• Ask Charlotte, Camera Gear, Photography

    Canon 5DsR — Still a great camera?

    “Ask Charlotte” is my landscape photography advice blog. Have a question about photography? Go ahead. Ask me. I’m delighted to hear from people who share my passion. I’ll do my best to answer your question thoroughly, and who knows, maybe we will both learn something new! So, what’s your burning question?   Hi Charlotte, I just bought a canon 5DSR (I don’t know if that was very smart with everything going mirrorless, but at $1500.00 for a new one I couldn’t resist). I was going to buy a 24-70 F/4 L, but they quit making them

  • Composition & Creativity, In The Field, Intimate, Landscape, Photography, Tips & Technics, Yosemite

    Slow Photography and Working a Scene

    Landscape photographers often have an approach to working a landscape scene. My own style is a bit like a slow dance, not about rushing around, although at times changing light demands quick action. It’s about observing, being in a flexible state of mind, and slowing down. I recently wrote an article on the slow photography approach for the Out of Chicago blog, which is about the resurgence of the Slow Photography Movement. Now, I want to take you through a morning with me when things didn’t go quite as expected. Taking a visual inventory I spent a few precious days

  • Photography, Yearbooks

    My best photographs of 2020

    It’s that time of year again — time to take a hard look at the best photographs I created over the last 12 months, and boy, what a year it was! A pandemic claimed nearly two million lives and created global economic hardship. Climate change hit home with historic, record-breaking wildfires. The fight for social justice took to the streets. And finally, we had to endure a presidential election like this country has never witnessed. When I reflect on everything that happened in 2020, it is a wonder I was able to make art at all. The year started

  • Photography, Travel

    Road trip! A photographic journey through seven states in a truck camper.

    Journeys begin in all manner of ways. Ours began because of Covid-19. A year ago, I couldn’t have predicted that Gary and I would be happily cloistered in a small truck camper, road tripping around seven states. But, here we are. After months of sheltering in place in our Bay Area home, we were restless and eager to roam. I was eager to have my camera in my hands again. We were relieved when our state eased travel restrictions, but Covid-19 had changed everything about traditional travel. Gone were the days of staying in hotels or using public

  • Landscape, Photography, Winter, Yosemite

    A New Way of Being: Sheltering in Place

    We made it through the first two weeks of living under the “shelter in place” restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic. Gary and I are healthy and fine, hunkered down in our San Francisco Bay Area home. We’re figuring out how to safely get groceries and other necessities as we settle into new routines. We sincerely hope this finds you well too. As we slow way down, we are taking stock of what is important and what the pandemic has revealed about humanity. Gratitude is the enemy of fear. Laughter is the balm when news get tense. Beauty feeds the

  • Fine Art, Photography

    Human/Nature — A photo essay

    People love to love nature. We go through great expense and trouble to leave our cities and put ourselves into natural environments where we can enjoy these beautiful places. In this photographic project, “Human/Nature,” I explore the relationship between people and the landscapes we love. Throughout history, our aesthetic for the landscape has evolved. For example, during the mid-17th century, Europeans considered the wilderness to be ugly and unbridled. Travelers passing through mountainous and untamed landscapes during those times pulled the drapes closed in the carriages so as to not offend their eyes. The most admired landscapes in those

  • Fine Art, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

    Yosemite Renaissance 35

    Thirty-five years of exhibits Over the last five years, I have been honored to have eight of my photographs selected for Yosemite Renaissance exhibits. With each submission, I strive to contribute something new to an already rich visual conversation about my favorite National Park. In the process, I look for fresh narratives and different vantage points, hoping to offer a yet unheard “voice” to the wondrous natural conversation that echoes throughout Yosemite Valley. That is the “Renaissance” aspect of the exhibit; the goal of achieving unique expression in a place that has been photographed by millions of people. So, while

