6 days on the road, 0 campsites, and 8 rolls of film
i woke up feeling a bit different this morning.
last night it really dawned on me that i was beginning to feel too comfortable with my creative abilities. i remember when i first started shooting; it was such an exhilarating feeling to be so challenged by something. everything i was seeing and doing felt so new and fresh.
lately, it hasn't been the same.
i've been feeling stuck. everything i create feels so bland to me. i have been searching for a change of atmosphere and feeling within my photographs.
this morning, something was just different. i woke up and went straight to my laptop, and my workflow and mindset was just different. it's like a switch flipped in my head.
I feel a change coming.
not a style change, necessarily, but more of a change in taste. in the past, i have been so focused on shooting the vast landscapes that i travel to that i forgot to enjoy the moments that come with these adventures. i am becoming to understand that i crave these moments more than i crave the sites that i see; i live for the laughs, the good times, the hardships, the struggles, and every single thing that goes along with my travels.
these moments are what mean the most to me, and these moments are what i am going to further document the most. landscape photography is still my favorite genre, but i feel as though i can challenge myself to integrate this somewhat of a lifestyle atmosphere into my landscape photographs to implement a different type of unique feeling onto my viewers.
i hope this makes you guys as excited as i am. i can't wait for my travel plans this year and to share them with you all.
thank you for reading. if you enjoy my work and my adventures, help fund them by purchasing yourself or a loved one a print here. now also available in my shop are wallpaper packs which you can also purchase here. until next time,
HOW TO UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POPULARITY: FAST!!!!
simply put, here is where our problem lies.
our problem is that we search and hunt for the fastest way possible to achieve social recognition rather than how to develop our craft and reach our full potential. it's not our fault... we are just simply giving in to what these various social media platforms have influenced us to feel.
most of you likely came to this blog post to read about upping your social media following... unfortunately that is not what i am writing about today.
social media is not what makes a photographer or an artist. we need to STOP shooting for what is going to do "well" on social media and start shooting what we think looks best. individualism and unique points of view is what makes you YOU and is what differentiates you from the next artist. people do not want to hire you because you shoot like the rest of them; people want to hire you because of YOUR talents.
i know from first-hand experience that it gets very discouraging when you feel as though your work is not getting the recognition it deserves. the first thing we like to do is shout "ITS THE ALGORITHM" "HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE INSPIRED WHEN NOBODY SEES MY WORK" "WHY DOES INSTAGRAM HATE PHOTOGRAPHERS". the algorithm isnt shit but a bump in the long road of becoming an artist. when you think about it, instagram won't be a dominant platform in the near future. just like how we transitioned from myspace to facebook, and from facebook to instagram/twitter, something else will come along and sweep up the vast majority of sick and tired instagram users. take this time NOW (not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, NOW) to get inspired and create your best work.
if you find yourself getting discouraged from instagram, work on your website. start creating a collection of your favorite photographs and get them printed. grab a journal and start brainstorming your next shoots. begin planning your next trip. focus on going out and shooting for yourself rather than shooting for social media. take some horizontally composed photographs for your website instead of vertically composed photographs to please your IG followers.
i am getting so frustrated at the many talented people out there that let this algorithm BS get to them (INCLUDING MYSELF). it is time we leave all this in the past and move forward with our work.
stay inspired my friends.
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Do you ever wonder how photographers manage to catch such stunning images in the nighttime?
Is it photoshop? Is it a special camera?
Well, the answer is yes and no.
It does not necessarily come down to what camera you are using, but more of how you know how to use that camera. In this blog I will talk about things such as exposure, focus, and most importantly COMPOSITION.
There are multiple things you must consider when attempting to shoot the night-sky, all of which will be described throughout this blog:
1.) What settings are you going to use to acquire your desired look?
2.) How high is too high for ISO capability on your camera?
3.) Is there light around/near you (even minuscule light) to help brighten up your foreground?
4.) How are you going to make this shot interesting and eye-appealing?
1.) What are you trying to shoot?
