Everything You need To Know About Flower Photography

Gilliflower

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I’ve been shooting flowers since the day I picked up my first camera. I have dragged my husband to gardens all over the world and could spend an hour perfecting the composition of a single flower. Flower photography is my passion and the reason I became a photographer. I thought it would be fun to show a side by side comparison of my progression; on the left is one of my first flower photos which was taken in 2007, and the photo on the right was taken just a few weeks ago in June 2020.

Orange Flowers
Taken with a point and shoot camera 13 years ago
Gilliflower
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Sigma 150-600 C

As you can see, I’ve come a long way since 2007 and I am sharing what I’ve learned it takes to create fabulous flower photography.

Check out my Flower Photography Gallery to see more of my progression as a flower photographer and to get some inspiration for your own photos!


Use A Macro Lens

Blue Hydreangeas
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG ART 

Fine art flower photography uses many creative techniques that require getting close to the subject. It’s not enough to just have a wide aperture; you also need a short minimum focusing distance which is the closest distance you can get to the subject and still focus. Macro lenses are the best lenses for flower photography because they provide the most flexibility in aperture and focusing distance, allowing you to adjust from a wide shot to a macro shot without switching lenses. A true Macro lens will also have magnification which gives the appearance of being closer without actually getting closer.


Telephoto Lenses Are The Unsung Hero

Pink Waterlilies
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Sigma 150-600 C

Why would I send a telephoto lens to do a macro lens job? When you’re shooting outdoor flowers, getting closer isn’t always an option, such as for those located in water or off the hiking trail (be a responsible hiker and don’t leave the trail!). Unless you want to go swimming, you’re going to need a telephoto lens to capture water lilies or any other flower that may be inaccessible. Bugs are also easily frightened so you’re going to have more luck capturing insects with a lens that allows a tight shot from afar.


Get Closer

Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

Someone once told me if you don’t like your photos, you’re probably not close enough. Shooting close up in flower photography eliminates a distracting background and highlights the gorgeous details of a flower. Frame the shot just tight enough to photograph the whole bloom, or get even closer to show off the details of the pedals, the pistil, or the stamen. The pistil is the female organ of the flower and the most prominent part of the center, the stamen is the male organ which includes the stalk that produces pollen. When I said everything you need to know, you didn’t know I was going to get scientific did you?


Bracket Exposure Is Your Friend

If you’ve been following along, you may already know how much I love bracket exposure – a setting on the camera that takes 3 photos at 3 different exposures with one click. I have found the settings the camera thinks are ideal aren’t always the most interesting, but constantly adjusting the exposure settings in the field can be cumbersome and cause you to miss the shot. Using bracket exposure allows you to quickly capture normal, dark & moody, and light & airy shots with just one click. It’s much easier to delete the bad photos later than it is to constantly make micro changes.


Don’t Forget About The Background

Jardin du Palais Royal - Paris France
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

There are a variety a ways to compose the background, but here are a few of my tried and true techniques for creative backgrounds that will help draw attention to the flower.

  • Isolate the flower by utilizing negative space such as the sky or plain foliage.
  • Use a medium wide aperture to include neighboring flowers, but blurred out. This provides color, texture, and depth to the photo while still showcasing the main flower.
  • Make the flower pop by using dark or contrasting colors in the background
  • Provide a sense of location by including the mountains in the background or a statue from the garden.

Find The Best Flower

Snail on a Peace Lily
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG ART 

Don’t shoot the first flower you see and move on, take the time to find the best flower. Finding a flower with one or more of these elements will make your flower photography stand out from the rest.

  • A flower in perfect condition
  • Find the the perfect background or move around to shoot many different backgrounds.
  • A flower with butterflies, insects, lizards, snails, or other garden guests.
  • A clump of flowers in different stages of bloom to display the lifecycle
  • Rain drops

Use Your Hands

Don’t be afraid to adjust the environment a little to stabilize the flower or push things in or out of the background. If you are composing a tight shot you won’t see your hands and a minor adjustment could make a huge impact on the final photo.


Unique Flowers Are Everywhere

Field of Dandelions

It wasn’t until the pandemic that I realized you don’t have to travel the world to capture beautiful photos. You can cultivate your own garden and never have to leave your home to find your favorite flowers. Not all of us have a green thumb, but your neighbors might! When you actively look, you’ll be surprised at the variety of flowers you’ll find on a neighborhood walk or in local gardens. One of my favorite places for Texas wildflowers is in a North Austin neighborhood park.

Taken in a field across the street from me.
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM


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Flower Photography Pin

50 Quick Foods For On The Go Travelers

Travel Food

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Between health and cost concerns, I’ve always been one to prepare snacks and meals ahead of travel. Taking food with me has become my signature. Food that packs well isn’t just for traveling, I’ve taken healthy grab and go foods to music festivals, events where I might get hungry, and hiking. As a gluten-free individual, it can be hard to find food I can eat when I need it, so I always have something with me. Bringing and making your own food while traveling is also a great way to save money when you budget travel.

Gluten free alternatives are linked!


Cold Foods

As a kid, the cooler full of food was my favorite part of road trips; my mom would pack snacks and meals easy to eat while driving. The best foods for traveling in a car don’t require utensils or a plate as these things take up valuable space and are hard to clean.

  1. Grape tomatoes
  2. Bell peppers
  3. Boiled eggs :: pre-peeled
  4. Kebabs :: remove the stick to have bite size pieces without the safety hazard of a stick
  5. Celery and peanut butter packets
  6. Deli meat with cheese dipped in hummus
  7. Wraps :: gluten free tortillas
  8. Egg salad sandwich :: gluten free bread
  9. Mini Babybel cheese
  10. Cheese, crackers, and sausage :: an adult Lunchable
  11. Frittata :: eat it like like a pizza and it’s utensil free!

Grab and Go Foods

Airport food is expensive and plane food is even more expensive so I like to bring my own meals and snacks for international flights. The best foods to take on a long flight are portable and travel well without refrigeration. Filling on-the-go meals or high protein snacks are also great for when you don’t want to interrupt your sightseeing. Local cuisine is great, but sometimes I don’t want to stop what I’m doing to find food.

  1. Popcorn
  2. RXBars, Larabars, Epic Bars, ProBar
  3. Protein powder + water
  4. Fruit and nut trail mix
  5. Beef jerky
  6. Roasted chickpeas
  7. Bare Apple Chips
  8. Packaged olives
  9. Apple and peanut butter
  10. Plantain chips
  11. Dried mango
  12. Roasted Edamame
  13. Peanut butter sandwich :: with gluten free bread
  14. Chicken salad sandwich :: with gluten free bread
  15. BLT sandwich :: with gluten free bread
  16. Eggplant and grilled chickpea wrap :: gluten free tortillas
  17. Protein pancakes
  18. Fig, honey, and sticky rice cakes

Easy Meals to Prep On Vacation

No one wants to spend their vacation cooking and doing dishes (if you do, contact me – I’ll let you cook and do dishes on vacation with me), but health and budget-conscious travelers may prefer to cook a few simple meals rather than eat out every meal. I like to pack a few nonperishables when traveling abroad and pick up fresh ingredients at a local grocery store to make quick no-hassle meals. All of these meals contain minimal ingredients and can be made in a limited kitchen; cook in bulk to make meals even easier the remainder of the trip!

  1. Oatmeal :: regular or instant packets
  2. Rice & beans
  3. Eggs
  4. Fruit, yogurt, and granola
  5. Breakfast tacos :: gluten free tortillas
  6. Fried rice
  7. Skillet fried potato, sausage, onion
  8. Beef and broccoli stir fry
  9. Spaghetti or any pasta with a pre-made sauce :: gluten free noodles
  10. Tacos :: gluten free tortillas
  11. Simple chili :: ground beef, canned beans, Rotel, chili powder and other seasonings
  12. Currywurst :: bratwurst and ketchup mixed with curry-powder
  13. Broccoli, rice, and chicken casserole

chocolate-dark-coffee-confiserie-65882

Guilty Pleasures

If you’re like me you don’t sleep a wink on planes, so those long international flights are brutal and snacking is one way to fight off the boredom. I may be health conscious, but all bets are off when I’m running on no sleep, jet lag, and no coffee. Enjoy these healthier options for satisfying your sweet tooth.

  1. Dark chocolate.
  2. Chocolate covered fruit or nuts.
  3. Pure Fruit Strips :: They taste like fruit roll ups, but made with real ingredients
  4. Super Hero Muffins :: replace raisins with chocolate chips to make it a sweet treat
  5. BarkThins
  6. Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups
  7. Sahale Glazed Nuts
  8. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

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On The Go Foods Pin

10 Elements of a Good Photo

Good Photo Main

Learning photography can be intimidating at first. On top of learning the technical aspects such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, there’s also composition rules to learn and equipment to buy. A good photo requires more than just clicking the shutter and you may wonder how you can possibly think of everything for every photo. I’ve outlined what makes a great photo… don’t worry, it’s simpler than you think.


Oscar Wilde Quote

1. Authenticity

Photography is an art, and art is subjective. There will be people who love your photos and people who hate them. Authenticity means staying true to yourself so it’s important to shoot what speaks to you and avoid the validation trap.


Rule of Thirds

2. Composition

The rules of composition guide photographers in creating compelling compositions that make a photo interesting and lead the eye to the subject. However, the first rule of photography is there are no rules, so don’t be afraid to experiment and break the rules.


Flower

3. Remove clutter

Clutter is the element in a photo that does not add to the message you trying to portray. To declutter a photo try different angles to cut out the distractor, get a tighter shot, or use a wider aperture to blur out the background.


Mushroom on a log

4. Tone

A good photo will make the viewer feel something and image tone contributes to the portrayal of emotion. Tone in photography refers to the overall lightness and darkness of a photo as well as the warmth (red, yellow, orange) or coolness (blue, green, and purple). Images in black and white or dark tones appear dramatic. Images using cool tones can portray sadness while warm images are vibrant and happy.


Photojournalism

5. Tell a story

This one has always tripped me up – “How do I tell a whole story in a single frame?” Don’t let this intimidate you, not all photos have to tell a story. A story can be told in a single frame or a series of shots and should stop moments in time in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they were there. Capturing iconic moments in history is one way of telling a story, but capturing the little things in life is just as compelling.


Black Lives Matter

6. Iconic moments

2020 has had no shortages of iconic moments. The Australian fires, the pandemic, and the civil rights movements have all been moments for the history books. The news has shown countless images of images captured by everyday people. We’ve all experienced these trying times in different ways, capturing your perspective through photography is a way to add to the narrative that will be told for generations.


Owl Bokeh

7. Lighting

Lighting plays a huge role in photography – not only does the amount of light impact the exposure, but how light is used can change the tone of a photo. Silhouettes, color filters, sun glares, and shadows are all types of light that can help set the mood or give a unique perspective. Intentionally under or overexposing photos changes the tone, silhouettes give ordinary photos a unique look or hide clutter, and shadows emphasize certain parts of the photo. There are many ways lighting can alter the look and feel of a photo; a perfectly exposed photo isn’t always the most interesting.


Raindrops on a leaf

8. Detail

You don’t have to fit the whole scene into a single frame to tell a story. Focusing on the finer details can be more powerful in storytelling; too much in the frame could lead to clutter or loss of important details. Rain, for example, is difficult to capture in a landscape photo. Closeups of raindrops on an object or reflections in a puddle do a better job of telling the story of a rainy day.


European Starling taking over

9. It doesn’t need an explanation

A viewer should be able to view a photo without commentary to understand. If you have to point out the subject or provide an explanation of the photo, you have failed to deliver the message.


10. You Like It

I’ll begin and end with how photography is about YOU! Shoot the things you love; the ultimate qualifier for a good photograph is YOU like it. A good photo does not have to be technically sound, if the photo takes you back in time, reminds you of a loved one, or makes you feel something, then it’s a good photo.

If you haven’t gathered from my landscape gallery, I love mountains and sunsets. This photo was taken from the driveway of my grandparent’s house the day after my grandfather passed and I like to think it was his final gift to me. By no means is this my greatest work of art, but it follows rules 1, 4, 5, and most importantly 10.


At the end of the day your photography is about you, so cut yourself some slack and enjoy the ride.


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Elements of a good photo pin

2 Week Arizona and New Mexico Road Trip

Saguaro National Park

Stay safe in the post pandemic era with a cross country road trip that focuses on national parks, state parks, gardens, and zoos. With all outdoor actives and no airports, it will be much easier to control your environment and stay healthy. This two week road trip from Austin to Arizona and New Mexico was one the vacations I had put on hold when COVID-19 hit, but is at the top of my list once we open back up. Enjoy the road trip itinerary I planned for myself!

*Situations change by the minute these days, so please research ahead of time for closures or reservation requirements.

Start in Austin, Texas

Take a hike in one of Texas’ amazing hill country parks or explore the city like a local. Austin to New Mexico is a long drive so break it up with an overnight stop at Monahans Sandhills State Park.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Though the caverns of Carlsbad Caverns National Park may be closed there is still plenty of unique activities in Carlsbad Caverns to make it worth a stop on your road trip itinerary. The Night Sky program is still offering star walks, moon hikes and meteor shower viewings through the summer, dawn and dusk bat viewing is available from the visitor parking lot, and a long list of hiking trails with panoramic views of the Guadalupe Mountains. The drive alone is worth it.

If you are traveling through southern New Mexico a drive through White Sands National Park is a must! Be sure to save time for some sand sledding which is free if you have your own sled or you can rent one from the visitor center for about $20.

Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park

No southern Arizona road trip is complete without a stop at Saguaro National Park. There’s a debate on whether East Saguaro or West Saguaro is the best, but I say do both! If you’re a fan of Old Westerns the Old Tucson Theme Park has preserved old western movie sets that take you back in time. For a change of scenery out of the old, dusty south head over to the Biosphere 2 for an unexpected Oasis.

Phoenix, Arizona

Pink Thorned Flowers

The Desert Botanical Gardens hosts a variety of plants native to the desert which provides a unique perspective from more traditional botanical gardens.

Step back in time with hourly reenactments, museums, and various tours at the Goldfield Ghost Town – a preserved gold mining town that prospered for a mere 5 years in the 1890s.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

There is enough to fill an entire day at the ABQ. BioPark; a botanical garden and zoo, If you prefer something more unique to Albuquerque then hike one of the three petroglyph viewing hikes at the Petroglyph National Monument, one of the largest Petroglyph sites in the country. Finish off the day with a scenic sunset view on the Sandia Peaek Tramway.

Taos, New Mexico

Earthship Biotecture

Drive the Turquoise Trail scenic byway from Albuquerque to Taos for a scenic and unique view of New Mexico with eclectic shops and towns along the way. The art town of Taos is about an hour from Santa Fe and is full of history and hiking. The Taos Pueblos are a World Heritage Site built between 1000 and 1450 A.D and is a must see!

Earthship Biotecture is a home construction company that builds self sustaining homes using natural and reclaimed materials. While you may not be able buy one of these eco-friendly homes, you can fantasize about it on one of their tours.

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Palo Duro Canyon is known as The Grand Canyon of Texas and is absolutely the best canyon in Texas. Visit the Texas State Park website to reserve a day pass or campsite. Fun fact about Palo Duro Canyon; in addition to traditional accommodations, such as tent camping and cabins, there is an equestrian campsite for your horse. Only in Texas! Before leaving Amarillo, don’t forget to check out the roadside attraction, Cadillac Ranch.

Fort Worth, Texas

The Big D gets all the attention, so why not go to the FW in the DFW? I was raised in Dallas and still have family there, so there’s no need for me to go to Dallas. But, somehow I’ve never made my way to Fort Worth. One the most Texas things you can do is visit the Forth Worth Stockyards which is full of shops, restaurants, and history, Other outdoor activities in Fort Worth include the Botanic Gardens, Japanese Gardens, the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Nature Center & Refuge. In all my years as a Dallas resident, how I have never been out here?!

Visit the Outdoor Adventures page for more post pandemic friendly travel.


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Arizona New Mexico Road Trip
Arizona New Mexico Road Trip

8 Tips for Incredible Landscape Photography

Torres Del Paine

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Learning what makes a good landscape photo comes down to lighting and composition. Lighting in outdoor photography can be difficult because you can’t control the source and it’s unpredictable. I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned over the years on composing great landscape photos and overcoming lighting issues that don’t involve waking up at the crack of dawn to make golden hour.

1. Have a wide angle lens

The best lens for landscape photography is a wide-angle lens which is generally considered 35mm or less. A wide-angle lens fits more into the frame than a standard or telephoto lens and allows you to capture the whole scene and create depth of field.

