I’ve spent a lot of time in the winter, both indoors and outdoors, and I know that going out with the camera gear can be a little daunting. I mean you have to go out in the cold, leave the nice warm indoors, potentially get all your camera gear wet and who wants to do that? Well, there are some great opportunities in the snow but one of my favorite ones comes in between the storms. Snowstorms tend to have really dramatic clouds but then it’s also really dark so the drama can get lost. In between the storms can bring in new light which can make those storm clouds just pop not to mention the landscape.
With the increasing number of snowstorms throughout the state comes the multiple opportunities to make great black and white photographs. Snow acts as a wonderful element to add contrast to any image. Using a long lens is a great way to isolate any small pockets of light on the mountainside.
Fall is definitely here! The temps are dropping into the 40’s at night on a regular basis, rainstorms and snow in certain areas, and the days already feel shorter as the skies stay darker. With these days comes great opportunities. From wide-angle to close up the cloud formations allow for a lot of different options. This one stormy evening last year proved very fruitful as the small window of god beams came through the clouds lighting up the Bridger Mountains.
Photography is all about capturing those moments in time so we can go back and look at them. That’s why it’s important to take as many photos as possible so you can see the changes that are happening around you. From an environmental standpoint, every year you photograph landscapes or wildlife and then you go back and see those same areas or critters, you can see the changes that have occurred. Last year one important lesson I learned with the crazy weather system we had, was to go out more on the days that had terrible grey skies. I thought nothing would come from them but I learned that often times they would yield just a sliver of light and that sliver would be enough for a single image. Now I still go out to these same spots and still see the changes but every time I try to learn and improve on them.
I have spent many years chasing sunsets partly because I’m too darn lazy to get up for sunrises. I always tell myself to but I never seem to manage it. Over the years I have managed to come up with a few good spots to go for sunset to make up for these lack of early mornings. One of the things that I have learned is that Spring sunsets can be amazing here in Bozeman.
They aren’t what you would expect. The way the weather moves through the valley often only a sliver of light is left on the mountains to the east as the clouds cover everything else in the sky. This narrow opening out west lets in just enough light to make some magic happen. It’s like that single ray of light on a dreary day to make everything better.
It really does just take one image to make that whole time out with the camera worth while. When a storm is rolling through, dramatic clouds in every direction and the shots are plentiful then you know you have something good. But then they close up and that small window is gone leaving nothing but darkness, what do you do? You wait.
When it comes to working the clouds of a storm it’s a matter of hurry up and wait. You rush out to where you want to be standing and then you wait for that moment when the heavens open up. This particular evening it didn’t open up like I thought it would but what did happen was pretty amazing. With the D5 and 24-70 AF-S I blasted away. Everything from 24mm to 70mm to high speed crop I kept looking for that one shot. This one was close but still not quite it. In all honesty the only way to get the shot was a 360 because everywhere was dark except this one spot. That’s when it pays to be out with the camera.
Your longest lens maybe better for landscapes then anyone has ever told you about. A long lens, not a 70-200 but a 200-400 or bigger can be a great tool when it comes to landscapes. Not only does the extra focal length allow you to isolate small pockets of dramatic light but the nature of that glass combined with a shallow depth of field will really compress everything in your composition. This combo can lead to some very interesting images.
Finding blog material isn’t always easy but sometimes it comes to you. This is one of those times. I was watching the storm of the Bridger Mountains all day and wouldn’t you know this one small spec of light opened up. 200-400 and the D5 was all that I needed to capture this brief moment and as you can see besides the little bit of light on the peak the rest of the sky just kinda sucked. So long lens technique for Landscapes should be in your arsenal.
It’s not always easy to be inspired to shoot when the whole sky is nothing but a grey cloud. It happens a lot in the mountains especially the further north you go and sometimes you just have to get over it. It only takes a few seconds where the light pops through and then that whole wait and searching becomes worth it. It only takes that one little light.
Now that Bozeman is back in the swing of having days of nothing but cloudy skies I think about the need to go versus the expected results. After many many trips out and not capturing anything because of the dark boring sky I can honestly say it can be disheartening. But occasionally, and last year proved that for me, there are moments that make it all worth while. This particular shot wasn’t planned but merely was the result of driving around with a camera in the lap chasing the light. You’d be surprised what you can come up with by driving around.
Despite the fact that it is spring right now, we are getting snow. While this is great for water content, we need as much as we can get, for photography it’s a little boring. Grey skies never make for really interesting subject matter but the key thing to remember is that they don’t always last. If you’re patient, between snow showers comes small openings that let in light and drama in the clouds. That’s when it’s best to be ready to shoot.
There really is no other way to say it. Sometimes the best photograph is the big one. Pano’s have always been a specialty item when it comes to photography because it encompasses so much that every detail has to be important to the overall story. Then once you have the image how do you go about displaying it? And for the longest time taking all the separate photos and merging them was an art. Thankfully today it has all become a little bit easier to do those things allowing every photographer to go big.
This shot I took last year of the Bridger Mountains is one that I always liked because it really represents what it’s like to live here in Bozeman. Thankfully with the tools now in ACR it takes very little time to create a Pano.