- Photo Workshops
- AboutMy interest in photography started with influence from my dad. Wherever we went, he took pictures of my family and the scenery around us. As I grew up, more and more times, he let me be the camera man. Maybe the habit just stuck. I took up photography in the summer of 2006. I really am not sure what spurred the idea, but since then I have made a hobby of taking photos of what I find to be beautiful. What do I find to be beautiful? Mostly, nature. I find beauty in the subtleties of the Earth. When I take the time to think through the complexity of the Earth and the life within it, I conclude that there must be a reason to existence. However, Earth is only one small piece of the larger puzzle; much more beauty exists in places and shapes we have never imagined. What is that larger puzzle? What other beauty lies out in the Universe? What is the driving force behind life? These are questions that run through my mind when I witness nature. What makes the Earth beautiful to me? I can’t really say. I feel a quiet passion as a crisp…
So I’m finally back from tall the wedding festivities and the honeymoon, and it’s back to business! This fall will be all about shooting and teaching landscape photography.
This morning I conducted another sunrise Washington DC landscape photography workshop, this time at the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, and Washington Monument.
I was hoping for a bit more fall color, but it hasn’t peaked yet all around the city.
While the forecast called for some clouds, most were absent by the sunrise. But, some mist on the horizon diffused the sun just a bit, giving it a dome like shape as it rose and reflected off the Reflecting Pool:
The slightly diffused sun rises and reflects off of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70, f/18, 1/100 sec, ISO 50, tripod
More to come, with another workshop tomorrow!
In June, I ventured to Kauai to celebrate my good friend Andy’s wedding. Back in 2000, Andy left the island and came from across the globe to attend the University of Maryland with me and our college friends. Somehow, I think he mixed up his directions! Who would leave Kauai for Maryland? Certainly not me, after the trip I experienced.
Kauai is an island of beautiful paradoxes. It is the oldest in a set of young volcanic shield volcano islands. It is home to one of the wettest places on Earth, as well as a huge beach desert. It has some of the most plush, lavish beach resorts and has some of the most remote campsites.
In exploring this wild and scenic island, I thought it would be best to explore it intimately from one of those campsites. While I’m still relatively new to camping, the times I had done it were always worthwhile. So I set forth to Kauai to explore the island on my own for a few days, before my fiancé joined me for Andy’s wedding.
Kauai’s distinctive and dramatic natural features are tied to a very compelling geologic history. Kauai is the oldest in the chain of Hawaiian shield volcanos, though older islands exist to the west into the Midway islands. A shield volcano is the result of a hotspot, originating from deep below the Earth’s crust, spewing lava upwards and above sea level. As tectonic plates move, the hotspot builds islands over different locations — resulting in the chain we see today.
Kauai formed nearly 6 million years ago, as one huge volcanic rock. While volcanic rocks are some of the most resilient, such “basalts” have a fatal characteristic which spells doom for each such island. When exposed to water, these rocks rust, just as iron does, and become extremely erosive. Add weather, including heavy rainfall and wind, as well as time, and it means that Kauai is slowly being eroded into the sea and out of existence.
One can see this geologic history and future when witnessing some of Kauai’s most grandiose natural structures:
To the north, the Na Pali coastline is a rugged stretch of cliffs that acts as a wall against moisture coming in from the sea. As the moisture arrives and pounds against the mountains, large amounts of rain are dumped on the cliffs. Over millions of years, this water has chiseled curves and flaps in Na Pali before spreading and drying to the south. As the water chisels down, it reveals more basalt to the elements in the central part of the island, causing the volcanic rock to rust and redden — the Waimea Canyon. The moisture that originates in the north quickly loses steam over the large mountains and through the canyons, and barely has any strength to rain on the southern part of the island — and results in desert like shorelines near Polihale.
It’s quite amazing to me to see a snapshot in time of Kauai in the midst of its dynamic geologic changes. It’s a microcosm to me of the gargantuan wheels of the Earth and Universe that are constantly at work, reshaping our surroundings in profound ways.
So to experience all of the amazingness that Hawaii and Kauai is, I decided to first camp at Kokee State Park. After grabbing camping equipment from Andy at his house in Lihue, I made my way to Kokee and hunkered down in a spot just near the parking lot. It was far easier camping at Kokee than my last trip at Olympic National Park, the latter which I had to hike 4 miles to the campsite!
My Campsite at Kokee
After an afternoon of wandering about the park, I realized that half of the hiking trails were no longer in service. The guidebook I used, “Kauai Revealed” (highly recommend, by the way), warned me of this but I was adamant nonetheless. Finally, at sunrise after my first night, I decided on the Canyon Trail, which took me straight into Waimea Canyon.
And what a site that canyon is. The “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a stark red and orange trough to a babbling brook of the Waimea river. The canyon walls are made of the same basalt from millions of years ago, but now oxidized and decomposed to a packed red sand. With just a little effort, you can literally grab the rock off of the walls and sift it through your fingers, like uncooked rice.
As sunrise approached, clouds formed and dissipated over the peaks of the canyon walls. Lack of cloud cover is not usually a good thing when it comes to landscape photography. But, the geology of Kauai came through for me! Mist from the cliff tops to the northwest sprayed through the canyon gorge. As the sun rose above the horizon, light streamed through the mist and created a beautiful rainbow:
Just past sunrise, sunlight through mist from the mountains causes a rainbow that stretches deep into the red Waimea canyon.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @14mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 1/80 sec
After sunrise, I spent some time just soaking in the incredible sight before me. What was most evident was the stark green trees that grew in the flatter curves of the red walls:
“The Canyon Green”
Green trees adorn the red walls of Waimea Canyon, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS with 1.4x TC @202mm, f/9, ISO 50, 1/5 sec
At the end of the day, I returned to the canyon to see how the light had changed. After the sun set, a fierce wind picked up. I noticed it pushing through a set of trees just barely hanging to their roots. I liked the juxtaposition of shapes between the roots and the blowing leaves:
Trees cling to their existence on the steep walls of the Waimea Canyon, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105 F4L IS @ 85mm, 10 stop ND filter, f/16, ISO 50, 25 sec
While Waimea Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most amazing places I’ve seen, I was even more excited to check out the north coast and the famed Na Pali coast line – where the rugged greens rise high in “cathedrals” cut through the basalt. While Na Pali might be best seen from the air and sea, where one does not need to balance on sharp cliffs to gawk a view, it is still quite amazing to sea from the Kalalau Trail. A legendary and strenuous “hike”, this trail winds 11 miles from Kee beach to the Kalalau Valley itself, in the heart of Na Pali.
I decided to hike a portion of this trail. One – because you need a permit to hike past a certain point and two – because I had been hiking non stop for 3 days at this point!
I started down the trail just before sunrise. I scaled up and down the mud, through thick brush before being treated to a majestic scene of the stretch of coastline fading to the distance:
“Soft & Rugged”
Pink clouds float from the sharp cliffs of Na Pali, Kauai.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @18mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 1/5 sec
I continued two miles to Hanakapiai Beach. A pit stop of sorts for those who camp and come through the trail, it was empty that early in the morning. I spent some time just hanging on that beach and watching the violent waves crash against the basalt columns. I could see why there were several signs to beware of the current.
I then shifted my path inward towards Hanakapiai Falls. The trail became much rougher at this point as it lined the rapids that flowed from the green cliff tops. Often times, it took a climb here and a swing there to stay on the path. I still lost track of the path many times as it is one of MANY trails in Kauai that is poorly marked. After two miles of hiking and traversing the river several times, I finally arrived at the falls.
Majestic, and worth it. The falls dropped amazing amounts of water from high above into a green pool. From there, the pool overflowed down a through the valley and towards the beach I came from. After gawking at the immense falls up close, I found a spot a couple hundred yards away that captured the flow as well as its journey towards the ocean. I used an ND filter to highlight the movement in the water, which formed in amazing eddies over the submerged brush:
Rainwater from the cliffs surges through Hanakapiai Falls and into the Valley.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @17mm, ND8, f/22, ISO 50, 5 sec
After that was the long, 4 mile trek back to Kee. If I can say one thing, it would be that Kauai’s trails (including the Pihea trail, which I completed but don’t mention here since I didn’t get any great images from it) are hardcore. They are certainly adventurous and rough. But, I really feel like I appreciate the land that much more in that I was able to experience the wilderness of it.
The next couple days, I stayed relatively close to the paved paths — as Andy’s wedding celebrations started and I couldn’t be TOO too rough looking (any more than four days of being unshaven, wet, and caked in clay red-stained clothes and my looks might not have even been salvageable!).
