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My New Cell Phone

I have a new camera. It’s become my favorite camera. If not my favorite it is certainly the one that I’ve been using the most. It even makes phone calls.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I have reached the annual and inevitable point of obsolescence of my cell phone. I fight the thought of this being a ploy to sell me a new phone every four years, but if I’m being honest, it’s something that I always look forward to. It’s not because the manufacturers have improved reception or call quality on the phone. Both aspects seem to be no different than they were four years prior when I upgraded to my previous phone. What I always look forward to is how the latest camera upgrades perform. This go around I picked up a new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and I love it.

I’ve owned a cell phone for practically their whole existence. I then used a Motorola brick at work in the early 1990’s and then progressed through the flip phone era to the modern-day smartphones. I remember when the first camera came out as a feature in the better flip phones. It was a dreadful little camera that took very small, out of focus and grainy photos. It was completely impractical. It was more of a novelty than a practical camera. At that time point and shoot cameras were popular for taking snapshots. Today very few people have or need for a point and shoot camera as our phones have easily replaced them.

My first cell phone camera created an image that was a 484 pixel x 364 pixel 14 KB file which yielded a 1 ¼” x 1 ⅝ ” photo. My newest cell phone has a 9000 x 12000 pixel 14 MB image that will print a 30” x 40” photo. The device features a 108MP uncropped primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, two 10MP telephoto cameras (3X and 10X optical zoom), and a 40MP selfie camera. This means that when you zoom in the image will be made using a lens to magnify the scene and not enlarged digitally which tends to break the image apart. This particular cell phone that I’m using has three separate lenses to pull this off.

Another feature that cell phones have these days is the ability to use what’s called Pro Mode. Pro Mode will allow you to switch the phone camera to manual which gives you the ability to adjust the settings – Primarily shutter speed, and ISO, and to save the file in a Raw format. When set on Automatic the camera will take the photo and process it according to presets that are programmed into your camera. When it’s set to Manual you can create and process your photo in the method that gives you the look that you want. There are programs/applications that you can use on your camera to process and save the photo.

 You might ask why you would need a camera if a cell phone can take such incredible photos? The answer is that it’s about sensor size and not about megapixels. The pixel size on the cell phone is .8 micrometers while the pixel size on my professional camera is 4.35 micrometers. Why is this important? It’s important in dim lighting. Larger pixels gather more light. A cell phone will do fine for photos in optimal light but once the lighting becomes a challenge the camera will be challenged. As a matter of fact when the cell phone camera is in night or low light mode it will use what’s called binning to merge nine pixels into one, effectively making it a 12 MP sensor. And furthermore, a larger sensor will be able to gather more information which will make a sharper and clearer image. The simple answer is that it’s not realistic to expect a sensor the size of 8mm to perform as well as a camera with one  that’s 35mm in size.

I haven’t mentioned the video capability of the cell phone. It could be a whole separate article. It boasts the ability to record 8K video. It can record 3840x x2160 at 30p but can also record 1920 x 1080 at up to 120p which can give you the ability to record super slow motion.

I’m finally excited about the camera on my cell phone. I have been having fun with it. In the past I would try but the image quality when I was through was discouraging. I relegated the cell phone to snap shots of friends and family and snaps of times that I wanted reminders of. Because the photos and the video from this camera are so good, I’m more willing to try to be creative with it. Will it replace my professional camera? Not at all but it will allow me to get rid of all of the point and shoot cameras as well as all of the various video cameras that I have accumulated over the last few years. Cell phone cameras are starting to stand on their own as a viable option for quality imagery. 

Ethical Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography Ethics

As landscape photographers we visit and photograph some of the most beautiful places in the world. Many of these scenic locations attract millions of people each year. A lot of these locations are found by others by searching for the photos that we take and share on the World Wide Web. In most cases we don’t realize the potential for harm of the places that we love and photograph by sharing them. It is natural for us to want to share the photos of these incredible places but I feel that we need to be aware of and to share with others how to protect the environment which, in most cases, is the reason that these places are so special.