  • Photography, Yearbooks

    Twenty Nineteen: In retrospect

    Twenty nineteen. I spent a lot less time creating and more time teaching, speaking, and writing about photography. I said my final goodbyes to my dear sister, Nancy. My husband and I said farewell to our software company of 33 years and all our beloved employees. And, we buried our sweet, 18-year-old kitty. It was a year that brought a lot of change. I fed my soul in Yosemite and the mountains at every opportunity. There will be some changes in 2020. More laughter. More creating. More learning. More doing the things I love

  • Landscape, Yosemite

    Yosemite Valley Winter Light

    A wonder for photographers, artists, and nature lovers December is a quiet month in Yosemite. You won’t find hordes of tourists in the Valley this time of year. And, although it can be cold and sometimes very wet, if you dress appropriately, you can stay warm outside all day long and be rewarded with scenes most people don’t get to see. Photographing Yosemite in Winter is a photographer’s paradise. “Winter light” is what landscape photographers call it — a luminosity that brightens even the Valley’s darkest corners. As the sun nears the solstice, it

  • Ask Charlotte, Camera Gear, Tips & Technics

    What’s the most important piece of gear in your camera bag?

    During a Colorado landscape photography workshop last Fall, a student asked for help on her composition. Approaching her, I noticed how she had setup her tripod. I cringed. Her very nice camera and lens were perched atop an unleveled, too-small tripod, center post fully extended, with two of its legs on the downhill side. This top-heavy system could go over with the slightest bump or gust of wind. The lesson on composition was put on hold and we did a little Tripod-Set-Up-Lesson right there on the spot.  If you are practicing landscape photography, then chances are you

  • Nature & Wildlife

    Could Yosemite’s iconic “Ahwahnee Meadow Cottonwoods” be Aspen trees instead?

    I recently made another series of photos of the Ahwahnee Meadow Cottonwoods in Yosemite Valley. I’ve photographed this cluster of trees, commonly called “The Ahwahnee Meadow Cottonwoods,” many times spanning several years. A few days ago, I posted a new photo of the trees. A friend, a biologist and someone whose opinion I respect, suggested that these trees might actually be Aspen, not Cottonwood. I had often pondered the same question. So, I promised to make a closer inspection upon my next visit to the trees, which just happened to be this week.  This photo was taken

  • Landscape, Mountain

    Revealing the ancient, quiet beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains

    When the opportunity presented itself to photograph the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last Spring, the decision to go was an easy one. I had envisioned photographing this place for some time. Anyway, I was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the Georgia Nature Photographer’s Association annual conference outside of Atlanta. That’s about as close to Tennessee as I would get for some time. So, I packed my camera gear and headed out early in time to see the Smokies in all their Spring glory. Inspired by Eliot Porter’s colorful photographs made in the Great Smoky

  • Photography, Seasons, Spring, Winter, Yosemite

    Winter into Spring: Yosemite’s annual transformation explored

    Spring is one of my favorite seasons to thoroughly experience Yosemite National Park. Each month brings new, unique conditions and photographic opportunities. The following photographs were made over the course of three Spring visits to Yosemite Valley this year. March In March, the angle of the sun is still low, creating rainbows and other nice light on the waterfalls. Morning fog is not uncommon this time of year. Neither is the occasional snow shower. At lower elevations, California celebrates the return of green hills in March. However, Yosemite Valley, at 4,000

  • Yearbooks

    2018: A Nature Photographer’s Annual Review of Images

    It’s that time of year when I set about to candidly reflect upon my progress as a photographer. I sift through all of my nature photographs made the previous year, looking for the best of the best. The process can be brutal, striking images from the list for being “too pedantic” or “uninteresting” — or the most wounding, “unoriginal.” It is no time to be nice. Just honest. Making the cut Throughout the year, I had already picked through the nearly 20,000 images, so it was not as big as a job as it

  • Black & White, Fine Art

    Why Black and White Photography is Still Relevant

    I’ve been drawn to creating black and white photographs a little more than usual lately. Admittedly, this is likely because I was hanging out with Cole Thompson and Chuck Kimmerle at the Moab Photography Symposium in May. They are each enthusiastic masters of black and white photography. Those two can be pretty persuasive and I can be pretty impressionable. Although I am primarily a color photographer, my photographic journey originated with black and white film in the early 1980s. Back then, I wanted to be a journalist. Newspapers were printed in black and white, and newspaper darkrooms were only

