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Photography

Ephemeral Made Permanent

The best aspect of winter in Utah is the greatest snow on Earth. People travel all over the world to experience some of the greatest terrain provided by the Wasatch Mountains. In the winter, there are locations that receive upwards of 50 feet of snowfall in a season. It’s no wonder thousands of people travel to Utah to engage in the plethora of snow sports available. One of the most interesting things about snow, however, is snow itself. The variety and types of snow seem endless. There is even a subject known as snow science, which you can earn a degree in through Montana State University. As beautiful as snow is, there is so much we don’t know about it. This is what makes photographing snow and snowflakes that much more special.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Photographing a snowflake comes down to having the right kind of gear. Since the first photographs of them in 1885, taking a photo of a snowflake has become significantly easier. You no longer need to attach a microscope to your camera, and you no longer have to wait until the film is processed to see whether or not you captured the perfect photo. Today, taking a photo using a DSLR allows anyone to get great photographs. Even with modern gear, there are a few things you will need to get a great shot.

First, you will need magnification. Snowflakes are really small. The average snowflake ranges in size from a few micrometers to a few millimeters. To get this magnification, it is necessary to use a macro lens, which allows you to shoot close-up photography and make objects appear greater than life-size without having to perform any significant zoom — all of the magnification is in the lens. To get even greater magnification, use an extension tube to help you push beyond the limits of your lens. An extension tube physically extends the lens further away from the body of the camera, allowing you to adjust the focal length for increased magnification.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Second, you will need an old piece of dark fabric. The idea is to have a material that is dark in color to contrast the color of snowflakes. It is also used to catch the snowflakes as they fall. The frayed fibers of an old fabric will catch a snowflake and suspend it above to prevent heat from being transferred that would otherwise melt the snowflake. Snowflakes that land on metal surfaces, for instance, would turn into a water droplet instantly. Try using colors other than black to help bring out the beauty of each snowflake, but make sure to keep the color dark.

Third, it is important to have good lighting. Almost always use some sort of external light source. Providing your own light helps you capture the exact photo you are looking for. It is rare that you will get a photo of a snowflake when direct sunlight is present, so using an external light source will help bring out the elegance of the individual branches and their reflectivity to light.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

It’s important to note that taking photos of snowflakes requires a lot of practice. First, you have to wait for snow, and not every snowstorm produces the picturesque snowflakes we commonly envision. It will take a lot of patience as well as keeping warm in the cold, but with luck maybe you can be the first to find two snowflakes that are alike.

 

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

 

 

 

 

 

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Capturing Winter

During winter in Utah, you can create some of the most picturesque images you have ever captured. It is this time of year to focus on polar opposites: fire and ice, lights and darks, etc. Utah’s unique climate means you will be able to find great contrast between the red desert landscapes and a fresh coat of white snow. Seeing fresh snow coat the most iconic landmarks within southern Utah’s national parks are moments you will never forget. In the north, the abundance of wildlife upon a winter canvas shows the endurance many species have to survive, including humans.

Frost accumulates on trees and shrubs from the high moisture content during an inversion in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

As you travel throughout Utah this winter season, keep your eye out for these memorable opportunities. Don’t only take a picture for the sake of using your camera, but take a picture that tells a story. Look for those situations where you are able to photograph a picture that’s worth a thousand words. Some of my favorite pictures during the winter are those that illuminate the beauty in harsh weather conditions.

Think outside the box to capture a multitude of compositions. This can range from your wide-angle shots of the Salt Lake Valley from the top of various mountain peaks, to the zoomed-in photo of individual snowflakes highlighted by the sun’s rays, and everything in between.

The snow adds a harsh brightness to any daytime photo. For example, a complementary dark object of skiers, wildlife, or the buildup of snow upon a parked car are all exaggerated by the bright, white snow. Use this to your advantage to control and guide your viewer’s eye towards the main story of your picture.

Sunrises and sunsets during the winter are also quite breathtaking. Due to the reflective properties of snow, the vibrant colors from the sun are not only on the clouds above, but on the snow below. You see an abundance of colors across the snow including bright reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s these types of natural phenomenon that are truly exciting to photograph.

Photo by Peter Creveling.

Once you have your subject setup, try a variety of options with your camera to achieve the perfect composition. For example, during sunset photos, try using a longer exposure to highlight all of the colors in your scenery as well as making your image appear smoother. Another tip for photographing snow it is to slightly overexpose your images. Snow tends to have a blueish color when viewed through your camera lens. Overexposure will help solve this problem and give you an image that better resembles what we actually see. Don’t forget to play around with a variety of aperture settings. To make a snow storm look more harsh, lower your aperture (increase your depth of field). The image will include more snowflakes in focus over a greater distance to exaggerate the severity of a storm.

