For the past week or so I have been flying on a Twin Otter for work with AVIRIS (Imaging spectrometer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) collecting data for the scientific community at various sites around California. I have been fortunate enough to fly over some really spectacular scenery in an airplane that provides a really stable platform for both our science work and for me to take photos of my own when I am not operating AVIRIS. The Twin Otter I am flying on has two huge bubble windows on either side of the plane that allow me to shoot straight down without the plane having to dip a wing. The long transits to and from Van Nuys airport in Los Angeles, CA to our targets has given me plenty of time to stare out the windows and admire the geology unfolding below me. Our flights started over the La Brea Tar Pits in LA and then over Mojave and on up to the Death Valley area where we flew over Racetrack Playa, Panamint Dunes, Ubehebe Crater and the Eureka Dunes. I have to say that flying over Death Valley was absolutely breath taking; definitely ranks up high on my list of coolest things I have ever seen. There was such a huge variety of colors and geology in one place. Whoever thinks the desert is boring hasn’t seen Death Valley from the air (or the ground for that matter)! The following day took us all the way up the San Andreas Fault line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I had never seen the San Andreas Fault and couldn’t believe that it really was a huge crack in the ground that went north as far as I could see. I didn’t have much time to take photos in the South Bay Area (Palo Alto) but I did manage to get a few when we landed in Monterey area for lunch. There were lots of great farm field patterns and coastal views along the landing there. One aspect of the aerial photos that I enjoyed was showing the interaction between humans and the landscape. It was interesting to be flying over empty desert and to come over the last range of mountains before the LA Basin and see the housing developments creeping into the canyons on the mountains. It also saddend me to see how destructive humans are to the land. While flying I saw so many mines and other industrial activities that completely stripped the land and made it completely unsightly. All of these photos were taken with a Nikon D3 and a 24-70 f/2.8 and were shot from anywhere between 5000 feet and 12,500 feet above ground level. Shooting through ahuge curved window around LA presented a lot of problems; focus, metering, color problems, low contrast. The poor conditions really made me have to think quick and re-evaluate how I was going to shoot the photos. In LA the haze really killed the colors and contrast and it took a pretty good deal of color correction in post processing to restore the true colors and contrast. And as seen in the very first photo; the curved window doesn’t always want to behave with the shot (distortion at the edges). Most of the photos were -1 to -2 on the EV comp to battle washout from shooting through all the haze. I always enjoy aerial photography and I wish I was able to go up in a plane or helicopter and a much lower altitude to take the same kinds of shots anytime I felt like it.
Just recently I went on a quick surf trip to Mexico with my friend Mario Covic. There was a great swell and for the most part we had the break to ourselves. Even when it did get “crowded” with 23 people in the water it was still uncrowded compared to the classic Malibu point breaks where there are hundreds of people in the water even on a day with no waves. We were lucky enough to get to stay in a multi-million dollar condo owned by one of Mario’s good friend’s. He was kind enough to give us the “bro” deal on renting it for a night. All we had to do to get to the surf was take the elevator 12 floors down and walk down the stairs into the ocean. Couldn’t have asked for a much better setup. The only downside was that we couldn’t stay for more than a day. I can’t wait to go back.
For more photos click HERE.
Ever since I moved out to California I have wanted to go on a trip to Alabama Hills to shoot Alabama Arch and the Sierra Nevada Mountains at sunrise. The arch there is a classic scene and is usually pretty crowded with photographers in the morning all trying to get the same shot. I had been up to the area several times on hiking trips but never had the opportunity to put some energy into getting some great landscape shots. Over Labor Day weekend Lindsay and I decided to make a last second trip to the area to do some camping, photography and offroading in my Jeep. We had a wonderful weekend in the Hills and I was able to put some serious effort into getting the shots I wanted. Typically the arch is shot at sunrise but I went at sunset the first day to try to get something unique and shoot the photo less taken. I used several remote flash units to light the arch as it was backlit by the sun. I think I managed to get some uniqe shots. The next morning Lindsay and I hiked to the arch in the dark with headlamps and setup for the sunrise. It was absolutely amazing to watch 14,000 ft mountains being lit by the rising sun. It was easy to see why so many people fall in love with the sierras.
For more photos click HERE