22 votes)
Disco Night Sept. 11. PETER VAN AGTMAEL Red Hook

(21 votes)
The Epilogue. LAIA ABRIL Dewi Lewis

(20 votes)
Hidden Islam. NICOLÓ DEGIORGIS Rorhof

(16 votes)
The Winners. RAFAL MILACH GOST Books

(13 votes)
Carpoolers. ALEJANDRO CARTEGENA self-published
Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty. MAX PINCKERS self-published

(12 votes)
Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down. EUGENE RICHARDS Many Voices Press

(11 votes)
Sequester. AWOISKA VAN DER MOLEN Fw: Books

(9 votes)
Grand Circle Diego. CYRIL COSTILHES Akina

(8 votes)
Wild Pigeon. CAROLYN DRAKE self-published

(7 votes)
I. EAMONN DOYLE self-published
Silent Histories. KAZUMA OBARA self-published

(6 votes)
Linger (Teikai). DAISUKE YOKOTA Akina Books
No Pain Whatsoever. KEN GRANT Journal
Red String. YOSHIKATSU FUJII self-published
Russian Interiors. ANDY ROCCHELLI Cesura Publish
The Night Climbers of Cambridge. THOMAS MAILAENDER Archive of Modern Conflict
The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip. DAVID CAMPANY (ed) Aperture
Trepat. JOAN FONTCUBERTA Éditions Bessard

(5 votes)
Afghanistan. LARRY TOWELL Aperture
Back to the Future (limited edition). IRINA WERNING self-published
Bedrooms of the Fallen. ASHLEY GILBERTSON University Of Chicago Press
Does Yellow Run Forever? PAUL GRAHAM Mack
Illustrated People. THOMAS MAILAENDER RVB Books
Photographs for Documents. VYTAUTAS V. STANIONIS Kaunas Photography Gallery
The Ninety Nine and The Nine. KATY GRANNAN Fraenkel Gallery
Tranquility. HEIKKI KASKI Lecturis

(4 votes)
A Field Guide to Snow and Ice. PAULA MCCARTNEY Silas Finch
Chewing Gum and Chocolate. SHOMEI TOMATSU Aperture
Die mauer ist weg! MARK POWER self-published
Events Ashore AN-MY LÊ Aperture
Invisible City. KEN SCHLES Steidl (reprint)
Land Without a Past. PHILIP EBELING Fishbar
Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit. Getty
Night Walk. KEN SCHLES Steidl
Photographers’ Sketchbooks STEPHEN MCLAREN & BRYAN FORMHALS (Eds)
Prolifération. GEERT GOIRIS Roma Publications
Rich and Poor. JIM GOLDBERG Steidl
Running to the Edge. JULIA BORISSOVA Self-published
Something like a Nest. ANDY SEWELL self-published
Still Moving. DANNY CLINCH Abrams
The Notion of Family. LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER Aperture
The Photobook: A History, Volume III MARTIN PARR & GERRY BADGER Phaidon
The Whale’s Eyelash. TIMOTHY PRUS Archive of Modern Conflict

