Autumn Showing at the Tidal Basin

This past Friday, I led my 15th class within my meetup group. Fall colors are just starting to show on the Tidal Basin beneath the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

In between instruction, I went for two shots, one normal and one panorama. Enjoy!

Fall colors start to turn at Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin in front of the Washington Monument.

Fall colors start to turn at Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin in front of the Washington Monument.

During a blue and pink sunset, fall colors start to turn at Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin in front of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

During a blue and pink sunset, fall colors start to turn at Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin in front of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

Peak Fall Foliage in Autumn at Blackwater Falls State Park

On Friday night, I returned from a 10 day trip with my wife to celebrate our one year anniversary. What an incredible trip! I took some shots along the way, but kept the focus on relaxation and touring each city we visited. I don’t like to mix too much photography “work” with vacationing with family — but still have a few images to share.

In keeping tabs of situations closer to home, I found that Blackwater Falls State Park was nearing peak fall foliage for the autumn 2013 season. No time to waste! After getting in from Italy at 6pm on Friday night and being super jetlagged, I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning and booked it to West Virginia to shoot a day of fall colors.

First things first though. I had my eye on one locale near Dolly Sods that I wanted to check out, so I scouted it for a future visit. As I scaled the dried out river, I found a cool triangular cave formation from a rock jutted out 45 degrees from the ground. Using a wide angle and polarizer, I reduced the glare in the bottom left of the frame to show the rocks and allowed glare in the bottom right to balance with the water flow illuminated by the rising sun:

Triangle Cove WVA


Triangle Cove
A triangle rock cove near Dolly Sods, West Virginia.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/14, 1/5 sec, ISO 100, Polarizer

As the day progressed, I came towards Blackwater Falls State Park and visited an icon of the area, Elakala Falls. Elakala falls is such a popular spot in the fall, and it’s frequently shot with a long exposure to show water flow and eddies swirling with leaves. While I stayed with this theme, I wanted to show something a little different as well. The falls are located in a gorge that does not have a clear view to the sky. However, I wanted to emphasize the blue skies above so I used a reflection within a pothole formation. Slight polarization limited glare on the far rocks but still allowed a reflection:

A pothole reflects the blue sky at Elakala Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park.


Remember the Sky
A pothole reflects the blue sky at Elakala Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 100, Polarizer & ND Filter

As I continued observing Elakala Falls, I noticed that as the water dropped from the rock ledges, they formed interesting triangle formations, almost in the shape of dark hooded figures crowding around each other. The shape was only briefly visible every few seconds, so I chose a relatively fast shutter speed and kept shooting until one shot reflected the mood, shape, and texture I was going for:

Strange shapes form figures within water dashing down Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park.


Figures from Beneath
Strange shapes form figures within water dashing down Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200, f/2.8, 1/13 sec, ISO 400, Polarizer

Last but not least, Lindy Point. This is a great location to view the sunset at Blackwater Falls State Park, given that it looks due west through Blackwater Canyon. I came earlier in the day and found that many trees had peaked during this area. I planned to come 1.5 hours before sunset to get my composition set, but had no idea what awaited me once I arrived.

What an amazing gathering of folks at Blackwater Falls for sunset over the river. 75+ people in and out, enjoying the weather. Perhaps 15 folks trying photography, some of whom mentioning the works of artists who I am familiar with. A workshop group based in Blue Ridge with the instructors chatting me up about gear. A nice group of friends and two dogs enjoying some cold ones atop a rockledge cliff (why didnt I ever think of this!). It was a bit hard trying to get spot on the cliff faces, but I took my time. After checking each side multiple times, observing the foliage, the rocks, the sun, the anticipated location of the stars and milky way, I confirmed my composition. I took this one shot while scouting a shot towards the north:

Warm light highlights turning trees on the cliffs of Blackwater Canyon, West Virginia.

Warm light highlights turning trees on the cliffs of Blackwater Canyon, West Virginia.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70, f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 1000, handheld

Slowly, all those who had come to watch the sunset left. Some complained that it wasn’t as vibrant as they would have hoped. I can understand the sentiment and the desire to see a killer light show that takes over the whole sky. But I am also of the opinion that every sunrise/sunset has its advantages/disadvantages and reasons to be unique. Soon after sunset, I was the only one left. I kept shooting into twilight for the shot I was planning and that I had never before seen in Blackwater Falls.

The first shot was the original shot I planned. I didn’t want to include the milky way, but just the blue/purple mood of twilight with stars, clouds, and the foliage below. Venus made these shots that much more effective, as the planet beamed like in a dream:

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Venus Watching
Venus shines brightly during twilight over autumn trees at Lindy Point, Blackwater Falls State Park.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, two shots blended at f/13 and f/2.8 for high dynamic range (HDR)

As twilight progressed and the milky way shined, I tried one more composition to emphasize it in the sky. The name of the photo came to me as I was shooting past the huge rocks towards the stars shining above:

The milky way and venus take the sky over Lindy Point, West Virginia.


Upon a Throne
The milky way and venus take the sky over Lindy Point, West Virginia.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/2.8, 33 sec, ISO 2500

I hope you enjoyed these images of peak fall foliage in autumn at Blackwater Falls State Park. Next up, images from Italy!

The Eastern Sierras, Part 3: Lundy Canyon and Lake Tahoe

Following up on Part 2 from my trip to the Eastern Sierras, my next destination was the Lundy Canyon and Lake Tahoe.

Not a whole lot of time to write about what adventures I had since I’m boarding a plane to ITALY in a few hours!

Needless to say, after a few days of hiking I was pretty worn out. With about a day and a half left, I decided to do a day hike to Lundy Canyon before booking it to Lake Tahoe before my flight from Reno the following morning.

I usually perform photography during “magic hour” – sunrise or sunset, since it’s the best time of day for soft beautiful colors. Given that I was in the White Mountains the day before and on a flight the next day, it just wasn’t feasible. So, I went on a day hike into Lundy Canyon.

This is one of those times when the feeling mattered much more than the shot. What a great hike! Mid 70s, a warm breeze, and an amazing canyon filled with waterfalls, tall trees, wildflowers, and interesting rocks. I later made it to this waterfall, which was surrounded by fragrant yellow wildflowers (the shot just didn’t materialize).

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Blue sky over Lundy Canyon.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, 1/6 sec, ISO 100, 2 shot panorama

I hiked out of the canyon, into my car, and drove straight to Lake Tahoe. After 3 hours, I finally arrived and began exploring the area. Many of you have heard of Tahoe before, as I have. I thought it was some sort of entertainment hub — not the beautiful freshwater lake it is. I came upon Sandy Point Harbor and did note the many people there, but couldn’t help but appreciate the beautiful scene of large boulders displaced from the mountain and deposited at the shore. I pointed west, hoping for some color, but was instead intrigued by the rays of light as they played around the boulders.

Sunset at Sandy Point Harbor in Lake Tahoe

Sunset at Sandy Point Harbor in Lake Tahoe.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/20, 1/6 sec, ISO 100, 2 shots to control flare

So ends my images from the Eastern Sierras. Next up, ITALY!

The Eastern Sierras, Part 2: The White Mountains

Following up on Part 1 from my trip to the Eastern Sierras, my next destination was the White Mountains.

The White Mountains are a few miles away from Bishop, California. A desert mountain, the area looks like a gray, barren wasteland, with occasional shrubs and nearly no wildlife except for beetles, marmots, and small birds. And… Bristlecone Pine trees: beautiful, gnarly, and old trees rising up from the gray ash. These trees are some of the oldest beings on earth (some being nearly 5,000 years old) and after their death, still stand erect for many years. Standing tall on the White Mountains at 11,000 feet and away from most city light, these trees are witnesses to spectacularly clear, starry night skies. For all these reasons, I traveled up into the White Mountains.

Map from Mono Lake to White Mountain

Map from Mono Lake to White Mountain

Upon first arriving to the Eastern Sierras, I noticed the drab looking, gray and brown mountains and cliffs. As I ascended up the White Mountains, those grays and browns turned brighter colors: light grays, reds, and white (hence the name of the mountains). At the same time, as I climbed elevation, the air got thinner abd the mid-day blue sky turned deeper and deeper blue. The deep blue sky against the brightly colored, rolling peaks of the White Mountains almost made me feel like I was underwater, though I was the exact opposite of that:

Deep blue sky contrasts with the bright granite rock of the White Mountains.


Blue as the Sea
Deep blue sky contrasts with the bright granite rock of the White Mountains.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70, f/16, 5 sec, ISO 50, 10 stop ND filter

As I continued up towards Schulman and Patriarch Groves, home of the bristlecones, I began noticing some short yellow shrub-like flowers just barely rising from the gray dirt. Tiny marmots darted back and forth in the road ahead of me, hiding in these shrubs and their homes as they searched for whatever little food existed in the landscape. I stopped in an area that I felt encompassed the daytime character of the White Mountains, with a few yellow shrubs scattered in the foreground, a deep blue sky with puffy white clouds above, and bristlecones hanging on to their existence in the white hills in the distance:

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Of a Desert Mountain
Deep blue sky over the little life the exists in the White Mountains.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/7.1, 1/50 sec, ISO 100, 7 images stacked for focus

When I arrived closer to the Bristlecone trees, it was still daytime. I took this time to scout the trees and determine the best location for sunset and twilight. As the sun continued to bear down on the landscape, I noticed the stark shadow cast by one of the twisted, dead trees and positioned it to streak across the frame. I used a small aperture to accentuate the light of the sun to create a “sunburst” or “sunstar” effect and a black and white rendition to enhance the stark mood of the scene:

An ancient Bristlecone pine tree stands tall and alone upon the barren, granite rubble of the White Mountains Wilderness.

Sweet Desolation
An ancient Bristlecone pine tree stands tall and alone upon the barren, granite rubble of the White Mountains Wilderness.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/20, ISO 100; two exposures for dynamic range (HDR) (one exposure with my finger on the sun to reduce flare)

After my first night at Mono Lake and some research, I determined that the milky way should appear to the south/southwest of the location I was shooting. So, I continued scouting compositions pointed that way. Milky way shots are especially common from the White Mountains area for the reasons I stated above (dark skies and high elevation); however, I wanted to try something slightly different than the time-lapse, one tree compositions I had seen. Being drawn by the barren quality of the granite rubble and the rough life of the Bristlecones just hanging on the side of the mountains, I decided on my composition just after sunset. I used soft, twilight rays to illuminate the foreground and continued to wait until the first stars showed. Soon, I could see the milky way with my own eyes — a large orange band going across the entire sky. With the use of today’s camera technology, the camera pulled out much more detail than my eyes could ever see, but helped create an unforgettable image for me:

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Dreaming in Blue
Twilight at White Mountains reveals the milky way along with dark blue hues just after sunset.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, three exposures for focus and dynamic range: two exposures at f/9, 20 sec, ISO 100 (foreground, taken just after sunset) and one at f/2.8, 22 sec, ISO 5000 (taken just after twilight)

Just a few more images left from my trip to the Eastern Sierras. Stay tuned…

Sunset at the Lit Washington Monument

Tonight, I hosted another Introduction to Landscape and Nature Photography class in Washington, D.C. This time, at the newly lit Washington Monument.

The weather was perfect — mid 70s and high clouds. Everything looked perfect for a brilliant sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the color stayed a muted blue. Right when I thought all hope was lost, the entire sky was engulfed in an orange pink. Despite a few construction artifacts, the view to the monument was very nice and complemented by the radiant color:

Radiant pink, orange, and blue color surrounds the newly lit Washington Monument

Radiant pink, orange, and blue color surrounds the newly lit Washington Monument

The Eastern Sierras, Part 1: Mono Lake

In early August, I traveled out west for a good friend’s wedding in San Diego. Given I am rarely on the west coast, I took this trip as an opportunity to explore a region of our country that I hadn’t previously.

My first thought was to search for any interesting locations within driving distance of San Diego. But I quickly learned that any such location (like Death Valley) would be some 110 degrees fahrenheit during early August. Broadening the range a bit, I decided on a short flight out to Reno, Nevada and a drive just south from there to visit a higher elevation and cooler part of California: the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Over the course of the next three posts, I’ll cover my trip from the major locations I visited around the Sierras: Mono Lake, the White Mountains, and Lake Tahoe.

Though I’m not a scientist, I love to learn about how beautiful parts of the Earth are as they are. I stand in awe of a natural site, thinking about the long history of violence, happenstance, change, and silence… and soothing questions come to my mind. How could this possibly get here? How could it be so beautiful? What came before it, and what’s next? What else is out there, in the world and the Universe? Why do I even find this beautiful, isn’t it just water, rock, and air? Is this beauty the mark of God?

