Saturday, January 7, 2017

Behind the Shot: Thor's Well

This is a part of a new series that I am debuting on Boost Your Photography called "Behind the Shot." The internet has fostered the proliferation of incredible photography and highlighted many spectacular locales. This series serves to pull back the curtain just a little bit - to take a look at some of what goes into getting those print-worthy masterpieces, as well as to highlight the importance of what else is going on just outside of the shot.

Thor's Well, Oregon



Thor's Well is a geologic feature on the Pacific Coast in Oregon. It has become a highly-sought photographic spot for the deep sinkhole look that is created as water pours back into the ocean through the well. The well also creates a splashing geyser effect as the water rushes in and dashes against the sides.

The image above represents the idealized view of Thor's Well: the gorgeous sunset colors, the splashing ocean backdrop, and the sense of silence and serenity created by the long exposure time and the slowly falling water. Zoom back slightly, however, and the image below represents the reality: the crowds of other photographers hungry for the same shot, the unpredictable splashing of ocean water, and so on.


Tips for Photographing Thor's Well


Thor's Well is located on the coast of Oregon just south of Yachats (which has a great local brewery and many different hotels, if you are looking for a home base during your shoot). You can get a map of the area from the Cape Perpetua Visitor's Center. There is a very small parking lot for the well at the top of the hill, just off the road, otherwise you will need to hike in a little ways from other nearby parking lots, along one of several marked trails.


You can see the well itself from the road. Not sure exactly where it is? Just look for a crowd of folks with cameras staring down at their feet ... presto! I recommend arriving early enough to scope it out before sunset, so you know where you'll be heading. Depending on the tides, daylight shots can also provide the same splashing or sinking effects.


As for can see in the wider shots, above, about the only place to stand is on the higher outcroppings of rock that surround the well. Depending on the tide (and the height of your footing), be prepared to get splashed or have water run up and over your feet.

There are limited spots to use a tripod, which is essential if you want the slow, silky water effect shown in the original image. (All the how-to details for silky water long exposure shots are the same as those for shooting waterfalls. Click here for more details.) You will also need either a polarizing filter or, even better, a neutral density filter, which will allow for the longer shutter times necessary to capture swirling water. (Details and recommendations for filters can be found here.)

If you are trying to capture the splashing geyser effect, prefocus and shoot in burst mode to capture a sequence of several shots. Once you've watched the waves come in a few times, you can get a sense of which waves are more likely to result in bigger splashes. (Get more details on arresting motion here.)

Timing is key if you want an idealized version of the shot, as in the opening image. Sunset puts the sun sinking down into the waves and has potential for incredible colors and hues. Sunrise is less certain, as the sun will be coming up over the land, but you'll avoid the crowds. You also want a time when sunset / sunrise coincidences with high tide. The higher the tide, the more water coming in, and the better the sinking down effect of the well. (Tide charts can be found online or at the Cape Perpetua Visitor's Center.)

Caveats


  • Shooting near water is unpredictable. There are signs up and down the coast that warn about "sneaker waves" - unexpectedly large surges of water that can (and have) surprised people and dragged them out to sea. The closer to high tide, the more water will be flowing up, over, and around the area near Thor's Well. Keep a firm footing and prepare to be splashed if you attempt photographing near high tide.

  • Protect your camera and your lens. The constant splash and spray of water can will coat your lens (and even your camera) and could eventually cause corrosion and other damage. Consider securing your camera inside a plastic bag and keep a filter on your lens. Otherwise your shots will quickly degenerate into this ...

  • Finally, be respectful. This is a gorgeous natural area, and you should not do anything that might damage it. Be considerate of other photographers as well. Take your time, compose and capture your shot, and then let someone else try your vantage point. There are very limited places to safely stand and shoot.

If You Go:


Where: Thor's Well, Cape Perpetua, Oregon (part of the Siuslaw National Forest)

When: near sunset. Closer to high tide means more water (and more risk), closer to low tide means more dramatic splashes but less overall water.

What to bring: camera, wide lens, sturdy tripod, polarizing or neutral density filter, remote shutter release, and plenty of lens clothes and cleaning spray. Wear sturdy shoes and pants that you don't mind getting wet.

What else to see: just south of Thor's Well is a featured called the Spouting Horn that shoots off tall streams of water during high tide. A short hike to the north is The Devil's Churn, a narrow inlet that can throw water several hundred feet in the air as the tide comes in. It is also well worth the short drive up to the Cape Perpetua Overlook for distant views up and down the coast.


Final Thought


Remember that photography is not simply trying to replicate the same shot you saw online. Of course you want an iconic shot of an iconic location, but take the time and energy to devote to really adding your personal spin on it too. A shot that is truly "yours" is likely to be more memorable.

For me, I visited Thor's Well on a personal vacation, without a tripod or polarizing / neutral density filter. I enjoyed finding ways to tell the story of the well rather than simply capturing the well on its own.


