"I SHOOT ROCKS AND WEEDS" .......
Is what I tell people I do for a living and this BLOG embodies this and a whole bunch more. If you are interested in what makes an Image Creator click, this is the place to hang out. On this "I shoot rocks and weeds" BLOG you can expect to be the first to know when I release a new Fine Art image, where my frequent gallery receptions will be held. Not to mention when and where I am hosting or presenting a new lecture or workshop.
It's where you can get the inside scoop, and kinda tag along, on my frequent photo shoots in and around the North West. Want to know how to create those really cool milkyway images? Or what my secret is for producing those great black & white landscapes? How bout just seeing and reading up on my latest Image of the Month? If any of this sparks an interest feel free to ride along and please tell me what you think............... It's always great to kibitz about what works and what doesn't ....................... Vern
OPPA Sponsored LANDSCAPE WORKSHOP
"How to Shoot Rocks and Weeds"
with ........ Vern Bartley & Mark Fitzgerald
July 31st & Aug 1st
This is a two-day event: Friday evening and a very long day on Saturday (5am-9pm).
"THE ROAD TO FT. ROCK"
Friday evening Vern will kick off our OPPA Sponsored "How to shoot Rocks & Weeds" Workshop, at the downtown Portland Camera World store, with his introduction on the "7 Core components of creating great landscape images."
"DEVILS LAKE" 290 degree Pano: (Seitz Roundshot)
After lunch the class will retire to a classroom on the grounds of historic Pacific University in Forest Grove for the remainder of the day. The afternoon will be spent downloading and post production of images captured during the morning shoots. (Students will be required to provide their own laptops, and appropriate software ie: (PS, LR, Photomatix, NIK HDR etc). Coaching and assistance will include skills and techniques in the use of Light Room, Photoshop, Photomatix and more.
" YAQUINA HEAD BLOOM" "YAQUINA HEAD MAGIC"
This is a PPA-accredited workshop; PPA members who attend the entire event will receive one PPA merit.
Detailed location instructions, etc. will be provided to registered attendees.
Vern Bartley, M.Photog:
Vern was recently recognized as OPPA's 2014 Photographer of the Year. He has over 50 years of experience, spends a lot of his time teaching, coaching, guiding and mentoring aspiring photographers; lecturing photographic groups and audiences in a variety of photographic disciplines including unique techniques like B&W Infrared photography, Pin Point Star photography, Painting with light and how to envision and shoot "Rocks & Weeds" (Landscape Photography), not to mention teaching "Judges Training Workshops" for the more advanced photographers that want to take their work to the next level, while giving something back to our trade. To learn more about Vern visit his website at www.vernbartley.com
Mark Fitzgerald is an award-wining photographer, teacher and author based in Portland, Oregon. Mark is most known for his ability to help photographers understand the complex tools of modern photography, enabling them to better focus on productivity and the creative aspects of their work.
Mark teaches regularly at NewSpace Center for Photography and is also available for private consulting on LightRoom, Photoshop, and workflow. Mark’s latest book, Zen of Post production, is available online and in bookstores. To learn more about Mark visit his website at www.ddroom.com.
REGISTER NOW FOR MY "ROCKS & WEEDS" WORKSHOP ......
CLICK THIS OPPA LINK:
There are only a few slots left !
* Contact Vern for additional information or if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you in Portland on July 31st.
THE iPHONE MADE ME DO IT !!!
It has taken several years but I guess I am finally coming around.
YAQUINA BAY SUNRISE: 180 degree PANORAMA (iPhone 5s)
Heck, there was a time that I wanted nothing to do with any phone that had a low grade point and shoot crappy camera in it. In fact, on one occasion I approached a salesman, at one of the bigger cell phone centers, and said "I need a new phone and All I want is a PHONE ! without a stupid camera in it!!" at which point the sales guy informed me that no one made a phone without a camera, so........... "What make and model are you interested in?". That was 10 years ago.
Well, about a year ago I slowly began to change my tune. Now, it didn't happen overnight. The first seed was planted way back in 2008 when I had a brief (three month) encounter with an iPhone and I actually liked it for all the business stuff it could do. You know, like quickly joining several people on conference calls, forwarding messages and calls etc. etc.