I know this sounds very basic, but it is extremely important to keep in mind for several different reasons. Without a plan, you will never be happy with your image.
Milky Way photography:
A key factor in shooting the Milky Way is actually setting yourself up to see it. Although it may not seem like it, Milky Way photography takes a lot of planning and scheduling. There is a certain time of the year where the Galactic Core rises/sets above the horizon when it is dark enough to see it. For where I am from, it is during the spring/summer (West Coast). I believe it is the same for the rest of the U.S. as well. Other places around the world may take more research to know exactly when the ideal time of the year to shoot it would be. Once you have a basic idea of when during the year you are going to want to shoot, you also have to take into account the moon cycle. The more full the moon is, the more the sky will be dimmed out by its' light. The less full it is, the darker the nightsky will be, allowing for the light of the stars to be brighter. This is what you want. Now that you've read this, you will be thinking "awesome, the next time it is the new moon of the moon cycle I am going to shoot the Milky Way!" I have a little special tip for you that I consider myself; although shooting the Milky Way at new moon will provide you with the most detailed Milky Way and brightest stars, it is difficult to shoot any type of foreground due to there being 0 light on it. I find my most successful astro shoots are when it is 1-3 days before and after the new moon cycle.
Now let's talk settings. There are 3 things to consider when it comes to getting the proper exposure: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I am sure you understand the basics of these if you are a photographer but it gets a bit more technical at night. ISO is what you are going to want to base your exposure upon; the higher you boost it, the more sensitive your camera sensor will be the the light (just like film speed when shooting film). You also have to remember that the higher your ISO, the more grain will be in your photo (I will talk about this in #2). With astrophotography, you have to accept the fact that your photo will be somewhat grainy; the only way to get a proper exposure in the night is with high ISO levels. There are ways to reduce the amount of grain, such as photo stacking or star tracking. I am not going to talk about these in this blog due to the amount of information and steps in both of these options, but they can be studied through a simple google search.
You must also keep in mind that the Galactic Core rises and sets just as the sun and moon. As our Earth rotates, the stars move throughout the sky. The longer your shutter speed, the more star drag you will have in your photo.
Star drag isn't always a bad thing, especially when you like this look, but if you are trying to get the sharpest possible Milky Way image, you want to avoid star drag. The sharper your stars, the more clean your image will look.
Longer focal lengths are more compressed, and call for shorter shutter speed times. I prefer to shoot with a wide-angle lens due to this factor; with my 14mm lens, I can have an exposure of 20 seconds with 0 star drag whereas with my 50mm, 8 seconds is the most I can go. After a while you get the hang of this and the proper settings come to your mind naturally.
You want to keep your aperture as wide open as possible to get the most light.
This is tricky, because the more your aperture is open, the harder it will be to get the proper focus. My 14mm runs at an aperture of f/2.8, and allows for good light. What I do to find a focus is zoom in on my live view, and try and find a star to focus on.
What I do to find a focus is zoom in on my live view, and try and find a star to focus on.If you are zoomed in and still can't find a star, try messing with your focus ring until you do see one. Once you find a star, zoom in all the way and adjust your focus ring until the star is at it's sharpest. ALWAYS SHOOT NIGHTTIME IN MANUAL FOCUS. Chances are, your camera is not smart enough to focus on a star (mine isn't).
With all this in mind, use your judgement and make any adjustments you find necessary. There is no right or wrong way to do things in photography; these are just simply things I think about when taking photos in the night.
2.) How high is too high for the ISO on your camera?
And here it is; "you're only a good photographer because you have a good camera".
Although having a full-frame camera has it's advantages over a crop-sensor camera, both are capable of taking amazing photographs. I shot with a crop-sensor camera before upgrading to a full frame; it all comes down to how you make what you have work. I can run my ISO to 6400 at night and have little noise, whereas with a crop-sensor, anything over 1600 ISO will be far too grainy; so just remember the other ways to get a brighter photo (Shutter speed, aperture). If you are shooting with a crop-sensor, consider upgrading lenses to have a wider aperture to allow for more light.
