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December at the Beach

Whew! The past couple months have been busy as hell! That's good news because there's nothing I hate more than being idle, but that also means I'm building up a hefty backlog of image editing. Luckily I had some time today to at least get through a couple days of shooting from back in December. I have pictures here from 2 different beaches (Crystal Cove State Park and a beach in Laguna).

The first set is from Crystal Cove taken on December 23rd. This was actually during a lesson with a student of mine, Kim Murphy (her work is awesome).

We started the evening photographing the gorgeous clouds reflected in the wet sand. Ahh, gotta love that blue sky. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you I did remove some of the lens flare on the following picture once I got it in the computer (shame on me).

Once the sunset rolled around, I continued playing with the reflections and the motion of the waves. Couldn't decide which of the following 2 I liked better, so I posted both.

Then twilight rolled around and the blues in the sky made for a good, cold mood - perfect for December at the beach.

The second day was at a little beach in Laguna...not sure of the name...on December 29th. We'd been having heavy storms here in SoCal and the skies were breaking up into some pretty dramatic clouds and light. I rushed down to the beach and got there just in time for a few good shots.

Strong winds and passing rain made the job extra difficult, but also extra fun. I had to juggle holding an umbrella, wiping down my filters and avoiding the waves throughout the shoot. I loved it.

The waves were so choppy and tumultuous, I decided to make that the communication in these shots. I made the motion of the water the focal point in these compositions by using slower (but not too slow) shutter speeds. I also slightly under-exposed the pictures to add to the stormy feel.

And lastly, a panorama just as the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Click it to see a bigger version.

Thanks for viewing!

Hummingbirds

Well, I got some new pictures of hummingbirds for you guys.

...that's right, hummingbirds.

I had a private student this morning in Laguna Beach and during the lesson, he snapped some amazing pictures of hummingbirds while I stood by to lend my expertise. There were tons of them! It was the first sunny day we've had in awhile here in So Cal and I think they were out in droves gorging themselves after fasting through the days of rain.

I had some time to kill after the lesson before my next student's appointment, so I thought I'd try my hand at photographing some hummingbirds myself. I haven't done wildlife in awhile and I definitely don't consider myself a wildlife photographer, but his shots got me all jazzed up to break out the telephoto. One of the perks of being a photography teacher: inspiration from my students.

Best I can tell from some online research, the hummingbirds I had in my sights were Allen's Hummingbirds (selasphorus sasin). The coloring on the males is absolutely stunning. The iridescent copper coloring on their throats glowed like a beacon in the daylight. It would even shift to a rich, red color depending on how the light hit is. Beautiful contrast with the green on their backs and white on their chests.

I thought this above shot was kind of funny with him looking right at me, but it also shows his color the best.

Compare the coloring of the male above to the female below.

Hummingbirds are tough to photograph because they move so quickly. The good thing about them, though, is that they are pretty fearless. I guess knowing you're the fastest gun in the west can make you pretty confident. This fearlessness means I could get pretty damn close to them with my 200mm lens without scaring them off. The auto focus on my 5D (mark I) is pathetic, so I ended up manually focusing for most of the shots. Worked much better than I thought it would...

So there you have it! Thanks for stopping by!

Sedona and the Grand Canyon

It's been a hell of a month - holidays, drama, life changes. To be honest, I can't wait for 2010 to be over. But that's neither here nor there. I'm simply trying to justify the ridiculous 3-week delay on getting these pictures up from my trip to Sedona, AZ last month. At least there's a lot of them...

It was a rare family vacation jam-packed with hiking, sight-seeing, mountain biking, photography, shopping, hanging out and a whole lot of driving. Good quality time with the brothers, parents and sister-in-law - my favorite people in the world. I had a lot of fun and I even got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time!

One of my brothers and I went to Oak Creek on our first day to enjoy the scenery and get some pictures. There was some great fall color to work with, fantastic reflections and the temperature was mild. I could have stayed down there all day. Here are the pics from that first day:

The second day was with my two brothers and sister-in-law for a full day of sight-seeing and hiking. We checked out Slide Rock in the morning where it was just us 4 out there for quite awhile until a Japanese tour bus unloaded. No pictures from Slide Rock because the light was ugly, but we did some exploring and even found a tarantula, which, I must say, was both disturbing and fascinating.

For sunset, we headed out to Red Rock Crossing for stunning views of Cathedral Rock. I originally intended to get pictures of Cathedral Rock at sunset with Oak Creek in the foreground - real picturesque stuff. I ran into a problem with that plan when I couldn't find a single composition that fit the order. The water level was too high, making it impossible to get the angle I needed without crossing the creek to the other side, which wasn't going to happen.

Sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt. Luckily I've made enough mistakes in my years of shooting to know that making a plan B should be step 1 when you arrive. So I moved to a meadow I'd scouted earlier and had deemed my "in case things don't work out" spot. I'm actually glad things didn't work out with shooting the creek because I really enjoyed shooting in this meadow and I think I got some great, unique shots of Cathedral Rock - even some panoramas.

Here are the results (click the panos for larger versions):

The following day's agenda would consist of a sunrise shoot in Sedona and the Grand Canyon at sunset. The Grand Canyon is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Sedona - one way. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I guess that's why only my sister-in-law was game for the sunrise. But in the end, it worked out great anyway. The sunrise was stunning, the Grand Canyon was worth every minute of driving and we'd still have a couple more days of vacation to catch up on sleep.

For the sunrise, we went to a high spot overlooking Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance. There weren't too many clouds and, thus, not much color in the sky, but the sun illuminated the air in a beautiful golden glow. The layers were amazing. The following 3 shots are practically the same (subject-matter at least), but I was just diggin' the vibe and color too much to not share each composition. Click the pano for a larger version.

Once that color faded away, I turned my attention to a beautiful Utah Juniper and played with the shapes of the branches and trunk.

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon. Thank God it wasn't peak season for the Grand Canyon, because it still got a little *ahem* cozy where I'd set up for my shots once sunset rolled around. For the most part, though, the whole place felt pretty empty (uh...no pun intended).

To put it succinctly, I was blown away by the Grand Canyon. Its size is hard to grasp even when it's right in front of you. My eyes were seeing it, but it somehow felt like I was just looking at a painting, like nothing could actually be that vast. Absolutely amazing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Loved the way the light hit the very tip of this tree

And last but not least, my favorite panorama from the trip - one compiled from 5 separate vertically-framed compositions. You'll wanna click this one for the bigger view...

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone. It brings me so much joy to share these with you and know other people are lookin' at 'em.