Photo: Fire in the Valley of Fire

Crazy-beautiful skies create a color cast than enhances the brilliant colors at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

Thanks to those who share my work. I appreciate your efforts to help me find a wider audience.

The ground really is a brilliant pink in the Valley of Fire - at least in this spot. In other places, it's bright orange, or crazy yellow, or smooth white. Spots and stripes and bumps and curves make it even more incredible. But the skies on this particular night were just as breathtaking.

It's hard to get the colors right when you are shooting in the place like this. The default color balance settings in the RAW converter just can't handle unusual lighting conditions - so it comes down to remembering the scene as it was. Are my settings just right? Probably not - but they are as close as I can get to the reality of the scene as I remember it.

It's important to realize that color casts are sometimes real - removing the cast would actually make the image feel wrong to the viewer. If the blinds in my bedroom are half-lowered, I can see only the street outside my window... not the sky. In the evenings sometimes, I'll look out through those half lowered blinds and see that the street is an odd color - there's a hint of magenta that wasn't there before. When that happens, I'll pull up the blinds or step outside because I know that the sky must be amazing. And it always is. That color cast is quite real - and I want it to remain in my image.

So on a night like this one, the sky was actually enhancing the colors on the ground. The color shift isn't always subtle - at least to someone who is used to looking for it - and in this case, the beautiful pinks stood out even more as they reflected the light from the sky.

Have you seen the color casts I'm talking about? Sometimes it's magenta, sometimes golden... but always beautiful! :)
Photo: The Wave, Coyote Buttes - Arizona, USA
Photo: Sunbeams

I spent a good chunk of my childhood growing up in a beautiful valley in the Rockies... and every time I find myself back in those mountains, it feels like coming home. We're waiting for our next flight, here in Denver - so it won't be long. A few more hours and I can get my wilderness fix. Our workshop starts on Thursday.
Photo: The sky was beautiful - but not over the waterfall I had planned to shoot. What to do?

#PhotographyTips

Well, that's an easy one. MOVE! Go shoot where the light is right! :)

There you go. That's my piece of advice for the day. Brilliant, eh?

Seriously though. I took this shot while we were in Iceland...

You can check out our trip report for day 7 on our blog:
http://www.photographybyvarina.com/photography/blog/iceland-day-7-2

The shot you see here is not the one I was waiting for... but I'm perfectly happy with that. Nature photographers don't get to adjust the lighting to their specifications. We're stuck with what we get. On this morning in Iceland, I was all set up and ready to shoot the sunrise over some beautiful waterfalls. But the sun wasn't particularly interested in lighting up the sky over the falls. Instead, it put on a pretty little show over this distant mountain in the distance. I was uninspired by the foreground, so I took off my wide-angle lens, and replaced it with a 70-200mm. Then, I zoomed in to capture the beautiful colors in the sky and the dusting of snow on the mountain. It had just snowed the night before, so I was able to capture the beauty of the snow contrasting against the stark lava slopes.

I'm not disappointed. In fact, this is one of the things I love about nature photography. You never know what you'll come away with! I was expecting to get a shot of those waterfalls... and I could see the shot in my mind. I didn't get that shot... but I came home with something entirely different.

When only a small area of the sky is rich with color, that's a great time to pull out a long lens. With a wide angle lens, this small area of color would seem insignificant within the frame. With a long lens, I can fill the entire frame with color! Bang on!
Photo: Fire and Water

This week, +Jay Patel and I visited the Big Island of Hawai'i and hiked out to see the lava from the Kīlauea volcano for ourselves. This was, without question, the highlight of the trip. We spent a couple of hours photographing the lava on the first night, and we were so impressed that we returned for another go around the next day. Shooting the lava was a challenge as night got darker. Here's what I recommend for getting great shots in a place like this...

1. Give yourself time to figure out which lenses will work best - based upon the distances you are working with. I used a 70-200mm lens with a 1.4x converter. This gave me the length I need to capture lava far away - but also let me work with the flow right in front of me without having to change lenses. My photos from the second night are much better than those from the first night because I knew exactly what I wanted and how to get it.

2. I found that focusing on distant lava was difficult because of heat distortion. The solution was to focus on a cooler rock nearby or to focus manually.

3. Experiment with different shutter speeds. I liked the long shutter speed effect for this shot because it showed the smooth flow of the lava as it fell. For other photos, I preferred a fast shutter speed so that I could capture the incredible details in the cooling lava. The patterns were amazing. I'll post some more photos soon!

If you are planning a trip to the Big Island, give Cheryl a call for her awesome Poke-A-Stick Guided Lava Tours. Please keep in mind that this is private land, and you can not go out there without a guide. As it says on her business card, this trip is "Not fo' Wimps!"

http://lavarefuge.com/poke-a-stick-guided-lava-tours

Thanks so much to +Jarek Klimek and the team at +PhotoExtract Photography Magazine for including this photo in the Top 10 Google+ Photos for January 3.

http://www.photoextract.com/plus-extract/2013/1/3
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Varina
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Sunbeams

I spent a good chunk of my childhood growing up in a beautiful valley in the Rockies... and every time I find myself back in those mountains, it feels like coming home. We're waiting for our next flight, here in Denver - so it won't be long. A few more hours and I can get my wilderness fix. Our workshop starts on Thursday.

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