Light can come and go in a blink of an eye. There are a lot of days in the North where all we get is grey skies so when the skies break up for a while, you better believe everyone gets out. Just as fast as it disappears the clouds come back. While out chasing the hole in the clouds you wait as that one moment arrives that brings a solitary beam down to earth. You can’t explain it but you’re instantly drawn to it. Then the chase is on to get the shot before the heavens close up and the light is gone once again. It’s the challenge of landscape photography, waiting for that one moment to come and bring light to the hills.
As I talked about last week in a post about snow covered trees creating some of the best abstract patterns, while I was out this past weekend I found a clump of Cottonwoods backed by some Pine Trees that looked just amazing. This time of year we see a lot of bare trees which tends to lead to a lot of shots of snags silhouetted against a sunset. We’ve all seen it and probably half of us have already done that. But what about something better?
Going with my same combo, D4 and 24-70 AF-S f2.8 but the 70-200 VRII it would also be good here, by isolating just the Cottonwood trunks and branches against the shadows of the Pine Trees, those bare branches become rather pretty. Sometimes it isn’t about the shape of the tree and its branches but the color of the wood. With just a hint of light hitting the tops, the grove comes alive for just that brief moment.
It’s the start of another week and that means another round of blogs. Oh the challenges of coming up with new topics gets harder and harder but that brings the joy of getting out shooting, to fulfill such topics. While I was out cruising this past weekend, which in itself if is a lot of fun, I was in quick search mode as the clouds were moving fast. To the Southeast the clouds were great! Every other direction sucked! That’s the way it is when a storm moves in. I stopped in one spot where an old barn stands that I have photographed several times. It has this great road leading up to it and i don’t know why but I’ve always been drawn to those roads. They let the imagination tell great stories.
Shooting with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, one of my absolute favorite combos for landscapes, I quickly captured the scene. But that wasn’t the entire scene. One of the most basic and important rules in photography is to always look behind you. Sometimes the best things aren’t right in front of you but in every other direction. In this case it was a lone pine tree bathed in gorgeous afternoon light, with a lit hillside behind it, making it almost look warm out.
One of my all time favorite lenses for shooting landscapes is the 70-200 VRII. I know that might seem odd but the truth is that range gives enough flexibility to go wide and capture a lot or to go tight and capture those little snippets of the overall picture. I often find that those little snippets can be just as if not more powerful then everything being seen at that moment.
While I was out driving last week I came across this one section of Gallatin Gateway that I like to often drive through. Wasn’t going for anything, completely open minded, just watching the light. In this case the light, as often is, was more interesting than the landscape. So why even include that landscape? Well you still need a spot to rest your eye on. I saw this image and new that in post adding a gradient to the bottom and really bringing down that exposure would make that foreground go away leaving one place for your eye to go to, that little bit of light hitting that one hillside. Really simple basic trick that also gives the allusion that the valley is really long and the other side is far away. It’s these little details that make people stop and look at your photographs and in the end that’s the goal.
It’s getting to be that time of the year when all we have are grey skies to look up to. Sometimes it makes shooting a little bit harder to mentally figure out what to do. We have had some real nice days lately, cold nights but nice days. I went out cruising, nothing more than a camera on my lap, looking to see what I could find. It does help to clear out the mind to just drive and look and not have a plan or agenda. I was heading along the Gallatin river when I stopped at this one corner for these Cottonwoods and this cool old house. Great thing about Montana, you can find old buildings almost anywhere.
One thing I did with both of these images is I lit more of the areas I wanted to, with the adjustment brush in ACR. I keep playing around with that tool and find it can be really useful. ACR now has just amazing sliders, especially with highlights, shadows and whites. The brush combines those sliders with power of “brushing” in the areas you want or don’t want to show. It’s kind of useful. For instance the foreground in the top image, and the house in the bottom image were brought out with the brush without disturbing the rest of the image. I haven’t integrated this into my workflow completely yet but it is fun to play with.
You know it’s been quite a busy few weeks since I got back from the Air Races and getting out shooting has been a challenge. Thankfully I got work done early last night and was able to escape from the computer to drive around for a couple hours. Winter has already set in up here, which amazes me how fast summer went by. We’ve had nothing but stormy weather for the last couple of weeks and for a change we had some decent clouds. Now it’s been mostly rain down below and some snow up above but clouds are clouds, and the moisture is good to have. As you can see there wasn’t much light to chase as the light disappeared behind the cloud bank rather quickly, but it was fun while it lasted.
The great thing about photography is always getting to play with the subject. If you don’t like something you change it. You do like something then you keep shooting it. Every time reinventing it by some little tweak. In this way we expanded our knowledge, our files and our stories. Well one thing that i never seem to do enough of is taking shots of silhouettes or back lit subjects that become silhouettes.
I think about this often when shooting, always trying to capture as much information as possible in each click sometimes ignoring the basic outline. It seems prominent with Aviation because of the unique look of each aircraft usually being photographed at sunrise or sunset however every time the overwhelming desire to take a bracketed set and merge them in post seems to take over. I wonder why this is? I ask how often do you go out shooting and end up with something that will become an HDR image ignoring the possibility of just the basic shape?
As the title say it’s Happy May Day. Now I have no idea what that means except it’s the first of May. Now we all know that to be a great time of the year because it means that school is getting close to being over for another year. It was one of the joys of being a kid. Nowadays that same feeling isn’t quite there, but instead is the longing to get out fishing, hiking and of course shooting. Here in Montana we aren’t quite there yet. Fishing is going well, shooting too, but hiking is still a bit chilly. Then again that tends to happen when it keeps snowing.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
As one of the latest post says, I was out this past Monday working with the thunderstorm that was passing through. I love when the thunderstorm come through Bozeman. They always bring cooler temperatures, great clouds and of course lightning! The best part is, thunderstorms are great for black and white photography. I love working the clouds, there are so many possibilities. Tight graphic images and wide landscape shots are both easily obtainable. Of course you have to find the right spot first.
I drove from one end of town to the other looking for that right spot to work the clouds. The one challenge with Bozeman is that there is a limited number of places you can go to work around the buildings. A lot of the best places you have to hike to. This is alright, it gives me a challenge. So for this challenge I went south. There happens to be a road that goes into the mountains and before that i this spot. A place with some housing development but not much. I was a good spot to work the clouds on the ridge.
I always love working around Bozeman. I get out of my truck with a camera in my hand ready to shot and someone will drive by, give me a weird look and keep on going. It always amuses me. No one seems prepared to see some photographers by the side of the road shooting the clouds. I look for those out of the way places but sometimes you just gotta pull over.
Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 14-24, AF-S 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
The drive from Salt Lake City to Bozeman has always been the best part of the drive for me. It is scenic and enjoyable then the other half, but that’s just me. For the first time in years I’m up here in July which is great because it’s a time of the year that i normally don’t see and so far it has been great. The amount of vegetation and wild flowers has absolutely stunned me. I never would have thought that it would be this green, but then i always arrive at then end of August when school starts.
When i got out of the pass on hwy 287 i greeted with a shower and dual rainbows. The last time i recall seeing rainbows that strong was in the Redwoods of Northern Cali. I had to stop! I immediately started looking for the high ground to get away from the road and luckily found one place that had no traffic in Gallatin Gateway. I pulled over grabbed the camera and started shooting. I’m sure the people on the ranch behind me were wondering what that guy was doing. Looking out now i can see another good thunder storm brewin and a chase that might happen.
Images captured with D3, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film