Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunset at the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge

On this day, I wasn't having much luck getting close to the waterfowl, but I did find a wonderful location at the edge of the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge to watch the sunset. I also had a good view of the Sutter Buttes in the distance to watch the colors change as the sun approached the horizon.

Panorama of the Sutter Buttes (click to enlarge).
The Sutter Buttes from Delevan as the sun begins to set.
This sunset had none of the drama of the sunset in my previous post. Instead, a gentle pink glow settled over the landscape. Within a matter of minutes, it was gone.
Ducks make there way across a pond at sunset.
Dusk settles over the Delevan Wildlife Refuge.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snow Geese

It's that wonderful time of year again when literally millions of ducks and geese make their way to the Sacramento Valley from Alaska and Canada via the Pacific Flyway.

I unexpectedly came upon this huge flock of snow geese serenely feeding in a rice field near Grimes, west of the Sacramento River. I estimate that about 6,000 birds are visible in this photo.
Snow geese feeding in a rice field (click to enlarge)
I stayed in my car and was able to get very close to the birds until something scared them and they suddenly took off with an enormous roar - thousands of birds at once. I had a few seconds to capture them before they had lifted into a great cloud.

They circled the rice field for 10 or 15 minutes before settling down once again to feed.

I hope to make a number of more trips into the valley this winter to capture the beauty of wildlife that make the valley their winter home.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunset over the Rice Fields

Winter is perhaps my favorite time in the Sacramento Valley. Not only do we have millions of waterfowl populating the valley floor, but there are also some of the most amazing sunsets to be seen. The flooded rice fields double the intensity of any sunset by creating perfect reflections (click on images to enlarge).

Sunset reflected in rice fields west of Gridley (click to enlarge)
On this day, a storm was coming ashore well to our north in Oregon and a knew that the southern edge of the storm would bring perfect clouds to catch the sunset. So I headed out in search of the perfect location.

I initially drove down to Live Oak and around the north side of the Sutter Buttes to see how flooded Butte Slough was. And though I found a good location, it was clearly posted, so I turned around and headed back toward Gray Lodge Wildlife Area and north toward the rice fields.

The Colusa Highway was still flooded from the storms of the previous week, but right at the end of the road I found a wonderful complex of rice fields right by the highway

Even before the sun set, clouds and the colors in the sky were very dramatic. And the still waters of the fields  made for stunning reflections.

I also has a great view of the Sutter Buttes to the south, which made for several beautiful images.

But the most amazing part of the sunset was where the sun went down. Incredible colors that changed minute by minute. The colors lasted for nearly 20 minutes before finally fading away.

Days like this are what make photographing the Sacramento Valley worth it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Toyota Prius Interior

My wife just bought a new Prius, so I thought I'd get a few images of it.

I particularly liked the dashboard/console of the Prius, so I focused on that. I wanted to communicate the modern look of the console, as well as a sense of depth and richness, even though the Prius is not a luxury car.

The lighting was simple, two speedlites sitting in the seats aimed at the roof of the car gave a soft non-directional lighting that worked really well with the curves of the steering wheel and console. I set the exposure so that no ambient light (it was an overcast day) would appear in the image, giving the image an even greater sense of depth in the dark shadows.

The only post-processing these images got was a bit of cloning in Photoshop to remove a few tiny specks of dust off the instruments. Even a brand new car  has a bit of dust in it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baseball Nostalgia

Sadly, baseball season is over. I grew up in San Diego and so am a born Padres fan, but living in northern California, I've come to accept the Giants into my heart as well (particularly since they've won two out of the last three world championships).

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a baseball still life shoot. The concept was to do a nostalgic type still life  using old gloves, balls, and bats while highlighting the Giants recent World Series victory.

Giants Sweep! Old-timey still life (click to view larger)
To get ready for the shoot, I spent several weeks trolling eBay looking for the oldest, grodiest (I know that's a word) baseball equipment I could find. I ended up with several moldy old gloves, a number of beat up old bats, and a scuffed up old baseball with an amazing patina of dirt and grime. Quite the haul!