It started slowly. I made the move from my Droid to the new (at the time) iPhone 5s. It took me a while to figure it out before I began to feel somewhat productive. But taking pictures with it still was not on my "gotta do" list.
Then one day I found myself on the Southern Oregon Coast and in the Redwoods. While playing around with the camera/phone (or is it a phone/camera???, I'm still not to sure about that one.) Any how, I discovered there was a Panorama feature built into the phone camera and I was intrigued. I found it to be pretty intuitive and since I have a fair amount of panorama photo experience I started messing around with it. And, I loved it !! It allowed me to show scenes in a way that most people hadn't seen before and every time I showed someone my Redwood Tree (image on the left) everyone wanted to know "How did you do that??"
So lets fast forward a couple of months. Early one morning I am doing my beach walk, in one heck of a wind storm. We had an East wind coming off the Bay and across the beach and out to sea. It was blowing around 40mph with occasional gusts in the high 60's. That isn't too uncommon for us in the Winter but it does make it hard to keep your footing.
On this particular morning there was a lot of real estate changing places. The entire beach was a moving mass of sand from the ground up about 6 to 10 inches. I started a little before sunrise and as the sun began to shine across the beach it was beautiful. I remember thinking .... gee, I wish I would have brought my camera. I walked about another 10 feet and thought..... Wait a minute, I've got my phone with me, let's see what it can do?
I had recently downloaded an App called vividHDR http://ittiam.com/vividhdr/ that would allow me to take a four shot, bracketed series of exposures of a given scene. Then it internally processes the files for you and presents a pretty good HDR image with a lot more detail than possible with virtually any single shot. It also gives you some editing options so you can mess with the contrast, saturation and details. (The images to the right-above & immediate right are two such images). Blue Sand Reflections and Sunrise Sand Storm were 4 shot HDR bracketed captures and they both ended up looking almost exactly like what I was seeing with my naked eye. The Blue Sand Reflections image was shot during that blue light phase of early morning light. The Sunrise Sand Storm of the blowing sand with the blazing sunrise are good examples of images that required minimal adjustments on my part. Oh, yeah. It also allows you to keep the original capture as well so you can undo the process if you don't like the merged capture. I have to admit that the utilization of the vividHDR App has completely changed my desires and opinion on the value of always having a camera in your pocket.
I now find myself planning my walks and excursions at times of the day that might provide me with the best light for what ever comes up while wandering the beaches.
This image below (Sand Trees) .... is a great example of an image that absolutely would have been missed were it not for having a small, nimble camera available when I least expected a need. I was walking along the surf line with my wife when I looked down at the patterns created by the flowing waters on the sand. The tide had just gone out and the beach was pretty saturated. When I saw this subject I stopped immediately. It looked good to my eye and even better on the screen of the camera/phone.
What caught my attention was (at least to my eye) a forest of unusual trees. I photographed the scene from several perspectives and loved what I was seeing on the screen. The highlights and shadows were created simply from the reflective surfaces of the wet sand and a thin veil of clouds that softened the sunlight striking the scene.
Now for the really good part. The image before you is exactly as it was when I shot it. However, it is not specifically what I saw, nor what caused me to spend the time to photograph it. Only after I returned to my studio and opened the images on my computer did I actually see this specific image. You see..... what I saw on the beach was an upside down version of this scene. What looks like roots and the bases of the trees in this image I had seen them as the top mantle of the trees in the original viewing. If you can rotate your monitor 180 degrees you can see what drew me to the scene to begin with. The water had actually flowed (in my finished image) from bottom to top. I am particularly taken with the essence of depth portrayed in this image as it feels like one could actually walk into this scene and get lost in the forest beyond.
So, The question of the day is ......... are the iPhone photo files large enough to be able to do anything with them??? Can I make a 16x20 Fine Art Print from such a small camera?? You've got to know I asked myself the same questions, over and over. I finally buckled down and ran a quick test on the image below of the (Heceta Head Lighthouse) which is not very far from Cape Perpetua, here on the Central Oregon Coast. The file, right out of the camera/phone is a 57.8MP file. This is a 160 degrees panorama image that will produce a 8"x29" print at 300dpi. I did a test print of the image and increased the output to double the base file for a pano print 16" x 58" and it was very good. If I were to print this image, that size, on a high quality canvas *(like Breathing Colors Silverada) it would expect it to sell quickly in any coastal gallery.
