The High Slopes

While out skiing I came across this scene and it stumped me. The mountains looked amazing and the clouds rolled back enough that it created a lot of drama but the light was so bright that I couldn’t see the great photo opp. While obviously I still tried to make the photo happen it still feels lacking. If this happens to you then you have to ask yourself, is the photo worth it or is it better to just soak in the moment?

 

Finding the Photo in the Forest

The Rocky Mountains have a lot of great places to go take pictures and one of those areas is the dense forests that surround Gallatin Valley. Hyalite Canyon and Reservoir is a wonderful place to go for a walk or this time of year a ski. Being in a dense forest can lead to some amazing photos but the light options inside the forest can make it a challenge. Forests are a  conglomerate of highlights and shadows which create a high dynamic range to work with. It can be easy to miss the photo by taking in too much so going small and focusing on a small area can lead to a more powerful image.

Afternoon In the Snow

Photographers all know to take their cameras with them where ever they go because the moment when you don’t have one is the moment when you need one. Well, I don’t normally take my camera with me when I go skiing because let’s face it, I fall down at times which can be scary when you have a camera, but this time around Hyalite I made sure I had mine. Beautiful powder and some great light made for a fun afternoon outing.

Ice Caps!

There is an actual name to these things but I can’t remember what it is. When rocks in rivers and lakes are sticking up above the waterline they sometimes will get covered with snow and form these little white bubbles which look really cool! In a fast-moving river, the rocks act like anchor points in the photo. The eyes will stop on these rocks and be a place to rest. If you go to black and white, then these rocks are a great contrast to the rest of the river.

Snow Patterns

Every snowflake is different which makes every snowfall different. As the blanket of snow covers everything it falls on, the areas that remain uncovered add contrast with different shapes and colors. It’s easy with landscapes to use a wide-angle and try and capture everything but with these patterns, it often is best to use a mid-range lens, like the 70-200, to only capture a section of the landscape. Ultimately it can be a stronger composition by removing unwanted spots.

It Just Takes One Rock

I spend a lot of time on the river, mostly with a flyrod, looking at the water and trying to find that right spot. You see shots like these everywhere of really blurry water with an anchor somewhere to fix your eye on. That’s fine, every photographer should have one of those photos in their library. Just make it a good one. Look hard for that spot that has a good current, the right color, some character, a good anchor that is bright, vibrant and catches your eye. Really try and find that awesome blurry water shot. It takes time to find it but that’s why we become photographers, for the journey.

Image Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Black and White Icebergs

It’s not really Fall anymore but it’s not technically Winter yet either. They say it’s going to be another year of record cold temps just like the last couple have been. Considering that Spring was late and Fall was skipped, I’m thinking that might be a pretty accurate guess. The temps are still staying above freezing which is keeping moving bodies of water unfrozen but the snow and ice that form on top of the rocks in the creeks are creating some interesting icebergs. These chunks of snow are great for black and whites. Simple natural elements, the darks of the water and the lights of the snow make for some fun shooting opportunities.

Image Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Where’s the Snow?!

December is often associated with winter, snow and of course Christmas. The one thing I’ve learned out of all my years living here in Montana is that winter can never be predicted. Even the weathermen a day beforehand can’t figure out what it’s going to do. So how as a photographer do you deal with that?

Lots of exploration. It really sucks when you’re out shooting in need of a good photograph and you just can’t find it. The days where you get skunked are all too real and can be very frustrating because you know what it should be but it’s not there. The answer is to be patient and to keep driving around until you find something. If you keep a journal of great places to shoot, which I encourage every photographer to do, then that can help with those lulls. Otherwise just keep your eyes open and see what comes your way.

Winter Storm Magic

Winter storms can really suck the motivation away from going out with the camera. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s snowing and you’re left with this challenge of making something happen with all that. Well despite that, they can break up and when they do that fresh coat of snow can be gorgeous. Well up at Hyalite Reservoir a really strong storm came through that basically was white conditions. After 20 minutes it was gone and all that was left was fresh snow and some great pocket lighting.

It’s hard to believe the blue sky came out but it was never more welcome. In these type of scenarios I love using a longer lens, mainly the 70-200 VRII because it allows you to isolate certain areas that are more interesting while eliminating more distracting spots. Since I wasn’t expecting this to happen and I had a more stripped down setup I made do with the 24-70 AF-S and High Speed Crop. When these situations come up you have to adapt quickly or miss out.

A little Light can tell a lot

Happy April Fools Day! It’s Spring. No it’s winter. Maybe not. Yea it’s that time of the year that isn’t really spring but isn’t really winter either. It’s what we like to call Montana Spring. As result we often get rather weird storms coming through which yields rain in the valley and snow in the mountains. Hey either way that means water accumulation which is a good thing. Well one of things that I really like doing this time of year is photographing the fresh snow that falls on the pine bows. Usually it only occurs after a storm and it usually melts off right away. Thus it becomes something of a race to get their in time.

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There are a number of ways to work with snow and believe me I don’t know them all. But one thing to always look for are the areas that form a natural contrast. In this case it’s the very tops of the pines tree being hit by light because they are just a little bit taller then the others. With the combination of the non lit trees there forms natural depth that can be exploited by dialing in exposure compensation, in this case -1 and 1/3. Using the D4 and 70-300 VR, the goal isn’t to try and capture everything but just the lit spots.

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