Monday, March 28, 2011

Golden Light over Golden State

A few images taken in northern California coast along Highway 1 during a family vacation trip several years ago. 

Misty rains over a golden farm land after harvest, California, USA
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/6, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode
After the rain at Tomales Bay, near Cypress Grove, California, USA
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/6, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

After the rain at Tomales Bay, near Cypress Grove, California, USA
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/6, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

After the rain at Tomales Bay, near Cypress Grove, California, USA
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/6, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

California coast is such as photogenic place, and countless places to take grate landscape photos.  Even though these photos were taken with the now obsolete Minolta A2, and image quality-wise they can't be compared to those taken from the latest 5D Mk II and L lenses, but still, the beauty of northern California can be clearly seen here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

High Key Light over Sharp Rocks

The Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens is simply a fantastic lens for photography.  The contrast, color, clarity, and most of all, sharpness, is simply stunning, best of the lens in this class and it's price range.  Here's one taken at the mountain top of Whistler, Canada, of a mountain top range over many miles away, and just check out the sharp edges of the rocks at the mountain top and all those tiny trees miles away! (click on the image link and open the full size image in your browser)  And this was shot hand-held. 

Snow peaks of Whistler Mountain range, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L IS, ISO 100, f7.1, 1/140 sec  Hand-held, P Mode

Anyone who is using Canon EOS DSLR cameras for photography should simply either purchase this lens, or keep it on your short list of lenses to invest in and keep.  Highly recommended.  Make sure you get the f/4 L IS version, as the none IS version used different optic glasses and it's not as sharp as the IS version. 

According to many people who bought the new Canon 70-300mm f/4, or the new 70-200 f/2.8 L II, the sharpness of these two new lenses approach the sharpness of the f/4 L IS.   But those new lenses are much heavier, not as convenient to carry during day-long outdoor shootings, or in occasions like bring it with you to the ski slops, like where this photo was taken. 

Stormig Light

One of the old photos from my old Minolta A2, my first digital camera, was a photo of Lion Bay, north of Vancouver, Canada.  The photo quality may not be as good as those nowadays taken with the more capable Canon 5D Mk II and L lenses, but I like the photo due to it conveys a good sense of nature in its ominous face, a forming storm, mixing with the sunset light.

Storm clouds over Lion Bay, Sea to Sky Highway, Vancouver, Canada
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/6, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

This photo can be said was taken at the right place at the right time, as I was driving along the Sea to Sky Highway 1 just north of Vancouver,, running into a storm, and then the sun broke out just as I reached to a vista point and rest area along the highway. I stopped my car and took out my camera in a hurry and ran towards the edge of the rest area next to the ocean cliff.  The clouds, and sunlight, and the ocean reflection, all contributes to a pretty stunning view.

Unfortunately, the very same visa point spot where this photo was taken, is no longer there today, being bulldozed off and removed during the highway expansion construction two years ago when Vancouver repaired the highway for the Winter Olympics in Whistler.  So today, even if the same weather reappear there, no one is able to standing there taking photos at this very same spot.  So I'll use my photo here as my remembrance to this once a wonderful photographic location for viewing spectacular nature scenery.  Sea to Sky Highway 1 is simply one of the most beautiful and scenic highways in the world! 

God's Paint Brush

Speaking of the Magic Color of the sunset lights, sometimes you have to admire just how beautiful the nature can be in bring us all these stunning colors....  Nature has its magic in showing the beautiful colors, as if the God is waving the paint brush and paints there sky.  Just look at this...

Stunning colors spreading in the sky over the La Selva Beach, California, USA.
Canon 40D, Canon 24-105 mm L, ISO 100, f4, 1/125 sec 
Hand-held, P Mode

Yes, I had to chase this light as well...  I drove for more than an hour from Mt. View to south of Santa Cruz, California, one late spring afternoon after work during a business trip to Mt. View in 2008, and due to traffic jam on Highway 1, I almost missed the sunset by the time I got to the beach.  Nevertheless, nature rewarded me with this stunning view for all my hard work in chasing this scenery.

