America’s Best Idea

Last light on Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California USA
Last light on Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California USA

August 25th is the 104th birthday of the National Park Service, and all entrance fees are waived as part of the celebration. Established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service was created to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein…for the enjoyment of future generations.”

From its humble beginnings with just thirty-five parks administered under the Department of the Interior, today the National Park System includes over 400 units including parks, monuments, and historic sites. Ken Burns’ recent film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea rekindled the connection many feel with the parks, and is a wonderful tribute to the history and originality that first made them possible.

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and a great resource for staying in the loop about events and activities at nearby parks or putting the finishing touches on planning your next big adventure.

 

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

The World of Light & Shadow

Mountain Dogwood above the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
Mountain Dogwood above the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

In the continuing search to develop our photographic vision it’s often said that trying a new or different approach yields the best results. While we employ many tried and true techniques in our craft that help to define our style, it’s the ongoing challenge to see the world anew that offers the greatest rewards in helping us grow creatively.

If you typically use wide-angle lenses switch to a telephoto and isolate elements from the bigger picture. When shooting  under sunny skies is the norm try the soft diffused light of an overcast day to eliminate shadows and create rich, saturated colors. As I’ve mentioned before, filters can also be an indispensable tool in shaping and controlling light in the field, and are almost always preferable to post processing. One exception is the conversion to monochrome.

With today’s powerful controls in Lightroom and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, it’s now possible to make gorgeous black and white conversions from our color files that express all the subtleties and tonal range once only achievable with film and a darkroom. The challenge here is to seek out images that work well in monochrome. Typically high contrast scenes with defined edges and shadow detail are strong contenders, but there are no hard fast rules and experimentation is the key.

Although I don’t always shoot with black and white in mind, I’ve discovered many images in my files that express my emotional response to the scene much clearer than the color version. Most current digital cameras do have a black and white shooting mode, but it’s always preferable to shoot in RAW and then convert using the full tonal adjustments available in the programs I’ve mentioned. The added benefit is that you always have your original when color is the best option.

So spend some time reviewing your images with a new perspective in mind. You might just find some real gems that were waiting to be discovered in the world of light and shadow.

 

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Yosemite Moonbows

Moonbow and starry sky over Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
Moonbow and starry sky over Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a mecca for adventure and nature photography with its steep granite walls, lush meadows, alpine spires and booming waterfalls. I’ve spent four decades exploring its unique features and it always feels like home whenever I return.

But as with any well-loved location, it’s easy to find yourself in a creative quandary when it comes to seeking out new perspectives. With iconic landmarks around every turn, it’s a challenge to create fresh images that (no matter how beautiful) don’t leave you feeling as if you’ve just seen that same view in a recent car ad or magazine. So what to do?

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, waterfalls are always a rewarding subject as no two shots will ever be the same. The flow of the water is in a constant state of flux and experimenting with shutter speed opens up a whole new world of creative expression. From what Ansel Adams called “straight photography” to ethereal artistic interpretation, the sky really is the limit with this liquid landscape.

Also known as lunar rainbows, moonbows are a unique phenomenon that occurs when the full moon illuminates the spray of a waterfall. The moon needs to be low in the sky (less than 42 degrees) and the night sky must be very dark making Yosemite an ideal location. The best times are typically 2 to 3 hours before sunrise or 2 to 3 hours after sunset when the brightness of the stars compliments the moonlight reflecting off the water.

Framing can be a challenge in such dim light, but once you have a composition set and your eyes have adjusted the fun part begins. Watching the moonbow magically appear and disappear with the ebb and flow of the spray is mesmerizing and makes for an evening of photography you won’t soon forget.

 

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved