Tag Archives: photography

Sunrise from Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan

I’ve been waiting a long time for this shot from the Indian Nose Trail, overlooking Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. 3 volcanoes line the shore of this beautiful lake, and it is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. Join me as I take you along  from start to finish, in what is to-date, my favorite and most rewarding image I’ve had the pleasure of creating.

I woke up at 3:00am, stumbled out of bed, gathered all my gear and headed out the door. I walked from our B&B Casa Lobo, making the 30 minute walk into the charming town of San Pedro La Laguna. This town, and Guatemala in general, gets a bad rap about safety. But I walked at 3:15am, for 30 minutes, alone and carrying a backpack full of expensive camera gear and a tripod sticking out the side. Not a single issue. The only people out were gringos smoking or going on the hike with me.

I met my guide, Pedro, at the boat dock where we waited for a chicken bus to take us to the trailhead. The bus was mostly travelers, either heading to Indian Nose or to Santa Clara, the small town just past the trail. I chatted with Pedro and another guide on the hour long ride about what to expect.

We arrived at the trailhead, jumped off the bus, grabbed our headlamps, and began walking in the dark through some farm fields along a dirt trail. After about 15 minutes, we got to the spot where it was straight up hill. It was fairly challenging, but doable. We stopped about 3 times on the 15 minute vertical climb for water. We arrived at the “first summit,” where we stopped and caught our breath. What a great view. But we had about 5 more minutes of climbing to get to the top lookout or “mirador.”

It was about 5:30am, and the sunrise was due in about 45 minutes. We could see the lights from the towns of San Juan, San Pedro, and Santiago way in the distance! I set up my tripod on the front of the lookout, ensuring I’d get the best view and pictures, hehe. I set up my camera, threw on my lens, and started taking pictures of this beautiful lake.  You could barely see at first, but the magnificent views of San Pedro, Atitlan and Toliman were peaking out from the clouds below. Truly extraordinary.

I set my aperture at f/9, and had my lens focused to infinity because everything in the frame was far away. This first image you see on this article is a 2 shot panorama at 24mm. I shoot fully manual, so my ISO was at 64, the lowest native setting for my Nikon D810,  and my shutter speed to slightly under expose for the sky by 2/3 of a stop.

The next picture you will see here is right as the sun rose above the clouds. The sunrises here are unique. Because of the haze, the sun’s brightness is diffused quite a bit, making it a round orange ball that looks pretty cool.

Mayan Sunrise1.jpg

Once I had my fill of pictures, my guide and I walked back down to the trailhead, where I assumed we would catch the chicken bus back to San Pedro. Well, I was wrong. We got to the place where the bus dropped us off, but we just kept on walking. Then, he started to jog. Of course, monkey see monkey do, so I followed right behind him. He spotted an old Toyota pickup truck driving up and picking up a few guys on the side of the road. Pedro flagged them down and we just jumped in the back! The pickup had a welded cage around the bed that you had to stand up and hold on to. I swear. We rode the whole way back down, dropping from about 9,000ft in elevation, to about 5,000ft at the lake level over the next hour. So there I am, with 4 Guatemalans, standing up for an hour in the back of this truck, going around sharp turns, over potholes, passing bigger trucks full of pigs, tuk tuks, and trying to comprehend what was happening.

I found out later that those trucks drive from town to town, and you can just jump on, get to where you’re going, tap the hood and jump off, giving them 5 Quetzales(less than a dollar). I can say at this point and time that the story, along with the anticipation, and the luck of the weather, made this my most memorable shot to date. If you ever go to Lake Atitlan, this is definitely a must do. You won’t ever forget it.

Equipment: Nikon D810

Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 Lens

MeFoto Backpacker Tripod

Manfrotto   XPRO ballhead

Planning a Photography Trip


photographers ephemeris plan photography app apps     I recently went out to Canyon Lake here in Arizona to shoot some star trails at about 3am. I got to the place I wanted to shoot, set up, and realized I forgot my wireless trigger! So guess what I had to do? Yep, I had to sit there and manually snap the shutter about a hundred times back to back to back, because I was unprepared.

Even if you’re a beginner, I can assume you have a similar story about forgetting an important piece of gear, or not charging your battery. Well, as I write this, I’m preparing to leave tomorrow night on a 12 day trip to Guatemala! So I felt it appropriate to write about this very important subject for us photographers. Now I won’t spend too much time on the obvious, like passports, clothes, etc. I want to talk about the importance of details like equipment, making lists, knowing about your destination, and logistics.

I’ll start with the obvious, equipment. Since I will be going for 12 days, batteries and chargers are paramount. After some research, I found out that the hotel my girlfriend Brittany and I are staying at, in Tikal National Park, turns off the power at night and periodically throughout the day. I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re staying deep in the Mayan Jungle! So I am making sure I have 4 full batteries, my Nikon battery grip with a secondary AA battery insert, 8 rechargeable AA batteries, GoPro Hero 5(for my first YouTube video), Karma Grip, lenses, tripod and ballhead, filters and wireless trigger.

