Monday, March 10, 2014

Night Moves - Photographing the Blue Hour

Venus and the Milky Way shine bright over the pine uplands in Everglades National Park.
Titled "Into the Dream" - Photo © Mac Stone
Lately, I've been enjoying spending longer hours outdoors, shooting well after dusk and painfully many hours before sunrise. The cool tones of a cold night under skies peppered with millions of celestial bodies brings us into a world that is today too commonly choked out by unfeeling fluorescence. Photographing these nightscapes has doubled the size of my artistic palette while also incentivizing me to strive for multi-day trips.

By packing up our cameras after sunset, we're missing out on the most magical hours to be outside. When I was growing up, the main course of swimming and paddling was only made sweeter by the dessert of campfires, stars, and rumbling thunderstorms. At the edge of night I feel alive, and in some places chewed alive by mosquitoes. But no matter what the case, it's always worth clicking a few more frames.

In the Everglades, the difference between late afternoon and early evening can change the tone, mood, and structure of an image entirely. Photo © Mac Stone

For this image, I kept my shutter open for 30 seconds and shot at f/3.5 ISO 1250. Photo © Mac Stone

This image was really tricky to make. I was photographing this composition in Everglades National Park just as the storm was splitting apart, meaning that there were probably only a few more good strikes left to capture. I knew I wanted the reflection in the water to complete the image, but if I kept my shutter open for too long then the image would blow out once the streaks of lightning came. So, to account for this, I dramatically underexposed and consecutively took 30-second images at f/8 ISO 2500, essentially exposing for the lightning which I had to guess would be 4 stops brighter than mid tone. It took about 8 frames of total black before this powerful strike made the image, exposing perfectly. Sometime you get lucky, I guess. Photo © Mac Stone
Great egrets roost along pond cypress in Everglades National Park. Photo © Mac Stone
Camping on East Cape in Everglades National Park at the fringe of a storm. Photo © Mac Stone
A full moon lights up a cypress tree in North Central Florida just before dawn. Photo © Mac Stone
Of course things are always harder at night. While leaving Everglades National Park after shooting "Into the Dream" a rear tire blew on a loaner car. Still, not missing a beat I changed the tire and managed to make some lemonade out of this lemon of a situation. Lesson: there's always an image to make. Photo © Mac Stone

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Swamp to Sea - South Carolina

In a perfect world, I would be out on a new expedition every other week. The thrill of packing up everything you need and living out of a kayak for four days is as liberating and empowering as walking around the house you bought, naked. When I start brainstorming these trips, it's always fueled by some type of fanciful photo I want to make and then the rest of the trek becomes a blank canvas to be filled with adventure and discovery.

My friends Van Whitehead, the deputy director of Upstate Forever, Mark Musselman the property manager of Francis Beidler Forest, and Joe Guthrie from the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition all thought this was a pretty good idea after looking at maps back in May. A bold one, though, it looked doable—or at least worth a try. It would be a maze of braided cypress sloughs and lots of backwoods portages over fallen trees through Four Holes Swamp for roughly 80 miles until we reached the ocean at Edisto.

As with all adventures, nothing goes as planned, and that's alright with me. The purpose was to follow the blackwater through Four Holes Swamp, down the watershed and natural corridors to the Edisto River (the largest free-flowing blackwater river in the US), and out to the ocean. South Carolina's state director of Audubon, Norman Brunswig, along with many other organizations has been protecting properties along this watershed for over 40 years, including the largest stand of virgin cypress and tupelo swamp in the world. Navigating some of these areas on a four-day trek would hopefully lend better insight as to the great accomplishments that have been made and also what more can be done.

