Shot of the Week: North to South Sees the Northern Lights (Yellowstone, Wyoming, USA)

Shot of the Week: The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

I was half asleep. Only half because of the awkward angle at which my head was tilted when I’d closed my eyes. Sleeping in the car has never been my forte. I quickly snapped out of my sleepy state, however, when my brain finally registered the three words that had just exited Ian’s mouth: “the Northern Lights.”

It was an unexpected sight, in Yellowstone National Park, but having severely sub-par cell service the past two days couldn’t even stop us from seeing them. There was no visible green glow or anything, but the eery gray streaks sweeping across the northern sky were visible to the naked eye. I quickly pulled my RX100 out of the glove compartment and clambered over the middle console of our Yaris and into the driver’s seat. Ian was already out of the car with the a7 mounted to his tripod. I opted for the meager warmth our Yaris could offer with its front window rolled down all the way.

My first shots were crap, from a photographer’s perspective, but the colors were absolutely amazing. To start, I’d quickly flipped my dial to ‘M’ and prepped for a 6-second exposure. No tripod. Just handheld. Propped atop the open window frame of the driver’s side door. With some expected star streaking from my unsteady hand in my first few exposures, I made some minor adjustments — adding a 2-second timer, using the tilt screen to more steadily prop my camera up on the window ledge — and was rewarded with better results. My final improvement to my set-up was turning the car’s engine off and setting the e-brake (Ian never does) to keep car movements to an absolute minimum. And I was quite impressed with my results!

This photo was taken on June 22nd with the Sony RX-100 III. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

[VIDEO] Shot of the Week: Night Storm Symphony (Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA)

It was cool and sunny in South Dakota when we woke up in our tent this morning. No indication of the craziness that ensued last night, other than the minor bowing to our east-facing tent poles that left our tent slightly askew. And we were among the lucky. Our tent had survived.

Around 8pm the lightning started. It was beautiful. The sun was setting behind a thick wall of clouds, and whenever the distant lightning struck, pink light puffs would appear and pulse throughout the sky.

The campground full, there didn’t seem to be need for alarm. Everyone was continuing on, getting ready for bed as they would if there were no threat nor signs of a storm. It wasn’t until I overheard a neighboring camper collecting his son, telling him “Let’s go. I don’t want to be here when it hits,” that I started to worry. We quickly checked the radar on Ian’s phone, and the image confirmed: it was coming. And it would hit hard. Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Nature’s Water Park (Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri, USA)

North to South Shot of the Week: Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins is a magical place from my childhood…  A two-hour drive from home in St. Louis, we only visited a handful of times when I was young. But boy did I remember it. I’ve always loved outings that involved swimming, and of all the places I’ve swam in the world, Johnson’s Shut-Ins takes the cake.

Crystal-clear water flows through, around, and over the rocks at “Nature’s Water Park,” creating tiny pools where tadpoles grow up into frogs… And you can climb right in to experience it firsthand! It’s amazing. It’s also one of few places you can find where it’s fashionably acceptable to wear tennis shoes with a swimsuit. And you need them to climb around the slippery, rocky pools. The Shut-Ins aren’t particularly large, so it was always busy when we’d arrive early morning in my childhood. But mid-afternoon just after Memorial Day weekend, we were pleasantly surprised to have the place almost entirely to ourselves. If you’re looking for a summer day trip from St. Louis or Branson or the Ozarks, go here. You won’t want to miss it.

This photo was taken on May 26th with the Sony RX-100 III. Continue to view full photo and a video from this cool place!  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Wanderlust and White Sands (White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA)

Shot of the Week: White Sands National Monument sunset hike

Roaring wind. Rippling sand. Rolling dunes. All were present on the night we backpacked out to our backcountry campsite at White Sands National Monument. As luck would have it, we’d gotten the last available site. And we were grateful. Otherwise we’d’ve had to backtrack 30 miles toward Las Cruces and the nearest campground.

Up and over and in between the dunes we hiked, each carrying our backpacks, cameras at-the-ready. It took us 45 minutes to get to our campsite, racing the setting sun. We set up camp, took off our boots, and set out barefoot for the top of a neighboring dune, getting in just a few more photos before darkness and the evening wind settled in. We’ve now completed week two of our cross-country U.S. road trip, and White Sands stands out as one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. It was magical. Enchanting, even. If you’ve never hiked over sand dunes before, add it to your bucket list. It’s surreal.

This photo was taken on May 18th with the Sony a7 II and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar III lens. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: American Woman (Simi Valley, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: American Woman -- American flag photo shoot

With this post, we’re now officially caught up on our Shot of the Week post series. (Yay!) And since it’s Memorial Day, we’ve got an America-themed photo to share.

As we’re road-tripping around the U.S. this summer, Ian and I are working on an American Women photo shoot for my women’s travel fashion blog, which I’ll be publishing the first week of July. I’m gathering friends (and friendly strangers) to create a collection of photos of American women with the American flag in cool places around the U.S. The best photos we get — from two months of shooting — will be featured in a post on the blog!

This shot is from our first day of shooting, when my two L.A. friends Maya and Vaish joined me in the rocky peaks overlooking Simi Valley, California for a sunset shoot. This isn’t the best shot from that evening. I’m saving those. I’m really really happy with how the photos are turning out, and I’m super excited to share them on Stylish Travel Girl in just a little over a month! P.S. I’m still looking for women to participate in St. Louis, Chicago, and beyond. If you’re interested, please don’t be shy!

This photo was taken on May 2nd with the Sony a7 II and 35mm f/2.8 lens. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: The Grandest of Canyons (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA)

Shot of the Week: The Grandest of Canyons (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA)

One week into our road trip, and we finally made it to the Grand Canyon! Before this visit, I’d been there for a brief stop along one of my many journeys between St. Louis and LA in college, and Ian had only flown over it in a plane. It was time for both of us to really see this place. And see it we did, in the sun, rain, sleet, hail and snow!

