photography, random thought, travel

The Ocean Song

The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”
― Christopher Paolini

Ellen is an ocean girl.  And clearly I’m a mountain guy.

So I planned a trip recently that I hoped would offer the best of both worlds… the Pacific Northwest Coast.

It really didn’t disappoint.

But I was surprised at how deeply I too fell for the ocean song.

Pacific surf along Del Norte Coast

Dusk falls on the Pacific at Wilson Creek Beach

There’s more to the music of the sea than just the crash of the waves.

A silhouette of a photographer as dusk falls on the Pacific at Wilson Creek Beach

Or the melodic ebb and flow of the tide.

Dusk falls on the Pacific surf at Wilson Creek Beach

There’s the distant surf rolling and rumbling faintly.  Steadily.

Sea birds and pastels accompany the rocks in the Pacific surf along Del Norte Coast

The chatter of the seabirds.

starfish in the tidal pools near Arch Rock

plant life and wildlife in the tidal pools near Arch Rock

The gentle sway of the tiny creatures.

Arch Rock at dusk

There is a sound to the light.  It carries all of these other notes of the sea to create one grand song.

The sun sets on the Pacific and a tent campsite with beautiful displays of color

The sun sets on the Pacific and a tent campsite with beautiful displays of color

The sun sets on the Pacific with beautiful displays of color

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

And when the sun drops beyond the horizon, out of view, the symphony doesn’t end.

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

In fact, the orchestral crescendo begins to take shape with soft colors and the gentleness of the breeze.

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

This is where the song takes shape.  This is where the minor key takes hold.

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

It is primal song. And it is one that I will forever try to capture, impossible as it is… it hangs just out of reach in the air around us and passes through us tenderly. It tells us that we are not alone. That this is not all by chance.

It reminds us that every song has a composer.

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 
 
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equipment review, photography, travel

Canon’s New EF 16-35 f/4L // Field Review

Affordable, super sharp (even called ‘the sharpest Canon has ever made’), and sturdy.  Did I mention it also has IS?  Oh yeah, and a 77mm filter ring. It wasn’t all that long ago (2 years or so) that I posted a review of the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L.  And I liked it.  But let me just say, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the new Canon EF 16-35 f/4L (US $1099).

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 The toil I went through was over whether I should purchase the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L (US $1699) or the 17-40mm f/4L (US $839).  Both are “L series”, Canon’s best glass, and as a professional I generally don’t buy anything less.  As the saying goes, “you’re only as good as the glass you use.”

So I really had a decision to make.

For me, this lens will fill a big gap in my repertoire of focal lengths.  And as more and more of my business is landscape/ cityscape/ architecture, I am in desperate need of a quality super-wide zoom.

Now, just by the nature of super-wides (and zooms for that matter), some sharpness is sacrificed on the edges for the sake of versatility.  If you need tack-sharp, you need a standard prime.  Wide focal lengths will also cause some distortion on the edges… nothing that can’t be easily corrected in post.  Already knowing these drawbacks, I began to research.

Aside from the obvious difference in focal length, the 16-35 is a full stop faster.  But do I need that full stop?  I decided no for the majority of its use.  I would primarily use it as a landscape lens… so shooting outdoors, it’s nearly inconceivable I would need (or want) f/2.8.  And the second most useful application for me is interior architecture.  But again, I typically light the spaces and rarely shoot wider than f/8.  Okay, so is there a sharpness difference between the two?  Well, without having both lenses in front of me to do my own tests, I had to rely on the careful data of others.  I found a fantastic technical analysis of this very comparison on Luminous Landscape.

As you can see in my earlier post, I couldn’t find too much of a difference between the two former Canon super wide zooms, other than price. But this new 16-35, though slower than its big brother at f/4, is sharper and feels even sturdier.

And the main thing other than price that bothered me about the f/2.8 was the fact that it had an 82mm filter threading. Which means having to buy all new filters. Huge headache… when almost every other one of my lenses use the 77mm.

