"The mountains are calling and I must go." John Muir

Studies show that a walk through a forest can boost immunity but it doesn’t take a scientific study to convince me of the restorative powers of communing with nature. I’ve never been as drawn to the beach as I am to the forest and mountains. However that early morning marine layer and heady scent of eucalyptus and pepper trees at my father’s home in California can take all my worries away. Does the feel of salty mist across your face at a rocky beach recharge your mind? Perhaps the quiet whoosh of fresh powder across your skies with the occasional squeak of your boots and intermittent hoop hollering of fellow skiers feeds your soul. Whatever the landscape, a meandering walk with fresh air can be just what the body and mind need.

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“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” Henry David Thoreau

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and it’s up to us to look for moments of grace. I am so grateful to live in a region with so much to offer in terms of a reboot. Some of these images were created steps from my back door, some were discovered down the road, some were found up the road and just barely into a trail, some I hunted for down valley on a farm and one was in Bryce Canyon.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

I truly believe that nature is a balm that soothes a lot of wounds. Art can also be quite healing, so combining the two must be double the pleasure, right?

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t pretend to be any stellar landscape photographer. I don’t own a wide angle lens beyond the 35mm and I don’t have the true dedication required by the genre that includes pre dawn wake ups. But I do get so much out of being outside and creating. This small collection of images made me feel good this year after the loss of my mother.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

There is magic healing in the mountains.

Free lensing!

I thought I would write a little bit about a method called free lensing since it is one of my favorite tools that can really kick a bad rut to the curb.  Free lensing is when you are shooting images while your lens is detached from your camera body.  It lends such a dreamy quality to an image and creates lovely bokeh and blur.  I have a lens that I actually bought and took apart just for this use.  I'll link to a tutorial for instruction on how to do that at the end of this post.  It's an AF Nikkor 50mm 1.8D that I took off the backing, super glued the aperture wide open, and taped the focus ring to infinity.  My camera body is a Canon 5D MKII.  You can free lens with any fixed lens but using this particular set up allows for more flexibility in where your plane of focus lies.  A Lens Baby creative lens will allow you to change the plane of focus but it wouldn't allow for those beautiful light leaks that you sometimes get when free lensing.  

I'm really digging the lilac colored light leaks here...

I'm really digging the lilac colored light leaks here...

Before going through the steps it's important to know what the risks are with this technique.  It is possible to damage your mirror by inserting the back of the lens too far into the camera body.  You can avoid this by shooting with live view since the mirror is up and out of the way while shooting in that mode.  You won't be able to see through the view finder then.  A lot of people like using live view anyway while free lensing since nailing your focus is so tricky.  The other risk is getting dust and dirt on your sensor since it is exposed.  So, avoid free lensing on dusty windy days.  Maybe start inside your home.  

an urban scene is rendered abstract and these simple still life scenes have a beautiful softness...

an urban scene is rendered abstract and these simple still life scenes have a beautiful softness...

If you decide to try this with one of your prime lenses, the smaller ones (shorter focal lengths) are easier to use since they are usually lighter.  However, I have successfully used this method with my 85 1.8 prime and my 100mm 2.8 macro.  Zoom lenses are not ideal since the focal length will inevitably shift and they don't open as wide.

flowers outdoors...

flowers outdoors...

flowers indoors...

flowers indoors...

Assuming you are using a prime lens to start, begin with it attached and the camera turned on to find a good exposure.  I would start my settings with a relatively high shutter speed(1/500th), and with the aperture wide open.  You have a lot of moving parts with this technique, so a high shutter speed helps with getting what you want in focus.  That might be a bit too bright since more light will be reaching the sensor while the lens is detached but you can adjust.  Set the focal ring to infinity and detach the lens while the camera is still on.  At this point you can choose to use live view mode or not. The camera body I use is the Canon 5D mkii so no focus peaking ability, but if your camera has that option, I would try using it.  I prefer to use the view finder since having my head against the camera steadies the camera body a bit rather than holding the camera away from my body to see the live view screen.  However, one of the advantages of using the live view mode is that you can see in real time the effect of the light leaks and adjust how you hold the lens to allow less light leak or more.  I suggest not shooting into the light or backlighting at first.  Too much of a light leak will make it difficult to see your focal plane.  So shooting with your back to the light will help you to get used to the difficulty of focusing in this manner.  

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You will see that the closer in to the sensor you hold the lens, the further away in the scene you can start your plane of focus.  The further the lens is from the sensor, the closer in the scene you can start your plane of focus.  Tilting the lens to the left or right will throw more focus to one side of the scene (a vertical slice of focus), same with tilting it up of down but with a horizontal slice of focus.  This is where experimentation, play and practice is key.  It does not take a lot of tilt to create a large effect so a little goes a long way!  Some people prefer to slightly tilt the lens, hold it steady to the camera and then move their whole body to bring their subject into focus.  Try both ways and see what works best for you.

I tend to do a lot more free lensing around the holidays...

I tend to do a lot more free lensing around the holidays...

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A good tip is that if you are getting too much light leak (which can make your photo much too hazy) you can try to block some of the light with your hand that is holding the lens.  Or you can take your camera strap or any bit of cloth and hang it over where the opening is between your lens and camera and try to block a bit of light with it.  

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Another tip is that in post processing I add a good bit of contrast and clarity and a whole lot of sharpening.  Sometimes I'll use a radial tool or brush and up the saturation on those light leaks too.  Have fun!  This is the time to let go of rules and really get creative.  If you are ever in a rut, learning a new technique can truly help you to bust out of it and see things in a new way.

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these allium are a frequent subject of mine.  they are located near our basketball hoop, so my son and I can be together but doing our own thing.

these allium are a frequent subject of mine.  they are located near our basketball hoop, so my son and I can be together but doing our own thing.

I guess there have been plenty of times that I needed a little something to reenergize my work--I'll leave you with one image that I actually had framed and as I type this it's sitting in my office...

It's been a while since I've had them sit for me--they have a big case of PCS! aka "photographer's child   syndrome"

It's been a while since I've had them sit for me--they have a big case of PCS! aka "photographer's child syndrome"

 

As promised here is a link to the tutorial that I used to buy/break/then fix my dedicated free lensing lens

also here is another.

 

Thanks for stopping by...