I first ventured up the North Coast onto King’s and Queen’s bath. An amazing geological structure, this is an enclave of black volcanic rocks (by the way, I am not sure why these rocks remained black as others had oxidized over the years) at the shore of the violent Pacific.
What an dramatic and humbling experience! As the tide rolled in, it brought immense waves that crashed emphatically against the rocks. The best compositions were down where the waves crashed (of course), so I had to try my luck to position myself down there.
A couple deep breaths and an adventurous spirit and I was down in the rough — if only for moments. Every 10 seconds, a gargantuan wave would approach, causing me to quickly scamper to safe ground. Now, I’m not a fool, so I don’t think that any of these waves ever really threatened my life or risked me falling into the ocean, but a little slip here or there and I could have been in trouble! A game of hide and seek with the waves, and luckily I came away with just a wet shirt and slightly wet lens:
During sunset at King’s Bath, water from the incoming tide pulls and smashes against the volcanic rock of the North Coast that leads to Na Pali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @22mm, 10 Stop ND filter, f/22, two exposures for dynamic range (blended by “darken” mode)
As I continued to watch the waves building and smashing against the coast, I was intrigued by the way the water collected its momentum. Just outside the cove of King’s Bath seemed to be a drop off in elevation of rock. As water receded, it began to collect and form new waves that, in turn, came towards the shore. This repetitive process was mesmerizing, and slightly different each time. Sometimes the water would curl up and fold, and other times it would take interesting wheel like shapes as they charged forward. Here is such a wheeling motion behind the sheen reflection of the warm sunset light:
“Off to the Races”
Momentum in wave formations gathers in interesting shapes and colors at King’s Bath, Kauai.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 f4L IS@147mm, ISO 250, f/7.1, .5 sec,
On my final day at Kauai, I decided to venture back up Kokee to Kalalau Lookout. Where I would have LOVED to embark on one of the epic trails that align the ridge, I simply did not have time and had to work with the lookout point. But, given my days of experience with the cliff lines, I had something in mind.
What intrigues me the most about Kalalau and the entire northern chain of cliffs are the sensual shapes taken through years of erosion from dripping rainfall. Such exquisite cuts in the valley and ridges were a joy to explore through my lens.
I first took notice at the cliff tops that face out towards the Pacific. I had two distinct visions: I felt that the black & white really accentuates the shapes against the vast pacific ocean, while the color gives a little more sense of place and view into the ridges.
“Cut from the Sea”
Na Pali cuts a jagged space high above the Pacific Ocean.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @70mm, f/9, ISO 100, .5 sec
Kalalau, with its intricate shapes and contours, stands high and mighty above the Pacific Ocean.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @70mm, f/9, ISO 50, 2 sec
My last image from Kauai might be one of my favorites. After spending time studying the shapes of the cliffs of Kalalau, I then concentrated on the valley walls themselves. Cool mist covered the valley, muting the colors in the high altitude. But a small amount of sunlight pushed through to the tree-lined cliffs, and accentuated the frayed card deck shape that stretched into the distance:
“Mist in the Valley”
Mist scatters the cool morning light amongst the cliff edges of the Kalalau Valley.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F4L IS @75mm, f/11, ISO 50, 2.5 sec
I hope you enjoyed my images from Kauai. Soon, I’ll share the images from the tail end of my trip in Maui.
Please share or comment if you enjoyed this post!
This past Saturday morning, I taught another photo workshop, this time at Great Falls National Park, on the Virginia Side. If you’re interested, contact me or join my meet up group here.
After waking up to a couple sprinkles in Washington, D.C., and my workshop participants curious to cancel the class, I had us press forward. As a general rule, I won’t cancel unless it’s calling for constant pounding rain.
Soon after 530, clouds began to break and showed a small window to the moon. Occasional drops and lightning in the high clouds quickly gave way as the horizon began to glow.
As the sun rose, a few crepusculars danced amongst the golden pinks and purples. The gold was nicely reflected in the rushing water from the Maryland side.
Goes to show that it pays to get out there and shoot, even when it looks like “bad” weather!
“Going for Gold”
A golden pink sunrise at Great Falls National Park, VA.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24 @14mm, CPL, f/9, ISO 50, 2 shot blend for dynamic range (HDR)
I had to try to tie it back to the 2012 Olympics! No matter what the situation, go for gold! Ok maybe that doesn’t work…
Till next time!
