Mark Seawell Photography: Blog http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Mark Seawell Photography markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Sat, 04 Feb 2017 03:23:00 GMT Sat, 04 Feb 2017 03:23:00 GMT http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v117/u243795962-o801100709-50.jpg Mark Seawell Photography: Blog http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog 120 90 The Hour of Land http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/the-hour-of-land Twilight of the GodsTwilight of the GodsThe weather has been moody here in northern Utah. As my wife and I drove back from Ogden dark clouds rolled over the mountains from the east but to the west some open sky was visible. As we arrived home I was curious to see what was really going on up in the mountains. She knew the look and said be safe as I departed. And as I drove indeed, big drops of rain started hitting the car with force and my gas light started flashing, I was driving on fumes. This was starting well! Forced to pull over and fill up the tank, the rain REALLY started coming down in buckets and the thought "I am wasting my time!" blinked in my head but hey, I was here so the decision was made to carry on. As I started my ascent up HW 167 past Mt Green, the rain halted but dark clouds hung over the Wasatch mountains, drama unfolding as the light started to go haywire from the frenzied atmosphere. I stopped to capture the moments, but drove on higher, anxious to see what I could see. Finally I made an illegal turn and pulled off the shoulder of the road, grabbing my trusty E-M5KII and my Panasonic 35-100mm lens as I hurled myself out of the car. I literally ran as the sight before me was stunning. The autumn foliage was there, fading but still alive however what truly caught my eye was the sky. The clouds had pulled back and light from the setting sun struck the Snowbasin mountain, transforming it into the home of the ancient Greeks, this Mount Olympus setting it afire. Quickly, the light began to fade, the clouds closing the door to the temple but not before I was treated to a fleeting but beautiful, intimate, moment....twilight of the Gods.

The vast expanses of the west. Wide open places of staggering beauty grace our country and we are better for it. How can one stand at the mouth of Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Tetons, or even Antelope Island State park in Utah and not be moved, especially on a morning when the soft light touches the clouds, the mountains and streams that form this spectacular ecosystem? How can you not feel replenished as you stand in the high places and listen to the monumental silence of being? How can your soul not feel alive again as you witness the awesome spectacle of the Dead Horse State Point Park enshrouded in mist on a bitterly cold January morning in Moab?

 

Mark Seawell Photography

I speak of the western United States, but scenes of deep physical and spiritual beauty abound across this land. Suddenly however, like the appearance of a massive summer storm, dark clouds have descended, blocking the light and presenting challenges so severe as to reshape our beloved lands into a grotesque shell of their former selves. The challenges will be fierce and we must ready ourselves for a struggle for the very soul of the wild places. If these challenged are left unchecked, we will see the triumph of forces hostile to beauty, gluttonous for profits and indifferent to the aftermath of a lost promise to future generations.

 

As I write this on a snowy morning in Utah, the forces threatening the land gather in Washington D.C to anoint a new President. Donald Trump, against all odds, will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. President Obama is leaving office and the protection he provided for the environmental movement and the preservation, indeed expansion of priceless wonders, has ended. The recent elections have swept in a Republican majority in Congress and the Supreme Court will tilt to the right. For the first time in decades, Republicans will control every lever of federal power, giving them total control over the machinery of government. Donald Trump has wasted no time appointing men such as Rex W. Tillerson, the former head of Exxon or Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who is Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. A man who has sued said agency more than a dozen times and who previously questioned the very existence of the EPA will now be its head. Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, an aggressive proponent of the Federal government returning lands to the states, will now have the ear of the President. Legislation has been introduced by Jason Chavez of Utah to sell off 3.3 million acres of national land, equivalent to the size of Connecticut. Legislation has also been introduced by Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona to allow drilling in National Parks! This is just the beginning of an onslaught against our lands!

 

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How can we, the people, stand idly by as the land comes under such ferocious attacks? How can we justify watching as the money barrons prepare to do what they have always done, rape the natural resources of the earth, irregardless of the consequenses? With the barrons of profit in positions of authority throughout the government, the amount of damage they can and will inflict is enormous. Talk of shrinking the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah is already in the wind. Republicans in Washington D.C and the state of Utah want the hard fought and recent designation of Bears Ears as a national monument totally reversed. The Keystone and Dakota pipelines have been given a green light again. A blind man could see the train coming and the winds of change are blowing with a stench of oil and gas strong in the air.

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These are men of power. These are men of profit. These are men who condone the exploitation of the earth for oil and gas or they are owned by that industry. Theirs is the world of shareholders, profits, and annual returns. To them, free and wild lands, especially in the western United States, are untapped opportunities of wealth. They are no lovers of the land but profiteers of the land. Make no mistake, the storm has arrived, the wolf is at the door. The age of enlightenment ended the moment Donald Trump was sworn in and a dark new chapter is being written.

Mark Seawell Photography

So what is to be done? In truth this is an ancient struggle pitting the forces of unbridled capitalism and market forces against Americans who value clean water, clean air and wild places to explore. “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” is a quote from Ansel Adams, who deeply loved the land and fought for its preservation. Ansel vigorously contacted his elected representatives to voice his concerns about the negative environmental impact of some government decisions. He did this on his ancient IBM typewriter but we have the internet and an array of tools for making our voices heard. The time for legitimate excuses of not being involved has ended and we have to dig deep to preserve the bounty of what previous women and men of vision worked so hard for

 

DenouementDenouementAn air of stillness settles over Antelope island. The clouds seem to pause and not a ripple in the water. The end of the play and the curtain falls....denouement

 

We have voices. We have history. We have examples of people, men and women of deep spiritual committment who have fought this fight, dedicating their entire lives to the preservation of the environment. They answered the call of their generation in order to right an ancient wrong,  Whether the messenger was Mahatma Gandhi, who defeated the all powerful British empire and freed his nation from colonialism or Dr. Martin Luther King who freed his nation from a caste system of segregation, these powerful examples also exist when it comes to the quality of the very air we breath. People such as Edward Abby and David Gessner spoke of the threats facing the west, modern day American author, conservationist, and activist Terry Tempest Williams gets up every day and fights for the wild places. These are but a few who have made an impact, made a difference in this far reaching struggle to define the very existence of life not just in the west, but in the place we call home, planet earth.

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        The time for shock has come and gone. The time of disbelief in what has happened to our country is over. The die has been cast, the gauntlet thrown down. Time spent on fights in social media is perhaps better used messaging your Senator, Congressman or local representative, letting them know your thoughts on fracking, drilling, rising carbon, sea levels and the explotation of the earth. Ask yourself how many times you have convinced someone over FB to see your side of the argument? How many friends, family members or colleagues have you moved to your side? President Obama made the point that maybe we should put down the mouse and talk face to face, listen to the other side and find common ground. A great idea but it is not where the center of power is located. The movers and shakers are your elected representatives and I would urge you to organize and concentrate your real energy on the people who make the decisions about air, water, and land. I would urge you to hold them accountable because that is what they are NOT counting on. In fact they are banking on you not calling, not emailing, not marching to protest. Your elected representatives, the banks and energy companies that own them expect you to be so shell shocked that you just accept the new order. They expect they can count on more indifference, because well over 100,000,000 people sat out the election. Only time will tell.

