My Top Ten Images from 2011

I had many opportunities last year to visit many places, near and far.  Looking back at the collection from last year allows me to reflect on the places I visited, images I took and photographic technique I developed over the year; to see what happened, what worked and what did not; and most important to develop my goals and list of things to focus on for 2012.

Here are my top ten most favorite images from 2011 in no particular order.

Image #1: February winter storm dumped more than a feet of snow overnight and made Yosemite Valley a Winter Wonderland.

Cook's Meadow after Morning Snow Storm - Yosemite National Park

Cook's Meadow after Morning Snow Storm - Yosemite National Park

Image #2: This shot was taken on the first day Tioga Pass opened for the season and in that evening I was greeted by this breathtaking alpenglow.

Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake - Yosemite National Park

Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake - Yosemite National Park

Image #3: The scene was so tranquil and the water was so calm that it perfectly reflected every details of the mountain and glacier.

Victoria Glacier Reflection in Emerald Blue Water of Lake Louise - Banff National Park, Canada

Victoria Glacier Reflection in Emerald Blue Water of Lake Louise - Banff National Park, Canada

Image #4: Sunrise over volcanic landscape in East Java, Indonesia.  The cumulonimbus clouds caught the first rays and turned pink framing Mount Semeru in the background.

Bromo Sunrise - Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia

Bromo Sunrise - Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia

Image #5: The blue fire of Kawah Ijen.  Burning liquid sulfur produced the blue fire which could be seen at night and in early morning.

Sulfur Mining and Blue Fires from Burning Liquid Sulfur - Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia

Sulfur Mining and Blue Fires from Burning Liquid Sulfur - Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia

Image #6:  Low cloud formed in the Bromo Savannah vallry. The jeep kicking up dust on dirt road gave this place a sense of scale and how low the cloud was.

Low Cloud over Bromo Savannah - Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesiasca

Low Cloud over Bromo Savannah - Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia

Image 7: One of the only few panorama images I took this year. The miner was carrying about 80 kilograms of solid sulfur on his shoulder from the mine at the bottom of the crater near the lake, up the steep slope to the rim, and he still had another 3 kilometers down the mountain to the drop-off area.

Ijen Crater, Sulfur Mine and Acid Lake Panorama - Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia

Ijen Crater, Sulfur Mine and Acid Lake Panorama - Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia

Image 8: Last total lunar eclipse of 2o11 and the next one will not be until 2014.  The copper-red moon was at totality just before dawn break.

Total Lunar Eclipse over the City of San Jose - California

Total Lunar Eclipse over the City of San Jose - California

Image 9: The tufas stood out against dark-color water of Mono Lake at sunrise.

Early Morning at South Tufa - Mono Lake, California

Early Morning at South Tufa - Mono Lake, California

Image 10: The famous sailing stone at the Racetrack playa in Death Valley National Park at sunrise.  The colorful cloud pattern help enhance and complement the stone track.

Racetrack Playa's Sailing Stone at Dawn - Death Valley National Park, California

Racetrack Playa's Sailing Stone at Dawn - Death Valley National Park, California

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Quadrantid Meteor Shower Tonight!

The Quadrantid meteor shower is expected to peak tonight at around 11:20pm PST January 3rd (or 2:20am EST January 4th) with more than 100 meteors per hour.  Get more details at spaceweather.com.  Clear sky!

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CanonSGLens App for iOS Devices

If you are a Canon user and using one of the Apple devices, make sure you check out the CanonSGLens app on iTunes (link).  Some useful tools and references includ DOF calculator, MTBF charts and lens specs.

Description from the App Store

CanonSGLens is a free Canon Singapore App that features detailed lens specifications of all Canon EF and EF-S lenses sold in Singapore. The application also contains a unique interactive simulator that allows you to compare the field of view of two camera-lens combinations whereby the cameras and lenses can be any Canon EOS digital SLR and lens.

—————
Featured Content
—————

  • Detailed lens specifications of all Canon EF and EF-S lenses sold in Singapore.
  • Compare lens specifications side by side, with differences indicated.
  • Compare high resolution MTF charts.
  • Compare high resolution lens construction diagrams.
  • Field of View simulator featuring multiple photos taken of the same scene in Singapore using different camera-lens combinations.
  • Depth of Field simulator.
  • Depth of Field calculator.
  • In-depth topic with interactive simulators explaining how aperture and shutterspeed affect exposure, depth of field, and motion blur in the various exposure modes.

———–
App Features
———–

  • Highly visual interactive simulators
  • Bookmark your favourite pages
  • Add your own notes to any page
  • Content optimized for both portrait and landscape orientations
  • No Internet connection required
  • Powered by the 123di content visualization engine
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Shade of Autumn

Shade of Autumn at Conway Summit - Eastern Sierra, California

Shade of Autumn at Conway Summit - Eastern Sierra, California

The Eastern Sierra was blazing with fall colors last weekend.  The Aspen trees were at their peak colors almost everywhere, from North of Lee Vining at Conway Summit, at Lundy Canyon, June Lake Loop and further South at Convict Lake.  There is nothing like backlit Aspen, which just seem to glow like a flaming torch.  Unfortunately, this means you have to deal with the sun in front of you which can cause glare and lens flare.  Simply using your hands or a hat to shade your lens will solve this problem though.

I found this Aspen grove at Conway Summit particularly attractive.  A row of Aspen trees with the foliage at different stages – from flaming orange, to gold, to lime green – giving it a nice color gradient; and hence the name of this photo “Shade of Autumn”.