Sydney Harbor Sunset

Here are couple of sunset photos I took last year at Sydney Harbor and surrounding areas in Australia during a business trip there in November, 2010, and these are from my album from that trip:

Sunset view of Sydney Harbor, Australia
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 16-35mm L II, ISO 100, f7.1, 1/6 sec 
Hand-held, Av Mode, Lee GND filter

Sunset view of Sydney Harbor at Watson Bay, Australia
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 16-35mm L II, ISO 100, f5.6, 1/4 sec 
Hand-held, Av Mode 

Sunset view of Sydney Harbor at Watson Bay, Australia
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 16-35mm L II, ISO 100, f8, 1/8 sec 
Hand-held, Av Mode, Lee GND filter

I was lucky that I only had one weekend there to go out shooting photos during the trip, and I encountered a clear sunny days that weekend that ended with some nice sunsets.

True to the moto of "Chasing the Magic Light", I had to do some actual chasing of the sunset to get these photos.  On Saturday, I saw there was some clouds in the sky, and I expected seeing beautiful sunset, so I went to the Macquaries Chair Park east of downtown Sydney overlooking the Farm Cove bay and the Sydney Opera House, and just waited there on the rocks of the beach for the sun to set.  Sure enough, beautiful sunset colors filled the sky by dusk time.  My only regret was that I did not bring my tripod to get higher quality photos that would have better sharpness.

The following Sunday I took a ferry boat ride to Watson Bay, east of Sydney. I spotted the beach area at Green Point Reserve when I first arrived there, and seeing it facing west, I knew it must be a great spot for sunset photos.  I spent the rest of the day went to Bondi Beach first, but by later afternoon, I took a bus ride getting back to Watson Bay in a hurry, just in time for getting ready for the sunset shooting.

I walked around on the rocks at the Green Point Reserve, finding many spots that had sea waters between the rocks reflecting the sky colors.  As soon as the sky started turning red, I started running between these spots and busy with shooting.  The colors in the sky and reflections in the water were just spectacular!  By the time when I done the shooting, it's already dark, and the ferry ride back to Sydney had already stopped running, so I had to take a long bus ride back, tired and hungry. But the photos made all the chasing walk worth it!  Hope you agree.

The Magic of Transparency

Here's another photo that was selected by to be showcased on their web site.  The selection and judging panel at, consisted of many highly accomplished photographers, chose this photo for its unique aspects of the lighting behind the clouds.

Clouds at Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, f/7.1, 1/400 sec. Hand-held, P Mode

I took this photos during a ski trip to Whistler in Canada in 2006.  As I was descending down from the top of the Blockcomb Mountain and looking into the sun through my goggle, I saw the golden sunlight peek through from behind the clouds, bring out this very unique quality of the transparency of the clouds - you can seen through the clouds and spot some details of the mountain and trees on the other side behind the clouds, and the clouds were lit up by the afternoon sunlight along with its warm color.

Had this photo been taken from the opposite direction, pointing the camera towards the clouds at the same direction as the sunlight beaming towards the cloud, the clouds would not have this unique sense of transparency.

Eve since then, whenever I was out photoing clouds, I often look for the possibility and opportunity of shooting the clouds while facing the sun, position the sun behind the clouds, to bring out this magic of transparency.  In many scenarios this will add the drama to the scene, making otherwise a dull image into a fascinating one.   You should try to do the same whenever you are out shooting, looking for opportunities whenever the sun is behind the cloud and light up the clouds,  and make that part of your photo's key elements.

Touquiose Color at Lake Louise

Another photo of Banff National Park in Canada:  One of the most famous spots in the Park, Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/5.6, 1/100 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

It's turquoise color water and glacier mountain behind it makes its a perfect photo spot.  The challenge is how to break the empty foreground dullness when you only have the water and this horizontal line cross the frame?  I walked around the lake for a while until I found these flowers and grass to make up the foreground to break the horizontal line, and the purple color flowers adds some contrast to the uniform turquoise water colors.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Color Magic of Sunset, Again

It can't be said enough about what the sunset colors can bring to a landscape photography.  Here's one taken at the Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Sunset over Crater Lake, Oregon, USA
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, ISO 64, f/3/2, 1/60 sec., Hand-held, P Mode

I was on a family vacation trip visiting the Crater Lake National Park during the July 4th holiday.  After we arrived and checked into the local park lodge, I saw the sun was about to set, so I told my wife and kids that I'd like to drive out back to the top of the hills around the Crater Lake to take photos.  I drove in a hurry back to the hill top, and was there right before the sunset.  As I took out my camera and started shooting, scores of mosquitoes swooped in attacking me.  I got more than a dozen mosquitoes bites by the time I done and got back into the car driving back.

