The Best 2016

Every Image has a Story

 

It’s that time of year where we post images which we think represent our body of work from the past year, the Best of the Best.  Usually limited to 12 images, one from each month, it’s really hard to decide which moments from our life to include, which images really speak to us.

Because I’ve been blessed to be able to travel extensively this year, I’ve chosen the images that tell a story.  If you’re on my Facebook page, you’ve read some of these stories, laughed at my silly videos, hopefully been inspired to get off the grid and into the world to live your life larger than you ever have, to find your True North, to become the person you’ve always dreamed of being.

I’ve traveled through eighteen states this year, from the foggy West Coast, through the hot dry desert, up into the Rocky Mountains, the Smoky, very smoky, mountains, finally ending up back home after ten years living in Reno just 25 miles from Lake Tahoe, in Sunny, hot, humid South Florida.  I thought I might stay in Florida, but the mountains are calling me, there’s more to see, more stories to tell, more beautifully brilliant light filled with vivid color to witness and share.

Scouting out your location

Finding the perfect place to photograph a scene when you’ve never been in the area before can be especially daunting, especially if it’s pouring buckets of water all over you and your equipment.

I think the hardest thing about photographing a location that’s new to you is finding the best place to set up for sunrise or sunset. You can read other photographer’s blogs, research the area online, map it all out with a pretty good idea of what you want to shoot, find the location, then realize that it’s bigger than what you expected, or the clouds are in the wrong position for what you thought was going to be the perfect composition.
That happened on my first day in Oregon last week. After driving to my hotel in a torrential rainstorm, which felt almost like a hurricane, dropping off my luggage, unpacking, then changing rooms because there was a party going on next door, I finally headed out the door at 4pm. I found the Tom McCall Preserve, and started hiking out into a beautiful field of flowers. The sun was still high, the clouds were thick, the wind was still steady and strong, I had plenty of time, so after an hour of dawdling there, I headed up the trail, passing photographers in another field of flowers that overlooked the Columbia River. Little did I know that I should have stayed there…
The climb up the Rowena Crest Trail was consistently steep, and slippery in a few spots, the rain kept coming and going, and the wind kept the fields of flowers dancing, making it hard to photograph. I kept passing signs that said the path was closed for reconstruction, so somewhere near the top, I turned around to make my way back down to a beautiful area that looked just right for sunset.
By this time, the sun was starting to vanish behind clouds, and I realized that the sunstar I was planning to shoot was going to happen sooner than I expected. I started running downhill.
I stopped when I saw the sun disappear behind the clouds, and pulled out my Sony, which I never use, but it had the wide angle lens on it, so I cranked up the ISO to 1600 to try and freeze the wildly dancing flowers, and hand held these images. I wasn’t where I planned to be, that field was another 5 minutes down the hill, but the light was right, right then, so that’s where I stopped for sunset.
I came back to the open field of flowers that overlooked the Columbia River the next morning for sunrise.  It was indeed beautiful, and there were about 20 other photographers spaced out all over the field.  Mainly men, (what’s that all about) ?  and a few latecomers who kept pacing around looking for the perfect shot, (basically a flower in the foreground that’s facing the camera).  One person was still walking around looking for a spot as the sun crested the mountains and washed out the scene, ruining the beautiful soft light that happens during magic hour.  Certainly there were still plenty of options for beautiful images, and I stayed there another hour playing with macros and compositions to the west where the sky was deepening into a beautiful blue.
I did hike up to the top of that hill the next day when the winds had finally died down, but that’s another story.  OR Rowena Crest Trail Sunset 96 dpiOR Rowena Crest Trail 2 sunset 96 dpi

Post processing for the best image

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Over the years, I’ve gone from shooting ten or so rolls of film on vacation, being careful not to waste space because processing 36 photos plus the cost of the film was $15, to 500 photos a day thanks to the digital age, where we shoot from every possible angle, at every reasonable setting, sometimes in threes for HDR, (how much storage do you have?), to a much more reasonable between 10 to 50 at sunset, if the light keeps changing, finding a few perspectives which use the color in the sky to the best advantage. What a relief for me and the storage drive on my computer, which after 3 years of collecting images, is really getting full.  Time to delete.  

Which takes more time than you think, because there’s a possibility that you missed something the first time around, or you’ve learned something new about how to edit.  So, you need to look at your files before you delete the 500 you took on the Lake in August of 2011, or the 800 you brought home from Italy.  Trust me, it’s very time consuming.  