 

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But I promise you this. I will make myself heard. I will be heard from the great Wasatch mountains. I will be heard from the woods of the Uintas, I will be heard from the red canyons of the Moab and I will be heard from the mystic Grand Tetons. And I will fight. I will struggle, I will have good days and bad. I will have victories and defeats but no one will wonder. No one will wonder where I stand. They will know where I put my feet down. They will know that when they come for our wild places, I will be the wolf. They will know as they approach my den, I am the father at the door. But this cannot be done alone. Join me and millions of our fellow Americans, together our voices are legion. This is not the time to be on your knees but your time to face what every generation of Americans has faced since the beginning of this country: a crisis of such proportions you are forced to look yourself in the mirror and ask “Is this the price for clean water and clean air? Is this the price for freedom?” 

 

Mountains of TetonMountains of Teton

 

Terry Tempest Williams was so right when she titled her book “The Hour of Land”. This is OUR hour. And this is OUR land.

 

 

 

 

 

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Landscape Mark Seawell Photography Blog The Hour of Land http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/the-hour-of-land Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:46:17 GMT
The Grand Staircase-Escalante http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/10/the-grand-escalante The Grand-Staircase Escalante

Canyon ViewCanyon View

 

 

Utah. My wife and I have been living in the northern part of the state since the summer of 2014 after serving overseas with the Air Force for over two decades. We didn’t really know what to expect but what we found was beyond our imagination!

What we discovered was this truth: If you are bored in Utah, it is probably your own fault! Utah offers many things but for those who love the outdoors it offers everything! Skiing, fishing, hiking and of course a landscape of such diversity, most photographers would believe they died and passed on to heaven. Few places rival this state for the thunder of the mountains in the north and the awesome red canyons of the south. With five national parks and many stunning state parks it is hard to go wrong. But Utah also has a national monument or two. And the Grand-Staircase Escalante is by far our favorite.

The Grand-Staircase Escalante received National Monument status from President Clinton in 1996, much to the annoyance of the local political establishment here in Utah. This area encompasses thousands of miles and millions of years of history. Roughly the size of Delaware, the Escalante is a geological wonder and just a pleasure to the eyes. The location is perfect for exploring southern Utah with Canyonlands National Park, Bryce National Park and Zion National Park all within a few hours’ drive.

The journey through the Escalante has another treasure for anyone visiting. Scenic Byway 12 is one of the most awesome, breathtaking drives in Utah, and I would argue the United States. Coming from northern Utah, you make the turn off I-15 and drive towards Canyonlands National Park. Just before you arrive in Torrey, you make a right turn and headed  towards Boulder, Utah (not Colorado!) and drive the byway. Up, up, and up you go through the forest with the summit at over 9500 feet. We’ve done it three times, once in June and September of 2015 and once again in September 2016.

Lutgart Scenic Byway12Lutgart Scenic Byway12

And what do you see in September as you drive the byway? As you drive up Boulder Mountain the beauty of the forest in itself is gorgeous. As you rise, the forest starts to give way to little snippets of color on your left. Your pulse quickens as you see the colors of the canyons starting to come through. Reds and yellows clash with the color of the trees which have also changed. Now you have entered aspen territory and the deep greens and sparks of yellow compete for your attention. Suddenly, the road view rips open and the canyons are no longer hidden by the foliage. You witness astounding views of the massive canyons on full display as the yellows and golds of the aspens shimmer in the soft wind. I mean seriously, if this doesn’t take your breath away just turn around and head home! And there is more to come. Scenic Byway 12 AutumnScenic Byway 12 AutumnOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Like I said, the Escalante is vast and our exploration of it has just scratched the surface. We were invited to camp the first time in June of 2015 by a dear friend who knew the area like the back of her hand. This was our introduction to the Escalante and it left a permanent mark. A group of four families took part and we had a blast. One interesting note was on the last night of camp my wife asked me to walk her down the road to the toilet. No problem. As we were walking down the road we heard a very definite “roar” (?) coming from the bushes and VERY close to us. After we returned home, our host Ginger told everyone via FB “Didn’t want to freak anyone out but we had a mountain lion in the camp every night. I saw the paw prints!” Welcome to the wild side.

The nights in the Grand Staircase are marvelous. For stargazers, you have a view of the sky that is unaffected by light pollution. In other words, what seems like millions and millions of stars cram the sky! Just so humbling to observe. Crickets sing throughout the evening and the breeze is your friend if you’ve had a blistering day. Before I forget to mention it, I would recommend September as opposed to July to visit this area. We’ve found mid-September, though warm, is much nicer than the blazing heat of June/July/August. To each their own but please come prepared if you go in the heat of summer. Fair warning!

 

We have stayed at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch our last two trips to the Escalante. This is an authentic ranch which also offers cabins and tents to stay in. Family from Belgium stayed in the Indian tipi last September and we stayed in the cowboy tent.

Boulder Guest RanchBoulder Guest Ranch

We felt such a part of the place and our family loved the tipi!  Prices are  reasonable and won’t break the bank. We would recommend making reservations at least six months in advance to make sure you have a place to put your head down. There is NOT much in the way of hotels in the area. Boulder itself only has a population of just over 200. The Boulder Mountain Lodge is a very nice hotel in Boulder proper (the Boulder Guest ranch where we stayed is about 15 minutes’ drive from Boulder) but it is not cheap. But for those looking for a “proper” hotel to stay at, the Boulder Mountain Lodge will more than meet your needs.

Which brings me to another high point of our trip to Boulder and the Grand Staircase-Escalante. Adjacent to the Boulder Mountain Lodge is Hell’s Backbone Grill, one of the most finest restaurants in the southwest of the United States.

Hells Backbone GrillHells Backbone Grill

What is so great about the place is the food of course, but also more. The restaurant is farm to table, and uses only local butchers. Our friend Ginger, who introduced us to the Escalante, helped the owners start the restaurant years ago. She arranged a tour of the farm during our first trip down and it was fantastic to see and made us appreciate our food even more. The owners Blake Spaulding and Jennifer Castle are the best. Friendly service and a warm smile will always greet you. This restaurant has received accolades from Bon Appetit, the New York Times Travel Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Oprah just to name a few! And the best part is the prices are so reasonable. If you are in Boulder, Hell’s Backbone Grill is a must and we strongly urge you to make a reservation. Hell’s Backbone grill is open from early May through November when they offer a Thanksgiving Day special. Breakfast is also very nice. Go to http://hellsbackbonegrill.com

 

What else? As I’ve said, the Escalante is huge. I will limit the discussion to places we have visited but keep in mind there is much more and I would encourage you to look it up. More, if you are serious about Utah and the southwest, purchase the book Photographing the Southwest: Volume 1--Southern Utah (2nd Ed.) by Laurent Martres.  Photographing the Southwest. This is my bible for photographing and for hiking in southern Utah. This book is worth every penny and more and will really provide the guidance you need to hike and photograph the true beauty of southern Utah. The second edition includes GPS coordinates. Martres has a series of books on the west and each is a treasure.

We have been to many beautiful places in Escalante. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is if you are driving in Utah you will cross mountains and canyons. I have a fear of heights that Utah has forced me to face. The good news is, if I can overcome it, so can you! The Escalante does present said height challenges. For example, one of our favorite places to visit and I will cover in detail, Lower Calf Creek waterfall.

