Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender in bloom contrasts beautifully with an old barn door in a Sonoma Valley vineyard

On the last few days of our trip to California we stayed in Napa and visited both the Napa and Sonoma valleys. I quickly became educated as to which is which and the virtues that each have to offer. Let’s just say that each is beautiful and each has its own unique qualities. No matter which one is your favorite, neither is a bad place to hang your hat at the end of the day.

Even though we had just met them, we were treated like royalty by our new friends, Andy and Kelli VomSteeg. They toured the area with us and gave us insights that we would never had gotten if we had stayed near our hotel room. In fact, this picture is an illustration of that. On our way from a private winery tour to a dinner party I somehow mentioned that I’d love to photograph a lavender field in bloom. Of course, the only lavender field I recalled seeing was in France. But, they quickly pointed out that there was a beautiful winery nearby that had a lavender field in it. So, I quickly went from wanting to photograph a lavender field to actually standing in one and taking shots. Incredible.

The lavender was planted in long rows that were really beautiful to capture. So, once I had taken my fill, we headed to the car to leave. Literally on the way out I spotted this old shed or barn at the edge of the field. It caught my eye because of the cool farm implements hanging on the door and the way the colorful lavender contrasted against the rustic texture of the doors. Hopefully it’s beautiful to you as well. Enjoy.


Summer on the Big Sur Coast

Summer on the Big Sur Coast

Wildflowers at your feet, seagulls overhead, fog clinging to the coastal range, and surf crashing below make the Big Sur coast a national treasure

The drive from San Simeon to Carmel should take two hours or so. In fact it’s an all day affair because you find yourself yanking your car into every overlook to drink in yet another incredible view. Just when you think it can’t become any more beautiful, it does – and often exponentially so. It’s just incredible how the combination of the coastal mountains, fog clinging to the coast, sunlight dancing in and out, wildflowers blooming, dramatic cliffs, and often the road itself can make a million different images, all unique and equally beautiful.

Such is the Big Sur coast. There are other beautiful drives in the world and I’ve been able to experience many of them. This may not be the most beautiful stretch of road in the world, but I’d say it’s in anyone’s top ten. It’s that dramatic and beautiful.

We were nearing Carmel Highlands where we would be spending the next couple of days when I noticed wildflowers filling the fields between the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. I just couldn’t resist seeing what the actual coast would look like the few hundred yards away. So, my long-suffering wife patiently picked up her book and encouraged me to take a while to go scout and shoot what I saw. Have I mentioned how patient she is with my photography addiction?

Fortunately there were some well-worn paths through the vegetation leading to different vantage points along the cliffs. Apparently, this location is a fairly popular area for hikers and people walking their dogs. It’s not hard to imagine why. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to hike while soaking in the views.

Unfortunately, I was so engrossed with getting to the vistas I expected, I totally missed the abundance of poison oak that was embedded in the vegetation – and I was wearing shorts. I wouldn’t find out for a couple of days, but this would turn out to be a big problem. I’m allergic to poison oak and ivy and I acquired the worst case I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t mean a few spots that turned into a rash. I mean my calves and lower thighs were covered in a rash that ultimately scabbed over and itched like nothing I’ve ever felt. I went through an entire bottle of poison ivy gel just trying to keep the itch under control. It took a full two months for the rash to go away entirely!

But even with the future onset of a nasty case of poison oak, the hike out through the brush was worth it. I rarely have one of these moments, but when the trail ended at the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, the scene literally took my breath away. In front of me stretched an uninterrupted view of the ocean to the horizon, blue sky, a golden beach, beautiful blue water and white foam intersecting with the coast, and a steep cliff side covered with native vegetation and flowers. It’s a scene that I can envision clearly as I write this post. It was beautiful and I took a few minutes just to soak it all in.

Then, I got to work. I moved up and down the cliff-top trail looking for a vantage point that captured as many of the elements of the scene as possible while still retaining a sense of composition that would fulfill my artistic vision. I finally found it in this spot. The view is north toward Carmel and captures all of the elements I described above. Patience added a small flock of birds lazily riding the wind down the coast and into my frame. It was a perfect moment in time for a landscape photographer – minus the nasty rash to come. But, all in all, it was worth it. Hopefully, this image and my words bring you a bit closer to that beautiful place in the world that is the Big Sur coast. Enjoy.

Setting Sun as Viewed from Moonstone Beach

Setting Sun as Viewed from Moonstone Beach

The setting sun descends into the Pacific over the rocks of Moonstone Beach

Although the sunset at Moonstone Beach was not as vibrant as I had hoped, it still turned out to be quite beautiful. The absence of clouds that could turn multi-hued pastel shades meant that all the rays of the setting sun could flood the beautiful California coastline. It’s magic hours like this that allow me to see at least one of the reasons California is called the Golden State. It certainly earned its nickname on this fine summer evening.

I had worked my way down the beach looking for vantage points and foregrounds that could showcase the setting sun and the rugged coastline. I finally settled on a rocky outcrop just off a local park where I could use the ocean as my foreground. I found this group of rocks that were absorbing the incoming tide where I could put the setting sun in the center of my frame.