These next few months, I will be out trying to implement these techniques in my photographs of our winter environment here in Utah. It will mean cold fingertips, but it is worth enduring the freezing temperatures to capture the beauty our state has to offer.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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How to: Get Great Shots

Rock climbing with Ben, Peter, Colin, Claire, John, Brian, and Kim at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho on Saturday, June 10, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Holding your camera firmly in both hands, you kneel against a fence to stabilize your body. You have steadied your breathing and can feel each and every heartbeat pulsate through you like a lightning bolt. In front of you is a picturesque scene that you want to capture. Alone, with nobody to consult, you look through the viewfinder and envision the photograph you are about to take. In your mind, the image is in the same ballpark as Ansel Adams, a legendary pioneer of adventure photography. You take the shot. You move on.

When you look over the photo later, you realize to your dismay that the image you got is nowhere near that of the great Mr. Adams. Why is that? Why was the image that you mentally created nowhere near the final result?

There are many reasons this could happen.

Check your camera settings.

Was the camera in auto exposure mode?  Were you letting the camera think for you? Were you using a telephoto zoom lens when the scene you wanted to capture was wider angle? Did you have a fast shutter speed when you wanted to capture more of a motion blur? The list goes on and on. The truth is that there is no fail-safe method to avoid this every time, since you are human and will always be susceptible to mistakes. Over time, though, you can become familiar with which settings work best for where, and remember to change everything accordingly.

Rock climbing with Ben, Peter, Colin, Claire, John, Brian, and Kim at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho on Saturday, June 10, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Have your camera with you always.

Be on your toes at all times, constantly shooting less-thrilling moments to be ready, camera in hand, for that one perfect shot you will never get again. Let’s say you are backpacking in the mountains and it has been raining all day. Your feet are wet, and you can feel blisters threatening to form. Every step you take is agonizingly painful. All you want to do is stop and wait out the storm. The camera you brought with you is not weather resistant, so you haven’t taken it out. The rain turns into a torrential downpour and you need to set up shelter to wait out the storm. While it might feel like there is nothing to shoot at this point, this is actually the perfect opportunity to take your carefully protected camera out and photograph everything you can.

Leave your comfort zone.

When you are the most uncomfortable, you will be able to capture difficult scenes that you would have otherwise never have imagined. You will grow from the experiences of intense discomfort, which will often get you great photos and improve your skill level in any outdoor adventure.

Skiing and pond skimming with Blake, and Kristen at Snowbird on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Change your perspective.

The average height of an adult male is around 6 feet and the average height of a female is 5-foot-4.  I would estimate that 95 percent of photographs that are taken are shot at or near the eye level of either of these heights.  One very simple way to set yourself apart from the majority of photographers is to change your perspective. Try and find a vantage point where you can look down on your scene, or better yet lay on the ground and look up at your subject. Just by changing your perspective you will add more life to the images you capture.

Practice, practice, practice.

The moral of the story really is practice makes perfect. If you bring your camera with you and really want to get better at photography, try using different lenses in all types of situations. If you see other photographers at a national park, ask them what lenses they are using, and what kind of results they usually get. Being open to new ideas and experimenting constantly will undoubtedly improve your camera skills, getting you a few great shots in the meantime.

Skiing and pond skimming with Blake, and Kristen at Snowbird on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Remember, when you are out photographing, be considerate of other photographers. You don’t want to ruin another individual’s photographs as you wouldn’t want them to ruin the shot you are trying to take. Happy shooting.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Header photo by Peter Creveling.

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Packing Your Camera for Adventure

You may be wondering how adventure photographers get such epic photographs. The easy-yet-complicated answer is: They take their cameras with them everywhere. Whether an adventure is high in the mountains, deep in a cave, or under the interstellar sky with the Milky Way Galaxy above, these adventure photographers have their cameras with them at all times.

This answer for getting great photographs is easy, yet complicated because adventuring with a camera is more difficult than you might think. You need to plan your gear for your adventure, as well as the camera equipment you’ll want to take, without breaking your back, or risking the safety of too much equipment. There’s a lot to take.

For instance, when you want to photograph skiing, you first have to plan out what essentials you will need to keep yourself warm. These may include glove liners, pocket warmers, extra sunglasses, and an additional layer under your coat for when you are standing still observing skiers. Next, you will need to grab some snacks and water so you do not go hungry on the slopes. Lastly, you need to bring your camera. Oh wait, what about lenses? Let’s throw some additional lenses into the mix. Don’t forget a spare battery. Since you will be in the snow for a few hours, you will also want some sort of microfiber towel to dry off the lenses to prevent water damage.

Finally, you’re packed. Now another problem appears: How do you carry your gear?

