Go Black and White

Lesson number four is pretty straight forward, go black and white. Again it’s easy to be seduced by all that color but remember that all of that color when converted is just going to be bright white or grey against a dark background. It’s really simple to get a strong black and white out of fall color because there is naturally a lot of whites and blacks which are the two most important factors to consider. There must be an absolute black and absolute white in every successful black and white image. Don’t forget that.


One of the important factors to remember when working with Fall color and black and white is the composition. There has to be enough dark space in between all of those leaves in order to give a shape to the trees. If there isn’t the eye just gets lost. One of the great things about working with Aspens or Cottonwoods is the trunks are usually pretty bright surrounded by a pretty dark dirt forest floor. This helps to provide that shape. Keep in mind the gradient filter in Camera Raw can be very helpful when it comes to working with foregrounds and backgrounds.


Lastly for this lesson, remember to go small. One leaf can be a powerful image with the right help. What is the right help? Well go to my last blog post to see what that is. But here is a quick summary: quality leaf, good background, gesture, light and depth of field.

The Smallest Detail, the Leaf

Okay here’s lesson number three and it’s an important one. It’s easy to get distracted by the macro opportunities that come with Fall color, but if you are going to photograph a single leaf make sure it’s done RIGHT! We have all seen images of just one leaf positioned in a certain way during the fall season. It’s probably the most common image taken of them all during Fall. The problem is not everyone does it right and just to help here is my poor example.


Okay first and foremost find a good leaf! That might sound obvious but you’d be amazed at how many people just use one that’s already somewhat propped up and has somewhat a decent background. Well If nature provides you with that awesome single moment then take it but for the rest of us, find a good leaf, no bug holes, no bent stem, a good solid color and a good shape. It’s actually a lot harder then it sounds to find that right one. Next find a good background! It’s still the most basic rule of photography, background is important. Once you have both of those doing something interesting with the gesture. Don’t just stick it in the corner of the photograph and call it good. Remember the words of Maisel, gesture is key. Next, the light. Make interesting light don’t just take a flash, blow out the details of the leaf and have a dark background. Lastly play around with depth of field, a shallow depth of field can go a long way in this scenario. As you can see by my example I did NONE of these things and that’s why it is a poor example but it made you read why.

Working those inner patterns

The first lesson is really the most important as you will see in this next one that it still plays a role. The second lesson when working with Fall color is to not be distracted by the overall scenario, remember to work the smaller details. What do I mean by smaller details? Well lets start with the grove of tress themselves. This is a group of Aspens in California just past Conway Summit. It’s a great grove that tends to have a narrow window of color before the leaves are blown away. Well the skies sucked that day but the grove didn’t, so don’t include the skies. Work the leaves.


Jay Maisel said it best with Color, Light and Gesture. Well the color is obvious, the light is flat but what’s the gesture? The gesture is the naturally lines that form between one tree and another. Those tree tops change color at different times giving rows of different color. All those patterns or gestures amongst the grove can tell a story by themselves. A great way to capture this isn’t with a 24-70 but a 70-200 to isolate those little pockets.


Remember the first lesson? Well when you have a bright color, like yellow, if you have a brighter color, like white, your eye will go to that instead even though the entire frame is filled, in this case with orange. It’s important to keep in mind where the tree trunks are in your frame when composing because those white lines can either be helpful or hurtful.

Chasing the Thunder

If you have been following all the weather stories right now that are trending then you know that a lot of people are out chasing the storms for that once in a lifetime photograph. Now having grown up in the Sierra’s I know too well how powerful those storm images can be and chasing thunderheads us something I got hooked on a long time ago. From California, to Utah, to Montana I have photographed everyone that I could get my viewfinder on. There’s just so much drama going on that it’s hard not to bring the camera out.


What I find most amazing is hoe different each one can be and how impact that is. The most typical one I see is at sunset. Which makes sense that’s when the temperatures begin to change and the air pressure changes with it. Of course the color that goes with it is always breathtaking.


Even in the middle of the day the shear shape can say a lot. Now I tend to shoot rather wide often with a 24-70 AF-S f/2.8 but there are those times that going closeup and picking out those spots where the rain or god beams are coming through that can be more impactful then the overall scene.


In those rare cases you find yourself needing something so wide that it encompasses the whole sky and not even a 14-24 f/2.8 does the job justice. No matter what field you’re in, go out and enjoy mother nature. You’ll find more surprises there then you can imagine if you give it a chance.

Road Work Ahead

Using man made elements to compliment natural elements is one of the best and trickiest ways to show the world around you. Not every man made object looks good. We all know that there are somethings we just don’t want to see in a photograph. Well unless you want to spend time in post doing this, roads are by far the most used and widely excepted man made objects to use in a landscape photo. The reason for that is they provide an obvious path through your photograph.

Every photo needs a point behind it, an underlying reason. Where the eye goes through a photo is easy to manipulate when there is a given road laid out already. What most people don’t understand is that the road has to flow and look aesthetically pleasing in the photo as well. Getting this look is as easy as changing the position of the road in the frame, your relationship to the road and biggest one removing any disturbing elements along the road. Poles, oil smears, road kills, anything that might not flow right needs to be removed. Just like with any other photo the final touches have to be put in.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Waiting for Winter

With the Holidays on the way, faster this year then what I thought it would be, it’s seems harder and harder to get out at the moment. This past weekend was just tremendous fun with my friends but didn’t lead to too many photographic opportunities, even with the lunar eclipse Saturday Morning which I heard was great. Since i still wanted to bring something on this Monday to those sitting in an office chair, I thought that this image would be appropriate. This was taken last winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Right now I’m wishing we had the same amount of snow up here.

Image captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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