Captivated by the sea

The coast of California has long been on my list of places to visit. I had the opportunity to do just that last spring. A family trip took us to San Diego where we were able to see some friends and take in some of the sites. Each evening, we spent some time at one of the many places you could sit and enjoy the setting sun. The experience of the warm light on the landscape, the soothing sound of the crashing waves and the warm breeze of the ocean was truly amazing. There are so many places to see along this coast it is hard to decide where to go first. My favorite of the trip was Sunset Cliffs. The coastline is a harsh volcanic looking rocky environment that has been battered and shaped by the Pacific Ocean. The tide determines how far out you can venture onto the rocky surface. Watching the waves crash back and forth is something I could do for hours seemingly slipping into a trance. When going out onto these rocks, you have to be extremely careful to not get too close to the edge. At any time a large wave could come up and knock you over or sweep you out to sea – a lesson that I learned the hard way on my way back to the stairs at Sunset Cliffs. After the sun has set – don’t pack up your gear right away. Stay a bit and watch the light change. You can continue to shoot and capture an entirely different feel. When shooting images of the coast, a tripod, remote shutter release and a polarizer is a must. I prefer to use an exposure that will help accentuate the movement of the sea. Depending on the strength of the tide, this can be anywhere from 1/15 of a second to several seconds with an aperture of at least F/11. If need be, I will use a Neutral Density filter to help extend my shutter speed.

If you have the opportunity to visit the San Diego area, make sure your agenda includes visiting one of these areas to experience the beauty and power of the sea. Thanks for taking a look and hope you enjoy…

Warm light blankets the coast, Sunset Cliffs Natural Point, San Diego, CA © Rob Loughrey
Warm light blankets the coast, Sunset Cliffs Natural Point, San Diego, CA © Rob Loughrey
Blue hour - Sunset Cliffs Natural Point, San Diego, CA © Rob Loughrey
Blue hour – Sunset Cliffs Natural Point, San Diego, CA © Rob Loughrey

Western dark skies

The western portion of the US has long been on my list of places to explore. I have always been intrigued by the way of life that people describe about the west. It has a lure unto itself, often described as a simple life. A life uncluttered or disrupted with our normal day to day experiences on the east coast. I had the opportunity to attend some training in South Dakota over the summer. Once I confirmed the dates, I started checking the calendar and maps for places to explore during my visit. It just so happened that I was visiting during the peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower and as luck would have it, it was a new moon phase that same week. Each night of my stay brought clear skies, an astrophotographers dream! It had been a long while since I was in a place where the skies were as dark as what I experienced here. I scouted out some locations in the Black Hills National Forest during the evening and then waited for the sun to set. Being there with such good weather and clear skies made it easy to try out some different techniques. I was able to do some time lapse photography a few long exposures and sat out and watched an incredible meteor shower. The only thing I was a little nervous about is being in the middle of the mountains/woods in complete darkness knowing full well there are hungry animals out there. Thankfully I didn’t have to fight any off. Here are a few shots from the different shoots. For the last shot, I stood on the roof of my rental. This gave me a good silhouette against the night sky. Climbing up there in the dark wasn’t easy, but I got it done without damaging myself or the rental. Hope you enjoy…

Dark skies over Black Hills National Forest, Deadwood S.D. © Rob Loughrey
Dark skies over Black Hills National Forest, Deadwood S.D. © Rob Loughrey
Perseids Meteor Shower, Black Hills National Forest S.D. © Rob Loughrey
Perseids Meteor Shower, Black Hills National Forest S.D. © Rob Loughrey
Stargazing - Black Hills National Forest, S.D. © Rob Loughrey
Stargazing – Black Hills National Forest, S.D. © Rob Loughrey

Persistence pays – Part II

Hello everyone,

Been a few weeks since I have been able to work on any images. To follow up on my last post, where I described working a scene and waiting for the right light, I decided to follow my own advice. During my annual visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, I took a more relaxed approach to my photography outings. I really just watched the weather and waited for what looked like a good evening and only ventured out 2 or 3 times during the week long vacation. This is a big difference from what I normally would do, which is going out every evening. On this particular evening, the clouds were looking pretty promising in the afternoon. I took a short drive down to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and walked out onto the beach. I scouted out the area for about 30 minutes before settling on a location. I found a spot where I had a good view of the lighthouse and felt the setting sun would be in a nice position. I setup and waited for the light to change. Over the course of an hour, I watched the sun dip down as the clouds rushed by. The position of the clouds really worked out well and I came away with some images I was very happy with. I processed these in Adobe Lightroom and then Photoshop using Tony Kuyper’s luminosity masks. Tech Details: Nikon D800, 24-120mm lens, cable release, Induro Tripod. Hope you enjoy.

