February 2013 - Night Moves

Category: Newsletters 07 February 2013

The Amphitheatre at night, Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA
Canon 1Dx, 14mm lens, 20 secs @ f4, ISO 12800

I'm up too early. I could go and stand in the cold waiting for the first twilight glowing on the hoodoos, but it's at least an hour before that's going to happen. Instead I'm reviewing last night's shoot on the laptop; did it work? I'm desperately trying to convince myself it did, the shooting star was certainly a spectacle, but in my heart of hearts I suspect the previous night's vigil under the stars produced the better picture. Ah well, I'm philosophical after my communing with the stars. It's all part of the learning process and photography aside standing alone in the snow by the tripod in the silent darkness overlooking Bryce Canyon in the middle of the night is a moving experience. As I first set up by the light of my head torch I was dimly aware of the bizarre pinnacled landscape below; then with the torch off as my night vision acclimatised the full impact of the scene under a sky heavy with twinkling stars permeated my soul. Another 20 second exposure ticked by as I revelled in the solitude, the space, and the crisp winter clarity of the night sky. Occasionally I had to shine the light on the 1Dx to adjust my settings. The long latent film photographer still deep within screamed in protest; upping the ISO to a sky high 12800 was surely pushing things just too far, wasn't it? There was one way of finding out. Every night here at Bryce Canyon I'm on the late shift, working on my Night Moves; experimenting, honing and evolving. I'm hooked on star gazing.

So once more unto the breach and into the thermal layers before heading out for the dawn light. Base layers, fleece, gilet, Torres trousers, puffy goose down jacket, shell, sleeves, Siberian Hairy Hat, winter boots and gloves; the soft wear for harsh climes is doing the job. I've not yet been cold, despite the long dark hours waiting immobile in the wind at 8000 feet. Apart from the hands that is; they don't make cameras to be used with gloves and the fingers duly suffer. But the biggest challenge here is not exposing in the cold, its avoiding the photographic pitfalls of the obvious and predictable.

The Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park, Utah, USA
 Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 200mm, 1/800 sec @ f9

Southern Utah is just one great landscape photographers playground; it's been great being back after a 20 year respite. Of course its trampled ground; well-worn tripod holes are evident at all the iconic viewpoints and virtually every session so far I've bumped into another photographer. It's good to chin wag, but they all seem determined to tell me what, where and how I should be photographing. I'm resisting and determined to keep true to my principles but it's difficult to not be swayed; the allure of a location that guarantees a proven result is seductive. There are guide books to photographing the south west that are so specific the exact spot to stand, the time of day and the lens to use are all prescribed. Anyone who has come on one of our Workshops knows that kind of formulaic approach is anathema to all I do and preach. But really in a land so epic and vast there's no shortage of room for inspiration and originality. The idea for starry night sessions was duly spawned, as was a taste for extreme long lens landscapes to emphasise the sheer scale of the vistas. One solitary afternoon at Dead Horse Point engrossed for hours in the Joy of Photography as shafts of late light painted the Canyon below was just plain fun.

Fun too has been had shooting the latest video blog for the eZine. Speaking of the Chasing the Light eZine we are celebrating its first full year. It is a project that has come to dominate my whole life, in a good way. It's the motivational force that drives me out from the warm after dinner glow to stand under the stars contemplating the meaning of life and the how long I can leave the shutter open without Venus streaking. I love working on it. We hope that comes through, and the quality of the Guest Features from our contributors speaks for itself. This month, well, I'll let eZine Editor Freya Dangerfield tell you all about our February Edition.

The Colorado Valley from Dead Horse Point, Utah, USA
Canon 5D mkIII, 100-400mm lens @ 235mm, 1/10 sec @ f11, polariser

Balloons over the Temples of Bagan at dawn, Myanmar (Burma)
An image from this month's Behind the Lens feature in the Chasing the Light eZine.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm f2.8 II L lens @ 200mm, 1/250 sec @ f5.6

This month is the special anniversary edition of our Chasing the Light eZine - we've now been going for a whole year! To celebrate our birthday we have a bumper edition in store - David provides his regular essential Compositional Tutorial, this time considering the value of patterns in photography and how best to employ them. For this month's Field Trial, he explores how useful the light capabilities, speed and auto focus performance of cameras like the Canon EOS 1DX are for general photography whilst traveling around south east Asia. For Behind the Lens, we join David for the first leg of his amazing trip to Burma as he shoots the fantastical temples of Bagan. And for Stepping Back, David revisits the iconic Machu Picchu remembering the vagaries of shooting in a South American location such as this - particularly negotiating parasite bites from llamas! He has prepared another of his popular Video Tutorials, providing readers with the unique opportunity to join him as he leads them through his editing process. And we have this month's Member's Gallery, with constructive comments from David on our f11 member's own work.

From other contributors we have Part 2 of Garry Ridsdale's superb exploration into the intricacies of auto focusing. eZine editor, Freya Dangerfield adds another article to The Bizz series, this time considering the necessary evil of self-promotion to get yourself and your work noticed. And for this month's Guest Feature we accompany Tony Worobiec on a fascinating series of American Road Trips, capturing the iconic sights along the famous highways of the USA. The full contents of our Chasing the Light eZine including all back issues are available exclusively to f11 subscribers only. You can review the full benefits of f11 Membership and subscribe here.

The one drawback with trips like this is the amount of time spent hanging around sterile motels and diners. I'm looking forward to a bit of contact with all, well, some of you coming up in Italy and, yes, Birmingham! We have just a few places on next May's Umbrian Workshops left. These will be the last such workshops so this is your final chance to shoot the verdant landscapes of the Green Heart of Italy with us. Additionally the opportunity of a face to face chat with me is open to any photographers who are contemplating making the annual pilgrimage to Focus on Imaging at Birmingham's NEC next month. On Monday 4th March I'll be on the Lee Filters stand if you'd like to drop by, and on Tuesday 5th March at 10:30am I'll be on the Daymen International stand presenting my work from this trip and our recent Burma Adventure.

This trip started with four days holed up in a Moab Motel, fighting a bout of the lurgy imported from Blighty and bemoaning the dreary fog, rain and zero visibility. All that's forgotten now, such is the rollercoaster of life on the road. Tomorrow I head back to Moab. I've more Night Moves planned in Canyonlands, and I want to be somewhere with a bit of life to watch the Ravens take on the 49ers. After a long absence it's good to be back in America, and it has to be said the photography here has just been pure joy. I'll be working on my Night Moves again tonight.

Last light on the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA
 Canon 5D mkIII, 100-400mm lens @ 150mm, 1/800 @ f8, ISO 800, shot hand held in a fierce wind, polariser

Keep exposing.

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