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Prefumo Canyon Sunset

On a whim I decided to take a drive of Prefumo Canyon Road today, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I;d heard the views from the top were amazing and figured it could be a good place to get some nice shots of the sunset. I was not disappointed. The views were absolutely gorgeous! And best of all, I had the place to myself. I ended up taking over 500 shots. I’ve only finished editing this panorama so far, but I am extremely happy with the results. This is probably the most involved panorama I’ve ever taken. It’s made up of 16 individual 5 shot HDR images for a grand total of 80 images combined into one. It took me almost 3 hours to process, but man was it worth it! Click on the image to view full sized.

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One Year, One Photo a Day

I’m sure many of you have heard of Project 365. The idea is to take at least one picture every day for an entire  year. It’s something I’ve wanted to attempt for a while, but am just now getting around to. I’ll be posting pictures on a weekly basis both here and on my Facebook page. I can;t guarantee that every photo will be a good one or that I’ll even make it the entire year but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. So without further ado, here’s the first batch!

Shooting in the Rain

Saturday was the second day of the annual Morro Photography Festival, but unfortunately the weather decided not to cooperate. I was scheduled to got out into Morro Bay on a boat to practice some bird photography at 1:30 which, go figure, was exactly when the rain started. Only about half the class showed up but we decided to brave the elements anyways. I got soaking wet, thought I was going to freeze to death, and to top it all off, wasn’t having much luck photographically. I managed to snag a couple of shots of a pelican diving that I liked, but that was about it. I was just about to give it up and pack my gear away when we came across a group of pelicans perched on a barge. We were able to get quite close and I got some images I really like, so in the end it ended up being worth it, and hey, at least I now know for sure the weather sealing on my camera works!

Whiskeytown Falls

The rain finally held off long enough for me to get in some hiking yesterday. I decided to head up to Whiskeytown Falls, which I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. After an invigorating, and slightly tiring, 1.7 mile uphill hike through a beautiful fir and oak forest, I arrived at the base of the falls. In its entirety, the waterfall is about 220 feet tall, but it is broken up into three distinct sections. It has an interesting history, being all but forgotten until 2004 when it was “rediscovered” by park rangers and subsequently opened to the public in 2006. I spent about an hour photographing the fall itself as well as some of the creek downstream. It was an amazing way to spend the evening and definitely a hike I would recommend to anyone in the area!

Life in Monochrome

Black and white. For years it was all photographers had at their disposal. One might think that after being limited to monochrome images for so long, given the opportunity to shoot in color, most photographers would jump at the opportunity and never look back. Yet despite this, black and white photography has remained quite popular over the years and has even undergone a bit of a resurgence lately. There’s just something about black and white images that speaks to people. Stripping away the color emphasizes the beautiful yet often subtle hues, tones, and textures of a scene. It really gives photographs a timeless feel to them. As the Swiss photographer Robert Frank said, “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”

Film

Lately I have been shooting a lot of film. I’ve mostly been focusing on medium format with my Ansco folding camera and Yashica-mat TLR. I just recently bought a film scanner so I’ll be able to share some of my film shots online. Enjoy!

What Photography Really Means to Me

Photography (noun) – the process of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical energy of light

In this day and age, the camera has become a staple of our lives. Almost everyone has at least one digital camera, and many people now even have cameras on their phones. Cameras are, quite literally, everywhere. The internet is flooded with millions of pictures of everything from someone’s new car to what another person is about to eat for dinner. For many people, photography is a way of capturing small slices, small memories, of their life. Times with friends and with family can be preserved and treasured for years to come. That cool new outfit you just bought can be almost instantly shared with your hundreds of Facebook friends. Photography has become so commonplace, so integral to our way of life, that I think it has lost a lot of meaning for many people. More than once someone has asked me why I chose to pursue photography as a hobby. I usually come up with some half-formed answer about how I enjoy it and how it has always been something I’ve been interested in. But lately I’ve begun to think a lot more about why I photograph nature and what it truly means to me.

