* I want to preface this by saying I know that quarantine is a very serious time in our lives, and important to protecting ourselves and those around. This post reflects my feelings at the beginning of quarantine, and the immediate effect it had on my life.
I have been feeling stuck in a rut lately photo-wise. I was set to go to a Landscape Photography Convention on March 19. I was so excited to meet industry professionals and learn from their expertise. Not to mention, getting some extra days in the Utah wilderness after the conference was over.
Well that all came to a halt when the Coronavirus became wide-spread in the United States. Multiple states started declaring states of emergency (Houston, Texas had shut down the rodeo, which was a huge deal), and the conference was delayed until April 2021. I had already taken the vacation days through my company, so I decided to head to San Antonio to spend time with my parents (my dad was also supposed to be at the conference).
It was very surreal, as this was the beginning of quarantine, and the streets were completely empty (despite an official stay home order being placed on Texas yet). Trying to take advantage of the empty streets and at least get some shooting done, my dad and I took day trips around San Antonio and Surrounding cities. Now San Antonio does not have the same kind of landscapes as Zion National Park, but we did get a bit creative, while documenting how different the city was while everyone was hunkering down. (We were very careful, social distancing and staying sanitized).
Our first stop was the Alamo and River Walk on Friday night. Typically, there are people everywhere:Shopping, drinking, and enjoying the sights.The only people we saw were a Texas State Trooper, another photographer, and some homeless people.
Downtown San Antonio at the beginning of the Coronavirus PandemicFriday night in San Antonio is usually very packed, but there were few cars and even fewer people on this weekend.
The next day, we got up early and drove to the state capitol building in Austin for sunrise. There were about 12 State Troopers there, and the building was closed. After photographing the capitol, we walked down South Congress. On a typical Saturday morning, there are crowds of people sipping coffee and taking photos in front of the I Love You So Much mural. We saw 2 people on the usually packed street, but there was a coffee shop open.
I Love You So MuchUsually on a Saturday morning, there is a crowd gathered around this mural and coffee shop.
On the way back to San Antonio, we stopped in Blanco, Texas to be met with basically a ghost town. No businesses open, and the town square completely empty. We used a public bathroom and left.
On Sunday, we went up to the Willow City Loop, This is known as one of the most scenic drives in Texas. We saw boots on fence posts, cows and lots and lots of bluebonnets. On our way back, we stopped at Das Peach Haus in Fredericksburg, one of the few things still open in the little German town. While browsing their preserved products, they mentioned that their peach trees had just started blooming, and they let me go out to their orchard and take photos.
Das Peach Haus OrchardThe lovely workers at Das Peach Haus in Fredericksburg allowed me to photograph their blooming orchard.
Monday, I got to sleep in because my dad had to work. Midday we headed to Gruene, Texas. Super historic, but kind of depressing with no one walking around. We did get to see some high schoolers taking their senior photos though. We didn't end up spending much time there, feeling uninspired. Disappointed with the results, we decided to hit the Pearl Brewery in downtown San Antonio later that night and I got some of my favorite photos.
The Pearl BreweryThe Pearl Brewery in Downtown San Antonio. This hip section of town seemed to have only residents around the brewery turned residential and shopping area.
My last day in San Antonio, we headed up to Luckenbach, Texas (Population 3). We both got some cute rustic photos and shopped at the little general store so that we could support them while not many people are going out there. That night we tried to take photos of El Mercado in downtown San Antonio, while this is usually a busy area full of life, it was desolate and empty. After being approached by several aggressive people asking for money, we bailed.
Luckenbach, TexasThe country charm of Luckenbach did not disappoint, but was extremely empty as fear of the pandemic spread.
El MercadoAbandoned for the Stay Home Stay Safe order placed on Texas, starting that night.
My last night in San Antonio the Stay Home Stay Safe order went into effect, so I headed home to Houston the next day. The whole trip to San Antonio had very dreary weather, which felt like the tone of the world at the time. It was a very surreal week.
