About this…

Photo:  Rush at Night

Location:  Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Date:  August 2, 2016

Camera & Lens:  Canon 6D & 24-105mm lens

About This Photo: ¬†My oldest daughter was studying Mount Rushmore in school and really wanted to visit. ¬†Since we were already planning a road trip to Wisconsin to watch the mosquitos migrate there for the summer, and see my parents, this was a just a little diversion and would be something my daughters would remember for years. ¬†Sometimes trying to shoot a subject differently doesn’t always go as planned. ¬†Because of an earlier photography lesson I usually search a new location online before leaving town. ¬†The goal is then to attempt shooting whatever isn’t at Google or at least get new ideas from the search results. ¬†In this case it was Mount Rushmore in the summer of 2016, knowing there would be the typical postcard type shot, I also wanted to try to capture something different.¬† FlagsWhat I didn’t realize was how tall of an order it really was to shoot a subject so famous, and so well documented, like Mount Rushmore in a new way. ¬†I came up with this bright idea to shoot it at night, which in theory seemed easy but the execution would prove problematic.¬† The floodlights on Rushmore wash out much of the details that are visible during daylight and hey, I’ll admit it here, my skills were not up to the task back then. ¬†It was tough… ¬†In this photo at right, Flags, which was taken before dark, you can see the details of the monument because there’s still enough natural sunlight, details aren’t washed out and it’s just a better photo. ¬†However, the goal was to shoot Rushmore in the evening while lit. ¬†Before leaving on the trip, I searched “Mount Rushmore at night” and saw a lot of images like mine eventually looked. ¬†Somehow, I thought mine would be different…

At night the Mount Rushmore crowds thin out a bit, so that’s kind of cool if you’re looking to get some people and motion in the shot. ¬†Plus, it’s just better with less people around as it’s such an incredible location. ¬†The shot at the top, Rush at Night, and the subject of this post, was about as good as I could do with regards to night shooting. ¬†Here’s what goes in the positive category; first, as mentioned, the people and motion add movement and a sense of scale giving you an idea of size and distance. ¬†Also, the lights at the feet of the people provides detail of the stone floor, in hindsight I would crop much of that out at the¬†bottom and maybe make it 16×9. ¬†Lastly, the floodlights seem to draw the viewers eyes to the presidents. ¬†So what’s not to like? ¬†Well… ¬†Mount Rushmore itself, as stated earlier, the details in the faces is lost from the lights, I could have gotten that better. ¬†What would I do differently? ¬†Maybe start by shooting it as an HDR shot for starters, that could have helped and given more control over the individual aspects of the subject. ¬†If it didn’t work, at least there’d be three separate shots of each attempt and maybe one of those would be a keeper. ¬†

This was a difficult shot for me three years ago, hopefully my skills are better and now George Washington wouldn’t look like Uncle Fester with hair. ¬†The one thing I would definitely do again is make it an overnighter. ¬†We arrived in the afternoon and stayed a few miles away in Keystone, South Dakota¬†which is kind of a cool little town in it’s own way. ¬†Going to the monument in the evening was incredible, my photos nor the photos at Google seem to do it justice, but it is breathtaking. ¬†Then in the morning, on our way out of town, I shot it again with the sun rising and a couple of those are below. ¬†Summing this up, planning this trip ahead of time didn’t go as planned once we were there. ¬†Although it may have been too tall of an order for my camera skills of 2016, it was still a very cool trip. ¬†No matter how the photos came out, our daughters had the trip of a lifetime, were able to see something they were learning in school, and just seeing how happy they were made everything worth it. ¬†As an admitted history nerd, you can imagine how I felt about it.

 

 

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Coronado, CA

I had the good fortune of living in the coastal city of Coronado, California from 2007-2011, courtesy of the US Navy. ¬†Photography was reentering my life as I had not taken many photos in over 25 years. ¬†I found myself in the land of sunsets, beaches, ocean views, and I loved it. ¬†When I found out in 2014 that I would be returning to Coronado, I was a happy camper! ¬†I began searching online for photos of Coronado to see what other photographers were shooting, something I often do to get ideas. ¬†I found sunset photos, the Hotel Del Coronado, sunsets, the beach, the bridge, the boathouse, and even sunsets! ¬†I made a decision right then and there to take photos of Coronado, the city; sure I’d shoot the San Diego skyline, the bridge, boathouse, and yes, the legendary Pacific coast sunsets; but I hoped to capture¬†something different. ¬†Let me say upfront, there are many amazing photographers in Coronado who I respect, they shoot everything including the incredible sunsets, and I love checking out their amazing photos! ¬†However, I hoped¬†to do something else and wanted¬†to catch another side of Coronado while I was here. ¬†The photo at the top of the page was taken¬†at the Fiddler’s Cove Marina when the¬†sun was just starting to burn through the morning fog.

