Sunset At the Lake

I was about to write a little rant about HDR photography, but I’ve decided to save it until I have some images with which to illustrate my points. There are plenty of “good”, “bad” and “why?” HDR images to be found online. But, I figure I might be taken more seriously if I prove I can produce some of each myself. So for today, I’ll just be sharing a few shots from an evening by the lake.

A couple gulls head home for the night. By Jameson Gardner

My parents are bird watchers, I am more of a landscape and cloud watcher. Naturally when they invited me on a walk by the lake with them, they looked at birds and I tried to get photos of mountains, dirt and whatever else was around. I did find myself framing some shots and wishing an interesting subject would plop down in them. Alas, nobody sailed by in a boat, walked up in their hipster garb or trotted past on a horse. Even the seagulls kept their distance 🙂

Gull feathers litter the shore of Utah Lake at sunset.

I ended up with some plain old landscapes, a few shots of myself and an abandoned tire.  The one above is actually a composite of two exposures of the same frame. Basically I’m just simulating a graduated neutral density filter to get detail on the shore without blowing out the sky. It’s the only shot to which I’ve really done any editing. Everything else is pretty much as shot, with the exception of bringing up the shadows  just a titch on me and the tire. I don’t really believe in making things artificially vibrant or saturated etc. Stay tuned in the future for my HDR rant 😉 I was actually a little surprised by how naturally blue the water seemed at that angle and in contrast to the sky. I guess I am just used to looking down at it from the benches at which vantage it usually looks brownish, greyish or at best light blueish.

I hope you’ll all forgive the lens flares—though, what do you expect when we are pointed right at the sun?

Sunset at Utah Lake by Jameson Gardner

An abandoned tire on the shores of Utah Lake at sunset. By Jameson Gardner

I also took a few panoramic sequences. This one below is the only that I’ve stitched so far. Photoshop’s photomerge tool is helpful, but I often find myself fixing things or doing big chunks manually when merging more than 4 or five images. Photoshop can also lose track of things if there are areas of busy detail or which lack distinctive landmarks. I could have achieved this one in two shots with a wider lens, but there is something about knowing that I could make an enormous print at full resolution which appeals to me (even though I’ve never had a reason to do it). Go ahead and click on this one to get more of the panoramic goodness 🙂 It’s been scaled way down for the web, but should still be fun.

panoramic image of Utah Lake and Wasatch Range. By Jameson Gardner

Sunset Time Lapse

A while back, I posted a little time lapse of the blood moon eclipse. That was my first attempt at time lapse, and ever since I have been itching to do one of a sunset. I missed some beautiful opportunities last week when a series of storms delivered amazing cloudscapes. So, when the sky started to look interesting this week, I had to rush home to get my equipment ready. Nothing gets my heart pounding like the idea that I might miss a good opportunity. Whether it is an amazing patch of orange light on a snowcapped peak, or a dwindling supply of tasty food—I get greedy. Having missed my chance with the previous ones, when this opportunity presented itself, I cancelled my plans and got to work.

Location for my setup was limited to the length of my extension cord. I messed up my remote jack earlier this summer so my only reliable control option is tethering my camera to a laptop and using Canon’s EOS Utility. Set up on the roof of a horse stall overlooking Utah Valley and shooting at 5 second intervals for about an hour, this is what I got:

Well, that is mostly what I got. I actually got 38 frames with birds, bugs and helicopters in them. Since no bird takes more than five seconds to cross the frame, they would just pop up like blips giving it an old-timey dusty projector reel kind of feel. Not what I was going for. So, I photoshopped out the birds. 38 frames to fix seems like a lot, but out of 560, I’m counting my blessings.

My setup on the roof of a horse corral to take time lapse photos of the sunset. by Jameson Gardner

Here is my camera set up on top of the horse stall. The laptop is up there too on the other side of the peak. Normally it is kind of nice to use a laptop instead of an interval timer because the EOS Utility provides an onscreen preview of each shot. That was useless in this case though, because once I started shooting I had to climb down to avoid wobbling the roof.

Sun lights the interior of a storm cloud over Utah Valley, Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Here are a few shots I took on the days when I wish I could have done a time lapse last week.

