Behind The Lens: Cathedral Gorge

Behind The Lens: Cathedral Gorge

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: Cathedral Gorge

“Castles in the Sky”  Rock formations in an alien landscape, Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada USA. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens @ 11mm, 1/125 second @ f/11, ISO 100. Converted to B&W in Adobe Lightroom.

Cathedral Gorge

Tucked into the southeastern corner of Nevada sits Cathedral Gorge State Park, a narrow, deeply-eroded valley exquisitely carved into the surface of the high desert. At first glance, Cathedral Gorge looks like a first-rate destination for creative landscape photographers, yet I found creating compelling compositions much more difficult than expected. I needed to work long and hard for a solid week in order to come away with just a handful of images that did justice to both the location and my own personal vision. A handful of images, in this case, could be considered a success.

One of those images is the one you see above, Castles in the Sky. It’s a rather pedestrian scene, to be honest, if not for the wonderful, streaming clouds overhead. The use of my Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens at its widest focal length (11mm on a full-frame DSLR!) distorted the clouds, curving their direction mostly in a dramatic sweeping gesture from left to the upper right.

At the bottom of the image frame, there are a few random rock fragments that trail off to the lower left of the image frame. This creates the perfect counterbalance to the opposite effect in the top of the image, creating visual motion in the form of a subtle “S” curve,

Visual Motion

Visual motion is the illusion of actual movement in the image or the movement the viewer’s eye takes when exploring visual elements within the image frame. When a viewer first looks at a photograph or piece of visual art, their eyes will move throughout the image from element to element on a particular path. Those with the heaviest visual weight will command the most immediate attention followed by less significant elements, as lines, shapes, and patterns help guide the visual motion from one area to another. This is key to creating dynamic compositions as well as controlling and manipulating the viewer’s experience. Establishing visual motion in Castles in the Sky – with the abstract “S” curve – saved at least one image for me during my visit to Cathedral Gorge.

Castles in the Sky was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens and processed in Adobe Lightroom.

Castles in the Sky can be licensed or purchased as a print here.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Behind The Lens: Deepen The Mystery

Behind The Lens: Deepen The Mystery

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: Deepen The Mystery

“Mirage” Giraffe reflections in watering hole at sunset, Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 64mm, 1/800 second @ f/4, ISO 2500.

“The Job Of The Artist Is Always To Deepen The Mystery”– Francis Bacon

It is not the job of the photographer to make things as clear as possible for the viewing audience – or to present the photograph as to be fully comprehended or understood – it’s to deepen the mystery. The photographer’s job should be creating a sense of wonder, curiosity, bewilderment, even confusion. It should be about making things somewhat murky and not-so-obvious to the audience while obscuring vital information and clues so that each individual viewer is transformed from a mere passive observer to an active participant as they seek to figure things out.

One of the reasons the image above has been so successful is its element of mystery, particularly with regard to the blocked-up shadows where the giraffes ought to be. The temptation for many photographers would be to open up the shadows as much as possible during processing to reveal all the details. But to deepen the mystery with my audience, I’ve purposely obscured a vital part of the image (the subjects) by allowing the shadows go to black and inviting the viewer to explore and solve the visual mystery. And like a good songwriter who refuses to explain the meaning of his or her lyrics, I’ll say no more about it.

Mysteries are incredibly compelling. The job of the photographer is to preserve them. “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” – Rene Magritte.

Mirage was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens  and processed in Adobe Lightroom.

Mirage can be licensed or purchased as a print here.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Behind The Lens: Brooks Falls, Alaska

Behind The Lens: Brooks Falls, Alaska

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: Brooks Falls, Alaska

“Brooks Falls” Brown bear on Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska USA. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Lens @ 280mm, 1/13 second @ f/14, ISO 100.

Brooks Falls are located on the Brooks River about halfway between Brooks Lake and Naknek Lake in Katmai National Park and Preserve. The falls are best known for bear watching on the Bear Cam as salmon attempt to leap up and over the six-foot cascade on their way to their spawning grounds. Brooks Falls is also quite famous for a number of bear-catching-salmon-in-jaws photos that you’ve undoubted seen in prints, books, and all over the Internet.