Since I plan on flying, I had to find out all the airline and FAA regulations on batteries, storage and camera gear. Just a heads up, you can not have free floating batteries in your checked bag. You can have spare batteries in your carry on, so long as they are separated in their own container. You have to eliminate the possibility of the batteries touching and shorting out. I went on Amazon and bought AA cases and a Think Tank DSLR battery case.

The next part I want to tell you about is planning your actual shoots. This involves using apps and the good ol’ internet to plan out all the little details of your trip. Google maps is a great starting point for finding good locations to shoot from. Now if you plan weeks or months ahead, the weather is hard to predict. However, its good to know what you’re getting into a few days before you go. My favorite weather app is WeatherBug. It’s accurate and even tells you the closest lightning strikes for all you storm chasers. The next app that I use religiously is The Photographers Ephemeris(TPE). Its a pay app on Google and Apple stores($4.99). The desktop app is free. It tells you the times of sunrise and sunset, moon rise and moon set, civil, nautical and astronomical twilight, and which way the sun and moon rise and set( See top left image). SkyView is also a good one for astrophotography.

The last thing I will say is make a list a few weeks ahead of time. Write everything down. Add or subtract to it later. You may realize you need to jump on Amazon and order cases, batteries or chargers. You may need a smaller backpack for a carry on, or use those apps to see where you want to shoot, and get a hotel near there that doesn’t turn the power off at night!

Now we’ve prepared ourselves, got every last detail covered, our gear packed, our list checked,  50 extra batteries and our passports, lets cross our fingers and hope the weather doesn’t hate us…


Waterfall Photography in Payson, Arizona

Every once in a while you stumble upon a real gem. This place was found purely by accident, which makes this image that much more special. I’ve photographed Fossil Springs waterfall, which is a very popular hike here in Arizona, so I was looking for a place that was a little different and something I hadn’t seen on social media or online anywhere else. The search started in google maps, where I wanted to find an area of this particular creek at a point where it was running east/west so that I could get a sunrise. Once I found a spot that looked promising, I zoomed in and looked at the terrain. It looked very rocky and actually had a small trail leading down to the general area. Now it had snowed a few weeks prior, so I thought maybe with the snow melt I might get some extra flow in the creek.

We drove the 2 hours from Mesa, AZ and arrived at the spot where it looked like the trail started. we parked right along the highway and began to scale up an icy, rocky, slippery hillside to get to the trailhead. Next we had to crawl under a deer fence and use google maps to track our route along the trail in total darkness! Everything was seemingly going ok until we got to what looked like a huge canyon. We could hear lots of water rushing and tried looking down with our flashlights to see what lied beneath us.  The trail looked like it began to descend in to the canyon, so we took a leap of faith and climbed down onto the rocks and made our way toward all the noise of the flowing water below. What we found was absolutely breathtaking. I never expected to see a waterfall in a canyon quite like this. We sat and soaked in the sights and sounds as it started to get light. So I made a questionable decision to jump down onto some rocks directly over flowing river, not particularly concerned on how I would get back out.

I took off my backpack and set up my tripod and camera on the very edge of the rocks, praying I wouldn’t accidently kick it into the raging rapids. This is just one of those times where good planning and preparation, mixed with amazing luck of having the snow melt and the clouds providing a very dramatic scene. As the sun was inching up towards the horizon, the sky and clouds began to catch fire. I snapped away during nature’s light show, while listening to the rapids and waterfall, trying to soak in every bit of the beauty I was now a part of. Now the realization hit me that I had to get back up the rocks I jumped down from. So I channeled my inner rock climber and held onto every nook and crack to get back up the rocks. What a relief! From there we made the hike back to the truck, admiring the canyon and forest that we couldn’t see in the dark on the way in.

Once I got it back home and onto the computer, I used my editing software to enhance the details and colors, as well as making the sunrise pop. This, to me, is where I “create the image.” This is where the artist really makes it his own. I prefer that term, rather than “taking a picture.” Creating an image is something that begins long before pressing that shutter button. Its starts at home planning with maps, apps like The Photographers Ephemeris, and then walking through snow in the dark, getting your composition just perfect, luck, and finally mastering post processing and letting your artistic self make the image truly your own.

Camera: Nikon D810

Tripod: Mefoto Backpacker

Lens: Tamron 15-30mm F/2.8

Ballhead: Manfrotto MHXPRO

Editing Software: Lightroom and Photoshop CC





waterfall payson creek sunrise forest sky rocks landscape
Taken on Feb 6, 2107 on Christopher Creek