We camped for two days at the South Rim’s Desert View Campground — a deal at just $12/night — and endured cold, snowy weather inside our warm sleeping bags and tent (see more of our camping essentials here). After roughing it at Lake Mead and Williams the two previous nights, I was SO happy to finally be staying at a place that had showers (thought it did require a 20+ mile drive to the other side of the park). It was also the perfect, iconic place to round out week one of our all-American road trip.

This photo of the Grand Canyon was taken on Thursday May 14th with the Sony a7 II and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar III lens. (Continue to view full photo.)  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Busy Bee (Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: Flying Bee and orange flowers at Huntington Botanical Gardens, California, USA

One hundred thirty-six. If you’ve ever wondered how many shots it takes to capture a killer, in-focus — and in-flight — bee photo, that’s your answer.  We don’t typically do this type of photography, but the setting we found ourselves in earlier this week gave us the perfect opportunity to practice. My cousin Val is visiting California this week, and luckily (for once) I was in town! While searching for something to do together near to where she’s staying, I remembered the Huntington Gardens. I’d been once or twice before, several years ago, and I always enjoyed spending a few hours meandering around the Garden’s huge variety of flowers, plants and trees.

The weather’s been chilly here in California the last few days, but Monday treated us to a beautiful sunny California day. Hummingbirds were flitting about, the gardeners were busy pruning, and bees were buzzing around all the vibrantly colored flowers.

Ian, having just borrowed a new lens to review from B&H Photo, was eager to take photos. While flowers are a fine subject on their own, they’re certainly more interesting when there’s something flying around them. But these little buggers just wouldn’t hold still! This photo is #121 out of 136 bee photos he took in this spot. (Just ask me how many external hard drives we have — completely filled with photo files…)

This photo was taken on Monday, May 4th with the Sony a7 II and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar III lens with the Hawk’s Helicoid V5 close focus adapter. (Continue to view full photo.)  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Morning Levitation (Trona Pinnacles National Monument, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: Morning Levitation, Trona Pinnacles National Monument, California, USA

It’d been awhile since our last trip to Trona Pinnacles. We’d been engaging in a good amount of chatter around photos we’d taken there — one photo now makes up the cover of a Papa Roach single, and three were on exhibit in a gallery in Mexico — but at least 6 months had passed since we’d last visited.

After a month in the city (Mexico City), we were excited to have some dark skies awaiting us when we returned to California. We brought the whole crew — Tiger, too — and headed north to capture our first Milky Way photos with the a7 II. Tiger had an awesome time, as expected, though he did nearly step on the largest scorpion we’d ever seen in the wild (unbeknownst to him). That kinda ended Tiger’s and my frolicking around in the dark. I took him back to the tent and we hung out inside while Ian continued shooting.

Since Ian was in the process of editing his final video lessons for our latest Skillshare class — Levitation Photography — we couldn’t miss the opportunity to get one more levitation photo in this exotic desert landscape the next morning. We hadn’t tried many in direct sunlight, so the shadow was a bit of a challenge, but the natural landscape made for a nice contrast to all the urban shots we’d been getting for the class. Want to know more about levitation photography? Check out our class on Skillshare — at least watch the intro video; it’s pretty cool — and view sample photos from the class over on The Photon Collective.

This photo was taken on April 24th with the Sony a7 II and Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Almost Famous (Dolcenero Gallery, Mexico City, México)

Dolcenero Gallery: Milky Way photography by Ian Norman, Mexico City, Mexico

I’m a little behind in posting our shots of the week, so this photo is coming at you a month late, but it represents a pretty exciting milestone for Ian as a photographer. It also proves why booking places through Airbnb is so awesome.

So why is this week’s shot of the week a photo of a photo (actually three photos)? Well, we met some seriously cool people in Mexico City last month. One of them, our new friend Rodrigo (whom we met through Airbnb), organized the printing and display of three of Ian’s Milky Way photos in beautiful light boxes — designed and manufactured by Rodrigo himself — in a lovely little gallery called Dolcenero in Mexico City. It’s the first time Ian’s photography has been on public display! This photo is from the opening day of the exhibit.

Note: The post date has been adjusted to appear in chronological order (by the date the photo was taken) on the blog, but I’m actually writing/posting this on May 10, 2015.

This photo was taken on April 12 with my Nexus 5 smart phone. Continue to view full photo and more photos from the exhibit.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Just As She Left Them (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Casa Azul, Mexico City, México)

Shot of the Week: Frida Kahlo Paints (Casa Azul, Mexico City, Mexico)

In all of our travels thus far, I’ve yet to encounter a story as inspirational as Frida Kahlo’s. Polio at 6. A horrendous bus vs. streetcar crash that by some miracle didn’t kill her but robbed Frida of her fertility. A brief affair between her husband and her own flesh and blood. To say that Frida Kahlo had a rough life would be an understatement. But she endured it all, channeling her pain into something beautiful: art.

Despite his unfaithfulness, Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s husband and another famous Mexican artist, clearly loved Frida dearly. After she died, he went to work ensuring that her life — her art, her individuality, her pain — would live on. And that’s what we found here at Casa Azul, the house Diego and Kahlo happily shared for years, now a museum open to the public for a nominal fee.

Upstairs in Casa Azul, we found Frida’s workspace, the place where she painted. A sign tells us that her brushes and paints remain just as she left them before she died. What a lovely, yet eerie thought…

This photo was taken with my Sony RX-100 III. (Continue to view full photo.)  Continue reading