When you drive from the direction of Boulder you cross what is called the Hogsback road. What is this? Hogsback is simply one of the most breathtaking stretches of Scenic byway 12 in the Escalante. The vistas, while driving over make you literally gasp. You are driving through massive white and crimson canyons that seem impossible in scale. From both sides, whether coming or going the viewer is in for a visual smorgasbord. For some, the term “Sweet Jesus!” may escape their lips and this is more than appropriate. As for me, I pray every time I cross Hogsback, not just because of the view but because of the thousand foot drops on either side! Oh yes. You may arrive at Hogsback as a non-believer but I assure you as you drive this road, your belief in a higher authority may become a priority. My wife always marvels at the views no matter how many times we cross. Enjoy! Lute Hogsback CliffLute Hogsback CliffOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, on to the main show. Not the only show in this special place but certainly one of our favorites. Once again credit to our friend Ginger for introducing us to the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. On our first trip there, with a group of nine people total, we arrived at the trailhead on a blistering June morning. Ginger, to her credit, valiantly tried to rally the group by 8 a.m. As an experienced photographer, I appreciated her efforts but it was not to be. We arrived between 10.30 and 11 a.m, much, much, too late. The sun was merciless as we started our hike which is a six miles round trip and takes a couple of hours. By the first 30 minutes the two children were feeling unwell and of course their parents turned back. Maybe 20 minutes later we stopped to rest. My wife Lutgart was a pale shade of pink, flustered and not looking so great. I didn’t feel great at all. In fact, no one was eager to carry on. We started too late, didn’t bring enough water and flat out were not prepared. Fortunately, a cool stream ran adjacent to our path and we all jumped in to break the heat. Regrettable but hey, it would be there another day. Lesson learned.

Red Canyon WallsRed Canyon WallsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

A few months later my wife and I, along with our son, returned. We had family visiting from Belgium and they were eager for round two and the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls since we failed to reach it in June. This time we arrived just around 8 a.m with hats, and plenty of water. The day was cooler (80’s instead of high 90’s) and we set off before the sun crested the canyons. The red of the canyons was superb and I happily dragged behind the group to capture the beauty.

 

The clash of autumn yellow trees against the red canyon rock was magnificent. The hike itself is not too strenuous as long as you have proper hiking shoes. The path stands out and though you can get lost, you really must wander off to accomplish this. I would recommend not hiking it alone. That being said, people do it all the time. To each, their own but always let someone know where you are going!

Panorama Lower Calf CanyonsPanorama Lower Calf Canyons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we started to approach our destination we encountered people on the return leg and everyone encouraged us to press on. Finally, we started to hear distant rumbling and our destination came into view. And what a view it was!

Lower Calf Creek FallsLower Calf Creek FallsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This makes absolutely no sense. If you think about it, we just hiked through the desert, beautiful desert, but desert nonetheless for three miles. What is this oasis doing out in the middle of nowhere is the magic question. Lower Calf Creek Falls is a truly remarkable earth gesture. What takes you by surprise is the size….very impressive. Another thing you will notice is the air is cool! From the thunder of the falls the air coming off is chilly. Very refreshing after a hot, sweltering walk. Some brave souls have the audacity to dive in. Just so the reader is aware, the water is ice cold! On our recent trip in September of 2016, one of our Belgium companions took the plunge! I salute him.

In the falls!In the falls!

Above you see a picture of my lovely wife in the water up to her ankles and that was enough for her!

This hike is a must if you visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante. Calculate your water needs and my strong advice is to stuff two more bottles somewhere, you will thank me. Sunscreen and hats are a MUST. Please don’t do this hike without both. I have one cautionary note to pass on. Not too long ago I noticed a friend at work limping. I asked him why and he told me “I hiked to this place called Lower Calf Creek Falls and got into trouble! I got lost, ran out of water and got dehydrated. My legs were cramping so bad I had trouble walking and I’m still hurting.” I felt bad because I could have saved him a world of hurt and honestly his situation could have ended much worse than with sore legs. We personally never felt endangered during this hike. The Lower Calf Creek trail in itself isn’t dangerous but lack of preparation for any hike is what will get most people in trouble. Oh, make sure you have a cooler of cold water waiting for you in the car for after the hike.

A couple of last notes for this hike. There are toilets at the beginning of the hike provided by the park service. There are no garbage cans. What you bring in, you take out. Start your hike early to avoid the heat and crowds! You can bring your dog but please keep in mind some dogs are NOT built for the heat so please think about it. Have cash with you to pay for parking, $5 will do. Lastly, if you want to reward yourself after the hike, go to Kiva Coffee House. Take a right as you drive out of the trailhead parking. Drive for about 3-5 minutes and look up to the right. You’ll see the building up on the hill. They have great sandwiches, coffee and dessert. If you walk to the back you’ll find tables AND a fantastic view of the surrounding canyons. I almost forgot to mention they also have rooms to stay in, overlooking the same beautiful scenery. We would love to wake up to these views one day, maybe for our anniversary …

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the famous Burr Trail in Boulder and the Long Canyon about 15 minutes down the Burr Trail. The Burr Trail leads to some incredible views and you will definitely want to stop at Long Canyon. It will be on the left side of the road and easy to miss. Looked for a parked car as a sign! If you drive to the end of the road you can see clear to Capitol Reef National Park.

Mark Long CanyonMark Long Canyon

 

 

One last thing to mention before my fingers go numb. We stayed at the Boulder Guest ranch the last two times. The road to the guest ranch is typical for the area, high and twisty but you suck it up. It has a name, Hell’s Backbone Road and for good reason! Anyway, the road has a famous landmark about 20 minutes past the ranch. It is called Hell’s Backbone Bridge (could it be anything else?) I made the drive along with my Belgian friend who is also a photographer. Stunning, along with the autumn foliage and mind blowing views, it is a must see. I will warn you the roads are high as you go further along.  Apparently someone forgot to add guard rails. ;) We made it to a certain point that you see below but not to the bridge which, according to google, was three minutes away. I froze. Guess I haven’t totally conquered my fear of heights.

 

Enjoy the Grand-Staircase Escalante! A treasure of Utah and the West.

Desert PathDesert PathThe beauty of the Escalante in the Lower Calf Creek Park, Utah

 

“A world gone mad. It wears down the heart and empties out the soul leaving nothing but a numb feeling of hopelessness and despair. We look to the news and it is all bad. Turn off your computers, your phones and your fears and seek refuge in the colors of Autumn, the solitude of Winter, the hope of Spring and the warmth of Summer. Grab your hiking shoes and walk a beautiful shore. Grab your hiking shoes and climb that awesome mountain. This is where you’ll find me walking the path.”

 

Mark Seawell

Ogden, Utah

October 2016

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Canyons Grand Staircase-Escalante Lower Calf Creek Southern Utah Utah Waterfall hiking http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/10/the-grand-escalante Sat, 22 Oct 2016 23:56:11 GMT
The awakening: Bryce Canyon National park in Winter http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/2/the-awakening-bryce-canyon-in-winter            Since our return to the United States, Lutgart and I have been blessed to see many wonders here in Utah. For those who haven’t travelled to Utah or the southwest of the United States, you will have to trust us when we say Utah houses some of the most scenic landscapes in the United States and indeed the world. Landscape diversity in Utah ranges from the northern part of the state where we are embraced by stunning mountain vistas and the southern part of Utah, home of incredible red canyons and desert. Home to five national parks (the most in any state) and numerous state parks, Utah is literally a photographer’s paradise. And the people…so friendly OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

           Lutgart and I have travelled to each of the National Parks in Utah. Our first destination over a year ago was Capital Reef national park. For those unfamiliar with Utah, all the national parks are in the southern part of the state. So for us that means about a 4.5 hour drive from our home in Ogden. We normally go over a three day weekend. One other thing to know is we have yet to visit a national park in Utah in the summer months. This is for two reasons: southern Utah in the summer is boiling hot and the parks in the summer are super crowded! The fact that 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service will mean record numbers of people in the parks this summer. No, thank you. We much prefer winter and the glory of being alone. Much more…intimate.

