Tips For Shooting El Matador Beach

ElMatador16.9.4.7It was only a few months ago that I finally made the dirve up to El Matador Beach which is arguably the most photogenic beach in Southern California. Located just a few miles North of the glamourous movie star-riddled enclave of Malibu, El Matador boasts several hundred yards of sea stacks, hidden coves and small caves. If you are thinking about heading out there to take advantage of this gorgeous stretch of coastline, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:

Tips For Summer Shooting In Washington DC

 

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For the past nine years or so, my kids and I have made our annual pilgrimage to hang out with our friends who live in Loudoun County, Virginia.   Besides the fact that they are wonderful friends who live in one of the most gorgeous spots in the country (miles of long, winding tree covered lanes bordered by 18th century era rock walls and horse fencing), we always take advantage of the fact that they live just 45 minutes outside of Washington DC.  Having spent the last few Summers photographing the monuments and some of the memorials around DC, I thought I would share some tips with you in case you are planning a trip there this Summer or in the future. 

Tips For Photographing The Milky Way

21294835346_e976116765_o-2Here in Southern California, Summer tends to be a season which is typically wretched for landscape photography. The coastal low clouds usually roll in during the months of May and June, killing off potential sunsets and sunrises on the coast. The afternoon skies turn hazy and the hills turn brown, and most of us turn on the air conditioner and retreat indoors to work on our shots taken earlier in the year.

There is, however, one fantastic photographic opportunity  to look forward to each  Summer here in California. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer is prime time to get out and shoot the Milky Way.   Although the Milky Way may be photographed throughout the year, the brightest corner of the Milky Way begins to show up around May along with more reasonable times for shooting it.

For those of you who are new to shooting the Milky Way, there are several challenges to consider:

Fern Ledge : One Of Yosemite’s Hidden Treasures

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After shooting in Yosemite for several years, I began to look for locations that were more off of the beaten path.  A couple of years ago, I finally ventured up the side of the valley and found an alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls in February.  I also began going on longer hikes up the four mile trail, the Upper Falls trail and out to the Cathedral Lakes.  After finding the alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls, I began to wonder what other opportunities I might be missing.  Yosemite Falls was my next logical choice and I began to notice that most, if not all of the shots of the falls were either from the valley floor or from the Upper Falls Trail.  After looking online, I finally found a couple of spectacular shots that were taken from the East, but I had no idea where they were taken from.  I spent a few hours one afternoon looking for spots to shoot from in the residential area above Yosemite Village, but the angles were not what I had in mind.

Finally, my hiking buddy Tom sent me a link to an article which mentioned a location referred to as the Fern Ledge.  In the article, they mentioned how John Muir had hiked out and had become enamored with this location.  He spent long hours listening to the falls, and actually walking out behind them.  After checking around a bit more, I found that Ansel Adams had also made the trip up and had taken photos from there.  Why hadn’t I heard of this place before?

Tom and I set this as one of our goals and on our next trip, we were resolved to find the trail to Fern Ledge head on up.  But we only had one article to go on, and the article stated that the trailhead was somewhere behind the Yosemite Stables.  When we reached the stables, we got the distinct impression that we weren’t supposed to be in that area and we chickened out.

I spent the next year or so investigating this trail, and couldn’t find much.  From what I read,  the trail could be very dangerous.   I could expect steep inclines, sections where the trail simply fell away over steep precipices, and rattle snakes.  Others online were reluctant to give away too many details as they feared hordes of hikers would head up there and cause damage to the habitat surrounding the trail.  Others were concerned that people simply didn’t understand how dangerous this route really was.

Undeterred, I made my first attempt a couple of weeks ago.  

Exploring The Range Of Light – Part II

ESierras16.7.6.3As hard as it might be to believe, there was a time when I wasn’t very excited about shooting the Eastern Sierras. I think I took my first trip up the 395 about 15 years ago as I was trying to find a way to get to the Reno Jazz festival without having to take my students through the snow over Donner Summit, and as I was the one who was driving for 8 hours, all I remembered after I got back home was seemingly hundreds of miles of unbroken, desolate desert. “Bah”, I thought to myself. Next time I’ll stick with the 99 as there are more restaurants and gas stations. Not a cloud in the sky on that trip, and it was hot. Very hot. Pfft. And who are those sad people who live in Bishop or Lone Pine…on PURPOSE?

But as I got into photography a few years later, I began seeing other photographers’ shots of the Eastern Sierra, including photos by Galen Rowell, Michael Frye, Marc Adamus, and more.   I hadn’t seen anything like what was shown in these photos on that trip and it began to occur to me that I was missing out on something spectacular and that this spectacular something was only 5 hours from my house.

Looking For Fire At The Horsetail Fall

 

 

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Late on a February afternoon in 1973, Galen Rowell was driving through Yosemite valley with a park ranger when suddenly he glanced up and stepped on the gas, driving twice the posted speed limit.  He screeched to a stop in an illegal spot, grabbed his camera with a 300 mm lens, and hopped a fence.  Instead of writing him several citations, the ranger simply handed Galen his tripod and watched as he snapped an image that has since become legendary among landscape photographers. You can find his image online or in his book Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape.

This particular effect is created by a unique set of circumstances as the last rays of the setting sun slip through a narrow gap in the Sierras sending a beam of light directly onto the Horsetail Falls, leaving the surrounding area around the falls in the shade. My shot on the left was actually taken from an alternate location which is on the South side of the valley loop in Yosemite.  Galen’s shot was taken almost directly below the Falls with quite a bit more water pouring down and a bright red/orange light hitting the water creating the illusion of lava pouring off of the cliff face which is just East of El Capitan. 

The Keyhole Arch At Pfeiffer Beach

Big-Sur-12.67For a few weeks out of the year, a certain phenomenon occurs on an obscure stretch of coastline on the outskirts of Big Sur. From late November through the month of January,  the setting sun bursts through a natural archway in Pfeiffer Rock creating a veritable tunnel of light. Photographers from all over the world have traveled to this hidden beach with hopes of ideal conditions each year.  The rarity of the perfect shot is due to the fact that you need a clear sky out to the horizon at sunset, a high tide, and the fact that the best light is only available mid December through mid January.