Zion National Park: Pretty, and then some…

I recently had the opportunity to travel down to Zion National Park with fellow photog Kevin Winzeler to check out the fall foliage at its peak. The Box Elder and Cottonwood trees were going off, making for beautiful yellows, contrasting against the red rock. Unfortunately, an unusual cold spell had pretty much stripped the maples of their red leaves, leaving the color palette somewhat one-dimensional.

Fall foliage at Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park

Fall foliage at Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park

I’m a bit embarrassed to say this was my first time down to Zion. It didn’t disappoint, but it did overwhelm to a certain degree. Much like any other iconic photo location, Zion presents a challenge in finding original identifiable images. Identifiable is the key word there, as there are photo ops around literally every corner in this impressive national park. The majority of people, however, enjoy seeing images of something they recognize. As a photographer, you must answer the question as to whether you want to shoot something a little more common that sells, or something a little more obscure that may give you a greater satisfaction in creating. A little bit of both was the order of this trip, and I tried to balance my shooting time between the customary and the innovative.

A different take on Temple of the Virgin at Zion National Park, UT

A different take on Temple of the Virgin at Zion National Park, UT

The one thought I had while shooting in Zion over a short 3-day period is that you really must put in your time not only to research the locations, but, more than anything, to hopefully luck out with some dramatic weather. We were stuck with clear skies whether we liked it or not, which made for good bounce light in the Narrows, but uninteresting sunrise and sunset shoots otherwise. You see so many shots from places like Zion, that you really must score unusual weather conditions if you hope to come away with something unique and memorable. My suggestion is to try and get down there for a couple weeks at a time, but it just wasn’t in the cards for this father of two this time around.

Countless photo opportunties abound in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

Countless photo opportunties abound in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

An intense, warm glow is the result of reflected light bouncing off canyon walls high above in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

An intense, warm glow is the result of reflected light bouncing off canyon walls high above in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

One of the shooting opportunities most unique to Zion is found in the Narrows. Carved over time by nothing more than rushing water, this deep slot canyon harbors a plethora of otherworldly images just waiting to be captured. It’s not too common to see direct sunlight in the Narrows, but high canyon walls serve as perfect natural reflectors, sending bounce light to and fro, creating colorful glows in unusual places. Should you decide to venture this way, be prepared to wade through ankle to thigh deep (and sometimes deeper) water the entirety of the canyon. Bring a sturdy tripod, and don’t forget your polarizing filter.

Fall foliage and red rock in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

Fall foliage and red rock in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

One particularly helpful tool I had with me on this trip was my Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Combining a polarizer and color intensifier filter, there’s no better way to bring out the color in the leaves and red rock walls, all the while taking the glare off the water for a complete image.

Fall color and emerald water from the Virgin river shot with a Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, UT

Fall color and emerald water from the Virgin river shot with a Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, UT

Although not surprising, I was a bit shocked at the sheer number of photographers down in Zion during the display of fall color. Iconic locations like Temple of the Virgin and The Watchman were extremely crowded at sunrise and sunset. It is a bit unnerving to have so many other photogs around, but we all have our own creative vision, and really, in the end, it’s great to see so many people passionate about photography and its ability to tell a story. Be prepared to arrive very early to your iconic locations if you want to have the pick of the litter for your tripod spot.

Photographers line up to shoot The Watchman as sunset approaches in Zion National Park, UT

Photographers line up to shoot The Watchman as sunset approaches in Zion National Park, UT

While I had hoped for a bit more drama in the weather, it’s tough to complain about a place as beautiful as Zion. Just like so many of our National Parks, it truly is a treasure.

Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker shooting in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT p: Kevin Winzeler

Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker shooting in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT p: Kevin Winzeler

ABP Black Friday Sale!

Christmas Sale Gif

Forget the senseless overhead purse beatings from crotchety grandmas hellbent on finding the latest Tickle Me Elmo for their grandson. Someone needs to tell them that was 2002…

Enjoy a more refined shopping experience for some of the finer things in life at our first annual Black Friday sale. Take an additional 10% off the already STEEP discounts on our Christmas Sale items. You’ll find framed, limited edition prints ranging in size from 12 x 18 to 20 x 30 at ridiculously low prices!  Additionally, enjoy a 20% discount on any custom order of framed or matted prints, whatever the size, whatever the image.

This special Black Friday offer lasts only through Sunday, 12 pm MST.

Confessions of a Pro Photographer

On a near daily basis I receive emails from aspiring photographers, curious as to how I made it to where I am and if I have any advice that may help them in their quest. It is both humbling and gratifying to know that others think my thoughts have enough merit to better them as a budding photographer and business person. Let me be clear that I feel I am by no means “there” as a photographer, but I feel that I’m certainly somewhere on the way to “there”. I know I’m much closer to “there” than I was two or three years ago.