This past Saturday, I led a photo workshop at the Washington Capitol. It was the third such class I led, and it was a blast. And, I am encouraged that all 10 people who reviewed the class gave it 5/5 stars! I look at teaching as a way to connect with others who are motivated in photography. If you’re interested, contact me or join my meet up group here.
After the rain passed, a beautiful dark magenta set in the clouds and enveloped the sky. But the up from the Capitol ground shot a spotlight that highlighted the monument’s ornate dome and overwhelmed through the magenta color right above. The lights around Lower Senate Park weren’t nearly as bright, but still gave enough light to the fountains that adorned the grounds.
“Lower Senate Park at Night”
The fountains of Lower Senate Park at night at the U.S. Capitol.
Nikon D800, 14-24 @ 22mm, f/14, 30 sec, ISO 100, tripod
A very nice part of DC, definitely. I’ll be back again soon!
I struggle with the want to be recognized for my work in photography.
I firmly believe one should follow any passion solely for the self. To that end, I am happy creating images that I find appealing and enjoy challenging myself to get better.
At times, though, I have felt the urge to have others’ acceptance of my work to validate that I am on the right path. I think it’s only natural, after you get to a stage, to look for some encouragement from others and to use it as motivation to continue to improve.
As long as I stay true to my own vision and work mainly to satisfy my own creative urges, I always welcome encouraging comments and, more importantly, constructive criticism.
Long story short, today is a small landmark for me! My photo, “Fantasy Garden” from Maui, Hawaii was chosen as Photo of the Day in the EarthShots.org daily contest.
While there is no “prize” associated and it’s a relatively simple contest to win, it is still one that is rather prestigious in that some of the best photographers in the world submit and have their work displayed on EarthShots.
I just thought I would share this nice little piece of recognition and encouragement for me, as I continue down this winding road.
See the EarthShots.org entry here.
I am always looking for some more exposure to show people my work. One of the largest photography presences in the area is FotoDC, a non-profit organization that runs several competitions, including their annual FotoDC International Awards.
This year, they’ve come up with a new theme: Uncover/Discover, which aims to identify up-and-comers from the DC Regional area. As part of this campaign, they asked photographers from DC to submit targeted portfolios that reflect their own style.
Lately, my concentration has been on fully natural scenes from the DC area. Therefore, a natural portfolio choice for me is my recent work in Great Falls.
So follows my portfolio submission. I think there is a lot I can continue to improve on in the craft, but it is still fulfilling (in a way) to look back and see what I’ve been able to complete.
Great Falls is an unexpected gem of natural beauty just a few miles outside of the city of Washington D.C. A wild place, Great Falls has a beautiful and unique ecosystem characterized most by cascades over ancient rock, rare bedrock forests, and flocks of costal birds.
Just a moment there, and one is awestruck by the beauty in the Falls’ raw strength, ferocity, and size. But spend more time, and one finds it is elegantly balanced with rather tranquil qualities, sometimes found within more intimate scenes.
To me, the contrasting violence and peace of the scenes at Great Falls represents a microcosm for our world and universe. We are constantly reminded of both as we witness events at all scales: earthquakes or supernovas, childbirths or nebulas.
Despite how destructive or creative each event may be, each is worth our wonder. By taking time and appreciating the mysterious and grand forces that dictate and drive violence and peace, one may find beauty in nearly every natural scene.
See the pics here!
I would love any feedback or your thoughts!
Last night, we lost our 6 1/2 year cat, Luna.
She was never meant to be a pet and constrained by our ideas of a perfect housecat. Instead, she was a free spirit, simple and pure in her curiosity of life and her cautious affinity for our family.
She was beautiful, as you can see in the below image, one of the first photos I took with an SLR, back in 2006.
I hope she’s in a better place now… happy and free, and forever curious.
So I finally got the will to begin on the trough of images from my two week trip to Kauai and Maui. The “will” had a lot to do with finally upgrading my MacBook Pro to 16 gigs of RAM. Photoshop was just BARELY working for me over the past several weeks with only 4 gigs of RAM, and I was dreading working with it one more day like that. First world pain, I know.
Anyways, as I sift through the images from my trip, I thought I would leave you with a quick edit. This one is from Oheo Gulch, in Hana, on the East Side of Maui. At sunset, The sun peeked through the clouds to leave this dramatic view:
“Oheo Gulch Sunset”
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm @14mm, Fotodiox Filter Holder, 4 stop ND filter; two shot blend at f/22
This is the first image I have made with my new camera, the Nikon D800! I am already very encouraged by what I have seen from its RAW images.
