Category Archives Guest Blogger

titze
My name is Chris Titze and I’m a digital artist based in Fort Worth. I’m a mix between CGI artist and photographer. My background however is in retouching. I’ve also been honored as one of Lüerzer’s Archive’s “200 Best Digital Artist worldwide 2015/2016.

An Ode to Self-Initiated Work! (Or how I got to learn to love extra work)
I want to make my case on why Self-Initiated projects are important and why you need to start one today if you haven’t before.

This is especially true if you feel stuck in your line of photography or your book/portfolio feels dated, or you are totally burned out. A Self-Initiated project may just be what the doctor ordered. Every successful photographer I have met does one thing that the unsuccessful ones don’t. When they get into a rut, they start their own creative project. This is their cheat code to staying relevant.

Just to show that I’m acting on what I preach, below is my latest work-in-progress Self-Initiated project.
Having a Self-Initiated project in between paid work was a habit even before I became a freelancer. Even back when I was working full time at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, I had a project at hand to teach me a skill.

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As of now there is a lot work that needs to be done. The swarm of drones look menacing but the people still need to look more realistic, especially the clothing. I’m anticipating I should have this image done within a few weeks depending on client work. The goal is to blanket the sky with thousands of drones, which would be something that would not be feasible in real life. I was tempted to photograph the couple using photography but decided not to. Keeping it fully 3D has its advantages. I want to try turn this image into a stereo 3D image, so that way you can see this image in real 3D using either a VR headset or one of those cheap red/blue 3d glasses.

So why should you invest as a photographer the time and effort on Self-Initiated projects?

Let me outline 3 reasons why self initial projects are essential to your brand.

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I’ve been meaning to work on a race car image but wanted to introduce a little odd spin. The 3D mesh for the VW Bus has been provided by Jay Hardy who is a fantastic Blender artist.

1.) It shows your capabilities and shapes your direction
A client will only hire you for the work they believe you are capable of. In other words, if they don’t believe you can do it, they won’t hire you. The lack in your portfolio is validation that you can’t do it. Only a really gullible art buyer would gamble their career hiring someone that has no track record. Stop fooling yourself if you believe that your client is responsible for your artistic career direction. (Hint: they are not)

Only you are responsible for the direction in which your creative career goes.

So you think it’s a catch-22. You can’t get the work you want because no one hires you for that work you want. And since no one hires you for the work you want, you can’t get the work you want. The work you get from your clients begets more work, effectively cementing your direction in photography. For example, the person that shoots a lot of senior pictures will shoot more senior pictures since they become known for it. Even though they are dying to do some car photography. Self-Initiated projects allow you to break free from the cycle. Since you direct yourself, you are your own boss. The only catch is that you may have to sacrifice your time to make it happen.

I once had a chat with a photographer who was asking for marketing connecting to car brands despite not having a single car piece in their portfolio. It was self serving, since it came from a “Me First” mentality. I told him pretty much that no art buyer would gamble on a unproven photographer with no car experience. Their job is to find the best available photographer within their budget. In fact, their entire job function entails on filtering out misfit photographers.

I encouraged him instead to start with spec work or Self-Initiated work to get a body of work going before seeking out car brand. Unfortunately as with most advice, it went one ear in and the other ear out. Keep in mind, I’m not a cynic and I do believe in dreaming big. But you do need to take the dream and work towards it. After all, step by step gets you ahead.

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I created this image within days when Google Glass was announced. I think it’s still a very charming image.

2.) It sharpens your skills and future proofs you
As the former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says, it takes “reps reps reps.” Meaning that only perfect practice will make the job easy. That way you have a good understanding of what the job entails, for example how to charge a project. Let’s say you are hired to photograph a bird’s eye view of a city. How do you know what to charge if you haven’t done a practice run? Do you know where to rent a helicopter and how much they charge? Do you know how much time the project would take in post? Self-Initiated projects helps you figure out the details.

If you get a job and you haven’t done it at least once, every minor mistake will trip you. Doing it for practice will help you. Do the hard things when they are easy, when nothing is on the line. The experience you gain through Self-Initiated projects carry over to your commercial projects.

With Self-Initiated projects, you can target the skills you want to learn for yourself. If you want to learn about drones, you can rent a drone and learn the ins and outs by using it. It will come in handy in that example above. Maybe a drone is all you need.

When Chase Jarvis went from waiting tables to becoming a sports photography giant, it was the “Create, share, sustain” mantra that took him there. Joel Grimes is a big believer in Self-Initiated work; that’s how he developed the Joel Grimes look. Austin Mann, a friend of mine, developed his initial travel photography portfolio while he was on mission trips. Which also teaches us that when you find a competitive advantage, you need to exploit it. Double down on the things that work.

Also, Self-Initiated work can future proof you. Do you really think a camera 20 years from now will look anything like they do now? Do you shoot photography the same you did five or ten years ago? The look of a DSLR is an anachronism of an old school film camera. There is a good reason why phones for example are not banana shaped anymore. Photography will become only weirder and muddier as times moves on, you will be doing stuff as a photographer that is technically not “photography.”

By doing Self-Initiated work, you can do projects today that the clients will request next year. For example, how much more successful would you be if you embraced Instagram when it just came out? How about Google+? Trey Ratcliff accelerated his photography career by embracing Google+. He dominated it when it came out. Do you embrace new social media? Are you on Periscope or Meerkat?

Don’t be the guy that claims to have 20 years of photography experience when in actuality they only have 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. You know that person that has been in business for decades but you can shoot circles around them. Instead be the guy who is touch with the ever moving world of photography.

Creating Self-Initiated projects allow you to be on the cutting edge.

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This image has been published in Luerzer’s Archive’s “200 Best Digital Artists Worldwide” and has been shared around the internet. It originated as a collaboration between Austin Mann and I. Playing with a welding gun is always really fun and really dangerous. It was awesome to see all the sparks flying. We even shot a behind-the-scenes video.

3.) Cool projects are great marketing tools

There is so many marketing opportunities when it comes to Self-Initiated work. You are essentially creating your own advertising for you own brand.

Creating your own brand as a photographer is important. You want to avoid to be seen as a technician, a button pusher. The more you are a technician, the more you are a commodity. Which is a service just like any other which can be substituted for a lower price. That’s why you want to build a brand. Being a technician is a race to the bottom since you are competing on price.

So how do you build a brand? This is a huge topic by itself but, Self-Initiated projects can help build your brand. If you want to build a brand I can recommend a few resources such Erik Almas’ “On aspects of image making,” or Joel Grimes’ “Becoming a Marketing Genius.”

Since you decide what to shoot, you have a chance to work with sexier topics whether they be better models or products. Let’s face it, working on a pharmaceutical product is not sexy, but working on Nike is. It’s not against the law to use Nike products for a Self-Initiated work as long you don’t claim you work for Nike. You just need to be honest on the scope of the work.

In other words you are only limited by your own imagination (and pocketbook).

Once you’ve created your passion projects, they are great fodder to feed the Marketing beast. Post it on Social Media, Create a post card campaign, create a signed poster for your prospects. There are so many ways use this content.

Here are some inspirations on how other photographers broke through by doing this. Some of them got millions of impressions, some of them launched carriers. Some even used it to sell themselves as product.

Here are a few of my favorite ways photographers used passion projects to enhance their brand.

  • Josh Rossi launched his career by asking influential Youtubers to join in their shenanigans in exchange of free photography. This gamble paid off in amazing work and large money offers.
  • Austin Mann used his spare time from mission work to build his travel portfolio. He is now very renowned for his travel photography work and iPhone photography.
  • Tim Tadder and Mike Campau DOMINATE Behance.net through their smart collaboration.
  • Chase Jarvis started out shooting photos of skiers as a hobby. He went from waiting tables to a sports photography powerhouse through his practice.

I could go on and on. There are sooo many examples.

So what are your thoughts? Did I inspire you to start a new passion project? Am I full of crap? You decide.

I’d love to hear from you. Also feel free to keep in touch.