3.) Is there light around/near you (even minuscule light) to help brighten up your foreground?
If there is 0 light on your foreground, it won't matter how long your exposure is, it will still be dark. As your shutter stays open, it burns all the light possible onto your sensor and this is how cameras capture dark scenes. Dim lighting on your foreground (from a small sliver of the moon or a dim light in the far background) will help your foreground come to life. This is how you see images with dramatic foregrounds complimented with the night-sky. You can also take 2 exposures (one for the sky, one for the foreground) and blend them together, but this can get messy.
4.) How are you going to make this shot interesting and eye-appealing?
This is often overlooked by newer photographers; you get so amped up over seeing the Milky Way that you just set up your tripod, point your camera straight into the sky, and shoot.
Pay more attention to what it is you are shooting. How are you going to add interest to your shot? Sure, the Milky Way is an amazing and beautiful sight by itself, but how can you compliment it? There are many different ways to go about this; leading lines, rule of thirds etc. but it really comes own to how you decide you want to compose your image. As i said above, there is no right or wrong when it comes to photography; do as you wish!
These are just basic tips and tricks. Of course astrophotography is much more technical, but the only way to truly learn is to go out and practice. The more you go out and shoot at night, the more you will learn and the better your images will be. It has taken me over a year to get to where I am now! I hope this helps out anybody who is newer to photo, and if it did, please leave a comment and let me know. If you have any more questions regarding astrophotography, feel free to contact me at email@example.com . Thank you for reading, until next time.
I know I didn't keep up well with my trip on my blog; things got very crazy and I was very busy. Wow is all I have to say.
What an experience that was. Two weeks on the road, starting with one night in Yosemite National Park, then a stop in Santa Rosa, CA to link up with a few friends, a sunset in Bodega Bay at Goat Rock, a stop in the Redwoods National Park for a night, then a straight shot to Oregon. Zero plan, just a camera, some food, a change or two of clothes, and the burning desire to create content and broaden my horizons.
I stopped in Bodega Bay after the Yosemite National Park for a shot that I had wanted to get for a long time. The sun was scheduled to set perfectly along side the infamous Goat Rock. I set up shop at a nearby parking lot and waited for the sun to set after finding my composition. I took advantage of this time to edit some photos, write, and relax. This is where I wrote my Yosemite blog, which you can read by clicking here.
Watching the sun set at Goat Rock was unbelievable. There was a family below me and it reminded me of my own as I grew up; an older man, and two little boys who reminded me of my brother and I. I watched them enjoy their time and soak up the sun and it reminded me of my grandfather watching my little brother and I play at Lake Isabella as children.
The sun was finally beginning to set so I wrapped up my blog and began to set up my tripod and align my composition. The sunset was unforgettable, and the photo proves it. The waves along the coastline provide for a perfect leading line into the area of focus; Goat Rock and the setting sun.
After taking this photograph, I packed everything up and got myself prepared for my night's sleep before heading up to the Redwoods. I set up my grill and cooked dinner, inflated my air mattress and fell into my slumber.
I woke up to a light flashing in my face from the outside of my truck bed through my camper. It was a police officer that had approached my truck to tell me I was not allowed to be sleeping there. I told him I was on the road and wanted to catch some sleep before heading farther up the coast because I was falling asleep at the wheel. He understood but continued to tell me how a few years back a couple was sleeping here on this beach and a psychotic local shot them both in their head in their sleep; I'm not sure if he was trying to scare me out of there but it most definitely worked because I got little to no sleep. I woke up to shoot the morning fog rolling in and headed out to my next adventure. (thank you officer for not citing me btw cuz i was already balling on a budget haha)
It was my birthday and I was on my way to the 101 freeway out of Bodega Bay. As I was on the winding canyon road, I was wished a happy birthday by my two favorite people; my grandfather and my best friend Ricardo. With chills running down my spine and tears in my eyes, I took this photograph.