But…imagine when you start bringing some of the images up in Raw, using new techniques, and create a much better image than your first version.  I started processing images in Jpeg in Photoshop 2.0 in 2006.  I switched to RAW files in 2012, and upgraded to Photoshop CC last December. I’ve read tutorials, played with settings, and finally gotten a good handle on how to get the most out of a photo.  Take for example the photos in this series.  The first one, above, is an image that has a beautifully balanced histogram. I darkened the highlights a bit, lightened the shadows, and voila’, a lovely sunset.

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The next photo is a longer exposure which was done to soften the slight movement in the water, making the surface of the Lake looked dreamy.  But with a longer exposure, the highlights blow out a bit, and you lose the color around the area where the sun is setting.  So, to make myself happy, I took the sky from the first photo, and copy/pasted it over the sky on the longer exposure to create the image below.  I think.  It’s all subjective, isn’t it?  Now if I had taken one photo in RAW, I probably would have been happy with the image.  But when you’re shooting water, sometimes that dreamy look goes a long way.  What do you think?  

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A Sign from Above

With the beginning of a New Year, I’ve resolved to step outside of the safe little box that I’ve sheltered in, and create the life that I’ve always wanted to live, exploring this beautiful world and bringing home beautiful images to remind me everyday that finding your dream isn’t hard, or scary, you just have to start moving.  So, this year, I began my travels with a trip to Death Valley, a short 6.5 hour drive south of Reno, Nevada.  A fairly straight drive, well paved rolling highways, which I definitely rolled down and up and down again getting into Death Valley.

When I travel someplace new, I always have this vision in my mind’s eye of a place that’s foreign, where I won’t see many people, where the roads could be steep, and I might get lost.  It’s never the case, although I have gotten a little lost once or twice.  But you just have to turn the car around and head back where you came, and you’re back on track. So, on a Friday morning, noticing some cloudy weather in the forecast, which as a photographer would “make my day”, or actually my sunset and sunrise, I packed up my gear, lunch and dinner, hopped in my Jeep and set out to parts “unknown”.

My plan was to arrive in Death Valley at sunset and photograph the Mesquite Sand Dunes. I stopped a few times on the way down, watching the clouds roll in, buying gas twice, (the Jeep is a gas hog), and drove into the Valley just in time…to realize that there were hundreds of people swarming over the Dunes.  There went my visualization of pristine untrodden lines across the ridge lines of the Dunes, unless I ran, at top speed in sinking sand, way out there, (imagine me pointing about 2 miles out into the desert).  I tried, but with the sun sinking and the sky turning all kinds of pretty, I stopped, popped off a few shots and stood still just watching the color evolve.

I stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch, and had a map of Death Valley which I’d studied so I’d know where to go for sunrise and sunset.  Zabriskie Point was my sunrise location.  I woke up at 4am, headed out at 5am, found it at about 530am, headed up the little hill from the parking lot in the dark with my headlamp, set up my tripod and waited.  Sunrise is harder to predict than sunset.  You really can’t see the clouds in the sky, so you could be up and out there for nothing at all.  But this was a New Year, and at 6am, the sky started to glow !  I snapped off a few shots, then as the light came up, walked around finding my “Spot”.  As the sun peaked on the horizon, the sky light up in beautiful shades of pink, orange, yellow, and blue.  This was the perfect sunrise !  I’d never seen Zabriskie Point before, and I’ll never forget the feeling of joy that washed through me as I ran around shooting from different spots, capturing beautiful colors in a truly beautiful place.

I hiked around all day, exploring Golden Canyon, Artists Drive and Artists Palette, Mosaic Canyon, making my way back over to the Dunes.  This time I started hiking out on the Dunes around 4pm, leaving plenty of time to make it to an area where there weren’t any footprints, or so I thought.  In hindsight, I should have headed East on the Dunes, but I went straight out to the highest one, and shot from there at sunset.  I love my photos, even with the footprints.  As the sun set, I sat and enjoyed the beauty all around me.  There was a group of 20 somethings on the next dune over, laughing and enjoying the warm sand and soft light.  We waved across the Dunes, connected in peace by the golden light around us.

I shot sunrise over the Badwater Basin the next morning, and never made it to the Racetrack.  I was told by a park ranger that it was a two hour drive over a really really bumpy road, and the ground was wet, making it likely that if you did make it out there, if you walked on the ground, you’d leave permanent footprints.  That kinda sounded cool, but 2 hours of bumping each way just didn’t appeal to me. I made it home Monday afternoon, and downloaded my photos to my big screen.  Lo and behold, there was an angel in my sunrise at Zabriskie Point.  On top of the beautiful colors, I found my Guardian Angel.  She was with me the whole time, and appeared at Sunrise to remind me that life is what you make it to be.  If you sit home, wishing for things to come to you, it probably won’t happen.  You have to go out and find your life. I’m on my way.

