Ernesto Ruiz Photography: Blog https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Ernesto Ruiz Photography (Ernesto Ruiz Photography) Sun, 23 May 2021 18:32:00 GMT Sun, 23 May 2021 18:32:00 GMT https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u474494514-o78147399-50.jpg Ernesto Ruiz Photography: Blog https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog 80 120 REVISITING A COMPOSITION https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/5/revisiting-a-composition Revisiting a Previous Composition...

This week, after noticing all the crabapple trees that are in bloom all around the city, I decided to swing by the location where I had captured the winter composition below, a couple of years ago. Shooting the same image at two different times of the year is not something I had tried before, but I was really curious what this scene would look like with the trees in bloom... And seeing so many gorgeous blooming trees around the city, I thought it was worth a shot!

Snowy CanopySnowy CanopyA canopy of snowy treetops during a heavy Minnesota snowstorm.

Below is the result... And as you can see, the trees did not let me down as they put on quite a show for the spring. While shooting, I actually took the time to look at the composition above on my phone, because (just for fun) I wanted to get them to be as close as possible. I have a suspicion that some people may be interested in buying prints of these two images as a set. 

Spring CanopySpring CanopyA grove of crabapple trees, in full bloom, create a colorful spring canopy. ...and Finding a New One

I don't expect I'll be attempting sets like this often, only in cases like this where it really makes a lot of sense. Of course, I experimented with many additional compositions while there, including the one below. While I liked the image above, especially as a pair for the winter image, the texture of the grass and the tall grasses in the foreground are not as visually "quiet" as the blanket of snow in the winter image. So, I wanted to find a composition that placed our full attention on the beautiful blooming canopies:

Spring Canopy 2Spring Canopy 2A grove of crabapple trees, in full bloom, create a colorful spring canopy. Technical Information

Both images were captured as the sun was setting, using a tripod to allow for slightly longer shutter speeds (while minding the movement of the leaves). The first image (that matches the winter composition) was shot at 200mm with my Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, using an aperture of f/8 for optimal sharpness, ISO of 500, and shutter speed at 1/20 sec. On the second image, which was captured at 188mm, I opened the lens to f/5, to create more separation from the background while keeping enough of the tree canopy in focus. This allowed me to shoot at 1/60 sec while keeping the ISO at 500. When shooting scenes like this, where the shutter speed is borderline in terms of freezing foliage that may be moving with the wind, I recommend shooting several consecutive exposures. I find that even if a gust happened to move a branch on some of the exposures, I usually get a few sharp ones in the mix. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv blooming blooming crabapple crabapple crabapple tree Minnesota Minnesota spring pink red https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/5/revisiting-a-composition Sun, 23 May 2021 18:31:30 GMT
RENEWED LEARNING WITH A NEW LENS https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/5/renewed-learning-with-a-new-lens Renewed Learning With a New Lens

In the past year, shooting mostly around my urban neighborhood, I had often been tempted to purchase a macro lens for my full frame camera. I briefly owned one when I first got into digital photography, but sold it once I decided I was going to be a "landscape photographer". For a while I believed that, to improve and be successful, I should specialize on something and stick to that path. My perspective, however, has been shifting back towards my original feelings when I started doing photography: I want to explore broadly and shoot whatever sparks my curiosity. So here I am, four to five years after selling that lens, having just bought a similar one again! 

Below are a series of images I just uploaded of my initial explorations with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, from walking around sidewalks in the few blocks around my house looking for tiny subjects in front lawns or alleys. My initial impression is that it is quite difficult to create compelling compositions at this scale. While I found it somewhat easy to create some "pretty" images of spring blooms, it's hard to find and isolate distinct and interesting subjects that are compelling enough to make an impact. Below are some of the few that worked for me, and my thoughts on why. The full series captured with natural light, using a reflector to bounce light - either as backlighting or to fill in shadows. 

EmergingEmergingA detail of a crabapple tree coming to life in the spring.

This crabapple tree is in Como Park, a short walk from my house. I probably spent 15 minutes looking for compositions here and, to my surprise, the one the I preferred is the one that did not focus on the flowers. There is something about this little branch that made me feel like it in the process of standing up - or awakening - with spring. The ragged edges of the leaves also provide enough interest to make the shallow depth of field work. Here is a video of me capturing this shot, obviously hand-held:

One of the first subjects I spotted in my neighborhood "adventure" was the Siberian Squill, an invasive flower sold as an ornamental that has been popping up in front lawns in our area. The flowers are tiny and, though considered invasive, it seems many people are unconcerned about their spread. I don't blame them, since these little guys are beautiful. These were in someone's front yard, so I made sure to get permission from the homeowner before shooting. Even if I'm shooting from a sidewalk, I don't want to be seen pointing a camera in the general direction of a house without permission. Here, I had to do a lot of rolling around in the grass looking for standout flowers to isolate. As is often the case, I had to enlist the help of my wife to hold and direct the reflector, directing light in a way that enhanced these little subjects. Most efforts were unsuccessful, but I did achieve a couple of keepers: 

At AttentionAt AttentionSiberian Squill illuminated by blue hour light in a Minnesota lawn. The image above (and the crabapple image) show my tendency to love centering subjects in a composition... There's just something about imperfect symmetry that I often find appealing. If the leaves on the crabapple seemed to be stretching up, awakening, this little squill seems to be standing "tall" and illuminated, rising above the rest. I imagine him giving a speech to the blurred audience in the background. That said, I always try asymmetric compositions based on guidelines such as the rule of thirds, as in the example below. 
Standout SquillStandout SquillSiberian Squill illuminated by blue hour light in a Minnesota lawn.

Alleys in my neighborhood are lined with trash, recycling, and composting bins. But they also feature plenty of gardens and flowers, either right on the alley or in the back of people's yards. These golden charm tulips were beautifully illuminated with dappled light, being filtered by a small bush next to them. Once again, looking for compositions was challenging. I shot a few of the fully opened flowers, but those shots seems somewhat boring. In this composition I enjoy the sequence of the three flowers that seem to be reaching towards the light (away from the shadow of the bush). Once again, using the reflector helped to create a beautiful "glow" that animates the scene. 

Golden Charm Tulip TrioGolden Charm Tulip TrioA trio of golden charm tulips reach for the light. Last but not least, a subject that I hope I will be posting more images of soon! We have some prairie smoke right next to the front door of our house. I look out the window daily, to see if it's in bloom yet... No such luck, but I couldn't resist capturing an image of the emerging buds. This little guy was tiny which, combined with using a large aperture, resulted in this extremely shallow depth of field. I rather enjoyed experimenting with multiple compositions here, but (surprise surprise) ended up preferring this very simple and centered image. I cannot wait to shoot these when they bloom!

Prairie Smoke BudPrairie Smoke BudA tiny prairie smoke bud in early spring. Technical Information

All images here were captured hand-held at ISO 200 and a lens aperture of f/2.8 or f/3.5. The lens being stabilized certainly helped. I've done focus stacking before, and most of my photography is on a tripod, but I was interested in trying something different and looser. It's amazing how shooting with large apertures and aiming for shallow depth of field quickly makes the tripod optional. I already love this lens and expect this series to be just the start of this exploration. In my newly re-organized galleries, I've created a home for these shots, so keep an eye out more of this work here: Plant Portraits Gallery

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv crabapple crabapple tree CUPOTY f/2.8 flower flowers hand-held photography macro macro photography no tripod photography blog shallow depth of field Siberian Squill https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/5/renewed-learning-with-a-new-lens Tue, 04 May 2021 19:12:35 GMT
SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY MOVEMENT ON F-STOP COLLABORATE AND LISTEN https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/slow-photography-movement-on-f-stop-collaborate-and-listen The Novelty of Being a Podcast Guest!

Well, I can check being a guest on a podcast off the proverbial bucket-list. In fact, I can check it off twice (more on that below). I recently had the honor of recording a podcast episode with Matt Payne and F-Stop Collaborate and Listen, along with my Slow Photography Movement ("SPM") colleagues Jennifer Renwick and Beth Young. We discussed many topics including: the origins of our collaboration, what we mean by "slow", how to release expectations in photography, how being a part of the movement has impacted our approach, how our efforts align with conservation efforts, and what the future of SPM may bring. I have to admit to being nervous for the recording, it's amazing how doing anything for the first time can bring some jitters! If you have some time to check it out (episode 210, "The Slow Photography Movement"), I would love to hear your thoughts on our conversation. Also, be sure to check out other episodes of Matt's wonderful podcast:

Do It Once, Do It Twice

It's funny how opportunities often come in bundles. Not only did I record my first podcast, but also my second! Keep your eyes open for a Slow Photography Movement episode on David Johnston's podcast as well! (I will be sure to promote it here and on my social media channels.) Matt and David have a very different style and lead conversations in unique ways, so I encourage you to check out both shows. 
 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) Beth Young Ernesto Ruiz Photography f-stop Jennifer Renwick Matt Payne Matt Payne Landscape Photography Optimal Focus photographer photography photography blog photography podcast photography workshop podcast slow photography movement https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/slow-photography-movement-on-f-stop-collaborate-and-listen Thu, 29 Apr 2021 16:08:00 GMT
SHELTERED IN VELVET - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/sheltered-in-velvet---new-image New Image: "Sheltered in Velvet"

We still don't have much in terms of travel plans, so in addition to shooting houseplants and nearby landscapes, I'm taking the opportunity to dig in my image library for photos that I've overlooked in the past, to see if there is something worth editing. I really enjoyed "finding" this one, a shot I took during a short hike at Olympic National Park. I remember this being a pretty quick capture as we were finishing our hike. I noticed the light falling on this little tree and, after a little hesitation, decided it was worth stopping - and unpacking my camera again - to capture it. The reason I hesitated was because the subject being illuminated didn't have much character... It's very thin and scraggly, and it's hard to quickly visually "understand" its form and extents. However, the light and the framing were special enough to have captured my attention, so I took the image. Now, a year and a half later, upon finding it, it strikes me as a stronger composition that I remembered. The lesson here is, if something catches your eye, it's worth taking the photo! Most images that I love have come this way, rather than pre-planned shots. 

Sheltered in VelvetSheltered in VelvetA small tree is sheltered by the old growth forest. For more on this image, check out my blog. Technical Information

It was fairly dark in the old growth forest, so I shot this on my tripod using a 1/6 second shutter at f/8 (and ISO 100, since I was on a tripod and there was no wind). I had a lot of distractions to eliminate, including the hiking path itself, so I had to balance that with my desire to include more of the "velvety" framing elements. I framed the shot at 81mm with my Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv blog canon ef 70-300 f/4-5.6l is usm exif forest learn photography moss old growth forest Olympic Olympic National Park Pacific Northwest photography photography blog technical telephoto trees tripod https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/sheltered-in-velvet---new-image Sun, 11 Apr 2021 16:48:06 GMT
WINTER GHOSTS - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/winter-ghosts---new-image New Image: "Winter Ghosts"

Driving back from a cabin in Isabella, Minnesota, I spotted the 'inverted silhouettes' of these snow-covered trees. This was captured only a few minutes after a similar image, "Winter's Veil", which I posted and wrote about here recently. This photograph was composed as a horizontal 3:2 frame which included a fourth tree to the left. That was as tight as I could compose at the long end of my 70-300mm lens. When evaluating the image during editing, I decided that eliminating that tree, and cropping as a square, resulted in a stronger composition... Of course, I didn't have the option to explore that on the field, since I didn't have a longer lens at hand. I already have my eyes on Canon's RF mount 100-500mm lens, once I make the jump to mirrorless, thinking that it will give me access to more of the kinds of compositions that I find more intriguing these days. 

Winter GhostsWinter GhostsSnow-covered tree outlines stand out against the darker dense foliage. Technical Information

This was captured hand-held from the side of the road (even though there was hardly any traffic, I didn't want to set up a tripod). Because of the limitations of hand-holding, and not being able to focus stack, the full frame is not in focus. Sometimes you just have to be OK with that... There is something special about a single-exposure hand-held image, when it works out. This one was captured at 300mm using ISO 400 and a 1/250 shutter speed at f/8. A stabilized lens always helps in these situations! My Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM had no problem delivering a sharp image in every exposure I took of this scene.

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv abstract photography blog canon ef 70-300 f/4-5.6l is usm exif expressive photography learn photography Minnesota Minnesota photography pattern photography blog snow snow photography stabilized lens stabilizer technical telephoto textures tripod winter https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/4/winter-ghosts---new-image Tue, 06 Apr 2021 14:44:59 GMT
PLAYING WITH HOUSEPLANTS AND OCF DURING A PANDEMIC - PART 1 https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/playing-with-houseplants-and-ocf-during-a-pandemic---part-1 Houseplants: Nature Photography, Indoors

The pandemic has presented many challenges for landscape photographers, but in a challenge there is always opportunity. In a year of being home, I finally decided to explore photographing some of the many (many!) plants in our house. It's something that I've thought about often, since we do love our plants (over a hundred of them), but it was always somewhat intimidating. It may be easy to take a picture of a house plant, but taking a good picture, something original and worth sharing, seemed daunting. A clear barrier was that I sold my full frame macro lens a long time ago. I bought one towards the beginning of my photography journey, when I was trying everything out. I ended up not using it much, and got rid of it.

So, I worked with what I had: I started by photographing plants that had enough foliage to fill the frame using my Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM lens. I've always loved our monstera plants, but our monstera deliciosa leaves were simply too big to frame without a distracting background. The monstera adansonii, however, proved to be a perfect subject. Using off-camera flash, I illuminated the newest emerging leaf, separating it from the others to achieve the image below. Three external flash units were used, two with large soft diffusers, and one with a flash grid to concentrate the light on the standout leaf. 