Now I’ve taken the new EF 16-35/4 with me as my primary landscape lens on my last three trips; Wyoming/ Montana/ Colorado, Pacific Northwest, and Florida. So far, this lens has met all my expectations, and more. I’ve never seen a zoom lens with this kind of sharpness, even at the extreme edges.

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A man hiking the rim at sunset in Crater Lake National Park

Massive old-growth trees in Humboldt Redwoods State/ National Park

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Sunset over Trillium Lake

People admiring the majesty of Wahclella Falls

Canon got it right on this lens on all accounts in my book. The autofocus works like a charm, color rings true, the hearty build makes me feel like I’m not going to just snap it in half on accident (like the 17-40), and as I’ve said before, the f/4 works just fine for me with what I shoot.

And if you’re looking for a more technical review, please check out Ken Rockwell’s site.  This guy is amazing and will give you all the tech specs you need!

I can tell you though, If you spend the $1100 USD on this lens, you will not be disappointed.

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 

 

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education, photography, travel

Photographing // Tents

Yeah, it’s a thing.  And if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I clearly enjoy it.

Photographing tents in amazing places is trending on Instagram and other social media outlets, and for good reason… it makes for incredible, eye-catching images and it’s really fun.

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Recently, I’ve begun experimenting with the sources of light inside the tent… but when I began, one might say it was a little less calculated and a bit more haphazard.

One of the first times I made a ‘lit tent image’, it was almost accidental.  I pointed my camera in the direction of Squaretop, and intended to do a ghosting image of Ellen and I getting into the tent.  The image that was created would send me into an obsession that has really paid off…

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In many ways, it is simply a means to document some of the cool places I have laid my head.  But when I started getting serious stock and print inquiries from these images I realized I was on to something.

Man hiking up to a winter campsite overlooking Fremont Lake in Bridger National Forest, Wy

Social media would blow up every time I posted one of the tent shots, and I began to notice they were showing up all over my Instagram feed from some of my favorite photographers.  Something in these shots was resonating with people.

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Dusk, colorful sky, and lit tent under a silhouetted Nugent Mountain

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So I began doing them all over the world and experimenting a bit.

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I’ve used everything from cruddy headlamps, to Canon Speedlights, to my Dynalite strobes. And at this point, I’m not set on one method… I know I have a bit more searching to do to find the one best lighting solution that is compact and lightweight enough to take deep into the backcountry when backpacking.

Any recommendations are much appreciated :)

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But one of the things that I have learned over the years of experimenting is that your best bet is to shoot your tent shots during the blue hour. It is the hour +/- just after the sun has set, or just before the sun rises.  I prefer the evening blue hour because it seems to have a quality of light to it that is better to photograph.  But also because you have the daylight first, which allows you to more easily compose your image before it gets too dark. You get to ease into the shot.

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The blue hour is the optimum time for your artificial light to match the exposure and desired color temperature with the sky.

Dusk at Sparks Lake

Lit tent on the rim at Crater Lake

Lit tent on the rim at Crater Lake

But even if you wait a bit longer, you can get the stars in the shot, as an added bonus.  But beware, it is more difficult to match the exposures, so it may take a little experimentation.  If you have the ability, turn your lights down several stops.

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Knowing all of this, the first thing you need to determine is your composition.  It is best to figure this out during the day when it’s light out.  Once you have a composition you like, it’s time to think about where the best, most compelling placement of the tent will be.

Camping in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

The example above is actually where I slept.  But recently, I’ve been setting up the tent just for dynamic shots, like the ones below.  I did not venture to sleep where the tent was in the four images below.  Sometimes the best shot is not also the best place to camp. And the best, most comfortable place to camp does not always make for the most interesting shot.

Lit Nemo Equipment tent on the Ohanapecosh River

Lit Nemo Equipment tent on the Ohanapecosh River

Lit Nemo Equipment tent on the Ohanapecosh River

I hope sharing what I’ve learned is helpful and hopefully inspiring. But it is a process, and I will keep refining my craft.

The sun sets on the Pacific and a tent campsite with beautiful displays of color

I’ll keep you all posted as I learn more. And feel free to comment below if you have experiences or recommendations of you own to share!