The only solution is a backpack you can rely on, at a weight you can manage, that will carry all of your gear safely. This requires significant planning ahead of time, and probably quite a bit of money.

There are many assorted styles of backpacks that photographers use, from roller bags to backpacking backpacks. The single most limiting factor preventing any adventure photographer from taking all the equipment they want is weight. You must carry the gear back and forth, and modern-day camera equipment gets heavy fast, not to mention challenging to organize.

When packing for an expedition, you should also always consider your ability to access your camera equipment. You never know when something extraordinary — like a wolf howling at a blue moon or an eagle catching a fish over a lake — is going to be in front of you. You never want to go home from an adventure saying, “I wish I had taken a photo of that.” Having an organized pack where you can easily access your camera equipment will solve this problem. The pack should also protect your gear so the falls and bumps you encounter won’t severely damage them. Camera specific bags have padding to divide lenses into compartments and they are useful for organization, too. When you don’t have padding, use your clothing. Hats, sweaters, and gloves are excellent clothing items that double as soft pads. Last but not least, make sure nothing inside your pack moves around or can fall out of a loose zipper. Dropping a lens and hearing it crack is one of the worst things a photographer can experience since those can easily cost thousands of dollars to replace.

For quick access to cameras, I like to have a CamelBak worn on my chest that houses the camera and lens. At times it does appear awkward when hiking around, but after the trip is said and done, I am very appreciative that I carry the extra pack. It also has the added benefit of letting you keep snacks and water close at hand during any outing.

As you begin packing your gear for that adventure, do some research to determine what gear to leave behind. There are various websites, like Flickr and 500PX, where you can search and take note of what lenses, ISO, focal length, and aperture other photographers used to create their stunning photos. This is a fantastic way to eliminate camera gear you can do without. Plus, when you are on your adventure, you will have a nice starting place to initialize your camera settings, from which you can make minor adjustments for the specific conditions you are in.

During your photography adventure, document what camera gear you end up using and what you do not, for both yourself and other photographers. You will also be able to write down a few essential camera settings you can use next time.

Remember, there are always going to be exceptions, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you feel an urge to bring a lens or filter, do so. You are the artist behind the camera; only keep in mind with extra gear comes extra weight.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com 

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Firsthand Encounter of the Solar Eclipse

As has become common knowledge by now, a total solar eclipse is when the moon passes in between Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow upon the Earth and momentarily blocking the Sun. Due to the elliptical orbit of the moon, total solar eclipses occur once every 18 months, or about two times every three years. Prior to the August eclipse, the last eclipse to take place close to Utah was on Monday Feb. 26, 1979 — 38 years ago. This meant that the August eclipse, at least for us Utahns, was a big deal.

We looked at different maps of Wyoming as we planned our trip to view the full eclipse. We decided to venture up to Lake of the Woods on the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming, a remote destination approximately 40 miles due east of Jackson. We traveled north with a group of nine on a Sunday afternoon in preparation for the total solar eclipse the following day, Monday, Aug. 21. This was going to be the first total solar eclipse any of us had ever seen before, so we had no expectations, predictions, or emotions for what was coming our way. During our drive up, the excitement kept building as we saw more and more people from all over the United States traveling to witness totality.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Building Excitement

As the sun set that first night, the air turned colder and colder. The temperature dropped even more once the sky turned black and the stars appeared. We could hear other eclipse chasers enjoying themselves with music, laughs, and the company they came with. A group of us walked down to the water’s edge to see one of the other party’s telescopes they had set up earlier. When we approached the other group, we found out that they had traveled from Colorado to view the eclipse. They invited us to look through their telescope to view various features within the night sky. You could visualize meteors burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, and constellations were as clear as glass. The Milky Way Galaxy was visible because it was a new moon. Polaris, the North Star, was shining brilliantly in the constellation Ursa Minor. The best, by far, was being able to see Saturn — we could actually make out the individual rings orbiting the planet. There was so much excitement in the air it was difficult to sleep knowing what would happen in less than 12 hours. We all fell asleep at some point anyway, gazing at the heavens above.

The next morning, we made breakfast and began setting up our chairs and cameras to view the solar eclipse. We had a few of our group members continually checking the sun’s status using eclipse glasses to let us know when the moon was beginning to make its pass in front of the sun.

Then they yelled, “It’s happening!”

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

The Path of Totality

We all rushed to prepare for what we knew was coming next, quickly putting on our eclipse glasses. As parts of the sun began to disappear, the camping group next to us set off a few gun shots to notify everyone in the area. Suddenly, the intensity of the sun’s light began to decrease. The penumbra (partial shadow cast from the moon) was upon us. As the penumbra continued to pass overhead, and the moon was obscuring more and more of the sun, the thermometer we brought showed the temperature of the air was indeed dropping, just as our bodies told us it was. Every 10 minutes or so, we had one of our group members yell out the temperature.

