Strange planet

The Flatirons, just west of Boulder, Colorado. But seen in infrared, and with some color tweaks in post-processing.

Strange planet

I love the Flatirons, but they’re one of those subjects that is exhaustively photographed here in Colorado. So, how to make a shot of them that doesn’t look like a million others? Oh, and I went hiking on kind of a “blah” sort of morning — light overcast, some snow on the ground (but not enough to really set off the rock). My regular color photos taken with a regular digital camera were… underwhelming.

Fortunately, I also took along my E-PM2 camera body (which I’d had converted to full spectrum imaging), and a 720 nm infrared filter. Do a little color channel swapping, fiddle a bit with levels to separate the rock from the trees, and presto — you’re on a distant world.

Olympus E-PM2 camera (full spectrum conversion), M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ lens, 720nm filter
ISO 200, 19mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec

Crop circles

Seen on a recent flight east (somewhere over eastern Colorado / western Nebraska), it’s center-pivot agricultural fields in the midst of what are essentially stabilized sand dunes:

Crop circles

It’s late-afternoon raking light like this that really brings out the ancient nature of Colorado’s eastern plains’ “sand hill” terrain. It’s all a desert dune field, (temporarily) frozen in place

Runkurakay Pass

So the high point (physically) of day 3 on the Inca Trail is Runkurakay Pass — with views just as good as Dead Woman Pass had, but not nearly as painful to get to.  Just before the pass, the trail winds between two small hanging lakes (I haven’t been able to find any reliable names for them).  First, we’re looking uphill / west across the lower / larger of the two (you can see some of my hiking buddies on the trail above it to the right).

Looking up to Runkurakay Pass

In this next shot, we’re at the pass and looking to the east. Continue reading

Spirits of the Ancestors

A muted, somewhat ghostly shot for you — from Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona:

Spirits of the ancestors

A few things to note if you want to visit either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon for photography:

  1. Only the upper canyon has nice, wide alcoves like this; also, it’s easier for people with mobility issues to move in, thanks to its relatively-wide sandy floor.
  2. You need to move fast (and get a little assistance from your guide) to get a shot of an alcove that doesn’t have other people in it — this is particularly true for the upper canyon.
  3. It helps to visit the upper canyon in the winter — you can see light rays in various places in Summer, and since this is well-publicized, the place is even more crowded then.
  4. The upper canyon has a two-way pedestrian flow (as opposed to the lower canyon, which has an entrance on one end and an exit on the other), so there can be jostling as people try to go their separate ways.

The many faces of Church Rock

Over the holidays, my family took an old-school road trip down to Arizona to visit relatives. Along the way, we came across an interesting geological feature that I’d never even heard of before — an old, eroded bit of volcanic material called Church Rock:

Church Rock

Located 10 miles east of Kayenta, Church Rock (nicknamed after its supposed resemblance to a cathedral from some angles) is part of a whole string of interesting geological features in this part of the country.  On the far horizon, you can see the chisel-shaped tip of Agathla Peak, in Monument Valley.  I think the line-up of features makes a good composition, although something like a 16:9 crop would reduce the impact of the foreground nicely.

Continue reading

A flower grows in Rock City

Kansas — definitely not the first place that comes to mind when it comes to photogenic geology. But it does have some gems tucked away here and there.

Rock City is a small park about a half-hour’s drive north of Salina, run by a non-profit corporation, and home to hundreds of spherical limestone boulders:

A flower grows in Rock City

Admission costs a mere $3 (cash only), and it’s also got some beautiful local plants and birds — so a great quick side-trip if you’re ever heading through Kansas on I-70.

eBook review — Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography

Every few weeks, the folks atCraft & Vision release another title in their fine series of photography eBooks. Their latest contribution was just released today — it’s Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography, by David duChemin. As you might expect from the title, this eBook is a thorough discussion of landscape photography. And given that David cut his photographic teeth (so to speak) as a portrait photographer, it also makes sense that the eBook to some degree chronicles the learning process he went through in applying what he knew of portraiture to the world of landscapes.


Here’s a quick overview of the eBook’s sections:

  • Gear — lenses, tripods, filters
  • Light — soft, dramatic, reflected, side, warm vs. cool, mixed sources
  • Line — composition, leading lines, etc.
  • Land — scouting tricks, visual scale, finding a new angle
  • Water — tips and tricks, safety, scale
  • Snow — metering, white balance, condensation, capturing snowfall
  • Details — macro landscapes

Along with its text, Portraits of Earth includes images from all seven continents, taken from 2009 through 2012. And all its images are presented with their EXIF data, so along with composition ideas, you can gain a wealth of practical knowledge from each.


While the title is billed as “An Introduction to Landscape Photography,” it goes into significant depth and is a worthwhile read for even experienced photographers and is a fantastic value for $5 — you get a DRM-free PDF eBook with 62 (double-width) pages, full of explanatory text and a wealth of helpful example images.

On the beach

At the ruins of Tulúm in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

On the beach

You can’t actually walk on this beach (it’s reserved for nesting sea turtles), but a trail through the site runs right past it — and it makes a great foreground for shots like this! The only real problem is that trash tends to wash up after storms, so you need to clone it out of your shot (since, obviously, you can’t walk out and get it off the beach).