Saturday, December 31, 2016


Survivors. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Nikon 1 J4, 1 Nikon VR 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 at 10mm, f/8.0, 1/160s, ISO 400

This is one of many images I took strolling around the interior of the Dunes. There are so many amazing little scenes you can find all around the dunes with plants clinging to life in the most extraordinary circumstances as you can see here.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Purple Dawn at Alstrom Point

The purple dawn
Purple Dawn. Alstrom Point. April 9 2014.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/5.6, 30s, ISO 100.

I found this image hiding in my library. It is from a trip with photographer friends that I did in 2014 to Bisti Badlands, Alstrom Point, and White Pocket. On my way back I swung by Bryce Canyon and Calf Creek Falls. The above image had been lurking in my Lightroom catalog for quite a while, me not realizing the potential of the image. I think I now actually like it as one of the best images from that sunrise. This is a while before sunrise as you can see from the stars still being visible but a purple glow was on the clouds already and a yellow glow started at the horizon announcing the coming sunrise. If you want to see more pictures, here is an earlier blog post on this place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star trails at Ice Lakes Basin

Back in July, I spent a night up at Ice Lakes Basin in the San Juan mountains and I created the below star trails image
From here to eternity
From here to eternity. Ice Lakes Basin, San Juan Mountains.
composite of 360 images, Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 15 s, ISO 1600

The individual images were shot 15 seconds exposure and with a 1 second delay between each other. Then I composited all the frames in Photoshop in lighten blend mode and removed hot pixels and airplane traces from individual frames. I also created the below video from these frames. On youtube you can see this in full 4k resolution.
An interesting backstory here is that I had planned to get the milky way rising over the mountain in the middle but had not checked my astronomy app careful enough as it turned out to be a nearly full moon night! A little bit of moonlight is OK but this was too much to see the milky way. It did nicely light up the entire valley though.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Most memorable images from 2016

1. January 31

Pristine. Sunrise at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 22mm, F/16, 1/3s, ISO 100.
It's a great idea to look back upon a year and choose one's favorite images. I've been going through my images from this year over the last few weeks and, although the year is not over yet, have come up with some favorites or most memorable images. Some of these are not necessarily the best images but they are images that I am fond of. The image above for example was taken on a solo snowshoe hike in #RMNP Jan 31, 2016 where I encountered deeper snow conditions than I'd ever seen in the park. I was the first person up there with pristine snow everywhere (also unplowed road to the trailhead ;-) ) and it was gorgeous. The sunrise didn't materialize much but I got some good images anyway such as the iconic tree above. I also generated several photosphere panoramas that you can see on Google maps. Be sure to drag your mouse all around as these are fully immersive 360x180 spherical panoramas and they really convey what it is like to be there.

You can find more images from Dream lake, Emerald Lake and Lake Hayiaha in the links.

2. February 21

River of rock
A river of rock. Calhan Paint Mines.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 22mm, F/8, 1/15s, ISO 100. Focus stack from 5 images to get everything in pristine focus front to back.
I visited the stunning and fairly unknown Calhan Paint mines that are hidden in a little town-run interpretive park for a sunrise on Feb 21, 2016. Since the last time that I was there 100's of very impressive wind mills were added all around it but luckily the views were not spoiled. This is truly an extraordinary place and well worth a visit if you're ever near Colorado Springs. You can find an immersive panorama that I made the same morning in this link.

3. March 13

Radiance. Matthews/Winters park.
Stitch from 4 images from Nikon 1 J4, 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 at 10 mm, f/4, 1/400s, f/4.0
I took this photograph on a short hike with my wife and son over Dakota ridge. I ride this on my bike often and it is a beautiful trail. Here we were hiking back to the trailhead and we came upon this scene with clouds lit by sunset light. I often like struggling trees as you can tell.

4. May 13

Golden dawn
Golden Dawn. Chautauqua Park, Boulder open space.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, F/8, 1/30s, ISO 800. Focus stacked.
I was scouting Chautauqua park on May 13, 2016 for a sunrise photography class I would lead the next morning. This is one of the vantage points I identified there. The flowers are fantastic in spring in this place. The next morning was rain and fog the whole time which made for very different but still very interesting images as you can see next. I also hiked up to the royal arch this morning and made a few immersive panoramas there that can be experienced here and here.

5. May 14

Forest scene. Chautauqua Park, Boulder open space.
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 at 72mm, F/8, 1/80s, ISO 450.
I got many images like this the morning of May 14. So different from the day before.

6. June 24

Fairytale forest
Fairytale Forest. Boulder Brook, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, F/16, 1s, ISO 100.