2. Use bracket exposure

Many outdoor photographers will tell you the golden hour is the only way to get great landscape photos. Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and before sunset and has the ideal lighting for outdoor shots. But planning your vacation around 2 hours a day is difficult and limiting. One way to minimize harsh mid-day shadows is bracket exposure: a setting where the camera will take 3 different photos in quick succession at 3 different exposures. Then Lightroom can blend the photos using the best elements from each which helps reduce an overexposed sky and harsh shadows.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it will help improve your landscape photos when planning activities around golden hour are difficult or not possible. You may also find the images the camera thought were over or underexposed are actually better than the “properly” exposed image.

The first three photos in the below series are the three original photos. The first is what the camera thought was the correct exposure and would be the only image I had if I hadn’t used bracket exposure. There are a lot of shadows on the face of the rock and in the background. The middle photo exposes the background and reduces the shadows on the face, but most of the face is overexposed, while the third photo is underexposed and dark.

The final photo is the HDR blend of all three images which used the best exposure of each to create a photo better than any were on their own.

Bracket Exposure - "Correct" exposure
“Correct” exposure
Bracket Exposure - "Correct" Overexposed
Overexposed
Bracket Exposure - "Correct" underexposed
Underexposed

3. Place the Horizon on the bottom or top third

Utilize the rule of thirds when framing a landscape photo and avoid placing the horizon in the middle of the frame. Whether you place the horizon on the upper or lower third will be influenced by how interesting or uninteresting the sky and foreground are.

In the photo on the left, Yosemite Valley is more appealing than the sky, so I place the horizon in the upper third. On the right, the sunset at White Sands was more appealing than including more sand dunes. If you’re unsure of which would look best, just take one of both. You don’t have to get it perfect on the first try.

4. Create Depth

A good rule of thumb for composing great landscape photos is to have a front, middle, and back. Leading the eye through 3 distinct zones helps create depth and dimension.

Glacier Grey in the fog - Patagonia, Chile

5. Use Filters

Lens filters are tools photographers use to help them achieve a certain look. They are affordable, help protect your lens, enhance colors, reduce reflections, and reduce light.

Circular polarizing filters can help create bluer skies, fewer reflections, increase contrast, and reduce haze.

Neutral Density Filters are like sunglasses for your eyes, reducing the amount of light that reaches the sensor and allowing you to reduce the shutter speed. Neutral density filters are useful for creating a flowy water look.

6. Don’t be afraid of weather

The other day, in spite of threats of rain, I went for a hike at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. A passerby saw me taking pictures and said “too bad you don’t have better weather”. What most people don’t realize is overcast days are actually ideal because it’s golden hour all day long! Be careful with your equipment and have a rain cover, but weather elements can add a lot of visual appeal and should be embraced not feared.

Foggy Morning at Red Bud Isle in Austin, Texas

Fog can create a moody feel and hide distracting backgrounds. Foggy weather is one of my favorite times to shoot.

Whale Tail

Overcast days cover the sun and eliminate shadows. It’s also easier to maintain consistent exposure throughout the photo. Sunny days can cause an overexposed sky or an underexposed foreground.

7. Use a mid range aperture – 8-11

A good landscape photo focuses on the whole scene rather than trying to create image blur. Aperture controls the amount of background or foreground blur – lower f-stops create more blur and higher f-stops create less blur. A good aperture setting for landscape photography is somewhere between f/8 and f/11.

8. Get perspective

It’s difficult for a viewer to imagine how grandiose a scene is unless you include elements the viewer would be familiar with, such as people, animals, and buildings. When a viewer sees something they consider large, like a building, taking up a minuscule amount of space, they can begin to visualize the scale of the scene.

These are just a few of the tips I use most regularly. Share your tips in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Landscape Photography Tips Pin

5 Texas Hill Country Hikes with the Best Views

Bluebonnets in Texas

Texas isn’t exactly known for its panoramic landscapes so it might surprise you when I say that the Texas Hill Country has no shortage of hikes with jaw-dropping views. From landscape to wildlife to wildflowers I’m always finding new places to capture great photos with a short drive from Austin. These 5 parks are the best hikes with views in the Texas Hill Country and are sure to satisfy all the outdoorsy types.

1. Colorado Bend State Park

You’ll start to see the lush green trees 30 miles from the park and feel as if you are about to leave the flat, barren, dry state of Texas. Located on the Colorado River, I like to think Colorado Bend State Park is our little borrowed piece of Colorado as the park offers views of waterfalls, grasslands, rolling hills (or as I like to call them “Texas Mountains”), creeks, canyons, wildflowers, and wildlife. That’s a lot of words to say Colorado Bend has it all!

2. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped video, Balcones Canyonlands is a bird watchers paradise with sweeping views of the Texas Hill Country. With over 245 bird species, Balcones Canyonlands has been designated an important bird area by the National Audubon Society. While small with only 7 miles of hiking trails, it’s packed with a variety of wildlife and plant life that you’re sure to keep coming back for more.

3. Pace bend

I could stare at the cliffside lake views all day and basque in the Texas wildflowers in the spring. In fact, I love this place so much my husband and I held our private wedding ceremony here. Camping is first come first serve but there is never a shortage of sites.

4. Lost Maples

Texas isn’t known for its four seasons – I often say we have two seasons: hot and not-so-hot. While most of the US is starting to bundle up in October and November, Texans are still barbequing by the pool. But there’s a little secret tucked away in Vanderpool, Texas with reliable fall colors and no cell phone signal. Lost Maples has become a yearly tradition to satisfy my need for those beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves.

5. Balcones District Park

Ok, the word “hiking” is a stretch on this one, but this little neighborhood park offers a small oasis trail, is a starting location for the hike and bike trail leading to Walnut Creek Trail, is an official wildflower area, and great for bird watching. It’s probably my favorite place in the whole city.

These are some of my favorite places to hike and they’re so gorgeous you’ll almost forget you’re in Texas. Watch out for that Texas summer sun though, you’ll definitely remember where you are when you fry in our 100 degree summers! Bring water, wear sunscreen, and take lots of pics.


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The Best 1-week National Park Itinerary for Yosemite, Kings Canyon, & Sequoia

Tunnel View

This blog post may contain affiliate links.  We may earn a small commission for any purchases made through these links. Click here for the disclosure statement.


It’s been a while since I posted a travel guide because it felt weird promoting travel while most of the world was in quarantine. As the world begins to reopen I’ve been thinking about the safest way to travel in a time of uncertainty, Hopping on a plane seems premature so road trips and outdoor adventures will be moved to the top of my bucket list for a while.

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t visit Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks while visiting Yosemite. My strategy for extended hiking trips is to alternate days with hard and easy trails to give my legs a break between the tough hikes. With that in mind, I have put together the perfect itinerary for enjoying all three parks in one week.

Day 1: Travel Day

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport offers the best combination of affordable airfare and reasonable drive time. With a rental car, it’s still 3 hours to Yosemite, so the first day is dedicated to travel.

We stayed in an adorable little Airbnb 15 minutes outside the gates of Yosemite. Terry was the most hospitable host who cooked us dinner, served us wine, and gave great advice. It was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel. I cannot recommend this Airbnb enough!

For $55 off your first trip click here.

Yosemite National Park

Day 2: Mist Falls

More like drenched falls. You WILL get wet so come prepared with waterproof gear and moisture-wicking clothes. Mist Falls is gorgeous and is the adult version of running through the sprinklers.

Difficulty:

Moderate to hard – the climb to Mist Falls is moderately hard with lots of wet stairs, but doable. For an extra challenge, make your way up to Vernal Falls.

Length:

Mist Falls out and back: 3 Miles
Vernal Falls Loop: 7.5 miles

Please enjoy this short video featuring Mist Falls’ namesake! This video was taken with a phone as my camera was packed safely in my Osprey Daylite Plus which kept my pride and joy bone dry.

Pro Tip: Don’t know how to tell if your gear is 100% waterproof? Create a seal around the material and your mouth and blow. If you can feel the air on your hand on the other side, it’s not 100%.

Day 3: Quick Hikes

Each of these hikes are flat and a mile or less (except Mirror Lake which is a flat 3). I recommend utilizing Yosemite’s very efficient bus to drop you off near all the main points of interest, If you don’t manage to hit all of these lookout points, just add them the morning you leave for Kings Canyon. You won’t need all day at Kings Canyon, so that morning is a great buffer zone for fitting in the things you missed.

Mirror Lake | Swinging Bridge | Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point | Bridalveil Falls | Glacier Point | Tunnel View

Day 4: Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls is a tiered waterfall; the bottom half of which you’ll see on the Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point and is a much less strenuous way to see the iconic falls. If you’re looking amp it up a bit, try the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Though steep, you’ll be rewarded with views of Yosemite Valley and mist from the falls.

