Working the Canyon Light

I love working in canyons. The lighting is always interesting because the walls force light where you don’t expect it to be and as the sun moves across the sky it keeps changing lighting up new areas. The contrast between these areas can make for some amazing images. One spot I have spent a good deal of time this year is the Bear Trap Canyon which is part of the Madison River. It runs south to north from Ennis Lake to the Madison Plateau between the Gallatin National Forest, Madison Range and Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Needless to say it’s not the most accessible place in Montana.

When I talk about the contrast in the light a lot of it shows between the shadows and the highlights. Often times a feeling emerges from the coldness of the shadows and the warmth of the light. It’s a lot of fun to play with either with a tight composition or a wide one. One important note though. If you plan to work in a canyon where there is this much dynamic range in light be sure NOT to include any sky. That extremely bright sky will result in blown out highlights. It will also destroy that mood that the canyon creates.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Is There To Much Flare?

I always wonder about flare because I often include starbursts in my landscape shots when it is appealing to do so. It’s a simple and old technique to use a starburst. Simply close down and you should be able to get a result. Depending on if there is something between the sun and the camera, such as a cloud, a tree, a mountain, will change the starburst outcome. This was real popular for a while and then died off, it came back and is slowly going away again. That could be said about many things in photography.

So, Flare, is it good or bad? Everything comes back to the story. What you saw and felt when you took the photograph of course comes into play so I won’t bother to much with that point. I like to think about it more as does it help the image or does it hurt the image? A starburst by itself grabs the eye. It’s bright and dramatic. So is that extra flare needed under those circumstances? It’s one of those things that is hard to come up with a definite answer for and for myself I’m still trying to come up with one. If the flare acts like a guiding source then I think it can work but it really does depend on the other elements.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Steamy Goodness

Fall color isn’t the only thing worth going out for this time of year. One of my favorites has always been and will continue to be steam. After a cold night with fresh frost along the banks of the Madison River, the steam that comes up from the sun heating up the water molecules can make some true magic happen. Not only does the sun provide this drama but it enhances it even further by adding light.

When it comes to working with steam be real careful with the front element because the sudden change of temperature on glass from hot to cold can cause damage. Also depending on how much steam you are working with you might want to carry a towel in your pocket to blot your gear dry. As for the photo itself it all comes down to the story you want to tell to show what you saw and felt that day.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Just a Little Light

Robert Burns famous line from To a Mouse, on turning her up in her nest with a plough, The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,For promis’d joy! sure seems to fit well with photography. We plan and plan and think we have the nest scenario figured out every time only to find some hiccup. As a result we often have to settle for the next best image opposed to the one we think we will capture when we set out. Sometimes it works out and other times it doesn’t.

First Snow Has Come!

This past week we saw our first snow fall of this upcoming winter. Every year we usually get some snow on the ground in the beginning of September and right on cue after a few days of rain that snow showed up. It was a welcome sight to help deal with the many fires in the state currently. The crisp days are going to hang around for a few days this week which means some great photo opps.

Fall is one of the best times to be in the Rockies. Between the snow, changing colors, clouds, constantly changing light and the generally feeling of the land just makes for some great opportunities. The one big tip I can give for this time of the year is to be outside as much as possible. I fortunate to be in Yellowstone fishing on the Madison after the snowfall and it was just beautiful.

Images Captured with D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Working Flare

It’s interesting how photography keeps changing. For a long time flare was very popular and then it slowly started to die out and with nano coating on the lenses it’s even harder to get flare. But now it’s making a slow emergence and while I can’t say I embrace it, at times it can be a very powerful tool.

First off I love images that come naturally. Forced images never feel complete to me, there’s always something that could be done to make it a better image. This wasn’t forced, it was life. Walking back after a long day on the river, we passed by a campground and the sun popped out from the clouds long enough for a few clicks. Now when it comes to flare, your subject will always be darker. The flare will mess with the exposure often making your image look like there’s a layer of fuzz to your image. When this happens you’ll notice your subject disappear a little bit so it’s important to either light the subject or have something brighter behind that subject to make it pop. That little bit of smoke hanging in the background from the camp fires is giving me that extra pop needed. So if you’re going to play around with flare remember the light and remember the background because your subject might suffer otherwise.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

If You’re Going to Stop and Smell the Roses

Well frankly if you’re going to stop I would recommend a different Rose. These Thistle flowers are really nasty. After a handful of thorns from a fall, smelling them would be a whole lot worse. On the plus side they do make for a good foreground.

When it comes to working with flowers I have limited experience. Macro photography isn’t my strong suite but like most landscape images you want to remember lines and distracting elements. The whole point of stopping at a giant field of flowers is to show off the natural beauty of the world. It’s hard to do that is there is a trail in the middle of the field. Just three feet to my left is that trail. By simply moving my feet, not stepping on any flowers, I was able to hide that element. Staying planted is one of the worst things you can do with your photography and like this example, a few feet can often times make a dramatic difference.

Image Captured with Nikon 1 V3

Big Storms, Big Drama

I always love chasing a good afternoon summer thunderstorm. Each one is different and each one can have some serious drama in the clouds. This brings up the old adage of the rule of thirds and a foreground anchor. Both of these are long held beliefs in the landscape world but both rules are easily broken when you start thinking more about the skies as the subject and not the earth.

This style is something my Dad had me start thinking about when I was younger and I still do. Thunderstorms are great examples because all you really want is the sky. The earth can be rather boring at times. So why have a log or rock as an anchor detracting from the gorgeous sky? Why worry about having a foreground, middle ground and background when 3/4’s of the photograph becomes a canvas of clouds? If you’re really trying to become better as a landscape photographer then you have to be willing to break your normal habitats and break the rules.

The Salmon Flies

Yes those are bugs. No I’m not going into another field of photography. This just happened to be one of those moments I couldn’t pass up. This past week the Salmon Flies have started to emerge from the water which for fly fisherman is a really big part of Spring fishing. Salmon flies are very unique insects. The larvae will live in the water for three to four years before they emerge. Then the nymphs crawl to the shoreline where they shed their exoskeleton and are ready to mate. This activity makes for some amazing fishing but it is also a huge part of the ecology of the river system.

While I don’t usually photograph insects, the significance of this species is important information for the files. When it comes to storytelling or say writing an article, having spent time watching and photographing these insects is a necessity. Now I’m also trying out new equipment. Everything you see here was shot with the D750, 24-70 AF-S, and SB-5000. Why the D750 you ask? Well it’s an FX body which works with my contingent of lenses, the image quality and video quality are excellent. The big thing is size and weight. If you spend a lot of time hiking, with your camera gear on your back, then you know that all that weight really starts to zap your strength. The D5 is 3.1 lbs but the D750 is 1 lb and 13.7 oz. That’s a big difference in the end. So when it comes to you’re projects and gear, you gotta think about more then just image quality. That’s the lesson I learned here. Quality is still great with the D750 but with a whole lot less weight.

Be Safe While Shooting

It’s that time of the year again when it’s great to be out hiking and shooting. Some of the best photos are off the beaten path but sometimes that path can be dangerous. It’s crucial that you remember that no photo is worth endangering yourself so here’s a few quick tips to stay safe to get that shot.

First, go light. Don’t bring everything in your arsenal, just one lens and a body. That weight can be brutal given enough time. Second, bring a buddy. Shooting is always more fun when you have someone to share it with even if they aren’t into photography. Lastly, make sure someone else knows where you’re going. No photograph is worth getting hurt for so be careful while you’re having fun.

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