Archive for the Featured Photos Category

Featured Photo – Blue Canyon Star Trails

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2010 by macdanzig

Technical Data:

Camera:   Canon 1Ds MkIII

Lens:   Canon EF 17mm TS-E

Aperture:   f/4

Exposure:  1357 seconds (approx 22 min)

ISO:  200

About the photograph:

“Blue Canyon” is another one of the amazing and remote gems in the Southwest that has an incredible array of rock formations which are extremely delicate.   The name is a bit of a misnomer, as there isn’t anything “blue” about it.   During the same photography trip that eventually included White Pockets, my good friend and I headed to this, another part of Arizona seldom seen.   With some extremely helpful information from a great local photographer, we easily found this canyon after a few hours of driving through the highways and back roads of Arizona. – Just in time for sunset.   Unfortunately, the sky was flat and boring, just as it was during much of that week in the Southwest.    Fortunately for me, my friend is a night time long-exposure fanatic like I am, so we hung out for about 90 minutes after dusk and began composing some star trail shots…   Like I often do with star trails, I located Polaris (the north star) and composed my foreground to work with it, thus creating a spiral-like effect over the long exposure.

Normally, I like to shoot star trails under a new moon (that’s no moon at all) or at least during a time when something less than a half-moon has already set below the horizon.  This helps me achieve a very long exposure time without the sky getting blown-out or overexposed…    This time, I shot under a 25% moon which was really great because there was no need to light-paint with an artificial source.   At the same time, I was restricted to a sub-30 minute exposure, but as I am learning- the need to expose for an extremely long time isn’t as important as the other elements involved in  capturing a perfect star trail shot.  The longer trails from 1 or 2-hour long shots aren’t even always that aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion.

While we were there, I also took some moonscape shots with higher ISOs.  I will be posting some of them soon.   In the end, I was very happy with the way this shot turned out.  The need for post-processing was very minimal as well.

One thing I must touch on again is how incredibly delicate these structures are.  This isn’t a place that will hold up to many human visits and because of that, I am not ever going to publish directions to this area.  Unfortunately someone eventually will, and unless the local Navajo council (which governs the land that Blue Canyon is on) does something to regulate visits, we may see a similar situation as what happened in Fantasy Canyon in 2006.   For now, the remoteness of the area and relatively unknown terrain will keep most people away.  But if you do go there, please watch where you step and tread lightly.  This will help ensure the physical preservation of this magical area for future visits.

Thanks for looking

-Mac


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Featured Photo – Green River Sunset – Canyonlands

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by macdanzig

Technical Data:

Camera:  Canon 1Ds MkII

Lens:   24-105mm f/4 L at 45mm

Aperture:  f/11

ISO:  100

Post Processing:  3 images blended using “Exposure Fusion” in Photomatix Pro.  Adobe CS4 for finishing adjustments.

About:

This is one of those photos that really reminds me of the place and time in which it was taken – and evokes the same feeling as when I took it….   Canyonlands National Park in Utah is one of my favorite places on earth.  It sees far less visitors every year than it’s sister, Arches National Park and for my money is probably the second most amazing large area (geologically speaking) in the southwest.

The evening I shot this, I was originally planning on going to Dead Horse Point for sunset, but some Japanese large-format photographers I met up with at False Kiva that day convinced me to go to the Green River overlook instead.  I’m glad they did.   There was a storm off in the distance looking westward and just after the sun set, an afterglow lit up the rain clouds.

Standing at the edge of the cliff in the ‘Island in the Sky’ district that overlooks the Green River and White Rim road, you are 1500 feet above the foreground you see in the photo.  This kind of height almost lends itself to an ‘aerial’  sort of feel.

It took me a long time to finally get to this one in my back catalog and I’m not sure why, but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the fact that I am a procrastinator when it comes to processing bracketed exposures…  For the processing, I used Photomatix’s ‘exposure fusion’ algorithm, rather than ‘merge to HDR’…   Darwin Wiggett first told me about exposure fusion not too long ago and I love the results when compared to making HDRs, which depending on the scene, can often look garish and unnatural no matter how much time you put into them.

Here is what my settings looked like for the three bracketed exposures that I blended.