  • Landscape, Winter, Yosemite

    A Winter Snowstorm in Yosemite

    A stunning four million people visit Yosemite National Park each year. Most plan their visit for the summer months, and the majority of those only spend their time in the 5.9 square miles of Yosemite Valley. Consequently, the winter months are quiet there, but also very lovely.  Meadows are covered with morning frost. Mist weaves around the river and the meadows. Waterfalls begin to have some flow again as winter storms bring much needed precipitation to the Sierras. When snow is in the forecast, the hotels and campgrounds empty as people clear out of Yosemite Valley. And that’s just the kind

  • Yearbooks

    A new year. New images.

    I have been blessed to spend time in some beautiful locations with my camera and my ideas. Recently, my wanderings have taken me to Yosemite, Eastern Washington, and California’s North Coast. I also found inspiration right here in my hometown of Lafayette, California. For my photographer readers, you’ll notice in the notes below that I’m using two camera bodies these days — a Sony a7RII and Canon 5DsR. They are both wonderful cameras and I use each for different purposes and situations. I tend to use the Sony for high contrast images and night-scapes because its superior dynamic range

  • Yearbooks

    Twelve Months. Twelve Photographs.

    It’s that time of year when we stop to reflect where we’ve been, and think about what’s next. I took inspiration from some incredibly beautiful places in 2017. I spent time with cherished friends in Europe and the Southwest. I came face to face with my own mortality. And then, with my husband’s mortality. (We are both ok, I’m glad to report!) I said goodbye to an old friend. And, I learned the importance of letting go, taking stock, and looking forward. My photography continues to be a place of solace for me — something I can return to again and

  • Landscape, Yosemite

    Yosemite on Fire

    The West is on fire. It must be Summer. As a native of Northern California, I grew up accustomed to the smell of forest fires starting in June and lasting through the Fall. That smell and the accompanying hazy air was an expected, if unwelcome Summer guest. I’ve learned to live with wildfires as part of nature and the cycle of life, though it pains me to see the places I love burn. During my brief visit to Yosemite Valley last week, firefighters were battling three fires in the park simultaneously. Dead pines from the sustained drought period and

  • Astrophotography

    Photographing a total solar eclipse: What could possibly go wrong?

    I hadn’t planned to photograph the total solar eclipse that swept across the United States on August 21, 2017. First of all, I knew nothing about photographing such astronomical events, nor did I have the special filters required to make a usable image. And, as the day drew nearer, it seemed improbable that I would find a place to stay anywhere near the path of totality. I was pretty much resigned to stay home and miss the entire event, in spite of my great curiosity to witness, if not photograph, the only total eclipse that would ever come close enough

  • Travel

    Out of Her Element: A Landscape Photographer Goes to Sea

    “Let’s go to Europe this Summer! We’ll travel England and Germany, then head to Spain and spend a week on a yacht, cruising the Mediterranean!” Alas, my husband Gary’s enthusiasm was not received and returned by me with equal measure. Under any other circumstances, I have would jumped at the opportunity to go. We have close friends there, you see, and I hadn’t visited them in some time. However, the part about cruising the Med gave me serious pause. I can still clearly remember my last sea-going experience: I ended up jumping off and swimming to shore to escape

  • Ask Charlotte, Astrophotography, Camera Gear, Tips & Technics

    What lens is best for astrophotography? Ask Charlotte!