Joe Guthrie pauses for a breather while hauling his kayak and gear .75 miles to the put-in. Photo © Mac Stone
Van Whitehead hauls his canoe to the water through the dark of night at 11:00PM. Off to a great start. Photo © Mac Stone
Our first night in the swamp, Joe and I set up hammocks between tupelo trees. Unfortunately we didn't get to sleep until 5:00am, running on the adrenaline of the adventure to come and the photos being made. Photo © Mac Stone

The only good light we had all trip was the first morning, but it did not disappoint. The cypress trees and braided channels of Four Holes Swamp are without match. Photo © Mac Stone
Of course we found many snakes, we lost count after 30. This water mocassin posed nicely for a few minutes. Photo © Mac Stone
Photo © Mac Stone
The first day was the hardest, with a long slog through the swamp, portaging our gear nearly a mile to avoid encroaching on private property. Photo © Mac Stone
Mark Musselman navigating skinny water in Four Holes Swamp. Photo © Mac Stone
In the remote sections of the swamp, we saw lots of wildlife. Photo © Mac Stone
Photo © Mac Stone
When we started approaching the Edisto River, we started to see clear signs of civilization and the difference between old growth swamp and timber lands. Photo © Mac Stone
Along the Edisto River the fall colors started to show on the high bluffs. Photo © Mac Stone
On the third night I was surprised when my hammock ripped open and birthed me out the bottom. Fortunately, I was over dry land this time: a very rare and fortunate thing. Photo by Joe Guthrie
Of course we couldn't resist the rope swings. Photo © Mac Stone
Photo © Mac Stone
Photo © Mac Stone
Our last night on the trip, we camped on a small dry spit of land and built a small fire. Drying clothes and making PB&Js, we were dreading the 6:00am departure to beat the tides. Photo © Mac Stone
Van checks his gear, readying for the arduous paddle to the coast. Photo © Mac Stone
Photo © Mac Stone
Beaten and battered, we finish strong and then have to find a way of cramming all of this gear and four people into my truck. From left: Mac Stone, Van Whitehead, Joe Guthrie, Mark Musselman. Photo © Mac Stone

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Website Rollout and Promo

Well, this has been a long time coming, but I'm proud to finally announce the new Mac Stone Photography website. With an integrated eCommerce platform, clients can order prints and gallery wrapped canvas directly and safely from the website.

Visitors to the site can also use a search bar to narrow down a collection of images based on specific keywords like color, theme, subject, and location. So, to really test out the engines on this thing, starting on November 22, 2013 until December 1, 2013, all orders will receive a 20% discount. Just enter in the coupon code: GIVEALITTLE at checkout. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Swimming with Alligators... again

I'm haunted by photo shoots that could have been a little bit better if the light was brighter, the conditions different, or subjects more cooperative. I think this is the case with any artist. We are simply never satisfied. Maybe it should have been different after I climbed out of the alligator pool with Chris Gillette and Ashley Lawrence still owning all of my digits, but I knew there were better images to be made.

So, I went back for round two. This time, the water was warmer and gin clear; and a fresh crop of alligators inhabited the pool. I still used the same rig to shoot Chris handling the alligators but without the backscatter of debris and a better understanding of what I was going for, it went without a hitch.

Here are the results. These were all shot with an Aquatica housing, 15mm Sigma fisheye, and two Sea and Sea strobes while on SCUBA.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Savage Race Georgia 2013

It's all starting to become a muddy blur of screaming savages and weekends on the road. There are only two more Savage Race events left this year and the big daddy of them all is in two weeks: Little Everglades Ranch, Florida. But before I get ahead of myself, let me just say how much I love the Georgia Savage Race venue at Moonlight Stables; it's a hard act to follow. The thousands of participants showed up, got chewed up, and then spit out on the hardest Savage Race event yet. The course was 6 miles through undulating hills and the creators introduced a new obstacle that forced everyone to drag their tired bodies up a hill by climbing along the underside of a cargo net. Gnarly. 

The weather was beautiful, much warmer than Pennsylvania but it also provided 100% sunshine all day, which made me rely a lot more heavily on my strobes to balance out the harsh light. 3,400 photos later, here is a handful of my favorites from the day.