Super Moon    Fog

The main marina in Coronado makes for an excellent photo subject just about 24/7 (above left). ¬†I hoped to show that there is life in this marina, even at night, because¬†many people live aboard their boats. ¬†This was the night of the “super moon” and while this isn’t a spectacular super moon photo compared to others, I think it captures the vibe of this marina at night with the calm waters and reflection of the moon. ¬†Since sailing and boating are a major activities in Coronado, it’s not difficult finding sailboats virtually everywhere. ¬†The above right photo was taken from Tidelands Park which is a great location to shoot sunrises as well. ¬†You might be able to¬†tell by this photo, and the one at the top of this page, I LOVE fog! ¬†When it comes to photography, I find that while blue skies are amazing to the naked eye, they just do nothing for me with my camera. ¬†I’ve found the trick to shooting fog in Coronado is to have the camera bag ready to go at all times, the fog can appear and disappear quickly here. ¬†Unlike the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin where I grew up, the sun can literally burn off solid fog in minutes, and in both of these photos the fog was gone within 10 minutes¬†after snapping these.

Chillaxin'    Spreckels Christmas

Capturing everyday scenes in Coronado has been interesting because common events¬†we do daily are set in front of an incredible backdrop. ¬†In the above left photo, a bird dives in to the water for a fish while a guy is relaxing with¬†his hands behind head checking out the view. ¬†Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up, Coronado is¬†really like this at times! ¬†The above right photo was taken at the Spreckel’s Park gazebo after my daughters had their Girl Scout meeting there. ¬†The below middle sunrise photo was also taken at Spreckel’s Park, if there is a hub for Coronado, in my opinion it is this park because concerts, flower shows, playtime with the kids, and even craft shows on Sunday mornings happen at this park. ¬†Below left are two VW vans that I drive by practically every day, and for over a year I meant to shoot them. ¬†There’s nothing fancy here, I just thought it looked cool as a typical street scene with these classic vans. ¬†Finally, the shot below on the right is a front yard swing, it could be Anywhere USA, which was the point of this photo; there are many times when¬†Coronado feels like any other small town I’ve visited, I mean that in the best possible way!

V-Dubs  Spreckles  Swingin'

Coronado has a rich military history as both the US Army and US Navy maintained a presence here until the late 1930’s. ¬†However, it has been the Navy that remained and Coronado has been the major training location for the US Navy SEAL’s for decades. ¬†In 2016, Coronado erected a statue honoring all maritime commandos called the “Naked Warrior” sculpted by artist J. Seward Johnson Jr. (below). ¬†These ‘naked warriors’ would later evolve in to the Navy SEAL’s of today. ¬†For a great book on this, check out¬†The Naked Warriors: The Elite Fighting Force that became the Navy SEAL’s by CDR Francis Fane. ¬†While I was shooting this photo, a young man actually slowly passed by the statue on his beach cruiser bike, fist bumped his heart and flashed a peace sign to the statue in respect, this is Coronado. ¬†While I love the ocean, beaches, and sunsets, I think there is more to Coronado. ¬†While it’s a place of seaside mansions and a major travel desination, if you peel back it’s layers you’ll find a simple coastal village and military town rich in history. ¬†Look past the streets filled with tourists and you’ll see¬†swings hanging from trees, VW’s parked on the¬†streets in front of simple cottages, and quiet neighborhoods like most other little towns. ¬†Oh, and if you wait till the evening, you might even experience¬†an incredible sunset.

Naked Warrior 2

My pic made the list!

I think someone at Gurushots.com likes me… ¬†I made their¬†list of “34 Vertigo Inducing Shots Of The Some Of The Tallest Skyscrapers In The World” with¬†mine, Summer Night, at 20! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow. ¬†This photo of the San Diego skyline was taken on August 20, 2015 at Centennial Park in Coronado, CA.

Original photo is at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-Pngnh2z

Summer Night
A summer view of San Diego at night from Coronado, CA.

Mount Rushmore, lessons learned.

Our oldest daughter was studying Mount Rushmore last year so when planning a trip to Wisconsin it seemed like a no brainer to stop in South Dakota. ¬†Long before leaving, a little research seemed in order. ¬†Why? ¬†Well, I hadn’t been there¬†since the early seventies and this time I was going there to shoot photos; this was probably going to be a one time thing so I wanted to get it right. Our¬†girls would love Mount Rushmore¬†no matter what but I needed¬†to get educated on how to shoot this famous landmark. ¬†I wanted my girls to have the time of their life and still get some photos. ¬†During this process, I learned two important points after literally reading many posts¬†from a¬†photoprapher’s perspective. ¬†Some people actually felt it was a let down, many¬†thought it was good but not worth a specific photo trip, and a others really enjoyed it. ¬†However, most were in¬†agreement that the morning sun was best time to shoot because the it¬†rises on the faces. ¬†The second, after looking at all the photos that went along with the articles, most had the same postcard type captures of Rushmore which meant mine needed to be different. ¬†There had to be more than this one shot… ¬†Then I remembered some recent advice from someone I would consider a¬†Jedi Master of photography; he said I always need to ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†I literally need to ask myself this question because it’s not built in automatically. ¬†When I force this question upon myself and look at the subject, sometimes¬†an aspect out of the nothingness will get my attention, somthing that was seemingly not there before.

Rush at Night

With Jedi Master EM’s advice in my ears, I looked at everyone elses photos of Mount Rushmore and pondered, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†First, most of the photos were shot from the edge of the¬†Grand View Terrace, so I needed to shoot from other places if possible. ¬†These locations needed to be nearby and¬†still offer a great view or shoot from the Grand View Terrace and actually include it as part of the subject. ¬†Second, those who tried to do close up shots of the individual presidents didn’t have long enough lenses. ¬†Problemo solved, I’d bring my¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD¬†so I’d be sure to get in close (see the photo, Abe, at the top of this blog). ¬†If I hadn’t researched, this lens would have stayed home because¬†it’s huge and doesn’t go out unless there is¬†a reason… ¬†Third, I noticed that most people just showed up and hoped to get a decent shot. ¬†My response to this, not be in a hurry and arrive in the afternoon and stay the night. ¬†This way I could shoot when we arrived, come back in the evening for night shots, then get some sleep and come back in the morning before leaving on the rest of the trip. ¬†Lastly, in most photos, there were no people so capturing¬†tourists gazing at the famous sculpture was a priority. ¬†The photo at right, Rush at Night, was an attempt to capture¬†both Rushmore at night as well as¬†people viewing it.

Rushmore Clouds

The¬†plan of making Rushmore an overnighter in the Black Hills town of Keystone, SD worked out pretty well. ¬†Not only was the weather a¬†bit cloudy before sunset, I was able to capture night shots and the morning sun as well. ¬†Once you pay for parking, your ticket is good for a year so you’re not out any extra cash by seeing Rushmore three times¬†in two days as we did. ¬†In fact, we paid our $11 to initially enter and park, then left the park to check in to our hotel and get dinner. ¬†Later, we returned in the¬†evening and came back the following morning; all at no extra charge. ¬†You only need to pay for a hotel room in Keystone, SD but you’ve got to sleep somewhere right? ¬†Why not Keystone? ¬†Just come back in the morning when Mount Rushmore¬†opens at 7am and there are very few people. ¬†The photo at left, Rushmore Clouds, was taken as clouds were approaching just before sunset. ¬†Personally, what made this trip unique was not simply showing up to see Mount Rushmore and check it off the list, but actually spending a little time there and discovering the different lighting!

All photos were taken¬†with the¬†Canon EOS 6D¬†using the¬†Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†lens¬†including those¬†below; Flags¬†(L) & SD-244(R).¬† However, Abe, at the top was shot with the¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.¬† Planning ahead and dedicating time¬†to Mount Rushmore worked out for us; I got my photos and our¬†girls got memories that will last a lifetime. ¬†Honestly, we would have spent the night near¬†Keystone, SD¬†anyway and left about the same time in the morning; so the Mount Rushmore stop in no way¬†negatively impacted our timeline. ¬†It’s now been two months since our vacation¬†and the kids are still talking about it, they even want to return. ¬†If you can, attend the lighting ceremony, you won’t regret that either. ¬†All in all, the¬†research beforehand was well worth the time, listening to the Jedi Master also paid off, and planning to do more than check off the “we saw it” block for our summer vacation ended up being the highlight of our visit to South Dakota.