Dreaming of Alaska – again

I’ll admit it. I have a strong wanderlust. My list of ‘I wanna go there’ places is too long to even begin to write down – and when it comes times to choose where I might go each year, it’s darn hard to commit to just a few. Leading tours, I do go back to some places a few times, because it makes sense from a business point of view, and because I feel that I get to know the place more that way. But soon enough, I feel the need to move on to new territory for a while. But there are a few places that I dearly love, and Alaska is one of them. Southeast Alaska, to be exact; the Inside Passage.



It’s a place that grows on you – and not just because it rains a lot and everything grows there. It’s the freshest air I’ve breathed – moist, cool and earthy. Waking up on the boat to the sounds of eagles calling, or sea lions barking in the distance, perhaps a whale blow – well it’s just about the best way to wake up – that and the smell of brewing coffee in the salon will pull me from my warm sleeping bag to the deck. Each day is different – we go ashore about every other day, to explore a trail, watch bears, tide-pool, etc. In between we have a great moving platform (the boat) that takes us through the area, while we learn more about the ecology, geology, and how to make the special dishes that come out of an insanely compact galley!

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Nights and days are peaceful, and peace-inducing – as you motor through beautiful, reflective waters,often with a mirror-like surface. Then suddenly, a whale pops up – out of nowhere – and all peace is lost – frenzy takes its place as you scramble to get your camera to your eye and activate the shutter. Because you see, you can’t stand at-the-ready with your finger on the shutter the whole time, you’re battery will go dead (and so will your finger). So it’s always a surprise, a delight, when the whales appear.

In between the scenery never changes – it’s always serenely beautiful, and you come to know why the Tongass National Forestis such a special forest…and now you know why I keep going back!


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If you’re interested, I’m leading a photo tour beginning in Hoonah, Alaska, and ending in Wrangell, Alaska. It’s across the best of the best of the inside passage – whales, bears, sea lions, seals, birds, forests, glaciers, more bears, and dramatic weather. Scheduled for July 31-August 9, 2014. Please consider joining me and my fellow pro photographer Jed Manwaring on this amazing experience.

Offered in partnership with Dolphin Charters. Visit there site for more info and to register. Visit mine for a few more photos to whet your appetite!






Categories: Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Landscape Photography, nature photography, photography, The Blog, wildlife photography, workshops & photo tours | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Celebrating The Storm

As the rain pounds the flat roof over my office, and the winds whip up the leaves through the trees outside, I am sitting snug and warm in front of my computer editing images – a perfect thing for a rainy day! We are celebrating the storms that are passing through northern California right now, our thirsty fields and forests drinking up as much as they can hold. It’s a great week here in Santa Rosa!

I was processing images for another project and came across this – in color, of course. But when I made the image, Ansel and all the others who have photographed from this vantage point were with me – in celebration of a grand beauty that no matter how many times I see it, takes my breath away. Yes, it’s a grand scene whenever you see it, but it begs for more drama for me, the drama of weather. So there I was, over on a ledge that few people will dare, to make this picture, excited about the rising ground mist and swirling clouds around me, and I felt what anyone that has photographed there felt – awe & wonder. And humbled by the magnificence of the scene before me. It just felt right to make this black-and-white. So today, I celebrate what Yosemite might be looking like right now, with all the rain and clouds, perhaps even snow, in the image below! Enjoy.


Yosemite Storm, California

I used Topaz Labs’ B&W Effects to process this image. If you are interested in purchasing this plug-in, and want to save 15%, click on the affiliate link and use the code ‘brendatharp’ at checkout.






Categories: Black-and-White, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, Landscape Photography, nature photography, Photo Blog, photography, Processing Techniques, The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Cuba #4 – in B&W

Cuba is certainly a colorful place – both in the actual colors and in the figurative sense of ‘colorful’. But it’s also a wonderful place for black-and-white, too. Traditional street photography was usually in monochrome. In this way, you don’t have the seduction of color to draw the eye. You have only the contrast and tonality of the scene to use. And when you eliminate the color, the composition has to stand on its own. I’ve been photographing in black-and-white for many years, and I love the challenge. I’m a ‘color’ girl; I lust after color contrast and harmony in images. But I also respect and admire good black-and-white images. I began my life as a photographer in black-and-white, and it’s at the very core of how I came to know photography. So I keep honing my skill at seeing in black-and-white.


 Created with Fuji X-E2, and the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS Zoom Lens lens

 When I’m in the field, I’ll ask myself how the scene might look without the color. Never mind that the car in the foreground was a cool hue of teal, and the walls a soft yellow…I push to see beyond the color, and look for tonal range and contrast. I often use this most scientific method: I squint my eyes down to where I can hardly see, which removes most of the color and I can then see the contrast and tonality, which helps me decide whether it will work or not. You might ask, why does that matter, when you can convert it later? It doesn’t – at least not for the final result. But by practicing seeing in black and white, I believe it keeps me sharper overall. And I like that.

A past participant on a photo tour I led to Morocco, Andre Bogaert is an excellent street photographer, in my mind. I watched him work – ‘Cartier-Bresson’ style – with his Leica. He was quick to see the potential, the gesture and moment – but he also saw the whole picture – the shapes, patterns and textures, the juxtapositions. He’s one of those people that can work in both black-and-white and color, in seeing his color work, too, perhaps because he was trained in graphics. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I did – and leave him a few comments – I’m sure he’ll be delighted. Visit his flickr stream here and his website here.





Categories: Black-and-White, Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Photo Blog, photography, The Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , |