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.
I haven't calculated the exact number, but I estimate that I take about one thousand photos for every one that I end up posting online. Unless there's a particular image that really hits me, I often don't sort/process photos until months after an adventure.
In this case, I went up to the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California last October. The peak of fall foliage was a few weeks later than it had been in previous years, but I managed to time my trip pretty well. The orange leaves of the quaking aspen trees glow beautifully when backlit by mid-day sun, so I ended up taking hundreds of photos during the day. However, it wasn't until early evening that I found this softly lit scene. It was the spindly bare white branches of the aspen trees and their leaves in various stages of autumn color stacked almost vertically against a steep hillside that made an image that struck me as fall time in the Sierra.
I look forward to going back this fall!
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
Clouds make a huge difference in scenic outdoor photography. Think about it: the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets are those with clouds to add color and texture to an otherwise featureless sky. Even during the day, clouds considerably change the feel of a scene - dark and gloomy clouds, puffy white clouds, or striated winter clouds - they contribute immensely to a photograph.
Ah, but California is frustrating in that regard. The state has so much natural beauty, but it also has seemingly endless sunshine. When composing an image, I often look for an interesting foreground AND background - and a lot of times, I want the sky to be the background. Sometimes I won't even bother getting my fancy cameras out on a bright sunny day since it makes for undramatic lighting and background.
This recent trip to Death Valley National Park surprised me, though! After a few days of completely clear skies, clouds began to roll in from the west. They weren't the most amazing clouds I'd ever seen, but they sure helped complete this scene with the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes towering over one of the driest valleys in North America.
Yep, just as the title indicates, everything has to start somewhere, including the Road Trip Rip blog!
But where does one start?
Let's not put too much thought into it. Ready? Set? Go!
The first thing that comes to mind is that it's part of human life to sculpt the universe in which we live. Well, we all do to some extent, but some "sculpt" more than others. Some folks prefer to watch the sculptors at their various crafts.
Can photography be considered "sculpting?"
Whoa - this first blog post went sliding into a philosophical plate, right off the bat!
Whether photography is "sculpting" or not doesn't matter; I see it as a creative outlet. I see it as a way to share my adventures with those who don't travel beyond their work and home too often. Even if we travel to the same places, the conditions can vary considerably. I'll often work with the weather and lighting that I'm presented, but I also go to great lengths to plan photographs for certain lighting, seasons, or alignment of celestial bodies - some kind of scene that one might not see in a typical visit. If I can capture an image that hits someone enough to convey a feeling or tell a story, I feel like I've done well. I know that not every photo will hit everyone the same way, but it's fun trying.
Hmm - I feel like I should keep this first blog entry going, but I'm going to stop here. I plan to have entries detailing conditions behind certain photos that I've taken, why I've chosen pieces of camera gear that I use, and how I plan my photos. If you have suggestions for upcoming blog posts, send me a message, or leave a comment below.
Keep the shiny side up!