Looking out the Window

They say that the happiest person is one that gets up in the morning, looks out the window is happy with what they see. I found that to be true especially when you travel a lot, having a place that you enjoy coming back to is critical. I was heading shooting the other day and didn’t get very far because i stopped to shoot out my window. Popped the screen out, pulled out the 70-200 and took a few clicks. We currently are past our peak in Fall color but that wasn’t really what i was looking at.

When i saw the light i was just disappointed because it was so flat, pretty boring on the trees. But there’s alwys something. We had great god beams and some light out in the distance where a pocket opened up between the clouds. It was enough to add a little drama with the right work in post. Believe it or not this is late afternoon not sunset.

The great thing about photography is all we do is play. This whole idea was nothing more than playing around but that’s when the best images come out. Well I didn’t like the farmland between me and the mountains so i switched to the 200-400 and took a few shots that were a bit tighter. That’s the great thing about landscapes is that there is always a smaller story inside the whole picture.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Key to Black and White

There are many theories as to what makes the best black and white photos. I always found when it comes to landscapes the best photos are the ones that have the best clouds. It’s not really a big shocker but it is important. Having an absolute black and white is important to bring out the max range of light and shadows, but having the contrast and character of the clouds makes a huge difference with the overall composition.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

It’s Not Always About Going Wide

Whenever I got out to photograph landscapes, my mind isn’t just thinking about the wide angle get everything into the frame shot. No, I’m also thinking about snippets. Close up portions of the landscape that work well in themselves that can provide excellent material. With snow the possibilities seem to magnify so there is much more out there to be photographed. The other day when I was shooting sunset this was how I approached the situation.

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Landscape shooting is never just about capturing everything, it’s also about being creative. You got to be able to see more in the landscape then just the whole picture. If you think about sunset or sunrise, you have to get to the location early so you don’t miss anything. Well in that time your waiting for that magical moment you can play with the elements around you and get some really great stuff. As I showed on Wednesday the whole area was beautiful but broken done worked just as well. There weren’t many clouds but the ones that were there stuck around and some of them were on top of the peaks. By isolating those clouds with a 70-200 or even a 200-400 you can get great black and white shots. It doesn’t take much and describes what the Absaroka Range looks like just as well.

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The same philosophy of isolating elements while composing works just as well with reflections, sometimes even better. The spot where I was at had an upper and lower location of about 300ft. That amount is a dramatic difference in how much middle ground is in the shot, i.e. the trees between the river and the mountains. Those Cottonwoods are beautiful in the Fall, in Winter not as pretty. However, they did pose as a challenge. They were grey snags. By isolating part of the grove with the reflection in the water and then using SilverEfex Pro I was able to bring out that detail and make better use of those trees.

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One thing to keep in mind when working with black and white conversions, it is always key to have true black point and white point in the image. That is crucial. In ColorEfex Pro there is ProContrast which can bring out shadows really well, but it also can bring out noise. Also using levels you can bring out blacks and whites without bringing out more noise or making a really big file. These are all simple tips that can make a difference when applied. The best one being when you’re working with sunset or sunrise always be looking for tight shots not just the wide ones. Those are some of the best times for dynamic light and intense shadows.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Paradise Valley Lives Up To It’s Name

Yesterday I was over in Livingston doing some work and afterwards I went down into Paradise Valley to get some shooting in. Paradise Valley is just a beautiful stretch of land that goes south into Yellowstone. The Valley sits between the Gallatin Range and the Absaroka Range. On the east side of the road that goes through the Valley is the Yellowstone River, probably one of the best places to flyfish, at least in my humble opinion. After a large storm came through on Tuesday it was nice to see the sun shinning leading way to sunset.

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Cold and not windy, a great combination. The cold temperature keeps the snow of the trees to not melt, giving them that great frosty look often captured in a black and white still. There weren’t many clouds in the sky where I was so naturally I wanted those above the mountains to stay put! They did and gave a little more intrigue to a rather boring sky. As I was standing along the banks waiting for the sun to go down, I heard beside me trout boiling, a lot of boiling. I turned and looked and saw no hatch but a lot of activity. Instantly the thought of my fly rod and an Elk Hair Cadis came to mind. It always happens, when the camera is in hand the fish are no where to be found and when the camera is tucked away the big boys come out just to mock you. Ah well, at least the skies were pretty.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, AF-S 24-70 F/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Weekend Findings

I am always fascinated with the weather here in Montana. It seems to change so much in such a short amount of time. This past week has been a typical Winter days with grey skies and little precipitation. Finally on Sunday the skies broke and I awoke to a beautiful sunny day. With the great weather i took drive down to one of my favorite places, Ennis, MT. It’s a great spot out to the west. A tad windy though. The Gallatin Range to the east was looking great with all the snow and as I waited for sunset I was hoping for some sort of clouds to come in. They didn’t, it was bare. It turned out to be a quick click day with quick processing afterward.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, AF-S 24-70 F2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Yep it’s a sunset

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Since i came to Bozeman all those glorious years ago, i have tried to find good places for shooting sunset that are close by, close being within an hour distance, and have a good vantage point. Well, i haven’t. Every shot i have taken so far for sunset in and around Bozeman has basically been from the side of the road. The real annoyance is that most of the land around the town is private property, those signs are truly agitating. This past weekend was no different.

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I went out as usual before the light got good trying to find a place to shoot. I first went up to Hyalite Canyon where i have had some luck in the past. It was not the spot. So in the usaul fashion, i went down a road that i had not been down before. Sunset was looming towards me and i was running out of time. Literally the sun went down in half an hour. I pulled over, got the camera out and started shoot. to my great surprise the light actually worked perfectly to my favor right there by the road. It was nice being in the right spot and the right time for a change. Now where’s the howling wolf!

Images captured with D3, 17-55, 70-300AF-S vr,on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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