Spring or Fall

Some years it’s harder to tell than others that it is actually Fall. Thanks to the Typhoon in the Pacific a couple of weeks ago there has already been a significant dump of snow in the Rocky Mountains, while not unusual to have a storm in September, it was a lot at the time. All of that has melted away of course but it was a welcome sight for the fire season. In the time I’ve spent in Bozeman the weather has always seemed unusual. We get weird chinooks where it goes from warm to cold and cold to warm. There are have been past October’s where a T-shirt and jeans were too much and Septembers where you need a down jacket. The best advice for shooting under such conditions is to be prepared for just about anything. Do some homework and see what the weather gods bring.

Love Those Old Buildings

Old buildings are certainly common here in Montana but every time I find one I start getting excited. They just make great photo subjects. Each one has its own character and usually has some nice space around it. Add in a little bit of interesting light and boom, there’s a photo. I took this with the D5 and 70-200VRII, didn’t need much in ACR, just brought out what was already there. The one big thing about old buildings is be sure to remove, whether during composing or in post, anything modern looking. It kind of takes the viewer away from the scene having modern stuff in the frame.

Chasing Those Storms

The thrill of the chase, the camera in the lap and the light on the horizon. Sometimes it can be really rewarding being a photographer. While I have never considered myself a landscape photographer, just a photographer, I do enjoy getting those images that show off the world around me. How do I go about doing that?

Really simple. I sit inside and watch the weather until I figure out what it’s going to do. A storm went through the other night and after spending quite a bit of time watching, I could see that there was an opening out to the west and clouds to the east so the sky was going to pop. After that it was just finding a good spot. I went out with the D5 and 70-200 VRII getting some close ups of the light hitting the beautiful Montana landscape. Pretty simple click with a little bit of finishing in ACR.

Just Color

Never be afraid to take a landscape image when there are no clouds. Yes it can be a little less dramatic but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I know I got the habit from my Dad to look for clouds but sometimes having just that color is all it takes. Rolling hills on a beautiful summer evening is pretty hard to pass up.

Watch the Weather

If there is one thing I have learned when it comes to landscapes is that after a rain storm has gone by in the summer, you’d best be out with the camera. If the skies to the west are clear then odds are there will be some good light on some great clouds that evening. Yesterday was one of those exact days. Clear all day, light wind and then an afternoon shower. Now it is deceptive because the sky goes dark and the clouds stay socked in but if they open up then it will be gorgeous. Odds are that’s what happens, they open up and move on.

I did my usual and it’s what I encourage you to do. Drive around with a camera on your lap, watch the sky, watch the light and find a good spot to make a few clicks. This was a simple click with the D5 and 24-70 AF-S. Nothing more then finding the right foreground to go with the amazing background. A little help in ACR and done. It feels great when it all goes that smoothly and you come back with a couple images.

Working Those Small Pockets

In winter time there are often more days with overcast skies in the Rocky Mountains then there are sunny skies. This is the case with most areas. While my favorite has always been and will always be puffy cloud days, the winter weather can lead to some interesting moments if you are watching the weather. There are many things that as a photographer you have to pay attention to and the weather is another one of the them.

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In between storms cells is often an opening in which some light will make it’s way through providing some shooting opps. If you’re familiar with your local you can take advantage of these times. In order to do that you have to explore and shoot. With the D4 and 24-70 AF-S I made these two basic shots by just going to a couple spots that I had previously been and knew would have the light.

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If you’re wondering why one is black and white and the other isn’t it’s really simple. When there was great color I stayed with it. When there wasn’t I went monochrome. This was my thinking while I was shooting because not all of those pockets of light produced great color. But every pocket did create great contrast.

Spring Storms

We’re getting into that time of the year when the great Montana Spring thunderstorms come through the valley and with them comes some truly beautiful photo opps. June and July are some of my favorite months for landscape photography because we get those sudden temperature changes that make for really dramatic clouds. Saturday was a rainy gloomy day but opened up in the afternoon. Sunday was even better.

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Now I’m still getting used to the D5 and all it has to offer so when I went out working with the storms I was quite surprised and pleased with the results. The quality difference is quite amazing. It’s hard to see when you don’t shoot with the two cameras yourself but just like when I moved from the D3 to the D4, moving from the D4 to the D5 I can see the quality difference in the final image. One way I saw it was that I had less post processing to do when I got back. The D5 did just an amazing job capturing the light.

In the Absence of Light, Structure is King

Even when the light has finally disappeared, it’s not time to put the camera away yet. Without light all that is left is structure and structure can make for some great images. Spring thunderstorms are great examples as the clouds often form these great masses of drama. The key is to take that image and then in post bring up the structure or the clarity slider to bring out more of the character in the clouds. One of the key elements when composing an image like this is to have very little foreground in the frame. By looking up more and essentially ignoring the rule of the thirds, the focus turns to the clouds and that also helps to make the structure more pronounced.

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Images Captured with Nikon D4, 24-70 f/2.8 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Benefits of Retracing Old Haunts

Fall means luxurious yellows, oranges and reds. It’s the iconic symbol of the season and in Montana, with Cottonwoods and Aspens all over the place, it’s a great time of the year to be out shooting. There’s one spot I love going and it’s not because of the color. There is a stretch of hwy 191 that goes between Gallatin Gateway and West Yellowstone and it is absolutely beautiful the entire year. This time of the year it’s great because we are starting to get snow fall on top of the peaks which means cloud cover. Well this particular stretch is great for getting really interesting clouds rolling over the pine trees.

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Now before I went down this road I had set out with no plan, no agenda, just a fun afternoon drive. It’s how I like to shoot. It keeps it fun and rewarding. When you’re fixed with a plan you build up your own hopes that can be let down. If you’re just driving, you’ll have fun. I had my usual setup, D4 and 70-200VR II, on my lap ready for the image that stands out. I pulled over a couple times and found some great creeping clouds moving along the peaks. I took these shots knowing that I would convert them later to black and white. I was going more off of the contrast in shape as opposed to color. All of these were quick shots that came as result of picking a direction and going. It’s that simple.

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