You can see more of Chris’ work at ChrisTitzeImaging.com, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

bestof2015

Yesterday, we looked at our readers Top Five most-commented on guest blog posts. Today we’re going to celebrate 5 Guest Blog posts that totally rocked (and were totally under-rated), but didn’t get the comments (but they’re so good I felt they deserved special recognition). Here we go (in no particular order):

Corey Lack

If you ever felt that what was keeping you from making great images was equipment (or the lack thereof), you’ll definitely want to read Corey’s take on this. It’s a frank, refreshing look at a topic that a lot of folks struggle with. Very well written (and lots of great images). Here’s the link to his Guest Post.

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Courtney Dailey

Besides some wonderful images, Courtney delivered some straight up great business advice about licensing your images, and her no-nonsence advice on the business side of photography should be required reading for every new pro (or anybody who wants to go pro). Here’s the link to her Guest Post.

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Jacob Slaton

I love posts that challenge you, inspire you, push you, inform you, and still find a way to share some great images, and that’s why I love Jacob’s Guest Post. Really well done, and if you take the time to read it, you’ll be glad you did. Here’s the link to his post.

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Stacy Pearsall

Stacy is one of the most inspiring photographers out there today — not just because of her wonderful images, but her personal story, and the stories of the people’s lives she captured are both very special. Her project will tug at your heart strings, but it’s worth it. Here’s the link to her Guest Post.

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Leo Trevino!

It’s kind of a sad story, but it’s one that every photographer should read, for more reasons than one. He shared his heartbreaking story to help us, and how they persevered from a really bad situation is actually very inspiring. Make sure you read to the end – there’s some very good hard-earned advice there we all need to hear. Here’s a link to his Guest Post.

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My thanks to all my guest bloggers, and a special thanks to these five unsung heroes. I hope you’ll give them a look.

More to come on Friday in our “Best of the Blog in 2015.” :)

Best,

-Scott

bestof2015

Hi Gang: it’s my annual tradition to kick off the New Year with a quick look back at the most popular, and most commented-upon posts of 2015 here on my blog, and some of the fun stuff we shared during the past year.

This year, I’m doing it a little bit differently, and breaking it into categories (so it’s more than just a long list — but something you can explore), so let’s kick it off with the top 5 GUEST BLOGS of 2015.

Holding a sign.

NOTE: These were chosen based on the total number of comments garnered by their posts.

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Kevin Mullins

Kevin’s post was the #1 most commented-on guest post of the year, and when you read it (and see the images), you’ll know why. It’s the story of how he quit his job to become a wedding photographer, and a darn amazing one he is at that (he did the right thing). Very well written — beautiful images — and you’ll learn a lot from it. It has everything that makes a guest blog post great. You owe it to yourself to read it, even if you don’t shoot weddings.  Here’s the link to Kevin’s guest post.

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Kaylee Greer

Kaylee’s post about becoming a Dog Photographer, and how she works with dogs (I swear, she’s a dog whisperer), really enchanted readers (she had over 100 comments!), and people just love her (heck, we love her — you’ll be seeing a lot more of Kaylee at KelbyOne in 2016). Here’s the link to her guest post.

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Nick Fancher

With nearly 100 comments, Nick really resonated with the community here. He had such clever hot shoe flash techniques that we asked him back to expand on some of them. This is really useful, real world stuff, and he did a great job of showing you what he did, and how easy it was to pull off. Very useful, fun, and interesting. You’ll want to check it out. Here’s the link to his Guest Blog.

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Regina Pagles

I’ve been a fan of Regina’s work for years, and she’s been a guest blogger here before sharing her work, and this time she shared the entire process, including post production, for creating her amazing portraits. Of course, what makes Regina special as a photographer is more than just where she puts the light or how she does her post processing, but I think it’s awesome that she was willing to share those with us. Here’s the link to Regina’s Guest Post.

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David Molnar

David’s post is a bold, revealing, honest, intriguing, and just wonderful piece of work. There is so much to learn from his story. You’ll be shocked. Inspired. Motivated. Stunning. And it holds the power to change how you think about you, your career, and where you are on your photography journey. I’m so impressed with what David did. You will be, too. Here’s the link to David’s post.

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This is really good stuff
I hope today, at some point, you take the time to give these few articles a read. They are so good. Each one has it’s own bent, but they will make motivate you, make you laugh, inspire you, inform you, make you cry, make you rethink thinks, teach you new things, and I promise they will be worth your time.