AdansoniiAdansoniiAn illuminated new leaf emerging from a Monstera Adansonii plant.

A somewhat less obvious subject was our purple-leaf shamrock. It's not a big plant, but it happened to be blooming, and the foliage was dense enough that I was able to fill the frame, once again placing attention on one element (in this case the flower) that stands out from the background. This image was also illuminated with off-camera flash, in a similar configuration to the image above. 

Oxalis BloomOxalis BloomAn Oxalis triangularis blooming. Captured during COVID-19 quarantine. I then grabbed one of our big pileas... This was an obvious choice, since we have a pilea problem, they keep multiplying and we cannot give them away fast enough! This means we have some big ones, including the original mama plant that started it all. It took a lot of time to carefully place the leaves in a way that filled the frame without damaging the plant, using small stakes and strings. The lighting here was different, using a small reflector on the flash unit behind the plant, to achieve a strong backlit effect. 

Leaf CollageLeaf CollagePilea leaves create a beautiful, back-illuminated collage. Recently, I reached for the macro lens that I do own... An EF-M wide-angle lens that we use on our EOS M5 camera, mostly during trips. The EF-M28 f/3.5 MACRO IS STM is a wonderful little lens with a built-in mini ring light. I've used it to capture the few macro shots that I've shared before, but the wide angle makes it challenging for indoor use. It's hard to eliminate distractions, and you really have to get in very close to your subject, which creates a lot of perspective and depth of field issues. For the image below, I put the lens basically inside of our very small and blooming african violet. Because of the proximity, this image required many more focus stacking frames than the ones above. But look at that tiny landscape of lines and colors underneath the leaves!

Velvet VioletVelvet VioletA little african violet reveals its rainbow of colors when illuminated. Looking Forward: New Lens Coming!

I have now ordered a macro lens for my full frame camera (a Canon EF 100 f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, arriving any moment now!), and hope this will once again open creative possibilities that I had decided not to explore in the past. It's fair to say that the pandemic has rekindled my interest in this type of photography, and I look forward to seeing what I can do with my new toy. 

Technical Information

All these images required focus stacking and used three off-camera flash units for lighting. A variety of flash modifiers were used, including an umbrella, a soft box, a mini soft box, a bouncer, and a small grid. If you have questions, please comment below or send me an email. I am considering writing a more in-depth article on the technical side of these images, either here or on the Slow Photography Movement website. If you'd be interested in reading this, let me know. Otherwise, I will still do a "Part 2" for this entry (it could be in a month, or in a year), to share some images captured with the new lens. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5D Mark IV behind the scenes blog canon house plant macro macro photography photographer photography photography blog technical https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/playing-with-houseplants-and-ocf-during-a-pandemic---part-1 Wed, 24 Mar 2021 15:41:44 GMT
CONVERGENCE - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/convergence---new-image New Image: "Convergence"

In the badlands of South Dakota compositions can be hard to find, as forms roll into each other endlessly in a beautiful yet visually chaotic way. Upon reviewing my images from the visit, I wish that I had taken more opportunities to point my camera at smaller scenes, such as this one. The yellow mounds and the dry grasses were two of the most memorable elements of this region, and this image captures a little bit of each. I spotted this little detail as I walked back to the car after abandoning an attempt to shoot the sunset. The pattern made by the crossing paths was interesting, especially so because of the distinct texture and color areas that the paths delineate. The middle portion of the image almost looks like fur!

ConvergenceConvergenceLines converge, separating areas of color and texture, in the Badlands of South Dakota. For more information on this image, check out my blog. Technical Information

This was a simple exposure captured hand-held at 124mm using a 1/50 second shutter speed... You may notice this breaks the often quoted "rule" to use a shutter speed with a denominator equal or higher to your focal length... But that's what a good stabilized lens can do for you! My Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM had no problem delivering a sharp image in every exposure I took of this scene. I used an ISO of 400 to make the hand holding possible, and an aperture of f/8 to maximize sharpness. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv abstract photography badlands national park blog canon ef 70-300 f/4-5.6l is usm exif expressive photography learn photography pattern photography blog stabilized lens stabilizer technical telephoto textures tripod yellow mounds https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/convergence---new-image Thu, 18 Mar 2021 01:28:50 GMT
DRIFT SHADOWS AND STAR BURST - NEW IMAGES https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/star-burst---new-image New Images: "Star Burst" and "Drift Shadows"

I have been less motivated lately to get in the car and drive an hour or two to photograph the more recognized locations that I use to shoot often. How I photograph these days is mostly by bringing my camera with me when we go outdoors, and keeping my eyes open for things that catch my eye. On this evening, I was staying in a cabin near Isabella, Minnesota, and - not surprisingly - decided against driving an hour each way to go photograph sunset or blue hour light at one of the state parks on Lake Superior. Instead, I walked out the door of the cabin, down to a small creek, maybe a hundred feet away (same place where I photographed "September Highlight", my previous image on this blog). I mainly explored the snowdrift covered riverbed, and found this little composition, the curvy ridge plays along with the shadows of a large boulder, all pointing to the tip of another boulder peaking through the drift. 

Drift ShadowsDrift ShadowsA rock peaks through a gap in the snow drift, along the shoreline of a frozen northern Minnesota creek.

I captured more compositions, but I'm not sure if I'll use them. I found that these kinds of images are hard to compose, but suddenly I am looking forward to more snow, so I can keep exploring. 

I also took the opportunity to shoot the low sun at a bend in the creek, when I spotted this shadow pattern radiating out, as it was filtered by the trees. This made me feel like I stepped back in time 2-3 years, when most of what I shot was wide angle landscapes, often attempting to capture sun stars.

Star BurstStar BurstA mostly frozen northern Minnesota creek is illuminated by the setting sun.  Technical Information

Drift Shadows was captured at 128mm with my Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM, using focus stacking (three exposures) to keep the center of the frame in focus. Each frame was captured at f/8 and 1/250 seconds, using ISO 100. 

Star Burst was captured at 24mm with my Canon EF24-70 f/2.8L II USM. I shot the main image at f/11 and 1/80 second using ISO 100. I did a second exposure using f/22 and 1/25 second for the sun star, blending this portion of the image in post processing. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5D Mark IV abstract photography canon expressive photography intimate landscape Minnesota photography blog slow photography small scenes snow snow photography https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/star-burst---new-image Sun, 14 Mar 2021 14:35:00 GMT
SEPTEMBER HIGHLIGHT - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/september-highlight---new-image New Image: "September Highlight"

One of the things that I've learned about "finding" images is that the harder you look, the less you see. It is often when my expectations are lowest that I find compositions, and moments in light, that I get really excited about capturing. Last Fall had the most beautiful and intense colors that I've ever experienced. We were lucky enough to spend a week in northern Minnesota at the very peak of the colors. We did a long day hike on the Superior Hiking Trail, and around lakes in the Ely and Isabella regions. However, as astoundingly beautiful as the colors were, I found them hard to capture. Being surrounding by all that beauty doesn't necessarily mean coming home with lots of gorgeous images. Forest and foliage seems are always challenging to compose, and all the colors in the world do not change that reality. 

In the end, from the time spent there, my favorite images came from just steps outside the door of the cabin. I walked outside and on this particular morning without high photographic expectations, because of the clear skies, and because I had already scouted the shoreline across the little creek for compositions, and nothing had caught my eye. But, as the sun rose and started filtering between the trees, I noticed the little tree on the right side of this image get illuminated from the left, in the direction that it was leaning, and it jumped out to me as a composition. It felt as if the tree was reaching for the light, and I liked the strong directionality of it. 

September HighlightSeptember HighlightEarly morning light provides strong side lighting in the Minnesota woods. For more on this image, check out my blog. Technical Information

I composed the image at 207mm with my Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM mounted on my Canon EOD 5D Mark IV. I turned off the lens stabilizer, as I do when shooting on a tripod, and used an ISO of 100, aperture of f/8 and shutter speed of 1/15 second. The main technical consideration was to confirm via the histogram that I had not blown out the red channel, as those yellows were glowing intensely!

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5D Mark IV autumn colors blog Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM Ely EXIF Fall colors Isabella learn photography Minnesota photography blog shooting Fall colors technical telephoto tripod https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/september-highlight---new-image Sat, 06 Mar 2021 15:35:00 GMT
SHARDS OF LIGHT - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/stacked-ice---new-image New Image: "Shards of Light"

I finally got around to photographing the stacked ice shards on the shore of Lake Superior, after admiring other photographers' images for years. Admittedly, this was a pretty quick stop halfway through a drive as we headed north a few weekends ago, but what a way to stop and stretch your legs! The small parking log at the south end of Brighton Beach put me within meters of the ice, and I had my cleats at hand to make the descent to the beach quite easy. I intended to go down for a few minutes, although upon my return to the car, was informed that my quick stop had extended over half an hour. Can't say I was surprised! Below I am seen being drawn towards the light. 

Trying to make compositions of the ice reminded me of shooting a dense forest scene... There is so much going on, and it is absolutely stunning yet chaotic and resistant to most of my compositional attempts. These few shards, however, standing up and receiving the late afternoon light, eventually caught my eye.

Shards of LightShards of LightLake Superior ice accumulates along the shoreline, making beautiful stacks of ice shard. For more on this image, see my blog.

Technical Information

The subtle movement of the ice shards made focus stacking difficult, so this is a single exposure, and I was comfortable with some layers of the ice going out of focus. The image was exposed to the right while being careful not to blow out the highlights, and shot at 252mm with the Canon EF 70-300 f4-5.6L IS USM lens mounted on my 5D Mark IV and Gitzo tripod. I used an ISO of 160, shutter speed of 1/60 sec and f/11 aperture. 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5d mark iv blog canon Duluth ef 70-300 f/4-5.6l is usm Lake Superior Lake Superior ice https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/3/stacked-ice---new-image Tue, 02 Mar 2021 15:06:48 GMT
NEW: BWCA BARK PHOTO SERIES https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/new-bwca-bark-photo-series New image series: BWCA Bark

 At the Slow Photography Movement, we recently ran a challenge where we asked photographers to show us their best texture images. The results were incredible, and I encourage you to check out the Textures Gallery there! This inspired me to take a look at these tree bark images, which I had photographed last summer in the BWCA, but had not gotten around to editing. For a more in depth look at the story and technical information behind these images, check out my new article there.

BWCA Bark 4BWCA Bark 4 Partly because this trip was under unyielding blue skies and direct sun, I found myself looking for smaller scenes to photograph. I got up on this particular morning originally intending to capture reflections in the perfectly still waters by our campsite. However, the way in which the light was accentuating the texture of the trees quickly caught my attention, and I spent over an hour looking at endless trees, watching the light move across them, revealing beautiful textures and fleeting moments of intense color. 
BWCA Bark 4BWCA Bark 4

Although going into the BWCA involves bringing a very limited amount of gear, I was glad I opted to bring my telephoto and circular polarizer (for glare control) to this trip. And, of course, my tripod, which was critical for focus stacking. 
BWCA Bark 5BWCA Bark 5A detail of tree bark in the BWCAW, Minnesota.

 

Technical Information

All these images were captured between 188 and 260mm and apertures between f/8 and f/14. These apertures were selected based on the depth of field I was aiming to capture (as the trunks curve away), trying to find the balance between focus stacking and lens diffraction. Much more information on these images is provide on my article at the Slow Photography Movement website. 

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If you like my work, please share with others! Selling pictures is great, but the real fulfillment for me is in sharing images with anyone who appreciates them. If you use Instagram or Facebook, please consider following me there:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) abstract photography bark blog creative photography expressive photography photography blog slow photography tree bark trees https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/new-bwca-bark-photo-series Sun, 28 Feb 2021 21:12:48 GMT
WINTER HAT - BEHIND THE CAMERA https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/winter-hat---new-image New Image: "Winter Hat"

I have not been shooting much wide angle recently, as I've been more intrigued by longer focal lengths and tighter compositions (I expect this will be a cyclical thing). But during a hyper-cold stop at Pebble Beach, at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, I decided to pull out my ultra-wide to explore some of the cool ice formations along the shoreline.

The thing with shooting ultra-wide is that you have to get really close to your subjects. If you don't, you just end up with tiny subjects and way too much extra image (and distractions) around them. So, often, you end up having to be low to the ground, even sitting on some DARN COLD pebbles to be able to see what you are doing.

I usually end up inverting my tripod for these images, which allows me to get close to small things, but it sure makes the camera a lot harder to work (it's amazing how the super intuitive controls that are at this point muscle memory become mystifyingly difficult with the camera upside down). And while my camera can be controlled from the app in my phone, trying to work a phone with gloves is an even more frustrating experience, so it's just not an option on a very cold day! While working the camera can become a little bit of a challenge, at least there are knob combinations to adjust any setting. I sometimes take the gloves off to work the dials, but there is only so many times you can do this before your fingers start feeling a little numb! Notice that I am also wearing my cleats, which are critical if you are out shooting on some icy rocks.   

I composed "Winter Hat" using live view, as you can see in the image below. I don't use the tripod leg spikes, I've always been able to find a way to leverage the tripod so that it is stable (and maybe I just don't want to be thinking about yet another thing to manage in the cold). 

