Sunstars are a great way to fill an otherwise boring, cloudless blue sky with a feeling of drama and excitement. They are often a way to add a compositional element that helps draw a viewer into a scene. Technically, any light source can create a “sunstar” as long as it is a tiny point of light and the camera is set correctly. We often see the star effect in shots of buildings with their lights twinkling at dusk, or the moon in the night sky. Most commonly we see star patterns when the sun is setting on the horizon, but in this case we only see half of the sunstar because the other half is being blocked by the horizon.
In these days of HDR, Lightroom, and Photoshop, is there still any point in carrying around Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters? Often at photographic overlooks I hear photographers banging away with their cameras, shooting multiple exposures for future HDR images, while I nail the same scene in a single shot. More than once I have had one of these photographers scoff at me for using my “old school” GND filter, asking, “Ever heard of HDR?” While I am a firm believer in using all the tools available to me, including HDR, I feel that HDR is either unnecessary or won’t work in situations where multiple images are not possible, such as an action shot.
At my workshops and lectures I am often asked by photographers how I am able to get sharp images at slow shutter speeds out of the affordable 70-300mm zoom I use for backpacking while they are unable to get sharp images with their 70-200 f/2.8 pro lenses. It is true that when it comes to lenses, the price tag does match the quality in terms of durability and sharpness at wide apertures. But by the time my carry-along backpacking lens is stopped down to f/8, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between photos taken with it and images taken with the most expensive pro lenses. Honestly, the lack of sharpness in photos has less to do with the tele lens you are using than it might seem and more to do with long lens technique.
Since the development of photography in the early 1800s, there has always been a strong tradition of photographers using their work to promote conservation and social justice issues. One need only to look at the development of the National Park System in the United States to see the impact early photographers had on conservation. William Henry Jackson, with his 1871 Yellowstone photographs, helped push through legislation that established Yellowstone as the world’s first National Park. Another well-known example of a conservationist photographer was Ansel Adams, whose tireless efforts both as a photographer and as a 37-year member of the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors led to the establishment of Kings Canyon National Park in 1940.
Ever since I was a kid and visited the Grand Canyon for an hour with my family, I have dreamed about going back and seeing the canyon from the river’s perspective. So when some friends invited my wife and me on a 21-day trip after they had waited 15 years for a private permit, it wasn’t hard to commit. The permit covered nearly the entire month of March, when crowds are smaller and no motorized boats or guides are allowed on the river.