Color, Black and White, or Both

One of the many reasons I love working outdoors is you never know what will happen. After three miles of walking through snow and freezing water I wasn’t really anxious to go any further. When I came upon this bend I was quite excited because it had a great look to it. Quite simply, the beautiful bald sky sunny day was disappearing fast and the storm was coming in. When that happened the water started reflecting both creating this surreal pocket of time showing both before and after. If you spend a lot of time living in the mountains and a lot of time in the snow, then you know that this happens frequently, a great day turns sour and then it’s back to overcast. Seeing that transformation and capturing it are too different things which is why getting out and shooting is so important.

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

Does the subject need to be front lit?

Winter time is one of my most favorite times to shoot because the light looks so different with all the snow on the ground. Everything naturally looks more contrasted because of the snow and the subjects appear to be in a more inhospitable environment. It can be very challenging dealing with these harsh blacks and whites, but also there can be great joy.

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While I was out walking the river I had my friend Alex with me and he was fishing, I started playing around with the contrast in the landscape and of course him as the subject. The great thing about water and snow is there is a lot of hot spots. Since I’m always lighting my subject is some way I figured why not try the reverse. Motion can be seen in multiple types of light and in fly fishing there is a lot of motion. The motion of the wrist and the arm and the fly is crucial when it comes to getting the right cast. Capturing that motion, even silhouetted, is essential but not always easy. Diversifying and capturing mutliple types of shots is how you become better but it all starts with experimenting.

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

The Devil is in the Details

The little details do make a big difference and it’s important to pay attention to them all. When I went out on Saturday, the temperature was quickly rising after the storm on Friday, but the storm created these great ice rings on everything. Those ice rings created lots of simple small subjects that were just kind of interesting. The other factor that made everything interesting was the blue skies overhead and direct light on the water. Those two elements allowed for no color cast on the water and more vibrant colors to pop out. Simple things that tell the story of how nature works.

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

It’s Good to Walk with the Camera

Montana stills amazes me. Over the last five years I have been watching the weather a lot more closely to find better timing with my shooting and what fascinates me is how big the storms come through in November and December and then they seem to get smaller as far as accumulation in the valley. This past week we had a small storm come through on Friday and then Saturday it was right back to sunny and warm. Well the overnight drop in temperatures combined with the warming of the sun the next day made for a great day to be out.

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A buddy of mine wanted to go fishing on the Gallatin and I went but I didn’t really fish I just walked and took pictures. Sometimes you just get that feeling where all you want to do is pick up the camera and this was that kind of day. It started off sunny sixteen but by 3pm it was back to overcast. Those few hours produced some images, all of which I was focusing on the ice flows, nevertheless it was a good day to just be out and those days are needed every now and then.

Image Captured with Nikon D4 and 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Happy New Year!!

2015 has officially ended and 2016 is upon us! It’s amazing when you’re a kid you never think about time, except for how fast summer vacation goes by, but when you’re an adult it’s hard not to think about time. 2015 was a great year from the sky above to the ground below, I couldn’t have asked for more. I can’t wait for 2016 because I know that this business rewards those that work hard. I wish everyone a Happy New Year, may it be a blessed one.

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In Front and Behind You

One of the great things about shooting landscapes is knowing that behind you could be the better image. While I was out this past weekend at the marsh, which happened to be next to the Gallatin River, I stopped on a bridge and shot a little bit while the sun was just about down. Now the way the clouds were that evening, the great reds were never going to appear where I was up but further out west. That didn’t mean thought that there still wasn’t light. Even without the direct light there was enough definition in the clouds to bring out some of the contrast in the light and dark areas. What fascinates me is the difference between looking east and looking west.

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The great thing about working with bodeis of water is that they reflect light and that reflection can be almost graphic in nature. While looking out west where there was just a slight hint of red on the horizon, the rest of the sky showed almost no coloration. While the scenario is technically backlit the overall tone is that of a black and white. This is a result of no clouds, no moisture, the temperature seems more neutral then cold as a result.

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Looking out east where the last bit of light was hitting the clouds are cold but there is enough light to make out the rest of the scene. Both images were shot with the D4 and 18mm and neither one of them saw much time in ACR but it amazes me how different the landscape can look when looking 180 degrees the other way. The physics of light in that regard are pretty amazing.

How Much Foreground is Needed With a Landscape?

