Today was a fun workshop, it was based around high speed photography. What that means is basically making images of things that happen very fast and stopping the motion. It creates pictures of things we can’t see with our eyes and it can very cool. One of my favorites today was a shot of a balloon bursting when being hit by a dart. I had put glitter inside the balloon so it scattered when the balloon popped. It is a weird looking image, you can see the skin of the balloon’s front peeling back, glitter in the air and the back of the balloon still mostly intact.
We also photographed strawberries splashing into cream and colored water sloshing from glasses that I had glued to a skateboard.
I made quite the mess with all the splashing colored water and cream but the worst is the glitter. I’m not a big fan of the stuff, it always sticks to everything and now I have it shining all over my office. I’m sure I’ll be cleaning it for quite a while.
Now that I am back home and had a chance to catch my breath and reflect on my quick southern Chile adventure, it seems unreal that how far away
I went to the lake district of southern Chile to scout photographic locations for a workshop I’m leading in December of 2020. Several years ago a friend told me about this area, her husband is from there and they had a house in Pucon. She told of the beautiful lakes in the edge of the Andes mountains and how great the climate is. Her husband Fito still visits family regularly and will be my guide in 2020, it will be great having a native along side, I hope to be able to communicate better in Spanish but I have a long way to go. Fito will solve that problem and many others I’m sure. The reason I’m holding a photography workshop there in December of 2020 is that is dead center of the path of the total solar eclipse. After seeing my first total eclipse last year I decided to see as many as I can in the future, I can’t put into word, or pictures, why, but believe me that experiencing a total eclipse is something special. I’m going to the northern part of Chile for another eclipse this July, it will be a totally different experience than this area since that is in the desert and during their winter months.
My friend Bob Wagner was kind enough to join me on this scouting adventure, I don’t think he knew what he was getting into, this wasn’t a normal vacation. There is always a lot of driving when scouting because I want to see as many sites as possible so I know if they make good photo locations. That means going to places a person might not normally go, which is good and bad. I’m sure there were times when he wanted to stay in a place longer to make more photos but I needed to get one decent shot and seek out another location. Several places we went weren’t what we hoped for but the drive was alway lovely. Bob is a good travel companion and it was great having him along.
This part of Chile didn’t disappoint, the scenery is stunning. The people were friendly and even though there wasn’t a lot of English spoken, they tried their best to communicate with me. They are proud of their area and it will be fun bringing more people to their country. I found a great hotel for us to stay at right on the edge of the large Lake Villarrica with a great view of the iconic snow capped volcano. The hotel is dead center of the eclipse’s path, we can even photograph it from the hotel’s deck but we’ll probably walk down to the beach. It will be a great way to end a week long workshop in a stunning place.
Below are some photos from my adventure that didn’t last nearly long enough. It will be fun returning in two years. I hope you can join me, I’ll have details posted in early January.
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After my experience photographing 2016’s total solar eclipse in Oregon, I decided I was an eclipse chaser and made a personal pledge to see as many total eclipses as I could. Since the experience was so cool I want to share it with others so I came to Chile today to scout locations for the eclipse coming through here in 2020. This is the beautiful lake region of southern Chile, a long way from home. It took 24 hours, three flights and a long drive get to the resort town of Pucon but boy is it worth it.
Pucon sits next to one of the five most active volcanoes in the world, Villarrica, and on a large lake of the same name. This is where many people from South America and around the world come to enjoy pure nature at its finest. This is a mecca for outdoor adventure activity, the ultimate being hiking up the volcano and looking inside. I won’t be doing that, it is quite the hike and even though it is summer here, plenty of snow caps the mountain. It doesn’t really take that long to do the hike but everything I read said you better be in pretty good shape. I’m thinking that being in shape ten years ago doesn’t count.