          So with that in mind in January of 2016, we decided to travel to Bryce, the one national park in Utah  we had failed to see. Why the delay? Honestly, I was not interested! I had seen pictures of Bryce and they didn’t move me. Lutgart disagreed. Some of our customers would ask her about pictures from Bryce Canyon and some expressed utter shock we hadn’t been. Lutgart persevered and pointed out time and again we should go. Finally she said “Your birthday is coming up and you will officially be old, what about Bryce?” With such a kind offer how could I refuse? Better yet, our dear British friend Alison was coming to visit so we could show it to her as well. So Bryce it was.

          Our biggest concern with going to Bryce in January was the weather. On the one hand, seeing red canyons with snow on top would be fantastic. On the other hand, driving to an elevation of 8000ft through bad weather had no appeal to me whatsoever. Even with the Subaru I wouldn’t try it but fortunately the weather wasn’t an issue. The three of us drove down on a beautiful Thursday with scarcely a cloud in the sky. We were amazed how quickly Alison adjusted to being in the states and her energy, no signs of jet lag at all. What a trooper!

 

After arriving at the Best Western Grand, we quickly unpacked our bags and got situated. The rooms were spacious, clean, and very reasonably priced.  From our hotel to the Bryce visitor center was no more than an 8 minute drive. We paid for our yearly pass and received a map of the park. When we visit a park for the first time we always stop at the visitor’s center. The internet and books are great for information but nothing beats talking to the park staff who know the area, especially if they have been working at the park for over 20 years! The sales woman at the visitor center was more than generous with her time and information. Treasure.

          Finally, we entered Bryce proper. There were more woods than I expected. Shortly we started to see signs such as Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point. Since they were all reasonably spaced apart, we decided to go to sunrise point first. The parking lot was easy to find and a few cars were about. We donned our Yaktraks (which we bought at the visitor’s center) since snow and ice covered the ground and slipping was easy. I grabbed my camera bag with my trusty Panasonic GX7 and a new edition, the Olympus E-5MKII. I had traded my Panasonic GH3 and some other equipment for this camera. Unfortunately, I was/am still learning the interface for this little beast and the curve is steep. This camera has lots of power but also confusing menu options.

          So we made the short walk to the rim, with Lutgart and Alison in front. I turned on the E-5MKII and filmed the occasion. I could hear them talking, excited by the view.. I turned off the video and approached the edge. What I saw staggered the senses.

           I don’t know what I expected but this wasn’t it. I like to think I’m a decent photographer able to capture the beauty of what I see through the eye of my camera but there is nothing like BEING there. To hear the snow crunching under your feet, to FEEL the cool wind on your face. To stand one foot away from oblivion and embrace not fear but awe. To be so small and inconsequential in the face of such majesty and grandeur, humbling.

          There in front of us stood one of the supreme earth gestures.  Row upon row of archeological wonder in the form of hoodoos. The eye witnessed massive red canyons towering above everything. Timeless elements almost beyond understanding. Nature at its creative zenith and it was all there to be seen. Bryce should not have been our last stop; it should have been our first.

          After nearly an hour we drove to the next point, eager to see the differences. And there were definitely differences. Inspiration point was exactly as the name sounded. Whereas sunrise point was more condensed, Inspiration point was more spread out,  like a famous theater with row after row of seats. But instead of seats we witnessed columns of stone figures stacked neatly together. Stunning doesn’t begin to cover it. Lutgart and Alison eagerly took in the views while I, with great impatience, set to the task of capturing this treasure. I had to calm myself and put on my photography hat. Concentrate on the moment and focus!

Bryces HoodosBryces HoodosAncient treasures in the hills of southern Utah. Created by wind, rain, earthquakes and time, hoodoos represent the hand and power of nature

            Our last stop for the day was of course Sunset Point. For those wondering, all these stops are within 5-10 minutes down the same road we entered the park on. Bryce is one of the easiest national parks we’ve ever navigated. Only if you drive to Rainbow Point (15 miles away) would you have to go out of your way. Sunset point itself is very close to the park entrance. We eagerly exited the car and headed to the rim, taking in beautiful views as the light started to fade. The landscape was transformed and the sky softened. The rocks of Bryce started to glow and we were all in thrall watching this masterful performance. Bravo!

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With great reluctance we returned to car, excited by what we had just witnessed. Shortly we were back at the hotel and discussing dinner options. Perhaps I should say “option” because Ruby’s Inn across the street from our hotel is the only place open in Winter that is close. I’m told they actually own the Best Western Grand were we were staying. Our hotel served a decent breakfast starting at 6.30 but no lunch or dinner.

          I’m going to say it now. Dinner was a disappointment. The food at Ruby’s was poor I’m sad to report and not cheap. I can’t speak for everyone, but we were not happy.  The problem is that in winter, the food options at Bryce are very limited. Outside of the hotels and gas stations, there is nothing within miles of Bryce. Please keep this in mind, especially if you come in winter. When we return to Bryce we will be bringing our own food…and wine. Ruby’s also has a general store but the prices are inflated! We drove about 10 miles away to get frozen dinners for our last night. Dinner was our only negative experience, so be warned!

          We arose early the next morning for coffee and a light breakfast before heading to sunrise point. We wanted to see the canyon come alive and it was definitely worth the short trip. Whether you are a photographer or not, sunrise in Bryce Canyon is a must! Be sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise for the best show. The beauty of coming in winter is that the sunrise is much later so you get to sleep in and will encounter small groups instead of huge crowds as opposed to the summer.

The canyon is facing east and there the light started to emerge.  Slowly the light illuminated the morning sky, bringing the canyon into view. The snow reflected the light, giving definition to the red hoodoos. I made my way to the top of sunrise point where a small crowd of photographers had gathered. After quick greetings I set up my tripod and watched the light grow stronger, capturing the red rocks as they started changing. I turned around anxiously looking for my companions and slowly they were approaching, stopping to take it in. I focused on the western side of the canyons, just blown away with the primitive, rugged beauty. Both ladies were almost at the podium when it happened. The sun crested the horizon and….oh.

           It was like being at the world’s greatest symphony. And the moment had arrived, the crescendo, the peak. Imagine as the maestro who had been hidden by the curtain, suddenly emerges as the music explodes. Suddenly, the veil is lifted and the light just explodes across those snow covered red cliffs and the land stands instantaneously transformed by the light and the moment. Oh, high drama indeed!

A split second after this moment my wife and friend arrived. Too late, too late she cried waving her wooden leg! I just couldn’t believe what I saw and couldn’t believe they missed it! I think the look on my face said it all. Though disappointed they missed it, we all enjoyed the rest of the morning. We returned to the hotel for a second round of coffee and breakfast. After a short rest we returned to Sunset point for a hike of famous Navajo and Queens Trail. Snow and ice still covered the ground so we put on our Yaks and started our decent. But shortly into the walk we stopped to shed layers. Everyone was overdressed and I returned to the car with hats and coats. It was probably 40f. Ironic when you consider the week before the high temp was only 17f for a high!

The day was beautiful with high wispy clouds and patches of blue sky. It is one thing to photograph Bryce from the rim, quite another to walk among stunning hoodoos. The first hoodoo you encounter is the hammer of Thor, centered and apart from the rest.

What a structure and there were many more such sights to come. We carried on, just loving this setting and appreciating what we were experiencing, walking back to sunrise point and then to our car back at sunset point, we completed our loop.

If you go to Bryce there are numerous trails and you’ll enjoy the experience far more if you emerge yourself by hiking.

Lutgart and Alison preparing to descend onto the Navajo Trail!

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The Bryce website is full of information on the numerous activities such as snowshoeing, hiking, horse rides, camping that are available. Go crazy!

          The actual walk through the Navajo and Queens trails was astounding. Words don’t truly capture the magnificent hoodoos that dominate the landscape. It is amazing to think you bear witness to millions of years of erosion and  natures hand. We felt lucky to be walking through this bizarre landscape, covered in snow with the temperatures so mild. The image below is just one of the beauties of the day we had the pleasure to see.

Bryce Canyon Unleashed!

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While walking the trail we had the pleasure of meeting someone from the National Park Service. Her name was Lisa Eckert, the superintendent at Bryce Canyon National park. We had a wonderful conversation about many things, such as our mutual love of the outdoors and environmental policy just to name a few. Her passion for the land came through loud and clear and it warms our hearts to see people such as Lisa entrusted with the maintenance and care of this national treasure.

MarkandLiskEckertMarkandLiskEckert

We enjoyed another quality evening of beauty at sunset point before retiring for the evening. I took far too many pictures and videos but couldn’t really help myself. Lutgart and Alison had a fantastic time and we all agreed Bryce Canyon is worth the trip and is indeed a national treasure. It is a special place with a unique story to tell. We didn’t witness it for ourselves but another sight to behold is the night sky, just crammed full of stars with no light pollution whatsoever. Will Lutgart and I return? Definitely! And this time we will bring our own food…and wine! ;) Bryce Canyon, the awakening.

To see our Bryce Gallery just click on this link: http://goo.gl/iJldwM

Mark Seawell

February 2016

 

 

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Bryce Canyon Scenic Sunrise Point Utah Landscape Winter nature http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/2/the-awakening-bryce-canyon-in-winter Mon, 15 Feb 2016 19:37:44 GMT
The Winter Wonders of Moab http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/the-winter-wonders-of-moab

      The Winter wonders of Moab

 

Our first visit to Moab proved to be quite an emotional trip for my wife Lutgart and myself. We had been planning this trip since November when we visited Capital Reef, followed by Zion National park. That was our first exposure to the incredible sights awaiting visitors and Moab proved no exception. Truly magnificent and worth the nearly five hour drive from our home in Ogden.

We arrived in Moab on Friday, shortly after lunch. The drive down from Ogden took us through some gorgeous mountain ranges before we hit the desert. A universal truth that seems to have emerged to us is that wherever you are in Utah, you will be driving through mountains! As one who lives with a fear of heights I must say this has been at times…challenging. But I digress. J

Once in Moab, we  unpacked  and got our bearings for our planned afternoon trip. I mentioned ‘planned’  for a reason. There are three locations we wanted to touch while we were in Moab:  Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State park. Folks, this is a huge area and honestly, our three days weren’t  nearly enough. So we had to be smart about it and pick out exactly what we wanted to see in our limited time. This is tricky because as a photographer, I need to capture the sights under the best light. For example, our first site was Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, a must see. To put it in perspective, not photographing Delicate Arch is like going to Paris and not photographing the Eiffel tower. Impossible!

The unprepared photographer might arrive at some random time to get the shot and may not be prepared for the hike.  I will tell you this: we were very surprised, even with our research, to find ourselves walking up a very sharp cliff! But what greeted us around the corner was incredible. Delicate Arch in all its glory! That red looming arch framed by the snowcapped La Sal mountains in bluish embers. This is a  work of nature, hidden from mortal view. The 45 minute climb up the mountain was worth all the sweat pouring off my face. Worth watching my wife make her way on icy trails, worth the fear of walking that trail back to the car in the dark.  I knew we hit jackpot when Lutgart, who was ahead of me, came around the bend first and froze. I couldn’t resist. I took a picture of her then and what she was staring at in awe. Amazing doesn’t cover it. Not even a start. Delicate Arch SummitDelicate Arch SummitWe arrive at Delicate Arch in the Moab for our first visit on a beautiful January afternoon. Arches National park was our first stop. I took this just as we caught our first glimpse of this wonder. What a blast!

 

But getting back to not being prepared before setting off: you may be disappointed at what you find. Not with the Arch, but the light. You see, it really depends on the time of the year and the time of day you arrive. In the morning, Delicate Arch can be in shadow but if you arrive in the late afternoon or evening you may very well find the rays of the sun bathing the arch with spectacular effect. Also, it looks best with some cloud cover.  Clouds are a photographer’s best friend! They add depth and in the early morning or late evening they light up the sky with colors of wonder. Anyone who has taken one of my landscape photography courses has heard me say the only thing worse than a grey rainy day is a blue sky with no clouds! We definitely had clouds at Delicate Arch and Lutgart and I enjoyed the show. By the way, we did arrive back at the parking lot in the dark. Be prepared…bring a flashlight or two and plenty of water if you do that trip in summer heat! I almost forgot something important. One other reason we visit in winter is because in summer you’ll be fighting not only the heat but huge crowds. When we arrived at Delicate Arch there were perhaps 7 or 8 other photographers. One gentlemen who had photographed Delicate Arch the previous summer, told me there were hundreds of people crowded around the Delicate Arch and felt like it was a wasted trip.

The next morning Lutgart and I headed to another “must see” in Canyonlands National Park.  Canyonlands is huge and a lot of it is only accessible with a 4x4 vehicle .  But don’t get me wrong. You can access the part we covered in a normal car. The roads are paved but pay attention for the free ranging cows.  But if you want to see some of the most scenic areas you need to get off-road.  We entered the northern part of Canyonlands  Park known as “Island in the sky” well before sunrise. We were up at 0500 and on the road before  0600.  Sunrise was at 0714 and the drive was nearly an hour. We had to leave early to make sure we would be able to get a good spot at Mesa Arch. This arch is famous for the red glow underneath as the first rays of the sun light it up. I knew we would not be alone and we were definitely not the first to arrive We found our spot among eight other photographers. If this would have been summer, the fates might not have been so kind. We waited patiently for sunrise in freezing  shadows .  As the light of dawn emerged we could see the mist in the background framing the mountains…stunning. I struggled to put on the correct lens with frozen fingers. Remember to bring hand and foot warmers if you do this in Winter!

Finally the sun slowly cracked the horizon and the rock underneath the Mesa Arch started to glow red. Wow, wow, and  wow! We captured true beauty that morning. And again, based on research we knew in advance the morning light was the best for Mesa Arch. But we were in for an added treat. Some photographers had departed and we were about to do the same when fog rolled in fast and thick over the Arch, creating this special atmosphere. The mountains in the background became eerie silhouettes and it was magnificent! We had literally packed and were looking for the trail back when I looked  over at Lutgart who smiled and I unpacked  my gear and started shooting yet again.  Finally, the urge for food and coffee became too powerful and we returned to our hotel to have breakfast .  Mesa Arch DawnMesa Arch DawnOne of the most unforgettable points on a road trip to the Moab was Mesa Arch. This small arch in Canyonlands isn't that big. I was surprised at the size after our trip to Delicate Arch. Lutgart took the picture. She was tempted to stay in bed but I convinced her to come. And when she saw the sun crack the horizon and the underside of the arch start to glow it just blew her and me away! What a sight and well worth the trip.