(3 votes)
19.06_26.08.1945. ANDREA BOTTO Danilo Montanari
A Drop In the Ocean. SERGIO ROMAGNOLI Éditions du LIC
Asylum of the Birds. ROGER BALLEN Thames & Hudson
Bad Luck, Hot Rocks. RYAN THOMPSON & PHIL ORR The Ice Plant
Bible. MOMO OKABE Session Press
Centro. FELIPE RUSSO self-published
Crystal Love Starlight. MAYUMI HOSOKURA Tycoon Books
Eleven Years. JEN DAVIS Kehrer Verlag
Family Love. DARCY PADILLA Editions de la Martinière
Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood ZUN LEE Ceiba
Forest Hills. BILL SULLIVAN S_U_N Books & Editions
Fractal state of being. SARA SKORGAN TEIGEN Journal
Frontcountry. LUCAS FOGLIA Nazraeli Press
Gold Coast. YINAG ANG Self-published
Mediodía. DAVID HORNILLOS Dalpine
Mother and Father. PADDY SUMMERFIELD Dewi Lewis
Neither. KATE NOLAN Self-published
Office Romance. KATHY RYAN Aperture
Ojō shashū: Photography for the afterlife. NOBUYOSHI ARAKI Heibonsha
Particulars. DAVID GOLDBLATT Steidl
Party. Quotations from Chairman Mao TseTung CRISTINA DE MIDDEL Archive of Modern Conflict & RM Verlag
Periscope. JOSE DINIZ Editora Madalena
Photobooks: Spain 1905-1977 RM/Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofía
Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. ELEANOR MACNAIR Macdonald Strand/Photomonitor
Printed in Germany. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS Walther Konig
Reenactment MSf. ARWED MESSMER (Ed) Hatje Cantz
Saul Leiter: Early Black and White Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
Sudden Flowers. ERIC GOTTESMAN Fishbar
Taxonomy of a Landscape. VICTORIA SAMBUNARIS Radius
Testament. CHRIS HONDROS powerHouse Books
The Catalogue Box Verlag Kettler/The PhotoBook Museum
The Oldest Living Things in the World. RACHEL SUSSMAN The University of Chicago Press
The Plot Thickens. JEFFREY FRAENKEL (Ed) Fraenkel Gallery
Tsugaru. ICHIRO KOJIMA Izu Photo Museum/NOHARA
Typology. 1979 JOACHIM BROHM Mack
Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found. JOHN MALOOF Harper Collins Design
Woman With a Monkey- Caucasus in Short Notes and Photographs.JUSTYNA MIELNIKIEWICZ Self-Published