Technical Information

Most people think focus stacking is not necessary when shooting ultra-wide. And this is often true. However, when you get REALLY CLOSE to something, it will still be necessary. For example, at 15mm and f/8, your hyper focal distance is over 3' (so, if you focus on anything closer than that, the whole image will not be in focus). In this image, I was inches from the subject. So I used an aperture of f/16 (to minimize the shots needed to make a stack) and focused stacked three images. Each shot in the stack was taken at ISO 100 and 1.6 seconds. Here is the final image: 
Winter HatWinter HatA boulder wears an icy hat along the shoreline of Lake Superior. For a behind the scenes look at how I captured this image, including technical information, see my blog: Winter Hat Blog Entry

Most importantly, I still have all my fingers and toes!

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) behind the scenes blog canon focus stacking Lake Superior Minnesota north shore photographer photography photography blog Split Rock Lighthouse State Park state park technical wide angle winter https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/winter-hat---new-image Sun, 21 Feb 2021 18:08:59 GMT
WINTER WANDERING - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/winter-wandering---new-image New Image: "Winter Wandering"

I recently curated my images and organized them into collections, an introspective exercise that revealed distinct types of images, as well as compositional tendencies, that I was not necessarily pursuing intentionally. If you haven't, take a look at those collections (in the site menu), and you'll see how the images in each category have clear, often surprising, similarities. 

An interesting result of this exercise is that now that I have identified types of images that I obviously enjoy doing, I find myself thinking of ways to create new images that will fit these collections. A perfect example of this is the Explore collection, a surprising theme given that it took me a few years before I considered putting a person in one of my landscape images. Even then, at first I thought those images were "just for us", for our memories of a place, but I would not share them publicly as part of my photography. Eventually though, I realized that I really DO ENJOY placing a human figure in certain images... And also, that my wife is a very willing model! 

Now, this is still a small collection, and may remain a small percentage of my portfolio, but it's something that I plan to keep exploring. When it works, it is often the human figure that allows the viewer to place themselves in the image, by achieving an understanding of scale that would otherwise be lacking. "Winter Wanderer" was captured near Isabella, Minnesota, during a snow shoe walk. This image just did not work as well without the human scale. The framing effect and scale of the trees really begged for a focal point to ground them. 
Winter WanderingWinter WanderingHeavy snow sets a magical atmosphere in a northern Minnesota trail. For more on this image, including technical details, check out muy blog: Winter Wandering Blog Post

Technical Information

I overexposed this image by 2/3 of a stop, hence exposing "to the right", careful to not blow out the highlights. The image was shot handheld with a stabilized Canon EF 70-300 f4-5.6L IS USM lens mounted on my 5D Mark IV. It was captured at 95mm, using an ISO of 640, shutter speed of 1/200 sec and f/7.1 aperture. 

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If you like my work, please share with others! Selling pictures is great, but the real fulfillment for me is in sharing images with anyone who appreciates them. If you use Instagram or Facebook, please consider following me there:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 5D Mark IV blog Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM Ely EXIF Isabella Minnesota Minnesota winter photography blog telephoto winter https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/winter-wandering---new-image Wed, 17 Feb 2021 17:39:16 GMT
LAYER CAKE - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/layer-cake---new-image New Image: "Layer Cake"

My first visit to the Badlands was somewhat surreal. In the midst of COVID and the polarizing 2020 election, there was a slight unease that was hard to shake, even in the midst of wonderful grand landscapes. Still, it was a necessary escape for us. Highlights included an unexpected (at least for us) windstorm that threatened to collapse the tent on us during our first night, and a heat wave that turned one of our days there into an air-conditioned 'road trip' day. On this afternoon, we drove a clockwise loop around Highway 44, Sage Creek Road, and the Badlands Loop Road. This brought us back to the Yellow Mounds area in the late afternoon, and I waited around for sunset to capture the beautiful pastel colors in softer light (we had blue skies and harsh sun for all of our trip). 

I composed "Layer Cake" in advance (above), and waited for the light to bring the softness of the landscape to life. Compositions were hard to find here, as the odd and uneven formations spread endlessly, refusing to offer clear distinct subjects or orderly, repetitive patterns. Here, I saw an opportunity to ground a composition in this colorful round formation in the foreground, still showcasing the distinct layers and colors all the way to the sky. 
Layer CakeLayer CakeBlue hour light reveals wonderful pastel colors in the South Dakota Badlands.For more on this image, check out my blog: Layer Cake Blog Entry

Technical Information

This image was captured at 55mm from my tripod-mounted 5D Mark IV and the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens, at 1/80 sec, f/8 and ISO 100. 

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If you like my work, please share with others! Selling pictures is great, but the real fulfillment for me is in sharing images with anyone who appreciates them. If you use Instagram or Facebook, please consider following me there:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) Badlands Badlands National Park blog canon Yellow Mounds https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/2/layer-cake---new-image Sun, 14 Feb 2021 15:03:51 GMT
WINTER'S VEIL - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/1/winters-veil---new-image New Image: "Winter's Veil"

Having been socially isolated for almost a year, we miss our big adventures! What we have been able to do, instead, is explore more around our local areas... That includes our home in Saint Paul, but also a family cabin near Isabella, MN. We recently spent five nights there, and my hopes had been high for a weekend of winter wonderland shooting... However, a big forecasted snowstorm drifted south of us, touching the Twin Cities but leaving us dry up north. We did get some snow the last night there though, and drove through snow-covered roads, surrounded by scenes like this, for the first few miles on the way back home. 

"Winter's Veil" was captured from the side of the road... Another example of images presenting themselves at any time, often without the need for distant or strenuous hiking. As we were driving, compositions kept popping up and disappearing, usually without a safe spot to pull over to experiment. This view, however, appeared halfway through a very long, straight segment of road, where we could have easily spotted traffic from either direction - not that anyone passed! This gave me a minute to jump out of the car and, using my telephoto lens, explore some tighter, more focused scenes than were plainly visible from the road. This particular tree, with it's dense network of small branches, captured more snow and jumped out at me as a beautiful subject for a centered composition. 
Winter's VeilWinter's VeilSnowy woods in northern Minnesota form a beautiful visual texture. For more on this image, including technical data, check out my blog: Winter's Veil blog entry.

Technical Information

Because of the overcast day, it was easy to 'expose to the right' without blowing out any highlights. This image was shot hand-held at 252mm, using a stabilized Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM. I used an ISO of 400 (I often raise the ISO when shooting hand held), and shot at f/6.3 and 1/400 sec.

Enjoy My Blog and My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!

If you like my work, please share with others! Selling pictures is great, but the real fulfillment for me is in sharing images with anyone who appreciates them. If you use Instagram or Facebook, please consider following me there:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog canon Isabella minnesota northern Minnesota photography photography blog photography learning snow winter winter photography https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2021/1/winters-veil---new-image Sun, 31 Jan 2021 16:50:09 GMT
HEAD OF THE TRAIL - NEW IMAGE https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2020/12/head-of-the-trail---behind-the-camera New (less ambitious) blog format!

It has been a while since I blogged here. This is partly because I've been writing more for the Slow Photography Movement, but also because it's just hard to keep up with everything, especially since most of my previous blogs were more like articles than quick entries... For 2021, I am recommitting to this blog, but planning for briefer posts such as announcements, sharing publications and exhibitions, or simply sharing a few thoughts on a newly released image (like this entry!). 

New Image: "Head of the Trail"

2020 was a tough year in many ways, and it definitely had an impact on my creative drive for photography. I just did not shoot as much as I usually do (which is saying a lot, as I'm a pretty low volume photographer to begin with). My wife and I managed to salvage the summer with a few not-so-distant camping escapes, but our previously planned trips were all cancelled. Most of the photography that I did do was quite close to home compared with recent years. This has actually been a silver lining though... Not only have we committed ourselves to walking around our neighborhood every single day, but we also discovered many nearby parks and trails that we otherwise might not have visited. 

"Head of the Trail" was captured during one of those hikes, a wonderful, physically-distant walk that Becca and I enjoyed with a friend down in Red Wing, MN. The composition revealed itself at the least expected moment, right after I put away the camera as we exited the trail. The image was captured in bright afternoon sun, which actually worked quite well to emphasize the brightness of the birch bark. 
Head of the TrailHead of the TrailA triangular birch keeps watch at the entrance of a trailhead. For more on this image, including technical data, check out my blog: Head of the Trail blog entry.

Technical Information

I exposed for the highlights so as to not lose birch bark detail and, because I was shooting handheld, used a higher ISO than I regularly do. This allowed me to use a 1/1000 sec shutter speed, giving me peace of mind considering the wind and the potential camera movement at 176mm. The image was captured at f/5.0, effectively isolating the birch from the out-of-focus foreground.

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If you like my work, please share with others! Selling pictures is great, but the real fulfillment for me is in sharing images with anyone who appreciates them. If you use Instagram or Facebook, please consider following me there:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) autumn blog compression compression in photography Fall Frontenac Frontenac State Park minnesota minnesota state parks photographer photography photography blog state parks technical telephoto telephoto lens tree tree photography https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2020/12/head-of-the-trail---behind-the-camera Thu, 31 Dec 2020 20:15:05 GMT
TWO LITTLE PIGGIES AND LENS COMPRESSION https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2019/1/no-long-lenses-dont-create-compression What is Lens Compression?

We've all seen (or shot) images where distant objects are "brought forward" and seemingly magnified in scale against a foreground subject. These images are usually captured with long (telephoto) lenses, which have hence gained a reputation as being able to create compression. The term compression refers to the seemingly shrinking distance between subject (or foreground) and background, as opposed to images where the background seems distant.

"telephoto lenses do not really create compression, but they allow us to capture it by moving farther away from our subjects"

The reality is that this compression is really a result of the relative distances between photographer to the subject/foreground, and the subject to the background. Telephoto lenses do not really create compression, but they allow us to capture it by moving farther away from our subjects, and then framing them tightly against more distant elements. While this is understood by most photographers, I've heard enough people assign a mystical power to telephotos - to compress objects as you rotate the zoom ring - to think that a simple blog entry with some sample images may help to demonstrate the issue.

Is Compression a Result of the Lens Used?

I called upon these two little piggies as models to do a demonstration. I placed them on the floor once, and did not move them for any of the images. I then proceeded to photograph them from two locations. This first image, above, was captured with a wide-angle lens and shot from fairly close to the foreground piggy. It makes the two of them seem very distant from each other, with the subject in the foreground occupying (eyeballing here) about three times as many pixels vertically as his friend in the background. 

I then attached a telephoto lens to the camera, and moved it back to the opposite side of the room. I zoomed in until I framed the foreground piggy similarly. The resulting shot (below) compresses the two piggies, so that the distance between them seems reduced. If you measured them on the image, the background piggy is now almost as big as the foreground one! While the wide-angle image showed a lot of depth, the telephoto image seems flatter (hence the term "compression"). It is this ability to frame a subject tightly from far away, enhancing the scale of background elements, that has given telephoto lenses a reputation for creating compression.
 

So, Is It the Lens?

You may now be thinking long lenses do indeed create compression... but not so fast! What would the image look if I used the wide-angle lens from the first image, and kept the camera in its second location? The result is below, and if you look close, you will notice that the compression is right there to be seen, by anyone who can ignore all the additional unnecessary and distracting context in the shot. The compression happened because I moved the camera, not because I changed the lens. What the telephoto lens did was to allow me to crop out all the unnecessary elements in the image. 

From this distance the piggies are a little hard to see... below is a cropped version of the same image. It has lost a lot of quality because of the extreme crop, but it gets the point across. Compare the image below, shot with a wide-angle lens, and the second image (from the telephoto), and notice that the depth perception and compression is just the same. If you eliminate the rest of the image captured by the wide angle, you can get the same composition - and compression - by cropping an image from a wider angle lens view than by shooting with a telephoto lens. Not a great idea obviously, as you are using very little of your camera's sensor and resolution, so the image quality greatly suffers! 
 

 

So there you have it, the mystery of lens compression demonstrated with the assistance of two little piggies. While I assume this is not news to most photographers, it may help to explain this phenomenon to those just getting started. 

Enjoy My Blog and My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!

Please share my blog with others, I don't blog that often but when I do, I hope it is interesting or helpful. Also, since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently, I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagramers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog compression compression in photography lens compression photographer photography photography blog portrait photography technical telephoto telephoto lens tutorial https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2019/1/no-long-lenses-dont-create-compression Sun, 27 Jan 2019 23:54:36 GMT
SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY MOVEMENT https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/9/slow-photography-movement Black Sand SilhouetteBlack Sand SilhouetteSilhouette at sunset on the black sands of New Zealand's north island coast. Not Enough Time?

Does anyone else feel like there’s not enough time in modern life? The digital world exposes us to a wealth of information and content that can educate and entertain us, and ultimately expand our worldview. However, if we’re not mindful of our consumption, all of the headlines, hollow online relationships, endless images, and targeted marketing can oversaturate our lives. More people are dreaming of escaping it all: leaving the rat race to travel the world, see more places, and gather experiences rather than things. We seek authenticity, dream of downsizing, simplifying life, having more leisure time, and making stronger connections. The van life is replacing the (chemically-treated) green lawn as the ultimate dream, and the “gig economy” is challenging the inevitability of the 40-hour work week.

"I want to maintain a more positive outlook and focus on doing the kind of photography that I enjoy doing, at the pace that I enjoy"

As I have pursued my interest in photography, balancing it with a career in architecture, I have been prone to fall into a ‘time poverty’ state of mind. The initial joy of the artistic pursuit was often giving way to anxiety, that I didn’t get out to shoot enough, that I missed on a great shooting opportunity, etc. It has become clear to me that I need to be intentional about my approach, or I won’t continue to find joy in photography! I want to maintain a more positive outlook and focus on doing the kind of photography that I enjoy doing, at the pace that I enjoy (this was dawning on me when I wrote about my first three years of photography in this blog entry). My wife and I were recently discussing this, when she suggested that I could try to practice “slow photography”. We had recently been discussing the slow food movement, and the slow approach seemed intriguing and valuable.