Difficulty:

Hard – Very Steep Incline

Length:

  • Columbia Rock: 2 miles round trip
  • Base of the upper falls: 4 miles round trip
  • Top of the Falls: 7 miles round trip

King’s Canyon National Park

Day 5: Drive the King’s Canyon Scenic Byway

The drive from Yosemite to Kings Canyon is about 2 hours and is equally as stunning as the parks themselves. Without stopping the scenic byway (from Grant Cove to Copper Creek Trailhead) takes about an hour each way. How long you stay at each of the 25+ lookout points is the real deciding factor in how long this highly underrated detour will take.

Sequoia National Park

Day 6: Giant Forest Trail

Start on the Giant Forest Trail and meander your way to the various points of interest in the area – Bear Hill Trail, Hanging Rock, Moro Rock, Auto Log, and Tunnel Log. The trails in the area converge several times so it’s not critical to stay on the same path.

Difficulty:

Moderate- There are steep inclines to access some of the view points, but there are also long periods of flat terrain.

Length:

This is a “choose your own adventure” kind of hike. It can range from 3-7 miles depending on how many of the points of interest you include.

Day 7: General Grant and Big Trees Trail

General Grant - Sequoia National Park

General Grant is the World’s largest tree by volume and it’s hard to imagine the magnitude of that until you see it yourself.

Can you spot Jason in this photo? I’ll give you a hint, he’s tiny and waaaaay down at the bottom.

Difficulty:
Moderate – The way down is easy, it’s getting back up that’s the problem.

Length:
1 mile

For the best landscape and wildlife lenses, click here.

Visit the Outdoor Adventures page for more post pandemic friendly travel.


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National Parks

The Only 3 Lenses You’ll Ever Need

Lenses

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Lenses can serve a very specific purpose – excelling at one style of photography but falling short in others. There is no one lens to rules them all which is why I am recommending 3 types of lenses that will satisfy the majority of your photography needs; macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses.

While the lenses below are specific to the Canon EF mount the recommendation for a macro, wide, and telephoto lens stands true for all body types.

50mm lens

Macro Lens

iMacro lenses are strong at background blur and close-ups which makes them best for shooting food, flowers, products, portraits, and night photography.

Photo by: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Budget Pick – CANON 50MM F/1.8 STM

The 50mm is esteemed as one of the greatest lenses of all time, this lens is truly as nifty as they claim. I often recommend the nifty 50 as a great starter lens for new photographers, however, it does have some limitations and is not the only lens you’ll ever need.

Pros:

  • price – New this thing runs about $160
  • wide aperture
  • small and lightweight

Cons:

  • Not Wide
  • Long minimum focusing distance

Upgrade Pick – Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro ART Lens

The Sigma 70mm lens packs a lot into their lens for a far better price than competing lenses. While it’s not perfect, it provides great image quality and is a huge step up from the 50 mm lens.

Click here for an in-depth review.

Pros:

  • Sharp!
  • Color retention
  • weather sealing
  • .26 m (10 in) minimum focusing distance

Cons:

Slow focus – manual and auto

Sigma Lens

Wide Angle Lens

Wide-angle lenses can fit a lot more into the same size photo than other lenses which makes them best for landscape, street, architectural and real estate photography.

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

Budget Pick – Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

A focal length of 35 mm or less is generally accepted as wide-angle, so you’re getting a lot bang for your buck with this 17mm lens.

Pros:

  • Its pretty darn wide for its price range
  • weather sealing
  • small and lightweight in comparison to other wide angle lenses

Cons:

  • vignetting
  • distortion

Upgrade Pick: Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM | A

Sigmas have built a reputation for sharpness and sturdy builds, and this lens is no exception.

Pros:

  • Ultra wide view
  • Great image quality
  • weather resistant
  • half the price of Canon’s similar build
  • built in lens hood

Cons:

  • Big and heavy.
  • Doesn’t support filters.
  • Barrel distortion and dimmed corners at wider angles

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lenses typically refer to lenses with a focal length of 100mm or more and make objects closer than they appear. Telephoto lenses are great for shooting subjects where getting physically close is not an option, such as wildlife, sports, and concerts.