Needless to say, after so many years of turning my nose up at all those phone photographers I only have two things to say...... Thanks for paving the way. And, I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT !!
THANK YOU..... VERN
HECETA HEAD LIGHT HOUSE
(57.8 MB File, = 8" x 29" finished file at 300 dpi )
iPhone 5s + vividHDR App
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VERN BARTLEY IMAGE CREATOR
IMAGE OF THE MONTH
" An Image ......
11 years in the making "
Last January, almost one year ago to the day that you are reading this, I found myself deep in the bowels of Lower Antelope Canyon just outside Page Arizona.
I had just started shooting with a Fuji S-2 DSLR camera and I reasoned that if I could apply my Zone System workflow to manage the broad range of light values, from deepest shadow to brightest highlight in a given scene, that I might be able to bracket several exposures to ensure that I could capture the spread of detail throughout the entire image. *( After all I had done that for years while shooting with my old 4x5 sheet film view camera. Why couldn't I do the same (or almost the same) with my new digital camera?)
That is exactly what I did. After spending several hours exploring the slot I finally found one place that really caught my eye. There was one small area high on the wall of the slot where a large piece of the sandstone stuck out and above the main trail through the slot. I spent about an hour in that specific part of the slot looking at the structure before me while I tried to figure out where the best composition would provide the most impact. I finally found the perfect spot, but it wasn't going to be easy. I had to lay down on the cool sandy floor, move a few pebbles and rocks, while I kinda leaned up against the corner where the wall met the floor......That was The Spot! However, when I looked through my camera I realized that I was not going to be able to capture the image I was seeing with my naked eye. It quickly became apparent that even in this contorted position, with my tripod set to the lowest elevation possible, that my widest lens simply wasn't going to be near wide enough!
I was shooting with a partial sensor (DX) camera with a 24mm wide angle DX lens. That combination actually gave me a focal length of 38.4mm ..... NOT 24mm !! *( 24 x 1.6 = 38.4mm) For the most part this combination had served me well, but there existed serious compromises when one tried to work with a wide to extreme wide angle workflow. But on this day, when I really needed all the wide I could get, it just wasn't enough. Disappointment seemed to rule the day for a few minutes. After all the effort to find the right spot, wiggle into position, and knowing I was only a few minutes away from capturing a remarkable image, then to not have the right equipment to get it across the goal line was a rude awakening. It was not a good day at all.
In an effort to try to salvage the shot, and with my camera to my eye, I began to back off as best I could until I found a secondary composition that I thought might work. After all, I sure as heck wasn't going to bail out at this point. Too many miles and too much effort to simply pack it in and leave.
The second scene wasn't nearly what I wanted or expected, but the more I worked the shot the better I felt about it. I kept telling my self....."Hey, no one else probably even knows that first scene is there. If I don't tell them they might think this new scene is on a par with some of the better images to come from Lower Antelope Canyon".
Over the next 11 years I told myself that same thing about a million times, knowing that I would go back with the right equipment and get my view of one of the most famous slot canyons on earth.
Since this article is really about the perceived image that laid dormant for all those years and not the one that had to fill the gap, let me just close out the original capture with a comment about the technical side of bringing that original image to completion.
To capture that original image I determined that there was a 9 stop (f-Stop) spread between the deep shadows on the floor at far right and the highlights in the upper middle/right of the scene. I set my camera on the tripod, adjusted for the composition I wanted, and then shot 9 different exposures of the exact same scene. On the one end was the correct exposure for the brightest highlight and on the other was the correct exposure for the deep shadows. Once all that was done it simply depended on my getting back to the studio to start the post processing of the 9 files. I used a Photoshop Layer Mask workflow and after 6 hours of work on the files I finalized the image, and saved it as PSD, TIFF, and Jpeg files. Over the years this Slot Canyon image has been a very good seller, has taken a few awards, and a nice canvas print hangs in my home. I always think about the importance of sticking with it when things don't always go exactly like you think they should. In this case, I'm really glad I have two very nice images of such a special place.