Despite the "bloody cost" of mosquitoes bites, I was glad  I made the effort driving back to the hilltop at dusk trying to capture the Magic Lights, and was lucky enough to be able to capture this scene.  But even luckier yet still, was that this photo was selected as one of the winners by a photo contest run by Microsoft to choose wallpaper images for the upcoming new Windows 7 operating system, and it was selected from more than 4,000 photos to be included in the North America Edition of Windows 7 Bets version, as one of the featured photos from the "My Beautiful Country" photo contest. 

Yes another case in point that you have to do the "Chasing", in the pursuit of Chasing the Magic Light, event at the cost of having a lot of mosquitoes bites, in order to get great photos - if this photo was taken at normal day light condition in the middle of the day, it would never have this color and sense of beauty.  

And you never know where your photo could wind up after you put in the effort in the physical hard work of chasing after certain light condition, and it could well be winning some high profile photo contests and have it seen by millions! 

Magic Light over Clouds

Here's a photo I took many years ago at Banff National Park, Canada.  Among all the places I have traveled to, Banff remains to be one of my favorite places, even though I was there only once.  This is a place for all landscape photographers, highly recommended for you to consider a visit if you have never been there.

Spectacular sunset color reflected by clouds over Mt. Rundle, Banff, Alberta, Canada
Minolta A2, 28-200mm built-in lens, Hand-held, P Mode

What's unique about this photo, which was selected by, a highly regarded web site for high quality photo images, to be showcased on their site, is the sunset color on the clouds.  I was struck by the intensity of the color in the clouds and at the hilltop, especially the contrast between the orange color and the blue in the sky, as I looked up in the sky and saw this striking image.  I only had a Minolta A2 camera then, so nothing compare to the equipment of today's full-frame 5D MkII and Canon L lenses, but nevertheless the color is just fantastic.   This is yet another case in point that what Magic Light can do to your photo!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blue Magic

Speaking of Magic Light, let's not forget that it's not necessary it has to be from the sun light, it also could be the light emitting from the intense colors of the nature's scenes.

Case in point, the fantastic turquoise and blue colors reflected from the lakes at the Yellow Dragon National Park and Jiu-Zhai-Gou National Park in Shichuan Province, central China, can bring the sense of magic to your photos as if the water emitting blue lights.  Those lakes are renowned for their special colors due to the limes and other chemical deposits in the water, flowing from the mountains nearby, and now those two parks are two of UNISCO's worldwide special heritage sites.  I was lucky enough to visit there twice in the past two years, and I have a lot of amazing photos to show you later, and here let me starts with two of them:

The magic turquoise water of the lime stone lakes at 
Yellow Dragon National Park, Shichuan Province, China
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L, ISO 100, f8, 1/40 sec  Hand-held, Av Mode

The bottom of the lake seems to be emitting turquoise color lights, seen from
Jiu-Zhai-Gou National Park, Shichuan Province, China
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L, ISO 100, f16, 1/4 sec  Hand-held, Av Mode

The first photo above was a Google Picasa Featured Photo in May, 2010, and it was further selected by Google to be one of the photos for Google's home page wallpaper, when Google released a new feature in 2010 that enabled users to pick a wallpaper image to replace the normally white background in the Google's home page.  The selection of this photo by Google brought hundreds of viewers from around the world viewing and use that photo, with many commenting on that photo. I was flattered to see so many people liked this photo.  What's in this photo attracted them? I am sure it was that magic blue and turquoise color from the water.

I will show you more fascinating photos from these very unique places that truly shows the nature's majesty....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chasing the Magic Light - Here we come!

