Yes, those are real prehistoric bones, and yes, that is a real skull of a saber-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis.
I took this photo at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. They have a block of resin with these bones embedded in it to show the average density of bones in the asphalt of the tar pits. FYI, there is no tar in the tar pits, it’s all asphalt.
The resin block is in a glass case. To prevent reflecting yourself in a photo, put the end of your lens directly on the glass. And play around with angles and background light sources to get different lighting effects in the resin. The light coming through windows and glass doors changes throughout the day, so keep checking for interesting lighting.
You are not allowed to use tripods anywhere in the building, so bring a string tripod or monopod. Because of the lighting, you will need to use a high ISO or slow shutter speed. And be sure to check out the atrium. It’s small, but packed with many things to photograph.
Sometimes, when you’re shooting nature, you get a happy surprise. That’s the case with this photo of a female Sago Palm cone. Male cones are more, well, cone shaped. Like a pine cone.
I came across this palm several years ago in the atrium of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. And I was lucky because Sago Palms only produce flowers once every three to four years. When I went back five years later, there was no bloom.
I like shooting the natural world for several reasons, including the surprises you encounter. They can be exciting, beautiful, dangerous or something that will challenge your photography skills.
If your shooting nature, be flexible, creative and ready to solve problems so a disadvantage becomes an advantage.
I don’t encounter fog very often in Arizona, so when I do I take as many photos as I can.
This photo was taken on the road that leads up to Snowbowl, a ski area near Flagstaff. Half way up the road we drove into light fog. We quickly parked and I grabbed my gear and ran a short distance up the road when I saw this.
I thought the composition was great as it could mean different things to different people. Some may see the large trees protecting the small yellow aspen, while others may see them threatening it. I just like the way the green aspens nicely framed the yellow one.
When I processed the image, I thought of making the yellow leaves very bright, but that wouldn’t look right for an image in fog, so I left them a little muted.
I managed to take this photo, and one other, when suddenly the sun burned off the fog. I only had about fifteen minutes of fog before it was gone, but it was a great surprise.
Always be prepared to take advantage of any pleasant surprise that nature gives you.
These aspens are growing in a burn scar. While a forest fire is a tragedy, it clears out all the trees and brush from an area, so when the aspens quickly grow back, and change color, you can easily see their beautiful leaves.
The other day I was getting some firework photos ready for a stock site and had a real surprise. I noticed a bright area at the bottom left of the photo. At first, I thought it was light reflecting off of smoke, but when I zoomed in I saw that I had captured a lightning bolt during the show.
How often do you get a skyrocket exploding with lighting in the background?
I made some adjustments in ON1 Photo RAW to bring out the lightning. What do you think of the image?
What happy surprises have you found in your photos?
While shooting on a sunny day is nice, I also love shooting in “bad” weather. I’ve photographed in rain, lightning storms, snow, wind, fog, blowing dust and sand and more. All of these weather conditions really add an interesting element to your photographs.
As long as you have the proper clothes to protect yourself, and covering for your gear, you can have a great time.
These photos were taken near Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona. It had been raining before we got there, and rained off and on all day.
The only scary part of the day was when a large aspen tree fell. We heard it snapping branches on other trees as it fell, followed by a loud thud as it crashed onto the ground. We never did find the tree, but it was close. Nature always keeps things interesting, so stay on your toes.
This photograph was taken at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, https://btarboretum.org. It’s a great place to photograph plants, trees, birds, flowers, old buildings and some great scenery.
I liked the patina on the bell, and the texture of the rocks. The shadows from tree branches also added a touch of mystery. I used the rule of thirds to get good composition, and to make blank space on the right. This space can be used by a business to add text to the image for a sales or marketing campaign, or in a magazine article.
If composition allows, take several photos of your subject, each with space on a different side. And shoot both horizontally and vertically. This increases the usability for any potential buyer.
Here are some sunset photos I took at Laguna Beach, California. What I like about the first photo is how it’s a little blown out on the left. It gives the appearance of the photo fading into the distance.
Do you remember the photo of sunglasses I posted a couple weeks ago? That shot was taken a little to the right of this image.
The second photo uses water on the sand to reflect the colors of the sunset. This brings the colors of the sunset into more of the photo.
When shooting sunsets, don’t stop after the sun goes below the horizon. Some of my best sunset shots, especially at the Grand Canyon, were done after the sun has set. The sky can really light up, especially if there are clouds. And remember to look all around to see what the light is doing both in front of you and behind you.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these photos, or photography in general.