This little micro landscape scene can be found along one of my very favorite places in Rocky - Boulder Brook trail. It is reached from the Storm pass trailhead and the nicest parts are hidden from view from the trail but you can easily hear the little waterfalls. In autumn this place gets covered with aspen leaves that make it look like somebody scattered gold coins all around.

7. June 24

Longs glow
Longs glow. Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 at 48mm, F/16, 1/3s, ISO 100.
The same day as I shot the small forest scene above I drove up to Forest Canyon overlook along Trail Ridge road and enjoyed sunset as it hit Longs peak. Truly a magnificent end of the day.

8. June 25

The ancient one
The ancient one. Mount Evans.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 18mm, F/16, 1/40s, ISO 100.
This image is from a sunrise on Mount Evans in the Mt. Goliath area. When the sunrise didn't materialize much, I hiked around and followed the trail up the mountain and found this tree being backlit by soft morning light. I made the sun peek through some holes in the tree branches and stopped down to f/16 to cause the sunstar to appear. This lens also has the fascinating property that next to sunstars it will show nice diffraction rainbows that are easily visible if you look at the print and even in this web sized version. You can see this image in the rotunda of the Colorado state capitol building for a few more months.

9. July 16

Upper Ice Lake dusk Ice Lake Dusk. Ice Lakes Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 18mm, F/16, 20s, ISO 100.
This image was taken on a night I spent in Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton. This is a stunningly beautiful place with seas of wildflowers, gorgeous glacially fed lakes, and rugged peaks. I was here to photograph star trails as you can see in this image. I like this image a bit better than the star trails image due to the streakiness of the clouds. If you look carefully you will spot a yellow tent on the shelf on the right. I made a time lapse of the individual images in the star trails image but I haven't shared this anywhere yet.

10. September 30

Epheremal glow
Ephemeral Glow. Bierstadt Moraine, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 at 34mm, F/11, 1/40s, ISO 400.
This image is from a wonderful fall sunset hike I took with my son up to Lake Bierstadt and back. We hiked up the Moraine which was covered in aspen trees that were in full fall regalia. I took many images but this is one of my favorites for sure. Afterwards we had a great mexican dinner in Estes Park.

11. September 30

Night on the moraine
Night on the Moraine. Bierstadt Moraine, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, F/8, 30s, ISO 100.
This is from the same fall sunset hike as the previous image. This was way after sunset when we were hiking down. The very long exposure caused the lights from one of the RMNP busses to smear out causing the little S in the center. The dusk light really deepened the color of the fall leaves.

12. October 23

Curving. Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Stitched from 3 images. Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, F/16, 1/6s, ISO 100.
On October 23 I hiked up to Chasm Lake together with my good friend Jean-David to see the sunrise. We discovered many small patches of ice on the edge of the lake and I used this one as a nice foreground element. The blobs are drops hanging from the bottom of the ice. This was a glorious morning in an amazing place. I also created an immersive panorama that you can experience in this link.

I hope you enjoyed this series of images as much as I enjoyed showing them to you! Happy holidays and a happy new year to all.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Deep dusk

Deep dusk
Deep dusk.
Badlands National Park July 23, 2009. 75 megapixel Stitch from 9 shots from Nikon D300, 18-55mmf/3.5-5.6 at 35mm, f/16, 3.0s.

I ran across this possible shot going through old pictures in Lightroom just recently. This was taken at dusk in Badlands National Park in South Dakota, a truly remarkable place. Strangely, I had never stitched these images together. The badlands take on amazing colors at sunrise/sunset and are sometimes even more deeply colored at dusk. Hope you enjoy this image.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Andrews Creek

In the process of cleaning up my Lightroom catalog I am running into 100's of images I love. Here are two images from Andrews Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park that I took on July of 2015. I published one image from here but have never shown two others that I love. These are both at the point where the semisecret trail (it's not marked and disappears several times in the trees so you'll need some route finding skills) to Andrews glacier takes off from the main trail that leads to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond in Loch Vale. This is a gorgeous area in Rocky Mountain National Park well worth the hike. The first image is one I published before but never highlighted. The second and third are ones that I just discovered and actually like even more. I hope you enjoy these images.


Nikon D600. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16 mm, f/13, 0.8s, ISO 100.


Nikon D600. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16 mm, f/16, 0.8s, ISO 100.

From hither
From hither.

Nikon D600. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16 mm, f/16, 0.8s, ISO 100.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A mobile workflow with Lightroom?

