Return to Iceland

Last week I returned to Iceland after an amazing trip in October left me wanting more. For this trip, my goal was to capture winter scenes, in particular ice caves and hopefully some aurora. As it turns out, the rainy weather I witnessed in October stayed for the months I was away, and Iceland is continuing to go through a wet and warm winter. There was no snow on the ground when I arrived and in fact the ice caves were in jeopardy of melting due to intense rainfall. We were not even sure if we could visit as we had hoped. Ultimately, we lucked out on one day where we had no rain and less wind which allowed us to hike 10 miles up and down the glacier, capturing photos and flying the drone all the way! Thanks to my new friend Stephan Mantler, who leads amazing small group hikes here. My short trip was highlighted by that arduous and sometimes intimidating trek — where a slip here or there could mean real trouble and a possible slide all the way down the glacier. My friend Bernard Chen, a very good photographer and videographer, documented our hike below. Besides that hike, I also visited Gulfoss, Vik, and some mountain scenes near Pingvellir. Another nice, short trip to Iceland and I appreciate your thoughts on my work!

Gulfoss Abstract - The most violent section of the Gulfoss waterfall captured under overcast skies

Gulfoss Abstract – The most violent section of the Gulfoss waterfall captured under overcast skies

Edge of the Glacier - Glacial streams and massive shapes take form at the edge of one of the fingers of the Vatnajökull glacier

Edge of the Glacier – Glacial streams and massive shapes take form at the edge of one of the fingers of the Vatnajökull glacier

Massive shapes at the edge of the Vatnajökull glacier trail far into the valley during a somber sunset

Edge of the Glacier Panoramic – Massive shapes at the edge of the Vatnajökull glacier trail far into the valley during a somber sunset

Here on we started our trip up the glacier! Here’s the documentary our trip up via Bernard Chen and his DJI Mavic Pro.

Call of the North from Bernard Chen on Vimeo.

Ice Hills - Undulating hills fade into the distance atop the Vatnajökull glacier

Ice Hills – Undulating hills fade into the distance atop the Vatnajökull glacier

Ice Canyon - A closeup of an ice canyon crevasse atop the Vatnajökull glacier

Ice Canyon – A closeup of an ice canyon crevasse atop the Vatnajökull glacier

Shark Fins - An abstract of the sheer shapes of the Vatnajökull glacier

Shark Fins – An abstract of the sheer shapes of the Vatnajökull glacier

Ice Land - Late afternoon light hits rolling hills of ice atop the Vatnajökull glacier

Ice Land – Late afternoon light hits rolling hills of ice atop the Vatnajökull glacier

What Lies Beneath - A massive crevasse canyon created by meltwater on top of the Vatnajökull glacier

What Lies Beneath – A massive crevasse canyon created by meltwater on top of the Vatnajökull glacier

Glacier Lake Reflection - The still glacier lagoon reflects light and the distant glacier and mountains at Vatnajökull

Glacier Lake Reflection – The still glacier lagoon reflects light and the distant glacier and mountains at Vatnajökull

Under the Cave - Melting water rushes out from the glacier into the lagoon under a translucent ceiling of glacier ice

Under the Cave – Melting water rushes out from the glacier into the lagoon under a translucent ceiling of glacier ice

Stained Glass - Light streams through cyan ice that resembles stained glass in a massive ice cave under the Vatnajökull glacier

Stained Glass – Light streams through cyan ice that resembles stained glass in a massive ice cave under the Vatnajökull glacier

Glass and Ice - Clouds and the sun reflect in the calm glacier lagoon at sunset in front of the Vatnajökull glacier

Glass and Ice – Clouds and the sun reflect in the calm glacier lagoon at sunset in front of the Vatnajökull glacier

The next day after our hike, we headed back east towards Vik. While in Reynisfjara, I finally was able to scamper over the rocks during low tide and get a full-on view of the impressive sea stacks (the second shot in these two):

Shimmer Beach - Sunlight reflects the shadows of Vik's sea stacks and bright sparkles of shimmering volcanic rocks that make up the black beach

Shimmer Beach – Sunlight reflects the shadows of Vik’s sea stacks and bright sparkles of shimmering volcanic rocks that make up the black beach

Enter Darkness - A long exposure at sunrise creates a moody scene upon full view of the impressive sea stacks at Reynisfjara beach

Enter Darkness – A long exposure at sunrise creates a moody scene upon full view of the impressive sea stacks at Reynisfjara beach

On our way to Pingvellir, I noticed these massive mountains that were partially reflected in a frozen lake. It was an impressive show of size even in grand Iceland:

Moody Mountaintops - Overcast skies cover the peeks of massive mountains above a frozen lake in east Iceland

Moody Mountaintops – Overcast skies cover the peeks of massive mountains above a frozen lake in east Iceland

Sunrise at the Vietnam Memorial and Lincoln Memorial

This morning I led a very cold workshop at the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. Not a cloud in the sky and 20-ish degrees, but still a beautiful sight!

A clear and cold sunrise at the Vietnam Memorial

A clear and cold sunrise at the Vietnam Memorial

Sunrise on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Sunrise on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Top Shots of 2016

Another year in review! I’m actually surprised at the amount of shots I captured this year, given that next year’s resolution is to shoot more. Here are my fav 10…Which one is your favorite? 

 

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

The late winter's "snow moon" rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

The late winter’s “snow moon” rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Rain and mist in the high mountains off of ring road in southern Iceland

Rain and mist in the high mountains off of ring road in southern Iceland

A long exposure as the tide creeps on the Stokksnes beach before the Vesturhorn mountain

A long exposure as the tide creeps on the Stokksnes beach before the Vesturhorn mountain

Light shines through the violent waves and translucent icebergs of the ice beach

Light shines through the violent waves and translucent icebergs of the ice beach

An abstract of light and color turns to sensual lines at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

An abstract of light and color turns to sensual lines at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Wildflowers rise from a rocky hillside in the badlands of Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Wildflowers rise from a rocky hillside in the badlands of Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Stars shine brightly over a pathway of cracked mud at Panamint Playa

Stars shine brightly over a pathway of cracked mud at Panamint Playa

Vibrant flowering trees and calla lillies line the architecture of Oia, Santorini as the sun warms the sky and landscape

Vibrant flowering trees and calla lillies line the architecture of Oia, Santorini as the sun warms the sky and landscape

Cold Sunset in DC

Last night I spent some time down by the memorials. I wanted to get a shot of the wreaths against the Vietnam memorial, but the beautiful clouds started gathering more westward. I did a few long exposures facing the Lincoln Memorial before turning back east to the Washington Monument where the sky had turned a deep pink. A pretty nice and unique sunset despite the cold!

Long Exposure Lincoln Memorial Sunset

Long Exposure Lincoln Memorial Sunset

Pink Sunset at the Reflecting Pool

Pink Sunset at the Reflecting Pool

Fall Foliage in the Washington DC Area

As we finally are seeing cold weather we regularly expect in late November, the autumn leaves — several weeks later than normal, are finally falling off of the trees. This past Saturday was a particularly amazing day. It started at 70 degrees on an afternoon we decided to take our baby to the zoo. By 3pm, a cold front arrived with 40 degree weather and crazy wind! Leaves of all shapes and colors flew across the sky. We may have a week or so left to witness the fall color. I’ll perhaps have a little more to share, but here are a few from the past two weeks:

Great Falls Autumn Panorama

Great Falls Autumn Panorama

Lower Senate Park in Autumn

Lower Senate Park in Autumn

Lower Senate Park in Autumn

Lower Senate Park in Autumn

Supermoon over Washington DC

This evening, we saw an amazing supermoon rise over Washington DC. We chose the Constitution Gardens to allow us a view eastward to the rising moon while also seeing the peaking fall foliage. Enjoy!

The stunning supermoon rises over a cloudless pink and blue sky at the Constitution Gardens of Washington DC

The stunning supermoon rises over a cloudless pink and blue sky at the Constitution Gardens of Washington DC

The stunning supermoon rises over a cloudless pink and blue sky at the Constitution Gardens of Washington DC

The stunning supermoon rises over a cloudless pink and blue sky at the Constitution Gardens of Washington DC


Autumn Panorama at the Constitution Gardens

Autumn Panorama at the Constitution Gardens

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day on this beautiful fall morning… As shown by some amazing color at the Air Force Memorial this week

Air Force Memorial in the Fall

Air Force Memorial in the Fall

Air Force Memorial in the Fall

Air Force Memorial in the Fall

Adventure in Iceland

I was lucky to spend 3 amazing nights in Iceland. Though there was a lot of rain, I made the best of the situation and had a great time. I will be updating this page with details of my trip!

Icebergs line the shore of the black sand beach near Jökulsárlón

Icebergs line the shore of the black sand beach near Jökulsárlón

Violent waves smash icebergs around and apart during a seredepitous and rare moment during my trip when the sun peeked through the clouds to color the scene

Violent waves smash icebergs around and apart during a seredepitous and rare moment during my trip when the sun peeked through the clouds to color the scene

Being constantly barraged by water, Icebergs form beautiful shapes during a gorgeous sunrise at the black sand beach

Being constantly barraged by water, Icebergs form beautiful shapes during a gorgeous sunrise at the black sand beach

Light shines through the violent waves and translucent icebergs of the ice beach

Light shines through the violent waves and translucent icebergs of the ice beach

The moon peaks through clouds at sunrise at Jökulsárlón

The moon peaks through clouds at sunrise at Jökulsárlón

A short break between storms allows beautiful light on the Vatnajökull ice cap of iceland

A short break between storms allows beautiful light on the Vatnajökull ice cap of iceland

Rain and mist in the high mountains off of ring road in southern Iceland

Rain and mist in the high mountains off of ring road in southern Iceland

A long exposure as the tide creeps on the Stokksnes beach before the Vesturhorn mountain

A long exposure as the tide creeps on the Stokksnes beach before the Vesturhorn mountain

A moment of color at sunset at Vesturhorn mountain

A moment of color at sunset at Vesturhorn mountain

Peaks and waves rise in the distance at Vesturhorn mountain

Peaks and waves rise in the distance at Vesturhorn mountain

As the tide rises up the beach the sun sets creating a moody scene at Vesturhorn mountain

As the tide rises up the beach, the sun sets creating a moody scene at Vesturhorn mountain

In search of food, a seagull soars across the massive Skógafoss waterfall

A seagull soars across the massive Skógafoss waterfall in search of food

Huge waves crash towards the shore over misty skies and dramatic seastacks at Vik

Huge waves crash towards the shore over misty skies and dramatic seastacks at Vik

Basalt columns wind in beautiful shapes at the shores of Vik

Basalt columns wind in beautiful shapes at the shores of Vik

Basalt columns, soaring birds, crashing waves, and dramatic seastacks make the signature of Reynisfjara beach in Vik

Basalt columns, soaring birds, crashing waves, and dramatic seastacks make the signature of Reynisfjara beach in Vik

A long exposure at the beaches of Vik highlight the dramatic shapes of volcanic rocks and seastacks

A long exposure at the beaches of Vik highlight the dramatic shapes of volcanic rocks and seastacks

Blackwater Falls Autumn 2016

This past weekend, the family and I went to check out the fall foliage at Blackwater Falls State Park. It has become a little tradition for us! Some locales were past peak, and others hadn’t quite reached peak. An interesting year for sure as leaves are usually fully peak by the end of September. Here are the few images I captured from this year

Fall Foliage in the Canyon

Fall Foliage in the Canyon

Autumn leaves, dramatic clouds and mountains in a back country road in West Virginia

Autumn leaves, dramatic clouds and mountains in a back country road in West Virginia

Sunset at Lindy Point

Sunset at Lindy Point

Sunset at Lindy Point

Sunset at Lindy Point

Air Force Memorial’s 10 Year Anniversary

Last week, the Air Force Memorial celebrated its 10 year anniversary and I had the honor of photographing the event. The event included an amazing performance by the Air Force Memorial Band, a former American Idol contestant, speeches by distinguished guests, two flyovers, and a video presentation by former President George Bush. Also, Deborah James, the Secretary of the Air Force, was named an honorary Tuskeegee Airman for her role in supporting the group’s objectives. It was a really good time, and I was glad I was there to capture it for this important memorial.

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Air Force Memorial 10 Year Anniversary

Full Moon over the National Museum of African American History and Culture

On Sunday night, I captured the rising full moon as it rose beautifully over the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I used the lit path to lead the viewer into the image and used two exposures to capture the foreground and moon.

The full moon rises over the African American History Museum in Washington DC

The full moon rises over the African American History Museum in Washington DC

Sunset at the Memorials with IGDC

Last night I met up with the IGDC crew for the first time! Nice to finally meet some of the photogs I had been following on Instagram. The sunset wasn’t too bad either. I tried some new angles and some other more traditional ones… hope you enjoy!

An ND filter warms colors and softens textures at sunset at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool

An ND filter warms colors and softens textures at sunset at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool

Cool and warm tones at sunset at the World War II Memorial

Cool and warm tones at sunset at the World War II Memorial

Late evening sun illuminates the pillars of the Jefferson Memorial

Late evening sun illuminates the pillars of the Jefferson Memorial

Serenity Now

Yesterday’s Sunset may not have been much compared to the previous days, but still was beautiful and serene as seen from great falls

Peaceful colors over a tranquil section of the Maryland side of Great Falls

Peaceful colors over a tranquil section of the Maryland side of Great Falls

Seattle Skyline

We recently returned from a family trip to Seattle! This makes two years in a row that we have traveled for my mom’s bday! We had a blast and have this takeaway from a late afternoon visit to Kerry Park. A gorgeous view to Mt. Rainer, surreal like the mountain is superimposed over a picture of the city! The park was kind of small, but sissy and I had fun pretending we were kids. Till next time…

Late afternoon sun illuminates Mt. Rainer as seen from Kerry Park in Seattle, Washington

Late afternoon sun illuminates Mt. Rainer as seen from Kerry Park in Seattle, Washington

Washington DC Union Station Photography

Last week, I met up with friend and photographer Angela Pan and two new photog friends Dave an Zack at Union Station! After checking out the sunset from the parking rooftop, after Dave asked for it, we were granted access to a cool perspective from behind the statues that adorn the elegant and historic transportation depot. I captured a straight on view to the U.S. Capitol and toyed with the intersection of lines in the ceiling of Union Station. Hope you enjoy em…

Union Station Washington DC

Union Station Washington DC

Union Station Washington DC

Union Station Washington DC

Union Station Washington DC

Union Station Washington DC

Lightning Storms in Washington DC

Last night I went shooting with my friend Angela Pan to capture storm photography near the city.The storms arrived right around sunset, which allowed for some nice light and color as the bolts struck. After the sun set, continuous bolts highlighted clouds behind the Air Force Memorial. While I would have loved to see some fork-like bolts, it still was a nice sight to see.

The moon peeks through clouds right before a torrential thunderstorm in Washington DC

The moon peeks through clouds right before a torrential thunderstorm in Washington DC

Lightning strikes over the U.S. Capitol and Jefferson Memorial in this composite of several lightning strike images

Lightning strikes over the U.S. Capitol and Jefferson Memorial in this composite of several lightning strike images

Lightning strikes behind dark clouds, revealing their shape and color over the Air Force Memorial

Lightning strikes behind dark clouds, revealing their shape and color over the Air Force Memorial

Summer Sunset at the Washington Monument

Tonight I met up with my friend and photographer/workshop extraordinaire, Michael Chinnici of Photo Workshop Adventures. After hanging for a bit, we headed to shoot sunset at the White House and Washington Monument. Just past sunset, some interesting clouds rolled in while subtle pinks took towards the horizon. A center comp seemed to be in order.

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Cumulus clouds surround the Washington Monument during a classic summer sunset

Cumulus clouds surround the Washington Monument during a classic summer sunset

Sunset at the Vietnam Memorial

A long exposure at as sun basks the Washington Monument from the Vietnam Memorial

A long exposure at as sun basks the Washington Monument from the Vietnam Memorial

I had planned this shot for a while and finally went out to capture it. Usually this is a spot for sunrise but I was looking for the monument to be basked in light and looked to use the crowd to add mood. Might try this one again still.

In Living Memory

Landscape Photography of Santorini

In June, we went on vacation to Greece. This was a leisurely trip to Greek Islands Mykonos and Santorini and a stop over in Athens before flying home. Through 8 nights, the trip proved to be a fair amount of time spent traveling. If I were to do it again, I’d maybe cut out Athens or spend more time overall.

During vacations, I don’t usually spend much time photographing. I like to keep photography trips and vacations with family as separate as possible. They have such different daily routines and sights to see, that I find it to be hard to concentrate on both. But, I bring my camera along nonetheless and see if there are opportunities to add to the portfolio.

During this trip, I took mostly portraits of us having fun. I mixed that in with a little shooting in Santorini –sunrise and midnight shoots in Oia, where we were lucky enough to stay, and some shots from the boat tour of the Aegean Sea from Santorini. Ultimately, I only have landscape shots from Santorini – and more than I thought I would come away with! Hope you enjoy them and my views from a beautiful island destination.

 

Vibrant flowering trees and calla lillies line the architecture of Oia, Santorini as the sun warms the sky and landscape

Vibrant flowering trees and calla lillies line the architecture of Oia, Santorini as the sun warms the sky and landscape

The sun rises over a cloudless landscape from Oia in Santorini, Greece

The sun rises over a cloudless landscape from Oia in Santorini, Greece

A panoramic shows the layers of cave houses as they wrap around the ends of the island of Santorini at sunrise

A panoramic shows the layers of cave houses as they wrap around the ends of the island of Santorini at sunrise

Rows of cavehouses bathed in early morning light as seen from a view also including church bells and docked boats

Rows of cavehouses bathed in early morning light as seen from a view also including church bells and docked boats

A panoramic of early light streaming onto the cliffs of Oia, Santorini

A panoramic of early light streaming onto the cliffs of Oia, Santorini

Flowers adorn the edges of the walls near a church in Santorini

Flowers adorn the edges of the walls near a church in Santorini

An unassuming corner is adorned with vibrant orange paint and blooming, flowering trees

An unassuming corner is adorned with vibrant orange paint and blooming, flowering trees

The moon rises over the twilight landscape of Oia, Santorini

The moon rises over the twilight landscape of Oia, Santorini

The rows of cave houses as seen from the tip of Oia at midnight

The rows of cave houses as seen from the tip of Oia at midnight

Light reflected from rock shines in the Aegean Sea off of the coast of Sanorini

Light reflected from rock shines in the Aegean Sea off of the coast of Sanorini

Light reflected from rock shines in the Aegean Sea off of the coast of Sanorini

Light reflected from rock shines in the Aegean Sea off of the coast of Sanorini

A sailboat full of people witnessing the cloudless sunset in Santorini

A sailboat full of people witnessing the cloudless sunset in Santorini

A pan motion of a speeding sailboat just after sunset in Santorini

A pan motion of a speeding sailboat just after sunset in Santorini

A classic Santorini sunset with a twist. This is a blended image of one exposure for the sun and another, pan motion shot to create a interesting texture in the water

A classic Santorini sunset with a twist. This is a blended image of one exposure for the sun and another, pan motion shot to create a interesting texture in the water

Preview from Greece

A preview from Greece… more to come 🙂

The sun rises over a cloudless landscape from Oia in Santorini, Greece

The sun rises over a cloudless landscape from Oia in Santorini, Greece

Flashback Friday

#fbf to a more attractive Capitol dome under post sunset pinks and reds. Restoration should be finishing soon, thank God. Definitely less nice than the monument scaffolding froma few years ago. I right now I avoid shooting the Capitol like the plague

#washingtondc #dcweather #dcfocused #focused #exposeddc #igdc #dctography #instantdc #instagood #dccool #mydccool #uscapitol #dc #monuments #acreativedc

A spotlight illuminates the U.S. Capitol under pink and purple post-sunset clouds

A spotlight illuminates the U.S. Capitol under pink and purple post-sunset clouds

Photography for ABC 7 News Washington DC

Several months ago, I shot a scene on the Memorial Bridge for ABC 7 News’ dynamic weather background that viewers see during every forecast. After being Facebook friends with super TV personality and weatherman Steve Rudin for 5 years, I finally visited the ABC 7 studios in Rosslyn to meet Steve and the weather producer, Alex Liggitt and other notable personalities like Brian van de Graaff and Doug Hill. Everyone was super nice — especially Steve, who gave me the grand tour of the facility!

Check out the shots… woops about my collar 🙂

Next time you watch the weather, look out for my shot!

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Death Valley National Park & The Alabama Hills

Last month, I flew out to Las Vegas for 3 nights of photography. It had been a long while since I took a trip dedicated to photography! As a new father, my world turned upside down and I found it to be much harder to spend extended time away from home. Every moment is so special and I find it hard to be away to miss even the slightest thing. But being out in the environment and doing photography helps me clear my head and mind when the rush of life overwhelms me. Taking the time to travel and explore is worth it for me.

I had considered several locations but settled on Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park. This was because of the really convenient flight out there and the fact that wildflowers were seeing a rare superbloom hadn’t seen for 10+ years. But, a day before I arrived at the park, a massive windstorm swept away the most prominent patches of wildflowers. No worries… I still had myself a great time.

I tried to stay flexible and free during my 3.5 days/3 nights in the area. I used a great field guide for Death Valley by Ron Coscorrosa and Sarah Marino that helped me triangulate on locations to hit. Though it was a blast, I think I stretched myself a little too thin and across too many places! I started further east at Death Valley, took a 1.5 day excursion west to the Alabama Hills, and circled back to Death Valley before departing. A lot of driving, a lot of hiking, a few beers, and even fewer hours of sleep — and these are the shots I have to show for it.

All in all, it was a really great trip. It helped that I was able to stay in contact, for the most part, with my wife and baby back home. Google hangouts from Alabama Hills – the best of both worlds being in an alien-like, grand landscape but still connected to those I love back home.

As for Death Valley itself, honestly, the first day or so underwhelmed me. I was wondering what the appeal was of this much-discussed National Park, where mud flats and distant mountains were the most prominent features. However, as I spent more time at the park, its subtleties and more grandiose parts of the environment showed themselves to me. The park itself is massive – so making a rush call on its entirety based on one location and evening was mistake #1. Also, it’s a place for all its scale that is so different from mile to mile. Take for example the Cottonball Basin or Panamint Playa, both of which I spent evenings photographing. As an outsider, I took for granted the formations in the salt and mud playas that were so distinctive in shots I had seen from this place. In truth, finding those photogenic locations is extremely difficult. After 5 hours searching on Panamint Playa across several square miles (hiking and by deplacing by car), I found a section I liked but not nearly as deep or graphic in nature as I had sought. It became clear to me that hikers and photographers have spent hours, days, weeks, months combing this park for gems that can be found with time and effort. And finding those gems was not only a photographic accomplishment but a true sight to behold.

Just this vignette about Panamint Playa reflects my thoughts on the park — there is so much diversity that can be found in relatively small spaces within this massive area. One really just needs to spend the time to find it. Couldn’t the same lesson be applied in most life situations?

On to the images. I am usually one to say “quality over quantity”, but in this case I find myself with almost too many images for 3.5 days. Nonetheless, each speaks to me in a different way and also serves to tell viewers about the different aspects of Death Valley National Park and the nearby landscapes in the Eastern Sierras. What an amazing stretch of natural beauty in this earth! Here they are in chronological order. Your thoughts are appreciated:

Dante’s View: a nice place to see the expanse of a section of the park. I shot this area in mid-day and was able to see some abstract shapes in the creeks that seep into Badwater Basin.

An abstract of salt flats and flowing creeks that sliver through the valley from Dante's View

An abstract of salt flats and flowing creeks that sliver through the valley from Dante’s View

Mountains lead to the arid salt flats of Badwater Basin

Mountains lead to the arid salt flats of Badwater Basin

Cottonball Basin: Talk about misunderstanding a place. When I arrived here, I was pretty underwhelmed. I found the edges of this salt flat to be a little boring. A few more minutes in and steps toward center, and the otherworldly nature of this spot took hold. The delicate salt formations were foreboding but fragile. I immediately noticed that my footprints were affecting the crusty surface of the salt flat. Treading lightly, I searched for cool formations that reflected the sunset light.

The sun reflects off reflective salt flats at Cottonball Basin

The sun reflects off reflective salt flats at Cottonball Basin

Pink light shines off of high clouds just past sunset at Cottonball Basin

Pink light shines off of high clouds just past sunset at Cottonball Basin

The moon is reflected in a creek leading into Cottonball Basin

The moon is reflected in a creek leading into Cottonball Basin


Zabriskie Point
: One of the most popular spots in all of Death Valley. I spent some time before sunrise here to capture twilight and some of the waning starlight. Beautiful formations but a little too crowded.

Predawn blues, stars, and venus shine over Zabriskie Point

Predawn blues, stars, and venus shine over Zabriskie Point

The beautiful shapes of badlands at Zabriskie Point before sunrise

The beautiful shapes of badlands at Zabriskie Point before sunrise

Twenty Mule Team Canyon: I found a section of cool badlands in this canyon and set out on foot, deeper and deeper into the canyon. The badlands were interesting in texture — a crumbly sort of mud that fell away as I drove my boots up the mountains. With such a texture, it seemed to me that each mountain of mud existed precariously and could wash away in a rainstorm — kind of reminded me of the quality of Kauai’s Waimea Canyon in the way the oxidized volcanic rock had been reduced to mounds of red ash just crumbling away. I followed faint footpaths on the edges of the canyon peaks, getting higher in elevation, and suddenly found a rock quarry peppered with desert gold wildflowers. Just past sunrise, it was a perfect complement to the waves of badlands, bathed in warm sunlight, looking towards the valley.

Wildflowers rise from a rocky hillside in the badlands of Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Wildflowers rise from a rocky hillside in the badlands of Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Alabama Hills: I booked it West for 3 hours, past the town of Lone Pine, CA to visit the amazing Alabama Hills. Wow! Such crazy formations in rock — varied from those organic shapes close to me in the Alabama Hills, differing to a pillar form closer to the Sierra Nevada Range, and ending with the massive range itself topped by Mount Whitney and still covered in snow. The hike around the hills was just amazing. The ground was covered of loose, soil-like, sepia sand. Within the sand grew tiny flowerbeds of varied colors blue, yellow, green, and white. I had to tread lightly to not damage those flowers or the equally frail cacti and other shrubs that hung onto life in Alabama Hills. I did not have the best lighting against the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, but made do with the view – which was spectacular to say the least. I stayed overnight at a motel (finally – a bed and a shower) and hoped for some better light come morning. No such luck, but the clear skies allowed some continued twilight/starlight photography that I appreciated.

Delicate flowers line the loose sands of Alabama Hills at sunset

Delicate flowers line the loose sands of Alabama Hills at sunset

Miniscule, multicolored flowers, dried shrubs, and stark peaks adorn the desert landscape of Alabama Hills

Miniscule, multicolored flowers, dried shrubs, and stark peaks adorn the desert landscape of Alabama Hills

The moon shines brightly through stars and just-forming clouds at Alabama Hills

The moon shines brightly through stars and just-forming clouds at Alabama Hills

The sierra nevada range under stars before sunrise at Alabama Hills

The sierra nevada range under stars before sunrise at Alabama Hills

Panamint Playa: Back to Death Valley after sunrise, I decided to stay at one location to maximize the photographic opportunities and spend less time traveling. That said, it took a lot of time to scour the playa to find a good composition for sunset. I was determined to find some deep (say 6″ or more) cracks in the mud, but couldn’t find it. Instead, I found some interesting variations in the color of the cracked mud as it seemed to lead towards the beautiful Panamint Range, with its multicolored sandstone midsection that is so photogenic. The high clouds — that lingered throughout the day and teased me with promises of a colorful sunset — dissipated completely right before the sun started towards the horizon. So, not much color to be had but staying through sunset allowed me some twilight work. While many photographers cringe at the moon being present for night shots, I used it to help illuminate parts of the foreground and contribute to the blue skies that are lacking at night during moonless evenings.

Cracks in the mud lead to volcanic rock and the Panamint Range

Cracks in the mud lead to volcanic rock and the Panamint Range

The endless cracks in the mud at Panamint Playa resemble lizard scales

The endless cracks in the mud at Panamint Playa resemble lizard scales

Radiant light shines on cracking mud at Panamint Playa at sunset

Radiant light shines on cracking mud at Panamint Playa at sunset

An elevated view shows color and texture variations in the Panamint Playa

An elevated view shows color and texture variations in the Panamint Playa

Stars shine brightly over a pathway of cracked mud at Panamint Playa

Stars shine brightly over a pathway of cracked mud at Panamint Playa

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: In September, I got the chance to spend a morning at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Instantly, I knew that dune photography came very naturally to me, likely because I have been shooting a lot of abstracts lately. There’s not much better than a rising sun against rolling sand dunes when you love abstract photography. My flight was just near noon, so with not a whole lot of time, I hiked out to Mesquite Flat pre-sunrise and was able to capture a few shots before the fast hike (run) back to the car and onto Vegas. All that done, I still missed my flight home, but all was OK as I made it back just slightly later that evening.

Cool, pre-dawn tones shine over the dunes at Mesquite Flat

Cool, pre-dawn tones shine over the dunes at Mesquite Flat

Cool, pre-dawn tones shine over the dunes at Mesquite Flat

Cool, pre-dawn tones shine over the dunes at Mesquite Flat

Sunrise highlights textures and shapes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Sunrise highlights textures and shapes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Light, shadow, and shape at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Light, shadow, and shape at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

An abstract of light and color turns to sensual lines at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

An abstract of light and color turns to sensual lines at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

This was a strenuous, action-packed, and fun excursion. Not everyone’s idea of a “vacation”, but a cathartic experience for me. I learned some things, as I always try to… in that I do think I covered too much ground with too little time, expending myself too much and perhaps not allowing enough time for mindless exploration and art by osmosis. Also, I reminded myself to COMPARTMENTALIZE when it comes to packing and using gear in the field. When I throw everything together, I can’t find my items as quickly and ultimately lose or forget something. Yes, the light could have been better too, but such is life and I saw some amazing things. I can’t complain.

I hope you enjoyed visiting Death Valley and Alabama Hills through my experience and art. Till next time!

Sunset at the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial over Tulips

Last night, I led a private workshop at the Navy Merchant Marine memorial to see the willows and tulips that adorn the site in early spring. We were treated to a beautiful pink and orange sunset that made the view that much nicer. Your comments are appreciated 🙂

Vibrant pinks at sunset through the draping of willow trees that adorn the Mount Vernon Trail

Vibrant pinks at sunset through the draping of willow trees that adorn the Mount Vernon Trail

Oranges and pinks of sunset converge with the red and green tulips at the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial

Oranges and pinks of sunset converge with the red and green tulips at the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial

Pinks and blues on the horizon past sunset over tulips at the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial

Pinks and blues on the horizon past sunset over tulips at the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial

In Review – 2016 Washington DC Cherry Blossoms

This year, I probably went out for cherry blossoms more than I had any previous year that I can remember. I woke up for a few sunrises, stayed for a few sunsets, and spent some time exploring during the day. As a landscape photographer, there is a fine line between capturing what is presented to you (in weather, blooms, people) and creating something with what you have. Lately, I have been focusing on the latter — trying to create an image given the available elements. Sometimes those elements are inherently beautiful, and therefore popular. Think a blazing orange and pink sunrise – not many people wake up for those, they aren’t very common, and very rarely can one get it framed right above some photogenic elements such as cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. It’s easy to see why those shots are so popular. Sometimes, the environment doesn’t give you the inherent WOW factor so you have to try to create it yourself. It’s a good exercise in creation that I always enjoy. The practice also helps for when the elements do line up perfectly – I find myself more able to capture shots I find unique and fulfilling.

This year, the cherry blossoms themselves were very nice — as they are most years. The weather we had was also nice, but not stunning. We had a few clear days, a few cloudy days, but no real days of stunning colors. I still had a very nice time shooting at primarily the Tidal Basin, avoiding crowds by going at select times, and shooting solo with friends, and workshop participants.

So here I present to you my cherry blossom shots of 2016. Following these images will be more of the city, some long overdue Air Force Memorial shots, and some images from Death Valley I captured last month:

Tidal Basin Sunrise Panoramic

Tidal Basin Sunrise Panoramic

Cherry blossoms begin to bloom during the 2016 cherry blossom festival

Cherry blossoms begin to bloom during the 2016 cherry blossom festival

Jefferson Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

Jefferson Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

The full moon rises over the Tidal Basin over peaking cherry blossoms

The full moon rises over the Tidal Basin over peaking cherry blossoms

Air Force Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

Air Force Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

Air Force Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

Air Force Memorial Cherry Blossom Long Exposure

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Cherry Blossoms over the Martin Luther King Memorial

Cherry Blossoms over the Martin Luther King Memorial

Cherry Blossoms over the Martin Luther King Memorial

Cherry Blossoms over the Martin Luther King Memorial

Cherry blossoms draping over the Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms draping over the Tidal Basin

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

A ghostly figure under the hollowed out, stunted but still blooming cherry blossom tree

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Petals fly off of peak blooms during a blustery afternoon

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms 2016

Fallen petals as seen in the Tidal Basin as it reflects the blue sky

Fallen petals streak within the Tidal Basin's rough waters during a blustery afternoon

Fallen petals streak within the Tidal Basin’s rough waters during a blustery afternoon

“Snow” Full Moon over the Memorial Bridge in Washington DC

Last night, I went to the Memorial Bridge to capture the moonrise after sunset over the Washington D.C. monuments. I had a photography workshop to capture the same moon on Sunday, and had canceled because all forecasts pointed to heavy, consistent rain near sunset. Not even a drop fell, by my count! Anyways, I had another chance to shoot the “snow moon”, and decided on this vantage point given the point in sky the moon was rising.

The moon started out as a soft orange as it pushed through low, post-sunset blue and purple clouds:

The late winter's "snow moon" rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

The late winter’s “snow moon” rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

As the moon rose higher in the sky, it became brighter and the clouds turned darker and more orange with the city lights. I moved towards the left to keep the moon between the monuments as it rose towards the Washington Monument:

The late winter's "snow moon" rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

The late winter’s “snow moon” rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

The moon high in the sky now was very bright. I used two exposures so to show the detail of the moon along with the foreground. The shimmering body was amazing to see reflected in the Potomac river:

The late winter's "snow moon" rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

The late winter’s “snow moon” rises over the Memorial Bridge, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial

Sunset Over High Waters in Great Falls Park (Maryland)

Lead a private workshop yesterday evening… an it wasn’t until very late that a sliver of sky cut through the clouds. I didn’t think it had much potential but I was duped — pink soon surrounded in the sky. The extreme water levels at Great Falls made this section look especially strong & violent. Awesome and cold night to be out!

High water levels flow violently through Great Falls during a surprising pink sunset

High water levels flow violently through Great Falls during a surprising pink sunset

High water levels flow violently through Great Falls during a surprising pink sunset

High water levels flow violently through Great Falls during a surprising pink sunset

Air Force Memorial After the Snow

Last week, our area was pounded by Winter Storm Jonas and its nearly 30″ of snow. It took a few days to dig out, and I was finally able to get to do some post storm shooting. I tried on the few days after the storm and found some of the parks I hoped to shoot were still closed for the weather.

The forecast was for rain/freezing rain yesterday evening — but it did not stop me from trying to shoot. It’s a guessing game with weather. You can never know what you will find once you are in the field. In yesterday’s case, there were beautifully textured blue clouds before sunset. As the sun dipped in the sky, the low clouds caught a mix of sun and city lights to present a beautiful reddish purple hue that is so frequently found in the city. It’s one of my favorite times to shoot. I captured a couple of different looks of the memorial before the rain and freezing rain set in on me and my camera.

I was glad to keep the momentum up from shooting the storm and hope to get out again soon!

A purple glow from city lights and the sunset as clouds pass by over the Air Force Memorial

A purple glow from city lights and the sunset as clouds pass by over the Air Force Memorial

A reddish glow from city lights and the sunset as clouds pass by over the Air Force Memorial

A reddish glow from city lights and the sunset as clouds pass by over the Air Force Memorial

Day 1: Washington DC Blizzard of 2016

Yesterday afternoon, I geared up in my warmest waterproof winter gear and spent 5 hours on the National Mall photographing the onset of the 2016 Blizzard nicknamed “Snowzilla”. Unless someone can offer me transport today, it looks like yesterday was my only opportunity to travel down to the city to capture the falling snow before Sunday. Hopefully, things clear enough so that I can get back down after the nearly 30″ of snow we are expecting! In the meantime, here is what I captured through sunset of last night. The snow was falling pretty consistently, but shifted from fluffy puffs to a glittery mist. It was a blast being out there. Everyone stay warm, hopefully have more to share in the coming days…

Jefferson Memorial in the beginning of the 2016 Blizzard

Jefferson Memorial in the beginning of the 2016 Blizzard

Potomac River Snow & Ice Abstract, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

Falling snow contrasts with ice and snow collections in the Tidal Basin, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

Martin Luther King Memorial in the Snow, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

Martin Luther King Memorial in the Snow, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

DC War Memorial Snow Panorama

DC War Memorial Snow Panorama

DC War Memorial in the Snow, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

DC War Memorial in the Snow, Blizzard 2016 in Washington DC

DC War Memorial Snow Panorama

A purple glow shines at sunset from the Constitution Gardens

Purple hues at sunset in Washington DC on the first night of the 2016 Blizzard

Purple hues at sunset in Washington DC on the first night of the 2016 Blizzard

Purple hues at sunset in Washington DC on the first night of the 2016 Blizzard

Purple hues at sunset in Washington DC on the first night of the 2016 Blizzard

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

Snow and the surrounding American flags fly towards the Washington Monument during the first night of the 2016 blizzard in Washington DC

Top 10 Shots of 2015

Here is my opinion of my best work of 2015! I whittled it down to 10 images — tougher than I expected but a good exercise in curation. This year, I didn’t get to travel much for photography but still was able to capture a decent variation of scenes. I hope to travel much more in the coming years and see my photography continue to grow. I hope you enjoy the collection of shots from this year — organized in chronological order:

Lone trails in the snow lead to the Washington Monument on the misty, snowy National Mall

Lone trails in the snow lead to the Washington Monument on the misty, snowy National Mall

A snow squall hits Great Falls Park, blanketing it with snow and creating a mist on the scene

A snow squall hits Great Falls Park, blanketing it with snow and creating a mist on the scene

Lights and stars shine brightly at the Air Force Memorial

Lights and stars shine brightly at the Air Force Memorial

The full moon as seen from a bed of tulips at the Netherlands Carillion

The full moon as seen from a bed of tulips at the Netherlands Carillion

Vibrant brushes of color surround a distant storm at sunset on Clearwater Beach, Florida

Vibrant brushes of color surround a distant storm at sunset on Clearwater Beach, Florida

The crescent moon shines through pink and orange twilight clouds over the Lincoln Memorial

The crescent moon shines through pink and orange twilight clouds over the Lincoln Memorial

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the  Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

The sun selects sand specks to illuminate as sparkles within the windblown ridges of sand of Great Sand Dunes National Park

The sun selects sand specks to illuminate as sparkles within the windblown ridges of sand of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mist & fog roll in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Mist & fog roll in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Storms push warm light and a rainbow over the Marine Corps Memorial

Storms push warm light and a rainbow over the Marine Corps Memorial

More from the Vault

I’m on a roll — going through images from my hard drive and finishing those I have never presented. Here’s a set of nature images, including one from the White Mountains of the Eastern Sierra. I tried processing this photo several times in the past and never liked the results. Finally, I have something worth sharing…

Which do you prefer, my DC or nature portfolio?

A lone bristlecone pine in the desert of the White Mountains stands before the Sierra Nevada mountains, as seen as sun streams through the haze of wildfire smoke

A lone bristlecone pine in the desert of the White Mountains stands before the Sierra Nevada mountains, as seen as sun streams through the haze of wildfire smoke

Interesting rock formations that comprise the island of capri under midday sun

Interesting rock formations that comprise the island of Capri under midday sun

A contrived arrangement of maple leaves along a delicate ridge of shale rock

A contrived arrangement of maple leaves along a delicate ridge of shale rock

Finding Color in Washington DC

I have continued to search through my archives to present images I had not finished before. In this set, I present several shots that show how colorful the city can be. Using water, such as the Potomac River and the Tidal Basin, can help to exaggerate color through reflections where colorful light is mirrored below the subject itself. What do you think of this set?

The Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool at sunset

The Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool at sunset

Summer Sunrise on the Tidal Basin

Summer Sunrise on the Tidal Basin

Orange and pink hues at sunrise looking towards the Lincoln Memorial, Memorial Bridge, the Washington Monument, and the Tidal Basin lined with cherry blossoms

Orange and pink hues at sunrise looking towards the Lincoln Memorial, Memorial Bridge, the Washington Monument, and the Tidal Basin lined with cherry blossoms

 

Rowers pass the Lincoln Memorial at dawn on the Potomac

Rowers pass the Lincoln Memorial at dawn on the Potomac

Blues and pinks converge just before sunset on the Tidal Basin

Blues and pinks converge just before sunset on the Tidal Basin

A vibrant red sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

A vibrant red sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial Sunrise

Another shot from the vault, an amazing sunrise at the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial as seen from the Martin Luther King Memorial. I used a fast shutter speed here to catch the light in the ripples of the water.

A vibrant red sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

A vibrant red sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

New Images

As I haven’t been out as much as I would like to shoot, I have been finishing a few images that have been in the vault. Here are some from the Tidal Basin, Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial

Blues and pinks converge just before sunset on the Tidal Basin

Blues and pinks converge just before sunrise on the Tidal Basin

Fall trees are highlighted above the Honor Guard statue of the Air Force Memorial

Fall trees are highlighted above the Honor Guard statue of the Air Force Memorial

Sunset at the Martin Luther King Memorial

Sunset at the Martin Luther King Memorial

A closeup of the Honor Guard of the Air Force Memorial

A closeup of the Honor Guard of the Air Force Memorial

Pearl Harbor Day at the World War II Memorial

Yesterday, I went out for the sunrise at the World War II Memorial in honor of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The World War II Memorial is one of my favorites in the city, though relatively hard to photograph. The key is to hone in on the most graphical elements of the scene, which for me is often the huge fountains in the center. I used a fast shutter speed for a more “triumphant” look to counter the infamy of this day:

Sunrise over half staffed flags in memory of Pearl Harbor Day, 2015

Sunrise over half staffed flags in memory of Pearl Harbor Day, 2015

While walking to the memorial, I also encountered some of the Yoshino trees lining the National Mall. As Angela Fritz detailed in a Washington Post column, some of the trees are blooming cherry blossoms! It is really crazy to see during the cold month of December.

A rare bloom of cherry blossoms in December on the National Mall

A rare bloom of cherry blossoms in December on the National Mall

What is even rarer, it seems, is to see a blossom side by side with a turned leaf. Pretty sweet to see… wonder how many more there are in the city:

A rare mix of blooming cherry blossom along with fall leaves on the famous Yoshino trees in Washington DC

A rare mix of blooming cherry blossom along with fall leaves on the famous Yoshino trees in Washington DC

Till next time…

Fall Foliage in Washington DC

Now that November has come, DC is seeing peak fall foliage envelope the city. Alongside the foliage was a really nice sunset last night at the Martin Luther King Memorial and Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial Autumn Panorama

Jefferson Memorial Autumn Panorama

Sunset at the Martin Luther King Memorial

Sunset at the Martin Luther King Memorial

Corporate Art Project: Washington DC Law Firm

I recently finished a large project where I supplied 5 large format fine art canvas prints to a law firm in Washington, D.C. The sizes ranged from 40″ x 60″ to 55″ x 83″! It was great to see so much of my work selected for this modern and chic looking downtown space.

Canvas paper on floating black wood

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Canvas paper on floating frame

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Crested Butte in Early Autumn

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

A couple of weeks ago, I flew out to Colorado to tour the amazing landscapes there during early fall. In fact, we decided to take the trip for my moms birthday. To this point, all of my photography trips have been solo affairs where I am completely focused on shooting. That involves staying as close as possible to the sights and tailoring my entire schedule to capturing the location with every available moment I have. This time, it was a more compromised approach to capture photos where possible, but also do the normal touring and vacationing non photographers do! Given this there was less of a focus on photography overall during this quick 3 night trip, but I must say I was pretty impressed with the flexibility my mom showed! It’s hard to follow a photographer when he is less focused on the quality of accommodations and food and more focused on finding amazing sights.