    “Ask Charlotte” is my landscape photography advice blog. Have a question about photography? Go ahead. Ask me. I’m delighted to hear from people who share my passion. I’ll do my best to answer your question thoroughly, and who knows, maybe we will both learn something new! So, what’s your burning question? Hi Charlotte, I love your photos! I am wondering if you would be happy to tell me which lens you use for your astrophotography? It is an area I am very keen to explore but will want to find the best lens. I am using a Nikon D750. Hope to hear

  • Landscape, Seasons, Spring, Yosemite

    Springtime in Yosemite

    Yosemite National Park is a special place to visit any time of year, but it is Springtime when she really puts on a show. The Dogwoods and the Redbud bloom cheerily along the Merced River, the Cottonwoods push out new, lime-green growth. And there’s water. Lots and lots of water. This year was especially spectacular, due to the above-average snowfall that the Sierra received over the Winter. As the weather warmed, the snowmelt increased, creating new cascades of water down high cliffs in the Valley. All of the waterfalls gushed, creating minor flooding down below. The meadows were transformed into shallow

  • Post-processing, Tips & Technics

    Lightroom & Photoshop Processing Lesson — “Autumn Aglow”

    I recently was asked to share some of my processing techniques specific to my image, Autumn Aglow, which I made last Fall in California’s Eastern Sierra. To demonstrate my decision-making process, I’ll walk you through the workflow from my camera technique in the field, to RAW image adjustments in Lightroom, to Photoshop edits and the final image. In the field I made this image in the early morning. The light had just crested the ridge, illuminating the grass, foliage and trees in the foreground, but leaving the background hill in shadow. The wind was blowing slightly, and there was still frost clinging to

  • Desert, Landscape, Seasons, Spring, Travel

    Spring Road Trip: Photographing the Desert

    As road trips go, my April trip to Southern Utah and Arizona stacked up to be one of the more memorable ones. My husband and I hit the road with plans to visit some of our hotel customers along a scenic route. Of course, I planned to make some nice photographs along the way. After all, our travels would take us through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Things were going along splendidly. Then, just a few days into the trip, I started to run out of energy. Literally. I finally collapsed in Moab, Utah, and ended

  • Composition & Creativity, Landscape

    The Secret Language of Color and Landscape Photography

     As a graphic designer, I use my knowledge of the power of color to create designs that emotionally provoke. For example, if I were designing a logo for a company that provides spa services, I would use colors that are known to have a calming effect, like green or light blue. I wouldn’t use red, because red is known to excite and can even increase blood pressure and heart rates. We associate red with passion and excitement, so using red in a design promoting a nightclub would be a great color choice. As a landscape photographer, I apply these same learned principles of color

  • Composition & Creativity, Landscape

    Creative Landscape Photographs

    How do you make better, more meaningful creative landscape photographs? I’ve found some practices that have helped me along my creative path, and after jotting them down, I realized that these ideas could be helpful to other creative disciplines as well, such as writers or painters. Nurturing the creative soul is a universal requirement among artists. As an artist, the most important thing you can do to improve your work is to live authentically. What I mean by that is live a life that is creative in nature, sincere, and honest. Practice your craft with enthusiasm and joy, and all that energy will

  • Composition & Creativity, Landscape, Tips & Technics

    Fundamentals for the Landscape Photographer

    There are as many ways to take a picture as there are photographers, and every approach is as individual as the person behind the camera. Still, there is no substitute for understanding the fundamentals.  Here are some ideas to think about and inspire you, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned landscape photographer. Before you click the shutter Study the masters. Study the great painters. Study modern painters. Study the work of other photographers.  I’m talking inspiration, not plagiarism. When you are first learning, it’s entirely reasonable to try to duplicate a composition of a scene from a piece of work

  • Nature & Wildlife, Travel

    Japan: Part Four — Eagles

    Every winter some very special guests from Russia visit the island of Hokkaido, Japan — magnificent sea eagles. These gigantic birds migrate south from Siberia to spend their winters in a relatively warmer climate along the shores of the northeastern region of the island. While the Sea of Okhotsk becomes packed with sea ice, the Sea of Japan and the Pacific are usually ice-free. It is along these coastal ranges that the eagles concentrate. There are two species of sea eagle that share the winter territory — the Stellar’s Sea Eagle and the White-tailed Sea Eagle. Both species are very, very

  • Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Winter

    Japan: Part Three — Japanese Cranes

    Symbolizing luck, longevity, and fidelity, the Red-Crowned Crane, commonly called the Japanese Crane, is beloved in Japan, and other Asian nations. Immortalized in Japanese culture as tanchōzuru (red mountain), it is a prominent theme in logos, paintings, sculptures, and poems. The Japanese have drawn metaphors from its habits and mimicked its dances. They have festivals honoring it and fold thousands of pieces of paper into tiny cranes and hang them in shrines. They have made this extremely rare bird an icon; its image is everywhere throughout Japan. Ironically, this national symbol was nearly wiped off the face of the earth. In the 1800s, habitat destruction, hunting,

  • Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Winter

    Japan: Part Two — Whooper Swans

    After several days of  photographing and observing the fascinating Snow Monkeys on Japan’s mainland, which I wrote about in the first part of this blog series, our small band of photographers flew from Tokyo to the northern island of Hokkaido, where we expected to see a variety of wildlife, including Whooper Swans, Japanese Cranes, foxes, deer and sea eagles. Like much of Japan, Hokkaido is seismically active. Consequently, hot springs and volcanic vents can be found all across the island. Lake Kussharo, an inland lake in the western region of Hokkaido, is a caldera lake, a remnant of a long-ago erupted volcano. Its violent,

  • Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Winter

    Japan: Part One — Snow Monkeys

    I can’t tell you exactly what I was thinking at the time when I decided to sign up to go on a wildlife tour of Japan. My brother, Tom Hamilton, also a nature photographer, suggested that we go, and although I’ve never really considered myself to be a “wildlife” photographer, the chance to photograph what was left of Japan’s wilderness appealed to my sense of adventure.  So, in late February, equipped with a new telephoto zoom lens, an open mind, and plenty of warm clothes, I found myself on a plane heading West across the Pacific, far from my California home. Despite being overrun by humans for

  • Landscape, Seasons, Winter, Yosemite

    Yosemite in Winter

    Like many others, my love affair with Yosemite has been lifelong. As such, I’ve spent quite a lot of time there, observing the changes of the seasons, revisiting my favorite sites to see how the current conditions have changed the landscape. Of course, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, El Capitan are inspiring landmarks that instantly identify any image as “Yosemite.” But to me, the challenge has always been to see deeper into what else this iconic landscape can reveal. During my visit there last week, it snowed heavily one day, changing the feel of the Valley literally overnight. Scenes with which I was

  • Composition & Creativity

    Grace

    My followers often ask me about why my photographs have a certain distinctive quality to them. It is a hard question to answer. My first thought is to say, they look the way they do simply because that is how I see, which is true, but only to a certain extent. Let me explain. Each photographer brings to their craft a lifetime of experiences that leads up to the moment they trip the shutter. Their influences, their life experiences, their education, their passions all come into play as they choose which elements they will include within the four edges

  • Yearbooks

    Best of 2015: A Year of Photography

    Happy New Year! It’s time again to look back, take stock, learn from mistakes, and look forward. I am so incredibly blessed that I have been able to make space in my life to seriously pursue photography again. Reflecting on 2015, I’ve made some progress in my craft, and going forward I am looking to take a deeper dive into making more thoughtful imagery. This past year, I spent time in Borrego Springs (California), Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park, Moab (Utah), the Oregon Coast, Hawaii, the Northern California coast, and the Eastern Sierra. In all, I tripped the shutter

  • Landscape

    Mono Lake all dressed up in Pink!

      Mono Lake is famous for its dramatic sunrises, sunsets and weird tufa formations that rise spookily from the lake bottom. It is an enormous lake, covering more than 43,000 acres, and is highly saline and alkaline since it has no outlet, allowing minerals and salts to accumulate. Resting at the foot of the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in California, the lake presents a myriad of moods depending on the time of day, the season and the weather, making it a favorite spot for landscape photographers and tourists. Last week when I was visiting

  • Composition & Creativity, Landscape

    Taking Inventory

    This Spring, I made my first trip to the Southwest United States, where I spent a week exploring and photographing in and around some of the most famous  landscapes in the country. Having been more accustomed to the landscapes of California, where the trees were the key visual elements, and where moving water is displayed in cool tones, this landscape was the opposite — harsh and bare, with huge contrasts and bright red colors that assaulted my senses. It was vast and grand, with towering monuments, deep canyons and broad vistas that just seemed to go on forever. No forests. No crashing waves. No mist or fog. So, on my

