Monthly Archives: May 2011

Sunset Opera

Sunset Opera.jpg

A little more than three weeks after our return from our trip to Australia and New Zealand I am finally posting the first photo of the day that was taken down under – and what could be better suited than one of the most iconic views in Australia – in a truly spectacular moment.

There is probably no need to introduce the subject of the photograph. We had arrived in Sydney on February 20 early in the morning and were desperate for a bed and a shower after such a long flight from Frankfurt. After checking in at the hotel and relaxing a little, we started off on foot and walked around the city of Sydney in order to breathe in the vibe of one of the most fascinating cities on this planet. The weather was perfect – almost too hot – and a nice change from the cold winter back home.

In the evening, we left the hotel and headed for a spot near the Botanic Gardens, which offers an amazing view of the entire harbor. We got there about 2 hours before sunset, and immediately I was amazed by the view. The clouds were rolling through the sky and adding a great sense of drama to the entire scene. I started shooting and realized that the sensor of my main camera was covered with a hair despite a recent cleaning by Canon. What a mess! Using the built-in cleaning did not help, and I did not want to do the manual cleaning out in the open. Luckily, my backup camera was fine, and so I started using this one.

It turned out that I was lucky having a backup with me. When the sun was going down, the clouds had moved into the scene in a perfect position and were beginning to glow with color. The cruise ship on the left was adding a nice touch to the scene, as Sydney is a famous location for cruise ships. I shot a few long exposures to calm down the water and really bring out the colors and the reflection in the water. I was not disappointed – the result blew me away.

Back in the hotel, I managed to clean the sensor of my main camera. For the next few days in Sydney, however, the setting never was as amazing as on the first evening again, so while I was able to use my main camera during the rest of the trip, I did not get a second chance to capture the most iconic view of Sydney. It pays to have a backup.

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Otherworldly

Otherworldly

Today’s photo of the day is, in my opinion, another true gem. The shot was taken in Oregon last year on my trip through the United States. Because of the unreal colors in the hills, I named the photograph “Otherworldy” – to me, this place could easily be on another planet.

The shot was taken in a remote location in Oregon called John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Located within the John Day River Basin, it is well known for its well preserved record of fossil plants and animals. The Painted Hills unit, one of the three units that the monument consists of, is about 90 miles away from Bend, OR, and named for the delicately colored stratifications. These layers of rock make a perfect subject for a dramatic landscape photograph, especially when photographed under the right conditions.

I had arrived during the day to scout the location and began driving and hiking around in order to find the right spot for sunset. My intention was to capture the last light on the rocks in order to really bring out the colors. The day had been sunny with a few clouds, so I was hoping that I would be rewarded with just the right combination of blue sky and dramatic clouds.

After I had found the place that I wanted to shoot from at the end of the day, I hiked up to a nearby hill in order to get a few shots from above. Soon, however, sunset was getting closer, and I began hurrying down the hill in order to be at my chosen location in time.

I got there just at the right moment, as the sun was already descending quickly and putting the foreground in shadow. The clouds were moving in and hovering just above the colored rocks – which were glowing in an intensity that was absolutely amazing and not comparable to what I had seen during the day. I set up my tripod, took out my camera, and began shooting immediately. After a few minutes, the sun was gone, and the light show was over. Still, I had captured the shot I had come for – this really was an otherworldly experience.

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Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel

Having returned from my trip to Australia and New Zealand about two weeks ago, I finally have some time to post another photo of the day. This is one of my personal favorites, shot at one of the most amazing locations in the United States – Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is a very narrow slot canyon near Page, Arizona. There are actually two separate parts, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. While the upper part is famous for its light beams that become visible in the summer months, the lower part is narrower and offers some dramatic rock formations that look simply stunning when photographed in the right light. The trick is to use only indirect (also called reflected light) in the photographs, i.e., one should avoid any part of the canyon walls that are directly lit by the sun. Depending on the intensity of the indirect light, the canyon walls will take on all kinds of color from purple (dark areas) to yellow (bright areas). This kind of light makes it crucial to be in the right place at the right time. A certain rock formation in the canyon can look stunning in one minute and uninteresting in the next.

I wanted to photograph this particular location, which is called “Guardian Angel” by the Navajo people who own the land on which the canyon is located. The gentle curves in the canyon wall on the right as well as this incredible formation on the left (with a hole that almost resembles a heart) make this one of the most stunning places in the canyon. From earlier visits I knew that timing would be crucial. In early October, the light will directly hit the canyon walls in the back less than one hour after the canyon is open for visitors. Thus, I went early – in fact, I waited for about one hour in front of a locked gate just to make sure I would be able to go in as early as possible. When the owners finally came and opened the place, I was the first to go down the canyon. The photographer pass I got allowed me to go without a guide and spend four hours in this extremely narrow place. I went down into the canyon and immediately headed for the place that I had been wanting to photograph. When I got there, I realized I would succeed. The light had not yet hit canyon wall, and the indirect light was creating amazing colors on the walls.

I set up my tripod and mounted my panorama head, as only a very wide perspective allows to capture this shot in its entirety. I mounted my camera, adjusted the tripod, and started shooting. A long exposure is necessary in order to get photographs with low noise, and therefore I shot several frames of two seconds exposure each. While I was shooting, I felt that the result would be just what I had been coming for.

When I was done, two other photographers came, but the light had already changed and even the “heart” in the front was now hit by direct light. The shot was gone. I put away my tripod, moved further into the canyon, and felt blessed that I had been able to experience and capture this amazing moment.

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