Cruising Decisions – Sometimes Spontaneity Is The Key

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Many cruising decisions are based on a detailed decision making matrix. Others are based on a spontaneous decision. The latter often make for the most interesting experiences.

Last week, fellow circumnavigators Mary and Scott Flanders were visiting us in Tucson. Scott and Mary have recently moved ashore after many years of living aboard Egret, their Nordhavn 46. They are compulsive about photography, and seriously into off-road adventuring as a means of getting the best pictures, traits we share with them. When Sarah sent us a link to a news story about a record breaking wildflower bloom in Death Valley, it took the four of us ten minutes to make the decision to hit the road. Although this meant a ten to 12 hour drive, opportunities like this do not come often, and the bloom could be over within a few days.


When you consider that Death Valley is the driest and hottest environment in the Northern Hemisphere, with annual rainfall between one and two inches (25/50 mm), the uniqueness of the wildflower bloom comes into perspective.


There is a certain comfort to having long range plans, to knowing what you will be doing and when. A calendar laying out the next month’s events gives a sense of control. Making spur of the moment decisions, changing plans, is hard for many. It is also difficult for friends and family when you have to engage with the uncertain.


On the other hand, flexibility often leads to wonderful experiences.


And through the years that we have been voyaging, our most cherished memories are the result of decisions made quickly in response to new cruising intelligence.


Mary and Scott (the latter above) are Nikon (camera) shooters,


while Steve is a Sony mirrorless convert (formerly a Canon shooter). Linda (above) likes her iPhone camera, and often comes up with wonderful photos, as good as or better than what fancier gear achieves. Part of this is due to a good eye (best in the family for sure), and part the ease and speed with which she can get into action.

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For some situations, planning and superior hardware are key, as in the photo above. This is Zabriskie Point, photographed in the light of a half moon, with a Sony 7R2 mirrorless camera using a Sigma 20mm F1.4 lens. Three photos have been assembled into the panorama you see above.

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Burrowing in a little further above is a crop of just the center image.

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How good is this latest gear from Sony? We have not yet learned it well enough to push the boundaries. We do know that the rules we have learned through a lifetime of shooting, dealing with light, noise, exposure, and composition are no longer operative. We are looking forward to putting this all to work in a much wetter environment.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 3, 2016)

7 Responses to “Cruising Decisions – Sometimes Spontaneity Is The Key”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Those are wonderful shots.

    You have the stark and barren desert…..then you toss in flowers with their colors. Defiantly worth a few hours in a vehicle and some more hiking into position. The last picture in your post. Amazing the dark blue of the sky contrasted by the far mountain range.

  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Shannon:
    Used to be this sort of dynamic range required several photos assembled into a HDR image. Not any more. The Sony A7Rii handles this with one photo. Typically you can bring out a usable image with three stops of lightening into the blacks.

  3. Kevin Wood Says:

    Outstanding! I read about this but other pictures didn’t do justice.

    Watch where you sit 🙂

  4. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Kevin:
    Knee protectors and a kneeling/sitting pad come in handy!

  5. Shannon (Shaz) Says:

    That’s great. Love the desert, my father retired from the Air Force in 79. He was stationed in New Mexico at that time & I stayed. Sailing here is kinda rough on bottom paint but I grew up here & it’s home. The desert gets in your veins, just like being on the water does.
    Hopefully, before to long, we will be able to split our time between a boat & home. I can’t imagine leaving the desert southwest forever so either AZ or NM will always be “home” but it sure would be nice to get away part of every year.
    That insulation you used on your 78 makes for great seating pads. It’s grippy so it doesn’t slide, it’s comfy to sit on & weighs enough so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.

  6. Henry Says:


    I know nothing about photography but the last image looks like a watercolour painting. It looks a little unreal. Have you processed these images at all or does the camera have on board automatic image processing algorithms?

  7. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Henry:
    These photos come out of the camera as RAW files, nothing is done in camera. They are minimally sharpened with lens corrections applied in Light Room,and then selected. Once selection is made further processing sometimes takes place. This can be as quick as a few seconds of adjustments, which are then applied to a bunch of photos, or several hours of work in Photoshop. The night photo to which you refer was created from three photos taken by panning the camera on the tripod, which were then assembled in LR. There were filters applied for noise and sharpening, with some lightening and adjustment of light and dark regions.The only light source was a half moon, and the photo was underexposed by two stops to reduce star trails and noise.