I wanted to attempt something different here, a contrast between the stillness of a steady bear atop the falls and the ever moving water. The result, which you see here, has been published on numerous occasions including an appearance in my latest wildlife photography book. I’ve been been asked on several occasions if this is a composite created with one slow exposure for the water and another with a faster shutter speed for the bear. The answer would be no. Bears usually don’t move very quickly and they often just stand around looking dumb and confused. The shutter speed of 1/13 second was fast enough to render the idle bear as perfectly sharp while also creating an illusion of motion with the water.

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Lens and processed in Adobe Lightroom.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Behind The Lens: The Angel Oak

Behind The Lens: The Angel Oak

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: The Angel Oak

“The Angel Oak” Johns Island, South Carolina USA. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens @ 24mm, 1/15 second @ f/20, ISO 320.

On South Carolina’s Johns Island just south of Charleston, you might find one of the world’s most formidable Southern live oak trees: The Angel Oak. It truly is a sight to behold, boasting a total height of 66 feet (20 meters), a 30-foot (9 meter) trunk circumference, and a canopy diameter of more than180 feet (55 meters). It’s exact age has not been determined but it’s believed to be about 500 years old, making it the oldest living thing in the United States east of the Mississippi River.

I composed the Angel Oak by zooming in tight on the core of the tree so there was no empty space around the edges and that the branches extended all the way out to the image frame and into the corners. I was shooting directly into the sun so I positioned myself where the sun was barely peeking behind a tree limb and then stopped down to f/20 to create a diffraction star.

I captured all of this with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. I converted this to Black and White with Nik Silver Efex Pro2 on Adobe Lightroom.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Behind The Lens: Wild Goose Island

Behind The Lens: Wild Goose Island

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: Wild Goose Island

“Wild Goose Sunset” Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island at sunset, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens @ 30mm, 6 seconds @ f/11, ISO 100.

I recently spent a week in Glacier National Park under a dome of bright blue, cloudless skies. When there wasn’t a blue sky and scorching white-hot sun, the atmosphere was a smoky haze from a nearby forest fire when the wind blew in from the wrong direction. I tried to make the best of it and beat a few landscape scenes into submission but I just wasn’t feeling very inspired. I certainly wasn’t getting any sympathy from the tourists with whom I made contact. They would notice my camera and tripod, point upwards toward the blue sky and sun and exclaim, “Beautiful day for picture-takin’ eh?” 

“Oh, it’s awesome,” I would reply without a hint of sarcasm or irony.

When I awoke on my last full day in Glacier, the sky was one hundred percent overcast. Feast or famine it was going to be for this trip. I did a couple waterfall hikes and planned an early dinner since sunset was a certain lost cause. But by late afternoon, a few cracks opened up in the clouds so I made a run for this grand overlook of Saint Mary Lake. The scene is best known for the tiny dark speck in the lake’s center, Wild Goose Island. The sunset was pedestrian at best but 15 minutes afterward the sky exploded with various shades of crimson, pink, and magenta. I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens @ 30mm for this composition. No filter, as the kids like to say on Instagram.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Behind The Lens: Italy’s Cinque Terre

Behind The Lens: Italy’s Cinque Terre

Behind The Lens

Behind The Lens: Italy’s Cinque Terre

“Cinque Terre” The charming seaside village of Manarola, Cinque Terre National Park, Italy. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens @ 26mm, 30 seconds @ f/10, ISO 200.

Cinque Terre is a strand of five charming and colorful seaside villages along the dramatic Italian Riviera coastline. Colorfully-painted houses cling perilously to the sea cliffs while vineyards grace the steep, terraced landscape just above the town. One of Cinque Terre’s most scenic and photogenic villages is Manarola and I visited there in 2015 for some coastal photography Italian Style!.

My strategy for this image was to execute it during the twilight hour where the ambient blues would create a dramatic color temperature contrast with the warm lights of the village, once they were turned on. The house colors were decidedly muted during the day and I wanted this photo to really pop. Twilight was definitely the right time. Even though there were no clouds top help create some drama, the deep blues in the sky were colorful enough for me. Choosing twilight also allowed me to employ a long shutter speed (30 seconds) without having to add any neutral density filters. The long exposure smoothed out the waves and created a sweet yellow reflective glow on the water.

When traveling, I love taking along the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens, which is light, sharp, and versatile (and not to mention, relatively inexpensive) and I chose a focal length of 26mm with this lens, which was plenty wide to allow comfortable negative space along the top and the bottom. 

Even though I am happy with the result, I am already looking forward to my next visit to Manarola and Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre can be licensed or purchased as a print here.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.