Hating on winter from Astillero.

It seems I picked a good winter to miss early season skiing in Colorado. While friends at home are dreaming of snow, but biking into the new year. I currently find myself floating around Nicaragua shooting for NGOs. I’m a big fan of one way ticket, no literary, travel and this trip is that.

It seems the more I travel the faster I head to the places other travelers avoid. Like Astillero. There isn’t anything to do there except extreme chillin and you can’t have a meal without gallo pinto. OK it’s not exactly party central and you have to wait for high tide to clean the garbage off the beach, but it’s a real deal working town.

I planned on meeting a contact after one night in a sleepy fishing village. That was five days ago. Before I pushed my cash reserve down to the last $5 and decided it was time to either get a job lobster diving or catch the bus, for two hours, to the nearest ATM. There is something special about being the only gringo in town. After the 1st 24 hours of wondering around sticking a giant camera in peoples faces. The locals have heard about you and wave you over to photograph the new baby or things they find interesting themselves.

My first night I had beers with a lobster diver. Who promptly invited me to go out on the boat. Two days later I was wondering if he would even remember the plan. Well I went on the boat and would have gone diving if it wasn’t for the ear infection. When I was leaving town the boat captain asked if I needed money for the bus.

BTW: OSHA doesn’t exist in Nicaragua and lobster diving here isn’t for pansies.

I think I might have just found a long term project. Now I have to call the contact and apologize.

Stay loose and go with the flow.

The Townies of Crested Butte.

This project started one morning; when as I walked up to my trusty 1970‘s Schwinn bicycle.  I noticed the way the handlebars of two adjacent vintage bikes seemed to be holding each other in a loving embrace.  I wasn’t in a rush so I spent a few minutes observing as the light changed.  I came back later in the afternoon to shoot the same handlebars again.

In the town of Crested Butte old beater bicycles are the norm.  It’s like they all migrated here to avoid a genocide.  Many bear scares from previous lives in far away places.  Now they live the life of a refugee.  Most are rusty and worn.  Many are unridable and are tossed to the side like victims of a death march.  Others are cannibalized so that others might live.  This town is a crowded refugee camp of vintage bicycles.  The more I looked the more I saw.  As I got closer and visually explored the craftsman ship of times gone by, the more entranced I became.  “Townies” is the culmination of many hours roaming the streets of Crested Butte capturing the art of these old bikes.  Prints and a book are available in the gallery above.

Long Exposures with the Fuji X100.

I have been pushing the limits of the Fuji X100 a bit lately. I find the sensor to be far superior to the similar pixel count sensor of the Nikon D300 which is a bit dated compared to the X100.  The X100 does especially well for long exposure images such as star trails or moonlight scenes that require 30 minutes or longer.


How do you shoot night time exposures?  1. You are going to want a sturdy tripod or some way to hold the camera in the desired position for long periods.  2. You need some way to keep the shutter open for the same time.  In the case of the X100 you need a classic screw in cable release.  Im using the one that I have used with my Nikon FM2 for years.  I really like the blend of retro style and killer digital technology.  Once you have a scene framed a little guess work and experimentation is required for a correct exposure.  I can never seem to take notes for myself; so good luck. Framing can actually be very difficult in the dark since you have probably just been looking at a screen and ruined your night vision.  A bright flashlight is great for illuminating the scene so you can see it to visually frame and focus or you can focus with the distance marks. I really want a X-Pro 1.

How about a photo shoot over lunch?




So you want to star in or make some pictures that don’t suck?  Meet me at high noon for the show down.  Ya?

Photography is just time and light, real simple.  More time allows more light and the inverse right?  Well yes, but then there is the quality of the light.   The quality along with composition is what really matters for your images.  The quality of natural light isn’t the same throughout a season or a day.  Composition like quality is totally subjective;  you know how someone will love your worst image and someone will hate your best.  High noon could be the perfect time to shoot a shootout scene in a hot desert.  That being said most people prefer to look at the warm color temperature of early morning or late evening when the sun is lower in the sky and the light has to travel through more atmosphere.

The magic or golden hour as its commonly know is the hour after sunrise and prior to sunset.  This is when you should be shooting especially if you want images that align with current fad of super warm, washed out, backlight, lens flare with the sun in the frame.

So high noon is only going to happen if I want to make some crappy images as reference for future shots or its winter and i’m really far north, think iceland, or maybe in a studio or shade.





Shooting the 2011 24 Hour Mountain Bike Nationals.

When I heard the course for the 2011 24 Hour mountain bike nationals was moved to a city park.  I thought to myself; ”This better not be a lap in the grass around the playground”.  I mean shooting bikes in a playground could be really cool, but probably not with Josh Tostado.  I was covering the event for Velo News, USA cycling and Mountain Bike Action.  When I rode the course to scout for locations I was pleasantly surprised with the course its was a real beauty with enough tech that I walked some spots on my scout lap.  It consist of mostly single track rather than allot of road like the Moab course and is way harder than the Leadville 100 course which is a joke of a mountain bike ride.  Colorado Springs is lucky to have such great riding in town.


I cant wait to shoot it again next year.  I hope to check off all of the shots I missed this year.

This is terrible weather for taking pictures! Right?

I can’t shoot because its all cloudy and dark or raining and snowing.  In the same way that the average person thinks a bright sunny day is perfect for photography the average photographer thinks that bad weather equals bad images.


Well if that were true Steve McCurry’s book “Monsoon” probably would have never been made.  Not only can severe weather add drama to an image the diffused light of an overcast day is some of the best light you could ever ask for.  A cloudy sky is equivalent to a giant soft box and you don’t have to worry about the contrast between the highlights and shadows nearly as much.  For example if the image below of the jungle covered Kaituna river in New Zealand had been shot on a sunny day there would have been dark shadows and/or blown out highlights therefore sucking and would have never been used by Outside magazine.

Just think photographically about the Swedish proverb “There is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing.”

How do you shoot action sports and sync strobes with a Fuji X100?

The Fuji X100 is often said to be a poor mans Leica M9. Perhaps this is true; being that I love the X100 and well I am the 99%. I have shot with this camera almost every day since I got it. I wear it mostly as photog bling and use it for random street photography. I have started to see the world through its 35mm lens. I do wish I could have an M9; perhaps I will occupy the Leica factory.

When I first tried to sync strobes with my X100 I failed miserably. Since the hot shoe is disabled by default there was no signal going to the transmitter. (Turn on the hot shoe in menu > shooting menu > external flash > on) I think having the hot shoe turned on seemed to result in incorrect exposure when no flash or transmitter is on the hot shoe. I preferred to sync using the Elinchrome Skyport SPEED transmitter since it is small and compact for the small camera and allows you to manually remotely control the flash power of the strobe. I also used the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 both will work, but only as manual triggers. The TT5 is recommend since in manual mode doesn’t let the transmitter sleep and the small battery in the TT1 is drained rapidly. The TT5 looks bulky on the X100, but it does not interfere with operation of the camera. The Pocket Wizard system is less than perfect for use with the Fuji X100, but it allows you to use small speed lights rather than a large light like a Ranger. The AC3 zone controller will not work on this camera with either of the transmitters. You could use the PW MulitMAX to control zones, turn them on or off, but not to remotely control output power.  The leaf shutter in the X100 allows you to sync at speeds way way way faster than current DSLRs.  This will allow you to darken a daylight background even while shooting with the wide open aperture of f2 or use a strobe as a fill rather than relying on it to freeze the action.

If you want to shoot action images with the X100 you will probably want to use full manual mode or at least meter and focus before the shot by holding the shutter button halfway down before the subject enters the desired frame. This minimizes the shutter delay to a very usable time. While this camera isn’t going to replace my DSLR work horse and quiver of lenses. I actually throw it in my pack and therefore actually have it on long rides and adventures. I cant wait to try the X10 and whatever else the Fuji X series future brings. X1?

Is there anybody out there?

Hello world. I’m  Braden Gunem.  Im a photographer.  I have always had an interest in photography and adventure, probably stemming from time spent in the pages of National Geographic magazines; after all I still want to go harvest honey in Nepal while dangling from vines.  When I was kid I loved the home video camera, a giant shoulder carry VHS machine of glory, by age 8 I was making stop motion films staring my toys.  In high school a friend and I made a documentary featuring our sub-terrain caving adventures.  I joined the Navy after high school and drifted further and further away from motion pictures for a long time and am just now rekindling my interest in film making.  My first duty station, Great Lakes Naval Training Station, had a photography club where I learned to develop film, print and shoot with studio lights, skills I still use, but the real interest was in travel and adventure sport photography.  When the training was finished and the time came to pick a duty station.  I picked the furthest away and most exotic station that was available, Sasebo, Japan.

Japan was about as exotic as it gets for a guy from a small town in Arkansas.  I loved learning the language and exploring the culture.  I started shooting everyday often roaming around the alleys till late at night.  As an english speaking and self learning photographer in Japan Amazon.com was a major ally.  Through those books I learned the merits of Fuji Velvia; I still love and use this film. I don’t think i’m the only person that misses bags of film in the refrigerator or maybe I just dislike all the empty space:(  The one book that really made a lasting impact in how I shoot and see the world was “Photography and the Art of Seeing” by Freeman Patterson.  I feel I owe allot to that one little paperback book.  Which I still keep on my bed stand.  Once I started to “see” the Japanese culture and the adventure it afforded really got me addicted to image making.   I finished my time in the military and started college for a variety of interest that kept revolving and returning to photography.   When I was considering returning for a photography degree a photo editor acquaintance told me it would be a waste of time and money.  I haven’t looked back.