Tag Archives: mount shasta photography

Photographing Wildflowers

Photographing WildflowersPhotographing wildflowers is its own art form–much like portraiture or wildlife photography. With the most basic camera equipment, you can create stunning and compelling floral portraits. The key to successful wildflower photography is less about equipment and more about spending time in the field. Flowers bloom in the Spring and Summer months and the window of opportunity is often very short. More time in the field equates to better photographs.

Photographing WildflowersTechnique is the single most important component in creating any compelling image. Photographing wildflowers usually requires close focusing distances and controlling depth-of-field is critical to the final feel of your photograph. A shallow depth-of-field isolates the subject and provides a soft background, while increasing depth-of-field brings a greater area into sharp focus. Use a tripod and cable release whenever possible. Pay attention to composition. Look for simple backgrounds free of competing distractions. Shoot during the golden hours–that hour just after sunrise and the hour just before sunset. Rainy and overcast days provide a diffuse light and increased color saturation. Do your homework. Research flower-rich areas near you. Study your subject and return until you have adequately captured it. Experiment. Try different and unusual perspectives. Wide-angle and telephoto lenses can yield striking results.

Photographing wildflowers is a specialized pursuit. Three items can enhance your creative possibilities. The first item is a macro lens. A true macro lens provides magnifications up to 1:1. This means that if you photograph a small object (say, a penny) at the lens’ closest focusing distance, the image projected onto the camera’s sensor is life-size. Macros generally come in two focal lengths–50mm and 100mm (Exact focal lengths vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer). The 100mm lens allows a little more distance between camera and subject. You are less likely to cast a shadow upon the flower and depth-of-field is increased. Extension tubes are an inexpensive alternative to a macro lens. Extension tubes are hollow tubes which mount between your lens and camera body to shorten the minimum focusing distance. They often come in a set of 3 and can be used in varying combinations to achieve different magnifications. Extension tubes work particularly well with short to moderate telephotos. The final piece of equipment is a ring flash–a circular flash unit which mounts to the front of the lens. Low light can be a challenge in macro photography. A ring flash resolves that issue.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–Its Many Moods and Faces

Mount ShastaMount Shasta is a mountain of continually changing moods and faces. It is a mountain of striking natural beauty–a constantly swirling interplay of light and shadow, sun and clouds, wind, rain, and snow. Mount Shasta is a larger-than-life presence, an iconic mountain immersed in myth and legend. It is a living, breathing entity–an otherworldly landscape born of fire and ice. Hotsprings at its summit offer testament to its fiery origins living still, while glaciers continue to slowly and methodically scour out valleys as they have for centuries.

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Mount Shasta is sometimes a deceptive mountain. Warm and inviting in Summer, it can turn hostile and forbidding in Winter. Temperatures can plummet to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and winds at the summit can exceed 200 miles per hour. Weather can change suddenly and unpredictably any time of year. Mount Shasta claims the world record for the most snowfall in a single storm–nearly 16 feet in the Old Ski Bowl in February 1959. Other forces, such as avalanches and mudslides, can drastically alter the terrain with little or no warning, as with the Bolam Creek debris flow in 1997.

Mount ShastaWeather is Mount Shasta’s most exciting and dynamic element. Clear skies can quickly turn dark and ominous. Thunder and lightning in the mountains can be terrifying–yet it is intrinsically beautiful at the same time. Skies explode in a swirl of color, lightning flashes, as rain falls through a shaft of sunlight. This is the indescribable magic that is Mount Shasta. This is the drama that makes for outstanding photography. And it is precisely my reason for moving here more than three decades ago.

I look forward to sharing other photographs, thoughts, and reminiscences in future posts. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Spring Arrives to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has officially arrived to the Mount Shasta area. With an unusually dry and warm Winter, the landscape is looking more reminiscent of May than early April. After receiving above-average precipitation in December, California experienced its driest January-February on record. Aside from the series of snowstorms in December, we never saw much of a Winter. High temperatures remained in the 50s and 60s throughout most of the season. A below-average snowpack and continued warm conditions equate to an earlier-than-normal start to the hiking season. Backcountry access is a month or so ahead of schedule.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Crags provides some the area’s finest early season hiking. Some snow still lingers on the Crags’ northerly aspects, but otherwise the trails are clear. This is a wonderful time of year to hike and climb Castle Crags, as crowds are minimal and temperatures pleasant. Creeks are flowing abundantly and Spring’s renewal is evident. With a base elevation of 2000 feet, the Crags can get quite hot in the Summer and are home to a variety of snakes–including the Pacific Northwest Rattler–so caution is always advised in the warmer months. Black Butte is another favorite early season hike. Its summit offers spectacular views of Mount Shasta and the Eddys. Some snow can still be found on the trail, though it isn’t much of an obstacle at this point. Waterproof footwear is recommended. Black Butte, like the Crags, is known for rattlesnakes, so please be aware and step carefully over rocks and logs.