  • Yearbooks

    Voted The Best of 2014 by my Readers

    All of the votes are in! Here are the final images that my readers selected from my best images of 2014. Interesting that some of my favorites didn’t make the cut, and some that did were just as surprising to me. Thanks so much for participating! I’m looking forward to another year of photography in 2015! If you like what you see, consider subscribing to this blog. I won’t clog your inbox, but I do write occasional articles with tips about photography. You can also follow my work on Facebook as well, where I post more regularly. Also, I keep an a

  • Yearbooks

    2014: A Year of Photography

    Happy New Year! For the third year in a row, I’ve compiled a collection of my favorite images taken over the course of the previous 12 months. I have found this annual review to be a useful exercise — an opportunity to look back at where I’ve been, observe emerging patterns in my work, and gauge my artistic growth from year to year. Last year, the list included just 15 pieces. This year, I have found this painfully difficult to do, and in fact, I believe that I may be a terrible judge of my own work. As such, I invite YOU to

  • Fall, Landscape, Mountain, Seasons

    Fall in the Eastern Sierras, 2014

    While the Fall color is just now beginning to show among the maples, oaks and other deciduous trees here in the Bay Area, these young Aspen trees growing on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada were already past their prime three weeks ago when I took this picture. Nonetheless, even though they had lost much of their bright yellow foliage, their beauty was not lost on me.

  • Landscape, Yosemite

    Surviving Oak in the Fire Zone

    As I was taking this picture in a burnt area of Yosemite Valley very early in the morning last week, I heard the sound of wind coming from above, then two popping sounds. I looked up. Base jumpers. First two, and then a third flying from the cliffs of Cathedral Peaks soaring towards a mist-shrouded El Capitan Meadow.

  • Fall, Landscape, Mountain, Seasons

    Fall in the Eastern Sierra, 2014

    In California, we don’t have the dazzling spectacle of fall color as they do on the East Coast, but on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, we have Aspen trees. This year, because of the severe drought and the long hot summer, the Aspens turned color a bit early, and some of the leaves shriveled up and turned brown instead of their usual brilliant hues. So, when I arrived in Lee Vining last weekend, I found that I was a little late to the party. Many of the groves were past their prime and had already lost a lot of their foliage. However,

  • Composition & Creativity, Intimate, Tips & Technics

    Tips for Photographing Trees and Forests

    As a nature and landscape photographer, trees are often the central focus of my images or at least play a significant role in the composition. They contain many of the components that make up a good photo — line, texture, shape, light, color.  They are powerful symbols and illicit strong emotions in us. They change from season to season, and there are endless compositions to be found in any one stand of trees. But, making a decent photograph of a single tree or a forest can be tricky. Here are some tips to get you started. Gear. Gear alone does not a

  • Nature & Wildlife

    Notes from Costa Rica — Monkeys

    During my recent trip to the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, I was completely enchanted by the abundance of wildlife, but specifically by the monkeys. I’d never observed monkeys in the wild before, and as such, felt especially giddy whenever I spotted a group in the canopy above. There are two species of monkeys that are common in that region and which I observed on several occasions —the white-faced capuchin and the howler. Howlers are the larger and more docile of the two species, and their distinctive vocalizations, which can be heard from up to three miles away, make them

  • Coastal, Landscape

    Costa Rican Fisherman at Sunrise

    A departure from my usual diet of Northern California landscapes, I’ve been in Costa Rica these last two weeks satisfying a very different kind of visual appetite. Today, I will begin posting some of my images from this trip, starting with this one, which I will tell you about in a moment. As I review my images, there are plenty of landscape sunrises among the collection, which makes sense since I’ve been based along the Eastern side of the Nicoya Peninsula. But moreover, I’ve been completely taken in by the abundance of wildlife — Monkeys, birds, reptiles, and fantastical