These questions make me research each place I’ve ever photographed or ever will. Each answer is one step closer to the truth. So here goes my semi-informed summary of what I found intriguing about the Sierras and surrounding region.

The Sierra Mountains, like most other dramatically beautiful natural sites in the world, are a product of continuous tectonic forces. As the giant plates of the Earth smashed together on one end and sank at another, a plume of granite rock formed just below the surface and pushed upwards. The rock pushed through an ancient sea, displacing the ocean and revealing the hardened sediments that were accumulated within the water. As the mountains continued to push upwards, wind and rain eroded most of the ocean sedimentary rock, leaving the characteristically gray mountains that populate the Sierra region. Glacial events served to cut the granite rock into interesting shapes, as best illustrated perhaps by Yosemite Valley’s Half Dome.

While volcanic activity continued in the Sierras, it also created the White Mountains and other ranges just to the east, and with other geologic changes caused the relatively recessed area to form the Owens Valley and Mono Basin. In the basin formed the saltwater, terminal Mono Lake, which held the runoff from the nearby mountain water and developed salinity as salty minerals continue to be deposited but never dumped. There Mono Lake has stood for nearly a million years, before recent human activity revealed it’s hidden beauty.

In the mid 20th century, tributaries to Mono Lake were redirected to feed Los Angeles’ waters system. As the supply to the lake dwindled, so did the lake’s depth. With that, marvelous limestone formations, created when volcanic hot springs interact with the salty Mono Lake, were revealed. These fantastic tufa formations line the edges of Mono Lake, are iconic of the area, and were a big reason for my trip to the Eastern Sierras. It’s an irony that human meddling with nature results in humans marveling at a natural occurrence. Fortunately, California has set a goal of restoring the lake’s original depth within the next 20 or so years, which will result in water again covering these rocks. Until then, we can appreciate the tufas revealed at Mono Lake.

On to the trip itself. I flew into Reno on Sunday afternoon, following my friend’s wedding. Shaking off the hangover from a long couple of nights, I got off the plane in the late afternoon and headed South to try to arrive to Mono Lake by sunset. 140 miles and more than 2.5 hours later, I finally arrived. While I normally like to have a composition in mind about an hour before sunset, I was only getting out of my car about 15 minutes before it! I was in a rush, and did what I could.

map_reno_to_mono-640x789

I headed straight for South Tufa, an area with a particularly interesting set of tufa formations. I parked my car as close as I could, then started hiking through rabbitbrush towards the shore.

Looking out into the distance to the lake, it seemed like an easy enough hike over the brush. I quickly realized it was not. The rabbitbrush grew larger, wider, and seemingly stronger the closer I got to the water. At one point I was literally stuck in between two bushes when I decided to take another way. While moving back through the brush away from the shore, I noticed two things: a pugent, but sweet smell from the rabbitbrush and a colorful sunset just above them and the nearby ridgeline. The yellow tips of brush highlighted the last streams of sunlight and the dead brush contrasted with its shape and cooler color:

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Brushlight
The setting sun brushes color in the sky and strands of light caught by the desert shrubs of Mono Lake.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/9, 1/50 sec, ISO 800 handheld; double processed RAW file in Adobe Photoshop 6 with selective curves adjustments

As the light faded into twilight, I finally found my way to the lake shore. In many cases, I’m done photographing after twilight. But another reason I decided on visiting the Eastern Sierras was the opportunities for night time photography. Being 8000 feet in the air during the late summer months, I was hoping to catch some starlight and milky way shots that are near impossible near Washington, D.C.

After a couple of test shots, I found an amazing view right into our own galaxy. Smoke from the just blazed Rim fire added some haze and color in the sky. I framed the milky way to race across the frame as the tufa towers zig zagged around it.

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Beneath the Darkness
Smoke from a nearby wildfire scatters distant light from the sun and stars over Mono Lake, California.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, 3 images for dynamic range and focus at f/2.8: 2 for the foreground at 4min, ISO 1600, 1 for the stars at 22sec, ISO 6400; HDR using photoshop layer blending and refined by hand

The next morning, I headed back down to South Tufa to catch the sunrise. As I started got down to shore, I noticed really clean and easy walkway leading back up to near where I parked. In the darkness, I couldn’t find this access point and instead struggled in the rabbitbrush! Oh well, guess it was worth it for the experience of bushwhacking — I guess it’s what the natives did back in the day when they wanted to visit the Lake.

An iconic location, I pretty much resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to capture anything too unique out of that morning’s shoot at Mono Lake. I know many photographers who have shot there and everywhere in the dramatically beautiful west of the USA, but I did not expect to see the 6 professionalish photographers lurking around the tufas that morning.

Regardless, the sheer size and span of the tufas across Navy Beach was an impressive sight. I used a panorama at a semi-wide angle to capture it all, but not allow the wide angle distortion to miniaturize the tufas in the water. All said, this image is 150 megapixels — a size that could easily be printed as a mural:

Morning light dapples impressive tufa formations surround Navy Beach at South Tufa shore of Mono Lake, California.

Morning light dapples impressive tufa formations surround Navy Beach at South Tufa shore of Mono Lake, California.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70, 8 images shot vertically and blended into a panorama at f/11, 1.3 sec, ISO 100

As the sun continued to rise over Mono Lake, I was captivated by another tufa formation away from shore. As the sun shined warmth on the tufa and the rabbitbrush beneath it, the scene was iconic of the landscape of the area:

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Mono Classic
Sun bathes tufas and rabbitbrush at the banks of Mono Lake.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm, f/16, 1/50 sec, ISO 640 handheld

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my series from the Eastern Sierras. Next up, White Mountains (and some more starlight photography).

Summer Sunrise at the Air Force Memorial

As I continue to process the images from my Eastern Sierra trip, I wanted to leave you with some other work I have been developing for the past several months.

For the past few months, you may have noticed that I have shot and posted many images of the Air Force Memorial, in Arlington, VA. It just so happens that I have been working in an official capacity for the Memorial. My work will be featured in many publications for the Air Force Memorial, including the 2014 Calendar, murals, and magazines.

So far, this relationship has allowed me to take some images of the Air Force Memorial that have not yet been captured. I have captured a dramatic, full-on view of the Memorial right after a strong storm, amongst other views and more that I will share with you over the coming weeks.

More recently, after some inspiration from renown wilderness photographer Marc Adamus, I have been trying some perspective blending techniques to capture even more unique views of the Air Force Memorial. The structure itself rises so high off of the ground, that often times, it is difficult to capture the Air Force Memorial in a single shot. Therefore, I have been using multiple exposures to cover a larger field of view than traditionally allowed, and blending/transformation techniques within Photoshop to merge the images together to form a cohesive view. Using this technique, I was able to capture a composition that has not yet been seen: an eastern exposure to the rising sun and Washington Monument, with the entire Air Force Memorial in the foreground.

I hope you enjoy this shot and the others to come. Once I get copies of the other Air Force Memorial publications, I’ll be sure to post them here.

Thanks for any comments!

A full view of the Air Force Memorial at Sunrise

A full view of the Air Force Memorial at Sunrise

Preview: The Eastern Sierras

Earlier this month, I went on a 4 day lightning tour of the Eastern Sierras, including Mono Lake, the White Mountains, and some small sights in between. As an East Coast city guy, it is always a fantastic and memorable experience to travel out west. Dramatic geologic events of the past still show their mark on much of the landscape — unlike the East where time has allowed erosion to whittle down the environment to a more conservative look.

While I continue to develop my shots and write the story from my trip, I wanted to leave you with the first image I created while there. This may just be my favorite image from the trip, if not it is certainly one of the most unique scenes I have shot. Being near Washington, D.C., we do not get a chance for as many dark skies and therefore a window into the stars above and our own galaxy, the milky way. On my first day, I set out to capture a scene at Mono Lake looking towards this dramatic celestial show. I hope you enjoy it! I will tell the whole story of how I found and captured this scene in a post early next week.

Thanks for any comments! More to come…

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Beneath the Darkness
Smoke from a nearby wildfire scatters distant light from the sun and stars over Mono Lake, California.

Super Full Moon over the Iwo Jima Memorial

Yesterday, I hosted another photography workshop at the Iwo Jima Memorial to witness the Super Full Moon over Washington DC. The Iwo Jima Memorial and Netherlands Carillon are very popular spots to witness moonrises as they both offer eastern exposures and a view over Washington D.C., including the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

When shooting the full moon, the optimal conditions are not necessarily a cloudless sky, but more so some sparsely placed high clouds at sunset. This would allow the light to catch color in the clouds as the moon rises in it’s orange color. Luckily, last night we got just that! Not a super vibrant sunset/moonrise, but a calming cyan and magenta combination.

The super full moon rises over a colorful sunset at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

The super full moon rises over a colorful sunset at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Comments and shares appreciated! Thanks!

Dramatic Storms in Washington DC and the Air Force Memorial

Dramatic weather can produce dramatic photography!

Over the past few days, we have had some intense weather here in Washington, D.C. Everything from black clouds, huge winds, tornados, and deluges. In many cases, these situations are disasterous to photograph. Water and electronics DO NOT mix! But in certain situations, bad weather can create unique photographic opportunities.

Last night, the dark clouds broke at sunset as a cold front set. This provided an amazing backdrop to the Air Force Memorial, in Arlington. The stainless steel spires reflected this amazing light.

A colorful sunset after a powerful storm at the Air Force Memorial.

A colorful sunset after a powerful storm at the Air Force Memorial.

Featured in Landscape Photography Magazine

Hi everyone,

Just a quick plug that I was featured in the May issue of the online photography magazine, Landscape Photography Magazine. It’s a (paid) monthly publication with inputs from a lot of great artists, including ones I really like: Ian Plant and Guy Tal. Check out the magazine here.

Excerpt from the magazine with my interview follows. Enjoy! I would love to hear your comments:

When did you start photography?
I started photography in 2006 after getting a heavily discounted SLR from my cousin, who worked for Canon. However, it was not until 2009, that I started putting in the time and effort to become a photographer.

How important is photography for you?
Photography is a channel of emotions for me. Becoming a photographer has opened my eyes to a perspective I had never experienced before: of wonder and awe about our universe’s history and hope for the future.

What is your favourite image of all time?
There are several, but I think Marc Adamus’ “Midnight Magic” and Michael Anderson’s “Fire and Ice” were very inspirational for me when I began my journey in photography. They are both fantastic artists to look up to.

Describe your favourite and most inspiring location.
We are lucky that the world affords us many beautiful sights in nearly every nook and cranny. While bouncing from one site to the next is certainly fun and exciting, I also find it more spiritual and meaningful to concentrate on
one locale to really understand what it is all about. That location for me is Great Falls, in Maryland and Virginia. Although a relatively small stretch of waterfalls, the area allows amazing views from several vantage points
of violent rapids, striated bedrock, meadow forests and great blue herons and other avian species.

Who is your favourite past or present photographer?
There are so many photographers that it is hard to choose, but I should say that Floris van Breugel and Marsel van Oosten have to be up there. I was fortunate to shoot with Floris, who really helped my fundamentals in
the artistry of photography. Marsel just has so many moving images that incorporate wildlife as well as the landscape; infinitely harder and something I hope to do in the future.

Besides photography, do you have any other hobbies?
I am a full-time strategy and management consultant in the Washington, D.C. area. I also enjoy playing basketball and the piano as well as travelling.

What are your future photographic plans?
I want to continue to get better as an artist and photographer, and explore those places still unfound within me and the landscape. If people identify with my work, I shall be appreciative, but it is not my main goal. My journey with photography has been a personal one and any opportunities because of it are a blessing.

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms in 2013

I just finished up my images covering the cherry blossom bloom of 2013 in Washington DC. It was an intense few days of non-stop photographic action! I woke up 4 days last week at the 4am, shot till 7am, edited till 8:30am and worked the rest of the days. It took a lot but I think it was worth it.

Overall, I thought this year’s bloom was great. The cold stretch we had into March served to delay the bloom, but also I think make it more cohesive as most trees come to their peak near the same times. Last year, trees bloomed a bit more haphazardly, which made it difficult for me to say “THIS is peak bloom”.

While the blooms were really nice, unfortunately the rest of the landscape in Washington, D.C. left something to be desired, photographically. After the earthquake of 2011, the Washington Monument was pretty seriously damaged. In mid-March, contractors begun finally repairing the damage of that day, and started a brace-like scaffold that has built up significantly since then. While I’m all for the Monument getting repaired, I have a hard time understanding why they couldn’t wait ONE MORE MONTH. It has been nearly two years since the quake anyway.

