Monday, May 20, 2013

"Seeing Tahoe" Photo Workshop in May 2013

“Seeing Tahoe” Photography Workshop

First weekend in May, five great photographers joined me and my co-leader Jon Paul from the Jon Paul Gallery, for a Photo Workshop “Seeing Tahoe” in South Lake Tahoe.  Spring is a beautiful time with nature reviving and aspens clothed in very faint new green.  In the higher elevations, winter was still full in swing and not surprisingly, on the last morning we woke up to light snow fall even at lake level.  The weekend was jam-packed with activities starting on Friday late afternoon with a gallery visit at the Jon Paul Gallery to get inspired by Jon Paul’s beautiful images exhibited there.  Jon guided us and answered questions, and we plunged into an animated discussion on a variety of topics from how to shoot a great landscape to post-processing our digital files.

Over dinner in town, we got to know each other and shared our experiences and preferences in our photographic work.  Driving back to our accommodations, the sun was just setting and some of us rushed out to the beach to capture the blue hour over the calm water.

Knowing that sunrise and sunset offer the best light for landscape photography, we left both days for the shooting locations way before the sun rose when it was still pitch-dark – leaving the house before 4:30am is not for the faint of heart!   Headlamps ready, on the first morning we walked about 20 minutes to our location while on the second day, tripods went up in the dark right outside the cars.  As the light came up, we were rewarded with beautiful scenes from the grand landscape to the intimate close-ups of nature renewing itself.  In the quiet morning as the birds began to sing, the clicking of cameras was the only man-made sound.  We tiptoed through frozen grass marveling at the beautiful patterns of leaves and grasses backlit by the raising sun.  We captured the still snow-covered mountain reflection in the water moving out tripods and cameras around for the best angle.

Chris capturing water reflections

Beth, Alice and Jon

Since it was too early in the year for the spring flowers in the meadows, we practiced what I call ‘creative photography’ by experimenting with panning and zooming while the camera is open. The collective creative energy was inspiring and we learned from each others examples.

We finally made it back to town by about 11am for a hardy breakfast at Red Hut CafĂ© – well deserved and hungry.

After a bit of downtime with downloading and a short rest, we were on our way up the Eastern Shore of the Lake by 2:30p and stopped at many locations even as a drizzly rain started to make things a wet affair.  Pulling out raingear most important for our camera gear, the new growth of snow flowers, grasses and brush around the beaver  pond offered intimate close-ups as the drops rippled the surface of the pond.  Mr. and Mrs. beaver nowhere to be seen except for the effects of building a dam and creating this beautiful oasis.

Exotic snow flower - 
we learned that this is a fungus raising its beautiful head.

Raindrops are falling on my head....

Alice, Dan and Jon taking in the scene and talking about how to photograph in the rain.

Chris lost in the landscape

Alice, all bundled up to stay dry.

 Dan with great camera rain gear.

Chris having fun even when it rained.

Dan and Alice during a quick stop along the way.... using their cell phones to capture the scene.

We found a gorgeous spot for sunset and the clouds added interest to our images.

Thank you, Jon Paul, for your insight and gentle teaching.  It was great spending the day with you!!

The next day – very early morning again – found us out at the iconic spot overlooking Emerald Lake.  Clouds partially obscured the setting moon and we marveled at the scene as the light came up. 

Early Morning at Emerald Bay

As the sun made its way over the clouds, we photographed the creek with its waters from the snow-melt rushing over the boulders.

Chris zooming in ...

Alice and Beth in Hope Valley along the Carson River

Don't disregard comfort while shooting!

Sun, rain and clouds persisted throughout the day as we drove over Luther Pass into Hope Valley and ended another full day of images and learning with a great dinner at Sorenson’s Resort.  

Probably to all of our surprises – although I have experienced snow even later in May in Tahoe – we woke
up to snow on Monday morning with Echo pass having chain requirements that persisted to the time of departure.  So the northern route through Incline and Highway 80 seemed to be the better bet to meet the return timelines.  Although several inches of snow had fallen over night, the ground was already warm enough for only leaving wet slush – so everyone safely drove home.

I stayed a bit longer capturing this misty scene as the snow turned into rain.

Misty light over the Tahoe

Reflecting on the weekend, I am always grateful when my workshops participants are so inspired and inspiring.  Helping those who are newer to photography learn some new ways to see the scene in front of us, mastering their gear better and becoming more comfortable is rewarding to see.  Having an experienced photographer capturing landscape practically in the dark of the pre-dawn and noticing that the camera can ‘see more’ than our eyes through cumulative light capture is thrilling.  Sharing creative ideas of capturing images even when the light is not optimal or just ‘playing’ with the camera not knowing whether panning will yield any interesting image, always inspires me.  We can all learn from each other and the workshop setting is ideal to experience this. 

Thank you to all of my participants and to my co-leader Jon Paul for a wonderful weekend, great camaraderie, and beautiful images and memories to take home.
Reaching up among the Giants

Til next time,


Please check out my next Lake Tahoe Photography Workshops In October:  
"Tahoe in Fall Colors
on my Photo Workshop page.

in combination with a Wildlife Photo Workshop in the desert beyond Reno:
Cheetahs - at 60 miles per hour
Majestic and unforgettable - the best opportunity outside Africa!

Registration deadline for both Photo Workshops is September 1, 2013.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Milky Way and Night Sky

A Beautiful Night with the Milky Way Cresting in the Eastern Sky

Last Saturday I was camping away from light pollution in search of clear night sky and hoped for millions of stars.  By leaving the Bay Area and driving about 2 hours south I found a perfect spot with a small campground in the hills above Hollister.

As you might remember from some of my posts from last year,  after discovering how beautiful night sky images can be, I have focused on learning more about the art of capturing the stars and I shared some of my earlier images in the following blog-posts:

November:  Focus Night Sky
August:  Milky Way Video

After settling at the campground and preparing my car as it is my night refuge thanks to my Subaru that serves as my sleeping pad, I first found a spot perfect for a beautiful sunset over the valley towards the west.

Sunset over the Valley with low-hanging thick fog/clouds.

As with all images, finding the perfect composition is important in all images and this is equally important at night since just pointing the camera towards the sky can get a bit boring.  So I had hiked around in the afternoon to find a spot that gave me some nice trees in the foreground.  I went back after sunset and prepared my camera to capture the stars and to create star trails.  Pointing north always adds interest since we can visualize the earth rotation around Polaris.

Star Trails around Polaris

At 3000ft, I was well above the valley and above the valley fog which is illuminated pink by city lights in the lover part of the image.

Changing positions and using another composition later at night, the clouds and light from the valley add a nice glow to the lower part of this image.

Looking over the valley in direction San Jose, the lights in the clouds made a beautiful pattern.  And as I hoped for there were millions of star in the sky!  Unfortunately, when we look up from our homes in the city, so much fewer stars are visible.

 Star Points over the Valley with Clouds illuminated by city lights.

Using a  long exposure - this one was taken over a time period of 50 minutes - we again see the earth rotation in the star trails.  This is taken at the same location as the one above.

These last 2 images were taken at around 2 am in the morning and we can see that our busy cities never sleep and never get dark.

From studying the milky way at this time of the year and its appearance over the horizon, I knew I had to stay up late - or should we say early? - but I was rewarded by ~3 am with a beautiful full profile of the milky way when looking east.  This is a panoramic image stitched together from 4 individual images.

Tired but a happy camper, I was ready to snuggled in my sleeping bag to dream of more stars....

If you are intrigued by the beauty of the night and want to learn more how to make images of the night sky and the milky way, please join me for another night under the stars.  I have planned another night out in August and would invite you to join me for a Photo Workshop 'Under the Stars'.  Please email me if you are interested at  Prior to night fall, I will give a tutorial at the campground in the late afternoon on how to set your camera and how to capture beautiful night sky images.

Til next time,