  • Nature & Wildlife

    After the Rim Fire

      It took me a while to muster the courage to visit the burn area from Yosemite’s massive Rim Fire last Summer. It was not quite what I expected. Certainly, there were areas that had been burnt to a crisp, but there were also large swatches of forest within the burn perimeter where some of the vegetation had survived. I saw a herd of deer pawing around in the burn area, a stone’s throw away from an area rich in vegetation. Woodpeckers and crows had returned to the blackened forest as well. The photo I chose to make

  • Desert, Landscape

    Anza Borrego Desert Sunrise, Winter 2014

      A fun fact: Anza-Borrego is the largest state park in California and, after New York’s Adirondack Park, and the second largest in the continental United States. It includes 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 designated wilderness areas, and 110 miles of hiking trails. And I have barely begun to scratch the surface there. I must go back again soon.

  • Landscape, Seasons, Winter

    Cottonwoods in Winter Light

      Although Yosemite draws hordes of visitors every Spring and Summer, I prefer to visit in the Winter, when you can see the exposed bones of the trees and the quality of the light creates a landscape of pastel tones. I made several images like this one on an early February morning along the banks of the Merced River.

  • Nature & Wildlife

    Portrait of an Oak Tree, Napa Valley, Feb. 2013

    Trees are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They contain all the elements one needs to make a composition — form, texture, shape, color. This old soul lives at the top of a hill overlooking Napa Valley, as if it were one of its guardians, standing sentry to the gates of the valley. The moss on the trees in this area is stunning —light and lacey and the most delicate color of green.  

  • Composition & Creativity, Seasons, Winter

    Ice and Frozen Bubbles

    In mid-February, I spent some time in Yosemite Valley. At the first of the week, I was fortunate enough to bear witness to a clearing storm and captured some of the drama of that day, but the rest of the week was dominated by day after day of sunny, clear skies. So, consequently, I spent quite a bit of time shooting smaller, more intimate scenes in the Valley. Which is just fine with me. This composition of  bubbles frozen in suspension in a sheet of ice on a small pond has a tell-tale signature of Yosemite: the golden morning sunlight

  • Camera Gear, Composition & Creativity, Landscape, Tips & Technics, Yosemite

    Moonrise Over Half Dome — Tips for Photographing the Full Moon

    If you read my blog yesterday, I featured a photo that I had taken at sunset in Yosemite facing West. The image featured in this blog is the one that I had taken just moments prior, facing East, and this was the shot I had intended to capture — the (almost) full moon rising over Half Dome. It’s not terribly difficult to photograph the full moon, but there are a few tricks to it that can help you achieve better results. First of all, you will need a tripod. The moon is moving, you are moving, and and

  • Landscape, Mountain

    Sunset Clouds Over the Sierras

    I had arrived to this spot just above Yosemite Valley to shoot a much different scene than the one I present here. To the East, the moon was rising over Half Dome, just peeking over a thin layer of clouds, a delicate alpenglow illuminating the granite icons of both Half Dome and El Capitan. It was a breathtakingly beautiful and magical sight. I was so entirely wrapped up in that scene that I nearly missed the spectacular cloud formations and color in the sky at my back. After much fumbling about as I struggled to reposition my tripod, switch lenses,

  • Composition & Creativity, Seasons, Winter, Yosemite

    Winter Compositions, Part 4 — Reflections and Yosemite’s Unique Light

    Yosemite National Park’s iconic landmarks  — Half Dome, El Capitan, the grand waterfalls — are most frequently the main subject of photographs, and for good reason. They are dramatic, photogenic representations of a very beloved place. But what makes Yosemite Valley really special is the unique quality of the light there. The Valley’s towering walls of granite, which lay in an East to West orientation, reflect warm light into the shadows all day long. Reflections in the Merced River take on whatever color is happening at that moment — it could be the alpenglow on the granite just after sunset,

  • Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

    Horsetail Fall, 2014

    I hadn’t intended to photograph Horsetail Fall this year, but I was in Yosemite near the optimal time the fall puts on its annual display of color and water, and with the recent rains, it looked like there might be a possibility to actually get a decent shot. So I joined the throngs along Southside Drive last Tuesday and hoped for the right conditions. Horsetail Fall is a seasonal waterfall near the eastern edge of El Capitan that is fed by a small snow field on top of El Cap. Around mid-February, the winter light from the setting sun

  • Seasons, Winter, Yosemite

    Winter Compositions, Part 3 — Finding Scenes in a Quiet Landscape

    Landscape photographers love drama. Dramatic light. Dramatic skies. Dramatic color. All of which are usually coupled with the arrival or departure of a weather system. But what do we do when Mother Nature delivers day after day of overcast skies or crystal clear blue skies, devoid of any clouds or color? On such days, I cast my eyes not to the skies, but downward, towards the smaller, quieter scenes at my feet. With the previous day’s dramatic storm long gone, I walked beside the Merced River, looking for patterns in color, shape and texture. Along the water’s edge, there

  • Landscape, Seasons, Winter, Yosemite

    Winter Compositions, Part 2 — Moving with the Light

    Northern California finally received some much needed precipitation, which showed up over the weekend like a long lost friend. No one was muttering about the rain this time. It was a welcome visitor. In Yosemite, the waterfalls that only a month ago were but a trickle were finally flowing again, perhaps not as robustly as one might have hoped, but nonetheless, it was a hopeful sign. Monday morning dawned a dark, mist-filled Yosemite Valley. The storm had cleared overnight, leaving familiar landmarks barely peeking through the dense fog. It was going to be spectacular. On mornings like these, it

  • Seasons, Tips & Technics, Winter, Yosemite

    Winter Compositions, Part 1 — Photographing Rainbows

    California is facing the driest year on record, which was evident during my recent visit to Yosemite. Its grand waterfalls are down to a trickle, and the mighty Merced River is low enough to wade across. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much water to make a rainbow, and yesterday, when I photographed Lower Yosemite Falls, there was just enough water mixed with a bit of morning sun to produce a tiny spectrum of color. This little wisp of a rainbow was so faint and so far away that I nearly missed it. I’ve received a few questions from readers about

  • Yearbooks

    2013: A Year of Photography

    This is the time of year when we take stock of where we’ve been, count our blessings, and renew our commitments. I am grateful to have spent another year pursuing my passion for photography.  As any artist can attest, it can be difficult to perceive how far your work has evolved until you glance back.  In 2013, I had the first two exhibits of my work, had my first experience shooting the night sky, and visited some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.  I took nearly 10,000 frames in 2013.  Here, I present to you a selection of

  • Landscape, Yosemite

    Horsetail Falls in Yosemite Valley

    I am blessed to live fairly close to my favorite National Park, Yosemite, and I manage to get up there fairly often to shoot, climb and hike. This year, I added skiing and ice-skating to the list of things that give me yet another excuse to go there, not that I need one. There is a phenomenon that draws photographers from all over the country for just a few days late in the month of February. Light from the setting sun illuminates Horsetail Falls as it cascades over the edge of El Capitan and it provides a beautiful natural

  • Yearbooks

    2012: A Year of Photography

    Reflecting back on 2012 as viewed through my camera lens, I’ve collected together what I consider to be my best shots of the year. But I would like to know what you think. I invite you to vote for the top 10 images of the year and I will re-post them here. You can click on each image to view it enlarged. As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of my work. — Charlotte Gibb 1. Yosemite Falls Behind Cottonwoods, Yosemite National Park 2. Mallards Against Reflected Clouds, Lafayette, CA 3. Tundra Swans, Mello,

  • Camera Gear, Tips & Technics

    High quality UV filters for your camera: worth the extra money?

    I was asked recently by a friend whether I thought he should buy a high quality ultra-violet (UV) filter or just get something inexpensive for his new, very nice Canon L lens. Was it really worth it to spend the extra money on expensive filters? What about polarizing filters? This is how I answered him. The quality of the whole camera system, from camera body, lens to filter, is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. The glass quality and coating method on filters is really important if you want to maintain all the clarity and