It was hard not to include the Monument in my shots. For one, because I have an affinity for shooting it. I think it’s the most iconic symbol of the city — it’s dramatically set on a short hill with a nice eastern exposure for photography, it’s tall and made of pure marble. Because of it’s literal stature above the city, it also is hard to avoid when shooting on the Tidal Basin. The Jefferson Memorial just isn’t as dramatic a shape from far away as the Monument.

I rolled with the punches though. Perhaps, people will want to look back to when the Monument was under construction? Maybe a future project will include photoshopping it out (I cringe at the thought).

Regardless, I had a blast shooting those few days and think I came away with some decent and unique looks. I appreciate any and all comments, good or bad!

This first one was April 9, when the blossoms first began to burst. You can see a few shy blossoms on the top of the frame. I used an extreme wide angle to create and accentuate the shapes — this sort of wide angle introduced some interesting distortion as well.

Peak Cherry Blossoms shimmer in the morning sun on the Tidal Basin before the Washington Monument.

Shimmering Above
Peak Cherry Blossoms shimmer in the morning sun on the Tidal Basin before the Washington Monument.

The next morning, April 10, I think the blossoms were at full peak. A gorgeous sunrise burst in front of me that morning. I love when there’s just a few high clouds: they catch the morning color so dramatically. I have been obsessed with ripples on water lately, and used a short shutter speed to snap up their texture, and the shape of the Canadian goose crooked up towards the sky:

A radiant sunrise pierces through colorful cherry blossoms at dawn on the Tidal Basin.

Grand Opening
A radiant sunrise pierces through colorful cherry blossoms at dawn on the Tidal Basin.

I took a day off in between my blossom hunting, to try a spot I like in Virginia. More to come on that shot during my next post.

I had been planning my next image for some time. I really want to get a dramatic capture of the wilting away of the blossoms. It’s a time that not many people photograph since it’s sad, in a way. While I didn’t get the shot I really wanted, I came away with a decent representation.

As Friday came, clouds covered the city. An overnight thunderstorm stripped many of the blossoms of their charm. There were some trees that clung dearly to their remaining flowers as they shook in the wind. The blossoms collected at the edge of the Tidal Basin, and moved interestingly in circles and out of the frame. A beautiful but sad realization that it’s the future of every blossom — unless they can spring new life elsewhere:

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Sincerely Yours
Fallen petals act as somber gifts of grace from the Cherry Blossom peak at the Tidal Basin

This last shot was a bit experimental for me. I’m not an avid black and white photography type of guy, but the silhouettes of the scene compelled this look. The shaking trees contrasted nicely with the damp look of the sky:

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Cherry Blossom Silhouette
Darkness accentuates shape at the Tidal Basin during Cherry Blossom season

So goes another year of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.! I hope you enjoyed these images. Please don’t leave the blog without leaving your thoughts as a comment.

2013 Peak Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Today I made it down to the Tidal Basin for the Sunrise to see the Cherry Blossoms in peak bloom. 2013 has been a very different year than 2012, when the Cherry Blossoms bloomed on the Tidal basin on March 20. Today, April 9, I would say the blossoms are in full swing! More visits to come this week, but I hope you enjoy this one.

I got my composition set up to frame the Washington Monument. I tried to angle it to not emphasize the scaffolding. I waited until the sun rose in the position I expected, and the blossoms shimmered in the light:

Peak Cherry Blossoms shimmer in the morning sun on the Tidal Basin before the Washington Monument.

Peak Cherry Blossoms shimmer in the morning sun on the Tidal Basin before the Washington Monument.

REMEMBER. Prints are only 25% off until April 15th!

Till next time.

Orange and Pink Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Yesterday, I hosted another workshop, with the plan to shoot the Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin.

While the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin have not yet bloomed at all (NPS has shifted their peak Cherry Blossom bloom for Washington D.C. and the Cherry Blossom Festival to 3-6 April), we still got together to capture the sunrise.

The sun was positioned to rise between the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument (which just began its construction and the scaffolding at its base), so I assembled the group on the Southwest corner of the Tidal Basin. Shortly before sunrise, the clouds lit up with color and texture which nicely complemented the ripples on the water:

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial surround a brilliant orange and pink sunrise at the Tidal Basin

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial surround a brilliant orange and pink sunrise at the Tidal Basin

This week, it’s off to Niagara Falls for a day before my friend’s wedding, then next week the focus shifts back to peak bloom of the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC.

TILL NEXT TIME!

Dramatic Clouds at the U.S. Capitol

Yesterday, I went scouting at the U.S. Capitol for some shots I plan to take this spring.

I was looking for some blooming flowers and after a while of searching, found none. One of the fundamentals of successful photography (in my opinion and that I teach during my workshops), is to come with a plan, but be flexible.

Since I didn’t find the flowers I was looking for, I shifted to plan B. Upon arrival on the scene, I could see some pretty intense cloud formations brewing above me. The forecast was for a cold front and showers for later in the evening, so I knew there was a possibility of some texture in the clouds. I decided to shift gears and try to get some dramatic looks of the U.S. Capitol with these clouds looming above.

I observed clouds collecting and moving feircely just to the left of the U.S. Capitol. As the building is rather symmetrical, I I decided on a center composition and got into place. The clouds were racing across the sky, and I decided to use a longer shutter speed to accentuate their motion while retaining their texture (too long of shutter speed and the clouds would look milky smooth, without texture):

Dark storm clouds race over the U.S. Capitol just after sunset.

Dark storm clouds race over the U.S. Capitol just after sunset.

Almost like clockwork, after sunset the city lights of Washington, D.C. turn any low clouds into a stark pink color before orange later in the evening. I waited for after the sun had set for this color to take hold, and take hold it did. I also observed the moon peeking through the clouds: still be visible to the Eastern horizon as it continued its ascent. I waited for a gap in clouds to emphasize the moon against the deep blue sky, and used a wide angle to show the scene over the U.S. Capitol building:

The moon rises through pink clouds, illuminated by the setting sun and city lights of Washington, D.C.

The moon rises through pink clouds, illuminated by the setting sun and city lights of Washington, D.C.

Remember that all of my prints are 25% off until April 15th, 2013 🙂

While I didn’t achieve my objective in scouting the U.S. Capitol grounds for blooming flowers, I did come away with some images I enjoyed, and even more, some ideas for next time’s outing.

TILL NEXT TIME!

Woven in Water

I conducted another Intro to Nature and Landscape Photography course this past Sunday at Great Falls National Park, on the Maryland side.The weather was looking promising, with high clouds in the forecast and a window to the horizon. I was hoping for a colorful burst at sunset, given the recent more muted sunsets I’ve seen at the park.

Unfortunately, the clouds dissipated and a blue, cloudless sky remained. Not the most colorful.

But, lately I have found myself drawn to closeup abstracts of violently rushing water. A great place to find this is Great Falls, with it’s dramatic rapids always proving to have interesting action. And given the uninteresting sky, it was the only way to go for me.

The rapids of Great Falls weave water in and out, and into interesting shapes

Woven in Water
The rapids of Great Falls weave water in and out, and into interesting shapes

Oh and if you’re interested, Another class is scheduled for this Sunday, still with some open slots:

DC Metro Nature & Landscape Photography: Learning Workshops

Washington, DC
618 Photo Explorers

After 6 years of being a nature & landscape photographer, I feel compelled to share the gift of photography with others!I will be leading a series of workshops around the DC …

Check out this Meetup Group →

Till next time!

Appreciating the Winter Season

Wow, it’s been nearly two full months since my last post. My apologies to any who frequent my blog looking for updates.

Unfortunately, my other career has taken most of my time – business trips, training classes, and just a lot to do. It certainly is hard to keep up two “professional” lives and often I have found success in one comes with sacrifice of the other. At some point, I might meet a fork in the road where I will have to decide more definitively where my end path will lead.

Regardless of what my “job” is, I have never felt more fulfilled and vivacious as I have felt through this gift of photography. It’s funny how something ubiquitous as a camera can allow one to explore channels within the self that were otherwise unknown. If nothing else, simply the self-searching has been worth all the effort I’ve put into the craft.

Onto today’s post. A frequent subject around this (and many) areas is the weather. Of course, we experience it every day so it’s natural to be a major discussion topic. One discussion that often intrigues me is the argument against the cold, winter weather we see here in the mid-Atlantic.

So many people hate the cold so much! The idea of wearing a coat and hat, a blustery wind, ice/sleet/snow you name it, and they are up in arms. They swear they can move to Southern California today and not have a care in the world.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, and the apparent luxury of not dealing with uncomfortable temperatures, I personally love the winter. Actually, I take that back. I love the SEASONS. What is the point of monotony in anything in life, especially something so impactful as the weather? As a sentient and sentimental person, I like seeing the change that slowly and constantly engulfs our environment as seasons change. Green turns orange, orange turns bare and back again. Weather patterns change – wind and cloud formations. The whole mood of the scene is drastically different from one season to another. I find that lately, a reliable group of people who share my views are meteorologists. No surprise there though: their whole profession is based on the environmental conditions.

What’s not to like about winter? OK, I don’t like being cold either. But I know no better peace than what I feel when I walk outside at night after a fresh snowfall — the silence is nearly sacred. But even other winter weather — icicles, sleet, frozen lakes/ponds/rivers… I could go on.

To the joy of most and the dismay of me, our winters of late have been pretty warm and dull. Granted, I haven’t had the chance to venture much out West during these times – into the areas of NW Maryland and West Virginia. Fortunately, this year I headed up that way, AND we had a few good days of cold to get some photographic opportunities closer to the city. Maybe this compilation will get your juices flowing about the winter? No? Ok, I tried.

The first image is from here at the familiar stomping grounds of Great Falls, Maryland. A few weeks ago, we got some pretty cold weather that stuck around for about 5 days. After about 4 days, I figured the waters were cold enough to start at least some parts of Great Falls to ice over. Given the lack of rainfall at the time, some of the formations on the Maryland side revealed themselves and allowed me to take a closer look.

The clouds fizzled out just about immediately after I arrived at the scene, slightly contrary to what was forecasted. But, I found a really cool set of broken trees crossed upon each other right in front of a significant “step” in the falls. The icicles were really compelling here – and we don’t get freezes often so I had to take the opportunity:

Freezing water at Great Falls

Freeze and Build
Freezing water builds a gigantic row of icicles upon fallen trees in Great Falls, Maryland.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, .3 sec, ISO 50

I took a panorama of the same scene for those of you who are interested in larger sizes. This particular image is a mosaic of 20 exposures to achieve both extreme scale and focus:

Freezing water builds a gigantic row of icicles upon fallen trees in Great Falls, Maryland.

Freeze and Build Panorama
Freezing water builds a gigantic row of icicles upon fallen trees in Great Falls, Maryland.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, 20 exposures blended for depth of field and scale, 1/5 sec, ISO 200

As I mentioned, this year, I had the opportunity to venture up north to the mountains of Western Maryland. This wasn’t a photography trip, but I tried to take advantage nonetheless. The whole weekend we were in the area, we were treated to beautiful winter weather. A constant light snow and very calm winds. A real treat for me given our lackluster winters of late.

Out of one sunset outing, I came away with 4 keepers! That’s an extreme amount for me nowadays. I thought each image was unique enough to warrant inclusion on this post.

This first image is a wide angle of Muddy Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in Maryland at 53 feet. Maryland’s geology is not all that dramatic (especially compared to the relics out in the Western USA), but each natural site, however small, has its history and beauty to be respected. The site was affected by Sandy to the point that the park closed the area from which this was shot. I had to be very prudent not to step on the ice and through to (potentially deep) water.

I just missed some really nice warm light, so I decided to B&W to emphasize the shapes and contrasts:

Gigantic icicles and fresh snow paint an idyllic winter scene at Muddy Creek Falls, the highest freefalling waterfall in Maryland.

Winter’s Glory
Gigantic icicles and fresh snow paint an idyllic winter scene at Muddy Creek Falls, the highest freefalling waterfall in Maryland.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, f/13, .4 sec, ISO 50

As I continued to observe the scene from a rock not far from the shore, I paid more careful attention to the falls, and the contrasts in shapes and textures between the sandstone rock, dramatically long and sharp icicles, and the rushing water. The way I decided to depict these contrasts was not in one, but two images that I think serve different purposes:

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Water & Ice
Rushing water contrasts with frozen icicles at the base of Muddy Creek Falls, in Oakland Maryland.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/8, 1/4 sec, ISO 400
Black and white emphasizes the contrast between sharp, long icicles, flat stacks of sandstone, and delicate snowfall.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/4.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 3200

I continued to wait and watch the scene. As you may have noticed from the last image, the light snow began to pick up as I continued shooting, and the white flakes contrasted very well with the darker background that were appearing as the sun sank behind the horizon. I turned my attention to the tree captured in the right hand corner of the first image with its shape and stance standing starkly in front of a shallow cave dripping with long icicles. I played with a few exposures of varying shutter speeds when I decided I wanted to freeze the diagonal motion of the flakes falling down on the scene. The light had dissipated so much that I had to crank the ISO (light sensitivity) on the camera to maximum. It’s times like these where I am thankful to have a low-light champion like the Nikon D800:

x

Magically Melancholy
A blue overcast snowfall past sunset accents a mystical scene at Muddy Creek Falls, Oakland, MD.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200/2.8, f/9, 1/125 sec, ISO 6400

Two months have passed since my last post, but I promise it won’t be two months again until my next one. I hope to capture more of winter before it turns away from us for another year and my thoughts move to the next beautiful transition of our world’s seasons.