More to come… SOON! Stay tuned.
This past Wednesday, we had a fierce thunderstorm come through the area. I’ve been wanting to capture some lightning over Great Falls, and thought it to be a good opportunity.
I came pretty well equipped, with my rain coat and pants, umbrella, and waterproof flashlight, but none really did anything to cope with what I encountered.
I scampered down the rocks from the 1st overlook and the rain started to come down. First in steady drops, then as sheets. I continued my way towards the shore as the thunder & lightning arrived.
I got to a nice position on a large, flat rock and noticed that kayakers, like me, were inspired by the weather! They continued surfing and rowing against the water, even as the currents slowly gained steam.
Water was really coming in from everywhere, so I had to veryyy careffullyyy remove my camera and lens under the precarious safety of my umbrella. The winds were picking up so the umbrella was swaying a little too much for comfort.
I finally positioned my camera towards the falls and waited for the lightning to come more often. It didn’t happen. The lightning came in quick and spontaneous bursts, not the steady flashing strobe I was hoping for. As the deluge continued, I decided to capture what I could before the water damaged my equipment.
Far out in the top of the most interesting section of falls in the park, a lone Great Blue Heron stood overwatch, and was stoic in the storm. He was obviously more composed than me, still searching for his food somehow despite my thought that his direct and peripheral vision would be way skewed from the water coming from every direction. With the backdrop of dark clouds and mist, it made a pretty dramatic scene:
“Through the Deluge”
A Great Blue Heron poised stoically over Great Falls during a heavy thunderstorm.
Canon 5dm2, 70-200/4L IS @ 187mm, f/7.1, 1/6 sec, ISO 2000, tripod
On another note, these herons, which frequent the park in summer months, are wily and courageous creatures. They will seemingly dive through the most violent of water to get their catch. For example, see this image from last Friday:
“Risk and Reward”
A Great Blue Heron rises from the violent rapids with a prize.
Canon 5dm2, Canon 70-200mm/f4L @127mm, f/16, 1/5sec, ISO 5000
Pretty amazing to see a writhing catfish in the Great Blue Heron’s mount. No chance I could have ever spotted a fish like that in the rushing rapids of Great Falls.
Anyways, back to the shoot during the thunderstorm. It was a really exciting experience for me! I was completely soaked, but with a warm, late spring storm it was kind of like a cool bath. To me, it was like playing in rain as a small child. Though I was happy to be soaked, I will say I am lucky that my equipment came out unscathed and dry. My new F-stop Loka bag held all of my lenses and equipment dry… even without that rain cover (which I probably should get….. .. .. …. yeah.).
TILL NEXT TIME!
Last week, I went on a trip for one of my best friend’s weddings in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. With only a few days worth of time down there, I knew I had little chance to venture out of the resort area to take pictures. I had thoughts (read: dreams) of going to the nearby national park: Parque Nacional del Este, and even grander dreams of going further north to a park near Semana, but it really was not feasible.
So, I took an afternoon to myself to hike down the coast near our resort, in search of some inspiration in the calm of the Caribbean. I tried to get as far from the people, beach chairs, plastic cups and cigarettes that cluttered the shoreline near the hotel. Though it is still a lot of fun for me to partake in the gluttony of all-inclusivity, I wanted something a little more pure that afternoon.
I took my time, observing the environment around me. As I walked down the shore, I didn’t find as much beauty in the grandiose beach, with the flat ocean and distant palm trees — as I did the details in the water. The iconic, turquoise color aside, as the sun set, I was fascinated with the illuminated ripples and waves in the lake-like currents. After a while, I found a small freshwater stream emptying into the ocean, creating even more beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately rode around and on top of one another in the sunset light:
A small freshwater stream empties into the calm Caribbean sea, creating beautiful shapes & textures as the water sources delicately ride around and on top of one another in the sunset light.
Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 70-200/F4L @ 144mm, f/16, .6 sec, ISO 50, Tripod
Goes to show (me at least): not all beauty is readily evident. To me, it’s worth it to be patient and calm like the sea I saw that evening. Taking the time to wait, deliberate, and feel can reveal even more meaningful experiences. I try to apply that premise to my everyday life, but especially when exploring or shooting.
Gone is DR, next up… HAWAII!