In the years that I have spent as a full-time working landscape photographer I’ve been able to see the gradual damage that’s being done to some of the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest by its overuse. Most of the erosion and the denuding of the grasses, ferns and mosses is from repeated footfalls onto areas beside and beyond designated paths and fences.

I spend a lot of time in the field visiting these beautiful places and am a witness to so many people who shun the posted signs or fences that are placed to keep people from fragile environments or those that are being reclaimed due to the traffic that has ruined them. I feel that it’s easy for most people to think that it won’t hurt if they go because as an individual they won’t cause any harm. I personally feel that it’s a form of selfishness and greed to think that the signs and rules are for everyone else but them.

Although it is true that as individuals we have little impact on the areas that we tread, but we’re not individuals when we visit these highly impacted areas. We are a part of a collective of humanity that causes an accumulative, damaging effect. It is not just the one person but the effects of us all wearing these places down. I feel that it is imperative that we develop a collective consciousness that instils a want to preserve these places. We each should develop a personal code of environmental ethics and to encourage others to do the same. We need to take responsibility for these places. We need to take care of them. Not doing so will further erode them to a point where access will be limited or closed completely.

As landscape photographers who share photos of these places, we can take the lead in raising the awareness of the fragility of the places that we photograph. I think that every landscape photographer who shares their work online should create and adhere to their own photography code of ethics and have a Nature First attitude that addresses how we conduct ourselves while in the field. We can also add a short plea in the description of the photos that we share that urges those who go to be careful where they tread.

My personal code of ethics includes three parts. Environment, Social and Self. These principles are endorsed and shared with others via Nature First . Nature First is a group formed to urge photographers to become responsible stewards to the places that they visit and share online. It’s a place where the Leave No Trace principle is urged and Nature First Principles are shared. If we all adopt a personal code of ethics and encourage others to do the same perhaps we can turn this trend of abuse of the locations that we love around and make it cool to protect the beauty of these photogenic places. 

Nature First Principles for Photographers

Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.

Educate yourself about the places you photograph.

Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.

Use discretion if sharing locations.

Know and follow rules and regulations.

Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.

Actively promote and educate others about these principles.

Learn More at Nature First

Working Through Creative Slumps

Nature Photographers Network

My latest blog post at my favorite Photography website, Nature Photographers Network.

In a creative slump? Perhaps you’re experiencing some discouragement because it seems like everyone else is creating brilliance, but your own worst critic, yourself, is telling you that your work is junk. Maybe you feel that you’re just not progressing as fast in your skill as you think you should. I’m here to tell you that it’s natural. We all get into a slump now and then. We have our good days and bad days. Sometimes we feel inspired and encouraged while on other days we feel uninspired and ready to take up another hobby like cultivating moss.

Click the link below to read more…

https://naturephotographers.network/articles/working-through-creative-slumps/

Lost In The Mossy Forest

Lost in The Mossy Forest.

Here’s a photo that I made yesterday while guiding my friends Al and Kathy Baca, from Long Island New York, around the Mount Hood National Forest. We spent a day in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and a day in the Mount Hood National Forest with a day of post processing between. It was a great time.

This photo was made while they were photographing bugs, flowers. lichen and moss with their macro lenses. I let them be for a few moments while I dove into the forest to get to this area. The roots captured my attention immediately. While I was there I felt as if I was in the realm of the forest sprites and gnomes.

This whole forest is in it’s Springtime best. All of the deciduous leaves are fresh green as well as the mosses. The forest is moist right now and emits a primordial essence and exudes an aura of primal simplicity. Life in its most primitive and its most beautiful.

I love the Pacific Northwest rain forests, especially in the Springtime. Consider a private Oregon photography exploration tour with Gary Randall Photography some day to explore some of the less visited places in this incredible state. I think that you’ll be glad that you did.

You can purchase prints of this photo at this link. https://gary-randall.com/product/deep-in-the-forest/ 

A Winter Afternoon in The Mt Hood National Forest

A Winter Afternoon In The Mt Hood National Forest

A Winter Afternoon in The Mt Hood National Forest – Gary and Darlene spend some time photographing the forest.