Top 10 Shots of 2012

Another year, another look back.

This year was another one of growth for me. While it has been over 6 years since I picked up my first SLR, I feel like I only began “growth” as a photographic artist in 2010. I have learned so much over the past few years about photographic techniques, artistic tendencies, and probably more important than all, my own self.

That gets to what I find most valuable about my journey in photography. It has given me a tangible medium for me to look at myself. Each photograph says something about me in ways that even I don’t fully understand. But the introspection itself is worth the time and effort I put into the work.

Anyways, on to the shots. Here is what I think is my best of 2012, in no particular order. I would love to hear your comments on my choices, and if you think any others belong or dont:

Kauai Kalalau Valley

Mist in the Valley
Mist scatters the cool morning light amongst the cliff edges of the Kalalau Valley.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @75mm, f/11, ISO 50, 2.5 sec

Sunrise over Nusa Dua

Emergence
Shapes of the sky and sea converge during a gorgeous sunset at Uluwatu Temple, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, polarizer, f/16, ISO 50, 2 images for dynamic range (HDR) and focus.

Autumn at the U.S. Capitol

Autumn at the U.S. Capitol
Autumn at the U.S. Capitol Panorama
Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon 14-24

Caribbean abstract Dominican Republic

Caribbean Calm
A small freshwater stream empties into the calm Caribbean sea, creating beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately ride around and on top of one another in the sunset light.
Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 70-200/F4L @ 144mm, f/16, .6 sec, ISO 50, Tripod

Water Abstract Kings Bath Kauai

Off to the Races
Mist scatters the cool morning light amongst the cliff edges of the Kalalau Valley.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @75mm, f/11, ISO 50, 2.5 sec

Sunrise in Shenandoah during peak fall conditions

Shenandoah Classic
Fall foliage is abound during a glorious and classic Shenandoah National Park sunrise, with the diffused sun filling orange in the hazy blue rolling hills.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, two exposures at f/11 blended for dynamic range (HDR)

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Twilight Sunrise Panorama

A panorama show the peak bloom of Cherry Blossoms that line the Tidal Basin under a crescent moon, just before sunrise.
Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8G, 10 shots stitched together

Maui Oheo Gulch Sunset

Fantasy Garden
A radiant scene on the east coast of Maui, where the river meets the sea at Oheo Gulch. Maui, Hawaii.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm @14mm, Fotodiox Filter Holder, 4 stop ND filter; two shot blend at f/22

Tanah Lot Sunset

Sight of Worship
Furious seaside conditions and a view to the setting sun bring reverence to Tanah Lot Temple, Bali
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 1/15 sec, ISO 50

Lower Senate Park at Night

Lower Senate Park at Night
The fountains of Lower Senate Park at night at the U.S. Capitol.
Nikon D800, 14-24 @ 22mm, f/14, 30 sec, ISO 100, tripod

I hope you enjoyed my shots this year. Here’s to another healthy, happy, and productive year to you and all of your loved ones!

Honeymoon in Bali

As this year winds down, I look back on what was one of the busiest and most important times in my life so far. No doubt the biggest thing that happened to me is that I got married to the love of my life! We were able to plan and hold our wedding just 6 months after getting engaged. Despite the craziness of the wedding time and subsequent move to our new home, we thought it would be best to go immediately after our wedding to our honeymoon destination.

We decided on Bali for a number of reasons. We wanted somewhere that was out of the country, warm, had a good mix of relaxation and adventure, and was somewhere neither of us had been to. It also helped that Bali was featured in Yaminee’s favorite book, “Eat, Pray, Love”. So, we quickly decided that Bali was the place to go.

Just two days after our wedding, we were at the airport. After a fiasco at the ticket counter (a combo of inclement weather and limited alternative flights) that nearly entirely canceled our trip, we were on our 24+ hour journey.

We spent our first few days in the southern part of the island, where we could just relax and soak up the sun. After months of wedding planning and running around, this was exactly what we needed. Our hotel, the Conrad Bali, also had easy access to many ocean activities, including parasailing and jetskiing. For just $8 USD, they quickly harnessed us in and whisked us away into the sky and onto the water. The view from above and on the water was great — but unfortunately not safe for a dSLR:

Yaminee and me on our jet ski!

Yaminee and me on our jet ski!

One of the draws of Bali is its rich marine life. Yaminee has always loved dolphins, so one of the first outings I had planned for us was to see them up close. After taking a boat just 5 minutes off of the coast, we stopped at a small wooden station that the company set up to attract wild dolphins. Using regular food as bait, the dolphins come back every day to interact with guests, learn and perform tricks, and then get on their merry way. It was a pretty cool experience meeting and petting our dolphin, Feta. His skin felt like smooth rubber:

Playing with Dolphins in Bali

Chillin’ with Feta, the dolphin

The island of Bali is also legendary for its unique Hindu culture. It is unlike anywhere else in Indonesia or anywhere in the “capital” of Hinduism, India. While the gods that many Hindus know are the same, the images and stories are slightly different.

The Balinese use a type of performance called Kecak to portray Hindu mythology. I was first introduced to this when I watched the amazing, graphic documentary, Baraka. The performance includes men chanting (in a way that sounds like the name, “Ke-Chuck”) while dancers act out the story. During one of our first evenings, we watched this unique illustration of the familiar Hindu story, Ramayana:

Kecak chanting

Kecak men chanting

Kecak is a beautifully choreographed dance and ritual

Kecak is a beautifully choreographed dance and ritual

As a landscape photographer, I constantly plan my whereabouts and actions on the conditions and subjects I hope to photograph. Much of this went out the window on our trip to Bali, for obvious reasons. I knew this was not a “photography” trip and therefore didn’t expect to get all the shots, but instead experience the island with my new life partner. It’s a win either way. However, I did want to shoot some scenes and Yaminee was more than supportive in urging me to bring back some quality shots.

Our first location to find those shots was Uluwatu Temple, on the southwest coast of the island. A massive cliffside of limestone, this location offered a stunning view due west right where the sun sets. This grand vista showed expansive waves stretching horizontally in the length of a half mile or more. As the waves approached the rocky shore, they began rolling up against the shallows in beautiful shapes. The sun began to touch the horizon and shined pink light just above the level of the sea, and onto each roll and smash of the sea:

Uluwatu Waves Crashing

Crash of Color
Pink light dapples on rolling waves as they crash into the limestone cliffs of Uluwatu Temple, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm/2.8 at 140mm, f/11, .3 sec, ISO 50.

One thing I always try to do when photographing (and something I recommend you do too), is to look behind you. You might think that you have a stellar composition and the right shot, but then right behind you is a light show you would only see in dreams. While it is important to stay true to your “planned shot”, it’s also very effective to stay flexible and capture the most interesting, unique, and fleeting mix of elements you can.

That said, while I was shooting the coast and expecting nothing but a drab, blue sunset, I turned around and what an amazing sight. As the sun peeked through the horizon and its wavelengths of light bent towards the high clouds, the entire sky lit with orange and pink. I first tried a horizontal composition to capture the marching cumulus clouds in the distance and their juxtaposition to the limestone cliffs:

Golden Shores of Uluwatu

Golden Shores
Golden sunlight bathes the cliffside and clouds at Uluwatu Temple, Bali
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, ISO 50, two exposures for dynamic range (HDR)

At times like sunrise and sunset, the light is so dynamic that it can look starkly different from moment to moment. As the orange in the sky pulled back, the highest parts of sky showed more blue and revealed a shape that mimicked the water, and accentuated the circular cliff that lined the way up to the temple. This is probably my favorite of the two images:

Uluwatu Waves Crashing

Kindred Spirits
Shapes of the sky and sea converge during a gorgeous sunset at Uluwatu Temple, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 8 sec, ISO 50.

After such an inspiring sunset, I decided to try to keep it up for the next morning. Earlier in the week, Yaminee and I had visited a beach in Nusa Dua that I thought had some pretty good potential for sunrise. The only question was how to get there. With no method of transport, I thought for a second to rent a motorcycle (as we had already done to that point). Though riding the bike was a lot of fun, it seemed a little risky for me to speed on a 150cc bike, taking a side road in a foreign country, in the pitch dark (before sunrise), with a huge camerabag and tripod on my back — Whoa. So, I decided to get a driver to take me in the early mornings to the spots where I needed to go.

When I arrived at the beach, the first thing I noticed was the craggy limestone formations right above the water. I pushed my way through some brush and found an amazing view over these formations — right over a shallow aquamarine lagoon and the rising sun. The climb over the stone was painful to say the least. I was wearing flimsier shoes and light shorts and the spiny limestone I couldn’t see very deep into the lagoon, but given the angle of light, I knew a polarizer would do the trick. The contrast of the lagoon with the amazing shape of the rock was a challenge for me to compose in a photograph. But I used the shape of the rock as a cradle into the lagoon, eventually leading the eye to the far distant clouds and sun peeking through:

Sunrise over Nusa Dua

em>A brilliant sunrise contrasts over limestone cliffs and a shallow lagoon at Nusa Dua, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, polarizer, f/16, ISO 50, 2 images for dynamic range (HDR) and focus.

After our time in the southern shore of the island, we headed inward to Ubud, the cultural center, nearby the rolling rice fields commonly seen in southeast Asia. First things first, though. Check into our honeymoon villa with it’s private pool (and occasional visits from the monkeys of Monkey Forest). I think this choice got me a few brownie points with the missus:
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Royal Kamuela Villa” alt=”Royal Kamuela Villa”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/bali/ubud_hotel_royal_kamuela.jpg
[/image_frame]

Our amazing villa at Royal Kamuela, Ubud

Speaking of those pesky monkeys, some did steal our water from our outdoor kitchen. Another stole water right out of Yaminee’s hand when we were touring Monkey Forest. Though these guys look cute, they are NOT shy in getting what they want:

Monkey Forest Ubud Bali

Pesky and cute – a mini monkey in Monkey Forest

Another quest to get brownie points was to take Yaminee to see Ketut Liyer. Now anyone who has read or seen “Eat, Pray, Love” knows Ketut, the friendly old Balinese medicine man who accurately predicted Elizabeth Gilbert’s (or Julia Roberts’) future, including her return to Bali and resurgence into love. Ketut still lives in the same traditional Balinese house, but with noticeably more notoriety and most likely, resources. We hoped to get a little more substance out of the nice old man than we did, but it was still an enjoyable and memorable experience. Besides, who could forget a smile like this:

Meet Ketut Liyer, medicine man extraordinare

Meet Ketut Liyer, medicine man extraordinare

Speaking of traditional Balinese houses, one of the sights that our tour guide/driver had us see was such a house. Owned by a large family, these houses contained just the essentials, but all in one place: a kitchen, sleeping quarters, pig and chicken stys, a temple, and a garden amongst more. All of this in a small stone mini-village. Definitely an amazing cultural sight. On our way out, we gave a few rupiah to the patriarch of the household, a weathered, grateful, and humble person it seemed:

Traditional Bali House Patriarch

The Balinese Patriarch

The next couple of mornings, I had our driver take me before sunrise to the rice fields, in the hope to capture them with a view to the large volcanic mountains in the background (Agung and Batur). Both mornings were a fail for my overall goal, but I still tried to come back with a bit of the personality of those serene places.

The first morning, clouds quickly covered the view to the mountains I mentioned. But, as they continued their slow journey across the sky, I found an opportunity to capture a slightly more graphic image than I had in mind:

Sunrise at the Rice Field of Ubud Bali

Passing the Time
Clouds slowly pass over a serene tropical rice field in Ubud, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 123 sec, ISO 50

As we left the rice fields back for the hotel, I was struck by a small rice field valley shrouded by the morning mist. The layers of the landscaping and the greens catching light on the horizon both grabbed my attention:

Sunrise at the Rice Field of Ubud Bali

Misty Fields
em>Mist appears in a valley of rice fields in Ubud, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/16, 1/25 sec, ISO 50

The next morning, I went back out to the rice fields, this time in search of an expansive flooded plain that could reflect the mountain and sunrise. Again finding a shrouded sunrise, I was not able to achieve my goal. I stayed around though, and kept looking around for some inspiration. Going back to my initial thought, I directed my attention to the flooded fields and found a small opening of color reflected nicely against a few exposed rice grasses. Though I didn’t get what I really wanted, witnessing this gave me peace and calm — feelings I actively seek when doing photography:

reflection in a rice paddy puddle

em>Finding Peace
A peaceful morning illustrated in a rice field reflection.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm/2.8, f/14, 1/40 sec, ISO 50

My last photo adventure on our honeymoon was a visit to Tanah Lot temple. This temple is situated IN not NEXT TO a violent shore on the western part of the island. Hugging the top of a limestone formation, this temple definitely looks like it could get swept away at any time. We descended onto the beach and I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot — right in the thick of things. As most visitors watched from the shorelines, I ran right into the water, constantly pushing further out as the waves fought me back.

And really, those waves did fight me back. What started out as a small trickle on my feet ended up being a forceful smash on my quads. I figured I was already wet so what the hell, let’s go all the way. Waves continued pounding up to my stomach, when I then decided to start swinging my system (camera, tripod and all) into the air to avoid any water damage. Every so often, a monster wave would come and I would have to retreat slightly so I wouldn’t get smacked in the chin. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the rock face I was scaling wasn’t covered with moss.

After about 150 exposures, many shaking because of the moving sand beneath the tripod and others covered with droplets of water, I found one I was pretty happy with. As the sun set, it slinked behind Tanah Lot. I moved slightly to the left to position the sun right in the crevice of the rock where it would look best. While the scene lacked color (also because it lacked clouds), the sun illuminated the crashing waves brilliantly in this nicely shaped swell headed for me:

Sunset Tanah Lot

Sight of Worship
Furious seaside conditions and a view to the setting sun bring reverence to Tanah Lot Temple, Bali
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 1/15 sec, ISO 50

I hope you have enjoyed this view into our trip. As you can see, we had a great time exploring the island of Bali, and I had a great time capturing it in my camera. But, in the end this was a trip for us — to celebrate our love and our new lives together. While neither of us really knows what this means and where we will end up, we do know that we will explore our world together, as we did on our honeymoon in Bali.

a

Flowing Together

Flowing Together

Autumn Sunrise at Shenandoah National Park

I made a quick trip to Shenandoah with my brother in law to catch what remains of the foliage there. The sunrise did not disappoint!:

Classic Shenandoah Sunrise

Shenandoah Classic
Fall foliage is abound during a glorious and classic Shenandoah National Park sunrise, with the diffused sun filling orange in the hazy blue rolling hills.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24, two exposures at f/11 blended for dynamic range (HDR).

Fall at the Washington, D.C. Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

So I’m finally back from tall the wedding festivities and the honeymoon, and it’s back to business! This fall will be all about shooting and teaching landscape photography.

This morning I conducted another sunrise Washington DC landscape photography workshop, this time at the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, and Washington Monument.

I was hoping for a bit more fall color, but it hasn’t peaked yet all around the city.

While the forecast called for some clouds, most were absent by the sunrise. But, some mist on the horizon diffused the sun just a bit, giving it a dome like shape as it rose and reflected off the Reflecting Pool:

Washington DC Sunrise Washington Monument

The slightly diffused sun rises and reflects off of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument

More to come, with another workshop tomorrow!

 

Hawaii Part 1: Rugged & Breathtaking Kauai

In June, I ventured to Kauai to celebrate my good friend Andy’s wedding. Back in 2000, Andy left the island and came from across the globe to attend the University of Maryland with me and our college friends. Somehow, I think he mixed up his directions! Who would leave Kauai for Maryland? Certainly not me, after the trip I experienced.

Kauai is an island of beautiful paradoxes. It is the oldest in a set of young volcanic shield volcano islands. It is home to one of the wettest places on Earth, as well as a huge beach desert.  It has some of the most plush, lavish beach resorts and has some of the most remote campsites.

In exploring this wild and scenic island, I thought it would be best to explore it intimately from one of those campsites. While I’m still relatively new to camping, the times I had done it were always worthwhile. So I set forth to Kauai to explore the island on my own for a few days, before my fiancé joined me for Andy’s wedding.

Kauai’s distinctive and dramatic natural features are tied to a very compelling geologic history. Kauai is the oldest in the chain of Hawaiian shield volcanos, though older islands exist to the west into the Midway islands. A shield volcano is the result of a hotspot, originating from deep below the Earth’s crust, spewing lava upwards and above sea level. As tectonic plates move, the hotspot builds islands over different locations — resulting in the chain we see today.

Kauai formed nearly 6 million years ago, as one huge volcanic rock. While volcanic rocks are some of the most resilient, such “basalts” have a fatal characteristic which spells doom for each such island. When exposed to water, these rocks rust, just as iron does, and become extremely erosive. Add weather, including heavy rainfall and wind, as well as time, and it means that Kauai is slowly being eroded into the sea and out of existence.

One can see this geologic history and future when witnessing some of Kauai’s most grandiose natural structures:

To the north, the Na Pali coastline is a rugged stretch of cliffs that acts as a wall against moisture coming in from the sea. As the moisture arrives and pounds against the mountains, large amounts of rain are dumped on the cliffs. Over millions of years, this water has chiseled curves and flaps in Na Pali before spreading and drying to the south. As the water chisels down, it reveals more basalt to the elements in the central part of the island, causing the volcanic rock to rust and redden — the Waimea Canyon. The moisture that originates in the north quickly loses steam over the large mountains and through the canyons, and barely has any strength to rain on the southern part of the island — and results in desert like shorelines near Polihale.

It’s quite amazing to me to see a snapshot in time of Kauai in the midst of its dynamic geologic changes. It’s a microcosm to me of the gargantuan wheels of the Earth and Universe that are constantly at work, reshaping our surroundings in profound ways.

So to experience all of the amazingness that Hawaii and Kauai is, I decided to first camp at Kokee State Park. After grabbing  camping equipment from Andy at his house in Lihue, I made my way to Kokee and hunkered down in a spot just near the parking lot. It was far easier camping at Kokee than my last trip at Olympic National Park, the latter which I had to hike 4 miles to the campsite!

My Campsite at Kokee

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My Campsite at Kokee
Just past sunrise, sunlight through mist from the mountains causes a rainbow that stretches deep into the red Waimea canyon

After an afternoon of wandering about the park, I realized that half of the hiking trails were no longer in service. The guidebook I used, “Kauai Revealed” (highly recommend, by the way), warned me of this but I was adamant nonetheless. Finally, at sunrise after my first night, I decided on the Canyon Trail, which took me straight into Waimea Canyon.

And what a site that canyon is. The “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a stark red and orange trough to a babbling brook of the Waimea river. The canyon walls are made of the same basalt from millions of years ago, but now oxidized and decomposed to a packed red sand. With just a little effort, you can literally grab the rock off of the walls and sift it through your fingers, like uncooked rice.

As sunrise approached, clouds formed and dissipated over the peaks of the canyon walls. Lack of cloud cover is not usually a good thing when it comes to landscape photography. But, the geology of Kauai came through for me! Mist from the cliff tops to the northwest sprayed through the canyon gorge. As the sun rose above the horizon, light streamed through the mist and created a beautiful rainbow:

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Rainbow Canyon
Just past sunrise, sunlight through mist from the mountains causes a rainbow that stretches deep into the red Waimea canyon.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @14mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 1/80 sec

After sunrise, I spent some time just soaking in the incredible sight before me. What was most evident was the stark green trees that grew in the flatter curves of the red walls:

Canyon Walls Waimea

The Canyon Green
Green trees adorn the red walls of Waimea Canyon, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS with 1.4x TC @202mm, f/9, ISO 50, 1/5 sec

At the end of the day, I returned to the canyon to see how the light had changed. After the sun set, a fierce wind picked up. I noticed it pushing through a set of trees just barely hanging to their roots. I liked the juxtaposition of shapes between the roots and the blowing leaves:

“Keep Reaching”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”320″ width=”640″ title=”Trees cling to their existence on the steep walls of the Waimea Canyon, Kauai” alt=”Keep Reaching”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/hawaii/waimea_cliffside_tree.jpg[/image_frame]

Trees cling to their existence on the steep walls of the Waimea Canyon, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105 F4L IS @ 85mm, 10 stop ND filter, f/16, ISO 50, 25 sec

While Waimea Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most amazing places I’ve seen, I was even more excited to check out the north coast and the famed Na Pali coast line – where the rugged greens rise high in “cathedrals” cut through the basalt. While Na Pali might be best seen from the air and sea, where one does not need to balance on sharp cliffs to gawk a view, it is still quite amazing to sea from the Kalalau Trail. A legendary and strenuous “hike”, this trail winds 11 miles from Kee beach to the Kalalau Valley itself, in the heart of Na Pali.

I decided to hike a portion of this trail. One – because you need a permit to hike past a certain point and two – because I had been hiking non stop for 3 days at this point!

I started down the trail just before sunrise. I scaled up and down the mud, through thick brush before being treated to a majestic scene of the stretch of coastline fading to the distance:

“Soft & Rugged”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”512″ width=”640″ title=”Pink clouds float from the sharp cliffs of Na Pali, Kauai” alt=”Soft & Rugged”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/hawaii/napali_coast_sunrise.jpg[/image_frame]

Pink clouds float from the sharp cliffs of Na Pali, Kauai.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @18mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 1/5 sec

I continued two miles to Hanakapiai Beach. A pit stop of sorts for those who camp and come through the trail, it was empty that early in the morning. I spent some time just hanging on that beach and watching the violent waves crash against the basalt columns. I could see why there were several signs to beware of the current.

I then shifted my path inward towards Hanakapiai Falls. The trail became much rougher at this point as it lined the rapids that flowed from the green cliff tops. Often times, it took a climb here and a swing there to stay on the path. I still lost track of the path many times as it is one of MANY trails in Kauai that is poorly marked. After two miles of hiking and traversing the river several times, I finally arrived at the falls.

Majestic, and worth it. The falls dropped amazing amounts of water from high above into a green pool. From there, the pool overflowed down a through the valley and towards the beach I came from. After gawking at the immense falls up close, I found a spot a couple hundred yards away that captured the flow as well as its journey towards the ocean. I used an ND filter to highlight the movement in the water, which formed in amazing eddies over the submerged brush:

“Jungle Cascades”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”900″ width=”600″ title=”Rainwater from the cliffs surges through Hanakapiai Falls and into the Valley. ” alt=”Jungle Cascades”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/hawaii/hanakapiai_falls_swirls.jpg[/image_frame]

Rainwater from the cliffs surges through Hanakapiai Falls and into the Valley.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @17mm, ND8, f/22, ISO 50, 5 sec

After that was the long, 4 mile trek back to Kee. If I can say one thing, it would be that Kauai’s trails (including the Pihea trail, which I completed but don’t mention here since I didn’t get any great images from it) are hardcore. They are certainly adventurous and rough. But, I really feel like I appreciate the land that much more in that I was able to experience the wilderness of it.

The next couple days, I stayed relatively close to the paved paths — as Andy’s wedding celebrations started and I couldn’t be TOO too rough looking (any more than four days of being unshaven, wet, and caked in clay red-stained clothes and my looks might not have even been salvageable!).

I first ventured up the North Coast onto King’s and Queen’s bath. An amazing geological structure, this is an enclave of black volcanic rocks (by the way, I am not sure why these rocks remained black as others had oxidized over the years) at the shore of the violent Pacific.

What an dramatic and humbling experience! As the tide rolled in, it brought immense waves that crashed emphatically against the rocks. The best compositions were down where the waves crashed (of course), so I had to try my luck to position myself down there.

A couple deep breaths and an adventurous spirit and I was down in the rough — if only for moments. Every 10 seconds, a gargantuan wave would approach, causing me to quickly scamper to safe ground. Now, I’m not a fool, so I don’t think that any of these waves ever really threatened my life or risked me falling into the ocean, but a little slip here or there and I could have been in trouble! A game of hide and seek with the waves, and luckily I came away with just a wet shirt and slightly wet lens:

“King’s Brew”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”At sunset at King’s Bath, water from the incoming tide pulls and smashes against the volcanic rock of the North Coast that leads to Na Pali” alt=”King’s Brew”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/hawaii/kings_bath_kauai.jpg[/image_frame]

During sunset at King’s Bath, water from the incoming tide pulls and smashes against the volcanic rock of the North Coast that leads to Na Pali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @22mm, 10 Stop ND filter, f/22, two exposures for dynamic range (blended by “darken” mode)

As I continued to watch the waves building and smashing against the coast, I was intrigued by the way the water collected its momentum. Just outside the cove of King’s Bath seemed to be a drop off in elevation of rock. As water receded, it began to collect and form new waves that, in turn, came towards the shore. This repetitive process was mesmerizing, and slightly different each time. Sometimes the water would curl up and fold, and other times it would take interesting wheel like shapes as they charged forward. Here is such a wheeling motion behind the sheen reflection of the warm sunset light:

Off to the Races
Momentum in wave formations gathers in interesting shapes and colors at King’s Bath, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 f4L [email protected], ISO 250, f/7.1, .5 sec, 

On my final day at Kauai, I decided to venture back up Kokee to Kalalau Lookout. Where I would have LOVED to embark on one of the epic trails that align the ridge, I simply did not have time and had to work with the lookout point. But, given my days of experience with the cliff lines, I had something in mind.

What intrigues me the most about Kalalau and the entire northern chain of cliffs are the sensual shapes taken through years of erosion from dripping rainfall. Such exquisite cuts in the valley and ridges were a joy to explore through my lens.

I first took notice at the cliff tops that face out towards the Pacific. I had two distinct visions: I felt that the black & white really accentuates the shapes against the vast pacific ocean, while the color gives a little more sense of place and view into the ridges.

Na Pali cuts a jagged space high above the Pacific Ocean

Cut from the Sea
Na Pali cuts a jagged space high above the Pacific Ocean.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @70mm,  f/9, ISO 100, .5 sec

alalau, with its intricate shapes and contours, stands high and mighty above the Pacific Ocean

Kalalau, with its intricate shapes and contours, stands high and mighty above the Pacific Ocean.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @70mm,  f/9, ISO 50, 2 sec

My last image from Kauai might be one of my favorites. After spending time studying the shapes of the cliffs of Kalalau, I then concentrated on the valley walls themselves. Cool mist covered the valley, muting the colors in the high altitude. But a small amount of sunlight pushed through to the tree-lined cliffs, and accentuated the frayed card deck shape that stretched into the distance:

Kalalau Valley Sunrise

Mist in the Valley
Mist scatters the cool morning light amongst the cliff edges of the Kalalau Valley.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @75mm,  f/11, ISO 50, 2.5 sec

I hope you enjoyed my images from Kauai. Soon, I’ll share the images from the tail end of my trip in Maui.

Please share or comment if you enjoyed this post!

Going for Gold: Great Falls National Park Golden Pink Sunrise

This past Saturday morning, I taught another photo workshop, this time at Great Falls National Park, on the Virginia Side. If you’re interested, contact me or join my meet up group here.

After waking up to a couple sprinkles in Washington, D.C., and my workshop participants curious to cancel the class, I had us press forward. As a general rule, I won’t cancel unless it’s calling for constant pounding rain.

Soon after 530, clouds began to break and showed a small window to the moon. Occasional drops and lightning in the high clouds quickly gave way as the horizon began to glow.

As the sun rose, a few crepusculars danced amongst the golden pinks and purples. The gold was nicely reflected in the rushing water from the Maryland side.

Goes to show that it pays to get out there and shoot, even when it looks like “bad” weather!

Summer Sunrise Great Falls Park

em>A golden pink sunrise at Great Falls National Park, VA.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @14mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 2 shot blend for dynamic range (HDR)

I had to try to tie it back to the 2012 Olympics! No matter what the situation, go for gold! Ok maybe that doesn’t work… 🙂

Till next time!

Lower Senate Park Fountains at the Washington Capitol at Night

This past Saturday, I led a photo workshop at the Washington Capitol. It was the third such class I led, and it was a blast. And, I am encouraged that all 10 people who reviewed the class gave it 5/5 stars! I look at teaching as a way to connect with others who are motivated in photography. If you’re interested, contact me or join my meet up group here.

After the rain passed, a beautiful dark magenta set in the clouds and enveloped the sky. But the up from the Capitol ground shot a spotlight that highlighted the monument’s ornate dome and overwhelmed through the magenta color right above. The lights around Lower Senate Park weren’t nearly as bright, but still gave enough light to the fountains that adorned the grounds.

Lower Senate Park at Night

Lower Senate Park at NightThe fountains of Lower Senate Park at night at the U.S. Capitol.
Nikon D800, 14-24 @ 22mm, f/14, 30 sec, ISO 100, tripod

A very nice part of DC, definitely. I’ll be back again soon!

The Importance of Recognition

I struggle with the want to be recognized for my work in photography.

I firmly believe one should follow any passion solely for the self. To that end, I am happy creating images that I find appealing and enjoy challenging myself to get better.

At times, though, I have felt the urge to have others’ acceptance of my work to validate that I am on the right path. I think it’s only natural, after you get to a stage, to look for some encouragement from others and to use it as motivation to continue to improve.

As long as I stay true to my own vision and work mainly to satisfy my own creative urges, I always welcome encouraging comments and, more importantly, constructive criticism.

Long story short, today is a small landmark for me! My photo, “Fantasy Garden” from Maui, Hawaii was chosen as Photo of the Day in the EarthShots.org daily contest.

While there is no “prize” associated and it’s a relatively simple contest to win, it is still one that is rather prestigious in that some of the best photographers in the world submit and have their work displayed on EarthShots.

I just thought I would share this nice little piece of recognition and encouragement for me, as I continue down this winding road. 🙂

See the EarthShots.org entry here.

FotoDC Uncover/Discover

I am always looking for some more exposure to show people my work. One of the largest photography presences in the area is FotoDC, a non-profit organization that runs several competitions, including their annual FotoDC International Awards.

This year, they’ve come up with a new theme: Uncover/Discover, which aims to identify up-and-comers from the DC Regional area. As part of this campaign, they asked photographers from DC to submit targeted portfolios that reflect their own style.

Lately, my concentration has been on fully natural scenes from the DC area. Therefore, a natural portfolio choice for me is my recent work in Great Falls.

So follows my portfolio submission. I think there is a lot I can continue to improve on in the craft, but it is still fulfilling (in a way) to look back and see what I’ve been able to complete.

Creative Statement:

Great Falls is an unexpected gem of natural beauty just a few miles outside of the city of Washington D.C. A wild place, Great Falls has a beautiful and unique ecosystem characterized most by cascades over ancient rock, rare bedrock forests, and flocks of costal birds.

Just a moment there, and one is awestruck by the beauty in the Falls’ raw strength, ferocity, and size. But spend more time, and one finds it is elegantly balanced with rather tranquil qualities, sometimes found within more intimate scenes.
To me, the contrasting violence and peace of the scenes at Great Falls represents a microcosm for our world and universe. We are constantly reminded of both as we witness events at all scales: earthquakes or supernovas, childbirths or nebulas.

Despite how destructive or creative each event may be, each is worth our wonder. By taking time and appreciating the mysterious and grand forces that dictate and drive violence and peace, one may find beauty in nearly every natural scene.

See the pics here!

https://fotoweekdc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=144&Itemid=270&catid=741

I would love any feedback or your thoughts!

In Memory of Luna

Last night, we lost our 6 1/2 year cat, Luna.

She was never meant to be a pet and constrained by our ideas of a perfect housecat. Instead, she was a free spirit, simple and pure in her curiosity of life and her cautious affinity for our family.

She was beautiful, as you can see in the below image, one of the first photos I took with an SLR, back in 2006.

I hope she’s in a better place now… happy and free, and forever curious.

[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Luna”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/people/luna.jpg[/image_frame]

Preview: Heavenly Hawaii

So I finally got the will to begin on the trough of images from my two week trip to Kauai and Maui. The “will” had a lot to do with finally upgrading my MacBook Pro to 16 gigs of RAM. Photoshop was just BARELY working for me over the past several weeks with only 4 gigs of RAM, and I was dreading working with it one more day like that. First world pain, I know.

Anyways, as I sift through the images from my trip, I thought I would leave you with a quick edit. This one is from Oheo Gulch, in Hana, on the East Side of Maui. At sunset, The sun peeked through the clouds to leave this dramatic view:

[image_frame align=”left” height=”800″ width=”640″ title=”Oheo Gulch Sunset” alt=”Sunset at Oheo Gulch.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/hawaii/maui_oheo_gulch_sunset.jpg[/image_frame]
“Oheo Gulch Sunset”
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm @14mm, Fotodiox Filter Holder, 4 stop ND filter; two shot blend at f/22

This is the first image I have made with my new camera, the Nikon D800! I am already very encouraged by what I have seen from its RAW images.

More to come… SOON! Stay tuned.

 

Through the Deluge: Great Falls National Park

This past Wednesday, we had a fierce thunderstorm come through the area. I’ve been wanting to capture some lightning over Great Falls, and thought it to be a good opportunity.

I came pretty well equipped, with my rain coat and pants, umbrella, and waterproof flashlight, but none really did anything to cope with what I encountered.

I scampered down the rocks from the 1st overlook and the rain started to come down. First in steady drops, then as sheets. I continued my way towards the shore as the thunder & lightning arrived.

I got to a nice position on a large, flat rock and noticed that kayakers, like me, were inspired by the weather! They continued surfing and rowing against the water, even as the currents slowly gained steam.

Water was really coming in from everywhere, so I had to veryyy careffullyyy remove my camera and lens under the precarious safety of my umbrella. The winds were picking up so the umbrella was swaying a little too much for comfort.

I finally positioned my camera towards the falls and waited for the lightning to come more often. It didn’t happen. The lightning came in quick and spontaneous bursts, not the steady flashing strobe I was hoping for. As the deluge continued, I decided to capture what I could before the water damaged my equipment.

Far out in the top of the most interesting section of falls in the park, a lone Great Blue Heron stood overwatch, and was stoic in the storm. He was obviously more composed than me, still searching for his food somehow despite my thought that his direct and peripheral vision would be way skewed from the water coming from every direction. With the backdrop of dark clouds and mist, it made a pretty dramatic scene:

“Through the Deluge”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Through the Deluge” alt=”A heron stands tall during a fierce thunderstorm at Great Falls National Park”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/great_falls_thunderstorm_heron.jpg[/image_frame]
A Great Blue Heron poised stoically over Great Falls during a heavy thunderstorm.
Canon 5dm2, 70-200/4L IS @ 187mm, f/7.1, 1/6 sec, ISO 2000, tripod

On another note, these herons, which frequent the park in summer months, are wily and courageous creatures. They will seemingly dive through the most violent of water to get their catch. For example, see this image from last Friday:

“Risk and Reward”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Risk and Reward” alt=”A Great Blue Heron rises from the violent rapids with a prize.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/great_falls_heron_fish.jpg[/image_frame]
A Great Blue Heron rises from the violent rapids with a prize.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 70-200mm/f4L @127mm, f/16, 1/5sec, ISO 5000

Pretty amazing to see a writhing catfish in the Great Blue Heron’s mount. No chance I could have ever spotted a fish like that in the rushing rapids of Great Falls.

Anyways, back to the shoot during the thunderstorm. It was a really exciting experience for me! I was completely soaked, but with a warm, late spring storm it was kind of like a cool bath. To me, it was like playing in rain as a small child. Though I was happy to be soaked, I will say I am lucky that my equipment came out unscathed and dry. My new F-stop Loka bag held all of my lenses and equipment dry… even without that rain cover (which I probably should get….. .. .. …. yeah.).

TILL NEXT TIME!

Calm Like the Sea: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Last week, I went on a trip for one of my best friend’s weddings in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. With only a few days worth of time down there, I knew I had little chance to venture out of the resort area to take pictures. I had thoughts (read: dreams) of going to the nearby national park: Parque Nacional del Este, and even grander dreams of going further north to a park near Semana, but it really was not feasible.

So, I took an afternoon to myself to hike down the coast near our resort, in search of some inspiration in the calm of the Caribbean. I tried to get as far from the people, beach chairs, plastic cups and cigarettes that cluttered the shoreline near the hotel. Though it is still a lot of fun for me to partake in the gluttony of all-inclusivity, I wanted something a little more pure that afternoon.

I took my time, observing the environment around me. As I walked down the shore, I didn’t find as much beauty in the grandiose beach, with the flat ocean and distant palm trees — as I did the details in the water. The iconic, turquoise color aside, as the sun set, I was fascinated with the illuminated ripples and waves in the lake-like currents. After a while, I found a small freshwater stream emptying into the ocean, creating even more beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately rode around and on top of one another in the sunset light:

“Caribbean Calm”
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Caribbean Calm” alt=”A small freshwater stream empties into the calm Caribbean sea ocean, creating beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately ride around and on top of one another in the sunset light.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/carribbean/caribbean_calm_sea.jpg[/image_frame]
A small freshwater stream empties into the calm Caribbean sea, creating beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately ride around and on top of one another in the sunset light.
Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 70-200/F4L @ 144mm, f/16, .6 sec, ISO 50, Tripod

Goes to show (me at least): not all beauty is readily evident. To me, it’s worth it to be patient and calm like the sea I saw that evening. Taking the time to wait, deliberate, and feel can reveal even more meaningful experiences. I try to apply that premise to my everyday life, but especially when exploring or shooting.