While we were driving through the dark to get to the Mesa Arch trail head, the only thing we saw was a quarter moon hanging in the sky. All around us the land was pitch black and frankly, we were lucky we hadn’t slid on black ice or slammed into a cow. I do remember us climbing up as we drove in the dark but when you can’t see off the edge, it doesn’t feel the same. Now, with the sun up we could see. We could see exactly why they called this Canyonland National Park. To the left the Canyon walls gaped with another mountain range looming in the background touched by the sun. To the right we were  up against it… and the mist we encountered back at Mesa Arch was sweeping through and entering the canyon! Lutgart was as stunned as I was and we now realized why the name of this part of the park is “Island in the Sky”.  I looked for somewhere, anywhere to pull the car to the over and jumped out as we watched a miracle unfold in front of us. I got to the canyon rim, staggered by both the size of this natural monstrosity and the mist just pouring in. I went into photography mode, deep breath, calm down. You have to calm yourself to capture the essence, the light, the booming wonder in front of you. I stopped thinking and the repetition kicked in. Pick your spot. Set the tripod up. Mount the camera. Turn off the auto stabilization on the lens. Power up the camera. Check the focus! Turn the dial to Aperture mode. Pick your aperture. Check your edges on the LCD. Touch the LCD to pick your focal point. Check the edges of your screen again. Finger on the shutter. Stop breathing. Push the shutter. Pray.

The next morning we made the trip to Dead Horse State Park. Dead Horse Point inside the park, is on the way to Canyonlands and they share the same characteristics. Again, the drive was through the dark  and took about 45 minutes, but we could make out shapes as we drove the winding path. Finally we arrived at the parking lot and quickly made our way to the rim as the sky slowly came alive.

Bench with a viewBench with a viewOur photograph concluded, Lutgart and I take in the view at Dead Horse Point on a crisp Sunday morning in January.

To the left of Dead Horse Point, you have the eastern rim of the Canyon with parts jutting out to greet the viewer. Behind this is the La Sal mountain range in shadow with dawn’s light erupting around it. The clouds around the mountain are a purplish tint but everything is changing rapidly. Staggering. How many places on earth offer this? My Panasonic GX7 feebly attempts to actually capture a scene brimming with this heavenly light. It is as though we were being given a peek into a realm no mortal should witness because it is beyond us. We attempt the impossible, to convey the sheer magnificence of what we are witnessing through the eyes of the lens. If my brain is overwhelmed by what my eyes are seeing, how is one camera lens expected to capture this moment? A fair question and one I’m truthfully unable to answer. But I relish the opportunity! Any visit  to Moab requires a trip to this magnificent state park. Just off the chart with beauty and a pleasure to see and photograph. We will be back.

 

 

The Moab is a must see. We encountered people from around the globe here and for good reason. Lutgart and I barely scratched the surface of possibilities. I suspect only someone who lives in the local area could pull it off and even they would struggle to capture it all. There are hiking trails and places to camp in the parks. If you want to photograph the beauty of the Moab, please do your research so you can maximize your time and increase your chances of capturing that magic moment!  

A man and his mountainsA man and his mountainsCapturing sunrise in the Moab at the Fiery Furnace. This place is out of control, sights to feast the eyes on an intense colors. I think I prefer Winter. Clear skies and NO crowds, just the way this photographer likes it.

 

 

For my wife’s perspective on the trip and some practical information, keep reading below.

 

Mark Seawell

The Other half of the story:

When Mark asked me if I wanted to add something to the blog he wrote of our trip to Moab, I thought I'd pass along some practical information.

First, the necessities: food, shelter, coffee.

Moab has a lot of hotels.  We chose the Best Western Plus, based on price and Trip Advisor reviews. The hotel was nice and clean and had a good bed. Breakfast was included… or so I’m told - we were long gone by the 6am start; without breakfast or coffee (the humanity!) the mornings were a challenge. So let’s call it the photographer’s travel bag, or at least the photographer’s wife’s travel bag: coffeemaker, thermos, breakfast food. Even without, Moab’s sunrise sights are worth it.

And lunch food, come to mention it. As newcomers to the national parks scene, Mark and I did not fully understand that we should bring lunch with us each day heading into the park, a lesson we came to learn well driving around for a cup of Joe or something to eat. It was time wasted. (though we did discover a wonderful secret named the Eklectica cafe that serves a great breakfast and lunch- do try the scrambled Tofu and roasted vegetables for breakfast!)

And of course, dinner.  I love going out for a meal and always do my research to find something really good (delicious and nutritious). Though Moab is a bit of a ghost town come winter, you wouldn’t know it at the “Twisted Sistas”! We were cold, tired, and hungry and the atmosphere in there was exactly what the doctor ordered. The service was warm and personal, and the food was fresh, healthy, and scrumptious (I can definitely vouch for the coconut shrimp and the flourless chocolate cake). My waistline notwithstanding, I can’t wait to go back.

For more logistical information (food, drink, bathroom information etc.), please feel free to contact me. I will gladly pass along any tips and experiences to make your trip to Moab as amazing as ours

Lutgart Seawell

Lute.seawell@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Arches National Park Dead Horse State Park Desert Fiery Furnace Mark Seawell Photography Moab Photography http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/the-winter-wonders-of-moab Fri, 23 Jan 2015 03:49:43 GMT
Is traditional photography dead? http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/is-traditional-photography-dead IPHONE5

Is traditional photography dead?

The world is changing about us at a dizzying pace. The information revolution marches forward and we grow more interconnected each day. The impact on the world of photography has been huge. The cameras and lenses have gotten much smaller and more powerful. Companies such as Panasonic, Sony, Canon and others are releasing products with built in Wi-Fi and GPS just to name some of the new features. But forces outside of these companies have shaken photography as we know it. The truly amazing thing is the camera was almost an afterthought. The smartphones and tablets have arrived and photography will never be the same.

With the latest editions of the smart phone and tablets from companies such as Apple and Google, the way we acquire our photos seems to have changed overnight. These amazing devices serve multiple roles, phone, GPS, camera and the applications (apps) on both the IPhone and Android system multiply every day and now form a multi-billion dollar industry. With internet connectivity built in we are always connected. With these powerful, mobile devices, consumers literally have a world of information at their fingertips wherever they may be. At no point in history has so much power (information) been in so many people’s hands but I digress. We were talking about photography.

We can all see it so we all photograph it! Now using your smart phone, the world is your picture. You see a cute cat lying down on the porch as you walk to school? Snap! Captured and uploaded. A homeless man on street? Snap, uploaded. Out with the crew on a crazy Friday night cutting loose? Snap! (but you might not want to upload those!) Websites have sprung up to support this new industry. Apps like Snap speed are available to instantly customize your image converting it to a “film” look or traditional black and white. The explosion in pictures across the web of uploads from smart phones and tablets is mindboggling! No need to buy or carry around a camera and lenses and all the things you need for traditional camera gear. The megapixel size on the latest Samsung Galaxy and IPhone is approaching the size of traditional cameras and the image quality on the latest generations of smart phones is superb. Is traditional photography dead?

