Bandon Sunsets

The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon
The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon

This spring I made a trip with a friend to photograph the area around Bandon, Oregon. Bandon is a very popular golf destination, and in recent years has become a gathering point for many photographers. Mornings and evenings can see dozens of tripod wielding forms roaming up and down the beach, searching for that unique perspective. Here are a collection of sunset photographs I made over the course of several days.

The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.
The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.

While I was there, I was blessed with some reasonable low tides at sunrise, but unfortunately, most sunsets coincided with higher tides, moving me further away from some of the spectacular sea stacks for which this area is known. However, you always have to work with what nature gives you, and I used the varied tides to give me a wider variety of images.

In the shot above, I worked with a lower tide, which allowed me to use a wide angle and get very close to the foreground rock. This gave the beach a lot of depth, and pulled the sea stacks farther into the background.

However, in the shot below, the tide was in much further. This allowed me to use a longer lens and compress the rocks together, giving much more weight to the background sea stacks.

The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.
The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.

In the hour before sunset, I moved closer to one of the sea stacks and played with sun stars along the edge of its silhouette. The sinking sun forced me to constantly change my tripod position, but it helped to have a vertical line to play against. This gave me many more opportunities than if the sun sank behind a horiztonal-oriented object. To catch a good sun star, you have to use a stopped down aperture and catch a light source right on the edge of an obstruction.

The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.
The setting sun at Bandon Oregon turns the sky an orange pink and turns the sea stacks into silhouettes.

Unfortunately for much of the trip, we had clear skies in the evening. We did get the sunset glow over the horizon, but the color interest faded to dull grayish orange as you moved up in the sky. This kept most of my compositions low to the horizon, choosing instead to catch the color interplay of red and blues in the moving waves.

The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon
The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon

It always helps to get a variety of lens lengths to capture a subject in different ways. In the shot above, I used a long telephoto to compress the waves and rocks together, creating a more graphical image. In the shot below, I went much wider, including more of the sky and much more of the incoming waves.

The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon
The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon

In all this was a sometimes frustrating trip due to the weather. Many mornings were socked in with fog and the evenings saw blown out clear skies. But trying to pull variety out of the location is always a challenge I strive to overcome. I know I’ll be back to this location in the future, hoping for more changing conditions and weather variety.

Sunrise Sunset, Hawaiian Style

Okay, so I’m REALLY behind on my photo editing. I try to keep up to date with important photo shoots, but that often means that my less important photos fall into my backlog for later processing. Here is a set of images I shot in Kauai in 2013. Like I said, I am very behind!

Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii
Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Often when I’m shooting landscapes, I create images that has a foreground, middle ground and background, to create depth and lead the viewers eye into the frame. However when I was in Hawaii, I found myself simplifying ocean images into nothing but clouds, colors and water. These images are really all about the colors and texture of the clouds, and most are shot with longer lenses.

Pastels color the northern sky at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Pastels color the northern sky at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

While I was there, I had a mixture of dramatic sunrises and sunsets. As I was situated on the north shore of the island most of the time, I had similar side-lighting on each end of the day.

Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii
Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

However, sunrise gave me the most dramatic clouds and lighting. When shooting into the rising sun, I used silhouetted tree tops to give a sense of scale.

Dramatic shadows play across the thick clouds at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Dramatic shadows play across the thick clouds at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Palm trees are silhouetted by sunrise clouds, Kauai, Hawaii.
Palm trees are silhouetted by sunrise clouds, Kauai, Hawaii.

And when appropriate, I included a bit of shoreline to the east and west, depending on sunrise or sunset.

Clouds to the east light up over Kauai's north shore at sunrise
Clouds to the east light up over Kauai’s north shore at sunrise
The sun sets behind the northern cliffs of the Napali coast, Hanalei Bay, Kauai
The sun sets behind the northern cliffs of the Napali coast, Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Overall, the colors and lighting of the Kauai sea were spectacular enough to hold their own without a strong foreground. When seen together, they paint a picture of the drama that can play out between light, clouds and ocean.

Palo Alto Baylands

While I usually don’t make location specific posts about birding, I did want to call out Palo Alto Baylands as one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s great birding spots. Located in Palo Alto right along the bay, it provides the birder with a variety of species, from water birds to song birds to raptors – there is always something interesting to see here. It even holds one of the best viewing areas for the elusive (and endangered) clapper rail. Here are a few photos of what I found there on a recent morning.

