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Chris Kayler's Blog

The blog of Chris Kayler, nature photographer & artist.

"The Oracle" - Foggy Forest in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Chris Kayler

I photographed this scene earlier this year in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. Originally, it was a peaceful foggy scene with fresh spring greens. While processing this image, however, I decided to take a departure from my norm and really try to create something that captured what it felt like to be alone in that quiet, dark, rainy forest. Since I believe that part of the power of photography lies in its ability to depict reality, I want to fully explain what I did while editing this image. First, I did a simple black and white conversion. Once that was done, I gave it a slight blur to create a bit of "glow" and mystery. Next, I added some pretty significant vignetting around the edges to give it the appearance of looking down a tunnel towards brightness. It came out pretty dark and mysterious in mood, which I find represents that trip to the mountains better than the original.

"The Oracle" - A foggy forest in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22mm @ 16mm. 1/15th @ f/13. ISO 800.

Two Black/White Rock Details, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Chris Kayler

Just a simple post with some simple photographs today. I enjoy taking photographs of glorious sunrise and sunset light just as much as the next photographer, but on this particular visit to the Virginia side of Great Falls National Park, the light never came. Since I live so close to Great Falls, I'd typically just head home and catch a nap before starting my day, but on this day I was feeling a bit more inspired and decided to stick around and try to create some interesting photographs of miniature details I could find in the myriad of rocks surrounding the Potomac River. 

"Against the Wall" - Rock detail in Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 22mm. 1 second @ f/11. ISO 200. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Portrait in Grayscale" - Rock detail in Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 22mm. 4 seconds @ f/16. ISO 100, Tripod.

The first image is probably my favorite of the two. I really like the different types of lichen and how they all contrast and play off each other. I made sure to place the white "dominant" looking lichens at key points within the composition. I enjoy the second image because it reminds me of an aerial view of a lava flow. The rock pictured here had a seemingly high content of silica, as it glistened in the light. I intent on revisiting this location in the sun instead of during overcast to see if I can capture all of the sparkles better. 

Editor's Pick at Naturescapes.net for "Medicine"

Chris Kayler

I'm happy to announce that one of my favorite images from the autumn season has received the prestigious Editor's Pick award over at Naturescapes.net. I titled this one "Medicine" as I processed it during some ho-hum winter weather, and it was just the kind of Medicine that I needed at the time. I can still remember myself standing in the cool waters on a mild autumn day deep in the mountains of Tennessee. And what a fond memory it is!

"Medicine", Straight Fork, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, United States

This photograph was taken in the morning along Straight Fork in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The color in the Smokies was quite lackluster (to put it lightly) during the past fall season, but there was still pockets of beautiful color to be found here and there. In this particular location, the lush rhododendrons along the banks helped to kick it up a notch. One of the main issues during this photo excursion was the abundance of high pressure days. During these times of high pressure, not a cloud was seen for days on end. Literally! By arriving at the stream early before direct sunlight filtered in, I managed to capture an image that had beautiful light that was soft, subtle, and directional. On a cloudy day, I would be happy with this image, but it would lack some of the "pop" and complexity that it currently has. The moral of the story: don't give up shooting certain subjects such as streams on sunny days ... just get out there a bit earlier (or later, in the afternoon)!

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm, Polarizer, ISO 400, f/13, 0.8 seconds, Gitzo 1325 Tripod. Blend of two images, one exposure for the sunlit upper left, and one for the rest.

"Curves", Ice Droplets, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, Maryland

Chris Kayler

With the intense cold snap that occurred last week, I took the opportunity to get out and photograph some truly amazing ice patterns. On the first day, I visited McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland, where I found this smooth, curved structure. At first I attempted to photograph the scene with only one capture at f/22 to maximize depth of field. However, my magnification was too high and the scene too minute to adequately record all of the detail from foreground to background. Knowing this, I chose to set my aperture at f/13 and take a series of photographs at different focus points, later blending the five images together in Photoshop. This was my first time using this technique, and it was painfully easy. I will certainly be utilizing it in future situations!

"Curves", Ice Droplets, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, Maryland, United States.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 @ 163mm, 500D Close-up Diopter, ISO 100, f/13, 0.4 seconds, Gitzo 1325 Tripod. Five images focused at different points, later blended together in Photoshop CS6.

"People of the Place of Flint", Mohawk Falls, Rickett's Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Chris Kayler

Just a quick picture to post for tonight. This image is of Mohawk Falls in Rickett's Glen State Park, Pennsylvania. One of the first of 22 named waterfalls along one of the park's relatively short hiking trails. That's right, 22 substantial waterfalls! This place rocks. A photographer's paradise. During my quick visit, dusk was quickly approaching. Using the "shade" of dusk, I was able to shoot on what would have been a bright and sunny day without capturing distracting shadows. Additionally, I was able to control the contrast found within this scene, from bright highlights in the water to dark shadows within the crevices of the rocks. In bright sun, this is simply not possible without taking several exposures and blending them together in Photoshop.