Because of a recent trip to New York I decided to try whether I could work with a exclusively mobile workflow (i.e. no laptop) using just an iPad Pro and the sd card reader for lightning. I've read quite a bit about this and certainly Adobe plays up this workflow on their blog and with videos with well-known photographers singing its praises. I have certainly enjoyed the option to shoot dng files with my iPhone's built-in camera straight into Lightroom, and so to save a bit of weight and to see if this worked as well as advertised, I decided to try it for myself and only take an iPad and my cameras. To put the bottom-line up front, what I found is that this workflow shows some promise but is still very much a mixed bag. It works great if your needs are modest. It does not work when you are importing multiple days of images and when you have more than a few images. Part of the problem lies with Apple and part lies with Adobe. Let me explain my conclusions in a bit more detail.

The Brooklyn bridge at night. Shot using a handheld Nikon D600. Raw image file imported to Lightroom mobile using Apple's lightning sd card reader and edited using Lightroom mobile. The file automatically transferred to my desktop machine from where I edited the detail settings and uploaded it to my web service.

importing images

I use the excellent 9.7" iPad Pro that has the wider color gamut screen. This works great with Adobe Lightroom and it even color manages in Lightroom, Safari and other apps. This is quite nice. Also, the little Apple sd card reader works well but there are a few major problems to be aware off. First, you have to use Apple's Photos app to import your raw images from your camera's card. This is probably an Apple-imposed limitation but it causes some major issues. If like me, you have Photos set up to have your photo library mirrored through the cloud, it will immediately start uploading your raw files to Apple's cloud. Also, most people have limited space on their tablets so you do not want duplicate files in the end. So you have to as quick as you can go into Lightroom mobile and import the raw files from your camera roll. Then when it has imported them, go back to Photos and delete the raw files from there twice (first from the camera roll and then permanently delete them from the trash). The reason to do this of course is that you generally do not have very good internet connection when traveling like this and your tablet will be hogging your internet connection completely if you're not careful. However, this will cause a big problem the next time you import from the card as I explain below.

When you insert your card for the second time (say at the second day of your trip), you will be presented by something like the below:

There are two main problems here. The first is that it takes very long for the thumbnails to show and second that because we (forcibly!) deleted the raw files from the device's camera roll to save space and bandwidth, the device does not know which images were already imported. You basically have to remember and wait until the device finally gets around to the new images before you can select the images to import. This is a pain. You can avoid this by also deleting the files of the sd card, but this is a really bad idea as you will not have a backup of your images. Needless to say that is absolutely not what you want to do. The importing step into Lightroom is very easy however and fairly painless.

Conclusion: importing is not a good experience. This might be fixed if Apple opens up the sd card reader to third-party apps.

Editing images

Lightroom mobile works surprisingly well to edit images. Many things are supported such as gradient filters, and a fairly complete suite of editing tools. There are some major omissions though that turn out to be close to deal breakers for me. The first is that the camera profile defaults to "Adobe Standard" and you cannot change it (or even see the setting!) on the mobile side. This is problematic as the Adobe profile is not good for many cameras. I generally default to "Camera Standard" or to a profile I created from a passport color checker chart. You can't do this in Lightroom mobile. As a result, you're unlikely to get the color you would normally have on your desktop. The second major problem is that Lightroom will not show you the full resolution of the image and you can't change any of the detail settings directly. I could not easily reduce noise in high ISO images and could not optimize any sharpening. This felt very limiting to me. There are a few sharpening and noise reduction presets hidden in the presets submenu that do a bit of what you need, but clearly this needs a full set of settings. Thirdly, you can't stitch panoramas in LR/mobile. Oftentimes when I want to save weight, I will simply only carry a kit lens and shoot wider-angle views by simply moving the camera and stitching afterwards. This is not possible on just mobile. Last, but not least, the "upright" tools are not there. This means that for many of the shots I took in Manhattan and shooting many of the amazing buildings, I could not do any perspective corrections.

Last light reflected in the World Trade Center towers at the 9/11 memorial plaza. I highly recommend the 9/11 memorial museum at the site of the old WTC. A very powerful experience. I shot this using three shots using my Nikon 1 J4 camera at 10mm, imported into LR/mobile and did initial edits to it. When I got home, the images synced (after a looooong time - see below) to my desktop and I could stitch a panorama and do an upright correction to get the buildings vertical.