Also, I want to thank these photographers, and all the Guest Bloggers who share their time and techniques here each year. It’s a lot of work, and they take it very seriously, and it shows. I’m very grateful (and I know my readers are, too).

Tomorrow, has some good stuff, too!
Today’s picks were based on how many commented. For Tomorrow’s “Best of the Blog” I’m picking five Guest Blog Posts that were underrated — great posts that, for whatever reason, didn’t get that many comments. If you got a lot out of these posts today, you’ll definitely want to check them out tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping today. :)

Best,

-Scott

 

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What Makes Twilight So Vital to Great Architectural Photography
As photographers, we have a special relationship with the sun. Its availability and character defines our schedules, our styles, even our equipment. If you think about it, our relationship with the sun is almost poetic. We’re driven by its rise and fall, celebrating these golden hours with the applause of the shutter.

The golden hour and twilight are important to most of us, but they’re absolutely vital for architectural photographers. Beyond the dramatic skies and soft, directional light, there’s one important factor that is almost exclusively important to architecture:

At dawn and dusk, the interior light of a building is as bright as the ambient light of the sky.

It sounds simple, but it’s worth reading that statement twice. Why is this balance of light so valuable? Throughout the rest of the day, the light of the sun is dramatically brighter than the power of any interior light, and it takes a lot of labor, gear and technique to create an artificial balance.

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Ulele Twilight Exterior, a commercial image for a lighting company. Photographed with a Nikon D600 DSLR and a Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens at f7.1, ISO400, ½ second exposure.

How an Architectural Photographer Creates an Artificial Balance
Between dawn and dusk, the core of an architectural photographer’s job is to create that artificial balance of light with equipment and technique. When photographing an interior space, it’s our job to create a realistic, inviting image of a room. The challenge is that the natural dynamic range of the human eye far exceeds the capability of modern DSLR sensors. To counter this, we use software to blend bracketed exposures or we use complicated off-camera lighting techniques to create balance.

There are pros and cons to either of these common techniques. HDR photography cannot distinguish between color casts from different light sources, and interior spaces often appear dusty and overcooked when processed. Off camera lighting is difficult to learn, labor-intensive to execute and easy to get wrong. No matter what technique a photographer uses, the ability to create a realistic, balanced image is the central challenge of the job.

At twilight, the challenge is easiest to conquer. As I said earlier: at dawn and dusk, the interior light of a building is often as bright as the ambient light of the sky. A photographer can capture a usable image of a space without as much reliance on complicated technique.

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Restoration Hardware Penthouse – Shot handheld with a Nikon D610 and a 24mm PCE lens at f3.5, ISO 3200, 1/40th of a second exposure.

Twilight in Practice: How to Let The Light Work for You
Both the golden hour and twilight are valuable for both indoor and outdoor architectural photography. In most cases, architectural photographers use twilight to capture exterior images of a building. It can be just as valuable indoors, as dramatic views can be pulled into an interior space without as much emphasis on technique.

Outdoors, the relative brightness of interior lighting allows the camera to capture detail that it couldn’t see during the day. During full daylight, windows appear nearly black relative to the bright exterior light. The scene is completely different when the ambient light of the sky is on par with interior light. This adds a different dimension to the image, leading the eye from the scenery around a building to the space within.

While there is plenty of opportunity to improve an image with lighting technique at twilight, a photographer really only needs one tool to capture a great exterior image at dusk — a strong, sturdy tripod.

Indoors, twilight can be just as valuable to an architectural photographer. The light of the setting sun is more likely to be in balance with interior lighting. Rooms with large windows and doorwalls can benefit from golden hour light. A sunset creates a more vivid and enjoyable scene, but it also allows for a natural balance that is tough to find during the day.

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A commercial image for a luxury home builder. Shot with a Nikon D610 and a 24mm PCE lens at f11, ISO 320, 1/13th of a second exposure.

Advice for a Beginner: Focus on Timing, Not Technique, for Your First Architectural Shoot
I’m often asked for advice from photographers who have a space to shoot but don’t quite know how. They ask if they should try HDR or use a speedlight, and I usually direct them away from both. Why? HDR is very easy to do poorly, and off-camera lighting is like learning a new language. So I suggest that my friends avoid trying new techniques the first time, and instead focus on shooting at the right time of day.

