Life happens while we’re making other plans

If there is one thing I learned from my trip to Colorado and Utah it is this: Don’t put your camera away just because you think the weather is turning ugly!  All through the week we were out visiting the National Parks, the weather was what I would usually call un-cooperative.  It was rainy, cloudy and sometimes, downright cold.  The surprising thing is, those conditions gave me some of my best pictures.

Rain produces rainbows, clouds reflect light and color and add dimension to flat-blue skies and cold conditions often make everything look sharper.  The shot above is in Arches National Park.  We were walking back from our hike out to see Delicate Arch at sunset.  Of course, my plan was to get that icon of Utah with a glorious sunset sky.  That didn’t happen.

So, we walked slowly down the steep slope hoping to make it back to our car before the approaching storm opened up the skies again.  The image above is the result of these “disappointing” weather conditions.  Wow!  Disappoint me more often.

Cache Valley Wash
Arches National Park
Southeastern, Utah, USA

Nikon D7000
Nikkor 18-105 zoom @ 18mm
1/60 sec at f/4  ISO 400
Processed with Adobe Lightroom and Nik – Color Effects Pro 4


Blue Ridge exploration

Although there are things about Facebook that I don’t like, the ability to keep in touch with people who share the same interests is a wonderful plus of participating in this social media application.  I saw an event posting from the North Georgia Photography Club for a sunrise shoot at Black Rock Mountain State Park.  Since the club is located in Dahlonega, Georgia which is an hour or more drive for me, I hadn’t joined them previously but I knew some of the members so, I contacted my friend Mike Sussman and got the OK to join them.

Black Rock_May 28 2016_0001-001We met at a church just outside the park entrance and, by special permission, were able to get in the gate before the official opening time.  It certainly was a privilege to be able to drive in and have the whole place to ourselves!

We went in to a nice platform that was set up as a scenic overlook which gave us a wonderful, panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains even if it was a little crowded with photographers and camera equipment.

Outings like this are such a fantastic way to visit a location that you haven’t been to previously.  The park is within an hour of so of most of the club’s members, many of them had been here before and knew their way around.  Since the group was also composed of photographers, there was a wealth of experience on the best place to shoot and what settings work best.

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North Georgia Photography Club members at overlook

The group next moved on to the Visitor’s Center and wandered about that area to get another view of the mountains and enjoy the natural beauty of the park.

From here, we all went out for breakfast at Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen in Clayton, Georgia before going on to the next part of our outing.

I will continue the story in tomorrow’s post.

All of these images were taken with my latest lens acquisition: Tamron’s nice ultra-wide angle beauty, the SP 10-24mm  f/3.5-4.5 Di II.  So far, I’m getting great results with this lens.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it has a minimum focus distance of just under 10 inches which I think will make for some neat close-up wide-angle opportunities!




Rocky Mountain Night Skies Workshop

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this post as the first images from my National Parks trip.  The main thing that got my wife and I to schedule this trip was to attend the Night Skies Photography Workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Moon rising at Moraine Park

The group went out to RMNP at sunset and watched as the evening sky slowly got darker and the stars began to pop out in the night sky.

Clouds floated about on the horizon which made for some interesting patterns even if we would have wished for a completely clear view.  The moon was visible early on which again, is not ideal for the Milky Way sightings we all wanted but, you have to take what nature gives you and the moon is a beautiful sight itself.

We hit a couple of sites for sunset and dusk shots before moving to West Horseshoe Park for our star-gazing.

One thing to know: if you go to the Rocky Mountains in May you need to be prepared for COLD weather.  Daytime temps were comfortable but being out overnight from 7PM to 1AM with wind and snow blowing at you is bone-chilling!!

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Workshop attendees adjusting settings

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Milky Way over the Rockies

I still can’t believe how absolutely packed the sky was with their lights.  It is absolutely amazing to see the night sky in the mountains in an area that is far from the city lights.

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I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly get better instruction for such a reasonable price.

Dave Krause and Rob Wood of National Park Trips Media took great care of us and Tamron’s Image Masters: David Akoubian, Ken Hubbard and Andre Costantini gave us classroom instruction and a whole night of in-the-field tips, guidance and insights.

For those who can’t wait to try your had at this kind of photography.  The biggest thing to remember is, you need a place that is REALLY dark and a good tripod!  An out-of-the-way corner in your backyard won’t do.  You need to be somewhere seriously remote from city lights.


Now here’s the secret formula that works well for camera settings:

  • A good wide-angle lens
  • ISO: 1600 – 3200
  • Aperture: Wide open  f3.5 – f1.2 if you can get there.
  • Shutter speed: 15-30 seconds (If you go longer, you may start getting star trails.)

All images in this post were taken with:

Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 15-30MM F/2.8 Di VC USD
Processed with Adobe Lightroom