"Slow Photography"

The natural next step was to do some research on the slow movement, which led us to believe that this loosely defined and organized movement is the perfect cultural counterforce to the largely prevalent scarcity mindset. The slow movement emphasizes intentionality when making connections to other people and to the natural world, prioritizes quality over quantity, and experiences over material things. For example, in travel, the slow movement proposes that you take your time to get to know a place and its people, rather than quickly “checking off” the highlights that may be outlined in a guidebook.

"I've decided to create a platform for those who share a passion for a slow approach"

Excitedly, we discussed that a similar concept can apply to photography, where slowing down to truly appreciate something, and carefully consider how it is best captured, can greatly enhance the effectiveness of the image to transport a viewer into the scene. Upon doing some research, we found that this idea was – obviously – not a brilliant new revelation. The concept of a slow photography movement has surfaced several times over the past decades, meaning somewhat different things to different people and at different times. That said, there seemed to be plenty of room for some new voices and energy in the conversation.

Introducing slowphotographymovement.com

Without trying to align myself with any strict previous definition, I’ve decided to create a platform for those who share a passion for a slow approach, both fellow photographers and the community with which we share our work. I want to build a space that encourages a slow and engaged approach to photography; one that focuses on the quality of the photographic experience in a way that enhances the end result. Furthermore, I envision using our images as the foundation for making connections with each other and with our audience, telling engaging stories about the context of each image.

If you are interested in following this experiment, or in contributing, please check out the new website, Instagram feature page and Facebook page below, and contact me with any questions or suggestions:

Website: www.slowphotographymovement.com

Instagram: @slowphotographymovement

Facebook: www.facebook.com/theslowphotographymovement

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog blogging join movement photographer photography slow slow photography slow photography movement https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/9/slow-photography-movement Fri, 07 Sep 2018 02:11:39 GMT
TENT CAMPING IN ICELAND https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/8/tent-camping-in-iceland
More Iceland!

What is my most popular blog entry to date? That would be Iceland in a Camper Van - Part 1 of 2. It is coming up on 4,000 reads and counting, and Part 2 is not too far behind. This makes me think that I should write a little more about our travel adventures rather than focus only on my photography. So this entry I'll talk about our second Iceland trip, in which we decided to tent camp. 

This was a much shorter trip, really a 4-night long weekend. But the truth is we'd like to go back to Iceland, to explore more remote regions, many many times more. This particular trip we focused on exploring the Highlands a little bit more, and also took the ferry to Heimaey (the largest of the Westman Islands) and spent a night there. 

"I love Icelandic campsites, they are straightforward, generally very open and peaceful, not all that crowded, and so very free of mosquitoes"

Why a Tent This Time?

For once, it's a lot cheaper! But we also wanted to have a different experience for our second visit, and we both have been more and more into camping recently. Since this was a short trip (only four nights), it was a perfect opportunity to try out a tent. 

Unfortunately for me, I was diagnosed with pneumonia the day before the trip, and camping in rainy 40 degree weather seemed like a questionable proposition. So, based on doctor orders, we ended up getting a hotel room at the very quaint Hotel Leirubakki for the first night, while the antibiotics kicked in. They could not have been friendlier and they have no-frills accommodations for all budgets! It turned out to be the perfect stop on the drive into the Highlands. And it's just down the road from the impressive, utterly uncrowded and evidently underrated Thjofafoss (top image in this post). 

Our Camping Impressions We packed as light as possible, put everything into two big Osprey backpacks for the air travel: our Big Agnes tent, inflatable Thermarest pads, Enlightened Equipment quilts, our little MSR camping stove and of course our camping french press, etc. We rented an AWD RAV4 and off we went! We already knew what to expect in Icelandic campsites, as we brought our camper van to them in our previous trip. Hence, in a lot of ways the experience is very similar.

I love Iceland campsites, they are straightforward, generally very open and peaceful, not all that crowded (with a few exceptions), and so very free of mosquitoes. And they are, you know, in Iceland, so generally you end up surrounded by some incredibly fantastic landscapes that seem otherworldly. The ground is generally soft and flat, and the facilities minimal and secondary to the landscape. Since we had done the ring road on a previous trip, we prioritized getting to more out-of-the-way campsites this time around, which was fantastic. 

"We tent camped around June 21st, so the nights were not as cold, and with 24 hours of daylight there were no sunrises to run for! So at this time of year the two main advantages of the van are not as critical"

How does it compare to our camper van experience? Well, the camper van has some clear benefits: a space heater we could run for a while before getting into bed (this was a big deal as the nights in late August got pretty chilly!), the convenience of having everything at hand without digging through bags, obviously not traveling with the gear, and stand-up room (in the van we rented) for changing, etc. But most importantly, the van allowed us to get up and go at any time without taking down a campsite (key for sunrise photography when sometimes we started driving before 4am). We were lucky it didn't rain on us when we were setting up or taking down our tent, but if it had, we sure would have preferred our van on those days! As for tent camping, really the main benefit is the much lower cost, plus the option to rent whatever vehicle you want (as in some really souped up 4x4 truck if you want to go deeper into the highlands). We tent camped around June 21st, so the nights were not as cold, and with 24 hours of daylight there were no sunrises to run for! So at this time of year the two main advantages of the van are not as critical. And we had time to enjoy the campsites and hike near and far around them. Where else can you set up your tent a few minutes walk from a view like the one below?

So, What About Next Time?

We are already dreaming of our third Iceland trip. There is so much to see! We haven't even touched the West Fjords yet! Or been there in the winter for the northern lights! Since our next visit will likely be in very cold weather, we look forward to experiencing Iceland in yet another way, likely staying in some little hotels or guest houses. 

Mossy CanyonMossy CanyonA stream runs down a mossy canyon in Thakgil, Iceland. Like My Images? Like My Writing? Spread the Word!

Since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagrammers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:

Instagram Page (@ernesto_ruiz_photography)

Facebook Page 

 

 

 

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) big agnes blog camper camper van camping car f road hiking Iceland motorhome msr osprey photography rental review ring road road trip tent tent camping travel vehicle https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/8/tent-camping-in-iceland Wed, 22 Aug 2018 02:45:31 GMT
IF YOU COULD BRING JUST ONE LENS... https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/7/if-you-could-bring-just-one-lens Beach DiamondsBeach DiamondsIce floating out of Jökulsárlón glacier bay is washed up to shore by the ocean waves.

...What Would it Be?

I often get asked which lens is my favorite, the one that I couldn't do without, the one that I'd take if I only got to bring one on a trip. For me the question is mostly rhetorical, as I always carry multiple lenses, even when hiking for miles or trying to travel light in the Boundary Waters. Often, when I decide to bring a lighter bag, I end up regretting it as (of course) the lens I thought I'd never need ends up being the one I needed the most. But, let's play the game! 

My Go-To Landscape Lens

Naturally, lens selection depends on subject, the light available, and many other factors. If you're going to do night photography, then a bright wide angle lens will be the choice; if you're shooting a moonrise you'll likely go for a telephoto. For this entry I'll assume that I am about to go shoot what I shoot most: landscapes. That may be coastlines, mountains, waterfalls, forests, etc. I'll also assume there is no specific subject that I could plan for in advance, which is often the case.  11-24 f/4L on Canon 5D Mark IV11-24 f/4L on Canon 5D Mark IV

Assuming those two factors, it's not actually that hard a to choose my go-to lens! If absolutely forced to just bring one, I would grab the Canon 11-24 f/4L and not look back. (It may be a monster but the game was to identify one lens, and I didn't hear any specific rules against heavy, bulky ones!) A few examples of images captured with that lens are included in this post. 

Really?! But Why?!

Some people have expressed surprise at my bias for this lens but I just love it so much! In a super crowded world of photographers and beautiful images, I am always looking for ways to differentiate my work. Shooting ultra-wide opens more compositional opportunities at a zoom range in which the vast majority of people can't shoot. Most people can't even get close to 11mm. Keep in mind that this lens goes to a true 11mm on a full frame sensor, not a crop-sensor (which, when adjusted, could be in the 16-17mm range). What's more, it does that while keeping lines straight, this is not a fisheye lens. 

"if you get close to subjects and find interesting foregrounds, you can do wonders exaggerating perspectives and creating dramatic leading lines"

Kvernufoss FigureSilhouette standing below Kvernufoss. While it's true that composing an ultra-wide shot can be challenging, the results can be incredibly dramatic when you get it right. The dangers of shooting ultra wide are often cited as resulting in too much boring foreground or sky, and putting your subject too far away. But if you get close to subjects and find interesting backgrounds, you can do wonders exaggerating perspectives and creating dramatic leading lines. 

For added points, this lens is built like a tank. Trust me, I found out through experience, dropping my camera with the lens attached on a concrete floor. It landed glass down (without the protection of a lens cap), and the built-in hood somehow absorbed the force while gathering only a tiny hairline crack at the base of the hood only visible with close inspection. Since then, the lens has continued to work with no effect on performance or image quality!

"you can't expect to capture great images that stand out from what everyone is shooting if you aren't willing to bring some real equipment with you!"

What I Would Give Up

An ultra-wide is not be best lens for photographing people, you have to be very careful where you place them in the composition so as to not distort bodies too much. But remember, I was grabbing a lens for landscape photography, not for family pictures. The huge, beautiful glass element on Black Sand SilhouetteBlack Sand SilhouetteSilhouette at sunset on the black sands of New Zealand's north island coast. this lens also prevents the use of filters on its face. However, this lens makes it up by having a slot on the rear end where you can insert gels to act as neutral density filters, and I am happy with that. I have shot waterfalls in broad daylight with it, and slowed the shutter down to capture beautiful flowing water. The only other kind of filter I generally use is a circular polarizer, but polarizing at such wide angles could yield strange effects anyway. The real drawback to carrying only this lens would be in zoom range, as I'd be limiting myself to wide angle landscape photography. 

"For added points, this lens is built like a tank."

What I Actually Do

Himatangi DriftwoodHimatangi DriftwoodDriftwood at sunset, Himatangi Beach, New Zealand. So, beyond the rhetorical, there have been times when I've brought very limited equipment: occasions like a few days in the boundary waters, a multi-day hike on the Superior Hiking Trail, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. I own seven lenses at this moment, and that makes for a very heavy bag! What have I done on those occasions? I've brought two lenses, the 11-24 f/4L and the 24-70 f2.8L ii, which is my most versatile lens. Sure, it's not a super-light load, but hey, you can't expect to capture great images that stand out from what everyone is shooting if you aren't willing to bring some real equipment with you! 

Enjoy My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!

Since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagrammers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:

Instagram Page (@ernesto_ruiz_photography)

Facebook Page 

 

 

 

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 11-24 11mm best best lens blog canon f/4L full frame hobbyist landscape photography lens lens review photographer photography review technical travel photography ultra wide wide angle https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/7/if-you-could-bring-just-one-lens Sat, 07 Jul 2018 13:49:10 GMT
SHOOTING SUN STARS https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake "Is that a Fake Sun Star?"

I have been asked a few times whether the sun stars in my Sun Rays and SunflowersSun Rays and SunflowersThe sun shines through a field of sunflowers. This image is featured in my blog entry about shooting sun stars: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake photos are real or "added". They are real! I never add anything to my images that was not captured by the camera. While I am sure there are filters and programs out there that let you create fake sun stars, I have exactly zero interest in doing that kind of work. Ultimately, I believe that capturing the real thing will always look better.

"You Shoot in Daylight?"

Why shoot in the sun at all? It is common knowledge that most incredible shots captured by landscape photographers are during "blue hour", before sunrise or after sunset when the light is soft. I have read professional advice suggesting that to be a successful landscape photographer, one should shoot exclusively at those times. It is true that capturing landscapes under the direct light of the sun can be challenging, with details getting lost in the high contrast or glare, often resulting in harsh images. That said, I love shooting the sun and using it as part of a composition. Shot effectively, the sun can act as a dramatic focal point to an image. 

"Low sun angles can create dramatic lighting, enhancing landscape detail and texture, and emphasizing the directionality of the light"

"Don't Shoot into the Sun!"

There are many things to consider when shooting the sun. Many will tell you that the first is to take care in not damaging your eyes or your equipment. If you are shooting with an SLR, the equipment will be just fine. The sensor is not exposed to the light for more than a fraction of a second when the exposure is actually taken. If you are shooting in live view mode or with a mirrorless camera, technically your sensor will be more exposed, but even then I have not heard of sensor damage to a professional camera from shooting into the sun. So I suggest focusing on taking care of your eyes. 

 

Kirkjufell SunriseKirkjufell SunriseSunrise at Kirkjufell, Iceland. This image is featured in my blog entry about making sun stars: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake

How to Shoot the Sun

I've been told that sun stars are becoming a signature element in my images. I do enjoy shooting against the sun as much as I enjoy shooting in beautiful dawn or dusk light. Shooting the sun can yield unpredictable results, but there are things to consider that will help in achieving good images:

1. Placing the sun: If you are using the sun, carefully consider it's place in the composition! The image on the left (Kirkjufell, Iceland) places it at the end of the leading line of water.

