a teatray in the sky

skyland restaurant

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, National Parks, Photography, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia by firthefirst on October 18, 2010

since I’m really not old enough to remember the good old/bad old days, I have no idea what national park food used to be like.  what I do know is, the in-park dining options these days may lack diversity but certainly don’t lack in quality.  the service can be hit-or-miss (in yellowstone it’s all miss, in shenandoah it’s usually decent) but you can be fairly confident your taste buds will be rewarded once the food hits the table. (more…)

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when the sun goes down

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia by firthefirst on October 12, 2010

the week at work is shaping up to be half looney bin half zoo so there won’t be much substance with today’s post.  going to keep it short and let you enjoy / be amused by my continued attempts at night sky photography, this time from shenandoah. (more…)

you say goodbye, I say hello

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia by firthefirst on October 11, 2010

I’ve been in a bit of a panorama mood ever since I got back from yellowstone (see?) and I wanted to keep that streak going.  my tripod handling speed is still not quite where it should be at, and as we all know, practice makes … better.

so, a few fridays ago, tina and I took off after work on friday and managed to reach the north gate of shenandoah national park just before sunset.  the place was practically devoid of people, everyone else long since gone home or gone to dinner.  perfect.  no traffic, empty overlooks, enchanting silence. (more…)

up the wrong tree

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Grand Teton National Park, National Parks, Photography by firthefirst on October 7, 2010

people always tell you it’s not about the gear, it’s about the photographer.  which is true … up to a point.  I mean, try taking a wedding portrait with an 8mm fisheye.  you’ll find very quickly you’re barking up the wrong tree.  birding is one of the more specialized forms of photography, involving lenses that cost as much as a major surgery, crawling on your stomach through marsh grass and cold mud, and strange tripod attachments that look like they were meant for cruel and unusual punishment.

but that’s because birds are tiny and fickle, it just can’t be done any other way.  right?  right? (more…)

six months later

at some point during the yellowstone trip, my camera’s counter ticked up past 9,999 and struck 0,000 for the first time.  my 10,000th photo with the new[ish] camera.  almost exactly 6 months to the day that I first opened the red white and black box from Canon USA, the day that I decided to start this blog.  how much can happen in six months? (more…)

grand teton sunrise, or on the importance of arriving early

there are two types of people who travel with cameras.  on one hand you have your vanilla tourists, folks who are out to enjoy themselves, see some scenery, and live to write home about it.  on the other you have photographers, folks who are hell-bent on ruining vacation for themselves, rising at ungodly times, mucking about during the daylight hours, wearing goofy looking vests, and spending more time staring at the back of their 920K dot LCDs than the actual mountain in front of them.

or so I thought.  the truth is, there’s something to be gleaned from the eccentric lifestyle of the photographer.  any veteran true-blooded football fan, or any architecture studio student, would recognize the rules of the game: come early, stay late.  but why?  why is the rule not “sleep late, drink early”? (more…)

look out jackson town, and on the sigma 100-300mm f/4

Posted in 5D Mark II, Grand Teton National Park, National Parks, Photography by firthefirst on October 1, 2010

nobody knows if Johnny Cash had the town of jackson wyoming in mind when he wrote “jackson” but I like to think so.  sure makes for a good excuse to play the song while rolling through the golden valley better known as jackson hole.  I really want to come back sometime in late november/early december, when there’s three things in jackson: snow on the ground, elk in the fields, and skiing to be done.  it was a huge surprise to me to find out that peak season in jackson is actually the summer, with winter being the quiet months.  seriously?  4000+ ft vertical drop on the slopes.  116 trails on two mountains.  cross-country trails that take you around the valley. (more…)

leaving yellowstone

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 29, 2010

on leaving yellowstone, I want to impart some advice for anyone who is interested in visiting and seeing these sights in person.  trying to plan a trip to a single park that is a quarter of the size of Taiwan (or a quarter of the size of the state of Maryland) can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  so here’s four simple tips for traveling to yellowstone. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: bison in the semi-wild

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 28, 2010

shooting wildlife is a lot like proposing detrimental fiscal policies — the goal is to be convincing.  you want people to believe that this really is an animal that is wild and untamed, an animal that may gore/rend/maul you if you make an inopportune gesture.  you don’t want people to believe that this is merely an escaped convict from the zoo, or worse, a discarded taxidermy. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 9

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 27, 2010

last week of yellowstone photos starts today … and then it’s on to jackson hole (and the grand tetons). 

I’m greatly enjoying the slower pace of posting one-a-days for a couple of reasons.  the main one is the fact that I get to spend more time evaluating each photo.  is it the right shot?  there are a bunch of shots that I thought I would really like when I took them, but upon pulling them up in DPP I realized they failed to convey the majesty of the scene as I had hoped.  which results in very, very few right shots.  the second reason is that, once I do find those few good shots, I get to spend more time editing them to the right level.  I try not to overcook any of the images, since I’m shooting for true landscape images, not Chase Jarvis-style commercial images, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for calculated editing. (more…)