The moon kept moving over the face of the sun, and more and more light was disappearing right before us. It got darker as we were nearing the umbra (the full shadow cast from the moon). The shadows became visibly sharper as the sun took on a crescent moon shape. We looked at the shadows around us as they, too, took the same crescent shape. We found ourselves struggling to believe our eyes at this amazing view.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

The moon’s course didn’t slow, and the sky and space around us continued to darken. For a few seconds, the Diamond Ring effect was visible, and then what are called Bailey’s Beads appeared as the light from the sun passed through the valleys of the moon’s surface. The umbra was overhead, and since we were in the path of totality, we were able to remove our glasses, looking with our naked eye at the eclipsed sun.

We cheered during this moment of complete totality. The corona, or the outer surface of the sun’s atmosphere, was the only light visible along with a small reddish layer that is the inner layer of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the chromosphere, shining intermittently around the perimeter of the moon.

Around us was a 360 degree sunset. The orange glow layered the horizon, transitioning from blue to a deep black near the sun. Stars became visible. The closest star visible to the naked eye was Regulus, which is seen in the night sky of the northern astronomical hemisphere during the winter time. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun in our solar system, was visible along with Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. The eclipse created the darkest black we had ever seen. A small Cessna airplane flew right in front of our view, perfectly silhouetted by the corona.

Photographing the Great American Total Solar Eclipse from Lake of the Woods, Wyoming with Nik, Liz, Peter, Markus, Blake, Kristen, Eric, and Jani on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

After exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds of this miracle, sunlight began to peek over the moon through Bailey’s Beads, and then the diamond ring appeared vibrantly again before we were blinded by the light from the sun.

An Unforgettable Experience

From that point until the eclipse ended, our eclipse glasses never again left our faces. Just like that, totality — where daytime transitioned to nighttime in the middle of the day — was over. Even so, the shadows on the ground remained extremely sharp, and crescent moon shapes lay underneath the trees.The only difference now from before totality was that the temperature was increasing.

This was an experience of a lifetime. We are already marking our calendars for the next astronomical spectacle that will occur in the United States in 2024, starting in Texas and moving towards Maine.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Constellations on Camera

Have you ever wondered how to capture the night sky while camping? Photography harnesses light and stores the information on either film or a digital sensor, but when capturing images at night, you are missing the primary component — light. So listen up, if you want to capture that perfect Milky Way photo, you’ll need to know a few of the basics of photography — ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

ISO: The electrical sensitivity of the digital sensor.

Shutter speed: The amount of time the camera has the shutter up to allow light to expose the image sensor.

Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens to allow light to expose the image sensor. The aperture is usually referred to as f/number, or the ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the pupil which allows light through the lens.

Capture those unforgettable moments during your night adventures with these steps:

Step One: Increase the ISO (film equivalent to speed) so less light exposes the image.

Step Two: Decrease the shutter speed to allow as much light as you need to properly expose the image.

Step Three: Lower the f/number (f/1.4, f/2.8, f/5.6) to allow the amount of light entering the lens to increase. Warning: when you decrease the shutter speed, you’ll need to ensure that the camera “shake” does not drown out the subject matter of your photograph. Use a tripod and an intervalometer to stabilize the camera while decreasing the shutter speed more than the typical 30-second timer. The use of a tripod will mitigate vibrations for extended periods of time, like when you are imaging stars at night.

When you have your camera on a tripod or on stable ground, first increase the ISO to a high number that doesn’t introduce electrical noise — this will typically be the highest ISO before you reach Hi 1 and Hi 2. The higher the number, the more false noise (rainbow colored specks) in your image. Next, change the focus to manual on your lens. Because it is near impossible to focus on an object in the dark, have someone point a flashlight on the object that you want to be in focus and manually adjust the lens until you’ve focused your object. Lower the f/number on your lens to the lowest number to allow as much light as possible expose the image sensor. Last, decrease the shutter speed to allow the desired amount of light expose the image. Pay attention to the exposure meter to see if your image is over or under exposed and adjust the settings accordingly until you get the perfect shot.

Here are your basic camera settings for capturing the heavens above: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 30-second exposure*, 14 mm focal length, manual focus, tripod to stabilize the camera. Have fun! Write down the settings you use and see what works and what you need to change.

AVOID STAR BLUR:

If using a full-frame camera (35 mm digital sensor), divide 500 by the focal length to find the best exposure time.

Exposure time [sec]≈500/(focal length [mm])

If using an APS-C camera (24 mm digital sensor), divide 500 by your camera’s crop factor and focal length to find the exposure time.

Exposure time [sec]≈500/(Crop factor)*(focal length [mm])

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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