Archive for April, 2010

Getting there- what is your path style?

April 26, 2010

My camera and I went for a walk in Golden Gate Park yesterday- the lower section on the park below 25th Ave. Part of the park I had not really explored yet. I was there for several reasons-

1. it was a really beautiful day
2. I had not had a chance to take pictures all week
3. I was looking for a blog topic for today
4. I was really in need of some time in the wilderness-plants, trees, space

Partners on the Path by Cheryl McDonald

So this is a tale of my wanderings through the park-

To start off with, I want to say that there is a lot going on in my world- I am not alone, there is just a whole of change and turmoil going on in all of our worlds- if your life is free and easy at the moment you are definitely in the minority- enjoy it and be grateful for it. As for me, I am learning to be grateful for change, turmoil and chaos.

So yesterday as I wandered through the park, I allowed my mind, my heart and my vision to wander- no expectations, just open to the possibilities. I started noticing all of the different kinds of paths that run through this park and I realized that there were path styles for all types of personalities.  My first thoughts about paths go straight to my new-age, woo-woo side- you know “we are all on the path”, “following our path”- and it started me thinking about what kind of path do I choose to take? So this is a photo essay about paths.

Walking down the sidewalk by Cheryl McDonald

There were the strict, sidewalks, with lot’s of rules and directions that go around the outside edges of the park.

Victory Dance, by Cheryl McDonald

The streets and sidewalks that meander through for those who want to take a quick jaunt through the park on their way to other places- sometimes just driving through the park can reduce ones blood pressure by several points! This is good for bike and baby carriages and keeping the little ones out of the mud.

Bees and Poppies by Cheryl McDonald

Planted beds with beautiful arrays of flowers, bushes and trees. Well kept and bursting with blooms.

Top of the Heap by Cheryl McDonald

Then there are the paths that lead to various event areas, the turtle pond or the fly casting pond or the equestrian park. There are so many activities that happen in this park it is absolutely amazing to me! To the point- direct routes from the parking lots that are close by.

Through the Forest by Cheryl McDonald

And then there are the foot paths that meander through the forest, less traveled and more over-grown. The paths that lead you into the awesomeness of the forest, the sounds of the birds, wildflowers, smells of the trees and the grasses. This is where you can connect with Mother Nature in a one-on-one, or hear your own thoughts.

Through the grass by Cheryl McDonald

It is always possible to go completely off the path as well.

So what kind of path person am I? I guess it depends on the day. More and more I am the person on the foot path meandering through the forest. Looking to find my own way, but not quite ready to take off running through the brush. I guess I do like a little direction in my life and I trust that it will be interesting enough to keep my attention but not so untamed as to be filled with too many surprises-  Roots, weeds, and unexpected turns, yes, sharp cliffs, blind curves, or bears- no. I like to think of myself as a daredevil, but I guess I am a lot more in need of stability than I thought. The footpath through the forest, gives me the feeling of space, with the security of knowing that someone else has been here before.

Elmo's Foiled Escape by Cheryl McDonald

So where does all of this lead? That is for you to decide. What kind of path are you on and are you happy with the direction it is going? If not maybe it is time for a walk in the park!

All images are by  Cheryl McDonald and if you like this blog, please subscribe! Thank you for reading!


Landscape Photography, challenging and fulfilling

April 20, 2010

Misty River, Bridal Veil Falls by Cheryl McDonaldDay 2 of our last trip to Yosemite was not just about waterfalls, although they were the highlight. As we arrived on the valley floor, the sun was rising, we found ourselves in the midst of mist rising from the river and low clouds traveling through the valley. Beautiful, magical and challenging to shoot. We set up tripods and set about trying to capture the landscape, shrouded in mist, backlit by the rising sun. The auto focus on my camera were not happy- the softness of the light and mist made the camera unable to read anything concrete within the view and the back lighting caused the light meter serious confusion.

It was definitely a moment of reckoning- could I actually capture the scene and the magic when I had to be completely dependent on my own knowledge and understanding of my camera? Misty River by Cheryl McDonald

One of the things I love about shooting with a digital camera and a 4gb memory card, is that there is lot’s of space to experiment! I am not limited to a roll of 36 prints at some point in the future and although I cannot get a clear reading of the images as I shoot them, I do have some idea of what the light and focus are doing in them, so I can make adjustments and continue shooting. Trial and Error is the way we learn and the luxury of being able to take many shots and analyze them has been a wonderful gift and made me a much stronger photographer.