(2 votes)
A Road Through Shore Pine. ROBERT ADAMS Fraenkel Gallery
Amelia and the Animals by Robin Schwartz Aperture
Anhill (meteorites). AUGUSTIN REBETEZ RVB Books
Araki Teller, Teller Araki. NOBUYOSHI ARAKI & JUERGEN TELLER Eyesencia and Match and Company
Bail Bond. CLARA VANNUCCI Fabrica
Becoming Simone. ALESSIA BERNARDINI Self published
Black is a Matter of Taste THEO VAN DUSSELDORP Salvo-periodiek
Boiko. JAN BRYKCZYNSKI self-published
Bronx Boys. STEPHEN SHAMES University of Texas Press
Cairo Diary. PETER BIALOBRZESKI The Velvet Cell
Chizu (The Map). KIKUJI KAWADA Akio Nagasawa Publishing (reprint)
Confessions for A Son. MCNAIR EVANS Owl & Tiger Books
Country Fictions. JUAN ABALLE Fuego Books
Dark Knees. MARK COHEN Éditions Xavier Barral and Le Bal
Dust. NADAV KANDER Hatje Cantz
Ebifananyi I – The Photographer Deo Kyakulagira. ANDREA STULTIENS YdocPublishing_HIPUganda
El porqué de las naranjas. RICARDO CASES Mack
Entre Entree. STEPHAN KEPPEL Fw Books
Esto ha sido (This Has Been). LUIS WEINSTEIN Self-published
Everything Will Be OK. ALBERTO LIZARALDE Self-published
Evidence. DIANA MATAR Schilt Publishing
Garry Winogrand. Yale University Press
Go There. GEN SAKUMA Roshin books
Going Home. MUGE Yanyou Di Yuan
Here and Now: Atomic bomb artifacts. MIYAKO ISHIUCHI PPP Editions
Horst: Photographer of Style. HORST Skira Rizzoli
Imaginary Club. OLIVER SIEBER GwinZegal and BöhmKobayashi
Inventio. YANN HAEBERLIN Self-published
Invisible Maps. ANDRZEJ KRAMARZ Muzeum w Gliwicach / Czytelnia Sztuki
Islands of the Blest. BRYAN SCHUTMAAT & ASHLYN DAVIS (Editors) Silas Finch
James Karales Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
Karaoke Sunne. JH ENGSTRÖM & MARGOT WALLARD Super Labo
L.A., 1971. ANTHONY HERNANDEZ Silas Finch
Lakes and Reservoirs. MATTHEW BRANDT Damiani
Leon Levinstein Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
Lessons in Posing Subjects. ROBERT HEINECKEN Triangle books and Wiels
Lost and Found Project: After the Japanese Tsunami MUNEMASA TAKAHASHI Akaaka
Love on the Left Eye. NOBUYOSHI ARAKI Taka Ishii Gallery
Maydan – Hundred Portraits. ÉMERIC LHUISSET André Frère Éditions
Melting Away. CAMILLE SEAMAN Princeton Architectural Press
Namekuji Soshi Gaiden. MASAHITO AGAKE Sokyu-sha
Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk. CHRIS STEIN Rizzoli
Negatives are Stored. VLADYSLAV KRASNOSHCHOK Riot books
Object Matter. ROBERT HEINECKEN Museum of Modern Art
On a Wet Bough. KELIY ANDERSON Staley Waltz Books
One road. KAZUO KITAI Zen Foto gallery
Pandora’s Camera. JOAN FONTCUBERTA (Essays) Mack
Pastoral/Moscow Suburbs. ALEXANDER GRONSKY Contrasto
Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography PETER BARBERIE (Editor) Yale University Press
Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990 JEAN-PIERRE LAFFONT Glitterati
Photoshow. ALESSANDRA MAURO (Editor) Contrasto Books
Pigeons. STEPHEN GILL Nobody
Portraits. MARTIN SCHOELLER teNeues
Random and Pointless. ED TEMPLETON Deadbeat Club Press
Shot at Dawn. CHLOE DEWE MATHEWS Ivorypress
Soviet bus stops. CHRISTOPHER HERWIG Self-published
Stigma. ADAM LACH Self-published
Still. KASIA KLIMPEL self-published
Strange Paradise. CHARLIE RUBIE Conveyor Editions
Studio 54 TOD PAPAGEORGE Stanley/Barker Editions
Syria Al-Assad. OLIVER HARTUNG Spector Books
The Big Book. W. EUGENE SMITH University of Texas Press
The Day the Dam Collapses. HIROSHI WATANABE Daylight Books
The United States 2003-2013. MOSSLESS MAGAZINE
This Year’s Model. GO ITAMI Rondade
Topographies. MONICA URSINA JAGER Kodoji Press
Touching Strangers. RICHARD RENALDI Aperture
Transition. LAUREN MARSOLIER Kerber
Veramente. GUIDO GUIDI Mack
Vertigo. DAISUKE YOKOTA Newfave
Vienna MMix 10008/7000. JULES SPINATSCH Scheidegger and Spiess
Walker Evans: The Magazine Work WALKER EVANS & DAVID CAMPANY (Editor)

Warrior 2015 National Parks Calendar

I don’t publish calendars myself. A bit too tough of a business for me – kudos to photographers who dare to do so. However, I regularly license images to calendar publishers, so if you are so inclined to purchase a calendar with my images, you were able to do so for the previous years. 2015 continues this trend, however this time the publisher is Warrior. You can purchase the calendar, or just see it presented by a former marine SEAL, here.

Since we are on the subject of warriors and National Parks, with Veterans Day just a few days ago, check out the 59 Veterans project which aims to help veterans start new careers while creating a 3D video record of the 59 US National parks. Thanks for your service!

An Autumn Visit to Stehekin

Part 2 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Next to the wilderness park that is North Cascades National Park, the historic resort community of Stehekin, situated in Lake Chelan National Recreation area, offers nice amenities in a uncrowded, scenic valley with great hiking trails, some leading into the National Park proper. Arguably the most remote community in the lower 48 states, reminiscent of Alaska, Stehekin can be reached only by floatplane or ferry starting from Chelan, fifty miles south. Getting to Stehekin is part of the adventure. Last October, I visited Stehekin to check out this intriguing community and explore another seldom visited corner of North Cascades National Park at the peak of fall foliage.

In summer, by combining an incoming trip with the Lady of the Lake Express (leaves at 8:30am, arrives at 11:00am) and a return with the Lady of the Lake II (leaves at 2:00pm, arrives at 6:00pm), it is possible to visit in a day with a layover of 3 hours. That would allow you to take the bus to Rainbow Falls and walk back 3 miles to the landing, taking in glimpses of the Stehekin River and views of Lake Chelan along the way. Rainbow Falls, a highlight of Stehekin for many visitors, is quite impressive, with a total of 470 feet drop, the first 310 feet being continuous.