Until next time…

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 
 
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random thought, travel

How To Travel All The Time… Forever

Ellen and I get asked all the time, “How do you do it?!?” With baffled looks, most people begin to wonder whether we are trust fund babies or maybe secret oil barons.

Ellen slaton hiking and camping the Cirque of the Towers

Well the truth is, neither of us come from any money at all, and contrary to popular belief, photographers and yogis really don’t necessarily make a ton of cash. So we’ve learned to be… well… resourceful.

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Ellen slaton hiking and camping the Cirque of the Towers

The road to Willow Lake

Don’t get me wrong, we do just fine and feel so blessed to be able to do what we do and not worry about paying our bills or having enough food for our bellies… most months :)  “So what’s the secret?” you may ask.

silhouette of a man and woman holding hands at dusk with the Tetons in the background

We don’t have children, spend much money on clothes, or even own a home. We have chosen to “invest” our money in experiences. True, they are fleeting, and probably we won’t be able to retire until… well… ever.  But when I think about it, we would both do what we’re doing if no one was paying us, so why would we ever make a goal to retire from our passions??

Rocky Mountain Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Here’s the deal; we have very different priorities from most folks our age.  And that’s okay.  Our way is not better than the folks that prefer the security of a steady job, and making sound financial investments, and sacrificing their lives to raise children.  In fact, those are all wonderful and even very noble things.  But they aren’t what God has called us to in our lives. At least not yet.

So for now, we travel.  And I might even venture to say we’ve gotten pretty good at it. So I’d like to share a few things that we’ve learned over the years to cut costs and keep the dream alive.

Sunlight Basin Road (Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Wy

Ellen slaton hiking and camping the Cirque of the Towers

Early morning on Lulu Pass in Gallatin National Forest near Cooke City, MT

First thing’s first… once you’ve determined the where, you have to be able to calculate whether it will be cheaper to drive there, or fly and rent a car, or take public transport. It’s not as hard as it may seem. Figure out your gas mileage and divide that by your calculated total driving distance (I recommend very liberal estimates… better to over-prepare and stay under budget than the reverse), then multiply that number by the average price per gallon of gas.  There’s your travel cost for driving.  Sometimes even though driving may be cheaper, the amount of time (including food + lodging) ends up making it a better deal to fly. Know when to say when is too far a distance to drive.  For me, there is no such thing. Except for ocean crossings! But a deal is a deal, and if I can fly for cheaper, then that’s what I’ll do.

van life, early morning on Lulu Pass in Gallatin National Forest near Cooke City, MT

Travel is your first major cost that you can’t really get around. It’s essentially fixed.  The next few elements are more variable, depending upon your resourcefulness and desired comfort level.

Coleman tent with Tetons in the background

Lodging is something that Ellen and I have down to a fine art. Most locations we visit we camp 6 out of 7 nights.  So for our three week Pacific Northwest trip, I only budgeted for three nights in a hotel.  This saves you… big time.  You can expect to camp for an average of $0-35 per night, depending upon the state/ country you’re in, and what regulations they have.  This info is super easy to find nowadays online. I recommend camping in undeveloped National Forest campsites as much as possible. They are free and usually the most beautiful and quiet. Developed sites usually cost between $5-20.

Camping is hands down, the best way to save money, making it possible for you to travel all the time.

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Sunrise over the Winds near Soda Lake, lit Nemo Tent, man camping

Food is the next (somewhat) variable expense.  We try not to eat out much on the road, as it is typically unhealthy and expensive. But it’s not always easy to travel with groceries. Especially if you elect to fly, coolers can be a hassle. But you can always pick up a $2 styrofoam cooler at Walmart, and that will give you a huge advantage when on the road.

If we’re driving, we bring a regular sized cooler, and keep just the essentials in our car at all times: breakfast (coffee, eggs, butter, yogurt, granola), lunch (peanut butter & honey, tortillas, chips, fruit), dinner (veggies, meat), and snacks (nuts, crackers, snack bars, water, etc.). Clearly, this kind of living is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Especially in the U.S.  But the fact is, many of the people of the world live this way because they have to. Sometimes I think of that fact when I’m growing weary of living out of my car, eating peanut butter and honey.