After we had our fill of the misty valley floor we headed to Yosemite Falls. Loaded with cameras, tripods, lenses and some plastic bags to cover our cameras from the mist of the falls, we hiked back to the base of the lower falls. Walking through the forest in the early morning is such a life affirming experience for me. Hearing the falls in the background and the birds waking up, icy dew on the grass where the snow had melted glistened in the sunshine that was filtering through the redwoods is all a far cry from the racing traffic outside my window in the city.

Rainbow Falls by Cheryl McDonaldAs we arrived at the falls, we were greeted by the most beautiful rainbow that stretched across the front of the falls, as bright as if it had been painted there by the leprechauns themselves! We set up our cameras and went to work. Once again, having to rely on my camera knowledge and skill as the mist of the falls and the bright sunlight filtering through the trees and reflecting on the water caused the camera to be very confused. Shooting in manual is becoming more and more the norm for me and I find it so much more fulfilling to be able to capture what I see and want to express versus what the camera will automatically record for me. Mossy Rocks by Cheryl McDonald

Our last stop of the day before heading home was the Ahwahnee Hotel. Across from the hotel is a wonderful wilderness rock garden and we decided to see what we could capture in textures and abstracts and other foresty kinds of images.

Falls by Cheryl McDonaldAll in all it was a most rewarding trip and I came away with lots of images to work with for my Yosemite series. Next trip is planned for sometime in May. I will keep you posted!

April in Yosemite

April 12, 2010

Yosemite Valley, April 2010, by Cheryl Mcdonald

When I arrived at the gates of Yosemite in March, and they asked me if I wanted a week pass for $20 or a year pass for $40, I made the decision that a Yosemite series would be my project for the year. I have painted and photographed it in the Fall and the Winter, and decided that doing a year of the seasons in Yosemite would be an awesome undertaking. So this will be a recurring theme throughout the year and  I am looking forward to creating an exhibit and a book of this experience.

My latest trip started on Wednesday of last week when I picked up my friend and photography mentor Glenn Capers from the airport and we made our plans to drive the 4 hours up into the Sierras for Friday early morning. Our mission for this trip was to photograph the waterfalls. Although it is still early in the melting season, there was a splendid display of rushing water all through the valley and we were fortunate enough to be able to capture some really amazing sights.

Cascade Creek Falls, by Cheryl McDonaldOur first waterfall was just after arriving into the park on route 120 at Cascade Creek. A smaller waterfall then the great and famous ones of the park, but still a beautiful cascade down the hillside. I loved the way the morning sun spotlighted the water as it tumbled over the rocks.

As in painting, capturing light in photography, takes an amazing amount of skill and knowledge about settings and technique in using the camera. Both are about capturing the light but the tools and the way one approaches the landscape are very different. In painting you can add what is not there naturally to create the mood and scene that you want to portray. In photography, you are more dependent on the elements of weather and time of day as well as aperture and shutter speed to capture the setting. Learning to use the camera and not tricks of filters or Photoshop has been an enjoyable challenge, blending science, technology and art. Glenn is a patient and knowledgeable teacher, whom I highly recommend.

Bridal Veil Falls, by Cheryl McDonald

We spent most of Friday surveying the scene, making our plans for what to shoot at sunrise on Saturday. There is only a short time in the morning before, during and after sunrise when you can capture drama and beauty in the landscape, and we wanted to be ready  to get as much out of the morning as possible. We took a lot of wonderful Kodak postcard shots throughout the day of Bridal Veil and the Valley from Tunnel View. Beautiful, yes but images you can find on any calendar of Yosemite. We were looking for the awesome and the unexpected. We spent sunset at Tunnel View, waiting for what promised to be a beautiful sunset, chatting with other photographers, all waiting and watching the light. A fun evening, but not particularly eventful. At the last minute the clouds disappeared leaving us with a rather un-colorful sunset. Such is the nature of Nature Photography! However there were no complaints as the scene was impressive all on it’s own and we all felt very blessed to be there to just witness the grandeur of this National treasure.

Night Falls, by Glenn Capers

As we made our last loop around the park for the evening, we stopped for a lesson in night photography. Learning to use tripods and telephoto lenses and also long exposures to capture the blue light after sunset was very challenging, and although I was not impressed with my own capture of Yosemite falls after dark, Glenn’s capture was absolutely beautiful!

It was an incredible day and we ended it at a health spa and hostel called the Yosemite Bug in Mid Pines, where we spent the night sharing what we had captured that day, a hot tub and excited planning for what was to come in the morning. It would be another very early morning, but it would definitely be worth it. And that will be the topic for my next blog.

To see more of my photography please go to

To see more of Glenn’s or to hire him please go to