Category Archives: USA

Cloudcatcher & Stargazer

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Occasional summoner of Weather. Dreamer – struggling mightily with reality.

Clouds are nearby friends in the sky, the stars are faraway beacons of hope. Surreal and otherworldly, ingredients of dreams but real. This may get a mite esoteric and peculiar, bear with me on this mind trip. During the day there is nothing quite like clouds that will catch my eye. At night it is the stars calling me leaving me gazing deep into the universe, back in time and lost in dreams. Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer.

Clouds are a key subject in my photos, I could shoot nothing but clouds all day. I am convinced they are alive. Clouds catch my eye and I run around looking for a foreground subject. Occasionally I feel I have magic powers and can summon the clouds and the weather. Certainly, in USA I had so much good luck with the light and the clouds it surely cannot be a coincidence. Example, I really only shot at Grand Canyon for 3 hours but managed to first summon a huge snow storm for dramatic storm shots, then move the storm out of the way just in time for a sunset. I summoned a sand storm in White Sands. Last year I was able to summon rain in the Namibia desert, extremely rare. All in a days work. Here is an example of clouds I summoned in Arches, Utah, a great dramatic snow storm:

Clouds - Arches - blog

The stars always bring me hope. Hope of space travel and life on other planets. Hope for the future of our self destructive race. A pitch black night allows me to leave the Earth and fly away to other galaxies. The Saint Agustin plains and Very Large Array in New Mexico offered the perfect launch platform and a billion stars to capture:

Stars - VLA - blog

Finally, my home city of Copenhagen in Denmark has more bland and less dramatic weather but is occasionally still home to fantastic clouds. I present an oldie from 2006, a sunset in late autumn. I remember this day well, stressed out from my then fulltime IT job I sat fatigued and zombie-like at Lake Peblinge observing a forthcoming sunset seemingly holding few promises. It was bone-rattling cold, and I felt like going home. Slowly this ‘spine’ of clouds formed and lit up like in a dream. The sky was a burning lava magenta for about 20 minutes and I have never again witnessed anything like it here. On this day, Copenhagen was a tropical town and I promise this is what it looked like:

Fiery sunset Lake Peblinge -blog

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer. Reality?

PS. Two awesome cloud videos for you fellow cloudcatchers: Joe Taylor and Edvard Brun.

I’ll be in my light room

I must admit I much prefer shooting the images to processing them. For one thing, when I shoot them I am out in nature and loving it. When I post process, as much creative fun as that is, I am still inside staring at a screen. I was able to process some of my images along the way on my 6 months on the road, but I am now digging into 3,500 raw images from the 2 months in USA. Can get a bit overwhelming. All images to be revealed in good time, but here’s a tiny glimpse (sticky beak for you Aussies) into what I am working on:

usa lightroom - blog

I process such a large number of images using a recursive approach. I close Firefox (too distracting), put on headphones and fire up some tunes and enjoy a brew (coffee). I run through all images in Adobe Lightroom picking my ‘picks’ and dividing picks into groups using stars, 5, 4 ,3 etc. I repeat, honing the selection. I do some quick processing along the way to try out things. This is where Lightroom shines, I quickly play with many creative variations of an image. I do 80% of my work in Lightroom as it is so intuitive and much more fun and geared towards photographers than Photoshop. Photoshop is for my pixel level editing, selective editing using masks and sharpening etc. When I have the ‘hero’ shots narrowed down I develop them using an iterative ‘juggling many things at a time’ process. Not necessarily the most efficient way but this being my brain works. I cannot work on just one image, for me it is more like sculpturing. I work on an image some, feel I get stuck, switch to another image, sculpt that for a while and then onto the third and then perhaps back again to the first as a new idea strikes me. This repeats itself until I feel the image is good enough, for some images 5 minutes, some 5 days. I then mark this image ‘done’ in Lightroom with colour label green to tell my brain ‘It is done…stop tinkering!". Panos are then stitched in PTgui, editing is finished in Photoshop.

A small look into my light room. Not terribly exciting. I will persevere to write something better next time, I promise. Follow me on Twitter for more image previews as I get them developed.

What is your preferred tools and work method?

I’ve gone to look for America

Stealing titles as I often do, this one is of course Simon & Garfunkel aptly describing this post. Like a lot of people, I grew up with American movies and TV shows and I was excited to finally land on American soil back in March. In many ways it was exactly what I expected, in many ways it was nothing like I expected. I drove some 8,000 miles or 12,500 kilometers through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These are just a few of my observations, boils down to: Mindblowing landscapes, stay clear of most cities, and stop putting cheese on everything!

The landscapes.

