Category Archives: Tongue in Cheek

Morning Musings: Secret Lives of Landscape Photographers (9/12/14)

Secret (Banjo) Lives of Landscape Photographers
Secret (Banjo) Lives of Landscape Photographers

Secret (Banjo) Lives of Landscape Photographers. Sierra Nevada, California. September 5, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Landscape photographers relaxing with a little midday banjo music. (Scot Miller, Charles Cramer, Annette Bottaro-Walklet, Mike Osborne, Karl Kroeber, G Dan Mitchell)

I know the romantic notions about the daily lives of landscape photographers: days full of stunning golden hour light, incalculable beauties everywhere at every moment, the sublime life, rainbows, unicorns, etc. But the truth is more complex. Up before dawn and out into the cold without breakfast, shooting for hours until the light turns “blah,” then a long, boring midday period before the beautiful light returns hours later, then photographing into the frigid darkness.

It is often a struggle to find something useful to do in the backcountry during those midday hours. There are meals to eat, tents to tidy, and naps to take, but the hours are still long. We think we’ve found a solution. There’s nothing like a few hours of backcountry banjo ensemble music to make the time pass more quickly. Here the group nears the conclusion of the Adagietto movement of Mahler’s Symphony #5.

So, the next time you are in the Sierra Nevada backcountry and you pass a group of heavily laden photographers with tripods, folding chairs, and banjo cases on their backs, stop and say “hi.” ;-)

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

B&H “Pi Day” Logo

I got a kick out of this. Someone at B&H is having a bit too much fun on “Pi Day!” ;-)

B&H Photo-Video "Pi Day" Logo
B&H Photo-Video “Pi Day” Logo

For those few who may not know, March 14 is informally known as “Pi Day” in recognition of the connection to the 3.14 date – and it is also a well-known day for pi-related jokes.

(B&H Photo is a site-sponsor.

The Only “Wow” Lens

From time to time, and perhaps more often than necessary, the forumtography question concerning lenses that produce a “wow” factor (and perhaps even a “3D effect!”) arises and leads to great long discussions about which exotic and expensive lenses will make any photograph into a classic.

There is only one such lens.

The only true “wow” lens, as any proper lens connoisseur knows without asking, is the 1956 39.5mm Heptagon Mega L v. 58 B (Czechoslovakia model) with the German manual extender modification screw attachment and the maximum f/1. 39 aperture and the unique crank-operated tilt-shift mechanism that was carved from ebony wood. The optical spatial construction of the crystalline substructure was temporally modified by skilled yet enigmatic craftsmen under the tutelage of the original optical specialists of the Third Order, each of whom spent at least 14 years mastering their art while performing menial manual manipulations and modifications of modular componentry that had been properly aged and then conditioned in alpine ice caves in order to ensure optimal thermo-stable meta-optical stability and compound image purity in the sub-atomic and meta-cognitive domains, with both affective and psycho-motor orientation.

The ineffable and subtle purity of the drawing power of this legendary optic can turn any photographer into a Cartier-Bresson, an Adams, or an Avedon, as the case may be. Although unbeknownst to the general population and only shared among the elect who have been chosen to experience the technical, aesthetic and spiritual perfection of the Heptagon optic and who are sufficiently suggestible, this is actually the primary causal factor behind the creation of virtually all truly great photography during the past 100 years. Some have come close, but none have achieved greatness without it. Why, the effect is simply magical. All I can say is…

… wow.

Note: If you are a new photographer looking for serious advice about lens selection for your DSLR, you have probably figured out by now that this article doesn’t provide it. (Actually, in an intentionally satirical way, it does address an important question about the eternal hope that magical lenses will lead to magical photography.) In any case, I think some might find the following earlier post useful: Beginner Question: What Lenses Should I Get?

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Now Open

San Francisco Photograph - An abandoned toilet stands next to a Chase Bank "Now Open" sign in the Chinatown district of San Francisco.
An abandoned toilet stands next to a Chase Bank “Now Open” sign in the Chinatown district of San Francisco.

Now Open. San Francisco, California. July 15 2011. © Copyright 2011 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An abandoned toilet stands next to a Chase Bank “Now Open” sign in the Chinatown district of San Francisco.

Sometimes the world just hands you things that you couldn’t come up with on your own if you tried.

The opportunities for bad puns are so tempting here, but I’ll struggle to resist, and instead simply offer a few words about the location and the, uh, scene. On this summer day I was wandering around San Francisco to do street photography, and walked up Grant Street. Grant is such a tourist place that I often instead head off to some nearby streets that are a bit less geared to the tourist trade, so I picked up a cross street and wandered up toward Stockton Street. At one point as I walked past a busy area of markets and other small businesses I happened to notice this odd (and perhaps unfortunate, if you are the bank) juxtaposition of sidewalk “decorations.”

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

New Nikon Cameras – Should Canon Shooters Switch?

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz recently around the announcement of some very fine new cameras from Nikon. Among those who shoot Canon, there has been some angst about “jumping ship” and switching to Nikon. People are wondering – “Is it time to switch?”