Conclusion: Editing works OK but is missing some essential features

Syncing images to the desktop

There is only one description for this: painfully slow even on very fast connections. It works for just a few pictures, but if you have more than a few such as the about 50-100 I had every day, it is not a good experience. It would be great if you could get home and have your images waiting for you. In practice, this will not happen. One major reason for this is that Lightroom mobile will not upload the images to Adobe's creative cloud while it is not in the foreground. This means that you have to stay in Lightroom and you have to keep your tablet awake. Also, it seems to use only a tiny fraction of the upload bandwidth and so expect it to take hours during which you can't do anything else with your tablet than Lightroom. To make matters worse, once your images have finally transferred over, your desktop machine does not have any clue that it has the images already in its library when you insert the memory card from your camera in your computer. This seems like a small problem but in fact, many people might take the approach to the above problems to only import a few files into LR/mobile and when you get home to import the rest from your card. This will ensure you end up with many duplicates! I do not understand why Lightroom Desktop does not recognize it already has the image files as it should screen on filename, capture date etc. All data that is exactly the same.

Conclusion: syncing your raw images to your desktop is not a very good experience.

Sharing images on social media

This is one thing that worked well. It is quite easy to just hit the share button in Lightroom and share directly to instagram (example), Facebook, twitter (example), etc. There are some issues with image quality however. The "small" 2048 pixel (how is that small?) has lots of jpeg compression artifacts. You also cannot easily add a watermark without going through another app on your iPad. There should be more options for image size and quality.

Conclusion: sharing your images on social media works well but can be improved.

Final thoughts

To sum up, A complete mobile workflow for people shooting raw files is not here yet. For now I recommend you take a ultralight laptop such as a MacBook Air or a Microsoft Surface and just run the desktop Lightroom on it. I am sure this is set to improve in the near future though. LR/mobile has rapidly improved over the last few months from a mere curiosity to something that at least comes close now and I am sure Adobe will keep improving the software. It is quite amazing that you can now edit raw images on a mobile platform fairly well I think. However, dealing with hundreds of raw files does not work well and has to be avoided for now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top ten most viewed immersive panoramas

As some of my followers will know, I regularly create immersive panoramas of places I visit. I often share these using google maps as that is one of the only places that can actually show them on a variety of platforms and that doesn't use flash or java, both defunct technologies with major security issues. Anyway, one of the interesting things is that a lot of people apparently see these spherical panoramas and hopefully enjoy them. I thought I'd share these with you as a top ten. Unfortunately I can't embed them in here easily so you'll have to click the links to be immersed in them and hit your back button to get back to this page. When you open one of the panoramas, remember to look up and down in addition to around you. Some of these have some nice surprises in them. Enjoy!

990,507 views: Tarn beneath Mount Toll

This is a small tarn above Blue Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This panorama has been viewed 990,507 times. Yes, close to a million times!

787,930 views: Emerald Lake

This is Lake Emerald in Rocky Mountain National Park closely after sunrise. This is one of the first of these panoramas I ever made but I only recently uploaded it to Google maps.

492,690 views: Santa Elena Canyon

The mouth of Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park. You can see Mexico across the river. This point is quite famous and photographed many times at sunrise. The Rio Bravo river forms the border between Texas and New Mexico and was often a crossing point in the old west for outlaws to escape the US and now it is a crossing point for illegals to come into the US. You can just wade over basically. Big bend is a place I want to visit again sometimes for photography.

291,152 views: Andrews tarn and glacier

This is Andrews tarn and Andrews glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park

249,557 views:Blue Lake, San Juan Mountains

This is Blue Lake in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride. There are several Blue Lakes in the San Juans and this is the one that can be reached by hiking from the Bridal Veils waterfall power station.

127,557 views: Blue Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Blue Lake sunrise. This is Blue Lake again in the Indian Peaks. The view is as very few people see it. At sunrise and almost wind still.

85,227 views: White Pocket

This is White Pocket in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, an absolutely amazing place. It is hard to reach with many miles of deep sand road to get through but well worth it in the end.

65,350 views: Little Hawaii

Little Hawaii. This is a "secret" waterfall close to Telluride in the San Juan Mountains. It is right next to a very popular trail but you would never guess it's here if you don't know about it. Locals know all about it but will not divulge the location. The GPS location I tagged on this image is not where it is supposed to be in respect of that.

53,482 views: Mount Falcon open space

Sunset from Turkey trot trail in Mt. Falcon open space near Morrison, Colorado. This is one of my favorite mountain bike rides in the foothills.

36,638 views: Shelf Lake

Shelf Lake approaching storm. Shelf Lake is a spectacular high alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National park that is only reachable through off trail travel. I got chased away from here by some thunder and lightning that day.

I hope You enjoyed these. Be sure to click through and look all around you.