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Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing on Mount Shasta’s south side continue to be good and should remain so into May, dependent on weather. The Old Ski Bowl (7600 feet) is reporting a snow depth of 104 inches as of April 1. Access to the mountain’s north aspects should open up a month or so earlier than usual–figure late-May to June. Skiing and climbing on the backside of Mount Shasta typically remain good through June. I have skied Brewer Creek as late as July 4th and found conditions to be relatively good, in spite of the sun cupping. Rafting and kayaking has seen an early start and short season on many of Siskiyou County’s rivers. The current flow (March 22) on the Upper Sacramento River at Box Canyon Dam is approximately 450 cfs (cubic feet per second)–too low for rafting. The minimum flow for hardshells and inflatable kayaks on the Upper Sac is 400 cfs.

Siskiyou County is rich with wildflowers and a few species are beginning to make an appearance, so pack your camera. This is an especially beautiful time in the northstate and photographic opportunities abound. I am offering photo tours to Castle Crags State Park and Mossbrae Falls, as well as other select destinations throughout the Mount Shasta area. For more information, or to book a photo tour, please contact me.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

 

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Photo Tip #1: Determining Exposure

Determining Exposure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO TIP #1: Turn off the Automatic Mode.

This is the first step in taking control of your image-making. Don’t let the camera make critical exposure decisions for you. In this easy lesson, you will gain an overview of light, the camera’s metering system, and accurately determining exposure. This is photography’s most basic precept and with a little practice it will quickly become second nature.

Let’s start with what is commonly referred to as the exposure triangle–which consists of your ISO (light sensitivity), aperture (lens opening), and shutter speed. There is an interrelationship between these three components and when you change one setting, it directly affects the other two. A camera’s ISO settings range from 50 (the least sensitive), 100, 200, 400, 800, etc…up to as high as 25,600, for extremely low-light situations. Changing your ISO setting from 100 to 200, increases the exposure by 1 stop. Reducing your ISO setting from, say, 400 to 200, decreases exposure by 1 stop. The general rule is to use as low an ISO setting as conditions allow to reduce unwanted noise in the image. Aperture refers to the size of the lens opening (f-stop). Your f-stop determines the amount of light reaching the sensor or film plane. Full stops range from f/1.8 (wide open), 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, up to f/22 or f/32 (smallest opening). Stopping down from f/8 (larger) to f/16 (smaller) results in a 2-stop decrease in exposure, and so you must reduce your shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting a total of 2 stops.  Shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open and allowing light to hit the sensor. Settings on a digital SLR generally range from 30 seconds up to 1/8000 second. A slow shutter speed requires a smaller aperture to compensate for a longer exposure time. A fast shutter speed requires a larger lens opening to allow for a decreased exposure time. For example, if you are shooting a sporting event at an ISO of 100 with a lens opening of f/11 at 1/125 second and you want to increase your shutter speed to 1/500 second to freeze the action, you have reduced the amount of light you are letting in by 2 stops. Increasing your shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/250 second reduces your exposure 1 stop, and increasing it to 1/500 second reduces the exposure by another stop, for a total of 2 stops. To adjust for the decrease, it is necessary to open the lens and/or increase the ISO setting 2 stops. In this case, I would choose to open the lens 1 stop, from f/11 to f/8, and increase the ISO setting 1 stop, from ISO 100 to ISO 200. This allows me to maintain a relatively small aperture for increased depth-of-field and sharp focus with minimum noise.

A brief word on depth-of-field. The term depth-of-field refers to the area within the picture that is in sharp focus. In general, the smaller the lens opening (f/22 or f/32), the greater the depth-of-field. The larger the lens opening (f/1.4 or f/1.8), the shallower the depth-of-field. When you focus directly on your subject, the depth-of-field begins 1/3 in front of your subject and ends 2/3 behind it–that is, if you’ve determined your depth-of-field to be 9 feet, that area of sharp focus begins 3 feet in front of the subject and ends 6 feet behind it. I will talk more about depth-of-field in a future Photo Tips post.