A song sparrow perches on wild fennel in the morning sun
A song sparrow perches on wild fennel in the morning sun

Song sparrows are one of three most common sparrow (along with white and golden-crowned) species seen at Baylands. The ubiquity of the house sparrow in the suburbs gives way to the song sparrow this close to the water. With common birds such as this, I try to create photos that go beyond just showing the bird, but also show some behavior or interesting background. In this photo, I liked the way the sparrow is tilting downward (he was eating from the wild fennel) – it creates more of an action pose.

A white-tail kite perches on a large branch
A white-tail kite perches on a large branch

Baylands has the occasional visit from a bird of prey. Kites are seen anywhere from the water up into the foothills, hunting large, open spaces. Other birds of prey I’ve seen include fly-overs by osprey, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, and norther harriers.

A female yellow warbler pauses briefly on wild fennel in the morning sun
A female yellow warbler pauses briefly on wild fennel in the morning sun

The smaller passerines get me excited because they are much harder to photograph than water birds or sparrows. The are small, fast, and rarely stay in one place for more than a few seconds. The most common warbler here is the yellow-rumped, but orange-crowned and yellow warblers are not uncommon. There are many many others, from chestnut-backed chickadees to bushtits – all of them equally hard to photograph. I loved the tonality of this image – the yellow on yellow really works here, blending the bird into her background.

A domestic goose swims through still water reflecting fall color foliage
A domestic goose swims through still water reflecting fall color foliage

Palo Alto Baylands also has a man-made pond that attracts a wide variety of migrating ducks throughout the year. There are also quite a few year-round residents, including this domestic goose. Most of the resident ducks here are cross breeds of domestic ducks and mallards. But this pond is also a great opportunity to see migrants up close, including ruddy ducks, greater and lesser scaup, northern shovelers, american wigeons, and a variety of teals.

An american avocet stands in shallow water, catching the first rays of morning sun
An american avocet stands in shallow water, catching the first rays of morning sun

Finally there are the water birds. Habitat here includes plenty of tidal wetlands, so these species abound. All the usual suspects can be seen here, and there are good viewing angles in morning and evening. In this photo, the earliest morning light is lighting the feathers of this american avocet. In spring, there is a popular nesting area for avocets and black-necked stilts. Photographers line up to capture cute photos of hatchlings venturing for the first time out into the mud flats.

For birders there is always lots to see at Palo Alto Baylands. If you live near or are visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, be sure to put this on your list of bird spots to visit.

Yankee Girl Silver Mine

In the late 1800s, the Yankee Girl mine was one of the most profitable mines in the history of silver mining in the United States. At its height, Yankee Girl produced 10 tons of ore on a daily basis.
In the late 1800s, the Yankee Girl mine was one of the most profitable mines in the history of silver mining in the United States. At its height, Yankee Girl produced 10 tons of ore on a daily basis.

Last month, I took a great trip out to Colorado to shoot fall colors in the Rockies with some friends. One of my favorite locations to visit (we went back several times because the area had so much to offer) was the Yankee Girl Silver Mine, south of the town of Ouray. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Yankee Girl was operational until the early 1900s. In the late 1800s, the mine was one of the most profitable mines in the history of silver mining in the United States. At its height, Yankee Girl produced 10 tons of ore on a daily basis, some of which was carted out by 75 mules every day.

Silver ore was carted out by 75 mules every day. Here the old mine is front lit with dramatic dark skies beyond.
Silver ore was carted out by 75 mules every day. Here the old mine is front lit with dramatic dark skies beyond.

A dirt road winds up into the mining area from the highway, which is comprised of several sites, all of which are in various stages of decay. While these abandoned buildings are interesting enough to explore and photograph, being surrounded by intense fall color foliage added an extra layer of interest to the photos.

There remain many small details of interest scattered about this area.
There remain many small details of interest scattered about this area.

When covering an area photographically, it is important to look at a subject from many angles and to incorporate elements that help the viewer understand what the scene was like. Here I used old weathered boards to lead the viewer’s eye up into the frame, showcasing the main building. I’m sure if I spent an afternoon roaming the hill on which the mine buildings were perches, I could find many more such elements (old rusted pipes, mined rocks, etc) to incorporate into interesting compositions.

One of the smaller mine structures of the Yankee Girl Silver Mine sits perched over a valley of colorful fall aspen, Ouray, Colorado
One of the smaller mine structures of the Yankee Girl Silver Mine sits perched over a valley of colorful fall aspen, Ouray, Colorado

Here is one of the smaller buildings in the mining complex. While not as attractive as the main building, it was perched on the edge of a hill with a magnificent color display on the opposite slope. I stitched multiple frames together to create a large resolution panorama.

Stay tuned for more posts based on photos from this trip.