Budget Pick: Canon EF 70-300 F4-5.6 IS II USM

After many years of research, I have determined this lens is just too hard to compete with. It has the longest focal length available before a significant price jump and the image quality will make it hard to believe its a budget lens. Seriously, I highly recommend this lens.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • One of the longer zooms in this price range
  • Image stabilization

Cons:

  • highlights can have the halo effect
  • No weather sealing

Upgrade Pick: SIGMA 150-600MM F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM S (SPORTS) LENS 

600mm is one of the longest focal lengths available, so you are sure to never miss a shot again. Be sure to have a tripod or monopod handy as shooting handheld with a lens of this size may get tiresome. But, using a lens with a 600mm focal length is a great way to shoot wildlife without interfering with their habitat. Or, you know, getting too close to a bear.

Pros:

  • Fast Auto Focus
  • Sharp images
  • Color Retention
  • Weather Sealing

Cons:

  • at 12 inches in length is could exceed the maximum lens length at sporting events and concerts
  • Weight- at 6 pounds,

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Lenses Pin

4 Critical Reasons the 50mm Lens is NOT the ONLY Lens You’ll Ever Need

50 mm lens

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Just google “50mm lens” and you’ll be flooded with blog posts on how the great and wonderful nifty 50 is the only lens you’ll ever need. Believing the hype I bought one, and immediately noticed the weaknesses no one ever talks about. Don’t get me wrong, the nifty 50 is truly a great lens: it’s lightweight, has a large aperture, and is affordable. It’s the first lens I recommend to new photographers, but it’s not the ONLY lens you’ll ever need.

Lenses excel at their specific purposes and there is no one lens to rule them all. I would describe the 50mm lens as the jack of all trades, master of none. It does a pretty good job in a variety of settings, but here are 4 reasons the 50mm lens is not the ONLY lens you’ll ever need

1. It’s not a wide angle lens

My 50mm lens had arrived just in time for my trip to Sedona and Page, AZ. Imagine my disappointment when my 50mm lens was not wide enough to capture all of Horseshoe Bend. Landscapes are vast and wide and you need a lens that has the flexibility to capture it all.

This photo was taken with a 50mm lens and was all we could capture of Horseshoe Bend in one shot. The only way to get all of the Horseshoe Bend with a 50mm lens is to do a panorama.
Compare that to this photo by Quentin Dr which was taken at a 10mm focal length. You can capture so much more in a single shot.

2. IT HAS A Large minimum focusing distance

The minimum focusing distance is how close you can get to a subject and still be able to focus. The 50mm lens’s focusing distance is 0.46 m, which translates to about 18 inches. In comparison, the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens has a focusing distance of almost half that at 0.26 m (or 10 inches). In addition to smaller focusing distances, lenses designed for macro photography will have magnification which gives the appearance of being even more close. Notice in the two photos below how much nearer I can get to the subject with a shorter focusing distance.

Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens

3. It’s not particularly sharp

Images are softer and pick up on less detail than other more expensive lenses. Depending on the photo this may not be noticeable, but if you’re trying to capture the fine detail of a subject you may be left with something to be desired. Let’s zoom in to the images from above and compare how much detail is preserved.

Notice the halo around the edges of the petals and how much detail is lost in the center

By comparison, everything is still sharp. The details are so fine you can even see the ant’s legs.

4. IT HAS No zoom CAPABILITIES

There are many situations in which you cannot physically get closer to your subject and instead need to zoom in on the subject. But the 50mm lens is a prime lens, meaning there is only one focal length and cannot zoom. With this lens, you would not be able to zoom in at a concert, wildlife, or a sporting event.

These two photos were taken with a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III zoom lens. I was able to go from a wide shot to close up in a matter of seconds. The 50mm lens would have been even wider than the photo on the left and I wouldn’t have been able to zoom in for the closeup.

I still think the 50mm lens is a great lens, it just may not meet all of your needs. Don’t be surprised when you start looking for other lenses to complete your photography bag.


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4 Reason 50mm Lens

Macro Photography Gallery – Plants and Flowers

Flower

Floral photography is my passion and reason for becoming a photographer. Please enjoy this collection of plants and flowers I have collected from gardens around the world over the last 15 years. Love my photos and want to know my secrets? Check out my photography tips for beginners.

Decorate your home with fine art prints from my collection. Thank you for your support and appreciation of my art.