2. Time of day: Low sun angles can create dramatic lighting, enhancing landscape detail and texture, and emphasizing the directionality of the light. The Kirkjufell image was captured just as the sun was breaking the horizon at sunrise, providing dramatic lighting on the landscape elements.  Dettifoss SunriseDettifoss SunriseThe sun rises beyond the mighty Dettifoss in northeast Iceland. This image is featured in my blog entry about making sun stars: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake

3. Shielding and framing the sun: I find that one of the best ways to create beautiful images and sun stars is to shoot it as it is emerging from (or sliding behind) the hard edge of a foreground element. This could be mountains in the horizon, a tree branch, a person, anything that creates a hard edge for the sun to shine from. This helps to control the contrast in the image as well as minimize lens flare. In the image on the left (Dettifoss, Iceland), the sun was barely breaking the horizon, which helped to keep the star very well defined and the sun a more discrete element in the composition (as opposed to the image directly above, where the sun had almost fully cleared the horizon). 

"The amount of points on your sun star will depend on the amount of blades on your lens"

4. Aperture: Bean Lake ObserverBean Lake ObserverWistful observer watches the sunset over Bean Lake in northern Minnesota. Here lies the "secret" in getting sun stars in your images. You have to shoot with a small aperture. The smaller the aperture, the crisper the sun star. The super sharp sun stars on the sunflower image at the start of this post and the Dettifoss image (above) were both shot at f/22. The larger the aperture, the more the light becomes an undefined glow. The image on the right, shot with a large aperture (f/4), does the absolute opposite to defining the sun as a star, resulting in a soft glow that I felt fit this particular image better. The Kirkjufell image was shot at f/8 so it lands right in the middle in terms of sun star definition. Since aperture also relates to depth of field, and small apertures can result in loss of image sharpness by diffraction, you have to carefully consider your approach to each shot based on your goal(s) for the image. I will sometimes stack an f8 shot with an f22 shot, so that I retain all the image sharpness I want while using the sun star captured with the smaller aperture (for more on this, see my blog entry on my "Redbud Bloom" image. If you're not selling enlarged prints, don't worry about loss of sharpness, just shoot with a small aperture if you want the sun star!

5. Lens specifications: Equipment matters, and in my experience, high end professional lenses seem to make superior sun stars. But it gets more interesting than that: The amount of points on your sun star will depend on the amount of blades on your lens. Lenses with an even number of blades will create sun stars with an equal amount of points (ex. an 8-bladed lens will create 8-point stars). An example of a sun star from an 8-bladed lens is on the bottom right. Notice how I used the tree on this example to partially  Cathedral Sun StarCathedral Sun StarThe sun sets behind the cathedral of St Paul on a summer day. This image is featured in my blog entry about making sun stars: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake shade the sun and help me create  more definition on the star. Meanwhile, lenses with an uneven amount of blades will create sun stars with twice as many points (ex. a 9-bladed lens will create 18-point stars). Examples of sun stars from 9-bladed lenses are above (you may be able to make out all the points in the sunflower image). Which type of sun star fits a particular image better is a matter of artistic preference. Sometimes you only have one lens that covers a particular zoom range, but when you have multiple lenses it is another thing to consider before capturing the image. 

Happy Shooting!

That's pretty much it! I often use neutral density filters when shooting the sun, to get the correct exposure or to slow down the shutter, to capture the flow of water or the movement of the clouds, but that may be a topic for a different day. I hope this will help you capture some great sun star images of you own!

Enjoy My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!

Since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently, I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagramers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:

Instagram Page (@ernesto_ruiz_photography)

Facebook Page 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) aperture blades blog camera canon editing f22 flare how to landscape photography landscapes lenses mirrorless photographer photography photoshop sensor shooting shooting the sun star sun sun star technical tutorial https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/6/is-that-sun-fake Sun, 10 Jun 2018 22:02:50 GMT
3 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/1/3-years-of-photography

2017 is Over!

To wrap up 2017 I, like the rest of the world, created a "best nine" collage on Instagram. I then immediately started debating whether I agreed with the Instagram audience, regarding my best images of the year. Since the end of 2017 marked the end of my third year doing photography, it also got me thinking about these years: How much have I improved? Is it what I expected or wanted it to be? What the heck am I trying to do with this photography habit? 

Most Liked Images vs. Best Images?

First, these 9 images. I usually have a backlog of images to edit, so it means some cool 2017 shots weren't in the running - including some of the photos I'm most excited to share from our recent trip to New Zealand! That said, I love my image collage. It has five Minnesota images, one of Saint Paul, one in central Minnesota and three up north (including one in the BWCA). Minnesota seems well represented. Then there are four Iceland images, which is great since capturing wonderful images was one of my biggest motivations to visit there (twice now!). Are these the best nine images I posted this year though? I guess it depends on who's judging.

Me? Several of them would have made my top nine, but I would have made room or a few other shots. Don't get me wrong, the Saint Paul lightning shot is both one of the hardest earned and luckiest shots I've taken (which is why I have a whole blog post about it here), and the cave shot on the top right may actually be my favorite shot of the year (there's my favorite travel companion, on vacation in Iceland doing what we love; the depth, the layering and the lighting on the ferns really does it for me).

Below, however, are three images that would probably make my favorite 9 images of the year. I love this particular Icelandic landscape because it is just so bizarre and something you truly don't see every day. For me, the subtle color reflection on the water really brings it together and adds to the surreal atmosphere. The State Fair image was a very tough shot to get and I love the how all the tones worked together in the end, from the wheel to the tarps to the sky. I love the sunflower field shot because of the mood and the layering (I personally prefer that shot over the sunflower shot that made the collage, although the one in the collage has also been bought more times). In the end, I'd say: Close enough! It seems my estimation wasn't too far off from what my followers appreciated most. I gave up a while ago trying to really predict which images resonate most with people - whether at a show or on social media. 

"I've realized that I don't actually want to prioritize success too much, if it requires turning photography into a full-blown second job"

 

Personal FavoritesPersonal Favorites 3 Years Doing Photography

Three years have gone by since I bought my first full-frame DSLR and decided to give photography a try as a semi-serious hobby. It has turned into a lot more than what I intended in the first place. I imagined capturing higher quality photos for my own memories, maybe having a Facebook page, and generally sharing my images with friends and family. I'd figured I'd be lucky and happy if I ever sold a print or two. But things snowballed quickly: website, art shows, more equipment, images published, custom orders, etc. I'm somewhat blown away by it all! I would be silly and ungrateful to complain about having more success than I anticipated, but with it also came self-inflicted pressure to publish more images, to never miss a great sunset, to prioritize shooting over other activities, and to only post work that is to a certain standard. The thing is, creating the kind of image that I aim for takes a lot of patience and a lot of work. At some point, I may have gone a bit too far and forgot that I do this for fun!

I think I've turned a corner recently though; I've realized that I don't actually want to prioritize success too much, if it requires turning photography into a full-blown second job. I'd prefer to shoot when I want to, edit images when I feel like it, and hopefully still generate enough images to make the whole thing worth it. A few nights ago the Grain Belt sign was re-lit in Minneapolis and a couple of nights ago the first full moon of the year happened, but you know what? I couldn't make it out to shoot them. Luckily though, another moon is coming soon, and unless they don't maintain it properly (it IS Minneapolis, and the track record with the 35W lights is not great), that Grain Belt sign will still be there one of these days when I do feel like shooting it.  Now THIS is Fun

I love capturing beauty and doing my best to bring it to others. In particular, I enjoy traveling and the challenge of framing something in a particular way, revealing something with an image. I love photography and above all else hope to truly keep enjoying it. So I will continue doing my best at keeping up with the social media, advertising, publishing, shows, etc - but only to the extent that they don't drain the fun altogether!

Enjoy My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!

Since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagrammers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:

Instagram Page (@ernesto_ruiz_photography)

Facebook Page 

 

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) best best nine blog canon facebook hobby hobbyist instagram landscape photography marketing minnesota photographer photography priorities sales travel photography https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2018/1/3-years-of-photography Thu, 04 Jan 2018 04:16:11 GMT
SAINT PAUL LIGHTNING - BEHIND THE CAMERA https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/8/saint-paul-lightning---behind-the-camera How Did You Get That Shot?
Saint Paul LightningSaint Paul LightningLighning strikes in Saint Paul, Minnesota. See the story behind this image on my blog entry: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/8/saint-paul-lightning---behind-the-camera

It's been a while since I posted here, have been busy with work, travel, and life. All good stuff, so no complaints!

I have been meaning to get into more frequent blogging, and what I needed was a good reason to do it. I finally found it: Since I posted this image, I have received multiple comments and messages regarding the equipment or technique used to capture it. Some wondered if the photo is a composite (it's not). Others asked how I framed it 'so perfectly'? Was it luck? Did I use a lightning trigger? What camera do I use? Etc. I've been also been simply asked for advice in capturing similar images. So I figured it's time to write a blog entry about how this image was created, which involved planning, some decision making on the fly, some lightning-fast (see what I did there?) camera settings adjustments, and a significant stroke (or really, strike) of luck. 

"Clearly this storm is more dramatic from the back end, and I should try to capture it."

Snap Decisions & Assertive Driving

I doesn't come as a surprise to me anymore when it happens, but this is not the shot I went out to capture that evening. Beautiful clouds made for a promising sunset, and after studying possible angles using The Photographers' Ephemeris app, I decided to go shoot the Minneapolis skyline from near the Marshall Avenue bridge over the Mississippi river. I got a nice sunset shot, but was also drenched in the process by a rapidly moving storm cell. The picture on the left is me, trying to stay dry as the squall came through with strong winds pushing water horizontally. It didn't work very well.

When the sun went down, I packed up quickly and was feeling ready for a nice dinner. But, as I turn around and head towards the car, I see how dramatically dark the sky has turned to the northeast - there's a rainbow set against dark grey skies and flashes of lightning in the distance. Clearly this storm looks more dramatic from the back end, and I should try to capture it. I check the My Radar app and The Photographer's Ephemeris and decide to head to Prospect Boulevard in Saint Paul to get the storm behind the skyline. Most of the lightning is to the north and the storm is moving super fast, so I am trying to make good time and not feeling very optimistic I'll make it. 

On Highway 94 I get more glimpses of the horizon which is getting constantly lit by lightning, still mostly to the north but visibly shifting farther and farther east. As soon as I get on the Smith Avenue High Bridge to go across the Mississippi, I realize that I miscalculated. The storm is already on the east side of downtown, not to the north, and moving rapidly. I'm almost out of time and driving across the bridge would be pointless. The view is perfect from the north end of the bridge, right where I got on to cross it. A quick U-turn, I park the car at the first side street and literally run up the bridge to what seems to be an optimal spot at the moment. 

"Just like that, I am shooting three roughly 2-second shots every 8 seconds. I feel that I have a 75% chance of capturing something special if it happens."

Settings? Quick!

I realize that I have a very short window. The storm will not be behind the city long even from this vantage point, I can see it moving left to right in real time. I've never shot lightning before, I have no fancy lightning trigger, but I have to maximize my chances of capturing this shot. I set the tripod, mount the camera, compose the image fairly tight on the city, set and double check the focus, and hope I can capture lightning inside the composition that I created. Then here's what I did (this is where you jump ahead if you're not interested in camera settings):

I set my camera to C1 ('custom 1') shooting mode, which is often my starting point. The nice thing about custom shooting modes (at least on Canon bodies) is that there is not one thing on the camera that you are not 100% sure what it's set to when you turn the wheel to that particular mode. So in the second that it took me to rotate the dial to C1, I am certain that now I'm starting from: full resolution RAW, mirror lock, 2 second delay, three shot bracketed exposure with 2 stop increments, f8 aperture priority, ISO 100, etc. I decide that I don't have 10-15 seconds to mess around with connecting my wired remote or waiting for my WiFi remote to connect, I'll just rely on the delay and try to touch the camera as lightly as I can when I release the trigger. I do take a couple of seconds to bring up the Quick Menu and adjust the exposure, I set the bracketed shots to only 1/3 stops apart (I'm only using this feature, in this case, so that I can fire three-shot sequences every time I release the trigger, not really because I needed to bracket the shot) and I underexpose the bracket by 1.5 stops (gut feeling, the last thing I wanted to do was burn out the lightning in the image if I was indeed able to capture it). Then I switch to Live View shooting mode, so the mirror stays locked.

Just like that, I am shooting three roughly 2-second shots every 8 second, so I feel that I have a 75% chance of capturing something special if it happens. This image was captured on my second bracket, probably less than 30 seconds after the camera was mounted on the tripod. And good thing, because that was it. I kept shooting for another couple of minutes but the storm quickly moved to the right and farther away, and I had no more luck.

The morals of the story are getting to be familiar: you can't expect the shot to come to you, and fortune favors the flexible. A lucky (yet hard earned) shot on my card and it was time to go home, dry out, and eat a nice warm meal!

 

Looking for a Print?

Interested in a print of "Saint Paul Lightning"? Click on the link to see pricing and options, or contact me to discuss special orders.

Thanks for reading, please subscribe to the blog and come back often to check on my new images! Also, please follow my pages on Facebook and Instagram, where you can track my new images as I upload them: 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) behind the scenes blog canon clouds downtown how to lightning minnesota paul photographer photography saint skyline st. storm technical thunder twin cities https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/8/saint-paul-lightning---behind-the-camera Wed, 09 Aug 2017 03:15:43 GMT
DO YOU EDIT YOUR IMAGES? https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/2/do-you-edit-your-images

"...he was something of a pioneer in the artistically suspect field of color photography, which he developed with his painter's eye for color and his father's habit of an insistent, personal vision" 
John Irving, The World According to Garp


 


 

"Do You Edit Your Images?"