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Cooking over an open fire really can be such a simple way to “spice up” your meals.  Just some fresh veggies and meat (or eggs even!) will break the monotony (and unhealthy nature) of eating on the road.

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And chopping wood is might fine workout, and often free fuel.

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The truth about travel is that it can be really expensive.  But it doesn’t have to be. You just have to have a realistic budget, a good dose of planning, and expectations to match the budget.  If you desire to travel, but don’t have cash to throw around, just be truthful with yourself and manage your expectations.

Morning brings dramatic light on the Winds

Oh yeah… one more thing that’s really important… work. Most folks with steady jobs can’t just pick up and travel all the time, forever. Well, if travel is your thing, I would sincerely consider a career change. But really, nowadays, a lot of jobs can be done remotely. There’s nothing wrong with working while you travel.  That’s what we do. It’s rare that we take an actual “vacation”.

So it may be worth having a sit down with the boss to see if you have the option of working remotely.  Because if not, it may be back to square one.  But there are a lot of ways to make a living from the road.

Travel writers, food bloggers, consultants, photographers… people are even making money from their Instagram following. If you have something to say, there are advertisers that will gladly partner with and enable you to make a decent living from the road.

Ellen Slaton hiking to and looking out over Seneca Lake in the Wind River Range

All of the images in this post are from a Wyoming/ Montana/ Colorado road trip we did this summer. We partnered with Ambler, a fantastic hat company out of Canada to make it happen, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities.  They’re out there.

Ellen Slaton hiking Bridger Wilderness

When wanderlust takes hold, it can be insatiable. And those of us who aren’t independently wealthy need to get creative to carry out our dreams.

Don’t let life on the road intimidate you… you might find it as exciting and fulfilling as we do…

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015

 

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education, instructional, photography, travel

Photographing // Waterfalls

Creating stunning waterfall and river shots is not always as simple as finding a compelling composition and just pointing your camera. There are some basic, and even advanced techniques that you need to consider.

I just returned from a three week road trip through Washington state, Oregon, and Northern California; one of the regions of the world with the most abundant waterfalls and cascades, thanks to the very high annual rainfall of the area.

Punchbowl Falls

Toketee Falls

Wahkeena Falls

The scenic Ohanapecosh River

I’ve shot waterfalls from Arizona to Scotland and beyond over the years, but none compared to the concentration and variety I visited recently… I was just blown away by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  The forests are lush with vegetation and the rivers run crystal clear and some even take on a deep blue hue.

The scenic Ohanapecosh River

The first concept you want to think about when photographing moving water is whether you want the water to blur or whether you want to stop the action. 9 times out of 10, your image will be more compelling and interesting with blurred water, so that means you will want a shutter speed of at least 1/2 a sec.  I prefer around 2.5 to 10 seconds to achieve the look I like.

But if you have an element of action in your image that needs to be stopped, you will want a faster shutter speed. Consider the image below. Although I would’ve liked the water cascade to be blurred and smooth, I knew it was more important that I stop the action of the cliff jumper… so I made a split second decision to change to a 1/125 sec shutter speed.

Cliff jumping at Punchbowl Falls

So, you might be asking, “What if it’s the middle of the day? How can you achieve such a slow shutter speed?” Well, that’s a great question.  I would refer you to an earlier post on neutral density filters.  But if you don’t have a solid or variable ND, you can often get close enough to the speed you need with your circular polarizer… Which brings me the next consideration to make; to polarize or not.

Proxy Falls

This series of images, shot at Proxy, Toketee, and Punchbowl Falls in Oregon are good examples how of using a circular polarizer can enhance your waterfall photographs. First, the polarizer will give you at least 2-3 extra stops, allowing you to utilize slower shutter speeds. But it will also cut the glare from the water, allowing the colorful water to take shape in your image. But perhaps my favorite reason for using the polarizer is because it will also cut the glare from the surrounding vegetation and make the greens pop like never before.

