Outdoor Exposure Photo

  • Mt. Everest: One Step At A Time

    Experience a Mt. Everest Climb With Shasta Local Laurie Bagley

    Climbers
    photo: Scott Woolums

    Location: Rogue Rock Gym CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS

    Date: Saturday, January 27, 2007

    Time: Show starts at 7:00 PM

    Tickets: $8 in advance, $9 at the door (kids 13 and under half price, 5 and under free)

    Advanced tickets available at The Rogue Rock Gym, The Ashland Outdoor Store, Flywheel Bicycle Solutions and McKenzie Outfitters.

    In May of 2006, Mt. Shasta climber Laurie Bagley became only the 19th US woman to summit the world's highest peak. 2006 was the second most deadly climbing season in Mt. Everest history and became the subject of a documentary series that has been showing on the Discovery Channel. Laurie and her climbing group managed to be the only team on the north side of the mountain last year that did not sustain fatalities, injuries or frostbite.

    Laurie is a careful and humble climber whose physical strength is only matched by her inner strength and concern for others. The story of her inspiring personal challenge on Mt. Everest and her motivation to attempt the climb to raise money and awareness for the poorest children of India should not be missed.

    You are invited to attend this once in a lifetime evening with Laurie as she shares her powerful story in words and pictures with a media show produced by Outdoor Exposure Photography. We hope to see you there.

  • Antelope Canyon Is Overcrowded But Still Worth Photographing

    For years, photographs taken in the narrow sandstone slot canyons of the American southwest have captivated me. The curving, wave-like shapes, improbably red sandstone walls and magical reflected orange and yellow light all come together to allow a photographer to create pictures that suspend reality. There are countless slot canyons to be found throughout the desert regions of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, and there are no doubt many more that have yet to be discovered. Most slot canyons are known only to desert explorers, and are usually hard to find, difficult to get to and require rope and climbing skills to be explored. On a trip to Arches National Park a few years back I read a guidebook that detailed how to get to a couple of the better-known slots in central Utah. I quickly realized that good maps, a serious off-road vehicle, supplies for desert survival, climbing equipment and several days of time would be necessary if I wanted to visit them. However, I also knew that one particular slot was at least somewhat accessible to the general public. I knew this because I had seen photos taken by photographers who I knew to be considerably less accomplished backcountry travelers than myself. I knew the name of the slot was Antelope Canyon but I didn’t know its location and failed to locate it on that particular trip.

    Antelope Canyon 1

    After that trip I continued to see photos of Antelope Canyon. Each photo is so captivating and improbable I began to wonder if I had what it took to capture a piece of the magic or if special techniques and perfect timing on a few rare days a year were required. Earlier this year I was planning to make another trip to the four corner states with my friend, Greg, and decided that I would do some advance research to find out more about Antelope Canyon.

    Searches into my photo travel books and on the Internet revealed Antelope Canyon to be even more accessible and well known than I had thought. Located just a few miles east of Page, Arizona, it is accessed from a large parking area right off of Highway 98. It also turns out that, while not as well known in the Northwest as the national parks are, Antelope Canyon is enough of a destination that it ends up on the itinerary of many visitors along with the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion. The saturation of photos of the canyon that have been published in recent years has made it trendy enough to even attract the attention of celebrities and movie productions. Most comments from other photographers on the Web indicated that trying to shoot there these days should be avoided at all cost. The general attitude is that Antelope Canyon has become so crowded that photographing it requires monk like patience and determination to deal with hundreds of people crammed into a ten foot wide crack all jostling, pushing and walking in front of your camera.

    Antelope Canyon 2

    Antelope canyon has an upper and a lower section, each accessed from opposite sides of the highway. The upper canyon is about three miles from the road and is easily entered on foot by walking in through its outlet in the cliff wall. At one time you could reach the upper canyon on your own by driving your off road vehicle or hiking in from the road, but now the Navajo Nation, which the canyon is part of, strictly limits visitors to taking one and a half hour guided tours on large trucks that leave from the parking area or from tour companies in Page. By the time you pay for parking and the tour the tab comes to about $21. The lower canyon, which was closed due to flooding during my visit, is closer to the road, but apparently requires some scrambling and rope work to access. Slot canyons are formed by wind and water eroding narrow channels into soft sedimentary rock. In some places slots are only a few feet wide and can be hundreds of feet deep. The wavelike shapes of their walls appear to flow like the water that created them.

    Our initial instinct was to take the advice I had read online and blow right past Antelope without a second thought, but then we ended up staying in the Page area with an extra day in the schedule. In the end, our trepidation of being trapped in a tight crowded space, hurried along by disgruntled Navajo guides was overridden by the lure of taking magical photos. We paid the money and climbed in the back of an old Chevy 4x4 with oversized tires with about ten or twelve other folks. In a line of three or four trucks we drove up a dry riverbed into the desert. Arriving ten minutes later at the canyon entrance we took deep breaths and were prepared to leave our cameras in our packs when we saw that there were already eight or ten other tour trucks parked there.