If you find yourself tasked with photographing a building or a home, consider scheduling for the golden hour and twilight. Pick your shots well, because time flies and the exposures can be long. Shoot brackets to have a few base images to choose from, and always shoot raw. You’ll have a lot of leeway with the shadows and highlights sliders in Lightroom, so if your shot is naturally in balance thanks to evening light, you might be pleased with how great your shoot looks after a little bit of massaging.

The value of twilight is an important lesson not only for beginners, but for professionals alike. No matter how well you master the techniques of architectural photography, timing will always be of the essence.

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A commercial image for a group of licensees. Shot with a Nikon D610 and a 24mm PCE lens at f11, ISO 100 and a 1.6 second exposure.

Seamus Payne is a Tampa, Florida based architecture photographer. You can see more of his architecture, food and editorial photography projects at SeamusPayne.com, and feel free to follow him on Instagram and Facebook. Beyond his work as a photographer, Seamus produces short documentary films and writes about design on TheCoolist.com.

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Photo by Levi Sim

Your Calendar Isn’t Your To-Do List… It’s Who You Want To Be.
Last week I was in a conversation with my pastor, Tommy, who was talking about counseling people regarding their lives and relationships. He mentioned talking with people who have these big aspirations of things they want to do with their lives… Become a pilot, get their black belt, write a book, etc. Yet when he asks if they have the steps toward doing those things on their calendar, they don’t. And that’s when he said the thing that’s stuck with me since… “Your calendar isn’t your to-do list. It’s who you want to be. If they were serious about these things, they would be scheduling time for them. Otherwise they’re just pipe dreams.

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Tommy Phillips at Watermark Tampa

Every year, Tommy and his wife Sarah map out their family calendar to be sure they make time for the important things: Date nights with each other, family time together, one on one time with each of their three kids, evenings on the porch remembering the past and discussing the future. They’re not just going about their lives and marriage haphazardly. They’re being purposeful about it and planning for the future they want together.

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A not very well planned month

So all of this got me thinking about my own life. Am I just taking things a day at a time, or am I planning and taking steps to become the person I want to be? Am I saying yes to the things I want to do and that are important to me? Am I saying no to the things that are just distractions and won’t mean anything a year from now? Have I been taking advantage of my free time and using it to better myself and accomplish the things I want to accomplish in life? Or have I been wasting it away in the vast, bottomless, never-ending (though very entertaining) vacuum that is Netflix and giving in to every distraction that pops up?

As we draw near to the end of 2015, I’m going to invite you to join me in making a plan for 2016. Grab a calendar and think about the things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Then figure out the steps you need to take each month, week, and day to accomplish those things and put those steps on the calendar. And along the way, say no to the things that are just distractions from accomplishing those goals. If you get to the point where you have so much on your plate that you can’t handle it all, learn to ask for help and delegate the things that don’t require your full attention to others.

If you know you have a habit of starting strong but not finishing, plan for that. If one of your goals is to get in better shape, maybe just joining a gym isn’t enough. Maybe you need to take the extra step of hiring a personal trainer or enlisting a friend who will hold you accountable. If you want to up your photography game, watch some classes and read some books, but don’t stop there. Actually schedule shoots and make time to experiment with new techniques. Explore other genres of photography outside of what you normally shoot to see what looks and techniques you can apply to your own work.

What if you’re not happy with where you are but you don’t know where you want to be? Ask the people in your life to describe you. What traits do they see when they think about you? Are you a strong leader? Do you find joy in helping people? Are you happiest when you’re working by yourself or with others? Do you like variety or repetition? Ask yourself the age old question… What would you do if you could do anything and money didn’t matter? Then figure out what steps you can take now to start working toward that.

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Make time for the important things, both personal and professional

This isn’t a set of New Year’s resolutions that are going to be abandoned by March. Put the steps on your calendar and stick to them. Seek support through friends, family, prayer, community, and any other ways you can stay accountable to yourself. Learn to adjust to the things that life throws at you without abandoning what’s important to you. Let’s make 2016 our best year yet!

