andre's blog

Now is the Best Time for Photography

Travel photography defies common travel wisdom.

Venice Beach

When most travelers settle down for their dinner, I often try to capture the best light of the day. When other travelers dread the colder weather and declare that it is best to stay home or shop for the holidays, I feel a strong draw to go out and take photographs. Suddenly, my summer slumber is over and I can hardly sit still for a weekend.

The onset of winter brings an excitement to pictures that is impossible to capture during the "boring" summer months. Photography between fall and spring is pure excitement. The clouds are back in Southern California, creating the most spectacular sunsets (see above). During the last couple of weeks, I have seen dolphins underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, spotted migrating whales from the shores of Montana de Oro, and seen playful flocks of seals circling the Avila Pier. It is almost as if the animals know my secret and just waited for the crowds to disappear back into their comfortable and warm homes and overcrowded malls.

Egret

Unfortunately, there are still some strange blokes out there. Shortly after I took the photograph of this egret snatching himself a lunch-lizard, a man walked up to me, pulled out his point and shoot camera, took a photograph of the egret, and then shooed it away. However, the reduced amount of travelers during the off-season makes such occurrences rare and tolerable. I assume the lizard would not have minded an earlier rescue and would disagree with me.

Seals

During the course of a single day, we also saw several whales blowing in the distance, the seals that you can see above, and a few fishing pelicans (see below). Here you can see one taking a dive from a high altitude to catch fish below the water's surface. The pelicans are amazing fishers with a grace that you would not expect from the sometimes clumsy-looking birds.

Pelican

We did get several storm systems coming through this area during the last view days. As a friend told me how this would spoil his plans, my thoughts drifted to the incredible opportunities and the fantastic light you can catch with a coming and going storm. Low cloud coverage with a sliver of open sky in the distance to let the sun come through is the perfect condition for dramatic sunsets and I got lucky twice within a few weeks. The first photograph at the start of this article is from Venice Beach. You can see the lifeguard towers in the foreground and the most amazing sunset. Somehow, the sunsets in Southern California are more vivid than anywhere else in the world.

The second chance was this sunset at McWay Falls. The falls are located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and plunge onto a secluded beach in a tranquil cove. Fortunately, we stuck around long enough to see the sunset that lit the last remaining clouds of this day's storm.

Waterfall

Do not let a few raindrops or a drop in temperature "drop" your excitement for the outdoors. There is no better time than the coming months for photography in the Golden State of California. Go out and see this magical place. Still not sure where to go? Then try my new iPhone application. It will guide you to the most photogenic locations in California. It is now available on iTunes:

California Photo Scout for iPhone

California Photo Scout Premium - Andre Gunther

On Location: Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chaco CultureNational Historic Park

Chaco Canyon is the best-preserved site of early settlement in the United States. Located in New Mexico, miles from paved roads and service stations, the most exiting historic park does not receive the same amount of visitors as other parks. Unlike other spectacular locations like Canyon de Chelly or Mesa Verde, you can freely explore Chaco and even enter most of the sites. This makes Chaco Canyon much more desirable for photography. 

Eventually the park service will develop the road to Chaco and limit access to the ruins as more and more tourists will start visiting the park. Currently you can still have many places of the park to yourself. You do not have to wait a long time for a clear undisturbed view of the ruins, thanks to the relatively small amount of visitors compared to other places. 

San Francisco Presidio and Golden Gate

Fort Point Military Band

We went to San Francisco twice last weekend, in anticipation of a big project I am working on and hope to complete before summer. 

I photographed the Presidio and Fort Point. I was very lucky, since Fort Point celebrated Living History Days with civil war actors in period customs. It was a lot of fun and while we were there, I also photographed some of the spectacular views you can find at the Presidio and the Main Post, from where the Presidio grew to its current spread.

I parked my car and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to boost my Golden Gate Portfolio. 

Both locations are a lot of fun to discover and the pictures really turned out exceptional (all shot with the Canon 7D). Check them out and come back for more, the project is far from done.

Golden Gate South Tower

How much color is too much color

Color Comparison

Which of these do you like best?