"People of the Place of Flint", Mohawk Falls, Rickett's Glen State Park, Pennsylvania, United States.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22mm @ 13mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1.3 seconds. Gitzo 1325. Polarizer.

Editor's Pick at Naturescapes.Net for "Hope Remains"

Chris Kayler

What a great couple of weeks! I've been out shooting often in this lovely summer weather, and have been quite happy with the results. I am honored to announce that another one of my new images, "Hope Remains" has won Editor's Pick over at Naturescapes.Net. Cool! The image is of an adult Great Blue Heron fishing in the immense rapids of Great Falls National Park, Virginia. This area is close to my home, and one of my favorite locations to photograph at. There is definitely something to be said to visiting a location over and over again in order to learn every little detail about it. Thanks to my familiarity, I knew that there was a Great Blue Heron rookery up the river from the falls, and that both adults and youngsters would be fishing in large numbers during a 1.5 month span in the middle of summer. Making multiple trips to Great Falls during that time allowed me to find these herons in some really interesting locations. Using my 70-200 f/4 lens, I chose to shoot this image rather wide and at a relatively slow shutter speed to incorporate the beautiful flowing water around the heron.

"Hope Remains" - Great Blue Heron fishing in Great Falls National Park, Virginia, United States.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 145mm, ISO 200, f/11, 2 seconds. Gitzo 1325 tripod.

"The Inevitable Conclusion" - Sunset at Lindy Point, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Chris Kayler

All lines lead to the same outcome. As it were, during this lovely summer sunset in the mountains of West Virginia, the lines in the clouds lead to a gripping open space on the horizon. I used this great luck, composing my image so that this brightly colored rock in the foreground led right into that open space within the image. Combined with the amazing stack to the left, and your eye will bounce around within this one for quite some time. I love it when things come together! When out photographing, always be actively aware of these situations. Doing so may just take your photography from being a mere snapshot to an artfully composed beauty.

"The Inevitable Conclusion", Sunset at Lindy Point Overlook, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1.6 seconds. Gitzo 1325 tripod. Blend of two images, one exposure for the sky and one exposure for the foreground.

Editor's Pick at Naturescapes.Net for "Summer's Flow"

Chris Kayler

Just wanted to post a quick message to alert readers to my most recent accomplishment. My image, "Summer's Flow" has received the prestigious Editor's Pick award within the Landscape Gallery at Naturescapes.net. If you haven't checked out Naturescapes.net, I urge you to do so. The forums contained on this website are alive and vibrant with many helpful and skilled photographers. It is truly a helpful community to be a part of. For those of you that haven't seen it, here is the winning image.

"Summer's Flow" - Summertime Waterfall in Rickett's Glen State Park, Pennsylvania, United States.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 @ 12mm, ISO 200, 8 seconds @ f/11. Gitzo Tripod. Polarizer.

Silence in Chaos - Great Blue Heron Amid Rapids in Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Chris Kayler

Hello world! I've been busy photographing quite often this summer in Great Falls National Park, Virginia. This image was taken from the Virginia side, and depicts a seemingly contemplative bird pondering who-knows-what! He stood in this location for about an hour, but only a few images made the cut that had the right light, head position, and good water flow. The rest ... ruthlessly deleted!

Silence In Chaos - Great Blue Heron Amid Rapids in the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Tech Specs: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 @ 200mm, ISO 100, .3 seconds @ f/22. Gitzo Tripod. Polarizer.

Winter Beech Forest, Scott's Run Nature Preserve, Virginia

Chris Kayler

Finally! I have obtained an image of my favorite local forest, Scott's Run Nature Preserve. Long time reader's of this blog may be shaking their head and thinking, "Finally! Chris Kayler decided to make a post again." Yes, I have been absent for what seems like ages, and before that, not really posting much. Well, guys, after a pretty long hiatus from photography, I think I am finally feeling dat mojo again. I have big plans this year. Onto the good stuff ... As mentioned, this image was taken at Scott's Run Nature Preserve in Northern Virginia. Who knew? Nestled next to scenic Route 495 (aka the beltway, aka the stuff of nightmares) lies this unassuming little forest close to the banks of the Potomac River. Ever since I found this location as a young photographer, I knew that I wanted to capture the best images of it that I could manage. The most coveted image I had in my mind was that of the beech trees covered in snow. After 10 years, I finally nailed it. One would think that this would be an easy task, yes? Wrong. The branches of the beech tree are thin and feeble, not holding snow particularly well. Every year, year after year, I would try to photograph this area after snow storms. Even with 8 inches of snow falling overnight, the place just looked barren. Only with the help of this mild little storm, where the temperature held close to 32 degrees (it was practically raining), and with absolutely no wind, was the snow able to cling to every tiny little branch. A photographer's dream. Walking through the abandoned woods I manage to somehow tune out the sounds of honking, slush, and engine braking, and only hear (or, maybe, remember) the pitter patter of fresh snow falling lightly onto the forest floor.

Scott's Run Nature Preserve in Snow, Virginia, United States.

Technical Spectacles: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 70mm, 1.3 seconds @ f/16, ISO 200.