I made a pit-stop in Jenner, CA because of the beautiful coastline complimented by the fog (which we don't get too much of in Southern California). I also wanted to get wifi to get my navigation to the Redwoods but I couldn't find any. Here is an image from Jenner.
I stopped for coffee and some quick edits just outside of Jenner. Once I was finished it was a straight shot to the Redwoods; 286 miles on the 101-north.
The Redwoods was a truly majestic place and was something that I have never experienced. Being surrounded by enormous Redwood trees does something special to a person like me; it really made me feel small compared to everything in the world. It helped remind me that my problems are so minimal and unnecessary because they are such a small part of my long adventure ahead of me that is life.
I stopped at a small campsite on the De Norte Coast just shy of Crescent City. There were about 25 Westfalia and VW vans, which is a photographers dream.
I adventured around the campsite a bit was feeling too tired to take any of the hike trails. My photos from the Yosemite National Park were being featured on CBS news so I walked up the road a bit to see if I could connect to the wifi at the campground HQ but apparently they turn it off at night. As I was walking I saw beautiful light through the trees and decided to stop for a photograph. I was by myself and didn't have anyone to stand in as a subject so I took advantage of my self-timer and took a selfie.
After my night at the Redwoods, it was time for the long stretch; 7 hrs to Oregon. I was planning on shooting at Detroit Lake just below Portland, but was recommended by a friend (IG @BayleyJunes) that I should shoot at Lost Lake underneath Mt. Hood instead, and we ended up meeting up there at about 10:30 pm. We had a short walk to the lake and I set up my camera for some astrophotography. There was a fire in the Portland area, causing smoke to cover the Milky Way core. Although you couldn't see the core, I was still content with the outcome of the photograph and was anxious to shoot this scene in the morning for sunrise.
This photo is available for sale in print here.
After some astrophotography and getting to know Bayley a bit, I prepared for my next nights sleep. I had high hopes for the next morning's scenery.
I woke up and got my equipment together and went to the same location as the night before but with a different composition in mind. I noticed the nearby trees and shrubs which allowed for an opportunity to express the depth of the view in front of me, from the opposite side of the lake to the beautiful Mount Hood being lit up by the rising sun. Here is the outcome.
The next day we did some adventuring and shot around a bit and had to wrap it up because Bayley had work the next day. I had heard of a location under the name of Silver Falls, so I decided to drive there at about 10:00 PM. After a long 2 1/2 hour drive and almost falling asleep at the wheel, I finally made it to my amazing 5-star roadside campsite (sarcasm). Once I was finished fighting a bumblebee out of the cab of my truck it was time for some long overdue sleep. I woke up at 5:30 AM and drove to the trailhead of the North Falls at Silver Falls and got myself ready for this 8-mile long solo hike. At first I was skeptical but it didn't take long until I was resembling a little child going to an amusement park for his first time. Here are the photos to prove it:
I was absolutely beat. I don't do much hiking when I am at home, so this was a serious struggle for me. For some reason, I thought it would be okay that I didn't eat anything before heading on the trail and I was terribly mistaken. Although I was sore for the next few days, it was more than worth the experience.
After doing some beach camping with some newly found friends for a few days, Bayley and I decided to head up the coast farther than I had planned to. We decided to head up to Washington, where I was planning to pick up a friend of mine, Nolan Easley. I was blown aweay by the scenery.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, Washington surprised me with epic light and absolutely amazing nature landscapes filled with trees and beautiful creek, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.
After watching the sunset, we knew we had to pick up Nolan the next so we camped in Seattle. We decided to take my truck up a logging road with loose gravel to get to a view spot for sunrise and ended up getting stuck on an uphill slope that I couldn't get out of. Our hopes of shooting the sunrise were shot, and we had little cellular reception and nobody to get a hold of at 2 AM. We were literally in the middle of nowhere with no way out; at least we had a beautiful night sky to watch as we wondered how the f..... you get the point.
We threw up an ad on craigslist, and thankfully enough a man contacted us and was willing to come to our rescue. We got pulled out of the road and got out of there (FINALLY).
