Black and White and Clouds

Apparently Dad and myself think on similar wavelengths because right before the holiday he had a similar post. If you’ve spent much time with landscapes in the summer, then you know it’s not just us. Summer time is a great time to be doing landscapes because the afternoon can lead to some amazing cloud formations. As I posted about on Monday, those clouds can be great for sunset but they can also be great by themselves. All clouds have a texture, a shape, a dynamic to them and each shot should reflect that.

Black and white is a great way to go with just clouds because it really brings out the depth and drama to them. When it comes to this style the emphasis has to be on the clouds and not the landscape. Notice these images have very little foreground because the subject is the cloud formation in both and I wanted to emphasize that. Both were taken with the same setup, D5 and 24-70 AF-S. Yes I use that combo a lot. It’s just a good general setup. Then again that’s just me. This area of landscape photography is really fun and it really challenges you to break away from the rule of thirds and look at landscapes another way.

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.

Pick Up the Camera and Shoot

It can be hard at times to find the motivation to get out shooting. You start thinking about having to drive somewhere, the time it takes, the work you haven’t done, the other things you could be doing, etc. We’ve all been there and we all struggle with it. But the simple fact is if you don’t shoot everyday then you’re not pushing yourself. One of the best ways to keep pushing yourself is to shoot out your window. I’m sure some of you might be saying, “well I live in a city.” Well one of my favorite photographers spends more time shooting from his roof then anywhere else and he lives in a city. If you’ve ever seen a Jay Maisel class then you know he spends a lot of time photographing New York from his roof and it seems to have worked out pretty well for him.

Why not? Shooting from your house or office can be a good way to breakup the monotony of the day and keep your skills sharp. Will you get a great photo that will make you lots of money every time? No probably not. Then again if you’re in this business then you know that’s not really a reality any of the time. The point is to stay sharp throughout the week when you’re stuck at work. These shots I took outside my window. Are they the best? No. Did it feel good to be holding a camera after hours on the computer. YES! These were taken with the D5 and 70-200 VRII. Nothing special in the camera and nothing special when it came to finishing. Just a quick way to think through the process and keep the mind sharp.

Breaking up Those Office Blues

It’s Friday and that means it’s the hardest day of the week to get anything done. I know a lot people feel Monday is that day but I tell you what, Friday is so much harder because all I think about is what I want to do over the weekend. How do you get past that feeling and get something accomplished? Real simple, pick up the camera and shoot a little.

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Sometimes the best way to overcome a challenge is to do something else. Let’s face it, sitting behind a computer all day gets really boring and stagnant which often times leads to being unproductive. Instead of sitting there trying to fight it, pick up the camera shoot a little, have some fun and relax those brain muscles. Then when you’re feeling better go back and get the work finished. I took this quick shot yesterday during one of my slumps when staring at the Cyntiq was getting tough. Clouds outside looked interesting with some high wind action, so I picked up the camera and relaxed for a few minutes, taking in the beautiful scenery. You might now have quite the same option where you are at but hey it does help to just stop and relax instead of trudging on.

One Image isn’t Enough

One of the true benefits of living in a beautiful place is being able to look out your window and see something truly beautiful. As is common this time of year, one storm rolls into the next. We had a small break this past weekend but the next is on it’s way and with it brought new clouds. Now I didn’t think much was going to happen as the sky was pretty dark all day but thankfully I was proven wrong. Right after lunch the light started showing through on the other side of the clouds over the Gallatin Mountains. I hadn’t seen this formation before so it seemed prudent to grab the D4 and 70-200 VRII and take a few shots.

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Click on Image for Larger View

The light was pretty cool and one image just couldn’t quite sum up what I was seeing so the only answer was a pano. Ever since Adobe put the merge to pano feature into Adobe Camera Raw, I have really enjoyed making panos. While they don’t serve a lot of purposes and are hard to do something with besides showing off on the blog, panos allow you to capture so much more then if you were to just take a single image. In this particular case these panos are so narrow because the foreground absolutely sucked but the light stretched across so far that it took multiple images to capture all the details. The top pano is made of ten images and the bottom is made of eight. That’s how many it took to bring the story to life.

A Couple of Hours is all takes

When I first started in photography it was because I enjoyed exploring. To this day I still enjoy exploring and most of the time you don’t have to go to far away or be out for a long time. Thankfully we had a great storm come through over the weekend, because we need the water, and that storm produced some great clouds. After a morning of dealing with this and that I grabbed the camera and just took off exploring.

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While it is true that if you want great shots of fields or rolling hills then you have to go where those places are but no matter where you live just going out driving, with a camera on the lap, is all it takes to get started. All these shots came from driving along the river and then over to another river. Now when I started I had the 70-200VR out with the D4 to isolate the spots of light that were contrasted against the grey skies. I quickly learned that was not wide enough and switched to the 24-70 AF-S. I like that switch.

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Even though I’ve never been much of a flower person I love it when I find a set of rolling hills covered in flowers. Those great blankets of yellow, purple and red instantly just suck the eye in so no matter what is in the background or how bad the light is, there is still an option. With clouds not being as dramatic here I opted to show more of the foreground which had that vibrant yellow to it.

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After passing the Gallatin River and the fields leading up to the Madison River, I went into a valley that I have always loved because it has just great landscape features in it. It’s amazing how different and how fast the clouds are moving between the thirty miles I drove. This entire exploration took only a couple of hours but the images speak volumes. That’s why it is important to not always be bogged down by projects and just go explore. You never know what you mind find. Best of all are the images that I didn’t put here and some of those will be coming later in the week.

Loving that ACR Pano Feature

Ever since Adobe added the merge to HDR and merge to Pano options in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC, I have truly been enjoying the capabilities of these features. Whenever I go out shooting, I take a few extra shots to see what kind of Pano I can create and sometimes they turn out rather interesting. For the last few days we have had some truly gorgeous weather, so much so that it has been absolutely great bike riding weather. This past evening we had another Summer storm roll through and it was good time to pick up the camera and shoot.

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Click on the image to see it bigger

Using just a D4 and a 70-200VRII it was simply a matter of isolating the ares of interest and then bringing them together in post. One really important thing to remember when doing a pano is that you need to make sure you have roughly a third of each composition in the next image. There has to be enough overlap so that the computer can stitch the images together. It’s actually really simple to do, even hand holding, it just takes some mental awareness.

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