Should you do it?

Actually, if you switch from Canon to Nikon, your photography will instantly achieve astonishing levels of beauty and effectiveness, and you will be able to print your photographs at least twice as large and with more 3D-effect, accurate rendering, and enhanced micro contrast. Viewers will marvel aloud at the lack of shadow noise banding and the remarkable freedom from distortion and aberrations in your work.

Golden hour light will become twice as golden. Pretty girls (or guys, depending) will gaze in compelling ways into your lens as soon as you lift your camera to your face. Your electronic flash will illuminate objects 2.7 times further from your camera position. Bald eagles will make at least three passes above the sunlit mountain when they see you at work, and the herd of moose will hold still in the beautiful meadow until the eagle has passed. Touchdown receptions will always occur at your end of the field and on your side of the field, with nice light from the side to highlight the handsome features of the receiver. Your children will be five times as photogenic and they will always be willing to recreate that wonderful expression that you missed the first time around – not that you’ll ever miss it if you switch! You will never miss an exposure or produce an out-of-focus shot again. The Ansel Adams gallery will be renamed: The [Insert Your Name] Gallery of Light. There will be a 3 pound 14-500mm f/2.8 IS zoom, and it will sell for well under $1000. (But it won’t come from Canon – you have my word!)

Just by asking the question, you have already set in motion a series of important events – National Geographic representatives are on their way to your door bearing contracts and generous travel expense vouchers. They aren’t worried that you’ll move pyramids in post – they know that the pyramids will move for you! At this very moment, thousands of people with expensive new gear and lots of free time are searching for your workshops on the web – you do have a web site, right? Photography companies are sending you free samples of everything they make. (Have room to store 18 tripods? Time to clean out that closet!) News of your upcoming solo exhibit at MOMA was just announced on their web site!

I’d switch if I were you. ;-)

Note: The coolest thing is that this works both ways!  Nikon shooters who think that a jump to Canon will improve their photography in wonderful and glorious ways can switch that direction and achieve exactly the same effects achieved by those Canon folks who switch to Nikon with the same goal! Except for that 14-500mm f/2.8 zoom, maybe… ;-)

(And… Thank you to 1001 Noise Cameras for sharing the link and the laughter over this one! ;-)

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Telling Stories About Our Photographs

I am as guilty as (OK, more guilty than) anyone else when it comes to writing a lot of words about my photographs! This is ironic in a way, since I believe that, for the most part, successful photographs should be able to say whatever they have to say without a lot of verbal explanation or justification. (There are clearly exceptions to this “rule,” and this is not to say that there isn’t a lot to talk about in photographs.) But some people seem to enjoy the descriptions, so I offer a bit of back story about every photograph, and I love to discuss the photos with folks who share my interest.

Recently I read a post about a fine landscape photograph that someone had produced – the photograph was one of those that is good enough to make me think about how I might create such an image. As I write this now, I have forgotten whose post it was and precisely which photograph it was about. But something that struck me about this post was the tremendously compelling and somewhat scary story that the photographer told about getting the photo. It included things like standing for days in tremendously difficult and seemingly dangerous weather conditions, traveling miles and miles across difficult terrain to find precisely the image that he/she had previsualized, and the tremendous good fortune of finding this perfect image after days and days of enduring challenges that normal people would not or perhaps could not endure.

Some such stories may be true. (Though more often I suspect that they are considerably embellished, but what’s wrong with a bit of fun fiction now and then? :-) But sometimes I wonder if the effect of the photograph would be the same without the spine-tingling story-telling? And I wonder to what extent some viewers tend to look at (or not) photographs that are not accompanied by such compelling and daring tales? What is the balance between viewers being intrigued by the apparently adventure-filled lives lived by photographers and viewers reacting to the intrinsic quality of the photographs themselves?

With this in mind, I offer two descriptions of events associated with the creation of photographs. Think about how the stories affect your perception of the images – for better or worse. ;-)

Story #1

It was a tough morning in the arid desert valley. The early season heat had started and it was over 90 degrees before 9:00 a.m., raging wind threatened a dust storm, and I had been in the heat and dust and dryness for days now. However, this remote location being a place of extremes, the surrounding mountain peaks were topped by several inches of recent snowfall, making many areas inaccessible to anyone unprepared for serious alpine travel. So I faced a choice – endure another day in the sun-blasted furnace of the valley or make an attempt to struggle up into the alpine zones of the towering mountains and make a photograph. Continue reading Telling Stories About Our Photographs

Spring Comes to Death Valley

Bees, Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park

At about this time every spring, winter begins to fade high in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park. (For those who may not know, the peaks of the Panamint Range reach to over 11,000′ and are regularly cloaked in snow during the winter months.) As the warmth returns, the hills begin to green up and wildlife emerges once again. On just the right day in early April, the bees come back to life and emerge into the spring sun.

G Dan Mitchell Photography | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

© Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.