Reports from the Field

Death Valley 2018

George Theodore, February 5, 2018

Arriving at Death Valley, one of our most interesting National Parks, gave us pause as we were met with streaky clouds with very little tonal differences – sort of “yuk” for photographing. But, amazingly enough, “yuk” turned to “wow” at some of the best hours for shooting. A late afternoon – early evening shoot gave us fantastic pink reflections at Salt Flats as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. Our mornings at Zabriskie were equally as satisfying especially the last one on Sunday. While we had great pre-sunrise colors at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we had very few and small windows of sun to capture the Dune’s textures.

Given our hit and miss conditions, our resourceful workshop participants brought in some great images as you can see below:

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Bosque del Apache & White Sands National Monument

George Theodore, December 3, 2017

Bosque del Apache seems to provide great shooting no matter what. And, the “what” for our workshop participants was weather. Cloudy in Late fall in New Mexico? Really? But, with patience for “the light”, for that break in the clouds, for that “moment” or just using the clouds to our advantage as a backdrop, we came away with such great images it was hard to narrow them down for this report. The cloud cover gave us pretty mild temperatures in those pre-dawn hours and the snow geese and sand hill cranes were right on time with their acts. A part of the north end of the reserve we’ve not seen open in ages, gave us a “new” area to shoot.

White Sands provided quite a contrast to the busy activity of Bosque. Again, we needed patience for light, which was scarce. The skies cleared on our last morning and the timing could not have been better as we were treated to an almost full super moon setting about an hour before sunrise. The contrast between the dark distant mountains and the moonlit dunes was stunning.

Here are samples of images captured by our participants:

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Fall in the Smokys

George Theodore, November 14, 2017

The Smokys. What a great place to spend a few fall days photographing. The first couple of days looked rather bleak, as colors were a little late. But, rains and a slight drop in temperature promised colors were not far behind. As the week progressed, colors got better and better. The rains fed rivers, streams and waterfalls and we enjoyed capturing reflected colors shooting sections of them at a time. We got a little snow too.

Driving through Cades Cove, we counted nine black bears. One sow with triplets, another with twins. They were on the ground and up in trees; and, of course, it really slowed traffic. On one entrance into the Cove, a sign warning was up telling us the traffic was so heavy, it might take two to three hours to make the eleven-mile drive. Well, it wasn’t that bad; we did it in an hour. Cades Cove’s Sparks Lane looked good in the sun and in fog.

All in all, it was a good week. Here are images from our workshop participants.

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The Berkshires 2017

George Theodore, October 15, 2017

It gets tougher and tougher each year to predict fall colors; summers in some areas are longer, hotter and drier. This proved to be the case in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts the first week of October.  But, what do you do when you’re handed a bunch of lemons? Well, you know.

With the near absence of color (except for a five mile stretch in Vermont) the group’s challenge to create images from more everyday subject matter was met head-on in North Adams, Shelburne Falls, covered bridges near Bennington VT, Weston and as far north as Rutland VT and the countryside in-between especially along the Mohawk Trail. From old industrial buildings to blossoms and monarch butterflies on Shelburne Fall’s Bridge of Flowers, our workshop participants made lemonade with outstanding imagery. And, of course, we had a lot of fun. The weather for the most part was cooperative and the rains came as the workshop ended – perfect timing. Here is a sampling of images from our participants:

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Glacier National Park Fall Workshop 2017

George Theodore, October 9, 2017

What do you do when there’s smoke from forest fires on top of which you get rain and snow?  Why you get up, go out and shoot. This year’s Glacier National Park Fall workshop presented numerous challenges that forced us to think out of the box. For the most part, the winds cooperated by keeping smoke from Glacier’s west side fires away from us and, unable to go over to the west side, we were limited to east of Logan Pass. With few opportunities to photograph the “grand landscape”, our group excelled at making lemonade from lemons. Here’s a sampling of their work:

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Alaska Land & Sea Tour 2017

George Theodore, July 10, 2017

This year’s Alaska Land and Sea Tour was outstanding; mostly perfect weather, just enough sun but not too much so as to give us too much contrast. Starting in Anchorage, we made our way down the Kenai (pronounced keen’-eye) Peninsula to Seward stopping along the way at various point to photograph. The following day, we boarded our small boat at Resurrection Bay for our private cruise around Kenai Fjords National Park to Holgate Glacier and back; a delightful eight hours with Captain Tanya and First Mate Clay filled with great photo opportunities – whales, orcas, otters, puffins and, of course, the Holgate itself – one of Alaska’s smaller glaciers but still advancing and still awesome.

Two days later, we flew out of Anchorage over the Cook Inlet to the Lake Clark area staying at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. The following three days were full of grizzly bear photography. We were just a day or two too early for spring cubs (maybe next year) but had plenty of company with yearlings and adolescent cubs along with their moms. A couple of boars were spotted as well. The crew at the Lodge was terrific attending to our every need. We were out shooting at all hours – before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner; it was daylight practically 24 hours and we took advantage of every shooting opportunity. The final afternoon, we boarded a couple of charter boats and made our way around Tuxedni and Chinitna Bays photographing birds including puffins, murres, oystercatchers, eagles and a huge kittiwake rookery.

Sadly, all had to come to an end but not before our farewell party at Simon and Seaforts in Anchorage where we raised a toast to the wonderful experience that is Alaska Land and Sea.

Here are images captured by our ten participants. Enjoy!

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Yosemite 2017 Workshop

George Theodore, May 15, 2017

This was the most water we’ve ever seen at Yosemite. The falls were just awesome and the Merced River was running wild and fast. While we had to make our way around flooded areas that made parts of the park look like Bayou Country, those very conditions provided for some spectacular reflections. And, the dogwood was at peak. What a great week not to mention a great group.

We covered Cathedral Beach (temporarily Cathedral Pond), meadows, the falls, the river, Swinging Bridge, Valley View and other areas in the “low country”. The road to Glacier Point was still closed due to snow (first time we struck out on that).

We plan to return to Yosemite in late 2018. Here are some images from our Yosemite 2017 group:

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Arches & Canyonlands Workshop 2017

George Theodore, May 8, 2017

Arches and Canyonlands are two of our most photogenic national parks with something for everyone – up early for great sunrises and early morning opportunities then out again in late afternoon through sunset. If you’re like us, we use the in-between hours to pull out our speedlights and shoot some more. Then we use after-dark hours to light paint. The weather was mostly sunny with some cloudiness in late afternoon.

For our first sunrise, we left the hotel at 4:30 AM to get to Mesa Arch an hour before sunrise; we were rewarded by being the first ones there. The rest of our sunrises were at Landscape Arch, North Window and Deadhorse. All pretty good mornings. Sunsets were spent at Balanced Rock and Fisher Towers. Storm clouds produced The group decided against the hike up to Delicate Arch and the clouds rolled in which would have made sunset a great disappointment. The light painting at Double Arch was very successful catching both the arches and star trails.

We had a terrific afternoon with speedlights and other artificial lighting equipment photographing cowboy/cowgirl models. Using both infrared and radio transmission, the group learned a lot about how speedlights produce much better images when taken off-camera and how gels can be used for wonderful effects.

The was camaraderie terrific and all returned home with lots of great photos. Here are images from some workshop participants.

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