Have you been to Thor's Well? What other places or images would you like to see featured in a future "Behind the Shot" style post?





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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Join: 4 Weeks to Better Photography

My email subscribers have already heard the news, but now I'm making it public ... I'm starting a new email photography course: 4 Weeks to Better Photography!


Each week you'll receive an email with advice, tips, and activities to try that will help you on your way to becoming a better photographer. This exclusive content will only be available by email - and only for a limited time. (My goal is to release this content eventually as an eBook, so now is your chance to get it all for free.)

  • Week 1: Know your camera. Important lessons on camera function, settings, and modes.
  • Week 2: Focus. There's no easy way to salvage an out-of-focus image. Learn how and where to focus for ideal, crisp shots every time.
  • Week 3: Composition. Don't waste time trying to crop a so-so picture into perfection. Get it right when you shoot and create memorable images from the get go.
  • Week 4: Creativity. Once you've mastered the first three weeks, this is one to really push yourself as a photographer. Try different techniques, master different styles, and learn to express yourself!  

Interested? Use the signup form below and choose whether you'd like to join the challenge for January or February (or even both, if that's your fancy). In no time at all you'll be on your way to even better photography!



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4Weeks



Already a subscriber? You can either enter your info again in the form above or click "update subscription preferences" from the bottom of any BYP email. It's that simple. Hope you'll join us!

(P.S. Those of you who are already subscribers will not receive a separate confirmation email, but don't worry - the first email for the course will arrive on Sunday morning.)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

2015:



2014:






2013:


  • Favorite Photography Books and Authors: part 1. This first post on my favorite photography books and authors focuses on authors who explore the bigger picture of photography and will inspire you will ideas for composition, design, and more.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top 10 Locations in the US for Night Sky Photography

A Guest Post by Marc Andre

Photographing the night sky can be a challenging, but also rewarding, experience. Whether you are photographing just the sky and the stars, or a landscape under the night sky, it is possible to create very unique and striking images with night photography.

Unfortunately, many people who live in developed countries aren't able to see the night sky without light pollution. Some places are known as being great locations for viewing a dark sky. In most cases these locations are far enough away from major cities that light pollution is minimal.

In this article we'll feature 10 places in the United States that are ideal for photographing the night sky. At the end of the article you'll also find a list of some additional locations, and links to some websites that can help you to find a dark sky location near you. Spend a little bit of time researching the location that you want to visit, make sure sure you the right gear for night photography, and make an effort to get out and experience an amazing night sky.

Arches National Park (Utah)


Arches National Park in Utah is popular with tourists and photographers because of its incredible natural arches and rock formations, but it is also known as an excellent location for stargazing. Photographers love being able to capture the arches and formations surrounded by a stunning night sky filled with stars.

You can learn more about stargazing and night photography at Arches National Park here and here.


Photo by Jacob W. Frank - CC BY 2.0

Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)


Natural Bridges National Monument is home to the world's second-largest natural bridge, and also provides a very dark sky that is great for stargazing and photography. It has one of the darkest skies of any NPS unit in the lower 48 states. Just like at Arches National Park, here you can photograph an amazing rock formation under the night sky. During the summer the park hosts ranger-led astronomy programs.


Photo by Jacob W. Frank - Public Domain

Death Valley National Park (California and Nevada)


Death Valley National Park is classified as a "Gold Tier" night sky by the International Dark Sky Association, the highest level designation. Although it is a remote location, it is still within driving distance of major cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Here you can photograph a rugged landscape under a star-filled sky.


Photo by youngil_pyun - CC BY-ND 2.0

Joshua Tree National Park (California)


Joshua Tree National Park is located far enough from major cities (and at a higher elevation) that it has a very dark sky, filled with stars. Still, it is within just a few hours of driving time from Los Angles and San Diego, so it is not difficult to access. Stargazing is a popular activity here, and you can see this page for information about the sky in each season. The park is even home to a Night Sky Festival. Photographers love the opportunity of photograph silhouettes of the unique Joshua Trees in the foreground of the night sky.


Photo by Lian Law - Public Domain

Mauna Kea (Hawaii)


Due to its high elevation and dark sky, Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii is an ideal location for stargazing. This dormant volcano exceeds 13,000 feet in elevation at its summit. The Visitor's Information Center is at more than 9,000 feet in elevation and here you will find a free stargazing program every night. With a 4-wheel-drive it is possible to travel on a dirt road beyond the information center and to the summit.


Photo by Rustedstrings - CC BY-SA 2.0

Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania)


Cherry Springs State Park is in a remote location in Pennsylvania, removed from the light pollution that impacts most of the northeastern United States. Stargazing is the main attraction at this park, and it is known as one of the best places in the eastern United States to view the stars. The park's astronomy field offers 360 degree views of the night sky.