The Gray Card and Determining Exposure

The average scene you encounter is calculated to have a light reflectivity of 18%, and so the camera’s light meter is calibrated to this 18% reflectivity. This is well and good, but the majority of scenes are not average, and if you rely on the Automatic setting, you will likely get average results, and most of the time. Have you ever taken a photo of a snow-covered landscape, to find that the snow is rendered a dingy gray tone? In the days of film, this was always a horrific discovery. Of course, with digital technology the results are instantaneous and so you can view the image and adjust accordingly. The camera’s meter is not able to determine when a particular scene deviates from this 18% reflectivity, such as sunlit snow, which may have an 80 or 90% reflectivity–or a dark object, which may have little-to-no reflection at all. The meter is always going to assign these things a tonal value of 18%.

An 18% Gray Card allows you to accurately determine exposure in any lighting condition. They are available at B & H PhotoVideo, or any camera supplier. To use the Gray Card, you simply point your camera in the direction of your intended subject. You then place the card in front of the camera lens until it just fills your viewfinder. It is imperative that your subject and gray card receive the same illumination. If your subject is in full sun, the gray card must also be reflecting full sun. Take your reading. You may choose to fine-tune your exposure by bracketing 1/2 to 1 stop.

A little trick I use while skiing is to meter directly off the snow. In bright light conditions, I will take my reading in the same direction and light as my intended subject, and then open the lens 2 stops and bracket. On overcast days, I will meter off the snow and open 1 to 1-1/2 stops, depending on the intensity of the light. You can also meter off the palm of your hand and open 1 stop. I have a lens cleaning cloth that doubles as a Gray Card. It’s very compact and extremely lightweight. For minimalists such as myself, it’s the perfect solution. Eventually, through using the gray card repeatedly, you will learn to recognize objects with an approximate 18% tonal value, allowing you to meter on the fly.

Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–A Place Called Home

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived in Mount Shasta in April of 1981. I came here with a deep love of nature and wild places, but more I came as a photographer. Though Mount Shasta lies just east of Interstate 5–the main artery of the west–it is surprising how many people have no idea where it is located. We are situated 60 miles south of the Oregon border and, along with Lassen Peak, form the southern extremity of the Cascade Range. With its volcanic origins and incredible diversity, the photographic opportunities here are limitless. Mount Shasta, at 14,179 feet, dominates the landscape for hundreds of miles in every direction. Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted violently in 1915, is a reminder that the Cascades are very much alive and active. Castle Crags, a few miles south of Mount Shasta City, offers a little piece of Yosemite-like grandeur, while the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges to the northeast see the migration of millions of birds every Spring and Fall.

Siskiyou (pronounced Sis-Q) County, in which Mount Shasta resides, boasts 7 wilderness areas–including the Mount Shasta, Castle Crags, Trinity-Alps, and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas. Towering peaks, pure, rushing streams, and a California climate make living here ideal. We recently celebrated Fourth of July all across America, and in the interest of celebrating our nation’s independence several years back, I spent three days skiing solo on Mount Shasta’s northeast side. Aside from the backcountry ranger who skied up to my tent to say hello, I didn’t speak to another human being for three days–and this, on the busiest holiday of the season. It’s that kind of place–relatively uncrowded and wide open.

All the seasons offer their reasons to visit the Mount Shasta area. As a skier and photographer, Winter is my personal favorite. Few things in life are more beautiful than the natural world freshly cloaked in snow. And that Winter light! But it’s Summer now and the livin’ is easy. The meadows are lush and vibrant with wildflowers, and the backcountry lakes are accessible.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Welcome to Bruce McKinley Photography

Mount Shasta Photography

Welcome to Bruce McKinley Photography and my new website and blog. In the upcoming weeks, I am going to be indoctrinating myself in the fine art of blogging. As I do so, I’d like to share photos, stories, and information with you. I want to offer photo tips–from the most rudimentary to more advanced and experimental techniques. I welcome any inquiries into any of my photographs–the hows and wheres, etc.. If you have specific questions about some aspect of the photographic process, including scanning, photo retouching and optimization, please feel free to contact me. I will also share helpful links I encounter along the way–and please feel free to do the same.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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