I came with my friend Bob Wagner who is excited to make some photos of this part of the world. Our final flight landed in Temuco, about a 90-minute drive from Pucon. Before getting to Pucon you drive through the town of Villarrica, which is also on the lake and has a magnificent view of the volcano. We went to our hotel in Pucon and immediately came right back to Villarrica for a lovely dinner along the lake and photographed the volcano and lake as the sun set. The light was magical, especially after sunset when amazing colors filled the sky and lit up the water.
We did plenty of shooting, made the drive back around the lake to Pucon and after editing some photos, I’m ready for a good night’s sleep.
I’ve been playing a lot the last with photographing colliding water drops, at least a water drop or two colliding with the splash of another drop. For this round I mixed some acrylic paint with water and dropped cream into it. Changing the lighting and the timing makes each one look unique. The result was pretty cool.
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If I could only spend one day in Iceland and want to see things that are fairly unique to the country, then we went there today during my Iceland Photography Workshop. Since it was raining we started the day shopping in Vic, which isn’t unique, but it is fun to see things made in Iceland. I warned the group to watch for thins that look Icelandic and are made in China. They did pretty good with that.
As we drove the southern coast the weather started getting better and by the time we got to a secluded tongue of the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest, the rain had pretty much stopped. This is one of the coolest places I go in Iceland, there are no other people around and the view of the glacier, a lagoon and mountains is stunning. High clouds hid much of the mountain but the color of the glacier and sheer size is daunting.
Then we stopped at Diamond Beach, a truly unique Icelandic experience. Another tongue of the glacier comes down to a large lagoon that is connected to the ocean by a short river. Salty sea water goes back up the river into the lagoon helping break off chunks of ice that float back down the river and wash up on Diamond Beach’s black sand. The pounding waves wear down the ice and when sunlight hits them they look like diamonds sitting on black velvet. Quite the sight. It is fun to make pictures of the waves flowing past ice and see what happens when the shutter is open for a long time. I could spend days on that one beach.
I’m also fascinated by the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. They are such a weird phenomenon, with the colorful display of light glowing at night. I first saw them during my trip in March and was awed and I keep a eye on several iPhone apps that let me know when they are active in hopes I can see them back in Vermont. The aurora is active all year but it doesn’t get dark enough in the summer months to see them. I checked my apps before this trip and saw the activity level was pretty high and we would have enough darkness to possibly see them. What a bonus! Tonight the activity was fairly high and the sky was giving us some major breaks in the clouds so we went to a hilltop away from town to see what would happen. We got a show! Green light danced along the horizon and an occasional red/orange light popped in. We could see clouds heading our way and knew we wouldn’t have long but what we saw was awesome. I can’t wait to come back in Feb. for another workshop when the main focus will be the aurora!
My three night Vermont Night Skies and Light Painting Workshop finished last night and since the weather didn’t cooperate on Friday night, I added a bonus night for those who could stick around.
We started with another visit from the International Space Station. It is crazy to imagine being able to stand outside and see a space craft flying past and making photos of it. Catching a ride in that thing would be the ultimate thrill! I took us to a large open field that had some trees to use as a foreground and a cool stone wall.
We finished the night photographing a secluded barn. It isn’t easy to find a red barn that doesn’t have any light hitting it, which is essential since I like to light them with a flashlight. Friend Bob Wagner told me about this one and asked the landowners if we could photograph it. A great way to end the workshop.
We got a special treat tonight during my Vermont Night Skies and Light Painting Workshop, a visit from the International Space Station. Using a couple of iPhone apps we could see where and when the ISS would fly over and leave a bright streak in the sky. I took us to an old hilltop cemetery where we photographed the Milky Way and did some light painting while waiting for the flyover. It came right on schedule and we were able to make exciting photos of it passing in front of the Milky Way. I was lucky catch a shooting star at the same time. Pretty cool.
I am fortunate to have a neighbor in Woodstock who allows me access to her beautiful property in nearby Pomfret, VT. The pond is marvelous and it is dark there, so it is a great place to take the group. We did several shots around the pond of the Milky Way and light painting on the shore while. Adding a little light from flashlights always adds a nice touch to astrophotography. I like seeing something in the foreground and just having stars in the sky.
While we were shooting the Milky Way, some people tried doing star trails spinning in the photo. The trick is to find Polaris, the North Star and over a period of time it will look like other stars are circling it due to the earth’s rotation. This is actually 120 photos during about one hour and then put together in the computer. The result is very cool and I got the lights from people on the other side of the pond photographing the Milky Way.
The cutest thing in Iceland and some people think anyplace, are puffins. They are colorful birds about eight inches tall that have a rather sad face. They spend most of their lives at sea and only come ashore in the summer to mate and raise babies. Then they are back to the ocean, floating on the waves for nine months. I took my Iceland workshop group to a location where they nest in the cliff near a very public area.
I hadn’t seen puffins before and didn’t know what to expect, I saw a woman with binoculars so I asked her if she was seeing puffins. She gave me that “you’re a stupid American” look, said “yes” and went back to her bird watching. So much for conversation. I noticed a nearby rock in the grass with some bird poop on it. That’s always a sign of bird activity, many birds poop before taking flight to literally lighten the load. As I stood there I saw a puffin sticking its head out of the grass, but it was too far away to make a good photo. At least I felt good that they were around. Soon I realized the birds that were landing all over the cliff were puffins, but they were still too far away.
I gathered our group and told them to aim their telephoto lenses at the rock, there was going to be activity there. Several birds flew up to the rock and then quickly circled and flew away. They were landing everywhere else but not close to us. I had all of us move back about 10 feet to see if we were crowding them too much and before long a puffin landed near the rock and in range for us. As I was shooting like a maniac I could hear the other cameras firing away but the bird didn’t care. Another one landed and suddenly we were able to shoot two together.
Puffins dive in the ocean and come out with a beak full of small fish that dangle out. One landed with a longer fish than most and seemed to do a happy dance on the rock. It made me pretty happy too.
It looks like our streak of great Iceland weather has come to an end. We had some morning shoots planned but the rain came in so we spent the morning doing a Lightroom class at the hotel. Some people went out and shot an old barn near the hotel after breakfast and I bet the got some good images. The big plan for the afternoon is to drive to an ice cave. This one just opened three days ago and our guide Raymond is pretty excited to see it.
We had a special guide for the trip to the ice cave. We rode in a specially outfitted Mercedes Sprinter that had been modified with massive wheels and four wheel drive. We then had to walk about 1/4 mile to the opening, which was a shock for some people. The opening was about three feet high and four feet wide, meaning we had to crawl. Once we got in the cave it opened to a large room that could easily handle 20 people. Raymond was surprised we were the only ones there since other tour companies go there too. We had about 30 minutes by ourselves and then the hordes arrived. Our ability to shoot was pretty compromised with all the people walking past but we still make some exciting photos.
Time flew by in the ice cave and soon we had to leave. I could spend all there and I hope to some day.
The weather was still looking bad so we had dinner but Raymond keep an eye on the radars and forecasts and noticed there was a spot with cloud openings that we may be able to get another shot at the aurora. The aurora’s activity wasn’t super high but it was worth a try. We drove for another 3o minutes, went around a mountain and sure enough the clouds were parting there. It looked about the same as the other night we tried it, cool to see but the great photos weren’t there.
We drove father east this morning for my Iceland photo workshop and the wind really made itself present. Iceland is the third windiest country in the world and we felt it today. We started at the southeastern most part of the island, Eystrahorn, on a cool black sand beach. The mountains in the background made for a great photo with the black sand in the foreground. The wind was blowing hard making it tough to keep the camera steady on the tripod. I loved the image I made and taking it to black and white made it even more dramatic.
Next to the beach was a sand dune, the first time I’ve seen black sand blowing. Blowing might be an understatement, the wind was howling and pushing the black sand everywhere. The black sand was drifting and flowing over the drifts. I stood there quite a while trying to figure out how to show the movement of the sand but everything I tried didn’t work. Another thing I had to just observe and admire.
I had to make sure my jacket pockets were zipped closed or they would have filled up with black sand. The wind was a steady 40-50 mph and gusts were even strong. Our guide, Raymond, wasn’t even phased by the wind, just a normal day he said. We spent a couple of hours out there and when we got back in the bus one of our workshop participants looked like a raccoon. The black sand had stuck to her makeup, especially around her eyes. At first I thought her mascara had run but looking closer it was obvious there was sand all over her eyes and mouth. Rather than try to wipe it off I made sure she rinsed it off so it wouldn’t get in her eyes.
As we were heading to our next location there were some Icelandic horses having lunch so we stopped. They were more enthralled with lunch than us but a couple came over to say hi. Eidur, our bus driver, told us the farmers don’t like them being called ponies since they are horses, just not real big ones. Since they have such heavy coats they stay outdoors all year unlike cattle which have to go indoors when it gets real cold. Now that Maryann had all the black sand off her face, she was able to make friends with the horses. They liked her too.
We made one more stop near a lighthouse, which, like most Icelandic lighthouses, wasn’t overly pretty. But there was a great view of another coastal mountain, so we worked that pretty hard. The wind was still blowing pretty strong, but not as bad as earlier.
We started the third day of my Iceland photo workshop at the largest glacier in the country: Svinafellsjökull. After a little hike we were right at the edge of the glacier, the blue ice offering a great contrast to the snow on the mountain peaks behind it. The grandeur and majesty of the glacier and mountains make for great photos. We started photographing from up on a hill to get overall shots and then moved up closer to the tower chunks of ice. The weather was perfect and it was fun for the group to shoot with no other people around. We spent a good deal of time there but it couldn’t have been long enough.
We then went to one of the places I was looking forward to the most: Diamond Beach. It is a black sand beach where chunks of the glacier break off, float down a river and then onto the ocean beach. A nearby glacial lagoon is where the chunks form when salty sea water melts the glacier and the pieces break off. Seeing the crystal clear ice on the black sand is exciting and I after showing some of the workshop participants how to shoot it, I made some images myself. Looking back at my shots I’m not too happy with what I got, I hope we get another chance later in the week.
This is our first day of shooting in my Iceland photography workshop. Last night the group got together for dinner and we met our guide for the week, Raymond Hoffmann. We hit the road with our driver Eidur, a fun guy with great stories about his homeland. Our went to three large waterfalls, the first one was filled with tourists but the water was flowing. Near the falls was a stairway to a viewing platform that catches a lot of mist and it had frozen all winter.
Then we went to another falls that wasn’t so well known. It was nearly a half mile hike back to the falls and the scenery was great all the way back. All the snow was melted but there was still some ice around the waterfall. I made some nice photos of the falls and a little rainbow in the mist. After a couple of hours we got lunch and went to another nearby falls.
Skogafoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland and for good reason. There were a ton of people there but it was possible to get in front of them for some photos. I tried some from in the stream and our guide Raymond made a nice shot of me in the water. Raymond also had crampons for everyone to put on their boots when walking on the ice. They really made a difference, many of the tourists were sliding around in sneakers and we were just waiting for one to fall on his head.
The mist coming off the large falls caught the sunlight and make for a huge, beautiful rainbow. We made a ton of pictures and I corralled all the workshop participants and we got back on the bus for a long ride to our hotel in Vic where we had dinner. Since it was a clear day we went out to try capturing the Northern Lights. The sky conditions were great but the aurora activity level wasn’t very high. There was a good wind making the night feel pretty cold but we could see some color in the northern sky. One of the great things about digital cameras is they see more at night than the human eye. We didn’t get the “dancing” light we hoped for but it was still a great experience.
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2017 went by fast, but I guess that is a good thing. Boredom makes time drag and I sure wasn’t bored in 2017.
Whenever I look back I am always thankful for the blessings I have. It starts with my wife Robin and her love, support and understanding. I am thankful for having good health and being able to do many of the things I want to in life.
It was a great year for travel, I started the year in Florida and ended up making three trips there during the year. I went to Oregon twice, once for location scouting and then in August for the total solar eclipse. The eclipse remains one of the most memorable experiences ever and I can’t wait to chase another one, hopefully in 2019 in Argentina. I spent time in the Provence region of France, I had been to France before but not that area. The highlight was the lavender fields that went for miles, stimulating both my eyes and nose.
Showing my work at art festivals kept me on the move, I did 24 shows in seven states from Florida to Vermont. When you do that many shows you get to know lots of other great artists and it becomes a community. The friendships go beyond the artists to the people who come to the shows. There were people I talked to in Florida, the Hamptons and in Vermont! It is fun to see people at multiple shows.
The downside of the year was our loss of two Bernese Mountain Dogs. The great Sophie left us quickly and unexpectedly in January and then old man Zian finally gave out a few months later. But then we were joined by a new puppy, Pudge, in July. Robin and I had forgotten how much energy a puppy has and we are paying for it daily. But she brings lots of life into the house and makes for some fun photos.
I tried some new things in 2017. The most fun is getting a drone, I’ve always loved the view from above and I finally got on board. I like shooting video with it but I’m still a big fan of the still image. I’ll be getting my FAA license soon so I can do commercial work with it. This year I also started experimenting with photographing colliding water drops. It takes some special equipment and the images are amazing. I look forward to seeing what more I can do with it.
In fact, I look forward to seeing what other new adventures await in 2018.
Photographing water fascinates me, it can be the waves of the ocean, a river winding through a field or a creek falling off a hill. I decided to look closer and photograph water drops splashing and colliding.
Getting these shots takes some special equipment, the key is controlling the drops and then synchronizing the camera and flash to catch the drops at peak time. I got a setup from MJKZZ, it consists of a tube that holds liquid, a solenoid to release one drop at a time and a small programable board to control everything.
The best photos are when one drop makes a splash and when that happens liquid shoots straight up and then a second drop hits the splash of the first drop. Every time it happens it looks different but many times it looks like a mushroom. There are tons of variables, such as the liquid being used, water and milk are the easiest. The timing of how long the delay before the first and second drop is critical to getting unique looks.
Then once the splash happens you have to freeze the action. Few cameras have shutters fast enough to stop action that fast and the cameras are incredibly expensive, think 10s of thousands of dollars and I wouldn’t even think about buying one. The other way to stop action is with a flash. Small, handheld flashes have a very short duration of light when they flash so they are great at stopping action. I use two or three flashes to give different looks and will put a colored gel over the flash to make for colorful splashes. The color of the background can easily be controlled by the color of the light.
I hope you enjoy some of my first efforts, I’ll be doing more experiments and seeing how the splashes go.
To see larger versions of the photos, click on a photo and then you can scroll through the pictures.
It took me a while to get through all my photos, but I finally edited them down – somewhat.
One of the cool things that comes with hosting photography workshops is the great people I get to meet and spend time with. Workshops tend to create a bond between people who don’t know each other and they work together to make the best photos possible. But they make more than photos, they make friendships and it great to see how well folks get along when on a workshop. This trip was no different and when one person had to leave for a medical issue, the others were feeling down about not having their friend around any longer. They texted him to make sure he was ok after getting home and checked up with him each day.
The teamwork happened not only when making photos but also when it came to leisure time. Twice we did a tailgate dinner out in the boonies and they had a great time planning the food and wine and volunteering who would get what. Even when we didn’t have any glasses for the wine, they laughed and joked when I cut five empty water bottles in half to make 10 not-so-fancy drinking cups.
I look forward to our next adventure together, everyone has already signed up for either my March trip to Iceland or June Acadia National Park workshop.
Below are some of my photos from France. I’ll soon have a link to photos taken by the participants.[envira-gallery id=”13529″]