This blog shares my "notes from the field," including photography techniques, hiking tips and lessons learned the hard way ... like the time I fell through the ice in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park. Thank you for visiting our site. Marcus
Pointing to the North, the park ranger at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument explained, “You’re a bit early. In a couple of weeks, that mountainside will be covered with sunflowers.” How correct he was, as timing is everything when it comes to Northern Arizona wild flower photography.
Here, in August, summer monsoon rains usher in vibrant wildflowers. Early in the season, sunflower fields are sparse and small. Just a few weeks later, large yellow flower petals are often tattered and discolored due to heavy winds and daily thunder storms – some storms bringing a heavy dose of hail. The challenge, then, is finding that brief, special time laden with large expanses of full-sized flowers, all in “picture perfect” condition. No such luck for us on this visit, but we are contemplating a return visit in September.
That said, driving away from the Sunset Crater visitor center (15 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona on U.S. Highway 89A), we were graced with a small, but rich stretch of wild flowers. Here, by sheer luck, our timing was good, with an impending thunder storm in the works. Dense gray clouds provided diffused overhead lighting, with the dark backdrop of the San Francisco Peaks mountains. What a glorious way to start the day ….
Our next stop was nearby Lockett Meadow, the trailhead for the Inner Basin Trail at San Francisco Peaks, elevation 8,600 – 10,500 feet. At this high elevation, we found a few small white geranium flowers amidst lush green ferns and thick grasses. I spent a couple of hours in an aspen grove at Lockett Meadow, photographing this intricate forest carpet punctuated by majestic trees.
In the wooded area, a bit of intermittent light rain only heightened the sense of serenity, adding another dimension to a rich visual experience. I only wish that a still photograph could truly capture the tranquility and splendor of a day like this – of time so well spent in nature.
Technical information for fellow photographers: The images shown here were captured with a Nikon D850, using a Nikon 24 mm f/3.5 ED tilt shift lens with a Hoya circular polarizer. While I’m still trying to master the movements of the tilt shift lens – and there is quite a learning curve - it proved helpful in three ways:
- Shifting the lens downward a bit allowed for a close to the ground view of the flowers, with no vertical distortion of the trees or mountains in the distant horizon. Likewise for the photos in the forest, where the aspens appear to stand “straight up” due to the lens perspective control;
- “Tilting” of the lens (downward about 6 degrees) redefined the plane of focus, creating a large depth of field (from 2 or 3 feet from the camera to the distant horizon) – the "Scheimpflug principle;" and,
- Given the change in the plane of focus, I was able to maintain a large depth of field while shooting with wide open and midsize aperture settings. The wide open aperture settings were a big help, given the windy conditions. This way, I could set a fast shutter speed to “freeze” the movement of the blowing flowers and grasses. Still, it was necessary to set the camera at ISO 640 to freeze movement in the photos shown here.
All the best to everyone, as we plan for one more shot at the wild flowers and then an Autumn colors trip.
Related links: Northern Arizona Sunflowers: Photography on a Windy Hillside, AAA Highroads Names Sunflower Graced Mountain a Judge's Favorite, Autumn Colors: Hart Prairie Road, Arizona, Autumn Aspens Reflections, Arizona Fall Colors: Mountain Landscape Photography.
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
I am honored to present a solo show on Exhibits Without Walls: "Emergence: Images from Death Valley," This show celebrates the splendor of a stark, yet enchanting desert landscape and the intricate patterns of nature under changing light.
I am particularly captivated by Death Valley National Park's vast sand dunes - an icon of the American Southwest. Traversing the dunes elicits a sense of wonderment, gazing upon sand formations continuously sculpted by the forces of nature. This series explores the intricate patterns of nature, particularly the transient visuals which silently emerge at dawn only to swiftly vanish under full daylight.
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California This past February, we had the opportunity for a longer visit to Death Valley. This proved to be one of our best photo treks in terms of weather, natural lighting and logistics. Photos from this trip will be posted shortly.
My sincere thanks go to the park rangers and environmentalists who work so hard to preserve the natural state of Death Valley and our treasured lands.
Thanks also to Mr. Ed Wedman, co-founder of Exhibitions Without Walls, for this unique opportunity.
Dear Family and Friends: I am pleased to share my recent interview on landscape photography posted by Exhibitions Without Walls: "The Transient Quality of Light."
My sincere thanks to the very thoughtful interviewer, Mr. Ed Wedman, co-founder of Exhibitions Without Walls, an international organization promoting professional growth opportunities for photographers and digital artists. Fellow photographers and artists will find this site to be a valuable resource and a source of inspiration.
I am also grateful for the adroit assistance of Ohio based fine arts photographer and writer, Dr. Eric Hatch, for this referral and his ongoing support of my work.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Given the dramatic winter skies on the Oregon coast, the quality of the light and color defy description. Within a few minutes, the coastline transitions from a dull blue-gray to a rich warm color palette. Fog, rain drizzle and clouds create a natural ever shifting light filter. A small clearing in the clouds can make for dramatic light beams, radiant color bursts in the surrounding sky and remarkable clarity in highlighted beach areas.
My most challenging and rewarding photo shoot was our final morning at Bandon Beach. While the detailed weather forecast called for clear skies, it rained steadily from 6:30 AM until about 8:30 AM. While it was still raining, portions of the sky cleared, revealing a glorious sky aglow in subtle pastel colors.
My impressions, as I frantically unpacked my camera gear from the plastic covered backpack: Iconic Face Rock and portions of the distant horizon are awash in a heavenly pink glow. At the same time, the sky backdrop for the closer sea stack rock formations is a surreal mix of vivid pink, gold and muted purple colors. This all lasts about 15 or 20 minutes, before yielding to more direct eastern sunlight piercing through the thick clouds cover.
While I stayed around about another hour photographing tide pools and boulders in bright light, my real work as a photographer occurred in that brief period of special, ethereal morning illumination.
If only we could replicate or stop time in these special moments. Well, we do so, in part, through our rich memories of a glorious time in nature and two dimensional photographic representations.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Related Posts: Oregon Coast Photography: Part 1 – Itinerary, Oregon Coast Photography: Part 2 - Weather to Behold, Oregon Coast Photography: Part 3 – Oregon Dunes, Coastal Photography: Point Reyes National Seashore.
Our brief morning visit to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area was both exhilarating and frustrating. Looking back on that morning, our first challenge was a self -imposed time limit of one hour on the dunes. This crazy time crunch was necessitated by our overly ambitious schedule, including the five hour drive north to Cannon Beach that same day.
Also, on the dunes, we encountered a single set of fresh footprints which seemingly traversed every interesting crevice or ridge line in our line of sight. I still wonder whether we were following in the steps of another photographer, one leaving no discernable tripod marks in the sand.
That said, we worked around the foot prints and I was delighted to come upon a small reflecting pool in a low lying area of the dunes. This "oasis" provided a focal point and some smaller scale photo opportunities.
While the dunes are pristine, they are not as high or dramatic as those in Death Valley or White Sands National Parks. Yet, the complex dune ripples and textures provided a rich array of subject matter for abstract photography in the early morning light.
Covering an expanse of nearly 50 miles, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area extends along the Oregon coast from Florence to Coos Bay. The area is readily accessible from Highway 1, offering camping areas, hiking trails and some designated areas for motorized vehicles.
We accessed the dunes from the John Dollenback Dunes trailhead, near the Eel Creek Campground, just off Highway 101.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Related Posts: Oregon Coast Photography: Part 1 – Itinerary, Oregon Coast Photography: Part 2 - Weather to Behold, Black and White Digital Photography: A Peaceful Surrender; Shutterbug Features Reinkensmeyer's "Ripples," New Mexico Landscape Photography, White Sands Dunes Formations, Coastal Photography: Point Reyes National Seashore, California.
Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.