Sunset light - Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey
Sunset light – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey
Summer color - Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey
Summer color – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey
Sun, sand and a gentle breeze - Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey
Sun, sand and a gentle breeze – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC © Rob Loughrey

Persistance pays for sunset light

This is an image I took a few years ago while on vacation in NC. Being in the area reminded me of how lucky I was to capture this. While staying in the Outer Banks, I decided to take a ride and get some sunset images at the Bodie Island Lighthouse, which is located just South of Nags Head at Oregon Inlet. At the time of this image, the lighthouse was still operational with an old style rotating light. I arrived in the area about an hour before sunset and was scoping out a few locations. This is a challenging location to shoot. The area to the East of the lighthouse is a boggy bush area that makes it very difficult to navigate. Basically it was a no go for launch as far as I was concerned. While looking around for locations to shoot, the sun dipped below the horizon, mostly obscured by a layer of clouds – making it uneventful. I did notice a strip of clouds that looked promising but was having difficulty finding a good location to shoot from. Based on the view of the lighthouse on my way in, I decided to get back in my car and go onto Route 12.  I drove south along the highway finding a spot where there was a break in the trees and brush and pulled over to the shoulder. The majority of the view was obscured with all of the vegetation, plus there were power lines right in front of me. My only option was to climb onto the roof of my vehicle, which I quickly did. Once I got up there, I had the perfect vantage point to take in this amazing display of color. Once I got setup, the only thing left to do was to time my capture so that the light from the lighthouse was lit during my exposure. My timing was just right, as the clouds lit up the sky in what looked like a fire in the sky. People passing by on Route 12 must have thought I was a bit crazy, standing on the roof of my vehicle, but it was well worth the effort. After a little work and thinking outside of the box, I came away with what I feel is a great image of an iconic landmark. Hope you enjoy…

Technical details: Nikon D200, Sigma 80-200mm F/2.8 lens @ 180mm. 1/8 sec at F18, ISO 100, Manfrotto Tripod, Really Right Stuff Ball Head.

Sunset light - Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC. © Rob Loughrey
Sunset light – Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC. © Rob Loughrey

Into the flow

Hey folks, here is a follow up shot from my trip to RIcketts Glen. I was knee deep into some pretty strong currents during this shot. Whenever I take a trip that involves water of any kind, I always bring with my hip and chest waders. Depending on the water temps, the need for the waders isn’t always there, but I prefer to have them along just in case. The currents were extremely strong this particular morning but I was still able to navigate out into the stream using my tripod as a means to stabilize myself. I felt comfortable doing this because I was in a section of the creek that was a good distance from a falls and a relatively gradual grade. Had I been further downstream, perhaps closer to the 92′ Ganoga Falls, I would not have taken the chance. The heavy rains and low clouds were dominating the area with an occasional separation which presented the rising sun and some crepuscular rays of light. I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the scene but still came away with some images I was really happy with. A landscape version of this shot is already on order to hang up in the house. This image really depicts where I enjoy shooting from – right in the middle of things. Hope you enjoy…
Technical details: Nikon D810, 17-35mm F/2.8 lens, Exposed for 1/2 Sec at F/16, ISO 400. Induro Tripod, Really Right Stuff Ball Head & Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.  

Summer Flow along Kitchen Creek Ricketts Glen State Park, PA © Rob Loughrey
Summer Flow along Kitchen Creek Ricketts Glen State Park, PA © Rob Loughrey

Weekly inspiration

Hi everyone,

During the 4th of July holiday, I visited family in North East PA. As one would imagine, I can’t go to PA without including plans to visit Ricketts Glen State Park with a fellow photographer and friend Ian. With everything we had planned, the only day we had open to visit the park was Saturday the 4th. Ian and I watched the forecast and as luck would have it, it was sketchy at best during the early morning. We didn’t let that stop us and got up early to make the 2 hour trek to the park. We arrived with gloomy skies which included intermittent rain and periods of downpour. Still not wanting to be deterred, we pressed forward. The recent increase in rainfall had the water at a level that I had never seen before. I was amazed at how much flow there was even in the smaller tributaries that feed into the main runs. We parked in the Lake Rose trailhead parking lot and headed down the Ganoga Glen side of the falls trail. The rain continued to be a menace making getting any shots challenging. We made the best of it and trekked down the falls trail all the way to the top of the 94′ Ganoga Falls. I stopped at each falls along the way and took in some shots. Most of my time I spent in the middle of the main run, shooting upstream in various spots. Here is one of my favorites from the trip of Oneida Falls. The amount of flow was so much on this falls that there was a wind driven spray even 50 feet from the base of the falls. At this particular location, the falls is exposed to the open sky, where the stream is mostly shaded by the canopy of trees along the edge. I don’t often process my images as monochromatic – it just isn’t my cup of tea. I played around with the highlights and shadows on this image and finally settled on the conversion. I think it evokes the mood of what we were experiencing that morning. If you are looking for a good place to shoot in the coming weeks, I highly recommend a trip here. The flows are likely still very high and will make for some fantastic waterfall photography. Thanks for stopping by to have a look at my work. Hope you enjoy! 

Tech details: Nikon D810, 17-35mm f/2.8 lens @ 25mm. ISO 400, .7 sec at f/11, Singh Ray LB Polarizer, Induro Tripod.  

Morning Mist at Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, PA © Rob Loughrey
Morning Mist at Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, PA © Rob Loughrey

Southwest Sunsets

Hello everyone, 

What makes up your dream sunrise or sunset venue? Is it being at the edge of the ocean, watching the colors change as the sun passes over the horizon? Perhaps at the top of a mountain where you can see for miles on end or maybe a good stretch of farm land riddled with trees and crops? For me, it is anywhere really. As an avid chaser of the light, I often find myself exploring my location for sunrise or sunset opportunities. Recently I spent some time in Arizona where you have wide expanses or flat land that go beyond your imagination. The landscape also has its share of mountains that literally jump out of the plains forming some extremely adverse terrain. One location that I visited while in Arizona was the Saguaro National Park, located just outside of Tucson. This is a unique area of the U.S. which has the distinct pleasure of being one of the sole places on this planet where the Saguaro Cactus grows and thrives. The Saguaro is an amazing plant that towers 20-30 feet up and is able to suck water out of some of the driest soil around. I was truly in awe looking at these marvels of nature. 

The park offers a wide expanse of areas to explore on foot and setup your camera and tripod to witness the light show. When shooting scenes like this, I prefer to shoot a silhouette of the scene rather than blow out the sky. With colors like this, you just can’t go wrong. The only thing that is difficult about getting a shot like this is not running into other Cacti or any of the dozens of reptiles or other occupants of the area. Wear some good hiking shoes, preferably that protect your ankles and take a flashlight to help you find your way in the dark.  There are plenty of places in the park to pull off and explore and in many cases, you have a well traveled trail to follow out into the cactus fields. During my time in the area, I made several trips to the park for sunset. During these visits, I was lucky enough to witness some amazing colors with or without clouds. Hope you enjoy…

Twilight - Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Twilight – Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Light show over the Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Light show over the Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Natures color palette - Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Natures color palette – Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Trip report – Great Falls National Park, VA

Hello everyone,

Lasts week I posted Wednesday Inspiration, a wide format image from Great Falls National Park, VA. This park is relatively close to my home in Maryland and is someplace I frequent quite often. Most recently, I met up with a fellow photographer Robert Clark and spent a couple of hours along the river capturing the morning light. We had a great morning shooting different angles of the river as the sun crested and lit up the landscape. You can visit Bob’s website  here, which I highly recommend. His work is amazing and he is an excellent writer to boot.

