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Dodging Lightning Bolts!

Approaching Storm

I love a summer storm. The air is clean and it leaves a very fresh smell. Last night was no different.

I watched the thunderstorm slowly approaching and I decided to cut my cycling workout short so that I would have a chance to shoot in the evening light that generally is very dramatic when a storm passes through. I headed out at about 8:15, giving me just over an hour until sunset. My location was only about 20 minutes away. I never made it. The storm I was watching was in the west. I could see that the sun would shortly drop below the clouds and its light would skim across the surface of the fields where I was heading. However as I drove south I saw another dark cloud quickly approaching, packing lots of lightning. I soon realized that I would never reach my pre-determined location, so as the sun lowered below the clouds I stopped. The only place to pull over was directly under the power lines, a great place to be in a lightning storm! I grabbed my camera, placed it on my tripod (metal, of course), and started shooting. The sunlight lasted about 30 seconds, then the rain descended, by bucketfuls! The lightning was crashing all around me so I thought it best to retreat, which I did.

Just at the moment that the sun peeked under the clouds, it illuminated not only the onion field, which was blowing in the 30 MPH wind, but also sent a warm light onto the dark clouds in the east, causing them to appear red, which complements the green of the onions very nicely. Upon looking at the full sized image, I could see many of the onion tops crisp and sharp, while others were blowing, creating a very nice motion blur due to the half second exposure. It creates a very nice feel that is not as apparent in this web size image.

After retreating to my truck, I spent the next half hour trying to outrun the storm and find dry ground from which to shoot, but I had no luck. I finally retreated to the comfort of my home with the six exposures I was able to make before the storm hit.

Nighttime at the Lake

Moonlight, Lake Lowell

Just about when everyone else packs up and leaves because it is too dark, I begin my quest for a great photograph. I love shooting after the sun has set. Some of my best images were 20-30 minutes after the sun has gone down. The light is wonderful. The only problem is that there is not very much of it, so you must use a tripod.

On this evening, I was out with Christeena and we also had our 11 year old son with us. We had picked him up from his Boy Scout meeting and went directly to the lake. He was not very excited to be there, and when he kept hearing me say, “Just one more…this is the last one,” and then I would see something else and have to shoot another image. Both he and Christeena had packed up and were in the truck waiting for me as I continued shooting.

This image was shot well after the sun had set. The moon is rising over the lake and there is still enough light in the sky to get good definition in the clouds. I love the blue color. The color is due to everything being lit from the sky. There is no more warm sunlight, just the sky and moon to provide illumination. The image is very simple. That is the strength of it.

Beauty in the Stormy Seas

Wild Water, Yachats, OR

Here is another image of the Yachats shoreline during a storm earlier in the month. With the tide coming in and the waves up due to the storm, it was a matter of technique to create beauty in the midst of the storm. I know many who would retreat to the shelter of their homes, but I chose to stay out and enjoy the sight. The sea is so powerful, even dangerous at times, however always beautiful if you only search deep enough. Our eyes see the literal crashing of the waves into the rock, they stop the action of the water as it sprays upward. The shock of the cold water as it splashes up and drenches you is not so beautiful, but if you can slow down the water, see it as it moves gracefully across the shelf and runs back to the ocean, it truly becomes a scene of wonder.

This image will always bring back memories of a struggle against nature. Battling the wind as it tries to invert the umbrella that is protecting me and my cameras from the elements. Being cold and wet from not only the rain, but from the ocean spray as I position myself out on the rocky shelf, composing and waiting for the right wave to flow over the shelf at the right speed to show beauty in the midst of the storm.

How I love to find the beauty in a storm.

Light and the Landscape

Pastel Sunset

There is a saying among photographers that goes something like this: “If you like the light where you are shooting, turn around and look the other way.” I can’t remember when or where I first hear that, but it is some of the best advice I have ever received. It is so easy to become engrossed in what we are doing that we fail to look around and find something even better. This image is an example of this concept being put to use.

I was photographing a great sunset one evening while out shooting for my series on Lake Lowell. I was completely focused on what I was doing. This was to be one of the best images in the series. Then I heard a voice within myself say, “turn around, turn around.” I looked up for a second, turned my head and saw this. Beautiful pastel colors in the sky and reflecting across the lake behind me. I had never seen these colors on the lake. It seemed as though the image was handed to me on a silver platter and I nearly refused to take it, not because I didn’t like it, but because I didn’t see it!

A great photographer will always be aware of his/her surroundings. He will look at all angles and directions in order to capture the best possible image. He will be aware of the light and learn to see the subtleties in its quality. He will become one with the environment.

Going in Circles

In Flight

Ever feel like you’re going in circles and never going to get ahead? I know I have, many times! Moving from one problem to the next without any forward movement at all. That’s what I thought of when I woke up one morning while camping at Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains here in Idaho. These birds were circling the lake, round and round for no apparent reason. I guess they were working out, kind of like running laps around a track, or else protesting NASCAR because they were turning right instead of left! It was an interesting sight, none the less. I thought there was no way I would have time to get my camera and document the event, but they kept on racing for quite some time. I broke out the camera and was able to get off a number of shots as they circled the lake. In this shot, it is quite amazing how the wings of the birds seem to be synchronized. They flow from front to back in a fluid motion. It was perfect. The trees, slightly out of focus help the birds stand out and become the focal point of the image. This is done by selecting a wide aperture, in this case f2.8. This creates shallow depth of field, allowing only the line of birds to be in crisp focus. I was lucky, as well to have a nice mist rising off the water. It seemed that everything was in my favor that morning. I wish it always happened that way!