I found some time to practice with my Mavic Pro… and I didn’t crash. 😀 Flying this drone and feeling comfortable doesn’t come hand and hand to me. I find flying this machine very stressful but I hope that that feeling goes away the more that I fly.

Now that I’ve broken the ice with this video look forward to more videos from me. Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel in the meantime. I’d sure appreciate it.

Photography in The Winter

Snowy Forest Scene

Photography in The Winter

As the Mama’s and The Papa’s once sang, “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey”. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking a walk on a Winter’s day. And while you’re at it, don’t think that photography season has passed. I can think of at least six reason why Winter is a great time for photography.

The first reason that comes to mind concerns the weather. The common thought about photography in the weather would be that it’s a terrible time to go due to the grey skies, rain or snow. It is commonly believed, especially among non-photographers, that the Summertime is the best time for photos. Although the Summer weather is a great time to be in the outdoors it may not be the best time to make beautiful photos – Especially photos of dramatic light and skies. A clear blue sky is beautiful in a photo, but there can be a lot of negative space to try to fill, whereas a grey, dramatic cloudy sky can add texture and drama to the scene.

Rain can help a scene as well, especially a forested creek or a waterfall. The rain wets the foliage that may still be in the forest, including moss and evergreen trees. When the foliage is wet I like to apply a circular polarizer to my lens and turn it until the shine and glare that’s on the leaves and rocks, which is a reflection of the sky and ambient light, disappear, which will in turn bring out the color of the forest. Don’t hesitate to go out and photograph in the snow. The snow can make some great photos, especially fresh snow. A bluebird day and fresh snow will bring clear views of the horizon and any geographic features such as a mountain into view.

Wintertime is the best time for beautiful sunrises. Winter skies and rainstorms can, at times, clear or partially clear at night and during daybreak only to succumb to a completely overcast or stormy sky soon after sunrise. I always try to go to bed early, set my alarm and head out to a view to try to witness a sunrise.

Winter forest scenes can be dramatic as well as artistic. The lack of foliage leaves the forest with a clear view through tree trucks and bushes. Many times a view of a scene such as a creek, waterfall or view into the distance is exposed in the Winter when it’s obscured by foliage in the Summer. Also, with the tree trunks exposed, creative abstract landscape scenes can be found.

Summertime weather, sun and no rain, leaves the streams and waterfalls dry or with a limited flow but the rains of Winter fill these streams with water. With rain comes renewed growth of the moss around these streams and waterfalls as well.Winter can be a great time to photograph them. And don’t hesitate to arrive after a fresh snow to photograph them in the Winter white forest. I enjoy photographing streams and waterfalls in the Winter.

Winter weather will also filter out a lot of fair weather photographers too. Not all will dare to go out to get those unique Winter photos. This leaves you with more room to work at a location. Less people in a photograph will allow you to concentrate your subject better, no matter if you’re photographing a landscape or a portrait shoot in a park.

Then there are the holidays. The Winter season brings holidays that will traditionally bring families together for family events and get togethers. Don’t let these times with family pass without documenting them with a photograph. A lot of times, in this busy day and age, we are so distracted by our personal day to day routine that these holidays are the only times throughout the year when family can be gathered together in one place. Take advantage of that time to gather images for posterity.

As you can see the Winter season is no time to set your camera aside. There are plenty of reasons to look at Winter as another time of the year to get beautiful photos.

Knik River Ice Cracks

Knik River Winter Ice

Knik River Ice Cracks  – This was a great day of photographing the patterns in and on the ice on the Knik River near Palmer Alaska. Darlene and I were invited to shoot by our friends and Alaska photographer Calvin Hall. Another fantastic photographer, Jason Dahlquist joined us for the evening. It was cold. It was 5°F (-15C) but there was no wind. The wind pulls the heat from you as you stand outside in this kind of cold. We lucked out and our cold weather gear kept us comfortable.

I was able to come away with a shot or two that I like from this location, this one included.

After we were finished here we relocated closer to Palmer to photograph the overflow ice on the Matanuska River. It was there that we photographed the sunset.