Photography is filled with ups and downs as we are forced to create more content. It never gets easier but every now and then it can be rewarding. No matter what field you work in there is going to be those lows and highs. The question becomes how do you get past those lows when they come?
There are a number of different ways that you can get over those lows but one way that works well is to find a personal project and truly invest yourself in it. Personal projects come in all shapes and sizes and for the most part they make more sense to you then they ever will to anyone else. I spent the last 7 months working on a personal project and having just completed it I can honestly say that the personal projects really do make a difference. It sucks feeling the constant need to commit time in order to complete the project but in the end it’s all worth it. I’ll go into more detail as to what the project was at a later date but it does feel good to get it done.
It’s great when everything comes together and you get that perfect amount of light coming through the clouds right on the spot you want it to. It never seems to happen when you want it to but every now and then the heavens smile on us. Well this was one of those moments where everything just kinda clicked, maybe it was just right place at the right time or maybe it was a reward for climbing up a cliff face. Who knows.
Rapids are a lot of fun to work with because you photograph them many different ways. You can use a fast shutter or a slow shutter, you can go tight and show just the water or really wide and show everything. You can go high and look down or get low and level with the river. Each way show another perspective which makes it fun. The two big things I look for is good light and a good anchor point. Now I don’t like using the word anchor because it gets used way to much with landscapes and often times those anchors suck but with fast moving water you need some sort of spot for the viewers eye to relax against because all that movement in the water makes it hard to look at the image for too long. Light is the obvious one since every good image needs good light but it’s always good to remember that element. Keep in mind also that everyone does long exposure moving water shots so try and be creative with yours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.