What's the back story on Raptor Canyon ? I did go back and it was the trip of trips. I spent a full month on the road shooting everyday in the SW and, yes, Lower Antelope Canyon was on my (do it again) bucket list. This time I was armed with a fairly new Nikon D 800e, Full Frame sensor (boy do I love that camera !!!) and a fixed f-2.8 12mm FX wide angle lens plus all the other stuff we all seem to pack around.
The particular room where this image was taken is pretty near the end of the canyon. The chamber it is in is about 75' long, about 30' wide, and about 70' to the opening to the sky above. I didn't waste too much time in the majority of the slot as I knew where I wanted to spend my time.
When I arrived in My Room there were 8 Japanese photographers all bunched together shooting each other with their point and shoots. I hung out a bit and got my gear together while I waited for them and as soon as they left I went to work. I went directly to my little secret spot and laid down on the ground to look through my Nikon with 12 mm wide angle lens. Would you believe me if I told you that all of a sudden there were Doves cooing, Monkeys chimpping, and a Fat Lady over in the corner singing? .............There it was !! Exactly like I had seen it over 11 years before.
I did the complete camera, tripod, remote release set up and organized the composition all within about 5 minutes. I did 6 bracketed sets of 9 shots each of the scene that was 11 years in the making. And then it was over. Eleven years of waiting for ten minutes of effort..........Wow !
I went ahead and shot a couple of other scenes using every millimeter of my wide angle lens simply because things do look different when you can actually capture images with that wide a view. But, by the end of the day nothing even came close to the look and feel of my original scene.
My post production workflow involved bringing the files into my Nikon preview software to do the initial editing to pick one set of 9 bracketed exposures. Once that was done I did the RAW conversion with minimal corrections and then brought 5 of the 9 images into Photomatix for the HDR treatment and Tone Mapping. (I personally don't like some of the weirded out HDR stuff that seems so popular in some circles but I do like the software's ability to stretch the tonal values and to bring multiple images together while still allowing one to keep a realistic visual for the final output.) Once that was done then it was simply a matter of a few tweaks here and there. The one issue I did run into was the amount of blue within the scene. Because the blue sky light was filtering down from above and the sun was low enough to not penetrate down into the slot there ended up being a lot more blue than I remembered seeing with my naked eye. I did a second conversion of the same 5 files and spent some time backing out a bunch of the blue within the scene to see if it might improve the over all viewing experience................. It didn't !
Since I shot almost 7,000 images on that SW trip it took me several months to get around to working on this specific image. However, once I did I knew it was going to do well. It has been one of my best sellers in a number of different venues and has done very well in the professional image competition arena. In 2014 it took best of show, best landscape image of the year, best in its division, and highest scoring image of the year in the Oregon Professional Photographers Association (OPPA) end of year competition. That image, together with half a dozen of my others, also allowed me to be selected as Oregon's Photographer of the Year for 2014. Raptor Canyon clearly carried the day at the competition when it scored a 96 (highest score in the event) out of a possible 100. Yahoo !!
I've been asked a couple of times "Why did I title this image Raptor Canyon?" It's a question I really hadn't anticipated since, to me, it clearly looked like a bird of prey (or Raptor) swooping down into the canyon with his head pointed down and both wings swept in a graceful arch to complete the scene. I saw it as soon as I looked through the camera eleven years ago, but it really stood out when I was able to see it through the wider angle presentation of my 12mm lens. I didn't think of the actual title until I had lived with the image for a week or two, but all of a sudden it just came to me and I said to my wife, "That's Raptor Canyon !"