Gone is DR, next up… HAWAII! 🙂

DC Engagement Shots: Laura & Tony

Hi everyone,

As you may know, I continue to shoot portraits and engagements by commission, though I normally brand myself as a landscape photographer. Here is a set of images of my friends Tony and Laura, from their Washington DC engagement session on the National Mall, with the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. Enjoy!!

[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Laura & Tonyl” alt=”Washington DC National Mall Engagement Shoot”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/people/engagements/4.jpg[/image_frame]

See more of my Washington DC Engagement photography HERE!

Beauty in Detail: Great Falls National Park

Being a photographer has changed the way I walk through life. Slowly but surely, I find myself being more observant of my surroundings and more appreciative of the subtle beauty of the Earth.

A favorite place of mine to visit in the DC area is Great Falls. Of course, Great Falls National Park offers sweeping vistas and dramatic views that even the most seasoned expeditionary would appreciate. However, there are more intricate details and beauty to enjoy if only you choose to look.

On this evening, I was trying out my new lens (Canon 24-105 f4/L) on a group of rocks on the Maryland side of Great Falls. There are so many cool formations around, but what held my interest this evening was a group of lichen moss, brilliantly contrasted in color. I have been frequenting that side of Great Falls for a number of other photos I have in mind, and I think I’ll revisit something like this again as well.

I hope you enjoy this image, and enjoy the beauty in detail all around us!

[image_frame align=”left” height=”800″ width=”640″ title=”Beauty in Detail” alt=”Varied color lichens scattered beautifully across striated rock at Great Falls, MD”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/great_falls_moss.jpg[/image_frame]

 

3 Years Ago Today – Lightning over Washington DC

3 years ago today, I shot a series of images that cemented my interest in photography. Before this time, I had been dabbling here and there, but I was amazed at the power of photography and my emotional response after I captured lightning over the city.

Mind you, I still had very little idea of how, technically, I was capturing the scene (for example,I chose an aperture f 4.0 for a scene that required a little more depth). But the result was dramatic. In fact, it was likely my most popular image and the one that sold the most at local trade shows I participated in that year.

On to the photos: ENJOY!

Photo 1: A lightning storm had passed over the city this night. I had a great vantage point from Rosslyn, VA, and a strike positioned itself well along the skyline:

[image_frame align=”left” height=”215″ width=”640″ title=”Washington DC Skyline Lightning” alt=”Washington DC Skyline Lightning”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/washington_dc_skyline_lightning.jpg[/image_frame]

Photo 2: I then honed in on the monument, hoping for a little more dramatic bolt in the frame. Sure enough, the strike itself was quite awesome, forming a V shape over the Monument while illuminating an interestingly rectangle -shaped cloud.

[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Washington DC Monument Lightning” alt=”Washington DC Monument Lightning”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/washington_monument_dc_lightning.jpg

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2012 DC Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom

The cherry blossoms of Washington DC and the Tidal Basin are in full swing and bloom, arriving several days ahead of schedule. As of today, only the 2nd day of the 100 Anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms and Cherry Blossom Festival, the flowers have peaked and will only last a few more days!

As I attempt to make it out a few more times before the cherry blossoms have fallen and given way to green, I wanted to share some of the images I took this past Monday morning. I’ll be posting more after the shooting season for this bloom is over. Hope you enjoy the shots!

“Early Bloomer”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Early Bloomer” alt=”Cherry Blossom DC Tidal Basin 2012″]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/washington_dc_cherry_blossoms_2012.jpg[/image]
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The rising sun illuminates a passing cloud and its reflection on the Tidal Basin during peak of the cherry blossom season in Washington DC. (If you like this one, vote for a similar image I shot last year in the 2012 FotoDC contest here.)
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G, f/14, 1/100th sec, ISO 400

“Washington DC Cherry Blossom Panorama”

[fancy_images width=”660″ height=”215″][image title=”Washington DC Cherry Blossom Panorama” alt=”Washington DC Panorama Cherry Blossom DC Tidal Basin 2012″]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/cherry_blossom_panorama.jpg[/image]

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A panorama show the peak bloom of Cherry Blossoms that line the Tidal Basin under a crescent moon, just before sunrise.
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G, 10 shots stitched

“Life from Light”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”512″][image title=”Life from Light” alt=”Washington DC Macro Sunlight Cherry Blossom DC Tidal Basin 2012″]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/washington_dc_cherry_blossom_sunlight_macro.jpg[/image]
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Sunlight streams through the newly bloomed cherry blossoms that line Washington DC’s Tidal Basin.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 100mm/2.8 Macro, f/20, 1/100 sec, ISO 1600

2012 100th Anniversary Cherry Blossom Festival DC and FotoDC Contest

Hi everyone,

So if you have been following my stream, you will have noted that I’ve been promoting my cherry blossom sunrise image of the Washington Monument on the Tidal Basin for the 100th Anniversary Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC:

Magenta clouds streak in the sky over the Washington Monument and a row of cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin.

Magenta clouds streak in the sky over the Washington Monument and a row of cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin.

I’ve been sharing the image to gather excitement for the upcoming 2012 Washington DC Cherry Blossom festival, but also to ask for support in winning the People’s Choice award in the 2012 FotoDC Cherry Blossom photo contest.

If you like the image, won’t you take a couple moments to vote for it as People’s Choice? You will have to provide your valid email address. The link to vote for my photo is here.

Also, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and to promote voting and sharing of this shot, I’m also offering 30% off of the fine art print of “Awakening”, but only through March 31, 2012. Now’s a great opportunity to own a unique peice of art that captured a fleeting moment of beauty of our Nation’s Capital.

Purchase the discounted print here.

Thanks for your support… it really does mean a lot to me!

Blackwater Falls State Park in Autumn

Over the past few months, I’ve been posting photos from my autumn trip to Blackwater State Park, in West Virginia, just three hours outside of Washington D.C.

The park is an absolute gem of natural beauty. It features dramatic mountains of sandstone, thrusted upwards during the creation of Pangea and slowly eroding over time. The sedimentary rock, visible throughout the park, is a result of shallow seas and swamplands that covered the area during the Paleozoic Era, about 250-500 million years ago. Adorning this rock during the Fall are the fiery colors of the many beech, maple, and oak trees, that turn all along the east coast during October and November.

It’s crazy to think that our landscape has changed so drastically over the annals of time. That grounds, gorges, and mountains, as sure and hearty as they look, did not exist years ago and will not last into the future. The slow and certain fleetingness of the state of the Earth is ever evident in landscapes such as this.

Anyways, I can’t think of a better Autumn paradise anywhere around the Washington, D.C. area. I also hope to return to the area before the Winter is over! Now, onto the shots!

My way out to Blackwater Falls was not an easy one. I decided to leave DC late at night to avoid any traffic, and be ready for sunrise. It didn’t quite work out that way, as I detailed in my previous blog post. That said, I still made it in one piece:

“Foggy Road to Blackwater Falls”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Foggy Road to Blackwater Falls” alt=”Foggy Road to Blackwater Falls”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/roadtoblackwaterfalls.jpg[/image]
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Stars emerge on a moonlit scene of autumn trees and fog on the road to Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G, f/7.1, 25 sec, ISO 800

The next morning, I was up early and headed out to Lindy Point, which offers a stellar overlook into Blackwater Canyon. Lindy Point is not far off the trail, but in the twilight, I got a bit turned around. Luckily, I still made it to Lindy Point just after sunrise and was able to capture this shot with some still diffused light. The canyon stretches far into the distance with trees of every warm color of the Fall. Really a sight to behold:

“Lindy Point in Autumn”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Lindy Point in Autumn” alt=”Lindy Point in Autumn”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/lindy_point_autumn.jpg[/image]
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Peak fall color surrounds the sandstone structures that line the mountains of Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia.
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G, 2 exposure manual blend at f/16, ISO 50

After soaking in the sweeping vista of Blackwater Canyon, I wanted to “dive” into the landscape and get a closer look. The first place on my agenda was Douglas Falls, a photogenic but, as I found later, a troubled natural site:

“Fragile Falls”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”512″][image title=”Fragile Falls” alt=”Douglas Falls West Virginia in Autumn”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/fragile_falls.jpg[/image]
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Aqua-colored, but coal-polluted water turns rocks a bright, unnatural orange at Douglas Falls, in West Virginia.
Canon 5dm2, EF 17-40mm/4L, two exposures at f/16 for motion (2.5 sec at ISO 100 for the smoothness in the green pool, and 1/5 sec at ISO 1250 for the violence at the base), 10 stop ND filter.

Turns out the rocks of these falls are so vibrant only because of acid mine drainage, the result of deep mining and coal (more specifically, coke) production in the state. To combat the acidity added into the water (already naturally acidic and low in nutrients, but only brown because of pigments absorbed by falling leaves and other vegetation), limestone treatment is applied. This seems to have some limited success (though through my research I haven’t determined conclusively) in cleaning up other channels of water around the park, but not particularly on Douglas Falls.

It’s quite sobering to note that such a beautiful natural wonder has been marred by us resource-hungry humans. Do I blame us? How can I. I live in the built world we created for ourselves, constructed by morphed natural elements mined from once pristine wilderness. It seems to be our God-given right to use the tools, including our own minds, we’ve been gifted to advance our species. But it’s a delicate balance we should continue to strive for — such to not destroy and consume all that is around us, but coexist and renew where possible. This takes a degree of sacrifice that not everyone will be happy to make, but it is something we should consider as our awareness and understanding of the Universe, and the meaning to all of this, grows.

I enjoy digressing into subjects like this so I can’t fully apologize for the slight divergence. These thoughts fuel my passion for the art of landscape photography, so without them my photos would not exist!

I continued my dive into the elements, I ventured into Elakala Falls, probably the most famous section of the park. I probably had my most spiritual moment of my trip as I descended down the gorge and towards the waterfalls.

The early fall days meant that green mosses to continue to thrive in the rocky descent of Shay’s Run, the series of cascading rocks and waterfalls that end in the Blackwater River. While the mosses made scaling down the landscape slippery and a little challenging, they presented a great visual contrast agains the yellows, oranges, and reds of the autumn foliage.

Rainfall and winds from the previous night pushed many of the fall leaves from the trees down to the banks of the waterfall. The leaves piled up across the landscape in any area they could remain, while the rest were swept into the water in a series of swirling eddies. I took my time and soaked in the awe-inspiring scene for over an hour while I fired off shutter click after click. Never before had I seen gorgeous fall foliage contrasted with swirling and falling water during alternating periods of rainy mist and breaking sunlight. I hope this photograph reflects the power of the scene:

“Hidden Paradise”

[fancy_images width=”660″ height=”960″][image title=”Hidden Paradise” alt=”Elakala Falls Eddy Fall Autumn”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/elakala_falls_eddy.jpg[/image][/fancy_images]

A climb down into the gorges of Blackwater Falls State Park in autumn reveals Elakala Falls: a gem of water, rock, and warm-colored foliage swirling in multiple eddies.
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G & Canon EF 17-40mm/4L (with 10 stop ND filter).
3 exposures for focus and dynamic range

The next day, I ventured towards Pendleton Falls, on the other side of the park. On the way to the falls, I ventured into the nearby forest trail in search of some more intimate images of the fallen foliage.

This first shot was taken right below a recently wilted red maple tree, which had a series of starkly green ferns at its base. The red and green tones and interesting shapes were a visual feast… the only challenge was how to ‘tame the chaos’:

“Christmas in the Fall”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Christmas in the Fall” alt=”Red maple leaves ferns Elakala Falls Blackwater Falls”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/christmas_in_the_fall.jpg[/image]
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Overnight rain makes maple trees drop heaps of wet, red fall-colored leaves upon stark green ferns and vegetation in Blackwater Falls of West Virginia.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 50mm/1.4,  f/14, 1/60 sec, ISO 1600, Polarizing filter

As I continued my trek through the woods and onto Pendleton, I found even more interesting leaves, including those that maintained intricate drops of moisture from the previous night’s rain:

“Autumn Droplets”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Autumn Droplets” alt=”Macro leaves dew backwater falls state park”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/leaf_droplet_macro_blackwater_falls.jpg[/image][/fancy_images]

Dew collects on the vibrant leaves that adorn the forest floors of Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 100mm/2.8 Macro, 7 images focus stacked at f/20, .4 sec, ISO 50, Polarizing filter

I ventured out of the forest and now towards a smaller waterfall near Pendleton Falls. As I approached the waterfall, I noticed the delicacy of the sandstone upon which the water fell. Frail pieces of rock hung together, sometimes already cracked, as they have been slowly eroding because of the force of the river. As each fragile portion of rock slipped away and down the cascade, the subtle color of the stone is revealed. Another look into the incredible history of the geology of the park, each tiny layer of sandstone is evidence of slightly varied sediments compacting into rock at the bottom of an ancient, shallow sea. History always leaves traces for those who look for it, including the just recent history of a leaf falling from a nearby tree:

“Leave Traces”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”512″][image title=”Leave Traces” alt=”Douglas Falls West Virginia in Autumn”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/sandstone_leaf_blackwater_falls.jpg[/image][/fancy_images]
At Blackwater Falls State Park, a lone autumn leaf lays upon delicate ridges of sandstone, created by sediments from ancient, shallow seas and slowly revealed by the constant flow of the Blackwater River.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 50mm/1.4, f/11, handheld at 1/80 sec, ISO 2500, Polarizing filter

The last image of my fall trip to Blackwater Falls is of the small waterfall just below the last photo. I found it very intriguing to see the small layers of sandstone, so carefully revealed in the previous image, convert to large plates of stone which acted as large shelves for autumn-colored leaves to brilliantly display their colors. The geometry of the waterfall made the composition a bit difficult, as I tried to make the waterfall more of a footnote and the shelves of rock the real focus:

“Sandstone Cascade”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”512″][image title=”Sandstone Cascade” alt=”Pendleton Falls Autumn Color Blackwater Falls”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/sandstone_falls.jpg[/image]
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Water scales down stories of sandstone layers, filled with warm-colored leaves, at Blackwater Fallls State Park.
Canon 5dm2, Nikkor 14-24mm/2.8G, f/20, ISO 50, 3 images hand blended for dynamic range.

So concludes my images from Blackwater Falls this past Autumn. An amazing experience, and one I hope to have again in the near future.

What did you think of my trip? I always love to hear your thoughts 🙂 Comment below or share this link with someone you think would enjoy it!

High Resolution Wallpapers for 2012

While compiling my best shots of 2011, I zipped up a batch of wallpapers for you to use on your iPhone, Android, iPad, laptop or PC. These wallpapers are high-red (1600 x 900) and are extremely detailed. Androids crop photos when making them wallpaper (a bit annoyingly, I might add), but these images remain sharp.

[download_link link=”http://navinsarmaphotography.com/downloads/navin_sarma_photography_2012_wallpapers.zip” variation=”teal”]Download HD Wallpapers[/download_link]

You can use these directly on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. Please remember these are only for your personal use, unless you are interested in purchasing a commercial license.

Let me know your thoughts!

Best Shots of 2011

Happy new year!

The new year is a good time to reflect on the year past and think about what’s next. As humans, I feel we strive to create, develop, and complete projects. Completed projects are accomplishments we carry around as gems in our heart, fulfilling our aspirations as free-willed beings. Since we view years as iterations or cycles of life, it only makes sense for us to reflect on the previous cycle and be resolved for even more accomplishment ahead.

This post, similar to one I created last year around this time, is to reflect on my work in photography from 2011. So without further discussion, here it is, my Top 10 from 2011, in no particular order:

#10 “Lasting Memory”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Lasting Memory” alt=”During a fall sunset, vistors walk the passageways of the Arlington Cemetery, and pause with solace.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/arlingtoncemetery.jpg[/image]
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During a fall sunset, vistors walk the passageways of the Arlington Cemetery, and pause with solace. [Purchase/Download]

#9 “Living on the Edge”

[fancy_images width=”655″ height=”427″][image title=”Living on the Edge” alt=”A Great Blue Heron scales a strip of bedrock alongside the violent currents of Great Falls.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/great_falls_blue_heron.jpg[/image]
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A Great Blue Heron scales a strip of bedrock alongside the violent currents of Great Falls. [Purchase/Download]

#8 “Two Worlds”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”960″][image title=”Two Worlds” alt=”
The lowest of tides reveals a gorgeous underwater display of green sea anenomes and pink seagrass.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/pacnw/shi_shi_beach_tide_pool_sea_anemones.jpg[/image]
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The lowest of tides reveals a gorgeous underwater display of green sea anenomes and pink seagrass. This tide pool contrasts with farms of mussels and a foreboding sea stack at Shi Shi Beach. [Purchase/Download]

#7 “Hidden Paradise”

[fancy_images width=”655″ height=”960″][image title=”Hidden Paradise” alt=”A climb down into the gorges of Blackwater Falls State Park in autumn reveals Elakala Falls: a gem of water, rock, and warm-colored foliage swirling in multiple eddies.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/elakala_falls_eddy.jpg[/image]
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A climb down into the gorges of Blackwater Falls State Park in autumn reveals Elakala Falls: a gem of water, rock, and warm-colored foliage swirling in multiple eddies.

#6 “Awakening”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Awakening” alt=”
Sunrise at the Tidal Basin illuminates a row of pink cherry blossoms near the Washington Monument.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/dc/washington_dc_cherry_blossom_sunrise.jpg[/image]
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Sunrise at the Tidal Basin illuminates a row of pink cherry blossoms near the Washington Monument. [Purchase/Download]

#5 “Dreams of the Tropics”

[fancy_images width=”655″ height=”960″][image title=”Dreams of the Tropics” alt=”
A pelican rests on a distant broken down pier at sunset at Puerto Morelos, Mexico”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/carribbean/puerto_morelos_sunrise.jpg[/image]
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A pelican rests on a distant broken down pier at sunset at Puerto Morelos, Mexico. [Purchase/Download]

#4 “Dramatic Rapids”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”960″][image title=”Dramatic Rapids” alt=”
Avenues of sunlit clouds channel across the sky over intense river flow at Great Falls, Virginia.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/dramatic_rapids.jpg[/image]
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Avenues of sunlit clouds channel across the sky over intense river flow at Great Falls, Virginia. [Purchase/Download]

#3 “Fragile Falls”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”Fragile Falls” alt=”
Aqua-colored, but coal-polluted water turns rocks a bright, unnatural orange at Douglas Falls, in West Virginia.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/douglas_falls_autumn.jpg[/image]
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Aqua-colored, but coal-polluted water turns rocks a bright, unnatural orange at Douglas Falls, in West Virginia.

#2 “Leave Traces”

[fancy_images width=”655″ height=”512″][image title=”Leave Traces” alt=”
At Blackwater Falls State Park, a lone autumn leaf lays upon delicate ridges of sandstone, created by sediments from ancient, shallow seas and slowly revealed by the constant flow of the Blackwater River.”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/sandstone_leaf_blackwater_falls.jpg[/image]
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At Blackwater Falls State Park, a lone autumn leaf lays upon delicate ridges of sandstone, created by sediments from ancient, shallow seas and slowly revealed by the constant flow of the Blackwater River. [Purchase/Download]

#1 “A Portal to Heaven”

[fancy_images width=”640″ height=”427″][image title=”A Portal to Heaven” alt=”
Clouds and the blue sky are reflected in a tidepool in front of towering sea stacks at Second Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington. “]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/northamerica/pacnw/second_beach_sea_stack_reflection_tidepool_clouds.jpg[/image]
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Clouds and the blue sky are reflected in a tidepool in front of towering sea stacks at Second Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington. [Purchase/Download]

 

So, what do you think of my top 10 from 2011? Any improvement since 2010? Check out all of my shots from 2011 and see if you think other shots were more deserving. I love hearing from you, so don’t feel shy to give me your thoughts!

Happy 2012!

On Artistry and Work

So this here is a post, in part because I never post enough, and in part because there are several thoughts I have on my experiences thus far with photography that I have rarely shared.

First, I’ll digress a bit to reiterate that I have not been diligent in posting to this blog! In part, this is because I want updates to be meaty and meaningful, and often times I only have enough time to edit a photo and post it. I think, going forward, I’ll be a little less stringent in what qualifies in a blog post… so hopefully that will mean you will see more.

These posts, and other interactions on social media sites are important because they let me interact with everyone who may be viewing my work. It also allows those folks to share what they see with friends and family. I hope that by getting the word out, both on the internet and amongst locals, will open doors for me in the future when it comes to photography.

So, back to the subject at hand…

I’ll start with what will be my main takeaway from this post. Photography, like anything you put creativity, personal effort (work), and passion behind, is art. This may be obvious to some, but it was lost on me when I began in the field.

Back when I got my first dSLR in 2006, I found my camera as a tool of exploration, and my photos to be evidence of where I had been. When people first started commenting on my pictures after that time, I felt ashamed that they were complimenting me on my “work”. I felt that word had nothing to do with what I was doing. To me, I was simply recording the awesomeness of the world around me, and that anyone with a camera or the means to record would have shot the same thing. I felt that the real art was in the nature of my subjects, not the direction behind the “tool”.

For many years, I held this thought close to me. This might have been because, over those initial few years, I didn’t actively pursue an advancement in photographic skill. For those of you in the field, an example is that I didn’t understand manual exposure controls, use a tripod, or know what clipping was until perhaps mid-2009. Naturally, I found it interesting that people were commenting on my “work” when I had only superficial knowledge on the subject.

Things changed for me during that year of 2009. I can’t really pinpoint what sparked it, but I would venture that it was that I finally started looking outward to the community to see where I stood. Up until that point, I had taken several photos, developed a website, had participated in a few art shows, but still wasn’t getting the traction I had hoped for. I thought that looking around, to my peers and on the internet, would help me determine where I stood in the photography world. One person I can say I looked towards was Sunny Mathur, who by that time was already a well-established and quality wedding photographer (and who has since vastly improved and continues to advance his skill and offering). Just having someone to talk about photography was a vast help for me, and assisted in my motivation for learning and advancing myself.

Since that time, I’ve spent innumerable hours researching photographic techniques and practicing them in the field, researching and traveling to local and distant shooting sites, honing processing techniques, reaching out to fellow photographers, spreading the word about me, and the list goes on.

The key difference from my early years, though, is that I’m taking the time to really try and get better at what I do. In this way, I consider myself much more of an artist than I ever was previously. I am deliberate and concentrated in my approach, from planning, to executing, to finishing, and sharing. I now want to share with you not only my experience of being there (as I had been doing since my early years), but the very particular emotion and awe I felt. The results you see today are much more calculated than in years past.

So, if today someone calls a photo of mine, “work”, I understand a little more of what it means. Since I spent so much time in creating and refining the image, I think it’s fair to call it a work, as you would a gingerbread house (pardon my Christmas reference :)).

Building off that point, any piece of “work” can therefore be “art”, given a degree of creative freedom. The simple fact that I have put in my time and effort to get an image completely right validates it as a work, to me. Similarly, if you put in 10 hours of work in wooding your floor (which is what one of my good friends just did), that is art as well! Anywhere you can have creative freedom, even if it is limited, and you put in the hours to get it exactly how you want and convey the thoughts you’d like to share, it is art — and therefore should be celebrated.

All said, my discoveries and reflections as an artist are still in their infant stages. But, I know I’m encouraged by even the slight feelings of accomplishment I have at each iteration, and the validation I get from others (which I think can be another post entirely). These feelings make me value my relationship with photography, and appreciate the other artists out there (most of whom do much more complex and laudable work).

I encourage you to find your own art in your daily life. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an “artist”, there is likely something you do, where you create, work, and share. If you’re anything like me, embracing the artist in you and accomplishing work will make your soul sing.

I’ll leave you with a quote I found inspirational, and one of my first images (from 2006):

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

[fancy_images width=”427″ height=”630″][image title=”” alt=””]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2006.jpg[/image]
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One of my first “processed” images: a lamp post in my neighborhood in Maryland. October 2006 

Ces’t Jolie!

I recently did a shoot for Pallavi Sharma, founder of Ces’t Jolie Makeup Artistry, a makeup service based in the D.C. area.

While I don’t regularly do beauty shoots, photography is photography and I had a blast working with Pallavi and her models in the Carriage House Studio in Washington, D.C. Studio photography is a different beast than landscape photography (for example, exposure on an image is determined less by shutter speed and more on intensity of the artificial light strobe), and it’s very useful to practice different methods.

On to the shots!

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[image width=”427″ height=”640″ title=”C’est Jolie Makeup Artistry” alt=”Fashion Beauty Makeup Studio Photography”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/people/fashion/cestjolie8.jpg[/image]
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To see more of Pallavi’s work, check out her website.

To see more of my fashion photography, check out this link.

Thanks for reading!