    The young Navajo woman who was our guide, and who turned out to be very good humored, knowledgeable and photographer friendly, said that for the first fifteen minutes she would lead us through the quarter mile length of the canyon pointing out interesting features and then turn us loose for 45 minutes to explore and photograph. She also informed us that it was possible to pay an additional $10 to stay for another hour and return on a different truck.

    Entering the canyon I was immediately transported back to all the photos I had ever seen. Walking along staring up 120 feet into the narrow reaches of the canyon walls I was completely absorbed. It was just as amazing in real life as in photos. Dutifully I followed along with the group even though I was tempted to ditch them for fear of wasting precious shooting time.

    Antelope Canyon 3

    The next 45 minutes flashed by as I rapidly moved from one location to another, setting up my tripod, composing and capturing shot after shot. A couple of other groups passed by from time to time, but I think most people hiked up to the end of the canyon and back and then waited outside for the trucks to leave. Rarely did I have a problem with people getting in my shot or bumping my tripod. Most of the shots are composed up high on the canyon walls and over the tops of people’s heads. More than once I was completely by myself for up to ten minutes at a time. When the hour was up we gladly paid the additional $10 so we could stay for another hour. During the second hour a group would come through from time to time, but in between would be long periods in which the only other people I encountered were fellow photographers crouching in the shadows.

    The most popular and busy time to photograph Antelope Canyon is during June, around the solstice, when the sun passes most directly overhead. Near midday, shafts of direct light penetrate all the way down to the floor of the canyon. Many of the photos you see feature these bright shafts piercing the dim light, turning whatever they strike bright white. We were there in early October and I liked that I wasn’t worried about staking out a spot in order to be ready when a shaft of light appeared. Instead it was nice to be free to explore the entire canyon and focus on more subtle compositions and lighting. The most important tip for getting good photos in the canyon is to be there on a clear, sunny day an hour or two before or after noon when sunlight is striking the upper walls at an angle that allows it to reflect back and forth deep into the canyon. I found that right at noon direct light penetrated far enough in that it was hard to keep it from causing lens flare or blowing out sections of the canyon walls. Another good tip is to try to set up your camera in the most deeply shadowed areas to prevent flare-causing light from entering the lens. I shot on a tripod with a small aperture (f/18 or more) and long shutter speeds at an ISO of 100. My exposures were several seconds long, so I also shot with a cable release and used the mirror lock up function to prevent vibrations. I exposed my shots so that the brightest highlight areas were on the edge of overexposure making them appear to glow yellow/white-hot. In some areas the angle of the rock would actually reflect some of the blue sky itself, creating neon blue and purple tones. If I could do it again I would use my long lens more to zoom in on some of the brighter areas of rock near the top of the canyon.

    In what seemed like moments the second hour was up and we emerged, squinting, into the bright desert sun. My head buzzed with adrenaline after focusing so hard to interpret the constantly changing shapes and light during the previous two hours. I don’t know if we were lucky to get the shots we did or if it just felt that way after having such low expectations, but in the end we were very glad that we decided to go for it. Antelope Canyon is too well known to offer the quiet kind of solitary experience that it once did, but it is still a mind bending natural formation that brings together all the elements of color, shape, texture and light needed for one of a kind photos. Despite the crowds I would recommend it to photographers, just as long as you don’t mind taking the same one of a kind photos as everyone else.

  • Lake Of The Woods At Sunset

    On Wednesday I met two photographer friends at Lake of the Woods in the late afternoon for a group photo session. Shane and Bryon do a lot of portrait photography so they are always glad for the chance to get out and photograph in nature. Lake of the Woods is located in the Southern Oregon Cascades between Ashland and Klamath Falls. Other than a small resort and a few summer homes it is generally quite and has great views of the surrounding mountains, including Mt. McLaughlin. In the early summer there are large meadows that can be dense with wildflowers. Now that it was the middle of September, they were long gone, but we figured there would be some nice photographs of the sunset and Mt. McLaughlin reflected in the lake. We talked a lot and took a few photos. The conditions weren’t stunningly spectacular, but the late twilight shots taken with long exposures have nice mysterious shadows and a deep, glowing quality to them.

    Lake of the Woods

  • Photo Travel: The Colonial Mining Town of Guanajuato, Mexico

    “Guanajuato is beautiful, but one can’t explain in words what makes it truly special,” exclaimed Senora Villaneueva, our kind, elderly home stay host during one of her grand afternoon meals. The Senora was born in the Mexican hill town and has lived there her entire life. “Si,” we chimed in united agreement!

    Guanajuato, Mexico at night

    My wife, Jennifer, had spent the previous two weeks living in the Spanish colonial mining town taking language courses at the Academia Falcon. Intrigued by visions of the sharp geometry and bright colors to be found in the brick and stucco architecture I flew down to meet her and spend a week photographing the sites.