So what does photography really mean to me? For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with nature. I find myself in awe of the wonder of God’s creation every day. From the powerful roar of a waterfall to the delicate beauty of a summer afternoon, from the subtle hues of a winter sunrise to the flaming leaves of fall, there is beauty everywhere. As a photographer, I attempt to capture that beauty. I attempt to go beyond the immediately obvious to create something more meaningful, something more powerful. Photographer Matt Hard summed it up nicely by saying,

“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”

No matter how skilled the artist, be they a painter, sculptor, or photographer, they can only imitate what they already see in nature. No painting could compare to the glory of the sun dipping below the horizon amongst clouds of glowing pink and orange. No sculpture could capture the incredibly intricate details of an ancient, gnarled, windswept tree. No photograph could fully capture the beauty of a calm mountain meadow full of springtime wildflowers bathed in soft, golden afternoon sun. Nothing that man has made, from the most beautiful painting to the most elegant building, can compare to even the humblest of sunsets or simplest of flowers. It’s this stunning beauty and incredible complexity that I find so appealing about nature. I think that often times we can see God most clearly in nature. We get glimpses of his glory in the rising and setting of the sun, glimpses of his majesty in the towering heights of the mountains and the effortless soaring of eagles, glimpses of his patience in the slow, steady growth of the redwood trees, glimpses of his wisdom in the astounding intricacies of life. Just as a painting can give us insight into the painter, creation gives us insight into the Creator.

Photography allows me to share that appreciation, that wonder with the world. I’ve never been overly good at expressing my feelings, so for me photography is a way of expressing myself. Maybe I can’t tell you how watching an amazing sunrise makes me feel, but I can try to show you through the images I take. I can try to put some of my emotions and feelings into what I photograph. When I’m out in nature, hiking amongst ancient redwood trees or sitting watching the sun set beneath the waves, I feel a peace that I feel almost nowhere else. There’s just something about those moments alone that really rejuvenates me, makes me feel alive. Photography allows me to capture those moments and not just preserve them for my own pleasure, but share them with anyone who will take the time to look. I’m often reminded of this quote by Rachel Carson,

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”

Life passes us by so fast that we all too often forget to take time to enjoy the beauty around us. We’re too busy rushing from one task to the next that it becomes easy to miss what’s right in front of us: the delicate colors of new-blossomed flowers or the subtle colors of the setting sun. In our fevered rush to get things done, we miss out on the amazing artistry of nature. Photography allows me to slow down, to spend time appreciating all that creation has to offer. When I’m out in nature with my camera, I try to slow down, try to see all there is to see. I try to notice the inconspicuous hues and tones amongst the grass, try to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the gently tug of the cool breeze, try to hear the crunching of the dry grass beneath my feet, the harsh cries of the seagulls. I try to take it all in, try to see the everyday beauty that is always around us. I try to take those feelings and incorporate them into my images so that you, as the viewer, can feel as if you were standing right next to me as the shutter closed.

Recently I have begun to think about just how fast life flies by. It feels like just yesterday I was getting ready to leave home for college yet now I am already half way done with my second year. I only have five months left as a teenager. I see my future filled with worries of grad school and finding a job. Where did the care-free days of my childhood go? The majority of my time is now filled with homework, studying for midterms, weighing my potential job options, and trying to figure out a plan for my future. Photography provides me with an escape from the hectic, stress-filled world I find myself in. When I capture a photograph, when the shutter closes, I’ve captured a moment in time, a little slice of history. That moment, though maybe not overly important to anyone, is significant in the fact that it will never happen again. As Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

“We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

The mountains may still be standing, the river still flowing, the sun still shining, but there will never be another moment like the one just captured. The lighting, the weather, the subtle details will never be exactly the same again. That one one-hundredth of a second of history is now preserved only in the photo just captured. As the days and weeks slip by at their break-neck pace I find comfort in knowing that I have preserved a part of my life that I will never get back.

So what does photography mean to me? Many things. It means appreciating the astounding beauty of God’s creation. It means slowing down and finding the incredible in the everyday. It means sharing my passion and wonder of nature with anyone willing to hear. It means finding a way to express myself when words fall short. That is what photography means to me.

 –         Josh Willems