Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 1: The Land of Enchantment

Wednesday June 22nd at an ungodly hour of the night, My wife and I loaded up the car and started the long drive down to Albuquerque, NM to spend the next few days with her family. Her grandparents had put together a family reunion of sorts and we figured we could lump that and some time with her parents in together as the first leg of our trip.

The drive itself is around ten hours if you don’t stop at all, but since we need things like food, water, and gas for the car (not to mention the occasional stop for a photo-op), it is in reality around 12 hours. However, even though it’s insanely long and not terribly interesting at 2:30 in the morning when it’s too dark to see, the sunrise on Thursday outside of Monticello, UT was super worthwhile:


It’s also only the second time I got to break out the new camera. I recently (about three days prior) had upgraded into a full frame Sony A7Rii. The only shot I had managed to take with it prior to the road trip (that was salvagable) was this one:


I snapped this one from Willard Bay on Tuesday night as my wife and I drove around the greater Ogden area trying to catch the sunset. Of course, all that is neither here nor there.

The rest of the drive into New Mexico was fairly uneventful as I tried to sleep for most of it. I’ve always found New Mexico to be fairly ugly –largely the opposite of picturesque. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with having grown up here and spending roughly twenty plus years of my life in various parts of the state. Once you’ve kind of seen everything a place has to offer it tends to lose its luster. Given that, I haven’t really broken out the camera a whole lot on this initial leg of the trip as there isn’t a lot that inspires me to take any pictures. I did however feel that it would be worth getting up one of the mornings while we were up in Los Alamos to try and catch the sunrise. The reason being, is that the mountains sit fairly low on the horizon from the vantage point of the east canyon you drive up to get into town. So that mixed with a valley and the few trees that have managed to thrive in this barren wasteland of a state looked like it might be worth an early morning. As it turns out, it was. I managed a 4-shot panorama that came out surprisingly well:


While it isn’t going to crack into my top tier of photos I’ve taken, it was pretty good considering how biased I am against the aesthetic value of the state as a whole.

The trip however has been anything but a bust though, as we’ve gotten to spend some time with family, in which I repeatedly put my foot in my mouth trying to be funny. We got the chance to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while and catch up/reminisce about the olden days; and on Tuesday we went down to the Albuquerque Zoo/Bio Park, to take the kiddos (our child, and my wife’s little sister who’s eleven now) out for a fun filled afternoon of complaining about how hot it is, and how much their feet hurt. I even managed to take some pictures while I was there and ended up with a few winners:




As for the next stage, Wednesday morning finds us heading out super early in order to make it to Santa Cruz as the second leg of the trip will involve lying on a beach and enjoying the sun. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. So the next post will likely come on Sunday or Monday pre-4th once I’ve gone through those photos and recharged the batteries on both my gear and myself enough to write another post. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!


How to Shoot in the Worst light ever: A day trip to the Aquarium!

Yesterday my wife and I took the kiddo to the aquarium south of Salt Lake because I’m a sucker for aquariums. They’re like zoos without all the animal abuse. The kiddo had a pretty good time as well especially at the penguin exhibit when she saw one poop. For a five year old, it was like seeing the Moon landing live on TV. Of course, like any other outing I made it a point to take my camera in case I could get some good photos of the Manta Rays (AKA the greatest and coolest fish of all time). When it comes to aquariums, I’m generally worse than the children are, running about and squealing over getting to pet some of the sea life. I promise I can be an adult, just not at the aquarium.

As for the shooting aspect of the trip, if you go a google search on tips for shooting at the aquarium, they’ll all tell you the same thing:

1) Use a Lens hood to prevent reflection/refraction off the glass from the various lighting inside.
2) Be Patient and wait for the fish to come to the glass.
3) Never use a flash. Ever.

Unlike most tip articles I have no complaints with any of these tips. Using a flash with black out the tanks behind the glass and all you’ll see is a circle of white light on glass. Using a lens hood does wonders to reduce the amount of light that seeps into the tanks from the walkways. And clearly if you are trying to get pictures of fish, you’re going to have to wait sometimes. Fish aren’t like other creatures that tend to lie about all day and let you shoot them without concern. Fish, due to their anatomy, require constant movement and as such, you need to have the right gear to shoot them.

This is probably one of the cases in which I really will vouch for a specific style of camera over the other. You really want a camera that has a large ISO range, a high number of focal points, and a fast fps shoot rate. Since I shoot on a Sony a6000, all of these points are covered so I was able to shoot into the glass and catch the fish without too much trouble.