Proxy Falls

Toketee Falls

Punchbowl Falls

Two men wade to get a closer look at Punchbowl Falls

Lit Nemo Equipment tent on the Ohanapecosh River

The next thing to consider, as I’m sure you’ve butted heads against already, is camera stabilization.  All these long shutter speeds do not work unless you have a very sturdy tripod. I have three tripods that I cycle between that are all great for different reasons and applications.  The best for waterfalls, is my Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with 410 Junior Geared Tripod Head. It is heavy duty though, and if I’m flying to a location or backpacking in, I use my lighter Gitzo GT2340L Series 2 Aluminum 4 Section Tripod, with the same sturdy, geared head.

A good tripod will save you from many headaches in the field and heartaches when you get your images on your computer (or get your film back) and see that none or very few are even sharp.

Proxy Falls

Proxy Falls

But even with a hefty tripod, you will need one more piece of equipment… a remote shutter release. Canon makes two different kinds; the Canon RS-80N3  & the Canon TC-80N3.  I have both and like them, but they are pricey for what they are.

I recently stumbled upon the Polaroid Wireless Camera Shutter Remote.  It is wireless, which is fantastic for so many reasons (including the fact that I can shoot star pictures without leaving the comfort of my tent!), it is an intervalometer (so I can time-lapse, and shoot really long exposures with precision), and the price is right.

There is one way around the shutter release, but you have to set your timer delay every time you want to do a long exposure.  I would recommend investing the money in a decent shutter release, and I would even go with the wireless, intervalometer.

Having a good tripod and shutter release, whether wired or wireless, will ensure no camera shake, giving you the sharpest images possible.

Toketee Falls

The trail to Wahclella Falls follow the beautiful and serene Tanner Creek

The trail to Wahclella Falls follow the beautiful and serene Tanner Creek

Now that we’re done with the technical side of things, I’d like mention something more on the subjective/ artistic side.

Only in recent years have I begun to add people to my landscape images.  And it’s become a bit addicting. It’s a whole different mindset in many ways. But in practice, I simply compose the landscape image I want first, and then I look for the perfect (and most interesting) location within the composition to place the human element.

People admiring the majesty of Wahclella Falls

You may be like me and vehemently resistant to such an idea initially, but I would encourage you to round out your portfolio with interesting “people in nature” images. Unless you exclusively make your living from fine art print sales, you stand to make some decent coin from shots like this.  Both advertisers and editorial producers alike love this type of image.

A man is drawrfed by Elowah Falls

Another prime example of why I would go with the Polaroid Wireless Camera Shutter Remote… Sometimes you will be the only person available to place in your image. The wireless remote makes being your own model a real breeze.  Trust me, I have to do it all the time :)

The scenic Ohanapecosh River

Man hiking Proxy Falls

The scenic Ohanapecosh River

People admiring the majesty of Wahclella Falls

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

One of the trickiest things about photographing waterfalls is the spray. Powerful waterfalls will produce a spray or mist within a certain distance, and sometimes the shot you want is going to fall within that wet perimeter.  It is very difficult to keep your lens dry.  So what I found is you have to stand in front of the lens until the very last moment, wait for the wind to die down or shift, and then wipe the lens with your lens cloth, all the while jumping out of the way as you press the shutter on your wireless shutter release.  Needless to say, It’s not easy.

A man admiring Wahkeena Falls

So sometimes, you just have to roll with it.  The image above is after I got one good frame, I gave up trying to keep the mist from the front element of my lens, and a very impressionistic image was the result.  I ended up really liking the look and feel. I’m glad I experimented with a non-traditional shot.

Ferns and vegetation detail near Wahclella Falls in Tanner Creek

Along these lines, the last thing I think is important to mention (and this applies to any nature photography you might be in to); don’t forget see the beautiful details.  They are easy to miss sometimes, but when we are able to slow down, tune in to them, and notice the quiet shots, we are rewarded with unique images.

— andrew


 
Take your photography to the next level… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 
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