April Showers Bring May Flowers

Not in Montana! This old adage is a favorite among farmers and ranchers but it certainly doesn’t seem to apply this year. With storm after storm bring record levels of water content into the mountains it’s hard to say when the snow will give way, when the temps will rise and when those posies will blossom.

These two images were taken in June a while back because like this year, those years the bloom didn’t happen until June. Now I have never been a huge macro flower person but I love landscapes that are filled with color from those flowers. Something as simple as a field of Mustard Grass can be rather amazing. Like with all my landscapes I look for clean backgrounds and clean lines. Notice there are no trails of people having walked through the flowers. Also blue sky days are great, blue sky days with puffy clouds are even better. Don’t go just for the sake of going, be picky, and find the good days. I bring this up now because with all photo subjects you need to prep ahead of time.

The Endless Joys of Snow

I truly love Winter. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the Sierra’s and spent every waking moment not in school on the ski slopes enjoying the fresh powder. I love it to this day but I enjoy it in other ways, by capturing the beauty of freshly fallen snow in my photography. Snow can be a great element in any photograph. It’s most versatile and obvious element is the fact that it adds a white point. If you are working on a black and white conversion, having an absolute white is important. Well it also adds more color to any landscape.

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These normally brownish hillside would not look nearly as interesting if there wasn’t snow. I know this for a fact because I have driven by this hillside numerous times as I traversed I-80. The snow adds color by covering up some areas while leaving others exposed. This creates more dimension on the hillside as the sweeping, rolling hillside becomes more dynamic. With the help of ACR and the adjustment brush, a simple sweep in certain areas bringing down the exposure and a sweep along the tops bringing up the snowy covered mountain tops, brings out more of that dynamic look. Now I actually really like it like this but for this example, by using the ACR brush in this way we set the image up for a great black and white.

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As you can see the result is a pretty compelling hillside. The clouds on the other hand were just something I lucked out in. They were there so I stopped. If it was a blank sky, the image wouldn’t be as good. Simple tools to bring out more in your landscape photography.

Happy New Year 2015!

It’s the beginning of a New Year. Isn’t it an amazing feeling knowing that another year has passed and we have a whole new year to look forward to making so many things happen. The possibilities are endless and the adventurous are everywhere. 2014 was a great year for myself and my family and it’s one of those times when it’s good to reflect on how good it was and what there is to look forward to.

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I had the great fortune of going on many trips to many places that I had never been before, and many more that I had been. As photographers we have the privilege and the challenge of constantly trying to come up with the next big thing. To improve upon our own work so that others may learn from what we have accomplished, while capturing the history of what we are witnessing. With the new year comes the challenge of learning from last year to make this one better.

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Whether we can see or not see the path that leads forward in this career, all we can do is keep working. Photography isn’t just about following your passion but about taking on anything that comes your way. Being able to rise and fulfill any job you wouldn’t normally do, can be more rewarding than anything else you have done.

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During this year we will meet new people and add more stories to the already bursting hard drive. Take time to enjoy those moments with those people you care about for often the best moments are fleeting. It is those times that we truly need a camera in hand.

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Above else, make sure you have a wonderful place that you can call home. For at the end of the day, at the end of the next trip, you need that special place to return to. Have a Happy New Year, may it be filled with joy.

The White Christmas

You know it’s funny the things that you think about where you grow up and the things that you don’t think about. Since I have always lived in the mountains I never thought about those iconic white Christmas days. For me either there was snow or there wasn’t. Most of the time there was. It wasn’t a really big deal. It wasn’t until i got older that I learned that some people really enjoy those white Christmas’s and don’t always get them. Well I can’t make it snow but here is a nice snowy picture to enjoy.

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The Hole in Nevada

Well the holidays sure came and went fast as they usually do when you’re having fun. I imagine it seems a little odd I posted yesterday abut going home and here I am posting about driving back to Bozeman. Well for what it’s worth there actually was a lot of fun in between just not a lot of shooting, I spent a lot of it playing games, playing with the dogs and playing with my new Mac. What better to do then that.

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The drive back to Bozeman was not one of my favorites as I was chasing a storm for the majority of the way through Northern Nevada and this time of the year, I’m not really fond of storm chasing. It was pretty darn dark with a lot of low clouds throughout the trip but as I made my way through Elko and headed to Wells Nevada, I stopped and saw a little bit of light peaking through the cloud layer hitting this mountain range. I pulled over and grabbed the D4 and 70-200 VRII and got a couple quick shots of the mountains, isolating the patterns on some slopes while also shooting the entire scene. Another quick winter moment captured.

A less Subtle look into Light Painting

The other day I talked about why and how I use ACR to bring out more drama in my landscape images. Most of the time I like to be subtle so that it’s not obvious what I’m doing. The reason being that I want people to stop and look at the image and say to themselves, “how did he do that?” The more time someone spends looking at one image of yours the better. Well throughout this while process I keep trying to come up with different ideas and different examples to show. This time I went with a little but more obvious one.

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If it ain’t obvious yet I really do like to go out when there are thunderstorms because the clouds simply can’t be beat. If you’ve have ever been in the northwest or anywhere else that has large fields of alfalfa, wheat or barley then you know there are lots of possibilities for shooting. But what happens when there is no light? Well off to the west the sun was stuck behind the clouds but a break was coming. To the east was this one lone cloud over the Bridgers. By simply using the adjustment brush and upping the exposure and shadows a little but I worked in a few areas of light. Starting with one pin and moving on to three more, I slowly built up the the amount of light in each area. It really does feel like painting sometimes and is certainly not as subtle as previous one I have done, but it’s fun nevertheless and the results kind of speak for themselves.

Speaking at the Adobe Booth

I am happy to announce that this September at Photoshop World I will be giving my first presentation at none other than the Adobe Booth. I am so excited and a little bit anxious but it’s going to be fun. The topic I’m going to be talking about is what I like to call Light painting in Camera Raw. Now I’ve been talking with the amazing Russell Brown and we agreed that little preview would also be fun. So all this week I will be talking about what I do and how the adjustment brush in Camera Raw can be your best friend. To get things started here’s a quick example.

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The Light Always comes Through

The smoke has finally found its way into the valley. We have had a very fortunate summer so far in which we haven’t had many fires or had to deal with much smoke. After the latest set of storms that have come through we now have a fire burning out in the Bitterroots. When we do have that smoke it can lead to some amazing color if there is a break in the sky but sadly the skies did not break and we were left with nothing but skuzz. This was from the great thunderstorm that we had last week.

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The options in the endless fields

The great thing about living in a valley surrounded by farms and ranches is having those long fields of wheat, alfalfa and barley to work with. Looking back out to the east as the sun went down the horizon had just a few puffies left but that was enough. With fields like these there are lots of options, because there are lots of different stories that could be told. As for me I went with the light streaking across the open fields approach. Not the most original but always fun.

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Working that Thunderstorm

Well I wasn’t kidding when I said on Monday that it has been a busy time but I got out for a little bit chasing the thunderstorm that we had a couple nights ago. It didn’t produce to much lightning but the god beams were fantastic. No barn to put with them but a large open ranch isn’t a bad runner up.

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It was interesting watching the light come down through the opening in the clouds, the light kept changing as it bounced around the clouds. Until finally it left with a little color on the hillside.

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When it comes to landscape photography I try to keep things pretty simple by using the D4 and in this case just a 24-70 AF-S. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with the basic tools and a little finishing work in post. Keeping it simple means more time to be out shooting.

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