However, it would be preferable to stay for at least two nights, taking advantage of amenities such as comfortable lodges with great food, outdoor outfitters, or backcountry-like camping accessible by a shuttle bus. Operated by the park concessionaire, the shuttle bus is the only public transportation in the valley. Biking is great (bikes can be rented in Stehekin) if you don’t have a heavy backpack. In 2014, for the summer season lasting from June 14 to October 5, the shuttle ran four round-trip trips each day. The 11-mile trip from the boat landing to the end of the road at High Bridge takes one hour each way. In the late season, from Oct 6 to Oct 13, the shuttle ran only one time a day.

I set out to visit Stehekin on the second week of October because this would be the time when autumn foliage would be peaking in the valley, which sits at a low elevation of about 1,000-1,500 feet. Because of the limited transportation options, and especially the fact that on the day of my arrival, I would miss the shuttle which starts at 9:30, I packed like I would for a backpacking trip. Upon arrival at the Stehekin landing, I was greeted by steady rain. Instead of hiking to the Harlequin campground as I had initially planned, I looked for transportation to the High Bridge campground. The nearby Stehekin Valley Ranch would have been a comfortable place to stay, but it had already closed for the season. After asking several locals, I happened upon photographer Mike Barnhart – a fifty year long valley resident – who agreed to give me a (paid) ride.

Getting out of the truck at the High Bridge campground in the rain, I was delighted to see that the shelter built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps was still in great shape, and quite roomy. I left my overnight gear, and proceeded to the trailhead, just a hundred yards from the campground. Several hikes of various difficulty start near High Bridge.

For the afternoon, I chose the Agnes Gorge trail (5 miles RT, 300 feet gain) since it traverses various forest terrain, including some aspens which provided color.

The trail ended with glimpses of an impressively narrow gorge, a subject that also benefits benefit from the soft light of the cloudy day.

The forecast for the next day had called for partly cloudy weather, so I set out to hike Gregor Mountain, the most prominent peak in the Stehekin Valley, reached through a quite brutal 15-mile hike with more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

After hiking a mere 1.3 miles, I arrived at Coon Lake. The modest body of water offered so many different compositions reflecting autumn color that it was difficult to leave.

Seeing that the weather was turning cloudy, I scrapped my plans to hike up the mountain. Instead, I spent more time looking for intimate views. I hiked up just high enough to get some views of the lake from above – which, as expected, were a bit flat in that weather.

On the third day – the last day when the shuttle was scheduled to run – since I was well rested, instead of waiting at High Bridge, I hiked down the road to grab some images of the Stehekin River.

I caught the shuttle about 2 miles from High Bridge, around 10:45am, and rode it to Rainbow Falls, leaving my backpack for the driver to drop at the deck. After spending 45 minutes at the falls, I walked to the landing, making stops along the way to photograph the community and the lake, before boarding the Lady of the Lake at 2pm to return to Chelan.

Images of Stehekin: the community, Stehekin Valley, Along the trails, Lake Chelan.

Part 2 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

North Cascades Alpine larch at night

Part 1 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

The dark coniferous forests and imposing mountains of the Cascade Range do not look like an obvious place to look for fall color, but within North Cascades National Park, there are places with impressive displays if you know where to look. In 2010, I had traveled to the North Cascades in late September looking for fall foliage. However, I knew I could find better. Not only the rainy weather had prevented me from photographing at higher elevations, but also I was too early for the subalpine larch, which, curiously for a high-elevation tree, turns later than other trees down in the valleys.

The most unique tree to the area, the subalpine larch (often called alpine larch) is a rare Pacific Northwest deciduous conifer whole needles turn bright gold before falling in mid-October. Besides the northern rockies, the range of the subalpine larch is limited to a narrow band on the eastern ridge of the Cascades – coinciding with the park’s eastern boundary. The subalpine larch requires a dry climate and high elevation. To the west, the climate is too wet, whereas to the east, the elevation is too low. Places to see them in the North Cascades are all reached through trailheads along Highway 20 on its portion east of the main range. The easiest is maybe Blue Lake (4.5 mi RT, 1050 feet elevation gain), while the most popular is Maple Pass (part of the great 7.2 mile, 2000 feet gain Heather – Maple Pass Loop with beautiful views of Lake Ann). I chose instead to hike to Easy Pass (a misnomer: 7 miles RT, 2,800 feet gain) because I knew that from the pass I would be able to photograph views deep into North Cascades National Park with the subalpine larch in the background. On the loop, most of the great views are outside of the park itself.

Another reason for this choice is that I had planned create new night images at the pass. They would be possibly the first night photographs of the alpine larch photographed in the park – a Google Image search for “larch night north cascades” did not turn any night images. I would normally camp. However the park service doesn’t allow camping at the pass itself, and the nearest authorized campsite is more than 1,000 feet down on the other side at Fisher’s Creek. With no close proximity camping possible, I devised an odd plan. I would start in late morning and arrive with a few hours of daylight, then stay after dark to photograph, and return at night, aided by the full moon. Since I would be hiking down in the dark, I preferred a in-and-out hike to a loop, not only because I wouldn’t be encountering unknown terrain at night, but also because I wouldn’t miss photo opportunities on the hike.

I crossed path with hikers going down. There were some good views on the trail, but by mid-day, the valley that it was following was mostly in the shade. Once I reached the pass, they became spectacular in all directions. True to what the ranger told me, the larch trees, which were mostly absent from the trail, were densely clustered on the crest. I regretted not starting earlier so that I would have had more time to explore around. Arriving at the pass in the afternoon, I photographed cross-lit trees along a slope that was just getting in the shade, and also backlit, two situations that helped emphasize the tree’s colors. After photographing wide views in all directions, I looked for close-ups of the trees and their needles. The heavy 100-400mm telephoto that I had lugged up the pass helped me isolate them against the background of a mountain face in the shade, which created contrast with its darker tone and blue tint. However, I also liked the complementary texture of a rock wall when both the trees and the wall were kissed by the last light of the day.

I normally try to avoid planning trips around the full moon, because although it is delightful for hiking and for photographing in the city, it is the least favorable time of the month for night photography of natural scenes. However I happened to be here by the full moon as I had initially hoped to photograph the lunar eclipse. It turned out that after I announced on social media that I had booked a flight for the next morning and planned to be at Shi-Shi beach next night, a few photographers pointed out to me that the eclipse was to take place on the same night, not the next night. Oops! I had a second reason for taking the trip at that time. The next few days would be my last chance of the season to visit Stehekin (more on that in the next post) and bad weather was moving in.

The problem with full-moon photography is that if you fully expose an image, it will look just like a daylight image, with only a few stars added to a very bright sky. To get around that challenge, the solution I have found is to underexpose and add some of the artificial light – that make moonlit city scenes work. I used a 2-stop hard edge GND (although you don’t necessary think about them then, they are also useful by night !) to reduce the sky’s brightness and illuminated the subalpine larch with a bright flashlight. Without the GND, the sky would not have a night-time appearance, especially since the numerous clouds catching moonlight were very bright. As seen on the background, without the additional illumination, the trees would be very dark and their colors lost.

I normally prefer the sharper and wider Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 for night photography, but since it doesn’t take normal filters, I carried instead a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8. I made my first night exposures about one hour after sunset, just as the moon was rising. They required an exposure of 30s f/2.8 ISO 3200. Just one hour later, the moon was illuminating enough of the landscape that I could change to different compositions in which the mountains were more present. By that time, the exposure was reduced to 20s f/2.8 ISO 1600. After standing around at the pass for several hours at night, I was beginning to feel a bit of a chill despite wearing all my layers. Confident that I had nailed the shots (all night images are single exposure minimally processed only in Lightroom), I headed down. It turned out to be the last clear night I would see on my trip.

More photos of North Cascades National Park

Part 1 of 4: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4