I often get asked whether I edit my photos, and I find the question surprising every single time. It seems to imply that an “unedited” photo would be more authentic, and therefore more valuable as art.  This goes to the heart of one’s perspective on photography - and fine art photography in particular. It is important to distinguish between fine art photography and photojournalism. Photojournalism has to abide by stricter editing standards, as it is inherently tied to the credibility of news organizations which pride themselves in reporting facts. Even so, photojournalists have always edited their images, it comes down to just how much editing is considered acceptable based on a particular context and personal preferences. In photojournalism, this amount is usually described as minimal, yet the actual parameters vary greatly and always seem to leave room for interpretation. This expectation of purity and lack of manipulation has led some photographers to distance themselves from the photojournalist tag. This includes big names such as Steve McCurry, who now defines himself as a visual storyteller in search of greater creative freedom and to keep the authenticity police at bay (Steve McCurry - Not a Photojournalist).

"...photography becomes more rewarding and authentic if the photographer takes control of the whole process of creating the image..."

Fine Art Photography Editing

In fine art photography, many people say that anything goes in regards to editing, and each photographer draws a line as to how far they are comfortable manipulating their images. So, going back to the original question; the answer is yes, of course, I edit my photos. I would argue there is no such thing as an unedited digital image (only RAW data captured by a camera sensor). I approach the process of making an image as intentionally as I can from start to finish. I pursue photography as a creative process encompassing artistic and technical skills which are applied to the conceptualizing and scouting of an image, the composing of it, knowing the ins and outs of camera equipment and settings, and finally taking the sensor data captured by the camera and turning it into the exact piece that you are trying to create. I am interested in photography as art and am trying (not claiming that I am succeeding) to create art with my images. In that sense, I feel a sense of responsibility to own as much of the process of creating as I can. 

I want to elaborate a little on images that many would consider to be unedited, for example, JPG images shot with your compact camera or phone. Even if you didn’t do anything to them, your files are automatically enhanced with contrast, tonality, sharpness, saturation, and other adjustments to produce an image that someone else decided would be pleasing. You are effectively leaving decisions to software presets designed by a camera or software company. In my opinion, photography becomes more rewarding and authentic if the photographer takes control of the whole process of creating the image, all the way from capturing it to making as many decisions in the editing process as the tools at our disposal will allow. Hence, mastery of the editing software should be celebrated rather than questioned - maybe even expected, in the same way that mastery of the darkroom was expected in the past.

It also seems that many people assume that no significant manipulations are made in the development of film photographs. In fact, the best film photographers know exactly what they are doing in the darkroom, and treat the development of the images as part of the artistic process. Take for instance this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the darkroom editing of some iconic images: Dark Room Edits (image on the left is one example from the linked article). All of those hand written notes and lines define zones in the photographs being targeted to print brighter (“dodging”) or darker (“burning”), to achieve the desired effect.

"I don’t use software that makes me feel like 'I ran my image through something to see what I got'."

These “local adjustments” (applying edits to specific areas of the image) are the kind of editing that you might expect the authenticity police to scoff at now in the digital editing age. I personally don’t see this kind of manipulation as “faking” an image or reducing its credibility, but I can understand those who argue that in photojournalism, targeted image enhancements are a questionable practice.  As art, on the other hand, it’s hard to deny that these darkroom techniques make a huge difference and significantly enhance the visual interest of these photographs. Nowadays, targeted and thoughtful edits can be made digitally without being heavy handed, to similarly enhance the final image. In fact, many of the techniques used in digital editing are inspired by darkroom techniques. I frequently dodge and burn (the same terms are still used) areas of my images “by hand” using a pressure sensitive pen and tablet. The image on the left shows one of my Glacier Lagoon images with the dodge and burn edit layers turned on (bottom) and off (top). As you can see, it's a subtle effect as I am careful not to over edit, but the technique helps the ice and water streaks stand out better from the black sand. The fact that digital editing can be easy doesn’t mean that you’ll get the best results by following that path, and I feel particular satisfaction in learning and trying to master digital editing to a similar level as the masters of film processing have done. In short, there are a lot of quick solutions out there, but there are also advanced techniques which require lots of time and practice.

"Where Do You Draw The Line?"

So how much editing is too much? What kind of editing is or is not acceptable? This, of course, is a personal matter. I don't do digital compositing (taking a scene and combining with a sky from a different place, for example). I try to minimize cloning (removing things from an image) to elements that are minimal and tertiary. I do not use digital filters or commercial presets, nor do I use HDR software or similar pre-packaged solutions. Even though I could get decent results faster, it would feel to me like outsourcing part of the artistic process. I don’t use software that makes me feel like “I ran my image through something to see what I got”. I use Lightroom and Photoshop, and I have learned to avoid doing quick edits that may be impactful but lack in good taste.

There are surely many photographers out there who take a more old school or conservative approach to editing, some may even consider film to be the only way to shoot. There are many others on the opposite end, who may call me uptight for refusing to use some of the many popular photo editing packages out there. I might cordially invite the former down from their high horse; while the latter may ask me to get off of mine.

Comments or Questions?

So what do you think? How much editing is too much for you? Please leave questions or comments below.

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) art blog burn burning canon color photography digital digital blending digital editing dodge dodging editing fine art HDR Lightroom photo photographer photography photojournalism Photoshop software tablet technical wacom https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/2/do-you-edit-your-images Sun, 26 Feb 2017 21:38:45 GMT
IMAGE EDITING - HALOS https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/2/image-editing--halos Boca CangrejosOriginal (Bad!) Edit

Halos - My Editing Pet Peeve (Or One of Them)

There are many signs that can immediately give away an over-edited image. My eyes usually go to "halos", which are white (but sometimes dark) outlines that follow a contour in an image, at transitions between bright and dark areas. When I was first learning photo editing I thought of halos as inconvenient, as they prevented me from getting the results that I wanted. I have now realized that they are actually a result of trying to do too much to an image. I've also learned that there are two surefire ways to avoid them: 1) Go take a better image and 2) Do not over-edit. 

To the right is an image that I remember struggling with at length, stubbornly trying to make something of it (I hadn't learned yet to cut my losses). I found this particular edit from when I was learning Lightroom in early 2015 and it clearly demonstrates the struggle.

"...showing an image with such a visible technical flaw says that you are not paying attention to detail."

Hello Halo! It seems I tried so hard that I threw restraint (and arguably good taste) to the wind and created an oversaturated, unrealistic, and poorly executed edit. But now, a couple of years wiser, the thing that jumps out at me when I look at this image is the halo that follows the outline of the rock formation on the top left, where it meets the sky. Halos of this kind usually result from adding excessive clarity to an image and, in my opinion, can be distracting to the point of ruining it. To the left is an enlarged detail showing the halo effect. 

"It takes a fraction of a second to move a slider too far and get an "impactful" result, and just like that you may have over-cooked your image."

You might think that halos only torment new photographers as they learn the editing software. Surprisingly, I often see halos in images posted by experienced photographers, which really makes me scratch my head. Halos scream "over-editing" to me, and I would argue that showing an image with such a visible technical flaw says that you are not paying attention to detail. 

I took a few minutes this morning to do an edit of this image based on the editing workflow that I have settled into recently. Below are two images. The first one is the mostly unedited RAW image (with the exception of a half stop increase in overall exposure to better show the shadow details). Underneath that is a new edit that I just completed based on my current editing workflow, which consists mainly of slight temperature adjustments and color toning, some subtle dodging and burning and some curves adjustments. You will notice that this edit is much less aggressive than the over-edited image shown above. In my opinion, it is a more accurate representation of the scene I photographed. You will also notice that the halo is gone. The interesting thing is that, despite its dramatic appearance, the over-edited image above is a much faster edit. This is one of the dangers of the very easy to use editing tools commonly available nowadays. It takes a fraction of a second to move a slider too far and get an "impactful" result, and just like that you may have over-cooked your image. The edit at the bottom takes significantly more time and careful attention, but the result is much more subtle and natural... arguably the goal of image editing!  

Unedited (other than slight brightness adjustment):

Unedited ImageOnly Adjustment: Slight Brightening to Show Shadow Detail Edited:
Edited ImageEdited Image: White Balance Adjustment, Color Toning, Dodging and Burning, Curves Adjustment.

Interested in a Print?

Maybe not for this image, at least not yet! I did this edit as a test to see if an image that I had given up on was salvageable, but I feel that the jury is still out. Please feel free to look at some of my other Puerto Rico images:

Puerto Rico Images

Editing Questions or Comments?

So what do you think? Am I right about which edit is better? There is no objective way to establish that, but I feel that one is a result of editing software making it too easy to radically transform (and potentially ruin) an image, while the other one is an intentional result based on careful consideration and detail-oriented work. I am happy to discuss digital image editing, so please leave your thoughts or comments below! Also, keep an eye on my blog for further posts on editing topics, as well as more "behind the camera" and travel-related entries. If you like what I'm doing, please consider following me on social media:

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Thanks for reading!

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog canon digital editing halos HDR Lightroom photo photographer photography Photoshop software technical https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/2/image-editing--halos Mon, 06 Feb 2017 04:06:48 GMT
MIRROR LAKE TREE SUNSET - BEHIND THE CAMERA https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/1/mirror-lake-tree-sunset---behind-the-camera Mirror Lake Tree SunsetMirror Lake Tree SunsetTree silhouette at Mirror Lake State Park, WI. See my blog post on this image: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/1/mirror-lake-tree-sunset---behind-the-camera

That Desperate Feeling at Sunset

Some time last year, while driving home from a run to the hardware store, my wife observed that sunsets seem to have turned stressful for me since becoming a photographer. You see, we were witnessing the most jaw-dropping sunset imaginable (at least she was, I was getting glimpses in my rear view mirror while she assured me it wasn't "that great"), and I was kicking myself for missing it. I may or may not have been pouting or groaning... it's hard to recall. 

Most of the time I think of photography as a positive force that drives me to get out more and see sunrises that I would have otherwise slept through, and experience sunsets more deeply. But her point is valid; there have been times when I stress over the sunsets that I have missed capturing, while running forgettable errands or simply failing to find a suitable foreground for making an image. 

The sunset in the image above was nearly another one of those missed opportunities. "Mirror Lake Tree Sunset" was captured at Mirror Lake State Park in Wisconsin, as we wrapped up our two-day drive from Toronto back to our home in Saint Paul. Driving down Highway 94 that afternoon, I kept watching the clouds and wishing for the perfect subject to appear along the road, knowing that the sky was looking promising for sunset. The unassuming little State Park was a bit of a long shot but I agreed to stop at my wife's insistence. We visited the lake first, but the windy day and sunset angle were not going to help in making a great image there. So the scramble began as we started looking for an alternate location to shoot, just as the colors started appearing in the sky. Sunset colors don't last long, and we seemed hopelessly lost in a grid of rural roads without a proper subject.

"...it seemed desperate and possibly too late to try running through the thick grasses. Besides, who knew what I might step in or trip over on the way?"

Then, after some crazy minutes of speeding along the little roads under the colors, we saw this tree in the distance. Last year, in a similar rush for a foreground subject at sunset, I shot a tree silhouette in Afton that worked out great, so I thought, why not again? The problem was the big field of tall grasses standing between me and the prairie area where I could get a clean shot of the tree. 

For what seemed like an hour (but was really probably half a minute) I hesitated, as it seemed desperate and possibly too late to try running through the thick grasses. Besides, who knew what I might step in or trip over on the way? But my wife, knowing me too well, insisted. It can't be that bad, she said, and I would regret not trying. (She may have been pretty wrong about the first thing, but not about the second.) So we parked the car on the side of the road and ran like crazy. 

Capturing the Image

The tall "grasses" turned out to be a dense, prickly thicket with uneven terrain. After bushwhacking through the stuff for a few slow and desperate minutes, I (we) got to the clearing with plenty of stuff stuck to our clothes and an especially prickly something that had found its way into my shoe; I was almost hoping on one leg by the end. I quickly mounted my telephoto lens and looked at multiple ways to frame the tree, settling on the off-center composition with lots of sky. I had to set the tripod low, so that the landscape covered other distractions in the distant background. While I missed the colors on the foreground clouds, which had been lit up just a minute earlier, I still like how the dark grey clouds play off against the colors behind them. 

"...you could argue that in this image the tree and the sky are both trying to be the star of the show."

You Gotta Want It I think it works, but it's interesting how different this image is from the previous silhouette that I had shot in Afton, MN. The simpler sky in that image served as a more neutral background for the tree, while you could argue in that in this image the tree and the sky are both trying to be the star of the show. 

The image was shot at 88mm, ISO 100 (for a cleaner file), f8.0 aperture (sweet spot for sharpness) and 1/13 second shutter speed (there were no leaves to flap around in the wind). 

As we took a more leisurely and careful hike on the way back to the car, my wife admitted to have underestimated just how inconvenient the little trek would be (confession evidenced on the video to the right). It was not until the next day that I realized I had lost both my lens cap and hood for the lens I used; I probably left them sitting in the darkness next to the camera bag in my rush to get in and out of there (and get that thing out of my shoe!). Though the image I captured may not have been that perfect shot I was hoping for while we drove around like mad, it is the shot I got. Best of all, rather than kicking myself over a missed opportunity, I walked away with an image I like and one heck of a memory. 

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Interested in a print of "Mirror Lake Tree Sunset"? Click on the link to see pricing and options, or contact me to discuss special orders.