Photographer Adam Barker walking with Gitzo tripod during a commercial photographer shoot in Sun Valley, ID

Photographer Adam Barker walking with Gitzo tripod during a commercial photography shoot in Sun Valley, ID. p: Jay Burke

The truth of the matter is this: if you’re reading this blog post, we are very much alike. We have far more in common than you could likely imagine. I am still very much clawing my way to greatness, but I can recall, when I was just taking my first steps into the unknown that defines a green photographer’s career, wondering what went through the brain of one more seasoned than I. For those of you perhaps in that same situation now, here’s a glimpse into my psyche as a person and a photographer. Whether you’re a seasoned vet, or a newbie to this fine medium, I’d love for you to add your own confession in the comments field if you like.

Photographer Adam Barker discussing technique during an instructional DVD shoot with Master Photo Workshops. p: Greg McKean

Photographer Adam Barker discussing technique during an instructional DVD shoot with Master Photo Workshops. p: Greg McKean

1. I sometimes wonder if I can do this for the rest of my life, and continue producing exceptional imagery.

2. My 3-yr old son knows I’m a photographer, and I love it.

3. I dream of shooting large format film one day–just for fun.

Photographer Adam Barker with Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. p: Bryan Gregson

Photographer Adam Barker with Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. p: Bryan Gregson

4. I hate the “look at me” part of showing my work to potential clients and friends.

5. But I have figured out the difference between arrogant ego-padding, and proper self promotion.

6. There is no better motivator to work hard than knowing I have to provide for my family.

7. There is no better motivator to push my photography than knowing I’m surrounded (everywhere) by exceptional photographers.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting Agua Canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. p: Drew Stoecklein

Photographer Adam Barker shooting Agua Canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. p: Drew Stoecklein

8. I am ridiculously anal about having tack sharp images. I throw away most anything that isn’t tack when it’s supposed to be.

9. I, too, have an equipment wish list a mile long.

10. I love to teach photography. Someday I hope to make that a more significant part of my job.

Photographer Adam Barker reviewing images on Canon camera at a commercial shoot in Sun Valley, ID p: Jay Burke

Photographer Adam Barker reviewing images on Canon camera at a commercial shoot in Sun Valley, ID p: Jay Burke

11. My favorite time to shoot is sunrise, when everything is quiet and Mother Nature is the one doing the talking.

12. I am constantly wondering if I’m good enough. I have learned to deal with this in a positive way, and I hope this sentiment never leaves me.

13. I use gear I believe in, not just gear I get for free. That doesn’t mean I don’t love free stuff.

14. I am screwed without my Grad ND filters. Really.

15. My office is a freakin’ mess.

16. One of my greatest inspirations has always been David Muench.

17. The day goes by so much quicker when I’m working for myself. That’s not always a good thing.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting a Lamborghini Murcielago during a commercial shoot on the Bonneville Salt Flats, UT. p: David Watkins

Photographer Adam Barker shooting a Lamborghini Murcielago during a commercial shoot on the Bonneville Salt Flats, UT. p: David Watkins

18.  I am afraid of flash photography.

19.  My workflow is a freakin’ mess.

20. I think my favorite places to shoot are National Parks. They are so beautiful and grand. I wish I could have been around when they weren’t quite so crowded, but it’s great to see people out there enjoying them.

Pushing Boundaries

This past week I was approached by a good friend to do a car shoot for an upcoming charitable project of his. The car? A 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago in a stunning metallic green color. It’s tough to shoot a bad picture of this car, but then again, I’d never tackled a shoot even remotely close to this one, so I was a bit apprehensive.

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

I decided to head out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for some dramatic scenery that would (hopefully) put me in somewhat of a familiar element and add some drama to the standard cool car shot. I really had no idea what I was doing as far as car photography was concerned, but I knew if I had good light, and good surroundings, that I could make something work.

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Conditions were crystal clear, making for uninteresting skies on the one hand, and predictable, consistent light on the other. Equipment used was nothing too fancy–a ladder and 30″ reflector. That’s it. I’m comfortable shooting natural light, so I chose to stick with natural light. I also used my Singh Ray Grad ND filters pretty heavily–a nice skill set to have if you’re not too familiar with artificial lighting.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

In the end, I was quite pleased with the way things turned out. While I’m sure there are distinguishing eyes out there that could certainly point out some weak spots in the images, I’m fairly content with the results. What did I learn from this shoot? Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. After all, it’s still photography, and you’re still you and you’ve still got your style. Remember the basics, and focus on what you do know, not what you don’t know. I know how to use what Mother Nature has cooked up to give me memorable and meaningful images, and just as this has worked so many times in so many locations around the world, it worked on the Salt Flats. What a cool place to do a shoot! The landscape grew more and more eccentric as the sun dropped nearer the horizon. And in the end, I truly think it was the location that made the shots. Thanks to David Watkins for the photos of me shooting!

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago and Porsche Boxter S at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT