The sand at White Sands National Monument is made of gypsum, giving it an unusually light color. Gypsum crystals don't retain solar energy like typical silica sand does, so it often stays relatively cool, even on hot summer days. On winter days, though, the sun does very little to warm the sand. Add a little moisture from recent precipitation, and it gets super frigid!
To avoid filling my shoes with sand during this winter adventure, I opted to go barefoot. I didn't want to miss the rapidly approaching sunset, so I rushed out onto the dunes, hoping that my feet would get used to the numbingly cold sand; they never did. This was one of the more physically painful photos that I've taken in a while, but the sunset was worth it.
White Sands National Monument - New Mexico
After seeing a recent forecast for decent aurora in northern British Columbia, I spent a few hours on Google Maps, searching for a lakeside campground with clear views to the north. The hope was to catch a photograph of the northern lights reflecting on still water. A lot of things had to come together to make that happen, but I figured the adventure was worth it. I selected a few lakes and bumped along some forest service roads until I found the perfect spot. Fortune upon me, I had the place all to myself - except for the mosquitoes and black flies.
As the sky darkened, the wind died down to a calm, and the bugs subsided. Only the calls of loons and owls broke the silence. Then the aurora appeared in the northern sky. I took dozens of photos while the lights danced in the sky over the next few hours. As if part of some kind of coordinated light show, some clouds accented the moving lights as I captured this image.
Vancouver is quite the scenic city, despite how frustrating it can be to drive through. I was fortunate enough to stay with some good friends who live in a place with an amazing view of the city skyline. As the brief summer night fell upon the city, the crush of humanity became even more apparent with the twinkling lights filling the windows. Realizing that the rising sun would bring a warm glow to the massive collage of glass and steel buildings, I set an alarm to wake me in time to catch this image, shortly before the city woke up for another long summer day.
I always enjoy cypress trees along the California coast, especially when they line roadways. I was glad to have some cloudcover to soften the lighting for this shot.
Ya see those colors in the sky? That's the boundary between night and day in our atmosphere, also known as the Belt of Venus. It's something I never noticed until I moved to California and started spending time away from the city. It doesn't last long, but in the right conditions, these colors can be quite vibrant and defined around sunrise and sunset.
After I woke up in darkness on that frosty morning in the White Mountains of California, I drove up to a spot that offered a mostly unobstructed view of the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This vista is 9,000 feet above sea level, but the thin air didn't stop me from running up to the view point with a few cameras, trying to catch the earth's shadow before it disappeared for the day.
This photo is part of a series that will become digitally stitched into a high-resolution panorama. Stay tuned!
For anyone wondering, I did not alter the colors.
It's often that people ask me for recommendations on cameras, and I usually point them toward entry-level DSLR cameras (with interchangeable lenses) such as the Canon Rebel series. For just a few hundred dollars, anyone can get one of these cameras and produce pro-level photos. In many cases, it just requires good composition and lighting. Technical knowledge of camera gear can help capture an image, but one still needs to "see" a good photograph.
Stepping up, one can spend a few thousand dollars to get camera equipment that will produce higher quality images and provide more versatility and options, but it won't magically fix poor composition and/or lighting.
With camera technology having advanced considerably over the last few years, I figured I would see what a relatively inexpensive point-and-shoot "pocket" camera can do nowadays. I bought a Canon G7X Mark II and decided to test it to its limits. With the quality of images it produces and its crazy portability, it's already seeing more use than my fancy cameras. I think I will start recommending point-and-shoot cameras from now on!
With that, here's a photograph that I took in Joshua Tree National Park - with nothing more than a pocket camera and a tripod.
I had an interesting situation recently: one of my photos had such an unusual composition that many considered it fake!
The city of Ventura, California has an annual photo contest, and the entries are often used in advertising for local events and city tourism. I entered a few photos, one of which received an "honorable mention" award.
Unbeknownst to me, this photo was posted on Ventura Parks and Recreation's Facebook page to promote the 2018 City of Ventura Photo Contest (click on the photo below to see the post). A friend of mine had seen this post and sent me a message to let me know about it and the people doubting the authenticity of my photo. Then, the next day, someone from Ventura Parks and Recreation contacted me to let me know that the post had received the most views, shares, and comments of any post on their page. She also mentioned the skeptical comments.
I had to take a look.
Sure enough, I had caught landmarks in such a way that people thought it was a "Photoshopped" composition. While some photographers would be offended by accusations of forging an image, I was flattered! I had finally captured an original photo!
There are so many iconic images that photographers go back to duplicate, over and over. Sure, lighting and other subtle changes make each photograph slightly unique, but there's always that one photographer who saw that composition and captured it first. I had never been one of those photographers - until now.
I went into great detail in a reply to the Facebook post to explain the composition and technique I used. Essentially, what was throwing people off is that this image can't be seen from land. It was only while returning by boat from a trip to Channel Islands National Park that I noticed the beachfront homes, "Two Trees Hill," and the majestic Topatopa Mountains lined up in the late evening light. I snapped a photo, not knowing that how unique - and unbelievable - it was. In the end, I completely understand and appreciate people's skepticism, especially with so many "fake" images, videos, and stories so easily circulated on the Internet.