Before we start writing the eulogy of traditional photography, a pause may be in order. Even with the amazing advances in technology, a smart phone still falls short in a couple of areas. First, interchangeable lenses on a camera allow a degree of flexibility not found (yet) on a smart phone. Secondly, the sensor on most Micro Four Thirds or traditional DSLR cameras is head and shoulders above the smart phone. With my gear, I can zoom far out and capture some pretty decent images that are printable! That is another gotcha on even the latest smart phones. Another big advantage is video. On most traditional cameras, video image quality will beat most smart phones because of the compromises required to pack all those features into a smart phone.

So don’t go packing away your traditional camera just yet! If you care about image quality, flexibility and printability the smart phone is a distant second. That being said, it must be admitted that traditional photographers and the companies that manufacture cameras must be a bit nervous. We are being stalked the way digital technology stalked film photography. Yes, most traditional photographers have better cameras compared to smart phones but the gap is closing rapidly and now an entire generation is just using the smart phone. Is traditional photography dead? Maybe not, but over the next decade our “traditional” means of acquiring pictures will change into something very different from today. I, for one, welcome the journey wherever it takes us!

Comments? Feedback? What are your thoughts? Let me hear what you think!

 

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) DROID IOS IPHONE MARK SEAWELL PHOTOGRAPHY MSPHOTOWORLD Mark Seawell blog http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/is-traditional-photography-dead Mon, 21 Jan 2013 14:00:00 GMT
Mark Seawell Photography and 3 company camera choices! http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/mark-seawell-photography-and-3-company-camera-choices A question I receive a lot from family, friends, or customers is "What camera do you use?" Another common question is "What camera should I buy?" For the record, I use Panasonic cameras. This may surprise people who don't know me. What most people hear about is either Canon or Nikon, the 800 pound guerrilla's of the photo industry. And while both these companies make superb cameras, the point of this blog is to let people know you do have options! Let's take a look at some very worthy alternatives.

Arsenal

As I mentioned earlier I shoot with Panasonic. Why? Well, my first real camera (and I still shoot with it from 4 years ago) was a Panasonic DMC-FZ28 superzoom I bought from my daughter Sophia. It was too big for her purse! Anyway, it has served me well and though it is starting to have some "technical" difficulties, when it works, it works well. My first interchangeable lens camera was the Panasonic G1. This is the first Micro four thirds camera(M43) which means it doesn't have a mirror like a true SLR but you can change the lenses. Panasonic and Olympus work together on this format and you can use Panasonic lenses on Olympus bodies or vice versa. The advantage of this format is that without the mirror you have a camera  much lighter than the traditional SLR you would get from Canon or Nikon. Also since 2010 another great advantage is you have a large and growing choice of lenses to meet your needs. Lastly, Panasonic and Olympus have produced some superb cameras that are giving Canon and Nikon a serious run for their money because the image quality is excellent. Last Christmas I got the Panasonic DMC-GH2 as an upgrade over my G1 and I'm very pleased. Superb still quality and because Panasonic has such a strong video section the movies I have made with the GH2 blow away cameras that cost 3 times as much from Canon! The video on the Panasonic GH2 is so good that professionals in the movie industry are using it on the set! Panasonic has just released the DMC-GH3, another beast and the prices on the GH2 are dropping like a stone. Lastly, Olympus has released what was voted at DPREVIEW.COM as the camera of 2012, the OMD E-M5 another M43 camera. Again, superb quality with a retro look this camera has taken the world by storm.

Another great option for anyone in the market is the Sony NEX system. Sony has been on a tear for the last couple of years and the NEX system has created a big stir in the camera world. The latest NEX cameras have a APS-C 24MP sensor (Panasonic and Olympus M43 are 16MP) and a LCD which is among the best in the industry! The latest NEX series cameras (NEX 5, NEX 7 and now the NEX 6) will do any photographer proud. Video is good on the NEX systems but not as good as the video on the Panasonic camera but more than good enough for 90% of people using the camera. Small, sharp, and technically advanced, Sony has made a huge impact. I keep going on about size with the Micro four thirds and the even smaller Sony NEX but this is important because carrying around a camera and lenses all day is a hassle! Size is important and people will be shocked at what you are getting out of that little NEX camera. The one weakness in the Sony NEX system is not the camera but the lens selection. Technically the Sony cameras are superior to my Panasonic with stills (pictures) but the Micro Four thirds system is a bit more mature so you have a greater selection of lenses to choose from. Once Sony addresses this (and they will!), watch out.

The last company to consider for your needs is Fuji! People may be scratching their heads but over the last year Fuji has introduced a small digital camera wonder with a growing selection of lenses. The Fuji X-PRO1 with the first followed by several more with the latest beign the Fuji X-E1. The X-PRO1 16MP system surprised the industry. Brilliant and quirky this camera and what came after have impressed everyone with the quality of the stills. Video on the Fuji's is okay but not in the same league as the Panasonic or Sony, however this camera is for shooting stills and it does it better than most! People doing portraits or street photography will be in heaven though it can be used for landscapes as well. If I was in the market I would be looking at Fuji very hard. 

I wrote this article to let folks know there is a world of change going on in the camera industry. I'm not suggesting NOT to buy a Canon or Nikon, far from it, but Canon and to a much lesser extent Nikon have been resting on their laurels. Nikon is starting to react and have produced the Nikon 1 V2, small and advanced but if you haven't already invested in Canon or Nikon, now is your opportunity to purchase something that isn't chained to the past but is proving to be the future and that future is Sony, Panasonic/Olympus and Fuji. These companies are producing entire systems of cameras, not just a single one off. Whatever camera you go with, be assured you'll have a camera that will more than meet your needs.  Also keep in mind I'm mentioned the mega pixel size for the geeks reading this! The pixel size only matter if you are going to print something big, nothing else. Lastly for all their technical bells and whistles, cameras don't produce a thing, photographers do! ;)
 

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) MSPHOTOGRAPHY MSPHOTOWORLD Mark Seawell Photo World Mark Seawell Photography Mark Seawell blog http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/mark-seawell-photography-and-3-company-camera-choices Sun, 06 Jan 2013 19:48:58 GMT
Mark Seawell's Photo World 3 steps to improving your photography for 2013! http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/mark-seawells-photo-world-3-steps-to-improving-your-photography-for-2013  

So a new year has started and you have a fancy new camera or you've had a camera for a while and wamt to improve your photography, all valid possibilities. If you are just starting with photography, let me tell you it's a wonderful world! When I started dabbling with photography I had no idea about the options available through this medium. A few short years later Mark Seawell's Photo World is just one of the seeds that sprouted through pursuing photography. Now let me see if I can give you some practical information in your own personal journey.

First, looking back I realize I had no teacher so I taught myself. Fun yes, painful, very! I wish someone could have tapped me on the shoulder at one point to say "You know shooting landscape pictures in the middle of the day isn't great!" Or "Why don't you try that shot again in the evening, the light is not so harsh." There are a million little things that would have helped. I wasted a lot of time. So, if you know someone with photography experience I would say, talk to them! Photographers are normally very chatty people and love to share what they know (hence the blog!). Also, a photography club is very good. You may have a local club close to you and the internet is a good place to start for finding it. You have Facebook of course with groups of folks starting out just like you or more experienced levels are available for folks who have clocked some miles with a camera. I want to take a moment to mention Google+ as well. IMHO Google+ blows FB away when it comes to image quality and there are a LOT of photography clubs and genres under Google+. Google+ seems to have been built from the ground up for photographers. Just my opinion, but there are many places to start. Lastly (shameless plug) I conduct photography workshops and will do at least 4 this year(2013) so check this site for schedules. I also conduct private workshops for those who want one on one training.