The time had come; it was time to pick up my buddy Nolan. I knew this would be awesome because Nolan is my partner-in-crime when it came to photography, and I knew the inspiration would be rampant when him, Bayley, and I were all together creating. We headed straight to Mount Rainier National Park to shoot the sunset, camp, and shoot the sunrise at Tipsoo Lake. I was in awe as we drove down the National Park road. Mount Rainier absolutely blew me away; making me feel small as did the Redwood National Forest.
Full of inspiration and good vibes, we spent the next 12 hours sharing music and creating art. Here are some of my images from Mount Rainier National Park:
On our way out, we decided to stop at our next location; Smith Rock. Smith Rock View was a short but very uphill hike. Still sore from my Silver Falls hike, I was struggling (not to mention my camera bag weighs a metric ton, and I also forgot to take my laptop out of it).
The sunset was unbelievable. I'm not sure what it is, but it seemed as though fire was everywhere. There was a fire in the distance, casting a red hue setting sun which illuminated the sky. I sat there, breathing the fresh air, and enjoyed the view; thankful for living such a beautiful life and for my health and well being.
After a long 2 weeks, my journey was finally coming to an end.
We camped at Sparks Lake before our long trek down to the very bottom of Oregon where we would shoot at Samuel H. Boardman for the sunset and continue to enjoy our last night in the Pacific Northwest. Although I didn't want to leave, I was looking forward to being with family and friends again.
6 1/2 hours to the tip of the Redwood National Park to book our campsite at the same location as at the beginning of my journey. Thankfully we got a walk-in site; once it was booked, we were back up north 30 minutes in Oregon to capture one of my favorite images from the whole trip. I will let it speak for itself
This photo is available for sale in print here.
There was beautiful light being casted between the beautiful rocks of Samuel H. Boardman, which provided leading lines to the distant lonely tree at the edge of the rock, surrounded by many other trees behind it. This tree reminded me of myself before I left for my trip, which led me to composing this image as I did. The tree is balanced at the edge, as was I. This tree has many trees behind it, which to me resembled my support system; family. friends, and fans of my work. It was the perfect way to end my trip; it helped me realize how lucky I am to have the support behind me that I do, even though sometimes it is hard to recognize.
This trip changed my life. It was my first long journey, and it sparked a fire inside of me that will forever burn. My inspiration was sent into an all time high, and I will not stop from here on out until I have what is I want in life in the palm of my hand. The sights that I saw will forever be etched in my memory, and the photos will forever remind me of the beginning of a story that I will be writing until the day that I die. A story that I plan on living forever; the story of a kid with a dream, chasing it no matter what emotions or demons are trying to hold him back. A story of a kid trusting nothing but his own gut instinct and passion.
If you read all the way through this blog, I applaud and thank you for supporting me and enjoying my work. You people mean the world to me. I know there aren't many of you, if any, but if you are out there, just know you can do whatever you want to do. The only person that is holding you back is yourself. Go out and do whatever your heart desires; I promise you, it will pay off.
If you enjoyed this blog, please leave a like and/or a comment and let me know what you think. If you enjoyed these images, feel free to take a look at my Print Shop to purchase a print of your choice to help support me and my travels so I can create more content similar to this. Thank you for reading.
Yosemite was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life.
The night before I left for my journey up the western coastline, it was brought to my attention that there was a massive fire that was interfering with the visibility of the Yosemite Valley. I had heard of this fire before (goes by the name of the Detweiller Fire) and I had no worries of it affecting my trip until I woke up the day of my departure and read about it doubling in size and being reduced to only 5% contained. I was a bit nervous that the smoke would ruin my scheduled landscape composition of the Yosemite Valley, but I decided to go with my plan and play it by ear.
I arrived in Yosemite at approximately 7 p.m. and was in absolute disbelief of the light that the sun was casting onto the road. The smoke from the raging Detweiller Fire created a mask in front of the soon-to-set sun, brilliantly illuminating the road ahead of me in the most beautiful shade of pink/red that I had ever seen in my life. I couldn't believe what I was seeing; I had to fight the forever nagging itch to stop at every bend in the road to take a photograph.