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Endings and Beginnings

2013 was a year of turmoil for me on a personal level, but in the midst of gaining insight into life and love, I was blessed to be able to travel from Alaska to Hawaii, from Yellowstone to Florida.  It was windier than hell and I had the flu in Hawaii, my house in Florida had bees inside and out which pooped honey all over the plantation shutters just a few days before finally selling.  It rained almost everyday in Alaska, where my son and I extended our trip to celebrate his 25th birthday to fish for halibut, experiencing what seemed like 20 foot seas, catching one fish which equated to 6 pounds of dinner.  I made it into Yellowstone for three hours, then was barred from entering again with millions of other people by the government shutdown, and finally returned home to my native state to enjoy some sun and fun with my friends and family.  I’m truly glad that 2013 is over, but I have to admit, even with Murphy’s Law rearing it’s ugly head over and over again, it was an incredible adventure, and I’m ready to do it all over again.  Well, maybe not the part with the bees.

Here are my favorite photos from this year, a year of unexpected craziness.

Cherry Blossoms, Reno, Nevada
Cherry Blossoms, Reno, Nevada
Sunset on 62nd Lane, West Palm Beach, Florida
Sunset on 62nd Lane, West Palm Beach, Florida
Gradient Orange
Gradient Orange Sunset over Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Porcelain Geyser Basin sunset
Porcelain Geyser Basin, Yellowstone. The night before the government shutdown.
Ethereal©DottyMolt2013
Silver Lining Sunset over Lake Tahoe, Nevada
On Golden Spooner 96dpi
On Golden Spooner, Spooner Lake, Nevada
Aspen Jack
Aspen Jack, Nevada
West Fork Carson River Autumn
West Fork of the Carson River Autumn Colors, Nevada
Rainbow Inflation Great Reno Balloon Race
Rainbow Inflation Great Reno Balloon Race
Ice Skating Rink Canadian Geese Washoe 0213©DottyMoltPhotography2013
Canadian Geese Ice Skating Rink Washoe Lake, Nevada

Photographing a Photographer

As a photographer, I find myself extremely comfortable behind the lens.  In fact, if I see someone else pointing a camera in my direction, I tend to turn away, or duck behind someone or something.  It’s definitely not my favorite place to be.  But, knowing that to be a great photographer means stepping outside of the box, and putting yourself in places where you’re not extremely comfortable, learning to grow, I decided to get in touch with a friend of mine who’s an exceptional photographer, shooting people in their element, in studios, out on the road, even fishing in the middle of waist deep water.

Tom Winter and I met back in Boca Raton, Florida.  He was the president of our HOA back when I was selling Real Estate, in fact, his house was my first listing.  He and his beautiful family moved to Palm City, where he began to pursue his career as a corporate photographer. I sold Real Estate for two more years, and then took a leap of faith and moved to Reno, where I began pursuing a career in landscape photography.  Now, the bad thing about landscape photography is that there are a lot of us. So, you’ve got to find you’re niche, create a style that’s all your own, and support yourself in the meantime.

Friends continually ask me to photograph their families, and I’ve found that it’s a great way to increase your visibility in the community, along with adding to your income.  That’s where Tom comes in.  His photos are gorgeous, so I asked him if he could show me how he sets up a photo shoot.  He suggested photographing me, which would also help me understand how my subjects felt when the camera was pointed at them.  He was brimming over with information as we drove down to the beach, sharing knowledge and giving me advice on what to buy and how to market my work. After our photo session on the beach in Palm City, I discovered his secret.  It’s all about the light.  Off camera lighting, natural lighting, maybe from a golden sunset or reflected light bouncing along the rocks, where there’s light, there’s magic.  We shot for about an hour, before and after sunset, trying different Yoga poses,  (my other passion), and thanks to Tom’s expertise, we had a lot of keepers, and one favorite.  Which is all you need.

Tom asked me how it felt to be photographed, and I had to admit, I was a little nervous at first, but when I started moving, finding different poses, and forgot about the camera, it was a piece of cake.  I learned that the best place for a photographer to be is almost out of sight, quietly shooting.  And the best thing for your subjects is to let them be themselves.  Give them something to do, to play with, to take their focus off of you.  When you can successfully do that, you can really capture the person inside. And everyone can relax.

Vasisthasana
Vasisthasana