Revisiting these two photographic experiences as I wrote this story, I was reminded of a basic standard I have tried to live by for over four decades. I always tried to purchase equipment that exceeded my capabilities to ensure there was room for my growth, knowledge, skills, vision, and that I would never allow myself to be caught in a situation where I was limited by my equipment. Boy did that ever come back to haunt me as I thought and re-thought my experiences of that first trip into Lower Antelope Canyon. Rest assured it's a lesson well learned. Fortunately, the image I saw while looking up from the canyon floor stayed the same for those 11 years. I like to think it was waiting for me as much as I was for it........ A little cheesy, but Raptor Canyon is exactly what I saw and now I get to share it with others......... Vern
Please allow me to be blatantly commercial for a moment, if I may. I want you to know, starting with Raptor Canyon, I am offering a 20% discount off the purchase price of any size Fine Art Print, only to the subscribers of my VBIC Newsletter, for the Image of the Month. Additionally, if you are already a subscriber you are eligible, by resubmitting your signup to my Newsletter to be eligible for my Fine Art Print GIVEAWAY of a 13x20 Fine Art Print of Raptor Canyon, absolutely free, shipped directly to your address if you are the lucky one drawn from the pool of Newsletter signups.
* A PERSONAL THANK YOU *
I want to take a moment to thank a very important person for making this possible. On my first trip to Lower Antelope Canyon I had the great fortune to meet the owner of this famous Slot Canyon. He is a native Navajo who is truly the guardian of this national treasure. He oversees Lower Antelope Slot Canyon in every way. He built and installed the metal ladders we all use to get from one level to another as we pass through this special place, he built and maintains the rescue box's on the roof of the slot that contain the rope ladders, and equipment to assist in the evacuation of the slot should they ever experience another unexpected flash flood. He does it all with an aire of quiet humility. He also raises bucking brahma bulls for the NRA rodeo circuit and has a loving wife and great family. As if that isn't enough.... he is also an accomplished photographer in his own right. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share and be shown some seldom seen locations as the two of us shoot together for a day or two, each time I am in his neighborhood. He is in the process of finishing a new building at the parking lot for his slot. It will be a small gift shop and gallery for some of his work. The next time you visit Lower Antelope Canyon, if you get a chance to meet him, please tell Ken that Vern says THANK YOU again.
Finally.......... my Image of the Month is being resurrected !! December 2014
Decembers Image of the Month is............... "ANCIENT MYSTERIES" It is an image that was 5 years in the making. I photographed this scene at a seldom found site in close proximity to California's Sierra Mtn's.
The story of how I ultimately found and photographed this unique site is almost as interesting as the image itself.
I became aware of Sky Rock about 10 years ago when I saw a small image of it in a photo magazine. I noted that the image was captured by world renowned photographer, the late Galen Rowell. I clipped the image out and put it in my "I've got to shoot that".... bucket list file. It's only in the past 5 years that I began to really take a keen interest in wanting to photograph it.
First, I needed to figure out where it was. Much to my surprise I found very few images of the site and of those that had been published or posted to the internet, the photographers simply weren't telling. As time went on the mystery of its location only became more guarded. It actually got to the point where there was a running (sometimes not very polite) debate over whether one should or should not divulge the secret of the Sky Rock location.
Sky Rock is a very large boulder, about 30'x40' in size with a very flat top surface that points up toward the sky. It is unknown if the rock originally rested up on its side and at some point fell over thereby putting the former vertical side up toward the heavens? The flat top is about 30' off the ground which makes it very difficult to find as there really isn't a vantage point in the area that would allow one to observe the upper face of the rock from a higher locale.
Since no one was willing to pass along the secret of the Sky Rock location I found it necessary to try to find it the old fashioned way. I collected what images I could find of the subject and paid special attention to the surrounding landscapes main features. I acquired a detailed topo map of the area I thought the site was in, and began to identify significant landmarks. After some time I began to zero in on the most likely location and then I utilized Google Earth's Satellite images as a resource. In the end, I actually was able to find what I believed to be the magic spot on one of the satellite images. With that information I was able to determine the GPS coordinates which resulted in some serious excitement on my part.
A couple of months later I left for a month long shoot in the Southwest
A N C I E N T M Y S T E R I E S
and Sky Rock was one of about 20 sites I planned to visit during that trip. When I arrived in the general area, my shooting partner (Master Photographer Morris Grover) and I began the somewhat difficult hike into the area. We purposely planned our shoot for early afternoon with plans to shoot late afternoon, sunset, the dark of the night for the stars and then with a fully lit moonscape. I had used my TPE app (http://photographemeris.com) to predetermine the times of the sunset, phase of the moon and moon rise since my primary objective was to capture the ancient writings under the the Milkyway with the heavens above. After an hours hike we actually waked right to this well hidden treasure. Now all we had to do was figure out how to access the petroglyphs, almost three stories in the air. After a bit of scrambling we were successful in topping out on the rock and couldn't believe how many carvings there were on this one rock.
After 5 years of my on and off searching for this secret site, writing numerous emails to others that had been there and shot some nice images, reading a ton of blogs and following the debate that raged about do tell no, don't tell, within the photographic community. I decided I have to make up my own mind about that issue once, and if I ever found it for myself.
Well, now I have! and it really was a thumbs up experience (Photo Above)when Morris and I finally topped out on this remarkable chunk of stone. The remoteness of the place, the sound of the wind, the full circle view of virtually nothing for as far as the eye can see and then there is the petroglyphs. They are some of the finest I have had the opportunity to photograph. And, so many, all in a small confined space.
Morris and I spent most of the afternoon confirming our research specific to where the sun would set, where the moon would rise and quite a while working on our specific points of view that would provide that just right compositional view that we, individually, had in our minds eye. We also spent a little time relaxing and horsing around and I finally got my iPhone 5s out and programed it to shoot some pano's of the site and then we messed around with capturing each other multiple times in the same shot. Morris took this shot with my phone as he panned from his left to his right. I stood on the extreme left of the scene as he started the pano sweep to the right. As soon as he had swept just past me I quickly ran around him and off to his far right just in time for me to show up again toward the end of the 180 degree pano sweep. We each shot ea other and spent more time laughing our selves silly *(see image below) than actually taking pix.
For several years I had envisioned my final image of Sky Rock captured late at night and lit only by moon light. As I put my shoot plan together I knew that I would have to shoot on a night when the moon would rise about 4 to 5 hours after sunset. That would give me enough time to shoot the sky with the milkyway in a pitch black environment then wait for the moon to rise and expose for the petroglyphs, background and mountains. I also knew that once I set my camera (Nikon D800e) on the tripod and locked in all the settings it was going to be VERY important that I be extremely careful not to bump or move either over the next several hours. For the Milkyway images I used my tried and true Pin Point Star workflow of 12mm wide angle lens, ISO 3200, F-8 and 30sec exposure. For the moonlit exposures I waiting until the 3/4 moon was up for a full hour then I shot multiple 3, 5 and 7 shot HDR bracketed exposures to ensure a full range of capture throughout the entire dynamic range of the image.
The shoot started around 9pm and we finished a little after 2:30 in the morning. The captures looked good, we hadn't been adversely affected by the high desert temperatures and last but not least................ I DIDN'T BUMP THE CAMERA EVEN A LITTLE ! Thank goodness for a good remote release for all those captures.
We did experience a bit of a challenge when it came to getting down off the rock in the middle of the night. It took a while and neither of us broke any bones in the process. Then we had the hour hike back to our vehicle and an end to a remarkable 5 year journey. Was it worth it ? Absolutely. I experienced a huge personal satisfaction knowing what I went through to find it, get there, access it, shoot it, got down off it and back to the car with RAW images in the can. Unfortunately it took me several months to finally get to this specific image having come home with almost 7,000 images, also in the can, from that short one month shoot through out the Southwest.
Of all of the places I photographed on that trip I would put it right up there as one of the 5 most satisfying, gratifying and enjoyable shoots I have done in the past 20 years. All this together with the spirit, feelings, emotions and reality off what I was standing on and how long ago it had been that our ancient ancestors had been on this rock, chipping away day after day, leaving their mysterious messages for those that followed. As mysterious, and unique as this place is, one has only to stand on that spot and look to the heavens, on a moonless clear summer night, to realize none of this even amounts to one grain of sand on all the worlds beaches when compared to the heavens above in all their splendor.
And, yes.................. it's secret is safe with me.
Thank you for taking the time to join me on this return trip to a remarkable place. One I call....Ancient Mysteries
If you have any questions about this months Image of the Month, the techniques used, etc., etc please contact me via my "Contact" link on my web site. And, please feel free to share this with others
Vern Bartley Image Creator
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