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) behind the scenes blog canon clouds Dells photographer photography silhouette sky sunset technical tree Wisconsin Wisconsin Dells https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2017/1/mirror-lake-tree-sunset---behind-the-camera Tue, 17 Jan 2017 03:22:54 GMT
ICELAND IN A CAMPER VAN - PART 2 of 2 https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/12/iceland-in-a-camper-van---part-2-of-2 Following up on my last entry, here are the specifics of our Iceland ring road trip. The map below shows how far we drove and where we stayed each night. I alternated the colors of the drive for each day, and included some of the more significant detours. 

"The first thing to consider is whether the ring road is what you want to do."

Don’t take this map to mean that I suggest you follow this schedule, or that I consider it optimal. We arrived in Iceland with a very different idea of how our ring road drive was going to go, but quickly allowed weather and other factors to change our route direction and schedule.  Our Yellow Van with Clouds

"We did the loop in 8 nights and I wouldn't recommend doing it in any less time."

Ring Road or Not

The first thing to consider is whether the ring road is what you want to do. Don’t let the fact that it’s an “island” fool you - Iceland is vast and full of wonderful areas, each of which you could spend days or weeks exploring. The wonderful drive around the ring road does take you close to many of the famous landmarks, with some others just a small detour away, and proved to be a great way to get a small taste of many things.  We did the loop in 8 nights and I wouldn’t recommend doing it in any less time; it would be possible but in my opinion would feel rushed and you would miss out on too much. I wish we had allowed for twice as much time, but even a few more nights would have been welcome. As long as you don’t expect to take big detours off the ring road, and the weather cooperates, 8 nights should work. For a shorter vacation, I would recommend more specific destinations, such as a couple of nights in the Snæfellsnes peninsula and/or 2-3 nights along the southern shore between Reykjiavík and Jökulsárlón. 

Our Ring Road Trip, Day to Day

  • Day 1: Reykjavík to Ólafsvík with a drive around the Snaefellsness peninsula.  Driving time: +/- 4 hours

Highlights: Búðakirkja church, beaches and rock formations around Snæfellsjökull, Kirkjufell (too crowded midday, decided to come back for sunrise the next day).

Campsite 1: Ólafsvík campsite, just east of the town, which had lots of room for our van and newer clean facilities.

  • Day 2: Ólafsvík to Góðafoss, with sightseeing detours and thick fog slowdowns.  Driving time: +/- 10 hours

Highlights: Kirkjufell at sunrise, coffee in the picturesque town of Stykkishólmur, a detour to the Barnafossar and Hraunfossar waterfalls, another detour to Hvitserkur, and the town of Akureyri (ok, so we pretty much didn’t see it as it was buried in fog).  This was our long driving day, as we drove through not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 intense fog clouds, some of which lasted for over an hour and slowed us down significantly.

Campsite 2: Fossholl Ehf campsite, walking distance to Góðafoss! We arrived late and tired, and we missed the campsite on the first drive through, as it is located behind the gas station and the guesthouse.

  • Day 3: Góðafoss to Mývatn (Enough driving! Time to hike!).  Driving time: +/- 45 minutes

Highlights: A great hike in the Mývatn area that included the Grjótagjá cave and Hverfjall crater, the Dimmuborgir lava rock formations, and a relaxing swim at the Mývatn Nature Baths.

Campsite 3: Vogahraun guesthouse on Lake Mývatn. Campsite with a pizzeria on site (that has beer!) after a couple of days of dehydrated meals: Priceless. 

  • Day 4: Mývatn to Fáskrúðsfjörður.  Driving time: +/- 5.5 hours

Highlights: Sunrise hike around Dettifoss (45 minute pre-sunrise drive from Mývatn), hiking up to Hengifoss (worth the detour!), spotting a reindeer, driving some of the east fjords.

Campsite 4: We were going to stay at the Stöðvarfjörður campsite, but the lack of hot water and small facilities made up push up to Fáskrúðsfjörður.  We were glad we did! It is a great campsite nestled at the end of the fjord with wonderful private showers and beautiful scenic surroundings.

  • Day 5: Fáskrúðsfjörður to Skaftafell.  Driving time: +/- 4.5 hours

Highlights: Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón, picking up a hitchhiker.

Campsite 5: Skaftafell camping is huge, but that does not mean better. We experienced significant wait for bathrooms, not all of which had hot water. But location is great, especially the easy hike to Svartifoss, which we did first thing next morning.

  • Day 6: Skaftafell to Vík í Mýrdal.  Driving time: +/- 2 hours

Highlights: Svartifoss, Fjadrárglyúfur Canyon, Reynisfjara beach, Reynisdrangar sea stacks and the Dyrhólaey headleands.

Campsite 6: The campsite at Vik was big and crowded. The facilities felt older and we had to stand in line for showers, which were double stalls (no privacy). There was no hot water, as it had run out.

  • Day 7: Vík í Mýrdal to Kaffi Langbrók.  Driving time: +/- 2 hours

Highlights: Skogafoss, Nauthúsagil (found by chance on a detour into road F249), Landeyjahafnarvegur beach, Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

Campsite 7: The small campsite at Kaffi Langbrók had a nice bar with a friendly host as well as basic facilities. There was only one shower (inside what seemed to be labeled as the women’s bathroom, but was naturally being used by both). The shower was not draining properly and water accumulated several inches. It was a nice place otherwise and seemed frequented more by Icelanders than tourists.

  • Day 8: Kaffi Langbrók to Skjòl Campground. Driving time: +/- 3.5 hours

Highlights: Gluggafoss, Hjálparfoss, Stöng Viking longhouse runis, Þjóðveldisbærinn (a recreation of Stöng), Haifoss, and Geysir.

Campsite 8: Skjòl Campground is a newer facility and large campground with very convenient access to Gullfoss and Geysir.

  • Day 9: Skjòl Campground to Reykjavík.  Driving time: +/- 2 hours

Highlights: Gullfoss at sunrise, then back to return our Snail! We spent the afternoon in Reykjavík and night #9 at the guest house owned by the Snail company. Be sure to check out the Harpa concert hall and Hallgímskirkja church!

And that's basically it! We saw so much, and yet missed so much more! Aldeyjarfoss was very high on my list, but we had to make a call to skip it for schedule reasons. Same for the town of Seydisfjordur. Other big parts of the island, such as the West Fjords or the harder to reach inland areas, are bigger commitment destinations and I am sure are worth visiting as trip destinations all by themselves. I hope these blog entries will help those of you planning an Iceland visit. There are many wonderful sources of information, yet Iceland can still seem like a little bit of a mystery until you experience it for yourself. Please feel free to leave comments, reach out to me with questions, and help me share this blog with anyone who may find it helpful. I would also love to hear some of your favorite places and any recommendations you have for my next trip! Also, check out my images from the trip (as well as our additional Iceland trips) in the gallery below, and let me know if you need help with a custom print:

Iceland Photo Gallery

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog camp sites camper camper van camping car car camping Dettifoss driving f road Gullfoss Iceland motorhome photography rental review ring road road trip schedule Snail travel https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/12/iceland-in-a-camper-van---part-2-of-2 Mon, 26 Dec 2016 20:20:34 GMT
ICELAND IN A CAMPER VAN - PART 1 of 2 https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/11/iceland-in-a-camper-van---part-1-of-2 My wife and I spent nine nights in Iceland, chasing beautiful landscapes and waterfalls for adventure and photographic purposes. I've received many questions regarding our schedule, logistics and photographic highlights. While I am blogging separately about details of individual shots captured during the trip, I thought it could be helpful to share some general information about how we approached our first Iceland visit and what we learned in the process. In particular, I am writing about our impressions of living in a camper van in Iceland for 8 nights (we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Reykjiavík, owned by the caper company we rented for, on the 9th night).
This 2-part blog entry will be more travel than photography blog.

We stumbled upon the camper van approach mostly by procrastination; we had booked plane tickets very early but dragged our feet looking for accommodations. We hadn't quite understood how scarce accommodations were in some parts of the island and how spread out many of the places we wanted to visit were. When we finally got around to figuring out the logistics of our trip, we panicked briefly when we realized how challenging it would be to book accommodations in 9 different hotels around the island. Luckily, we discovered the popular camper van option. We gladly booked a van and shifted the paradigm of the trip in our heads - this would be a great trip, but very different from what we originally imagined. The van relieved us from doing too much scheduling in advance and turned out to be the perfect approach for our first visit. 

"One of the main benefits of the van became apparent immediately after our arrival: ultimate schedule flexibility."

Camper Van Benefits

Having rented our camper van, we planned on doing the famous “ring road” in a counter-clockwise direction and came up with a general schedule of how far we might go each day, based on some research and educated guesses. One of the main benefits of the van became apparent immediately after our arrival: ultimate schedule flexibility. Important to note, Iceland weather is extremely unpredictable, so having a rigid schedule in advance may not be the best way to experience the island... Shortly after landing on a misty overcast day, we were at the camper van rental hub and the owner of the company showed us the local weather map (she was very helpful, see information on Snail.is under "Our Van" below). She encouraged us to drive north that day rather than south. “Follow the good weather”, she recommended, pointing out the sunny forecast on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. So only an hour into our trip, we completely turned our schedule around and embarked on a clockwise drive around the island. Her advice to move with the sun was excellent and it seemed to have set things rolling in the right direction. With additional schedule tweaking along the way (driving farther here, skipping a landmark there), and some good luck, the good weather days kept coming for the full duration of the trip.

Another benefit of the camper van for photographic purposes was the ease of hitting the road in the morning and wrapping up the day after sunset. On several occasions, we got up at 4 a.m., used the campsite bathrooms and were on our way to photograph the sunrise over some wonderful Icelandic landscape before many other tourists had shown up. Becca could pretty much stay in bed while I drove, and we arrived before 5 a.m. at places like Kirkjufell, Dettifoss, and Gullfoss. Having such majestic locations nearly to yourselves really enhances the power of the experience, not to mention gives you the opportunity to capture images that would be hard or impossible to capture in a sea of tourists. I can’t imagine this would have been as easy or fun if we had to take down a campsite in the cold before starting to drive. Conversely, we arrived at a few of our campsites late at night after some grueling drives and were off to bed in a matter of minutes.

"If you want to push farther inland, rent something with humongous tires!"

Camper Van Considerations

While I can’t think of many drawbacks to the camper van experience, there are a few things to consider. 1) It is not cheap, 2) you can’t go everywhere, and 3) it is not a hotel. On the first point, it’s important to know that Iceland is generally expensive. With that in mind, one could argue that while not “budget travel” by any extent of the imagination, our camper van at around $300 USD a night was not a terrible deal considering we got a car plus a place to sleep. Still, cost is a factor to consider. As to where you can and cannot go, most camper vans listed for rent are not allowed to be driven on “F roads”.

While you can access the majority of the most famous locations on regular roads, “F roads” are required to get to some destinations. A few places are reached by roads that may not technically be “F roads” but are still very rough and all-wheel drive is a must. The van we rented was all-wheel drive and allowed on F-roads by the rental company, which gave us the peace of mind to push through some rougher roads to get to places like Háifoss and Gjáin. We are not particularly daring drivers, though, so we did not drive up to the highlands or ford any rivers (rental insurance won't cover you if you do). While the van may have been “allowed” on F roads, it was certainly not the kind of rugged off-road vehicle that we would take any chances in. If you want to push farther inland, rent something with humongous tires! Lastly, the camper van experience is most like camping, albeit a little easier than staying in a tent. If you have never camped before, it may feel a little bit like “roughing it”. Even in August it got down into the 40s at night, although our down sleeping bags provided by the rental company kept us warm. We mostly ate dehydrated foods we brought with us (not many food options in the distant areas, especially for us vegetarians), and drank instant coffee (quite the sacrifice for us, as we are coffee enthusiasts, to say the least).

"We slept at campsites every night for the convenience of the facilities, and out of respect for the landscape."

If you are on the ring road, it seems that there is always a campsite within an hour drive. We slept at campsites every night for the convenience of the facilities (toilets, showers – sometimes with hot water), and out of respect for the landscape (don’t be the ugly tourist!)We had impulsively bought an unlimited yearly camping card thinking that this would be a great deal, but it was not a good purchase since not all campsites on the island are covered by the card. Half of the nights we ended up staying on non-covered campsites based on our constantly developing schedule and proximity to our destinations.

Our Van

We rented our camper van from Snail.is. It Morning at a Campsite is a family owned company who make their own van conversions, offered one free night at their Reykjavík area B&B on either end of our rental, and shuttled us around as needed on arrival and departure days. We had lots of fun with the fact that we were driving in a yellow van with clouds painted on top. We still have fun showing off the pictures of it to friends and family. While we heard that other customers named their vans, we took to referring to ours simply as “The Snail” (because really, what better name than that?). It was a well-used vehicle with a few quirks and a good amount of miles on it, but it performed solidly for us with no significant issues. While some of the rentals from other companies seemed to be shinier or newer (some of the other Snails were newer as well), our VW Syncro van took us to some places that some others wouldn’t have (I met another photographer at Gullfoss who told me he had turned around after attempting to make Háifoss on his two wheel drive camper van). It was also roomier than most of the camper vans we saw around (we rented the Snail 1, and were glad to have the extra volume). The van had a space heater that we ran for about an hour before going to bed, a gas stove, curtains for privacy, full array of dishes and cookware, and an alternator powered outlet for charging our phone, camera batteries and other electronics. Driving back to the Snail center on the last day, we were scheming ways to bring our trusty Snail back to the U.S. with us.

