Monday, February 21, 2011

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, YNP

My dreams have been incredibly vivid lately, and a majority of them are taking place in the most beautiful places in the world -- Patagonia, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, etc. I am hoping that these dreams are pushing me towards a new career path in nature photography. I spend a lot of time daydreaming at my day job (as a coffee roastmaster) about working with companies like Teton Gravity Research and National Geographic. So it is to dream!

Mammoth Hot Springs is an incredibly unique place on this planet. Like many places in YNP it is thermally very active, and a constantly shifting landscape. The colors here are incredible, especially on this day where the sun was very bright but with very dense, puffy clouds (I wish I could identify them). The effect created a very dramatic contrast between the colors of the bacteria and the white, chalky dust surrounding the active areas.

This image, along with several others, will be printed soon and on display at my first photo show. I'm shooting for a mid-march hanging.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Road

The Road

One of my favorite drives ever. I took this photo late in the Fall season but I expected the road to still be open due to the very mild weather we had up to that point. I was wrong, and was faced with a huge pile of snow at the closure gate. Despite a balmy Fall in the valley the mountains were still getting tons of snow.

Driving back home from a disappointing attempt to shoot sunrises, I was greeted with this scene as I came back down the mountain. It was not such a wasted trip after all.

I will be trekking back up this road in a few weeks for a little winter backpacking trip. I need a few new pieces of winter gear first! Winter backpacking is serious business.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yellowstone National Park

I had an incredibly visual dream last night about a very visceral experience in Yellowstone National Park. I was with a large group of family and friends, sitting in a white van when both grizzly bears AND elk were attacking the side of the van. Suddenly the bear noticed an elk next to him and started attacking the elk, but the elk was so transfixed on us that it didn't move. We drove away slowly, the elk following our pace, and the bear hot on the elk's hooves.

Mom and cubsBears. Beets...

Once we realized the brevity of the situation we gunned the van down the road, my father at the wheel (and the very last person to drive with haste and disregard for safety). We reached a turn and dad whips the van around and guns it straight into the middle of a lake. He then does one more 180 degree turn, lodging us into some kind of sandbar or similar, and that is our camp site for the night. We climb out -- the lake is surprisingly shallow -- and witness a stampede of animals of all species running down the road we were just on. It was an amazing sight, and incredible confusing. We would soon know, however, the reason for the wildlife's quick retreat.

Some nice flora in YNP.

We would camp there that night, right in the middle of the lake, seemingly invincible to the obvious perils of sleeping in a few feet of water. The next morning we woke to the sound of thunder and fury, as dozens -- nay, hundreds of college students from a nearby state college descended upon Yellowstone National Park with all the fervor of a winning football game. I feel like they brought panes of glass with them so they could break them upon every surface they could find. One particularly meaty student lumbered right up to me with a look of disapproval (yes, the look of disapproval) because I was not wearing school colors. Before he could decide what to do with me I introduced myself with a smile and he lumbered off. Everywhere these students were destroying the flora which I was so deeply in love with. It was a terrifying sight.

Bison morning
Can you imagine this guy being scared of some crazy college students?

Not much happened later that I can recall, I know I was at the ranger station looking for a flashlight, but that's about it. A harrowing experience is what I woke up with this morning. Since its on my mind I decided to put some pictures up from YNP for today's post. Dreams can be harbingers for incredible change and through all the turmoil of last night's dream I hope there were some seeds of change being planted.

Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring, and just another reason this is one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth.

Monday, February 14, 2011

After the Storm

20090608-4299_CRS2009-buttes, originally uploaded by cultr.sun.
June 8, 2009

A fierce hailstorm descended upon me as I was setting up to shoot these sandstone monuments. I took shelter under an outcrop, wondering where all the Pronghorn I saw on my way in were taking their shelter. As soon as I could finish pondering the storm stopped and gave me these amazing clouds to work with.

Unfortunately I was still a little too smitten with HDRi to produce realistic results, but the impact is still about the same. The most amazing scene unfolded with the sky turning a dark shade of purple as they hastened away from me.

This viewpoint is about the same as one of the very first photographs from the area. Check it out on wikipedia. The rock in the foreground is known as Dial Rock.

Friday, February 11, 2011



The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the Yerba Buena Park, San Francisco. Oh how I'd love to be back there right about now! For me its another cold blustery day.

This is another shot utilizing a long exposure and tripod to capture the smoothness of the water falling. I believe this was 2-5sec exposure. I also use a circular polarizer in a lot of my shots, which does a great job of cutting out reflections that would blowout my image -- such as the sky. Using it I'm able to get nice exposure in both the landscape and the sky in this shot.

I have a very busy weekend coming up so I don't know if I'll get to any DIY posts but I would like to get a big more in depth with some kind of photography topic... ideas?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Silky Smooth

Little Laramie River at night

One lovely evening down on the river during spring runoff. I waited until well after dark to start shooting, I believe this was a 20 or maybe even 30 second exposure.

A lot of dodge and burn also went into this photo. It was one of the first shots where I really started to understand how to use those tools properly, and to pay attention to the natural "flow" of the light on an image in order to best bring out its qualities.

The North Fork of the Little Laramie River begins at some of the highest reaches of the Snowy Range in Wyoming and runs East down the range, past the town of Centennial to the Little Laramie, and from there empties into the Laramie River. This shot was about halfway down the Snowy Range.

One of the most beautiful roads in all the world is the Snowy Range Highway 130 between Centennial and Saratoga. If you are ever on a roadtrip on I-80 take a little extra time and take this route, you won't be disappointed... as long as its Summer/Fall and the road is open, of course.

Climbing Photography

20090906-8031_CRS2009, originally uploaded by cultr.sun.