Of course, there are going to be some things you can’t control which you’ll want to be prepared for. Things such as scratches in the glass, or excess scum/water on the inside of the glass can make it not only difficult to focus on the fish (and not the spots on the glass) but even if you get a good shot of the fish, the image could still be trash. Like so:


As you can see, I got a good focus on the little guy and got him in frame, but the damage to glass is extensive thus making the image worse. I could try to process out all the scratches, but that really isn’t worth the time.

So what can you do? Well, here’s a few tips:

1) Remember that aquariums often have open top areas that don’t sit behind glass. Use these to try and get a cool non traditional shot of something. For example, in this shot, the alligator was mostly submerged and you could see that through the glass, but if you looked over the top where there wasn’t any glass I got this view of it:


There were also a few exhibits that had things like ducks in them that didn’t have glass so those made for some great opportunities like this little South American duck breed:


Or this Multi-Colored Macaw:


2) Look for the janitor. One of the most important lessons I have ever learned in life was something my dad taught me years ago: Make friends with the little guy. While the janitor may not have the authority to let you feed a shark or swim in the tank, he/she does happen to know how to get into and out of places that maybe you shouldn’t be. They also are the ones cleaning the glass on the tanks. Which means if you can find the Janitor you can get some shots through clean and clear glass instead of the smudgy filth that comes from 600+ toddlers wiping their boogery fingers on everything. You can see a real difference in clean glass versus not clean glass:


Here the frog cages had just recently been cleaned, unlike the otter cages which hadn’t been. Meaning that everything on the otter side of the cage would be a little softer and less sharp. I.e.,:


3) Know when to crop. As with the photo above of the Macaw, and this photo of a penguin below, there are points in which you’ll want to crop a photo to remove unappealing extras. Be they hands, people, or in the case of the penguin, a giant turd.


When you see the picture above you think: “a picture of a penguin. Neat!” Without cropping you would see the photo and the massive amount of bird droppings next to it on the floaty and say “Why would someone take a picture of bird poop?” Which let me assure you, I’ve taken enough shitty photos that I need not delve into taking pictures of actual shit. In the case of the Macaw, there was random people and other artifacts that you could try to heal out, but in this case you can crop a little off the sides and save yourself a ton of time.

I hope these tips helped you. That’s it for this one, as always: Until next time, Thanks for reading!

A Short Excursion to Farmington Bay

Last night after some waffling on where and what I should go and shoot, I decided finally to drive out to Farmington Bay and see what I could find. Like it’s northern brother Bear River, Farmington Bay is a bird refuge nestled not far off of the Great Salt lake. Also like Bear River, I was surprised to see that there are parts of the refuge in which hunting is allowed. It could just be me, but the concept of being gunned down while I’m sleeping/eating doesn’t seem to be what I thought the definition of “refuge” was. I could be wrong of course.

Part of the reason I opted for this area instead of my go to (which is the Bear River area) is that Bear River hasn’t been super profitable for me in terms of seeing actual wildlife. I did manage a few cool shots the last time I was there, but in most cases it’s a total bust. And I figured if I was going to sit out in the snow and cold for two hours, I may as well gamble on a new place since I’m pretty much convinced Bear River is the La Quinta of migratory bird spots. As it turns out, Farmington Bay, while it wasn’t the Bellagio, it was definitely an upgrade. maybe somewhere between a Nice Howard Johnson and an Embassy inn and suites.

The bird life was plentiful as a decent sized grouping of Great Blue Herons had rolled through and opted to make camp for the day. Even better, they seem to not care at all about passing cars so if you shot from your window you could actually get pretty close. Something I didn’t realize until later. For the first half of the trip I was trying to get out of the car and sneak up on them like a loud and stupid asshole. Nonetheless, I did manage to find one who was either deaf, or had just won the Powerball, cause he gave no shits whatsoever:


As I got back into the car and was ready to move on down the road a little more I did catch one just be-bopping down the boulevard and shot this from out my passenger window.


Since the car was technically moving, I’m totally gonna count this towards my photo project.

After that guy I looped around the road and got towards the hunting area. Given I am not a fan of socializing with sociopaths I opted to head back the other way and just try to make due with the lazy, deaf heron. I did however snap a shot of this rat with wings:


On the way back out I caught site of either an eagle of some sort or a gigantic hawk, but since he was hiding in the thick reeds I couldn’t get the camera to focus on him and not all the junk around him. Hopefully the next time I go back that way I can get a better shot. So I felt I was cold and wet enough and my wife had just text me to remind me that food was something people need in their lives and we should probably figure out dinner. I was so excited about the crappy, deaf Heron I’d forgotten I hadn’t really eaten all day. Of course that didn’t stop me from getting a few more shots on the drive out:



I think the color is off on the second shot just a little. It feels maybe too dark. The first shot I think is as good as it can be since the bird managed to blend right in with the wall. Next time I go out, I’ll be sure to bring some high boots and beanie and prep for the long haul. I think there is a lot more to see and explore in that area and I am hoping that as we get closer to February the Bald Eagles will start showing up. I do so very much want to get a shot of one that isn’t in a cage at the zoo.