Great Falls NP  occupies the western side of the Potomac River in northern Virginia. It has numerous hiking trails, an old canal with locks in ruins (locks are used to raise or lower a vessel while traveling up or downstream). The main attraction for visitors are the 3 river overlooks, which give you an excellent vantage point over the mighty Potomac River. All of the overlook locations are just a short walk from the parking area and easily accessible. Each of the locations provides a commanding view of the river from an elevated position. n order to get some of the images I am after, I often hike one of the trails north and then do a little rock hopping. When doing so, I am very careful not too get close to the rivers edge. If you decide to go this route, only do so during dry periods. If there is even a little bit of water on the rocks, they are as slippery as an ice rink. Use extreme caution. With slippery conditions under your feet, you stand a good chance to fall and break an ankle, slam your head or worse, fall into the river. The Great Falls portion of the river is rated as a class 5-6 whitewater according to the International Scale of River Difficulty. This means certain death for anyone who thinks wading or swimming is a good idea. According to the NPS website – 7-10 deaths a year occur here. Most of them are related to drunken stupidity. Take my advice, don’t get too close to the edge. If you fall in, it will be the last thing you do.

Directly across the river is the Maryland side of Great Falls and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. This side of the river features access to 6 different canal locks that were built in and in use during  the late 1700’s and was partially funded by George Washington. The project canal system was used to help skirt around the falls and move goods upstream along the Potomac. Use of the canal was abandoned in 1830 with the advent of the U.S. Railroad system. In addition to the canals and historic buildings, there is also a long boardwalk trail that leads out to the river giving you a different angle to view Great Falls.  

For anyone in the Maryland, D.C. or Northern Virginia area, this park is on the list of must see locations. Either side of the river makes a great location for a day trip with the family. The spring and summer weekends are the busiest times, so plan your trip and arrive early. Park hours are from 7am until sunset all year round., but if you are interested in getting there earlier, the gate is normally open at 5:30am.

Here are a couple more shots from my recent trips…

Rivers edge - Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Rivers edge – Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Robert Clark hard at work capturing the morning light - Great Falls NP, VA © Rob Loughrey
Robert Clark hard at work capturing the morning light – Great Falls NP, VA © Rob Loughrey

Wednesday inspiration

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to make a quick post and give everyone a little inspiration for the rest of the week. This image is from a recent trip I took to Great Falls, VA with a friend and fellow photographer Bob Clark. As most of you know, I make several trips a year to this location. For me it is a quick getaway and an amazing place to take in the amazing forces of nature. There aren’t any other locations nearby that can rival the mighty Potomac River as it approaches our Nations Capital. Even during spring or early summer, you can get to the park at a reasonable time and get setup prior to sunrise. This coming weekend looks like it would be a great time to visit. Don’t hesitate and get out there early! Hope you enjoy…

Daybreak - Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Daybreak – Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey

Eastern Arizona – a hidden gem

During my trip to the southwest, I decided to take a weekend and see a National Monument in the Eastern part of Arizona. The park isn’t very well known but looked intriguing nonetheless. The Chiricahua National Monument is about 120 miles SE of Tucson and fairly close to the border of New Mexico. The park is referred to as a wonderland of rocks and is very similar to Bryce Canyon. The park encompasses 12,000 acres of rugged terrain within a mountain range that is twenty miles wide and forty miles long. The heart of the park has amazing pinnacle rock formations called hoodoos that are formed by millions of years of weathering. The entire process is too long to explain here, but in short, the constant freeze / thaw periods in a year are a major factor in the hoodoos forming. 

When entering the park, there is a visitor station a few miles up the road which has great information, maps and displays. There is an 8 mile scenic road that takes you to the top of the mountain where you can access hiking trails. During the drive, you will see hoodoos and balanced rocks all along your drive. The best way to view them is to go to one of the trail heads and walk down into the canyon.  There are several trails to choose from depending on your hiking ability. I took a 3 mile hike into the canyon about an hour before sunset. The hoodoos are huge and full of color. Most of them were over 20′ tall with many more than 30′.  The warm side lighting on the rocks made the colors pop and provided plenty of dimension to the scene. I didn’t stay overnight, but based on the remote area of the country and desolate surroundings, I would imagine that this area has some amazing dark skies on a clear moonless night. Next time I am in the area, I plan to make stay in the park and get some moonlit hoodoo images. I’m sure it will be amazing. Still trying to get caught up on postings. More to follow on a recent trip to Great Falls National Park. Hope you enjoy…

Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Hoodoos and the rugged wilderness - Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Hoodoos and the rugged wilderness – Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument , AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument , AZ © Rob Loughrey