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How I got the shotShowcase

2023 Showcase Winner: Ian S. Frazier

By January 31, 2023No Comments
Islands of Seaweed, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, California, 2023 Showcase Best in Category, Scapes © Ian S. Frazier

Islands of Seaweed, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, California, 2023 Showcase Best in Category, Scapes © Ian S. Frazier

Best in Category: Mammals

Why is this photo special?

I made this image after a week-long trip exploring and photographing the rugged beauty of Big Sur and the surrounding area. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was the last spot on my trip before a long drive home. I was hoping for a colorful sunset to light the rugged coastline. Instead, the evening clouds left things soft and muted. Disappointed, I switched my lens to a telephoto and tried to find a more intimate scene. From up high, these distant rocky outcroppings caught my interest. I watched as waves battered the small sea palms, as if tiny islands in a storm. In my photography I’m drawn to the contrast of flowing water and rocky shorelines, especially at longer exposures. It took many photos and tweaking my composition to capture the perfect wave. By changing my expectations, I was still able to capture an image I am proud of.

The technical stuff

This image was made during one of those disappointing evenings where the colorful light seems to fizzle behind distant clouds. Instead of packing my gear away, I took out my Canon 100-400 zoom lens and began to look around until I saw this composition. I had to work fast as the tide was rising and soon the “islands” would be totally underwater. The image was framed to allow the diagonally flowing water to carry the viewer into the scene. Finding a pleasing balance of waves and rocks was tricky as each wave broke differently and timing was crucial. By using a stable tripod and neutral density filter, I was able to drop my shutter to ½ second. Too slow a shutter speed and I would have lost the interesting details in the flowing water. Finally I closed my aperture to f/13 to maximize my depth of field. It took dozens of images before I finally got one where everything came together.

This image was an older one made on my trusty Canon 5d Mark II. My tripod was an older Gitzo GT3530LSV (a stable workhorse) and I used a Markin ballhead. Processing was minimal with tweaks to contrast, levels, and color. I used Adobe Photoshop and the luminosity mask plug-in by Tony Kuyper to more precisely control where any adjustments were being applied.

Photo credit:  Ian S. Frazier

About me

As a child, my father introduced me to the joys of fly fishing. I’d spend hours watching trout rise to take skittish bugs as they danced along the river’s surface. There was something peaceful standing waist-deep in the gurgling streams of eastern Pennsylvania. It was on these outings that my love of nature began to grow. Photography became a way to share and relive the joy I found in the serenity of the outdoors.

Currently I live in San Diego, which I find offers an amazing number of places to photograph. Nature photography is a passion of mine that I picked up over twenty years ago with my first real camera, an old Canon AE-1. At the time I was in college at the University of Miami, and would wander the city photographing interesting street scenes. One day I stumbled into Clyde Butcher’s gallery. Seeing the beautiful and massive black and white landscapes opened my eyes. That was the start of my love of nature photography. I soon moved out to California and began to photograph all the iconic mountains, waterfalls, and deserts I had never seen growing up. One of my favorite locations to shoot is along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range. There are rock arches, ancient trees, flowing rivers, and snow covered mountains. With so much variety, it’s a photographer’s dream.

I’ve been a NANPA member for about fifteen years now. I’ve never served on a committee, but I am always amazed at the talented people I meet who are members. NANPA has given me a chance to listen and learn from some of the best, pushing me to try things like macro and astrophotography. Over the years I’ve been recognized in past showcases, and I always consider it an honor to appear alongside such talented people.

Memorable moments

One photography moment that I’ll remember for a long time came during a hike though the Sierra Nevada mountains. The trip was meant to be over several days, exploring an area called Dusy Basin. I wasn’t until I was several miles into the hike that I realized I packed way too much heavy camera gear. I also made the unfortunate discovery that I forgot a rain jacket. By the time I started the final vertical hike up Bishop Pass I was a half frozen from a steady downpour of sleet and rain.

As I neared the top of the rocky pass, the storm worsened and suddenly lightning was striking all along the mountain tops. There was nowhere to hide among the loose rocks. One especially close lightning strike got the frozen blood pumping again. Soon I was sprinting up the last stretch of trail looking for cover. As I neared the top, the storm finally passed and the clouds took on a pinkish hue. Their neon glow was reflected in the small alpine lakes below me. I quickly fumbled out my camera, managing a few photographs before night took hold.

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See all of the Top 26 winning images from NANPA’s 2023 Showcase nature photography competition.

Top 26