I then sent it to CS4 and did some levels adjustments, as well as a subtle Selective Color layer and sharpening.

thanks for looking

-Mac

Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds in Southern Nevada

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by macdanzig

© Mac Danzig

I was fortunate enough to live near an area of the Southwest this summer that many migrating Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds passed through.    During a two-week period, I was able to capture a few keepers that I’d like to share.

A few of these were handheld, but most were tripod mounted.  All were taken with the Canon 1Ds MkII and 300mm 2.8 IS lens.  Some were also taken with a 1.4 Extender attached.  As a normal practice for me, I chose not to use flash for any of these and only use natural light, waiting patiently for the right combination of bird position and sunlight.  (that’s fancy talk for “I suck at using a flash, so I usually don’t bother with it”)

Post-processing was minimal and included normal color and levels adjustments and occasional cropping.   Please click each photo for a larger view.

© Mac Danzig

I actually had quite a hard time identifying these as Broad-Tailed due to the fact that many birds in the Selasphorus genus look similar, including Calliope, Broad-Tailed and Roufus.   Add to that, the fact that these particular birds are all either female or juveniles, they are also easily mistaken for Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, due mostly to the many non-distinct features.

© Mac Danzig

The trees in which many hummingbirds prefer to rest in are thick with foliage, which makes it easy for them to hide from predators.  Since I don’t believe in pruning (especially if nests are present) it was extra difficult to obtain the proper angles for some of these shots since most of the time, the birds try to position themselves out-of-sight, with leaves and branches obstructing my view.  For the same reasons, good lighting also proved difficult to obtain at times…

© Mac Danzig

A particular pair of birds (a mother and juvenile) spent a good amount of time feeding and resting in a particular area and one afternoon I captured a great series of behavioral shots where the mother continually returned to her calling juvenile to feed it insects she had caught…   Here are some of those shots:

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

One aspect that proved frustrating was the lack of a rich background during many of these shots…  I often found many times that the birds were backlit, despite my best attempts at capturing the sun’s best angle.  One thing that helps a great deal is using in-camera Spot Metering.   This is why the vast majority of professionals who shoot hummingbirds often utilize multiple off-camera flashes…

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

Thanks for looking

-Mac

Lower Antelope Canyon

Posted in Featured Photos, Travel Reports with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by macdanzig

© Mac Danzig

Tucked into a convenient location just outside of Page, Arizona and less than 5 minutes from Horseshoe Bend, is the popular Antelope Canyon.  It is broken up into two areas (Upper and Lower) and is governed by the local Navajo Tribal Council.

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon see a good amount of tourism during the busy seasons (Spring and Fall) and although breathtakingly beautiful, they are not spots known for complete solitude.   However this should not stop you from visiting and seeing the amazing formations in the slots that have been carved over millions of years as water cut through sandstone.   The town of Page is an excellent place to stay during a trip to the National and Tribal parks of the Southwest.   I often use it as a halfway point to lodge between trips to Coyote Buttes and Monument Valley.  You may also find yourself here if you visit Grand Staircase Escalante.

These slot canyons can be extremely hard to expose for, depending on the time of day you decide to go, but well worth the challenge.  Antelope Canyon is one of the few photographic locations that is usually best in mid-day light when the sun is high, making it a perfect place to shoot in between the normal landscape spots of the area which require morning and/or evening light.    The following shots were all taken with the Canon 5D and the 17-40 L.   I recommend changing lenses as seldom as possible here, due to the high content of sand and dust on the slot canyon floor.   Strong winds can kick up a small sandstorm without warning.

© Mac Danzig

Rather than writing a long-winded essay on this well-known geological attraction (there is plenty of info throughout the internet),  I’ve decided to share some of my favorite shots from Lower Antelope Canyon, which sees less visitors than it’s Upper counterpart and is just as full of limitless photographic potential….

Enjoy.

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

© Mac Danzig

Thanks for looking

-Mac

Featured Photo – Powder on Red Rock

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2010 by macdanzig

© Mac Danzig

Technical Data:

Camera:  Canon 1Ds Mk II

Lens:  Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro

Exposure:  1/2500 sec

Aperture:  f/5.6

ISO:   200

About the photo:

It may be January but in Los Angeles lately it hasn’t felt much like the cold, snowy winter I know and love from my days  growing up in the northeast.  My affinity for the winter months made me remember a rare photo from last year that I wanted to share.