Every photographer has heard of the rule of thirds. It’s one of the first things that we are taught in photography in order to achieve a good photograph. You need a foreground, middle ground and back ground, roughly 1/3 of the photograph is taken up by each of these. As we progress with our own photography we learn how we can bend around that rule to come up with more interesting compositions that still achieve success.

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Usually with my landscape images I either show about equal proportions with the earth and the sky or if it’s a dramatic sky, I tilt the camera up to show a sliver of land and mostly sky. Easy ways to make the world look bigger. Well what about the reverse? I was standing by this alfalfa field with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S and after shooting like I normally do, I even made a pano, I started thinking about the grass. The skies were great but I liked the grass more then skies. The light on the grass tells just as interesting a story as the sky does. Since the Gallatin Valley is known for all the farms and ranches it’s also a culturally important feature to include as well as aesthetically. With a little help in Adobe Camera Raw to put on the finishing touches, this image was done. Is it wise to have so much foreground in any one image? I really don’t know, but I’m going to keep testing it until I come up with an answer.

The Camera Goes Everywhere!

When you are out and about you never know where that next great image will be and that’s why it is important to have your camera with you. If you saw my post yesterday then you know I had my camera with me while fishing. I have spent a lot of time on the Gallatin River and each time the river yields something different for me. I never know what but something. Well after looking over the weather and the clouds for that evening I knew the sunset would be a good one.

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Spring is one of the best times of the year to be out shooting landscapes. The rich colors of the foliage makes everything look over saturated and often times in the worst light there is still something. Using the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, these three simple clicks show the stages of light as it went down of the Gallatin River. Around 7pm the light was still high enough to make everything stand out.

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An hour later the light was fading and what remained snaked its way through the river canal highlighting some great spots while leaving others in the shadows.

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Then in the last breath of light left the sky lit up and what was left bounced off of the river. With a little help in Adobe Camera Raw those areas where the light wasn’t quite touching anymore but still were more prominent then others were easily brought out, showing exactly what it was like to be there on that great Montana evening.

The In Between Time

While I love going out fishing and equally going out shooting other people fishing, I have to admit that there is some down time. The main subject when out fishing is of course the fish, when none are being pulled you have to wait. If you love being outdoors then it really isn’t a problem there is always something to do. For me I just watched. The Bald Eagles are starting to migrate through again so that provided a lot of entertainment. Of course we had a grey sky and I didn’t have long glass with me so it was truly a watching game with them. Then of there are the ducks, geese and kingfishers that go by which are always fun. But the most fun thing to do while waiting is playing around with the camera.

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The great thing about working with a big river is there are great rapids. This makes its a little more challenging to cross but that’s what waiters are for. The rapids can be a lot of fun and great entertainment. The light reflecting off of the top is a big part of the composition and when finishing in post, using ACR you really bring out those difference between the areas where light is reflecting and the shadows on the water. If you go real wide keep in mind that the sky can be either a blessing or a killer depending on the time of day and the amount of cloud cover.

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Then again you can always come across those little spots where you can go real tight and find a nice pattern amongst the rapids. Shooting with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, I was hand holding at 1/30th of a second to get the motion blur. It’s pretty hard to walk the river with a tripod so good hand holding technique is important. When working with tight rapids and motion blur, unless you are going for a very artistic look where everything is blurry, then it is important to keep some sort of anchor in the composition for the eye to relax on. In this case it was that red rock in the lower left corner that I was focusing on. It’s small, out of the way, and not distracting. Simple.

Always Carry Around a Camera

If there is one lesson that you don’t want to learn the hard way it is to always have a camera with you. It’s a little bit easier these days with the quality of modern cell phones, but it’s pretty nice to have a small camera in your pocket for those moments that come up during the weekend activities. Two of my favorite sports have always been skiing and fishing. This past weekend my buddy Al dragged me out on Saturday and we went fishing for a few hours. We have a real warm spell going through right now and the nice weather made it encouraging for good fishing in January. Not exactly something I usually do this time of the year but fun non the less.

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The fishing was rather tough and didn’t amount to much but with the CoolPix P7000 in my pocket I was able to play around with the ice shelfs that were up and down the banks of the Gallatin River. Then again since I was fishing, why not combine them both and have a better image. The hardest part was getting that fly to stay on the ice without it breaking. Oh well the sixth attempt was the charm.

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