I think that’ll do it for this one. As always– Until next time, Thanks for reading!

Photography Is For The Birds!

This last weekend I got to get out and do some more shooting around Ogden and make a stop I’ve been meaning too for a month or so now. Now that we’re full on into Autumn and approaching Winter, the birds are on the move, and luckily for me, they have a pretty large pit-stop on their southern travels. So I grabbed the kiddo and the cameras and headed out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

While the actual bird populace was pretty lacking at first, I was able to get a few decent shots of Bear River, and dink around in the fields with the kiddo which was nice. It also turns out, that apparently hunting of all things is allowed in the area. This is both the primary cause of the lack of bird signs, as well as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Something about allowing people to shoot at stuff inside of a refuge is what one might call mind-blowing. Nonetheless, I did end up with a couple pictures on my way out of a massive swarm of Red-Winged Blackbirds on their trip down south from Oregon. So all in all it was a decent visit. I plan on sometime later this month getting out and attempting a full day from pre-dawn to sunset in hopes to get some of the more rare varieties that stop by.

As always, here’s the pics:




As an aside, this was a fairly well needed excursion as earlier in the day my buddy Collin and I got up at a time I did not previously know existed (5 A.M.) to try and get up to the top of Farmington Canyon to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, due to a light snow earlier in the week and generally cold temperatures, the road near the top was frozen solid and our lack of chains/AWD prevented up from getting to the top. Next time we’ll be more prepared and snag em, so be on the lookout for those!

I did however, manage to capture a pretty nice panorama of the sunrise hitting the backside of the Wasatch Mountains and put this together:

Wasatch Pano

I think I may have gone a little bananas in Lightroom when playing with colors, but at the end of the day, the gold and purple remind me a lot of the Rockies of Northern New Mexico, which are some pretty sweet mountains, so I think I’ll let it ride.

On a final note, words cannot describe how excited I am for the kiddo to get a little bigger so she can hold up a DSLR and really go shoot with me. She has a real eye for photography. Every time I roll through the SD card on her little point and shoot, there’s always a plethora of selfies, and at least two or three insanely cool perspective shots. For example, here’s one unedited she took from Bear River:


And just in case you want a LR edited version this is what you get using my preset:


The lighting and composition in this picture are just nutty good. And while she’s only 5 and it’s more likely than not an accident, I’m still proud of the photos she pumps out. I like to believe that no matter how much she ignores me when it comes to homework or eating her vegetables, she’s paying attention when I talk shop with her.

Well that’s it for this one. As always: Until next time, Thanks for reading!

Moab Overnighter

Today I turned 31, which means I’m officially in my 30s. Aside from just being old, that means I’m wiser too right? Fret not dear reader, I assure you that isn’t the case. I am however becoming way more “granola kid” as a friend of mine puts it. In my growing years I’ve taken up hiking a lot more than I ever did as a kid. Of course, as a kid I was mostly terrified of everything, so the thought of wandering off into the wilderness seemed like just about the worst idea ever. Nowadays, I’ve spent enough time around other human beings that on most days I can’t wait to just flee into the mountains and be rid of them all.

That rambling introduction leads to the meat of this post (which I promise is coming) which was a short trip to Moab I’d taken last week. A few weeks back a few friends of mine and I were out shooting some astro at the Spiral Jetty when we hatched the plan to go down to arches for a couple days and get some of those classic portfolio shots from there. Sadly one of my friends had to work, but my buddy Collin was down to roll, so we left Thursday afternoon hell bent on getting some sweet shots.

We arrived in Moab at about 5:30 and got into Arches right before six. After driving through the park towards the campground which happened to be full, we opted to take a short hike and figure out the gameplan for the evening from there. That short hike turned into about 4 hours and us parking it on top of a rock outcropping to get some shots of the sunset. Here’s a few of the shots from that hike:

Pano Sunshine


I love how both of those shots ended up coming out. What I loved even more is that while we were on the trail leading from the first image out to another random arch, we were stopped by a curious and fairly lazy lizard. We thought it’d be cool to see if we could get a quick photo, but it turns out the little guy was in no hurry to move along and so it ended up being part of a twenty minute photo shoot. I ended up getting some really nice close ups by getting down low on his level and sticking the camera near him.