Rarely does it ever snow in the greater Las Vegas area, but last year around this time while I was living in West Las Vegas, we were treated to 2 days of actual, real snowfall.    Luckily at the time, I lived less than ten minutes from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  I woke up the morning after the snow day and the light was beautiful and the sky clear.   I had to be at the gym for training at 8am, so I left early, took a detour and drove into the mountains heading for the large group rock formations in Red Rock Canyon, which are the major feature of the Keystone Thrust Fault.

What I found was a seldom-seen view of these normally dry, sun-baked desert mountains, completely covered with a dusting of snow, and a group of low, slow-moving clouds hovering at the peaks.  The light was still good at 7:30 and I used my 100mm prime lens (handheld) to get the shot.

Online, I don’t post the full-resolution version of any of my photos for obvious reasons and this web-size does the original 4900×3300 pixel image zero justice , but if you look closely at the larger version, you can see just a small amount of the detailed captured in this shot.  Yes, those are trees in the upper middle part of the mountain.  That can give you a sense of scale to the size of this giant fault.

Thanks for looking

-Mac

Featured Photo – Home… (again)

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2010 by macdanzig

Technical Data:

Camera:  Canon 1Ds Mk II

Lens:  TS-E 17mm f/4 L

Exposure:  30 seconds

Aperture:  F/8

ISO:  100

Post Processing:  Lightroom 2, PTGui

About:

Los Angeles at dusk….

I always wanted to do a sequel to an older daytime shot of the same scene that I had taken a while back when I first started shooting.
I always felt that the original one was over-processed, (although it is one of my most popular photos among clients) so I wanted to do something a little bit different. It’s really hard to photograph here because of the pollution and smog, but the visibility was pretty good on thanksgiving day, so I hiked up and this time, I decided to go directly above the sign, so that there was no chain-link fence in front of the letters. They patrol this with a helicopter every hour since there have been vandals in the past trying to take advantage of such a high-profile landmark. Fortunately for me, they must have had the evening off or something, cause I wasn’t bothered by any helicopters.

There is something about the perspective of shooting from behind the sign that I really like.  When you’re up at this spot, you can see almost all of greater Los Angeles, and on a good day, you can even see to Catalina Island.  It’s a surreal feeling to be right where so many tourists up to a few miles away are pointing their cameras at any given time.  It’s fairly silent up here, except for the hum of the city that you can tune in on if the wind is low…
I used my 17mm TS-E to stitch a two-shot panorama together. (One shot shifted to the left, another to the right.) This helped me get the entire sign in the frame even though I was so close…

I still need to come up here during the day sometime when it’s clear out and do a better day shot than the original.

Also, here’ a link to a zoomable panorama I made of the city that same night from this spot: www.gigapan.org/gigapans/37968/

Thanks for looking

-Mac

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Featured Photo – “Astral Expedition”

Posted in Featured Photos with tags , , , , on December 22, 2009 by macdanzig

© Mac Danzig

Technical Data:

Camera:  Canon 1Ds Mk II

Lens:  Sigma 15mm Fisheye

Exposure:  382 seconds

Aperture:  f/5.6

ISO:  100

Story Behind the Photo:

This shot is part of an idea I had for quite some time. I can’t say it came out the way I planned, but just being here at the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park is an incredible experience in itself.   It was only mid-October when this was taken and the wind chill at night was pretty harsh, even for a cold weather lover like myself.   There was so much fine sand and dust being kicked around, you had to change lenses under your coat, unless you wanted a sensor full of dust spots.

We purposely camped here during a full moon and it was a little too bright for my taste… I usually only shoot star trails during a new moon.  Normally I like to get at least 20 minutes on a star trail shot, but 5 to 6 minutes was just about maximum for an exposure here, considering the desert floor reflects quite a bit of moonlight… On top of that, the sky was quick to wash out, so the exposure had to be watched closely.   One positive regarding the full moon was the exceptional visibility we had while searching for foreground subjects in the middle of the night.
I would love to come here some time during a half moon and get the proper illumination of the entire landscape, while still opening up for over twenty minutes.
This is one of those fairly-remote, magical places that really deserves a few trips a year, considering I live only a few hours away…

enjoy…

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