    Guanajuato was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is also the sister city of Ashland, Oregon, my hometown. The two towns have many things in common, such as renowned theater festivals, universities and thriving art cultures, not to mention both being situated in picturesque mountain valleys.

    From a photographer’s perspective, Guanajuato is an endless canvass. The population is very compact and the streets are a maze of narrow alleys (callejones), cobbled streets, curving stairways and fountain squares. The rectangular houses follow the contours of the hills and are stacked atop one another in an intricate, interlocking puzzle. Brightly painted stucco of every color creates a patchwork that spreads across the landscape.

    Orange House in Guanajuato, Mexico

    Located about 200 miles north of Mexico City, Guanajuato once sat upon the banks of a river. As the city grew the river became a channel flowing between the walls of buildings. Over time, many of the buildings were built out over the river until they met with structures on the opposite side, enclosing sections of the river in tunnels. The river would frequently flood the town until the 1960s when a dam was built and the river was diverted. The now dry channels and tunnels have been paved and converted for use as the main thoroughfares for vehicle traffic, leaving many of the narrow cobblestone streets open for pedestrians to wander at leisure.

    Narrow Alley In Guanajuato, Mexico

    Aside from the photography potential, the city is dense with enough old churches, theaters, museums, art galleries, restaurants and monuments to fill weeks of sight seeing. Every evening locals and tourists fill the streets around the town center to shop, eat, attend theater performances, listen to a wide variety of live street music or hang out in the taverns and dance clubs. In keeping with Latin culture, every night in Guanajuato feels like a regular fiesta.

    I spent much of my time photographing doors, alleys and buildings. I also turned my camera toward some of the better-known landmarks, such as the Teatro Juarez, the University of Guanajuato, El Pipila and the Basilica Nuestra Senora.

    To view my photos of Guanajuato please go HERE.

  • Photo Tip: Photographing Lightning

    One of the aspects of outdoor photography that I really enjoy is the ability to create a visual record and often highly artistic imagery of awe-inspiring natural events. It takes perseverance, knowledge of the natural world, timing and a lot of luck to be in the right place to photograph an amazing atmospheric event or an exciting display of wildlife. If you do manage to be in the right place at the right time, then you need to be ready to execute the correct photographic techniques to properly capture the moment.

    Lake Lightning I

    I find that lightning is one of the most awesome natural phenomena to photograph. When bolts of lightning are frozen in time on camera we see everything that is happening during that microsecond flash of light, from the delicate structure of the branching current to the glowing cloud covered sky and illuminated landscape. In some areas of the Midwest and South good lightning storms are a regular summer occurrence, but here in the Pacific Northwest they can be few and far between and hard to predict.

    When a good lightning storm does present itself around here the first trick is to be in the right location. Shots of lightning in an empty cloudy sky are OK, but they will be much enhanced if there is something else in the composition to add scale and drama. Try to find a location that has water in the foreground for a reflection, a cityscape or silhouettes of trees or mountains. It is important to be fairly close to the lightning so that it fills a substantial portion of the sky. Miniature bolts many miles off on the horizon are generally underwhelming and don’t properly illuminate the foreground. On the other hand, it isn’t wise to be directly in the path of the lightning for obvious safety reasons. I find a good balance of proximity and safety when I am able to position myself about one to three miles from where the lightning is striking, and I’m always ready to jump in the car and drive away if it gets too close.

    Lake Lightning II

    The second trick is to know the right technique to capture the show. I use essentially the same technique shooting lightning as I do fireworks. It is also a similar technique to using a handheld flash to walk around and illuminate foreground objects, like tents, in a night shot. In effect, lightning acts as a giant, unpredictable fill flash. With a lightning sensor on your camera to trigger the shutter it is possible to shoot lightning when the sky is less than completely dark and long exposures are not possible, but for shooting lightning without one it should be almost entirely dark. This enables you to leave your shutter open for as long as you need to capture several strikes without the danger of overexposing the scene. Find your location, set up your camera on a tripod and set it to shoot on the Bulb setting (this enables you to use a cable release to keep the shutter open for as long as you want). If your camera doesn’t have a Bulb setting, then set it to the longest exposure setting it has (probably 30 seconds) and hope that’s good enough. Then close the aperture down (f/11 or smaller) to get a good depth of field and to allow even longer exposure times. In the dark your auto focus won’t work so you will need to manually set the focus. If you can’t see enough to focus set the focal length to infinity and then back it off a small amount to make sure that the middle-foreground is still sharp. Now open the shutter and wait for several lighting strikes before closing it. In a storm with intense lightning you might get several strikes in less than a minute. For the images on this page the lightning was spaced out quite a bit so I had to leave the shutter open for six to eight minutes to capture several bolts. If you are shooting several minute exposures with a digital camera set it to the lowest ISO and use any noise reduction functions it may have to reduce the digital noise that comes with long digital exposures.

    Experiencing the power and mystery of a lighting storm is exhilarating. Photographing it can freeze the experience in time and produce some amazing, all natural pyrotechnic art. Have fun and be safe.

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