The past few days I have been up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina running a photography workshop for ISOfifty and we have been doing a lot of experimenting with strobe lighting. I don’t do much in the way of lighting for portraits so this has been a great challenge for me. We have a 500 watt power pack and two small strobes, one with a small softbox. Most of the setups I was using used one light with a softbox and one light just bare bulb. I used some heavy processing to get a lot of shine and glare in the highlights. Here are the results from several sessions.
This weekend I was up in the Sacramento area for a magazine photo shoot. The photo shoot ended much earlier than I had expected so I was left with the rest of my weekend free. I decided that I would take a quick trip to Yosemite National Park on my way back to Los Angeles. The sun was going to set around 6:45 so I hit the road to try to get to the park before sunset. On my previous trips to Yosemite I had either visited the valley floor or been hiking and not had all my camera gear with me. This trip I decided to go for a few unique shots; something more than a photo of Half Dome or El Capitan. I had never been up to Glacier Point so I chose that for my sunset photo even though it is a very classic photo that has been taken many times. I got to the North Entrance to the park at 5 PM and drove as fast as possible through the park to get up to Glacier Point in time for the sunset at 6:45 PM. The park ranger said the drive would take an hour and a half so I wasn’t too optimistic I would make it with all the tour buses and slow drivers on the road. Luck had it that the drive only took me 50 minutes and I was able to make it to the point just as the light started to reach the Golden Hour. The view is amazing from Glacier Point but I think that Tunnel View is more dramatic with both Half Dome and El Capitan in the shot. Regardless, I stayed well past sunset and left when it was too dark to see anything. I tried as hard as I could to make such a well photographed scene unique and included as many elements in the foreground as possible although I know I am not the first to do so.
One technique I used in my attempt at a unique shot was to use my remote lighting equipment. My Nikon D200 has the great capability of being able to remotely control several Nikon SB800 flash heads at the same time. I used the flashes later in the evening to light the foreground elements in the images with dramatic side lighting effects. The resultant images almost didn’t look real, as if they were shot in a studio with a backdrop.
On Sunday I went back into the park in the morning. I had originally intended to go into the valley floor very early in the morning to catch sunrise but previous trips had shown me that it really wasn’t worth getting up well before sunrise to drive into the park. The Valley Floor is pretty well backlit in the morning. Despite not wanting to be in the park exactly for sunrise I still managed to be in the Valley around 7am. As with the night before I did not want to take a typical Valley View shot of the big ticket scenes. With that in mind I set out on a very leisure drive around around the Valley Floor looking for smaller details to take photos of; thinking on a much smaller scale. When I went to Yosemite for the first time earlier this year I was overwhelmed with the scenery; everything is unbelievably big. It is really hard to get over the scale of the place and get into a different mind set that would allow you to capture the smaller details that really make the park unique. On this trip I was able to do exactly that. Knowing that I can drive up to the park any weekend I want really let me not care about not getting a great shot of the big scenes and let me focus on a new vision of the park.
The rest of the day took me all around the Valley Floor several times and then up Tioga Pass through Tuolumne Meadows and out to Lee Vining. From there I went out to Mono Lake to see what that area was like. I only took one photo at Mono Lake. I was there in the late afternoon and the lighting was no good and treated the visit as a used the visit to scout for a future visit. After Mono Lake I drove a little farther south to the Mammoth Lakes area to go see the Devil’s Postpile. I took a huge mosaic image and a couple of other shots and then hit the road to head back to Los Angeles. In three days I managed to cover some serious ground and get some unique photos from a lot of different areas. Photographically speaking I was ON! There are some days when the photos just don’t seem to happen and nothing seems to look good or work out the way you had hoped, but this weekend my vision was crystal clear and I was in the right mindset to see past some big obstacles to getting a unique photograph.