Confronted with an unprecedented range of software programs and sliders, digital photographers sometimes struggle finding the right balance. Browsing through the websites of my esteemed photography colleagues, I get the feeling that the opinions on color treatment seem to diverge, rather than converge. New software companies, like Topaz Labs, satisfy the need of the extreme end of the spectrum, while purists contest the unnatural appearance of these pictures. Composition and lighting alone used to make good photographs, but today it seems that color treatment becomes just as important. Since all our senses are overloaded every day, it becomes harder and harder to make a visual impact. Attracting a viewers attention may require a bold statement, but how bold is too bold and how much is too much? 

Are you a purist or a color fetishist? Which of the above pictures do you prefer? To make your decision easier, I have put larger versions below. Let's hear your thoughts!

New Galleries shot with the Canon 7D

I have uploaded two new Galleries of pictures from my recent trip to the Four Courner States and Nevadea. I shot these pictures with my new Canon 7D. Since the camera is brand new, I had to change my workflow, mostly because my version of Photoshop does not support it and Lightroom 3 Beta does not give me good results with white balance. I worked things out though and finally learned how to use Silkypix Pro (review coming).

Meanwhile, here are some galleries for you to enjoy.

Valley of Fire State Park

The first Gallery is Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. This is a very diverse park with plenty of alien looking rock formations to explore. Had I known how much fun it was to explore this jewel, I would have come here sooner.

Colorado National Monument

The second Gallery is Colorado National Monument. I have been in the vicinity twice before and couldn't make it here either. Colorado National Monument also was a pleasant surprise. Nearby parks in Utah overshadow this little pleasant park.

I am working on more galleries and some interesting blog posts. Meanwhile, enjoy these two.

Los Angeles again

Huntington Library Japanese Garden

During the Thanksgiving weekend we drove to Los Angeles. I just finished uploading a number of photographs and created a few new galleries in my Los Angeles section. The image above is from the Japanese Garden in the Huntington Library. It is just one of the magnificent places we discovered. The Getty Center was fascinating as well. The striking architecture of the Center, sitting on top of a mountain overlooking Downtown L.A. and Westood is a tourist magnet.

One our way home we took a small detour through Simi Valley, where we discovered the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Among the fascinating exhibits is the original Air Force One Plane of President Reagan. The library is definitely worth a visit should you ever get to this area.

Computer problems and free pictures

Golden Gate Park

After I suffered yet another computer crash I finally decided to head over to Fry's and walk home with a Quad Processor Computer, 8GB of RAM and Windows 7. Seems like the motherboard on my old computer was finally fried after it refused to recognize any of my hard drives. I added two monitors to the computer and can now enjoy the editing process again.

I have not even installed Photoshop on my new computer yet, but I am already editing photos like a champ. I downloaded the new Lightroom 3.0 Beta version from Adobe. It took some time to get used to the interface, but I am coming around to like it very much. I think I am going to write a review of Lightroom, maybe pitching it against another one of my favorite RAW editors, Silkypix PRO.

I am completely fed up by the licensing policies of Adobe, which may ultimately keep me from buying Lightroom. I am not sure yet. As my raid array disintegreated, I had to reinstall Photoshop. Then later I decided to build a raid again and install Photoshop again. Apparently the software kept recognizing a new computer each time, possibly because of the raid. Now I have to call Adobe and explain the situation every time I wish to re-install Photoshop again. My requests to erase all licenses from their Servers and let me re-install was simply denied, leaving me frustrated with a useless $600 software.

The most recent photographs I uploaded to my Golden Gate Park Gallery are done with Lightroom only. Those images also do not have any watermarks anymore. For the last few years I have included watermarks that were barely visible, but now they are gone altogether. I am working on an idea to make all images on this website publicly available for free, but I do require attribution (hyperlink on websites and url on prints). Stay tuned for more information on free pictures.

Fall in the Sierra Nevada

Eastern Sierra Fall Color  

Fall has befallen the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The countless aspen trees light up the landscape in bright orange hues. I visited the area last weekend and took enough photographs to generate my new gallery on Fall in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. I hope as always that you enjoy the pictures and come back for more soon.