24 Hours in Yosemite

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Bryan Minear

As I sat on a plane bound for San Francisco, staring down some 40,000 feet to the clouds passing underneath me, excitement and anticipation filled my soul. It was the beginning of a journey – an epic adventure creating unique images and memories. I hoped that this pilgrimage with fellow photographers would live up to my expectations, and further inspire me to follow my dreams.bm_7After being awake for 30 hours, we arrived at dusk. On the way into Yosemite, we stopped off at tunnel view. It was my first glimpse of California that wasn’t being hidden away by the night. The rock faces lit up underneath a sea of endless stars. In that moment, it all felt like a dream. I was now experiencing this miraculous destination that I had experienced so many times before through someone else’s eyes. We spent an hour shooting before heading to drop off our bags and get settled in our condo. At 4:30 AM, we were off to glacier point to prepare for our first sunrise.bm_5I stared into the face of half dome, brilliant and gleaming in front of me. In some ways, I was taking a photo that millions of people had taken before me – but at the same time, I took pause to remember that the beauty of photography is that each moment captured is infinite and unique in its own way.bm_2The sun began to glow, and I was able to catch the last few stars in the sky over half dome.  My X-Pro2 clicked away on a timelapse and my X-T2 shifted in my hand as I tried to find my perfect composition. I was awaiting the shot that I was planning on taking since the trip’s inception.

“First light over half dome” is something that I had wanted to see for myself since I knew Yosemite existed. My lens of choice for the perfect capture was the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS. It gave me the versatility I needed to grab a few shots at various focal lengths in order to choose my shot in post.

After a short and much-needed nap, we ventured down into the valley to see the golden light as it passed over us. Fall color was in full swing and there was a slight chill to the air, only further enhancing the experience. We found a spot along the Merced River with a beautiful view of half dome reflected in the water. Along a nearby boardwalk, we took in Yosemite Falls as it towered above us. The falls were not supposed to be running at this time of year, but luckily, a storm passed through the night before we arrived, giving the falls a second wind.bm_6I framed up a shot with a 10-stop ND and 3-stop ND Grad to get some cloud and water movement. Shooting long exposures during the day is one of my favorite things to do because it gives me some time to enjoy the scene around me. Oftentimes I get so caught up in getting the shot that I don’t “see” things for myself. The photos are the best way to relive the moment, sure. But it’s equally as important to live in the moment and enjoy your surroundings.bm_4As the light started to drop in the sky, I shifted into creative mode trying to make the absolute most of the light that I have left. I set up another timelapse in front of the half dome with my X-Pro2, and with my X-T2 and XF16mmF1.4 R WR attached, I began walking around finding different compositions to maximize my last few moments.bm_1Over the course of the next few days I experienced close to all that Yosemite and the surrounding area had to offer: Taft Point, the 7,503 ft lookout point, Tioga Pass, and the desert-laden Eastern Sierras that lie just outside of Yosemite proper. The trip was full of friendship, laughter, and best of all, amazing scenes to photograph.

Backyard Bokeh: Find Everyday Inspiration!

By Seth K. Hughes

As someone who has traveled 50,000 miles in the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize you don’t have to go far to have fun and make great photos. Truth is, no matter where you live, all you have to do is step outside your back door. I guarantee that if you slow down and look closely at what’s around you, you’ll find many interesting subjects. Whether it’s literally in your backyard, in the nearest park, or an adorable pet —these things are right there under your nose just waiting to be noticed.New Orleans, LouisianaWhile visiting Louisiana, I headed out with my weather-resistant FUJIFILM X-Pro2. Within just a few yards I found leaves, flowers, insects, frogs, and my beloved pooch Emma. Admittedly, I wasn’t feeling very inspired in the beginning. At first glance, there was nothing particularly interesting about my environment. I walked out my door, down a paved road and stumbled upon a nondescript nature path. I had to force myself to slow down and peer into places I would otherwise have overlooked. By the end of the shoot, I was having a blast.Mckinney State Park, Austin, TXI recommend keeping it simple and just grabbing your camera and one or two lenses (tripod optional).xIMG_3399I chose my FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R APD prime lens known for its sharpness, clarity and beautiful bokeh effects. The FUJINON lens lineup pairs perfectly with – and optimizes – the X Series camera system. This APD prime is the only lens I’ve ever used that ships with its own apodization filter (think ND filter) which creates smooth bokeh outlines and enhances the three dimensional feel of an image. To maximize the bokeh capabilities and create a macro-lens aesthetic, I opened the lens up all the way to f/1.2 and manually set the focus to its closest distance. Then I just explored and moved the camera in and out on various objects. When I found something I liked, I framed up an interesting composition and further refined the focal point.