Photo by Kevin Wigell - CC BY-SA 3.0

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)


Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks because of its unique geological features, amazing wildlife, and beautiful landscape. But its remote location also makes it a great place for stargazing. With plenty of open space and little light pollution, there are plenty of possibilities for stargazers and photographers at Yellowstone. This article lists the 4 best places within the park for seeing the night sky.


Photo by Neal Herbert - Public Domain

Fairbanks (Alaska)


Fairbanks, Alaska is known for being an ideal place to view the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. This is a truly unique experience that you won't find in the United States unless you are in Alaska. From Fairbanks you can also take a tour to an even more remote location if you'd like.


Photo by Ron James - CC BY 2.0

Black Rock Desert (Nevada)


The Black Rock Desert of Nevada is known for being the location of Burning Man, but its also a great place to get an amazing view of the sky. The remote location and cloudless sky make it perfect for stargazers and photographers.


Photo by Ross Barringer - CC BY 2.0

Badlands National Park


Badlands National Park is known for its rugged, other-worldly landscape. Its remote location also makes it perfect for stargazing. Photographers are able to capture the star-filled sky above this unique and beautiful landscape. The park hosts a Night Sky Program on summer nights from Friday to Monday, but you can get an amazing view on most nights throughout the year from any number of locations in the park.


Photo by tsaiproject - CC BY 2.0

Even More Locations!


The places featured in this article are just the start. There are many others that could have been included, including Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), Big Bend National Park (Texas), Blue Ridge Observatory (North Carolina), Headlands Dark Sky Park (Michigan), the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (California), Lake Tahoe (California and Nevada), and Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico).

Find a Dark Sky Near You


You can also find a great night sky near you by using a few different websites. The International Dark Sky Association shows locations that they recognize, and they have high standards. Try visiting this map, type in your location (such as a city or state) and look for the darkest places on the map. Another option is the Dark Sky Finder, which highlights some specifc locations, with limited information available on those locations.  The map from Dark Site Finder also shows areas based on the amount of light pollution.

About the Author


Marc Andre is a landscape photographer and the editor of LoadedLandscapes.com. He lives in Pennsylvania and enjoys photographing different locations throughout the United States.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

2015:



2014:


  • Shooting Modes part 1: program mode. Learn how to use all the different modes your camera provides during this month-long series. This first post starts from the beginning by getting you off of Auto mode and into Program mode.

  • Holiday and Photoshop Posts over at Craftsy. This next post features a collection of posts over at Craftsy including advice about how to photograph your holidays (without going insane) and how to use exposure compensation for perfect holiday lights.


2013:
  • Yes, You Need a 50mm Lens. A 50mm lens is a major upgrade from your kit lenses, and this post lays out a series of arguments (and photographs) to show you what you might be missing. Plus, at around $100 USD, a 50mm lens is also a steal! 
  • All about Bokeh. Bokeh is an incredible effect from lights and blur, and the holiday season is a perfect time to experiment with bokeh. This post will walk you through how to create fabulous natural bokeh shots.
  • Shaped Bokeh. The next step in bokeh photography is to create shaped bokeh. This post will walk you through this simple DIY hack for shaped bokeh photographs. 

    Don't Miss a Single Post from Boost Your Photography

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    Saturday, December 3, 2016

    Looking Ahead: a request for feedback


    As many of you know, there has been little new content lately on Boost Your Photography. My primary profession is as a teacher, and new courses combined with some major life events have made for a very busy year.

    I am hoping to get back into the swing of more regular posting and would appreciate your feedback. There is a short survey embedded in this post, seeking your input about future directions and topics you would like to see addressed. Please consider taking a few minutes of your time to share your thoughts. Thanks!

    Not interested in surveys? You can always leave feedback and advice in the comments or connect with Boost Your Photography through social media.

    I look forward to hearing from you!


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    Saturday, November 26, 2016

    A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

    2014:



    • Great Gifts for Photographers (and Yourself). Treat yourself or the photographer in your life with something special this holiday season. This post offers a collection of must have and super-useful photography gifts and accessories at a variety of price points. 


    2013:
    • Photography Gifts for the Holidays. Now is the time to start planning for holiday gift-giving. This post offers a wide-range of ideas and possibilities for how to use your photography to create lasting, memorable gifts. Check out the post for some great ideas!
    • Where to Order Photography Gifts. Part 2 helps you answer the question of where to order those photography gifts. Read on for a detailed comparison of three popular online photography retailers: Cafe Press, Snapfish, and Shutterfly. 
    • Thankful for Food Photography. Thanksgiving got me thinking about food photography. This collection of quick tips will help you with the settings, strategies, and stylings to make a big difference in your food photography.
    • Shoot Successful Self-Portraits. Selfies may be all the range among millennials, but any one can get in on the action with these helpful tips! Strategies for self-portraits as well as some ideas and inspiration - even for the camera shy.

    Don't Miss a Single Post from Boost Your Photography

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