Rays of light shine through clouds just before sunset in mountains above Alpine Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Rays of light filter through clouds and shine onto Utah Lake, Utah. By Jameson Gardner

Don’t Give Up On Your Fairy

Finally photographed the fairy I started working on a while back. She’s been finished for around a month. But rather than buy fake leaves and blossoms, build branches and paint a sunset, I figured I would just wait ’til spring and use the tree in the backyard. Was it easier? Maybe. Building your own scene takes a lot of work on the front end, but it means you have a completely controlled environment when shooting. That means you don’t have to worry about the sun moving, the wind blowing, standing on a bucket or bird poo.

Dimensional Illustration Fairy in the Blossoms by Jameson Gardner

One of the first shots... terrible.

One of the first shots… terrible.

I got a few good shots, though. And the real blossoms and real sun worked out nice. It didn’t seem like it would when I started. I hesitate to include it, but I am going to post one of the first shots I took to prove how bad it can seem when you start. Don’t give up till you’ve got ‘the one’—I had to move to the other side of the tree, rig her up with wire instead of thread, stand on a bucket and knock over my camera before I was satisfied.


Fairy body in progress

Taking the photos isn’t the only part where solid effort and perseverance is valuable—I’ve learned from experience that if you want something to look human outside it’s clothes, it has to look human inside too. A wireframe covered in clothes and stuffed with fluff just doesn’t do the trick. This means I sculpted the whole body even though most of it was going to be covered in a dress. It seems like extra work, but it is definitely worth it.

Fairy Wings in Progress

I cast the wings from clear acrylic using a silicone mold that I made with a polymer clay original. Again, seems like more work, but I couldn’t think of any other way to get the translucence and form I wanted.

Finished model and dress

Hair and dress? You bet—hand made and carefully applied.


Just Waves

Photo of surf crashing on agate beach at sunset.

There is so much natural beauty on the face of this earth, but the ocean has a special hold on me. Living at the foot of real mountains has given me the opportunity to see breathtaking vistas whenever I bother. However, green valleys, sheer cliffs and ice-capped peaks always keep you moving—because they never move.  To see the next view, you have to hike to it.

The ocean is a different beast. That enchanting place where land meets sea and sea meets sky can bring you a new view every second. It never stops moving. The juxtaposition of shimmering details, unseeable vastness and dynamic volume keeps me staring for hours.

I have several shots here from the same day at the same beach, when I just couldn’t stop looking.

These are all as shot—no touchups, no color enhancement—just the raw beauty of the waves.

Photo of waves, beach and horizon, with overcast sky at Agate Beach, Oregon.Massive crash of waves on sloped face of Agate Beach

Frothing surf breaking at Agate Beach

Photo of warm sunset on glistening waves at Agate Beach Oregon.

Clouds and Waves

I was walking home yesterday and saw some gorgeous cumulus clouds. They were the real huge and crisp, yet fluffy kind that you usually only see in cowboy paintings. I am a sucker for good cloud reference so I whipped out my camera and snapped a shot—rewarded only with a blinky message indicating that there was no card in my camera. I had left it in my computer, that was disappointing.

Anyway, the experience got me looking through some of my photos and I found a few I thought might be worth sharing.

The first image is a sky that caught my fancy the night before my sister-in-law’s wedding. The second is from Agate Beach and will serve as a preview of more photos I uncovered and will be posting next time.

Photo of high clouds at sunset, sky is gentle gradient of color

Photo of surf crashing at sunset on Agate beach Oregon

Photos at the Salt Flats

Photo from shoot at bonneville salt flats, female with sheepskin lined jacket and scarf

My wife and I went on a mini-vacation this week. We visited the Hogle Zoo, the Living Planet Aquarium, the Hill Aerospace Museum, Antelope Island, and also the Bonneville Salt Flats. I took photos everywhere we went, but most of them were just to document our little adventure. We thought that while we were at the salt flats we had better try to get a few good ones.  That turned out to be harder than it sounds. We arrived a little bit behind schedule and were losing light fast. We only had time for a few shots before we were drowning in high ISO noise, or swimming in slow shutter blur. I got a couple pretty ones of the sunset, though.

Returning the next day proved to be an adventure in itself as the first legal place to make a u-turn was 30 miles from our destination and the flats are only on the westbound side of the highway. By the time we made it, it was around Noon and the landscape was blinding (in case you weren’t aware the salt flats are literally miles of flat salt that kind of looks like snow).

Here are a few of the shots.

Photo from shoot at Bonneville Salt Flats, male with aviator glasses, leather jacket and scarf

 Shot of sunset at Bonneville Salt Flats in July