Lizard Closeup


Once we finished up with all our sunset shots and debating the merits of stealing a camping spot from a no-show, we decided to not risk it and hit up one of the free sites outside the park. Sadly, due to a freakish incoming thunderstorm we were unable to get any night shots on Thursday. While being a total bummer, we figured tomorrow would be a better day and we could try again.

We ended up driving a short ways out of the park and with seeing no signage for the campsite (turns out it was a few more miles down the road) we pull off into a flat area assuming we’re there and set the tent up. I didn’t sleep at all. Sadly (for me anyways) I’m a very light sleeper, which stems from having a child who got up ALL THE TIME in the middle of the night until she was about three and a half years old. So now, of course, any noise or light or anything really will wake me up. Our campsite happened to be the noisiest place on earth that evening and I fumbled about until it was time to get up and shoot some sunrise shots. On the bright side (yuck yuck) I did get a couple I was pretty happy with and may try to put up on a stock agency:

Sunrise Tent

Sunrise Car

We then proceeded to break camp and grab some breakfast. Once that was done we opted to explore what was around the outside of the park and take a detour down the Colorado River way. We found a sweet free campsite so we pitched the tent up there and then headed out to find a way down to the river itself for a swim. I don’t have any photos of that, but I assure it was brown and cold and exactly what I needed. Once we dried off, it was off to find another hike, which we did called Negro Bill Canyon. The sign had clearly been vandalized a lot with the word negro being scratched, painted, and scribbled all over from various other tourists. The hike was long but enjoyable, with a pleasant stream running aside us the whole way. I got some shots of a cool set of cliffs that supposedly were occupied many centuries ago.

Bill Canyon Caves

The payoff for that hike was pretty sweet too. A 243 foot-long land bridge connects the rocks on either side of the valley. It made a really nice alcove with a small natural spring. There are apparently hikes you can take that put you on top of the bridge instead of underneath it letting you rappel off the side. While I didn’t get to do that, I opted to live vicariously through the terrified children who were going. Here’s a shot of one of them:


We finished that hike around 3 and decided to head back to the campsite and catch a short nap so we could be ready fro another sunset hike and to get some night shots out at the delicate arch. Like any true sad tale, the clouds rolled in again (after being a perfectly clear day) which wrecked any chances of the star shots happening. However we did get a few more sweet sunset photos after climbing on top of a different rock outcropping.


Arches Valley Sunset

We had originally planned on camping out that night as well and coming back in the early morning, but I started to feel sick from exhaustion having hiked about 13 miles in two days and having not slept at all the night before. Even the nap I took only lasted about 30-40 minutes due to heat and ants. All in all the trip was a blast and while it stinks I didn’t get any of the shots I was wanting, I got a ton of great ones of other stuff. Sorry for the long rambly post this time. Hopefully I’ll have another one up soon. Till next time, thanks for reading!

P.S As a quick aside. If you enjoy the blog and feel like supporting, you can feel free to click the portfolio link in the upper right and donate there! Or you can visit my Patreon here. If you prefer some other method, like sending me a check, feel free to hit me up on one of my connected networks! Thanks again for your support you lovely people you!

Easter Sunday Photo Exstravaganza!

For most people, Easter Sunday is a day spent doing church related stuff. For us however, it’s just happens to be a day in which no one has work or school and we can spend the whole day playing and goofing off. This year I took the kiddo to the nearby park/duck pond so she could run rampant and burn off some of that seemingly infinite four-year-old energy. While we walked around the duck pond so she could feed the various birds available, I managed to follow behind with camera in hand and catch some pretty good shots. During the feeding portion I got one of this seagull snatching a piece of bread out of the air that was intended for his other water-fowl friends:

Catching Bread

Once the snacks were gone we sat and watched the ducks and I managed to catch a few shots of ducks either taking off or mid flight which came out really well:



Of course I had a few that didn’t. Part of the reason for these ones, was because I was testing out “shooting from the hip” so to speak. The reason behind this was due to a great little e-book I got to read by photographer Michael Sweet titled “The Street Photography Bible” in which he discussed the method as a way to catch some great candid shots without alerting people to the fact you’re taking their picture. My train of thought was if I wanted to try it, why not use the ducks and work my way up. Much like he wrote in his book, 9 out of 10 times your images will be off center, blurry, or flat out worthless, but that ONE will be absolute magic (paraphrased by me of course). So here’s a couple of the garbage ones for your viewing pleasure:



Now that I’ve uploaded and shared them, I have to say as a side note, I don’t actually hate them all that much. While they aren’t technically very good photos, they also aren’t complete crap either.

After the stroll we played on the jungle gym for a while and decided to call it a day. On our way back to the car, I noticed among the lack of greenery there happened to be a single tree fully in bloom. I stopped and snapped a few pics of them and headed home. Lo’ and behold some of those came out pretty well too!


Pink Flowers bloom

All in all it was a successful day. Both in that I had a great day off work with the kiddo and caught a some great photos to add in to the library as well.

On a final note, I have an interview/presentation for a local gallery about getting my work posted on their wall for sale at the end of this month. I am both nervous and excited to see how this goes so send your positive vibes my way please! And as always, until next time, thanks for reading!

In Search of Cellular Telephone Service

I got the chance to do an awesome hike the other day and am super pumped about it even in hindsight. As I have mentioned in previous posts I had a goal of getting out to Antelope Island to snap some photos and I got to do just that. While I was there, I happened to get a wild hair across my ass and take a hike. I did not however, read the signage at the trail-head. It ended up being a little over 3 miles each way and on an approximately 45 degree incline going up to the top of Frary Peak. The trip took about three hours to the top and was pretty miserable at some points. Once I got to the top however, the view was stunning. I managed to snap some pretty cool pictures from the peak including a panorama of the western side of the lake. I even happened upon what looked like a cell tower (in which I posted to IG that I still couldn’t get sprint cell service while sitting under it).



I am a little bummed with how my panorama came out, given that for some reason, Photoshop keeps putting this vortex-like blur in the middle of the image. It’s really only noticeable if you’re viewing it at the full 6000×4000 resolution, but since I know it’s there, it bugs me.

Before I move on to the rest of this, I do wanna take a second and toot my horn a little. I am not in good shape. At all. I smoke, I drink whisky, I live a mostly sedentary lifestyle with a job I do sitting down. However, I love to hike. I want to hike more. It’s exceptionally difficult however. There were a couple of points in which I thought about turning back while on this hike. I wondered if I would have enough time to get it done and still be back so my wife could get to work on time. I worried I would miss out on the opportunity to snap some photos from other parts of the island. I realized pretty quick each time I stopped to take a breather, that I was only thinking these things, because I didn’t think I could actually make it. It was steep, My legs burned, my chest hurt, the list goes on. But I told myself around the 2/3 mark, that: No excuses, I’m this far, and no matter how much it sucks, I will make it to the top and snap some awesome shots from the peak. Then I did just that. While the distance traveled wasn’t a lot by any means (I’ve done longer hikes since moving to Utah), You do pick up 2200 feet in elevation, and you do it pretty quickly. I am proud of myself for not heading back to the bottom early. I’m stoked I made the top. I also have decided that I am going to make a real attempt to get in good enough shape that next summer I can climb both Ben Lomond, and Mt Ogden. It’s gonna be a weekend trip in both cases, but it is also gonna be awesome and I am excited to snap some pictures from the top of each!


Anyhoo, back to the picture stuff. Once I got back down from the peak (which took about half an hour as I spent the whole time unintentionally sprinting due to the steepness) I rested for a few minutes and chatted with some other hikers who pointed that the Bison were on the move a little south of our location and were getting close to the road. Excited for another opportunity to get out and shoot some of them up close, I said goodbye and moved on. I’ve almost always had a fascination with Bison/Buffalo although aside from their tasty meat I’m not so sure why. I think they a fun to photograph because they are to some extent both large and fairly lazy (which makes getting close a lot easier). I suppose there is a degree of majesty in them as well. But I won’t get all tree-huggy here.

After a short drive I come to a section of road where the bison were grazing nearby. When the other hikers said near the road, they weren’t kidding. In most cases I was within 20 feet of some of them. They seemed to largely not care about my existence, which was nice. ¬†Of the group of about 40 of them, one seemed much larger than all the others. He also grunted and huffed a lot when I was getting to close. This lead me to believe he was in charge of this group and I decided to back off a little as to not test that theory too scientifically. I did however hang around long enough that he seemed to realize I wasn’t out to bother or hurt anyone and I was able to move in near enough to him to get a couple good shots:



All in all, I didn’t get to explore as much of the island as I had wanted. The hike took up most of the time I had that day. I am however still glad I did it and was able to still get some pretty good shots nonetheless. I have this coming Friday off and will likely get out and take some more pictures (although where, I do not yet know). So until then, thanks for reading and see you next time!