**Lighting tip: look for subjects in the open shade or go out on an overcast day. This will ensure your light is soft, your colors are enhanced and your exposure values are under control.New Orleans, LouisianaThe other lens was the venerable XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR which is one of the best lenses available today for image quality and stabilization. I find this lens to be excellent all around and I’ve always enjoyed shooting portraits in this focal range. Enter my beloved brindle boxer — Emma. She emerged in a bed of flowers and I instantly had a muse!New Orleans, LouisianaI found close to a dozen pictures in under an hour while I was just meandering around. It really pays to take your time (and your camera) and absorb whichever features happen to be around you. You will see the beauty and details in everyday life. I guarantee you’ll find something interesting.

Backpacking India with Danny Fernandez

By Danny Fernandez
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During the first half of 2014, I decided to pack my bags, say goodbye to what I knew as ‘life’ and spend 3 months traveling around Northern India. This blog is to share my journey with you. All my images were shot on the FUJIFILM X100S and processed in Lightroom.

Varanasi, or ‘the holy city of India‘ sits on the banks of the river Ganges, in Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi (or Banaras) is known for being the most spiritual part of India, and this is reflected by the amount of devotees attending various religious ceremonies every day. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It became my home for 6 weeks, and this is my experience of it.

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My entire trip was somewhat based around a 6 week stay volunteering in Varanasi. Allow me to backtrack for a moment and explain:

A year before arriving in India I was going through a bit of a rough time, and decided that I needed something to focus on; something new, exciting and adventurous. It had been 5 years since I had last strapped on my backpack and been for a ‘big trip’. As I had always wanted to visit India, and always wanted to volunteer, I began googling ‘volunteering in India’. After getting over the shock of the extortionate price asked by many charities to volunteer, I added in the keyword ‘Free’ to my Google search. After reading through a few posts, I found an article titled ‘top 1o places to volunteer for free, in India’ (or something along those lines). At last I found a company called Fairmail. In a nutshell, Fairmail works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, trains them in photography, encourages them to explore their creativity and take photos which are in turn made into greeting cards and sold worldwide. The children receive a percentage of the sales, which pays for their education, housing, medical etc.

I applied to become a volunteer there, and joined the 12 month waiting list.

Fast forward 12 months and I step off an 18 hr train journey tired and hungry (I had forgotten to bring snacks so had bought some spicy bombay mix which served me as lunch, dinner and breakfast).

I was met by Dhiraj, a former student and one of the managers of Fairmail Varanasi. As we were driving to my guesthouse, the first thing which hit me was the apparent lack of any kind of road rules. I had felt the same way when I first arrived in Delhi, but this was next level when it came to driving. The roads were a mess of rickshaws, excrement, bikes, potholes and goats.

It took quite a few days to adapt to the pace of Varanasi. I remember constantly being on edge as I walked around during the first few days, as at any one time you could: Get charged by a cow/get run down by a car, motorbike or rickshaw. This was mixed with the constant loud noise of the traffic,  the ceaseless bombardment of flies, and the heat (which reached a scorching 47°C while I was there. Let that settle in for a moment. Forty seven degrees). Varanasi is not the place to go and relax.

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I’m aware that I may be sounding negative, but for all the stresses and difficulties faced, there were many moments of beauty.

The city sits on the banks of the ‘holy river’ – the Ganga. Each morning devotees awake early to bathe in the river and each night, Aarti is performed, where priests perform music while burning incense in front of the eyes of hundreds of followers. It is truly a beautiful sight.

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The first 3 weeks of my stay were spent in a guest house in Assi Ghat (Ghats are essentially temples, which line the Ganges river). During my last 3 weeks, I decided to move into the Fairmail office, in Nagwa (a village to the south of the Ghats). My experience here was great, as it allowed me to glimpse into the lives of those living in this area. As I was living in the office, I was also able to spend much more time with my students of Fairmail.

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My experience volunteering at Fairmail was also excellent. Alongside other volunteers, we taught the students lots of useful tips for taking better photos. One thing which I contributed was the use of flash photography in their work.

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The locals rightfully say “Full power, 24 hours”. Truer words have never been spoken.

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I highly recommend a visit to Varanasi for anyone visiting India. Be prepared for a total bombardment of all your senses, but once you adapt to the pace of life, you might learn to love it.

See more of my work here.