I was determined to get a view of Yosemite Valley while I still had some light. Unfortunately, I was late upon my arrival and the sun had already set below the horizon.
Instead of having a lit up, crystal-clear Yosemite Valley like I had originally planned for, I saw an apocalyptic-like view of the beautiful Yosemite Falls and El Capitan rock begging for help. The smoke gave off a deep-grey tint and haze that made my view appear as if it was a black-and-white photograph. Although I was disappointed that I had missed the light of the setting sun, I had high hopes for the next morning's sunrise due to the amazing light that came from that night's sunset. With that, I cooked up dinner, set up my bed, and got my night's rest.
The next morning, I crawled out of bed at around 5 A.M. to begin getting my equipment set up and to take advantage of the empty view spot prior to the sun's rise. As I was getting everything positioned, I could feel the warmth of the sun throughout my body and I could see the colors begin to cast in the sky. Before I knew it, an orb-like sun rose above the broken mountainous horizon. The smoke-filled sky allowed for only a dim light to flood the tree-filled valley. The same beautiful pink/red colors filled the sky as the night before.
This sunrise view was one of my favorites to-date. Something about watching a landscape gain light always takes my breath away; to me, a smoke-filled Yosemite displaying so beautiful in such drastic times represented a sense of hope to those who have a fire in their life, such as the Detweiller Fire to Yosemite. Although our problems may seem to be destroying everything, whether they be inner demons, mental-instability, insecurities, or tragedy/hardship, there is still beauty within the madness to be appreciative of and there is and always will be light to follow.
Thank you CBS news for publishing my photos in last night's evening broadcast. They appear in the last 10 seconds. What an awesome birthday present.
As you read this, i will be just out of the Redwoods National Park and entering Oregon. My next blog will be on the Redwoods and my first couple nights in Oregon, Thank you all for reading, if you enjoyed feel free to leave a LIKE and COMMENT, I would like to hear from everybody! Also, don't forget to share!
Tomorrow at around noon, I will begin my 2 week journey. I will be traveling up the coastline starting at Point Reyes after making my first stop at Yosemite National Park. I will be living out of my car with just myself, my camera, and my journal. I will be writing a lot; not only in my journal, but also on my blog (with new photos that will be exclusive to here) so expect new work from Yosemite, Point Reyes, the Redwoods National Forest, Oregon, and possibly lower Seattle. I am thankful for those who have said they are willing to link with me and show me around because I have no plan; this trip was somewhat impulsive, and mainly organized for me to spend some time alone, doing what I love most. This is just a heads up post to those of you who actually read my blog, so expect more in depth experience descriptions to come along with my travels. If you or anyone you know would like to shoot with me, whether it be a model or photographer, have them contact me. Thank you all for supporting me, please feel free to leave a like here and comment anything regarding my journey. Also be sure to add me on snapchat: TNel25 and follow my instagram. Talk to y'all after Yosemite!
So with the initial launch of my website, I am happy to say that my photo "Falling" was the best seller! This makes me overwhelmed with happiness because this is my favorite photograph I have taken, from the story behind it (waking up at 3:30 AM to ensure that I was positioned correctly for the rising sun at McWay Falls in Big Sur) to the contrast and colors of the image. The greatest thing about being a photographer is not only the adventure and the amazing views and memories that come with travels, but also that there are people that can see beyond the materialistic outlook on photography and can actually enjoy it for the art and the mystery of the photographs.
I have been off social media for the past couple of weeks due to personal issues and to help clear my head, but I have not stopped creating content. I have very many amazing photos and adventures to share with everybody. Expect a blog post on my last week of camping and adventuring, a NEW PRINT SALE of one of the photos out of my last collection, and a return to social media on July 1st. Thank you all so much for enjoying my work. Please like and share and feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to hear what you all have to say. I look forward to sharing my latest adventures to each and every one of you!