Now on newsstands – the latest cover of Petersen’s Photographic with my Jenny Lake, Wyoming (Grand Teton National Park) image.  

I also have eight articles and dozens of my photos inside to read and enjoy.  Check it out in stores everywhere!


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Most of my 2014 workshops were updated and listed on our main site, with a few “dates to be determined”.  We offer live and online workshops.  Check out my workshop schedule, sign up, and come join us sometime for great photographic instruction and a day, weekend or week of fun! 

http://seanarbabi.com/workshops/

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You can also find me on Meetup (running two groups there) where we list many of our workshops:

http://www.meetup.com/Sean-Arbabi-photographic-workshops/
http://www.meetup.com/sanfrancisco-bayarea-photography-workshops-tours/

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Thanks and Happy Shooting!
Sean


Recently I was editing some of my image files from the Eastern Sierra, a wondrous place east of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks where trees grow for thousands of years, land erodes abandoning balancing boulders, and alpine snowmelt feeds ancient lakes.

 
While I reprocessed a few shots, taking advantage of new wonderful features in Lightroom 5.2 and Photoshop CS6, I came across this scene (below)- a photo captured years ago just east of Mono Lake.  A sunset road scene on a long desolate stretch of Highway 120 west of the California/ Nevada border, documented during a long February road trip photographing the US West.  As I recalled this wonderful peaceful road that led us to our final destination of Mono Lake, the name David Gaines came to mind.
Highway 120 near the California/Nevada border at sunset © Sean Arbabi

Originally part of the Great Basin, Mono Lake is a one-of-a-kind place.  Home to trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies, and over 2,000,000 migratory waterbirds, including 35 species of shorebirds, use the ancient lake as a resting, nesting, and feeding place.  When you walk along the lakeshore viewing thousands of flies fan out as they avoid each of your footsteps, touch the salty waters painted red by the abundance of tiny shrimp, and gaze in awe at the monstrous clouds rolling over the Sierra, you feel how special and unique this body of water really is. 

The southern shores of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada at sunrise © Sean Arbabi

A lake with no outlets, the alpine streams and annual rainfall that feed it remain in the natural bowl for tens of thousands of years- that is until Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power (the DWP) began searching for new sources of water to supply their ever-growing Southern California metroplex.  From 1941 to 1990, the lake level began dropping as the DWP diverted unrestrained amounts of water from Mono Basin streams.  Mono Lake dropped 45 vertical feet over 50 years, lost half its volume, doubled in salinity, and exposed previously submerged tufa towers (limestone structures that grow exclusively underwater).

Moonrise over the Eastern Sierra, as seen from the southern Tufa-lined shores of Mono Lake © Sean Arbabi

 

Courtesy of NASA

People like David, and those who worked tirelessly at the Mono Lake Committee, fought Los Angeles’ DWP from draining the lake through numerous ecological studies, court cases, and injunctions.  I 1989 I joined the cause, photographing the Mono Lake Bike-A-Thon, capturing over a hundred riders as they peddled 332 miles from the DWP offices to the shores of the lake, raising funds for the fight.  Many of the decisions that came in favor of Mono Lake and the Mono Lake Basin allow us all- humans, birds, and wildlife- to enjoy its wonders.  Sadly, Owens Lake, an ancient body of water covering 108 square miles nestled in southern Owens Valley 10,000 feet below the towering Whitney range, was not able to be saved, drained by the DWP over a span of roughly 40 years.  Full in 1913, desiccated by the mid 1940s.  Much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and today the mostly dry lake bed is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

Looking west at Highway 136 and Owens Lake below the Whitney Range © Sean Arbabi
David Gaines (courtesy of the Mono Lake Committee)

So why did a photo of a highway remind me of David Gaines, a person I never met?  Well, David was tragically killed in a car accident in the winter of 1988 along Highway 395, south of Mono Lake, on a stretch of road similar to the one I posted above.  I drove along the road he did a few months later and captured that photo above on my first visit to the area.  Someday I will use that road to take my two daughters to the shores of Mono Lake.  I will tell them about the history of this region, about its ancient waters, and how we are still able to share it with future generations thanks to people like David Gaines.  He may have been taken far too early, but he gave far more to the world than most.


Way back in 1990 when I was 22, during my college days at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara CA, I had the chance to photograph Josef Muench at the tender age of 85 – father of David, grandfather to Mark – all great photographers in their own right, David probably being the most famous of the three.  


Josef was a landscape pioneer, many of his images gracing the pages of Arizona Highways for much of the 1940s and 1950s.  To my understanding, he worked for the magazine for roughly 50 years, and his stunning landscape images (shot with his 4×5 camera in 1936) helped place Monument Valley on the map.  He returned hundreds of times and to many, his views are some of the most memorable photographs ever taken of this southwest location.  He went on to capture images around the world, in Africa, Alaska, Asia, Canada, Colorado, Europe, and Hawaii.  Even the unmanned Voyager Expeditions, launched in 1977, included one of his photos (in a group of 117 images of Earth’s landscapes) – a snow-covered Sequoia redwood taken in Kings Canyon National Park.


Born in Germany in 1904, some say Josef once threw a tomato at Adolf Hitler, hitting him in the face.  I couldn’t verify this, but he sounded like my kinda guy.  While writing this post, I was able to find a nice quote online, Josef talking about the deserts of the Southwest: “When I first saw the desert I liked it. It was new and different. It immediately took on a meaning to me. I had heard it was barren. It isn’t. A little cactus–so delicate and beautiful, can hide from you. You have to go slowly, and look carefully.”


I can’t recall how I found his information when I was in college, but when I contacted him to fill one of my school assignments, he was kind enough to schedule a time, welcomed me into his home, sat patiently while I set up my 4×5 view camera, and allowed me to capture this portrait, even giving his suggestions on how he might pose.  

 

Portrait of Josef Muench, Santa Barbara, California – © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com

We talked for a bit about photography, and although I wasn’t old enough to really interview him the way I would today, I knew I was with an old photographic soul, so I attempted to soak up his words of wisdom during our brief time together.  Ironically we shared the same age (11) when we received our first cameras, and now I’ve had the chance to photograph some of the places he visited (although oddly enough, I’ve traveled all through the Southwest but never been to Monument Valley and have had the desire for years).


He past away in 1998 at the age of 94, but his images live on- just Google his name (Josef with an “f”) to review some of his work.  May I be so lucky as to live as long as he did, viewing the world through photographic eyes.


01Mar

Nature tip: Removing Flare from your outdoor shots

As I get my new online workshop class started this Friday, March 4th, through PPSOP.com (Perfect Picture School of Photography), I wanted to add a nice outdoor tip for everyone.

I often have people ask about how my photographs come out so crisp, so colorful, so clear, and often it’s from simply doing one thing; keeping flare out of my lens.

Flare is when the Sun, or any other light source, creeps into your camera through the front element of your lens, usually when you are pointing toward the light. I can happen with any lens although wide-angles can be more susceptible since they cover a wider field of view. We see flare in still images and video, digital or film-based. The visible artifacts from flare can cause your images to look hazy, lose color and contrast, or add hexagon or octagon-shaped rings resulting in a less than desirable outdoor photograph.

How do you know if you have flare? On occasion, you can see it through your camera’s viewfinder, easiest by toggling your hand in front of the Sun, then out, then blocking it again, to see if you notice a change in the scene. However, the best or most accurate way to see if you are you getting flare is to mount your camera on a tripod, then walk around the front to see if you notice the reflection of the Sun in the front of your lens. If you see the bright white specular source shining in your lens, you have some type of flare.

Can you simply shoot away from the Sun to avoid flare? You can, but it’s not always the best alternative to create a great shot. Here is a list of five ways to shoot toward the light while keeping flare out of your shots:

1) Don your Lens Hoods: Use your lens hoods whenever possible; I leave mine on most of my lenses almost permanently. This adds some protection to the front of the lens, shading it from the Sun.

2) Be Handy: One of the best methods of blocking any light from hitting the front element of your lens is your hand. Yes, you have to be careful from having it show up in your shots (one great way is to preview the photo on your back LCD screen after you capture it), but it can be highly effective. In fact, for some scenes where I’m shooting almost straight into the Sun, a long lens hood (such as the one I have on my 300mm lens) still doesn’t block the Sun; but extend my arm out and shade the lens with my hand and the color and contrast noticeably increases when looking through the viewfinder.

3) Take advantage of natural gobos: A gobo (as they are often referred to in most studio photography) is any object a photographer may use to block a light source from causing flare. I use black cards in the studio, but in the outdoors I will use a tree, a branch, a flower, a mountain, a rock, a cloud, a hiker, anything I can to block a large portion of the Sun. Another way to insure this is to make sure your camera is placed in the shadow of an object.
4) Avoid too many filters: The more external glass (filters) you add to your lens, the more chance you have of degradation or flare to your images. Filters can also stick out farther causing the lens hood to be less effective.
5) Purchase high-quality glass: This is a bit tougher since it truly deals with buying high-quality lenses, which in turn usually means a big dent in your wallet. But it’s true- the finer the glass, the less flare your will obtain. Sometimes, depending on the final scene you desire, they may be no way to avoid flare, for example, in the case where you may want the Sun in your composition. With some top-notch lenses, you can shoot straight into the Sun without hardly noticing flare, but those are rare and expensive pieces of gear.

Finally let me say sometimes deliberate use of flare can be okay. It takes some time and experience knowing when to leave it in and when to remove it, but flare can create a mood and a feel, so a potential mistake can be a welcome addition to a scene!

Join me for my new 4-week course on PPSOP.com called “Nature and Landscape photography“: http://www.ppsop.net/land.aspx
– 4 weeks
– 4 lessons
– 4 assignments
– 4 critiques
– along with Q&A, all leading to producing better nature and landscape images!

Happy shooting! Sean