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Fall Foliage and Mount Robson Before the Storm

Fall Foliage and Mount Robson Before the Storm

Fall Foliage and Mount Robson Before the Storm

This was from my trip to the Canadian Rockies a couple weeks ago.  It was raining every now and then throughout the day and I wondered, while driving from Jasper to Mount Robson, whether I will get to see the mountain or not.  When I arrived at the visitor center, I caught a glimpse of Mount Robson before it was shrouded by the cloud.  The Aspen trees were already turning brigh yellow.  It looked like I might get a break in the weather and there was potential to get some good images with the Aspen trees and Mt Robson as the backdrop, so I decided to wait it out and took half an hour nap in my car.  When I woke up, the cloud thinned out to reveal Mount Robson.  I could see more thick cloud started to roll in though so I had to work quickly.  Suddenly the sun shone through and lid up the Aspen.  The vibrant colors from fall foliage contrasts nicely with the stormy look in the background.  I only managed to fire a few shots before it was gone and Mount Robson disappeared again behind the cloud, but I knew I had my image.

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Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake

Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake

Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake

Tioga Pass, the highway that crosses Yosemite National Park over the Sierra Nevada, opened for the season last Saturday.  There was still a lot of snow along the pass, as well as abundant amount of water and many waterfalls resulted from Spring thaw.  One of my favorite spots along this road is Tenaya lake, one of many alpine lakes in Yosemite high country.
I drove pass the lake early in the day.  It was mid-June but ice still covered about 80% of the lake.  It was a very calm day and the water surface was as reflective as a mirror.  Looking at the sun position, I made a note to come back here for sunset as there seemed to be a huge potential.  I returned to the lake again about 20 minutes before sunset to get my camera setup.  The sunset came and went without any fanfare.  I end up with a relatively cool tone sunset shot of the lake below.
Calm Evening at Partially Frozen Tenaya Lake

Calm Evening at Partially Frozen Tenaya Lake

I thought I would call it a day and started to pack my gears away.  As I was putting my bags back in my car, I had a quick glance at the sky in the East and noticed the cloud started to glow pink.  It was a quick scramble to get my tripod and camera bag out again.  Another photographer noticed the sky but said it was a pity he should be at the other end (West end) of the lake to capture this light and walked away.  I insisted on setting up my camera anyway and that effort paid off.  The color glowed more intensely and started to expand westward.  Within a few minutes, alpenglow turned the entire sky pink!  The photo on the top was shot at around 15 minutes after official sunset time.  Oh… and the same photographer now ran back trying to get his shot 🙂
Technical Data (Alpenglow over Tenaya Lake):
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
  • ISO: 200
  • F-number: 11
  • Shutter Speed: 2 second
Technical Data (Calm Evening at Partially Frozen Tenaya Lake):
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
  • ISO: 100
  • F-number: 16
  • Shutter Speed: 0.8 second
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Half Dome by Moonlight and Leo Constellation

Half Dome by Moonlight and Leo Constellation

Half Dome by Moonlight and Leo Constellation

Half Dome lid up by moonlight with Leo, the Lion, constellation rose high above the Yosemite icon.  The moon was a few days passed its first quarter phase and was bright enough to cast a strong shadow on the ground.

This was the first frame in a series of similar scenes.  It supposed to be a test frame to check my exposure setting but it turned out to be my most favorite of the set.

Technical Data:
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D
  • Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM
  • ISO: 3200
  • F-number: 1.4
  • Shutter Speed: 4 seconds
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Sky on Fire

Sky on Fire

Sky on Fire

We were driving on I-80 heading back to Reno after a long day on the mountain at one of the Lake Tahoe ski resorts.  The sky was mostly cloudy and grey.  Suddenly there was a break in the cloud on the horizon and the sky started to glow yellow, orange and then fiery red.

Turning the clock back a few days earlier, I contemplated leaving all my camera set at home and going up with just only my snowboard gears.  I changed my mind on the last minute to grab a camera body, a few lenses and stuffed them in my smaller backpack.  I was fortunate to be in the front passenger seat and my backpack was in the seat right behind when this happened.

Just a reminder to carry camera set all the time, even it is a minimal one. You never know what you will run into.

Technical Data:
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D
  • Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM
  • ISO: 500
  • F-number: 9.0
  • Shutter Speed: 1/100
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Jupiter and Crescent Moon Conjunction

Jupiter and Crescent Moon Conjunction

Jupiter and Crescent Moon Conjunction

Last Sunday evening, the thin crescent moon was prominent in the sky.  It was also accompanied by a bright object not too far from it – Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet in the Solar System.
When I set up this shot, I know I want to capture the earthshine.  Earthshine is the night side of the moon, i.e. not in direct sunlight, illuminated by the reflection of light from the Earth and can be seen shortly before or after the new moon.  I also want Jupiter and other stars to be sharp and not as star trails, which means shutter speed of only a few seconds at most at 200mm focal length.  In order to accomplish this, I need a long enough shutter speed to expose the earthshine but short enough to keep Jupiter and stars as pinpoints.  The final setting is 1 second of exposure @ f/4.0 ISO 500.
Juniper is the bright spot on the left in the image above.  Also clearly visible are the three Jovian’s moons – Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.  Io is barely visible in the high-res image.  The streak towards the middle of the image is a satellite fly-by.
Technical Data:
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
  • ISO: 500
  • F-number: 4
  • Shutter Speed: 1 second
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