I don’t normally like to put the most prominent feature of my images in the dead center of my composition. In this case, though, I wanted to feature many different elements including the ocean, the rocks, the graduated color of the sky and the distant hills descending into the Pacific. To do so, this was the composition that was the most pleasing to my eye. I used a relatively long shutter speed of 1/6 of a second to add some blur to the waves and introduce some sense of the action unfolding in front of me.

All in all, I love the image. I think it conveys a sense of the beautiful evening that I experienced. I hope the image conveys some of that sense to you as well. Enjoy.

Moonstone Beach at Sunset

Moonstone Beach at Sunset

Seagulls at rest and native vegetation on Moonstone Beach near sunset

I spent an evening on Moonstone Beach hoping for epic sunset conditions. I had hoped for some clouds in the sky that would turn to brilliant red, pink, and orange against the setting sun. Instead I got a cloudless sky. The benefit was that as the sun dropped toward the horizon everything turned golden. There were some pretty amazing shooting conditions for an hour or so.

I made several compositions, but this is one of my favorites. I’ve blown out the sun but it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize what it would have looked like. I managed to capture the backlit vegetation on the cliffs of Moonstone Beach and a flock of resting seagulls on the beach below. This image captures the feel of this part of the central California coast as well as anything else I shot on the trip. Enjoy.

Boardwalk, Wildflowers, and Ocean

Boardwalk, Wildflowers, and Ocean

A boardwalk and wildflowers on the Pacific coast at sunset

The central California coast is consistently beautiful. Around just about every turn in the road there is a new pretty sight to view. This shot was taken on a section of the coast with an extensive boardwalk that makes it easy to walk and take in the views. Add in a bit of wildflower creeping onto the boardwalk and some golden late afternoon light and, voilà, you have a magical image. Enjoy.

Chihuly at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Chihuly at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

One of the works at Chihuly’s exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Pamela and I went with friends on Wednesday night to view the Chihuly exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It’s truly beautiful, especially near sunset and at dusk. The glasswork is amazing and when combined with the beauty of the garden, it really is worth the price of admission. Enjoy.

Raindrops on Roses…

Raindrops on Roses...

One of thousands of beautiful roses in the rose garden adjacent to the Old Santa Barbara Mission

This wasn’t a hard shot to take. The rose garden was adjacent to the Old Santa Barbara Mission and made for an easy to reach target-rich environment. A small rain squall had coated all of the flowers with just enough rain to leave raindrops on the leaves and petals without beating up the flowers. I took quite a few shots but this one stood out to me. I suppose I love the contrast of the deep green of the leaves and the coral of the petals. The rain drops just enhance the already pretty composition. Enjoy.

Spring in Charleston

Spring in Charleston v. 2

A myriad of blooming trees and shrubs complements the beauty of a live oak and spanish moss

As I wandered about Magnolia Plantation and Gardens I was impressed by the quantity and beauty of the live oaks there. I photographed many of them with their stately limbs dripping with spanish moss hung over the Ashley River or one of the lawns in the garden.

This particular live oak was neither the largest nor most graceful of the live oaks. It did have the most color surrounding it of any that I saw. I spent a fairly long period photographing this tree hoping to capture the right combination of oak tree and other flowering specimens. Of all the images I took of this tree this one is my favorite. I don’t even know the names of all the shrubs and trees that are flowering in the shot, but I love the way that they all contrast with the deep grays and browns of the live oak and the moss hanging from it. Enjoy.

Azaleas Reflected

Azaleas Reflected

Azaleas and Spanish Moss reflected in a pollen streaked pond in Charleston

Now that summer is here, the relatively mild temperatures and first color of spring seems like a distant memory. Fortunately, images taken then still reflect the beauty of an early spring afternoon in Charleston.

As I’ve mentioned before, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a great place to visit especially during the spring. Around just about every corner there is a new scene to stop to soak in and occasionally to photograph.

I had been observing the dark tannin stained water with a layer of pollen sitting on it since I had begun to walk through the gardens. The subtle current in the ponds was creating streaks of pollen as it slowly moved through the still waters. Occasionally the pollen would form pretty leading lines toward an interesting subject. Or, more often, the pretty leading lines would lead to nothing of particular interest.

So, as I walked by this scene, I was first attracted to the pollen streaks. But, as I moved to a position perpendicular to the azaleas, the reflection of the beautiful colors of the blooms and the Spanish moss leaped out at me. The pollen streaks had become a sideshow but still an important element in the photograph. In addition, the wind was still almost nonexistent and a beautiful high overcast sky was present creating perfect photography conditions. I had plenty of time to set up my shot and frame the elements just the way I wanted them. It’s a simple image, but I really enjoy it. I hope you do as well.

The Tranquility of Spring

The Tranquility of Spring

A footbridge and spring colors reflected in a small pond in Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is filled with beautiful scenes. That is especially true in spring. There are several bridges that lead over canals or out to small islands in ponds. In my last post, the red bridge in the Japanese Garden is a good example of such a bridge.

In other parts of the gardens, the bridges are painted white and have graceful arches. This one leads to a very small island with some trees and small artifacts. Of course the island isn’t the main attraction; the bridge is. I spent quite a while isolating the bridge and looking for a nice background. After moving my tripod around a good bit and swapping between various lenses, I like this composition the best. The bridge is clearly the main subject, but the azaleas, trees, and reflection all add to the composition. It’s a good representation of the colors of spring found in Charleston. I hope you enjoy it too.