Since I had the shot perfectly composed in my mind, it really didn't take long to put together. I decided on using a small light to the side to accentuate the wonderful textures of the ball, gloves and bats. I added a rim light in the right rear to define the edges of the gloves and added a sepia layer over the newspaper in Photoshop. Total prep, shoot and post-processing time was less than three hours.

After the shoot, I still had all these wonderful old baseball props, so I took my Padres ball cap and tried a couple of other still lifes with a Padres angle to them.

I just love the textures on that old baseball, and ended up using a 105mm macro lens to capture a real close up of the textured surface of the ball.

Only 5 more months until the next season begins! (My wife says the exact same thing, but strangely with much less enthusiasm.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reflections of Flooded Rice Fields

Late fall and winter are my favorite times for photographing in the rice fields in the Sacramento Valley. The crop has been harvested and the fields begin to be flooded to break down the stubble. On a quiet day, the flooded fields become like mirrors, reflecting the sky and clouds in an amazing way.

Flooded rice fields (click to view larger)
Photographs of the flooded fields can be beautiful, but being in the fields themselves, sitting on some levee surrounded by water - with amazing reflections in every direction - that's a whole other experience. It's like being suspended in space, completely surrounded by sky.

Even if I weren't a photographer, I would go out into the fields during the fall and winter just to experience that. 

Flooded Rice Fields
I definitely think you can count on me posting more of these shots as the winter progresses. Sadly, they begin to drain the fields in the middle of February, so I have to make sure to get out before then.

Flooded Rice Fields
Flooded Rice Fields

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunset Over Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

It's beginning to be that time of year, when millions of ducks and geese return to winter in the Sacramento Valley.

Sunset over Gray Lodge
Gray Lodge State Wildlife Area is one of the main wildlife preserves in the Sacramento Valley. I happened to be there the day before the start of duck season this year, so much of the preserve was packed with hunters reading themselves for the hunt the next day.

I found a quiet spot far from the hunters to capture the beautiful sunset. Unfortunately, it wasn't far from the mosquitoes. Literal clouds of of mosquitoes rose from the shore of the wetlands every time I approached to take a picture, I had to keep in continual motion to avoid being devoured by the thirsty winged hordes. Stopping, even for a couple of seconds to change lenses, resulted in several bites.

There were 446 mosquitoes in this picture. I know because I counted them as I cloned them out of the image in Photoshop.
Still, it was a beautiful sunset and I managed to get a number of wonderful images, despite my bites. I just feel sorry for the camping hunters who had nowhere to run to to get away from the beasts.

Sunset over Gray Lodge
Sunset over Gray Lodge

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Sacramento Skyline

One of the fascinating things about the Sacramento Skyline is how it's appearance changes as the light changes from sunset through dusk. Sacramento has a wonderful skyline, particularly as seen from the Sacramento River with the Tower Bridge, Old Sacramento, and the Delta King in the image.

I recently took this set of images - all from the same spot - as evening settled over the city. Click on each image to view a larger version.

Just before sunset
Just after sunset
As dusk settles over the city
Almost full night

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tower Bridge

Sorry that I've been away for awhile. For about a month I was just too busy to post, and for the last two weeks I was ill. Now I'm better and hopefully will be a little better about posting.

This week's images are some images I took of the Tower Bridge over the Sacramento River a couple of months ago.

The Tower Bridge is one of my favorite local landmarks, and I particularly like the contrast of color between the gold of the bridge and the blue of the sky. So for this shoot, I shot at dusk in order to get the deepest blue sky that I could.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge and Ziggurat Building

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tilting at Windmills

The main purpose of my flight down to the Sacramento River Delta was to shoot the wind farm in the Montezuma Hills from the air.

This wind farm has grown dramatically in the past few years and continues to grow, as the number of windmills under construction showed.

I had a blast flying a couple of hundred feet above the tops of the turbines on what turned out to be a perfect day for flying.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Aerial Shoot of the Sacramento Delta

I had the opportunity to do an aerial shoot in the Sacramento Delta a week or so ago, as you may have noticed from my recent posts. Here are a few more of the images I came back with.

The Town of Isleton
The Rio Vista Bridge
Panorama of the Antioch Bridge
The Antioch Bridge
Boats at Tinsley Island
The Delta and Mt. Diablo