It is impossible not to have been subjected to a lot of the American Southwest landscape through TV, movies and countless photographers having already shot what is probably the world’s most photographed landscapes. No matter. The Southwest landscapes still floored me speechless every day for two months and I just scratched the surface of what is available. Here’s a quick developed preview of a panorama from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, such a dramatic place. Driving through the wide open spaces of the Southwest with the ipod in the car stereo grooving and the feeling of freedom my drug of choice, then stopping anywhere I like to shoot images are my fondest memories of this trip. I am so in love with the American landscapes, I must return many times. Look at these clouds by the way, I seemed to attract amazing light on a lot of days in America.

canyonlands - blog

The cities.

las vegas - blogBeing no fan of cities, the only larger cities I visited very briefly were LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas. San Francisco was quite different and felt European, with a great atmosphere, many small streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. Apart from SF I find the American cities I visited were quite depressing, usually just an ugly main street with too many fast food places, motels and malls killing all local charm. To the right is my home for 1 night in Vegas and I regret wasting a night in Vegas. It is as horrible as you think, worse actually and I lost all faith in humanity for a few days. I regained it in Beatty and Death Valley, Nevada…

The towns.

What I loved were the small towns. My rule quickly became: town should be so small there isn’t even a traffic light nor a McDonald’s. I might not wish to live there, but loved staying in places like Magdalena in New Mexico, Mexican Hat in Utah or Beatty in Nevada. Here is the great and dusty main street in Beatty, right next to Death Valley, actually if this town had an ocean and a beach I could live here:

Beatty - blog

The small towns have atmosphere and character. People are friendly, down to earth and talkative and wear cowboy hats, smile and say "howdy" to you with a thick accent. They wave as you walk around the town. The local diner is an actual locally owned true diner, no chain fast food hell. The diner serves great food complete with coffee and cake, portions even larger than the enourmous belt buckles the cowboys proudly display. Tumbleweeds tumble across the roads, rusty doors and gates play in the wind. John Wayne strides down the street. Local newspaper tells of upcoming events complete with arm-wrestling competitions and the chance to win a riffle! And in Beatty there was a large sale of used army ammonition boxes (still trying to figure that one out, what do you use them for?). My kinda place.

"Be careful his bowtie is really a camera" or How to fix America and Other Nonsense. 

To my American friends, I am having a sarcastic and ironic go at you, no harm meant. My suggestions are winners though, try them out 🙂

  • Ban all fast food chains. Kills the great local diners. And public health.
  • Ban all big chain motels. Kills local colourful motels with atmosphere, replacing them with awful "fast food" motels that resemble prison blocks.
  • Better education available for all, for free. Not knowing the name of your neighbour state is just not good enough. Danish is not the same as Dutch, look it up. To the surfer dude in Monterey, Jean Claude van Damme is not Danish!
  • Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it.
  • Ban guns. Now I like to win a riffle at the local fair as much as anyone but seriously, get those guns off the streets.
  • Buy smaller cars and RVs. What do you need a pickup truck the size of a tank for unless you actually own a farm? Also it’s really intimidating to see these pick-ups in the rear view mirror, one inch from my car and threatening to simply run me over unless I move just because I obey the speed limit (most of the time hehe, my Nissan spaceship was quite fast).
  • Drastically improve your health, stop putting cheese on everything! "You want cheese on that?". "No it’s a fecking tuna sandwich, I don’t want cheese on anything! And no bloody whipped cream on my milkshake!"
  • Legs? They can be used for walking! Ban drive-ins, boost public health!
  • And why oh why are shower heads installed at roughly half the height of the average human?
  • Lastly, service everywhere is absolutely excellent, much appreciated! Yesterday I bought coffee in a café. It was dearer than gold and service was rude. I knew I was back in Copenhagen.

These waves are all around us now

These waves. Crashing ashore. Crash. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Crash. Another one. Slow rolling surfer waves crashing ashore. A hypnotic rhythm. The waves, the sun, the sand, the sounds, the feeling of walking barefoot on sand and the smell of the ocean. It all adds up to a deeply healing and calming experience. Brain waves in sync with the oceanic waves.

I am in Monterey, California and I have spent the whole day sitting on the beach staring at the ocean. I had plans to photograph Big Sur but my feet steered me here and many miles down the beach. No one is here. Just me and some great waves. Just the right rhythm. Have to be the right beach with the right waves to create the rhythm. I see board surfers further down the beach. This is hypnotic. I have not written a word all day, not shot one image nor listened to music. Also forgot to bring food and water. I just stared at the waves. I fell asleep on the beach. I woke up and stared some more. Yes this is second nature for you lucky ones on the WA coast, but I was late to discover the drug called the ocean. I am now a serious addict and must, simply must live on a west coast some day.

I did capture images from the coastline driving up Highway 1 a few days ago. A thick morning fog created some lovely shots where the fog blanketed the cliffs on this gorgeous California coast. This is a very quick preview, shot using my 100-400mm lens as the view point is quite far away. Hard to do a good composition when gravity would not work in my favor if I stepped over the edge. I think this image may end up in black and white if I use it at all, have a feeling it would work well.

cliffs in the mist - blog

Yosemite was my final US photo mission. Now I am mostly staring at waves and relaxing before a plane next week takes me from San Fran to some location called Copenhagen. Summer with friends and lots of work developing thousands of RAW files and getting my new website done is the plan. Lots more to come.

PS. Huge street credits if you can spot the origin of the title of this post! Don’t google cheat! And I want the album it’s famous for.

Abstract Antelope Canyons

It has been another week of wonders. From driving a Jeep Wrangler with big off road tires to the otherworldly ethereal Playa Racetracks in Death Valley to following in the footsteps of John Muir, Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is simply staggeringly beautiful. Even with all the tourists and hefty price tags on accommodation and Glacier Point being closed meaning I missed the pano shot I really, really wanted. Still, Yosemite is too beautiful for words. Not one of the famous iconic images prepared me for how tall and impressive the granite walls of El Capitan and Half Dome are. Yosemite is also becoming far too popular and busy but that’s for another post.

Today’s image is something a little different from my grandscapes. I spent quite a few days in Page, Arizona as I really liked that area. Page is right next to Lake Powell but also well known for the slot canyons. There are two easily accessible, Upper and Lower, and they’re quite different and both worth exploring. I got some great light beam shots in the better known Upper but today’s image is from Lower Antelope canyon, which is not as good for light beams but much better for some abstract images with gorgeous reflected sunlight on the walls of the very narrow Lower Antelope Canyon. The longer exposures you do the better as you pick up more reflected sunlight and enhance the beautiful colours on the canyon walls:

Slot canyon - blog. Flemming Bo Jensen

The road, no the car, is home!

It is a classic Jack Kerouac quote "the road is home/life" and I used to write it constantly along with "no fear", "into the wild" etc. Back when I clung to a clicheed bag of quotes. I am somewhat attempting to break away from that.

I have found that actually my car – is my home presently! I have now travelled over 8,700 kms (5800 miles) here in the Southwest of the US. I thought initially I might get bored with all that driving but it turns out that the one constant home in my present travelling life is my car (it’s a rental so we have to part ways soon though). I actually really enjoy the driving now, music on my ipod fed into the stereo and I take every backroad (I hate the interstates!) possible through the glorious landscapes. Sometimes I get slightly down when I actually get to my destination and park my Nissan spaceship, and can’t wait to fly again. "How you get there is the worthier part" (well, now I’m quoting Firefly but that’s always good!).

It is too cold for me to camp here but for my next US trip I am definitely getting a larger 4WD and buying camping gear so I can skip all the motel beds and camp out! Nothing better than sleeping under the stars but it requires the right conditions. I miss camping very much but it is seriously cold at night here in the desert so it will have to be next time, where I really will make the car my home. Here’s driving on the road, well technically me sitting in the middle of the road, leading to the salt flats of Death Valley:

death valley road - blog

A few minuses: What little ass I have has become the shape of a car seat. My neck, shoulders and back are killing me from all that driving and photography and crappy soft motel beds. My tinnitus kills me ears, something about driving that triggers it. And I feel out of shape, which is a feeling I really hate. I think it will be healthy to de-attach this car from my ass for a while soon!

A little less tech a little more art

A personal rant. Running around all these National Parks here in the US with a camera and tripod one meets and talks to a lot of other photographers. I guess as in all things life, some are great people and fascinating and inspiring…some not so much.

At Momument Valley I met 3 guys absolutely packed with very expensive gear complete with camera vests and survival gear. They couldn’t spot a composition if it was bended in neon for them so they spent all their time trying to outdo each other with gear talk boring me to tears. No, I simply do not care how much headroom RAW has nor do I care how much you are bracketing, HDR processing it, genuine fractals blowing it up etc. etc. 

It boils down to: it’s the photographer never the camera. Why are you shooting this? What are you trying to express? What made you choose that composition? How are you using the light, foreground, middle ground, background, leading lines, colours, contrast? What do you want your viewers to feel when viewing this? What are your favourite locations? The artistic not the technical side is the interesting part for me.

Monument Valley Totem Pole - blog Better post an image as well, this is what I shot while some of the gearheads in Monument Valley discussed bracketing and RAW headroom. Of course, they might have shot something much better, I hardly broke the world record for best composition (actually it’s stolen from Art Wolfe). But I at least kept quiet and enjoyed the sunrise while shooting.

Somewhat ironical this post comes right after I wrote a post on mirror lock up, purely technical – Not saying I am any better myself, just as boring! Still the next person to ask "what camera are you using" I’ll reply "Polaroid. It’s a polaroid!"