Lensbaby Burnside 35
Has options to mount to: Canon (DSLR), Nikon (DSLR), Sony (Mirrorless), Fuji X (Mirrorless) and Micro 4/3 (Mirroless)
35 mm f2.8
Main effect - Bokeh and Vignette
About the lens:
This lens is only manual focus. There is a slider that adjusts a secondary aperture to give a vignette effect in camera. This is a lens that takes some playing around to see how the effect looks with your photos. I took mine on the and had a photoshoot with one of my cacti. Lensbaby recommends separating your subject from your background by about 12 feet to get the best bokeh. My balcony is not that long, so I could not try that. I focused mostly on the vignette, although you can still see the bokeh in my photos.
There are 4 settings for the additional aperture. I took a photo of my cactus with each one, as shown below. Each photo was taken with the same settings, consecutively. The settings were 1/80 sec with ISO 1250.
Lensbaby Example of Secondary Aperture Vignette EffectWidest Secondary Aperture Lensbaby Example of Secondary Aperture Vignette EffectSecond Widest Secondary Aperture Lensbaby Example of Secondary Aperture Vignette EffectThird Widest Secondary Aperture - Start to see the effect of the Vignette Lensbaby Example of Secondary Aperture Vignette EffectSmallest Secondary Aperture - Most Extreme Vignette
The two more extreme settings have much more effect, and definitely isolate the subject and make it the focus. I think if you were to use this lens for the vignette effect, it would be better to use the more extreme secondary apertures. Even without my subject being 12 feet away from the background (it was probably about a foot away from the wall or less), you can see the blurring and rounding effect this has. I am excited to try this lens for some landscape photos, because the Lensbaby website says it can be fun to experiment with bokeh and soft edges as well as a painterly effect.
The focus will stay in the center, and the slider increases bokeh swirl, as well as darkening edges. This would be great for portraits, especially environmental portraits, or single subject images.
This would not be my go-to lens, but it is fun to play with and gives fun effects. It is also manual focus, so this would be no use for moving objects for me. I am looking forward to trying it with landscapes soon.
In late June, I headed to New Zealand with my mom so that we could road trip across the southern island of New Zealand. The plan was to take photos along the way and teach my mom a little bit about photography along the way. We went at the end of June, so it was winter. The coldest it got was 22 degrees, ad the warmest was around 55 degrees. These are the things that we packed that we actually used and found helpful in the journey. We were in New Zealand for 11 days. We stayed in a hotel the first night and the last two nights, but the rest of the time we were in a campervan and staying at holiday parks.
Wide angle lens
Long johns - only needed while not on the coast, and when shooting at night.
Pair of jeans
5 long sleeve shirts
A winter jacket with a detachable shell
A pair of shoes for the plane and walking around town if you don’t want to wear your hiking boots
Gloves (but you can find cool wool ones almost anywhere)
Dry Shampoo ( I recommend camping shampoo instead, I picked some up along the way)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
I didn’t take a hairbrush because I wore a beanie the whole time
Bar of soap
If you are staying in a campervan like we did, I recommend packing as little as possible and in a small suitcase. You have limited space to store things.
As someone who works full time as a photographer, but not doing the type of photography I want, I tend to try and spend my free time searching for good photo opportunities. This usually means dragging my boyfriend, friends and family along with me so that I can spend my free time with them as well. This has resulted in friends sitting on the beach with me while I shoot sunsets, my mom hiking up a mountain with me, and my boyfriend driving me to downtown Houston at 4 AM to shoot a sunrise. Confucius Lanterns on the San Antonio River WalkThis was an event I dragged my parents to. I was shooting for the San Antonio River Walk Association, and my parents accompanied me, enjoying the festival while I shot.
A recent photographic urge was hot air balloons. This came from seeing those gorgeous social media posts of hot air balloons over mountains at sunrise. Well, apparently I came across this idea a little too late in the year. It was days after the biggest Texas balloon festival and a few weeks after the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival, which is the largest in the U.S.. While I would still like to attend these larger festivals, I needed to scratch the itch. I found a local one, near my parents. It happened to fall the weekend of my mom's birthday and I decided to take her.
The San Antonio Hot Air Balloon Festival was only being held for the second time ever. Needless to say, it was quite small. I mistakenly did not research hot air balloons beforehand, and did not know that wind had such a big part of balloon festivals. You wouldn't think this would be an issue in San Antonio, but we were told that as long as you could see both the stars and stripes on a flag that was flying, they could not fly hot air balloons. This interfered with my plans greatly. Hot Air Balloon FestivalAfter hours of waiting in a field with my family, these two balloons were fired up, but the winds prevented tethered rides.
I learned the best time to fly was in the morning. Here is what is wrong with my strategy of combining quality time with family with photography. I didn't want to force my family to wake up with me to shoot. My boyfriend was on the night shift and needed to sleep, and it was my mom's birthday and thought it would be rude to wake her up. I thought this would be fine because the festival went on for the entire weekend. There was supposed to be a glow in the evening, and I thought this meant that they would be flying (they stay tethered to the ground). Also, we were supposed to go on a tethered ride, but due to the strong winds that day, we never got the chance.
I would've loved to shoot other balloons while in the air, but even if the tethered rides had happened, no other balloons went up. The glow at night consisted of the balloons flaring and lighting up, which was spectacular, but just not what I imagined. Needless to say, I did not get to go up in a hot air balloon, let alone shoot other balloons from it. I made my family go out to the festival with me several times that weekend, but the only thing we got to see were the balloons glowing.
Balloon GlowThis was the only real opportunity to shoot the balloons. It took hours of waiting, and was incredibly difficult to time, as the balloons were flaring at different times.
What I have learned from this is that I need to separate photography from social time. If someone joins me while I am shooting, then it works out well. If I am trying to squeeze photos into time I have already set aside for family or friends, I get to wrapped up in juggling everything, and the photos suffer. I have also learned to do my research before an event.
I first started shooting landscapes in 2014 when I went on a workshop in Estes Park, Colorado. On this trip, I learned three important keys to landscape photography. Since then, I have grown a lot in my skill of landscapes but these have still held true.
Key 1: Composition
Composition is the base to any kind of photography, it is literally the elements that make up a photograph. Typically in landscape photography, an image consists of a foreground, mid-ground and background. This is to show dimension and have the viewers eyes move through the piece. You can also encourage this by using leading lines or "S" curves that occur naturally in a certain direction. Placing an object in the foreground that creates this helps it to be visually appealing. You may have to hike, or spend time searching for the perfect shot, but when all of the components come together, it can be something to stop the viewer from scrolling past.
Composition: Dream SunriseThis shows the implementation of having objects in the foreground (log), mid-ground (fog) and background (mountains and sky). It creates interest at each level, and the log creates a line that points you towards the fog and mountains.
Key 2: Lighting
After you find the elements and have framed the scene you want, you must wait. Waiting for the perfect lighting and sky can take a while. Remember to scout and set up before the lighting is how you want it. You may have to come back several times before the sky cooperates. Sunrises and sunsets are perfect, but you need clouds that are prevalent enough to show the colors across the sky, but not so dense that the light can't get through. While sunrises and sunsets can make for some stunning scenes, don't forget that shooting during the middle of the day can be beneficial too. Lighting: Hurricane WindsFor this photo, I had to sit through hurricane force winds, and turn away from the beach to see the lighting over these mountains. Sometimes this can happen by chance, but a lot of it is planning.
Key 3: Patience
Hiking for hours to find the perfect composition. Waiting for the lighting to shift or change. Waiting for the sun to rise or set. Having to return to the same spot over and over until the photo comes out right. This all takes patience. All for that one photo that makes it worth it.
It can be demoralizing to have to wait hours, or return to location more than once, but if you are not willing to wait and repeat, landscape photography will be difficult for you.
Patience: Mt. Fitz RoyThis location was a 3 hour hike in the dark, while sick. Finding this shot was not easy, and I did not think that the lighting was going to work until the sun hit the mountains. There was a beautiful sunrise behind me, and if I had not been with a group I would have loved a chance to shoot a sunset over this mountain. While I love how this turned out, I wish I had the chance to visit it again.
These 3 keys work together to create landscape photography. Of course, the other photography rules come into play as well, but these are things that I believe to be unique to landscape. If you are in a studio or shooting weddings, you are not at the will of nature.