Secondly, read, read, and read! I like to read and when I get into something reading is fundamental! I read technical books on photography of course but I also read about photography history. All won't agree, but I like knowing how this all started and who were the greats of my particular interest. I believe reading about Ansel Adams, the Godfather of modern landscape photography has improved my photography immensely. Why? Because people like Ansel Adams pointed the way for me. People like  Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the man who started street photography and capturing "The Moment" are instrumental to understanding how modern photography started and where we are today. Knowing a bit of photography history is like being given a map instead of stumbling about. I strongly encourage you to read the map maybe over a cup of coffee! Amazon has a ton of books or you can Google what interests you. 

Lastly, and most importantly, get to know your equipment. You have to know what that stupid piece of hardware will record or you'll get really frustrated really fast! Did I just call your camera stupid? Forgive me but it is. Dumb as a pile of rocks. What? I can't hear you over the screaming and grinding teeth! Now that I have your attention I'm going to tell you a photography secret. I don't care if that new camera cost $4000 dollars or whether it cost $400 dollars (like mine) unless you get to know what your camera can and cannot do it will be a long, fruitless journey. But there is a very easy solution. Practice, practice and more practice! Failure, success, failure again. I know it well. I have 10,000 failures on my rather packed external hard drive but I keep most because they show me where I started and how far I've come. Also another great aspect of practicing is you get to know WHAT you like to shoot. Some folks struggle with this but if you are out there shooting something you'll find out what you like. Touch the camera everyday if possible even if for 5-10 minutes. Without practice and experimenting with your camera you are like a bird without wings, you'll never learn to fly.

I hope this has helped you in your journey! I like feedback and if I can help, I will! I am looking forward to 2013 as the photography journey continues and changes as it must. For me photography isn't just about the the pictures but what we discover about ourselves along the way. Through this blog I'll be providing regular inputs so I hope you will follow us. Keep shooting! 

Mark Seawell

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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) European Landscapes German Landscapes Landscape Photography MSPHOTOWORLD Mark Seawell's Photo World scenic travel http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/mark-seawells-photo-world-3-steps-to-improving-your-photography-for-2013 Tue, 01 Jan 2013 10:58:03 GMT
But what did you REALLY see? http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/but-what-did-you-really-see  

As a fine art landscape photographer, I take great delight in capturing the wonders of nature with all its intricate detail from the patterns on the wings of a butterfly to the grandeur of a mountain range. So much to see, so much to capture! I enjoy printing, matting and framing the final product and people are appreciative (well some!) of what I share. While all artist appreciate admiration of our work (and stroking our fragile egos) at one point in the conversation I’ll often here a question along the lines of “Really nice picture! I love scenic black and white photography. But between you and me did you Photoshop it? What did it REALLY look like up there?”
I’ll be honest. That question use to really irk me. Blood pressure elevated, left eye twitching, right hand trembling. Outrageous! What do you mean did I Photoshop it? Of course not! I use Adobe Lightroom, not Adobe Photoshop! Okay, bad joke but you get the point. I think of a court of law. The defendant (artist) is on the stand and the public is the judge and the jury. “Sir, on the morning  of Jun 14, 2012 did you or did you not use your camera to take this picture (holds up my printed picture smudging it to my horror but hey, I’m on trial). “Yes, your Honor, I did take the picture.” “Very well.  This is exhibit B.” He hands out the same picture but this time it has been altered, more contrast, sharper with lovely tonal values. “Mr. Seawell, would you care to explain to the jury why you “Photoshopped” this picture? This is the same picture but radical changes have been done. It is obvious to everyone you cheated with this” Photoshopped” version and you are attempting to pass this off as what you saw. How votes the jury?” 
 
The jury members look at both pictures passing them back and forth amongst themselves. They look at both pictures over and over finally handing them back to the judge. An older gentleman rises to his feet and addresses the courtroom. “Your Honor we the jury find the defendant Mark Seawell guilty of the crime of digital manipulation and attempting to sell his version of reality to the public. He did use all the electronic tools at his disposal to edit, change, and alter what the camera captured into an image that represented what his mind’s eye saw and what he felt when he captured it.” I would have to say I’m guilty as charged and proud of it! I’ll gladly explain.
 
Mass media has bombarded the public with intense images from the moment they go online, purchase anything at a store or walk down the street. We all see images of perfect bodies, no wrinkles, no flaws and on a certain level we reject this. We all have flaws! These pictures have all being “Photoshopped” to make everything perfect. This has made the average person very skeptical of what they see, ESPECIALLY of photography too include my passion landscape photography. Unfortunately there is a huge disconnect between the artist and public concerning the intent of the art. I want to address this so my audience understands my intent with publishing my photography.
 
First as an artist I want to pursue and explore my vision of the world around me. When I rise early in the morning to capture the light of the golden hour, I’m trying to  show what I saw and what I felt. Art is passion and I want people to feel, to have an emotional connection with whatever they are seeing from my camera. As a semi-professional I can say after snapping tens of thousands of pictures the camera alone is not capable of conveying what I felt when I saw whatever it was that moved me enough to take the picture in first place.  On numerous occasions I’ve been told  “I took this picture but it doesn’t look like what I saw.” What they could add to that is “or felt”. Today’s cameras with all their sophistication are singular optical devices that can’t match the sophistication of your TWO eyes.  Put another way a camera can see in photo terms maybe 5 stops while your eyes can see 10! I won’t say a camera will never match the human eye but it will be some time before it does. That is why people are disappointed with their pictures. But enough of the technical stuff. They real question is why do artist manipulate their pictures.
 
Art is vision. I have a vision of what I want to see when I take pictures. If all I wanted to do was show people what I saw (replicate visual reality) things would get really boring really fast. And let’s be honest, anyone could do that! It's called a snapshot and that isn’t art. Art is when someone has poured their heart and soul into something, whether the world judges it as good or bad is another discussion. To represent what I saw in my mind’s eye and felt when I took the picture I must alter the picture. This is nothing new for photographers. In the days of film the greatest landscape photographer of the 20th century, Ansel Adams “dodged (lightened) and burned (darkened)” all his prints. The final version  of Moonrise over Hernandez, one of Adams greatest captures bears little resemblance to what he actually caught on film. If he hadn't  altered it Moonrise wouldn't rank as one as one . Ansel shaped it into something he felt when he stopped on that lonely road in New Mexico as the last light of the day lit up the crosses of a graveyard as the moon rose of the town and mountains. No camera can do it for you. Only the means of changing the picture into a vision has changed from a darkroom to a computer, from film to digital. Ansel Adams predicted the rise of digital photography  years before his death.  Ansel would love it and would be gleefully “Photoshopping” all his captures.
I hope this has educated the public to my stance on “Photoshopping”.  Capturing pictures with a camera is only the first step. Programs such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop are nothing more than tools for the photographer to express their vision and passion, not a blatant attempt to deceive the public. So to answer the question “What did you really see?”  I answer “The print in front of you.” To the question “Has this been photoshopped?” my answer is “Yes it has!”
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markseawellphotography@gmail.com (Mark Seawell Photography) Germany Landscape Photography Ramstein Ramstein Air force base Travel nature photography scenic http://mseawell.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/but-what-did-you-really-see Wed, 27 Jun 2012 20:43:14 GMT