Reflections on a year in 365 photographs

Archive for January 2010


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This image comes from Barker's Dam, Joshua Tree National Park.


I spent the day criss-crossing Joshua Tree National Park, taking more than 400 photographs.  The park is one of the most achingly beautiful places I’ve seen  in all my world travels.  I’ve developed a strong spiritual connection to the land in the four times I’ve been here.   I am continually amazed at the thriving ecosystem in a place most would consider stark and barren.

Deep in the heart of the area now known as Joshua Tree National Park, Bill Keys built a ranch near a hidden valley.  Later, Barker Dam was built to hold water against the parched summer.  Today Barker Dam still fills after the rains and last week’s torrents filled the pond near to brimming.  When I got to the site, the wind was blowing distracting ripples and breaking up the amazing reflections.  And just as yesterday, a bit of patience resulted in an outstanding image.

So taking another page from yesterday’s reflection theme, here’s number thirty-one…


Written by Brian Fancher

January 31, 2010 at 11:16 pm


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Sunset reflections on a lake.



Patience is a virtue.  I visited an extinct volcanic crater with some colleagues today and spent an afternoon shooting hundreds of images.  There were plenty of good photographs among them, but I still felt there were better images out there.  After the sunset proved mostly benign, we headed back toward 29 Palms.  

We had barely gotten down the road when I looked right and saw this image.  I braked hard enough to dump everything off of the seats, but quickly recovered, jumped out, and shot a good string of photos.  I knew they would jump off the screen.  I could have wished for a less regular composition, but there was no time to find a better angle before the fleeting light passed.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 31, 2010 at 1:59 am


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A photo of the remnants of the season.



I liked the subdued colors of the old pomegranate hanging on the barren tree branches. I could picture a photograph in square format hanging in a kitchen or dining room nook.  I am starting to “see” photographs more and more as I walk through this project.  Thinking about photographs every day keeps me connected with the thought process of selecting and framing subjects.  I am seeing more and more subtle light and tone.  

For an image like this, keep the depth of field shallow with a large aperture (small f-stop number).  This will keep the background sufficiently blurred to keep focus on the subject.  

Take the time to stop and consider a photograph today.  What is your subject?  How would you frame it?  What techniques will you have to use to make the shot?

Written by Brian Fancher

January 30, 2010 at 12:12 am


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I shot this image of a boat adrift on a sea of sand near 29 Palms, CA

Ship of Fools

Finding photographic subjects sometimes means keeping your eyes open for the odd or incongruent.  This boat lies in the middle of a sea of sand in 29 Palms, CA, as if you could hop aboard and surf the dunes.  I had seen it the day before in the fading light and thought it would look good in the morning sunrise.  I started with a standard 50mm lens, but the composition worked better with a 24mm.   The warm rays of the sun brought out the depth of textures in the wood and weathered paint.  With access to Photoshop for some proper dodging and burning, this image would likely work even better in black and white.  I tried the grayscale method in Lightroom, but felt there were areas that needed a lot of work. 

Are your eyes open to good subjects or novel compositions for your photographs?  Do you make the effort to photograph the things that catch your imagination?

Written by Brian Fancher

January 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm


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HDR desert photograph for a project 365



Storms over the high desert can produce dramatic cloud formations and light on the mountains.  Todays photo is part of a 5-image panorama series that I’ll put together after this trip.  I did three-shot brackets on each angle so that I can do the panorama with HDR, where dramatic clouds and light can really shine.  

What I liked about this scene was the sun breaking through the cloud formations and playing over the mountains.  With the dark, shady foreground and the heavy clouds the bright spots on the mountains virtually jump right off the page.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm


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Desert mill HDR photograph



 There is a certain feel to places and things here in the Twentynine Palms, CA area.   The high desert environment imparts a warm, weathered patina to even the most common objects.  I’ve seen this windmill water pump for many years while visiting this area.  The greenish color of the tower against the raw, warm color of the wood just seems to stand out, even in storm-cloud colored weather. 

This is an HDR image in an attempt to add drama in flat light.  I would have had more success with the increased detail of an HDR photograph if I had access to Photoshop.  I’m still learning Lightroom, though, and this is the best I could do with that tool today.   I am much more familiar with my Aperture-to-Photoshop workflow, but I’m finding some aspects of Lightroom clearly superior to Aperture.  

Lesson for the day:  In flat light, HDR can help bring out more drama in an image like this with the increased dynamic range.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 27, 2010 at 12:43 am


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Another mural photograph


The weather is not cooperating today.   I tried some long night exposures in Joshua Tree National Park, but the stars and moon are hidden by misty clouds…killing all the exposures I made.  So I’m left with another mural shot.  C’est la vie.

For those who have been following, you may note some slight differences in the overall appearance of the photos over the next week.  I am away from my normal post processing computer with Aperture and Photoshop.  I’m doing the edits in Adobe Lightroom 2.6 on an uncalibrated laptop screen.  After a couple of days with Lightroom, I can say that I like it almost enough to use it as a stand alone product.  With Lightroom I might never have to export to Photoshop for final edits.  I’m quite impressed thus far.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 25, 2010 at 11:58 pm