You can see Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.com (or BradsBeard.com), and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

JenWuBio-1100-L      

Death Valley Landscapes and Night Sky Workshop Trip Report
I just finished up the Death Valley workshop and we had an amazing time! I was unsure of what to expect due to the recent floods in the park. All the roads were closed due to flood damage except the main road. Going to some of my favorite places like The Racetrack and Badwater would not be an option with all the water damage! I shifted gears and decided to go to Valley of Fire instead for part of the workshop, but the night before the workshop started, we got news the Racetrack was now dry and we could walk on it! Plus the road to Badwater and Devil’s Golf Course opened up, just in time. The workshop was back on track in Death Valley as planned!

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Sand Dunes at Sunrise: Photographed at F/16, 1/13 to 1/200- second, ISO 100, EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 11mm, Canon EOS 5DS R. See below for how I reduced the lens flare.

We spent our time with lectures on night photography and out in the field photographing the stark, but beautiful landscapes and night scenes. One night, we headed out to the Rhyolite Ghost Town and had a blast light painting the old buildings. We used red, blue and green lights to paint the abandoned town with the stars providing a beautiful backdrop. Out of nowhere, a donkey hee-haws across the street from us. It was so loud! Perhaps it was telling us that we were disturbing its sleep. We finished our night photographing an old car with the stars in the background and then headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest.

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Rhyolite: Light painting for about 4 or 5 seconds with an orange gel on a flashlight for the back wall and a red headlamp for the interior room. Photographed at F/2, 20 seconds, ISO 2500, EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
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Bank Building at Rhyolite: I painted with a red headlamp for 5 seconds on the building. Then taking another photograph, I painted the inside of the building with the red headlamp for about 10 seconds. I combined light painted images with a layer mask in Photoshop CC. Photographed at f/2.8, 20 seconds, ISO 6400, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM at 16mm, Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
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Star Trails: This is a stacked star trail with fifteen, 4-minute exposures for at total time of 1 hour. These were combined in Photoshop CC. Photographed using an intervalometer set to 4 minutes, f/2.8, ISO 800, 15mm fisheye lens, Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

The morning light was beautiful at Zabriskie Point. We enjoyed seeing the pink glow of twilight, known as the Belt of Venus. Watch for the pink glow in the sky about 10-20 degrees above the horizon, just before sunrise or after sunset.

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Zabriskie Point: I chose an aperture of f/8 because it is one of the sharpest one the lens. Generally two to three stops from wide open will be the sharpest aperture for the lens.  I didn’t have a close foreground therefore I didn’t need f/16 for more depth of field. Photographed at f/8, 1.6 seconds, ISO 100, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 28mm, Canon EOS 5DS R.

We took a road trip to The Grandstand and The Racetrack, renting jeeps to protect our tires. It was cold and breezy but we photographed the racing rocks through sunset and then stars, despite the cold!

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The Racetrack: Photographed at F/16, 1/60 second, ISO 100, TS-E 17mm f/4L, Canon EOS 5DS R.

I love the sand dunes. The forms and shapes have endless possibilities for compositions with sand patterns, animal footprints and s-curve shapes. We photographed at twilight and then with the sun, as it rose over the dunes.

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Sand Dunes: Photographed at F/16, 1/30 second, ISO 100, EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 12mm, Canon EOS 5DS R. I converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Our last evening had howling wind gusts throughout the park. We decided to stay inside and did some additional lectures. The following morning was our last shoot. The weather report predicted even stronger winds but it was beautiful and calm. The hexagonal shapes, created by the drying salt, made for a delightful pattern. There were storm clouds hanging above Badwater adding drama. We saw some mammatus clouds, meaning breast clouds, that you can see in the gallery of images below. They have a cellular pattern of pouches that are under the base of another cloud. Overall, a great last photographic outing and a wonderful trip!

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Badwater: I angled the camera downward to emphasis the hexagonal shapes in the foreground. This makes it look larger in the scene. Photographed at f/16, .3 second, ISO 100, EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM at 18mm, Canon EOS 5DS R.

Happy Star Trails,
Jennifer

You can see more photographs of night photography and Death Valley, as well as Jennifer’s other work at JenniferWu.com. Make sure you check out her KelbyOne class Photographing the Moon, Stars, and Milky Way, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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