Next Blog Post

Next time I will get into the specifics of our trip on a day-by-day basis, some of our favorite stops, and the things we want to go back for. In the meantime, please check out my Iceland images here as I keep uploading them over the next weeks:

Iceland Photo Gallery

Finally, please leave comments and questions below, and help me share this blog with anyone who may find it helpful!

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) blog camper camper van camping car car camping Dettifoss f road Gullfoss Iceland motorhome photography rental review ring road road trip Snail travel vegetarian vehicle https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/11/iceland-in-a-camper-van---part-1-of-2 Thu, 24 Nov 2016 04:28:00 GMT
COVER IMAGE: CAPTURE MINNESOTA V: "MINNESOTA IN SEASONS" https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/11/cover-image-capture-minnesota-v-minnesota-in-seasons Minnesota In SeasonsMy image on the cover of TPT's book "Minnesota In Seasons: A Photographic Journey Through Minnesota"

Book Release Party

This past Friday I attended the open house and book release party for the TPT / Capture Minnesota book "Minnesota In Seasons: A Photographic Journey Through Minnesota". I had received notice that one or more of my images would be used in the book, but I did not know which. It was a very fun event where I got to put faces to names for many photographers whose work I am familiar with, and an inspiring atmosphere with a projector and multiple large screens around the room displaying all of the selected images.

During the event, several prize winners and the book cover were unveiled. I was in disbelief when one of my photographs was announced as the featured book cover image, along with four other beautiful images from other photographers. Considering all the wonderful and varied images in the book, I am very humbled to be featured! I spent the last half hour of the event exchanging signatures with other photographers, trying to get several of the images in the book signed by their creators. My wife found this particularly amusing. To hear her tell it, we looked like high school kids signing each others' yearbooks.

"take some time to observe what mother nature may have up her sleeve"

The Hike Behind the Image

Once the surprise subsided, I started thinking of all the planning and effort that went into making this image, of how I even hesitated setting the alarm for that early morning, in which case I never would have had the image in the first place. I also recalled how (as it often happens) this particular picture was not "the shot" that I went out to capture that morning; it often turns out that if you stay a little longer, look for other angles and compositions, and take some time to observe what mother nature may have up her sleeve at a particular moment, you might find a more unique shot than what you were aiming to capture in the first place. 

"Fog Shovel" was captured the morning of June 26th this year. My brother-in-law, Nick, and I had done a two day hike on the Superior Hiking Trail, going a long up-and-down 15 miles on the first day, then a tired 5 miles on the next one. It was my first time hiking the trail, and I highly recommend it! We then stayed at Camp 61 hotel in Beaver Bay, ready to drive back to the Twin Cities in the morning. Even before the weekend hiking trip, we had discussed that on this last morning we could get up early and go up to Palisade Head so I could capture the sunrise, then get an early start on the drive back. I remember going to bed that night, extremely exhausted from the hike and thinking just how nice it would be to sleep in, and asking Nick if he would still be up for it. Just a few days removed from the longest day of the year, sunrise was at 5:11am. I usually want to be set up and shooting at least a half hour before sunrise because the colors can be very pretty then! Plus, we already knew that we'd have to hike up the hill since we had confirmed the gate wouldn't be open so early. So while I knew it would be the right decision - you never regret getting up to photograph the sunrise - I was tired and hesitating! His reply: "If you're up for it, I'm up for it, I don't care". He wasn't going to give me any excuses, so I begrudgingly set the alarm for 4am and went to bed. 

"sometimes having a clear idea of what you want to capture can work against you"

Early Morning at Palisade

The vehicle gate to Palisade Head was indeed closed, so we had to hike up in the twilight on our tired legs. To my delight, the fog was rolling from the lake towards shore, and I used a wide angle lens to capture a couple of images of the Palisade Head cliff before dawn and right at sunrise. This image is one of the shots that I planned, and I was pretty happy with the result. However, sometimes having a clear idea of what you want to capture can work against you. I have been trying to teach myself to slow down, look around, and see if there is something else to be captured, in addition or even instead of a pre-conceived notion. In this case, it wasn't until I had captured the cliff shot that I had come for that I noticed how the fog was rolling over Shovel Point in the distance, hiding and revealing it every few seconds. You can actually see it in this image, if you squint at it real close you will see just to the right of the cliff (to the left of the sun) the little mound of fog in the distance rolling over Shovel Point. All I needed was to change my lens so I could make Shovel Point the subject of my next image. I grabbed my telephoto, composed the shot to my satisfaction (getting close enough to make Shovel Point recognizable, yet maintaining enough of the fog and the lake for context) and waited for the right moment in the constantly changing scene.

I was able to capture this instance when most of Shovel Point is covered, yet the very point of it is visible - seeming cutting through the fog. I liked how the land form and fog intersect in the image, almost creating a (very flat) "X". The image was captured at 135mm at ISO 100, f8 aperture and 1/6 second exposure. 

Fog ShovelFog ShovelFor rolls over Shove Point. See my blog entry: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/11/cover-image-capture-minnesota-v-minnesota-in-seasons

Needless to say, I am very glad that we got up on our tired legs and enjoyed this beautiful sunrise. Witnessing such beauty at a special place like this creates memories that stay with you forever, in a way that an additional couple of hours of sleep do not.

I am very impressed with the book as a whole; it is beautifully formatted and edited and the images are laid out thoughtfully and intentionally. Beyond that, it is a great representation of the active and enthusiastic community of Minnesota photographers. As I look through the images, I feel honored to be in the company of so many talented people!

Interested in a Print?

To purchase a print of Fog Shovel, click on the image above to see options and pricing, or contact me to discuss custom orders.

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) Beaver Bay behind the scenes blog book Canon Capture Minnesota fog healthcare images hiking how to lake Lake Superior Minnesota Minnesota in Seasons mist north shore Palisade Palisade Head photographer photography photography book Shovel Point Silver Bay sunrise superior hiking trail technical Tettegouche https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/11/cover-image-capture-minnesota-v-minnesota-in-seasons Mon, 07 Nov 2016 02:59:19 GMT
BUðIR ON A DREARY DAY - BEHIND THE CAMERA https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/10/budir-on-a-dreary-day-behind-the-camera Black ChurchBlack ChurchBlack church in Búdir, Iceland. See my blog entry about this image: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/10/budir-on-a-dreary-day-behind-the-camera

Iceland Sells at 2016 St. Paul Art Crawl

Last weekend I enjoyed a fun and successful time at the St. Paul Art Crawl at the Union Depot building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. It can be hard work getting ready for a show, with the obvious printing, packing, transporting and bookkeeping chores. What I find the most challenging, however, is deciding which images to print, at what sizes and in what medium. I can struggle with this for days, although I have already learned that what often sells the most is not what you expect.

I have been told that local images sell best, so for a St. Paul show I would expect St. Paul images to sell most, followed by images of greater Minnesota. While this is sometimes true, I was pleasantly surprised when my first sale at the St. Paul Art Crawl was a matted print of this image of the black church in Búðir, taken during our Iceland visit in August. 

Why was I so amused that this was the first image to sell? Mainly because it's an image that I captured under less than ideal shooting conditions. After trying to capture the church from multiple locations and angles, I was almost ready to admit that there was nothing special happening with the light or the sky and that I would have to wait until my next visit to get a good shot here. It was dreary, gray and misty. It took some encouragement from my wife and her active participation is helping me look for different vantage points until I found a strategy and composition that captured the moment. 

Capturing the Image

To get this image, I walked far enough from the church so that I could use a longer focal length to frame it in the context of the ice-capped mountain beyond. The mist helped to separate the church from the mountain in the distance, enhancing the mood and depth of the image. While the image was shot at a standard full frame 3:2 ratio, I gave it a more square 5:4 crop (this is one of the few crop ratios I use, common in 8x10 images), allowing me to remove cars in the parking lot just to the left of the cropped frame and another building just to the right. I tried to frame the image as tightly as possible using the peak of the mountain on the top right to balance out the extreme bottom left location of the church.

The bird? That was just sheer luck. I don't think I noticed it until I looked at the file on the computer.

The 155mm image was captured at ISO 100 (for a cleaner file), f5.0 aperture (I was not concerned with getting "razor" sharpness in the mountain in the distance, just on the church) and 1/160 second shutter speed. While this shutter speed could be hand held at 155mm, especially since the lens I was using is stabilized, I always shoot on a tripod if at all possible, lock the mirror, and use a remote release or timer on the camera, to minimize the chance of vibration and getting the sharpest image possible (pays off when printing large). 

Another reason why I really enjoyed this prompt and unexpected sale is that it was the last image that I decided to print for the show. I had printed only a couple of Iceland images (because I wanted to show them, even if they didn't sell!) but then at the last minute decided to bring a few additional ones. Maybe the most important reason, though, is that it is a good reminder that dramatic and jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets are not the only times to shoot, and that sometimes it is more rewarding to capture a good image when it seems like a bigger challenge to do so.

"an image that evokes a powerful emotion from someone can feel as familiar to them as a location they have been to"

Local or Familiar?

I sold several other Iceland images at the Crawl, which once again made me question the common knowledge that "local" is what sells. Although it is understandable that local images appeal to people because they are places that they recognize or have memories at, maybe familiarity doesn't have to be geographical. I had several conversations with crawlers who described the way that an image resonated with them based on feelings or the mood of the image, rather than the specific location. Hence, an image that evokes a powerful emotion from someone can feel as familiar to them as a location they have been to. Perhaps there is a certain appeal in an image that brings you to a familiar mental or emotional place. Or maybe I am just looking for excuses to show lots of travel images, which will require more traveling in order to capture them!  Who knows!  

Here I am hiking the paths around the church looking for the perfect vantage point, and setting up once I decided on the spot:

Looking for a Print?

Interested in a print of "Black Church"? Click on the image to see pricing and options, or contact me to discuss special orders.

Thanks for reading, please subscribe to the blog and come back to check on my Iceland images as I keep uploading them to the following album in the upcoming weeks:

Iceland 2016

 

 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) behind the scenes black blog Budir Búðir Canon church Iceland mountain overcast photographer photography Snaefellness technical https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/10/budir-on-a-dreary-day-behind-the-camera Tue, 25 Oct 2016 01:09:10 GMT
RED BUD BLOOM - BEHIND THE CAMERA https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/7/gettingtheshot/redbudbloom Redbud BloomRedbud BloomRedbud Tree. See my blog entry about this image: http://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/7/gettingtheshot/redbudbloom

Popular Image at the Art-A-Whirl

“Redbud Bloom” was one of my most successful images at the Art-A-Whirl in 2016.  The image was captured just a few weeks before the show, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  As it happens frequently, this tree was not what I went out to photograph that day, and the shot was captured at the very last minute when I spotted the tree on my way to the car.

Stumbling Upon a Shot

I had been attempting to frame a shot of the low sun through wooded areas, but without a foreground subject of interest or intense sunset colors (the Arboretum closed before sunset colors would happen that day), the shots all seemed lackluster.  Once I noticed the tree with its beautiful colored blooms, I quickly started looking for ways to use it as a “frame” for the setting sun. 

"I wanted to capture the feeling of being under the colorful tree canopy, so an ultra-wide angle lens had to be used"

One of the difficulties is that the tree is right along the walking path, so backing away from it would introduce unwanted elements into the picture, which required shooting from really close.  At the same time, I wanted to capture the feeling of being under the colorful tree canopy, so an ultra-wide angle lens had to be used.  The wider the angle, the more exaggerated the perspective, which in this particular shot helped to enhance the very cool branch forms.   I found this angle which uses the strongest curve in the tree to embrace the sun, and placed it off center as a focal point to the composition. From there, the tree branches lead the eye upwards, and enough of the canopy was captured to get the feeling you are covered by it. I also like that the image breaks down into distinct areas of yellow, green, and the magenta, while the branches seem to suggest the shape of a heart.

Technical Considerations

If you're interested in the more technical aspects of the photo, keep reading (otherwise, you've been warned!). Since it was shot at 11mm (ultra-wide angle), this picture did not require a particularly small aperture to get the required focal depth (infinity focus). The main exposure was done at f8.  The resulting shot was good, with the exception that the sun didn’t become the big focal element that I wanted to create.  Hence, another exposure was shot at f22, since smaller apertures will create bigger stars out of light sources.  A small area of the f22 shot was then hand blended into the f8 shot (by “painting” part of one image into the other one using a Wacom tablet and layer masking on Photoshop).  Why not just use the f22 shot then?  It certainly would be easier, but there are two reasons:  First, it was windy, and at f22 the shutter speed was too long, resulting in leaves and branches blurring.  Second:  very small apertures take a toll on sharpness (because of lens diffraction). While these issues may not be noticeable on images seen on the web, or on small or mid-sized prints, it becomes important when printing large scale.  Below is a side by side comparison of the f22 and f8 shots, notice the difference in the prominence of the sun:

 


Once the two shots were blended, it only took some minor editing to get the color tones and contrast they way that I wanted them.  Based on the positive feedback to date on this image, I believe that it turned out ok!

Looking for Wall Art?

"Redbud Bloom" can be printed in many sizes and media. If you don't see what you are looking for, contact me to discuss custom orders. 

 


 

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(Ernesto Ruiz Photography) 11-24L aperture arboretum behind the scenes blog canon chanhassen minnesota photographer photography redbud sun sunset technical tree wide angle https://www.ernestoruizphotography.com/blog/2016/7/gettingtheshot/redbudbloom Sat, 02 Jul 2016 16:54:47 GMT