Overall we had a great time! We visited places such as the Garden of the Gods, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Crested Butte. I had the most time to capture images at Great Sand Dunes National Park, where I took the morning to explore the playground of the towering sand stacks. Other than that, we had a great time driving through the amazing mountains and just-turning leaves of the aspens of Colorado.

My mom's (30th haha) bday trip! This is us at Garden of the Gods

My mom’s (30th haha) bday trip! This is us at Garden of the Gods

Through this post, I also want to describe something that has been on my mind regarding the way I am producing images as of this moment.

In my journey as a landscape photographer, I started with the inspiration that feeds so many other photographers like me. I was amazed by the gargantuan scenes with whopping color and shape that some of the most prominent photographers captured. I only dreamed of capturing the same types of images. In looking at the way they captured their shots, often times they went for extreme sharpness and resolution, exploiting every single capability of the most modern cameras and lenses. I followed suit as much as possible, learning techniques such as HDR, focus stacking, etc. and searching for wide and dramatic scenes.

This approach has worked for me, as I have become technically more proficient in using the tools we photographers have available. But over time, a couple of things have happened.

For one, I’ve spent more time closer to home (for various reasons), and have developed a style that dramatizes smaller landscapes. I haven’t been able to visit those grandiose sights I’ve dreamed of. Think Canadian Rockies, Patagonia, Iceland, and all of the other hotspots. This has made me spend more time refining my compositions to isolate the most interesting pieces of what I see. I’ve developed a style that integrates lines and shapes, however large or small. I have gone less wide angle and more zoom, often times forgoing the sky and sunsets/sunrise color in the clouds that so many photographers chase. I think this is a good thing, as it’s refined my eye in a way that has been, frankly, very difficult. I think I can apply this method back to the large scenes when I encounter them again.

Also, I’ve adopted a more fine art approach to my images as a result of working closer with the art community. I have had the good fortune of collaborating with fine art consultants in the Washington DC area and have taken note on what they find appealing. It’s rarely the super saturated sunset or sunrise that so many landscape photographers chase. It’s more subtle with color, as to perhaps be more realistic, but conversely more liberal with exposure, which adds an additional creative element that is missed in traditional landscape photography. Some themes that fine art buyers go for contradict landscape photography rules: center compositions, intentional motion blur that reduces sharpness, vignetting, under exposure and black and white. I find that this type of imagery is much harder to make well, but more fulfilling when achieved.

I’ve seen the effects of these two factors on my images. They are closer comps, more moody, and sometimes fly in the face of “good” landscape photography. Now, when I’m in the field, I may decide to handhold, open up, forgo a tripod, try a motion or zoom blur, pump the ISO where I wouldn’t before. I also am very enthusiastic about “poor” shooting conditions that so many photographers lament – blue skies, rain, fog, cloudiness. In fact, the last two trips I made were under completely blue skies and rainy conditions. I view these conditions to provide unique opportunities that are available if you stretch yourself.

Thanks to my mom for capturing me in action hahaha #alwaysthephotographer

A photo posted by Navin Sarma (@navinsarma) on


My mom captured me shooting during the weekend! As you can see, lots of handheld shooting! BLASPHEMY!

There is certainly a risk in this approach as I could and have sacrificed potentially nice traditional landscape photography opportunities for something more artistic. But, I have decided that, if I am truly an artist, its of the utmost importance that I find and cultivate a unique perspective. I will always try my best to originate images and offer new takes on existing sights. I’m not the guy to hike 100miles in the barren desert to find a scene never captured. But I am a guy to challenge myself to capture that scene in ways never seen before.

It’s an ongoing process and, sometimes, a struggle that provides a meaningful challenge and motivation to continue shooting. I hope that some of you can identify with my process or results and try, yourself, to create something new. I draw much of my inspiration from artists who push the limits. I hope that over time, I can do the same.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

A combination of evening sun, wide aperture, and compression effect of a zoom lens at Great Sand Dunes National Park

A combination of evening sun, wide aperture, and compression effect of a zoom lens at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Intense winds turn clouds and ridges of sands into towering dunes against the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Great Sand Dunes National Park

The sun selects sand specks to illuminate as sparkles within the windblown ridges of sand of Great Sand Dunes National Park

The sun selects sand specks to illuminate as sparkles within the windblown ridges of sand of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Gentle shapes, lines, and light converge simply and beautifully

Gentle shapes, lines, and light converge simply and beautifully

Curves interplay from the edges of dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Curves interplay from the edges of dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The first rays of sun contrast with the blue sky, shadows, and ridges of sculpted sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The first rays of sun contrast with the blue sky, shadows, and ridges of sculpted sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The first rays of sun contrast with the blue sky, shadows, and ridges of sculpted sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The first rays of sun contrast with the blue sky, shadows, and ridges of sculpted sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Undulations in dunes create beautiful shapes as morning light hits Great Sand Dunes National Park

Undulations in dunes create beautiful shapes as morning light hits Great Sand Dunes National Park

Rock and sand in the mid morning sun create interesting contrasts and a desolate look

Rock and sand in the mid morning sun create interesting contrasts and a desolate look

A wide view panorama of the Great Sand Dunes National Park below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

A wide view panorama of the Great Sand Dunes National Park below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Aspens being to turn yellow in the roads near Crested Butte

Aspens being to turn yellow in the roads near Crested Butte

High peaks, yellow aspens, and blue skies create a bold image near Crested Butte, Colorado

High peaks, yellow aspens, and blue skies create a bold image near Crested Butte, Colorado

Sunlight spotlights a section of aspen lealves amongst a yellow Aspen forest

Sunlight spotlights a section of aspen lealves amongst a yellow Aspen forest

Motion blur from a lens zoom creates an image from autumn-colored aspens below the clear blue sky

Motion blur from a lens zoom creates an image from autumn-colored aspens below the clear blue sky

Blackwater Falls State Park Autumn 2015 Peak Fall Foliage

We just came back from a one day trip in Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley in West Virginia! Though it was wet and foggy, it was really nice to see the sights in the park. I think too often, landscape photographers worry about “great” weather and colorful sunsets/sunrises. Weather like this challenges you to create something new.

A foggy morning at Lindy Point in Autumn

A foggy morning at Lindy Point in Autumn

Curves in broken shale rock lead to a fallen leaf

Curves in broken shale rock lead to a fallen leaf

Misty fog rolls in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Misty fog rolls in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Misty fog rolls in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Misty fog rolls in and out of Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park