A fantastic magic light scene at the beautiful beach of Seventeen Miles Drive, California, USA.
Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 16-35mm L II, ISO 100, f5, 1/50th sec 
Hand-held, Av Mode, Lee GND filter

OK, it's been a long time even since I thought about creating a blog to showcase my photos.  Well, here it is, finally, after all this waiting and procrastination, and when I saw the news that Blogger is about to release a new feature for photo blogs, I finally decided that it's time to act.... So here I created my very first photo blog, a blog about Chasing the Magic Light...

Yes, Magic Light is what great photos are all about, with it, your photos come to life, and without it, well, your photos would be just those boring or so-so snapshots.  Photos with the Magic Light are the key elements that differentiate the great photos from the ordinary.  Chasing the Magic Light is one of most important acts that distinguish a great photographer from those casual snapshot shooters. 

As this description text suggested, there are two parts in this pursuit of photography greatness: "Chasing" and "the Magic Light".  Let me explain:

1) First, the Magic Light:  This is the essential ingredient of a great photo, a photo that tells a story by the lights that lit up its surroundings and enhance the key message of the photo: 
  • It shows nature's most beautiful color - most of time it's at dawn and dusk;
  • It is the light that enhances the photos contrast, clarity, and brings out the key elements;
  • It conveys the sense of natural beauty and nature's grandeur, by enhancing the sense of seeing the scenery in person and emotionally impacted by it;
When is the best time to capture the Magic Light?  The best time to take great landscape photos, in most cases, is not in the middle of the day, but rather near dusk or at down, when the sun light spectrum is sliced by the atmosphere and produces the most intense color.  As the colorful lights shines on all the natural scenes, you will get the most beautiful photos.  Many great photographers would get up early in the morning while everyone else are sleeping, or waiting for the sun to set in the wildness while everyone else are having dinner, to capture this special elements of light for their photos.      

    2) Second, the act of "Chasing":  Yes, to capture the Magic Light, you will have to chase it - nature's best scenes are all fleeting moments due to fast changing lights, and you will have to put in the hard work to go after it.  Countless photographers have gone to the extremes and as far as the the corner of the world, to chase the Magic Light that ultimately made their photos great and famous.  All these great photographers would climb the mountain tops, crow on the beaches, fly into sky, etc., going to the physical extremes to capture the right light with the right subject composition.  That's the essence of "Chasing the Magic Light" - yes, you will often be literally running after the setting sun trying to capture the fleeing moments of nature's color, as if you were chasing after somebody. 

    The pursuits and hard work by the great photographers trying to capture the right light at the right moment in right places, resulted in their photos to be great and famous.  A lot of people often ask these great photographers: "your photos look so nice, how did you take that?", not realizing that behind all the great photos, are all the hard work of "Chasing the Magic Light" by the photographers, the pursuit of photography excellence with the actual hard physical work.

    So, with this moto of great photography, here I am going to use this blog to show you all the magic lights I have chased and captured, at beaches, on mountain tops, over the clouds in the sky, etc., to bring you the natural beauties that are are often just fleeting moments... 

    Sometimes in the pursuit of this Magic Light, I was close to going just little too far, at the edge of a cliff that I almost fell into ocean or from a mountain top, or I was driving too fast trying to reach to a spot before the sunset that I almost crashed my car.  Once I was running towards a hill at the Coyote Park in the San Francisco Bay area trying to catch a sunset that I was tripped by the park gate ground spikes and fell to the ground, and my camera flew out from my hands and landed 10 fee away, and when I got up picking up the camera, my 70-200mm f/4 L lens was broken into two pieces and I was bleeding everywhere ... but here I am, still alive, after all these pursuit and no regrets :-)

    Let me take you, in the comfort your armchair, to a worldwide tour of many spectacular places, under the majestic Magic Light, and I believe that you will agree with me that all these pursuit are worth it. 

    I hope that you will be inspired by our nature's beauty through these images, and will also go out more with your camera at down and dusk and enjoy photography, and to capture more beautiful images of our nature's beauty and grandeur that our beloved planet bestowed us...