One of my photographic resolutions for 2011 is to become a better sport photographer. This takes a lot of physical work, and a lot more equipment and preparation than landscapes (or wildlife, to a lesser extent). For instance, capturing some of the more harrowing aspects of climbing requires me to be climbing myself.

Not all sports can be captured so closely, however. Due to the nature of some sports the photographer must be far away from the subject, and this requires a very long lens. Right now my max focal length is a lowly 200mm, so you can bet a 400mm f4 is on my list of things to do!

This was shot at 200mm f/5.6 and is a buddy of my doing a little freestyle climbing at one of the most intense crack climbing spots in the world, Vedauwoo. I have a few more climbing oriented photos I'll be posting later.

Any climbers in my followers?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


20080525-2198_crs-bside, originally uploaded by cultr.sun.
In an earlier post I received a comment about the joy of urbex, and that thought has stuck with me through the night and into this morning. I haven't been on an urbex expedition for a good while. The thrill of urbex for me is that there is not really time to setup and compose. In my experience it's more about running around like crazy, looking for good shots, and moving on as soon as you've taken one. It's about the adrenaline rush of being somewhere you're not supposed to and capturing moments that many people have never seen.

I really enjoyed the DIY steel wool guide I wrote over the weekend and have received a great response to it, so I might write a little urbex tricks & tips guide for the upcoming weekend. Cheers!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Just passing through town

One thing I really enjoy taking pictures of is interesting typography and signage. It's like my inner designer yelling at my camera to preserve these moments for future reference.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

DIY Steel Wool Long Exposure

Happy Sunday Everyone!
Let's take a look at setting up your own steel wool photoshoot. This setup is cheap and easily executed, and yields amazing results. There is a lot of potential using steel wool for different types of setups, but today we're just going to cover the basics.

What you need:

  • Your camera
  • Tripod - not completely necessary but it will make your shoot much easier. If you don't have a tripod you need a stable, flat surface that will adequately keep your camera still enough for a several-second exposure.
  • Steel Wool - #000000 works best (or the finest grade you can find). Check your local hardware store.
  • Steel Cable - get 10ft. or more of steel cable at the hardware store while you're getting the wool.
  • A lighter to light the steel wool
  • A bucket with water - precautionary measure! A fire extinguisher also works!
  • A flashlight will help you setup your shot and keep you from falling in holes in the dark
Assuming you have a camera and tripod already, this setup is going to set you back less than ten bucks and probably less than five.

Ok then, let's get started. Bust out a piece of steel wool and your cable:

Prep your steel cable. Use a pair of pliers to secure one tip of the cable then twist it in the opposite direction that the cable is wrapped in. You're fraying the cable apart so you can tie it around the steel wool:

Now it's simply a matter of tying the cable around the piece of steel wool. "Fluff" the steel wool apart a bit and you will get a bigger series of sparks (at the cost of it burning up faster).

How to use this setup - the objective is to hold onto the end of the cable, light the steel wool, and start spinning it around in circles. This causes the sparks to fly outward from the point that you are spinning, creating a great circle of sparking firey goodness.

Now you are ready to head out into the darkness to start shooting! Good locations are the same as those that would be good for any long/night exposure shot. Avoid locations with lots of dry grass, brush, or foliage. Your sparks are going to be flying several feet in the direction that you are spinning the cable and it's important to keep everything else from catching on fire. A river / lake makes a good location, as do concrete buildings.

This shoot is going to be most easily captured with a buddy, so grab a friend and head to your location. Setup your camera and tripod while your buddy stands about where you'd like to capture the steel wool. Have them use the flashlight to help with your framing of the scene. The steel wool is going to stay lit for upwards of 10 seconds, so set your shutter speed for around that. An fstop if 5.6 ish will give you enough depth-of-field, and you can use your ISO settings to alter the composition to your liking (want stars in your shot? higher ISO. want to only show the sparks from the wool? use a low ISO).

After that it's just a matter of tying the steel wool to cable and lighting it up with a lighter! Once lit, open your shutter and have your friend simply spin the cable around in circles, figure 8's, etc. and have fun!

This shot was taken with a 10sec exposure at f4 and ISO 200. I setup across the river from my buddy and he lit the wool and spun it around in fast circles for me. Bonus on this shot, as the sparks hit the water they bounced off and created very nice patterns:

Image Copyright 2011 CRS Creative LLC.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

55-200mm bokeh

crs-20080316_winter-fence, originally uploaded by cultr.sun.
Shot this a while back when the 55-200mm was brand new to me. This was shot @200mm f5.6, which a more seasoned photographer would know this would be terrible for a bokeh-like depth-of-field, but to a budding photographer it was still a sweet effect. The addition of fog added to the hazyness of the effect.

I had yet to pickup a 50mm 1.8 and really understand what awesome bokeh really was!

Writing up a how-to on a simple steel-wool setup which will appear on tomorrow's post. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I heard you like wool in your wool

Happy Friday everyone! Have some steel wool-spinning madness. These shots are a lot of fun, and cheap to setup. I'll write a thorough guide when I get a little more time today. Until then, enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Moon and Sandstone

The Moon and Sandstone, originally uploaded by cultr.sun.

An oldie from the Buttes, South of Laramie. This was a fun shoot trapping the moon in this sandstone frame. The Buttes is an expanse of unusual sandstone formations off highway 287. Its a great spot to hike around and take in the stark redness of the landscape here. It's one of my personal favorite places to photograph also.

I would later change lenses to my 200mm and shoot this same moon, which I've since used for various photo manipulations. Light pollution is very minimal in this area as well, making it a good spot for astro-photography.


Wyoming is well-known for its vast natural beauty, and this blog is dedicated to sharing that beauty with everyone. Our aim is to highlight local nature, wildlife, and landscape photographers of this beautiful place.