It’s impossible to predict what each season will bring and the more time you spend behind the camera the more you see those changes as the years pass by. It makes landscape photography more interesting that way because the same day, a year a part, can be complete opposites. The other reality is this happens everywhere. As a photographer how do you prep going into the field thinking it’s going to be one way and it’s something else? For example; here in Bozeman it’s the end of November and it looks like October without the fall color or the snow.
The biggest challenge is always figuring out what to bring and what to leave at home. Lets face it we all have to much gear, it comes with the job. The best solution is spending lots of time with that gear and knowing what works best as more all purpose. For example my two favorite lenses for landscape work are the 24-70 AF-S and 70-200 VRII because they are so versatile. This makes switching targets way easier. As for figuring out where to go to shoot, that comes down to watching the weather and just looking out the window. I spend lots of time doing both to see what areas are going to be best.
Landscapes can be some of the most desirable images to add to any library but they can also produce some of the greatest challenges as often you have to look beyond just the obvious. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to go somewhere beautiful in order to create beautiful landscapes. Well it is true that you have to go to certain places, say the ocean, in order to capture images of the ocean but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t options in every neck of the woods, all it takes is a little exploration.
The two most common times that people go out over great landscapes are always sunrise and sunset. It’s not hard to figure out why, you find a good subject and then wait for the good light. In most cases this works pretty well even if it does take a little care in post to really bring out the drama. Post processing is actually a really important step when it comes to landscapes in order to bring out that little bit extra. Oddly enough most of the finishing I do actually doesn’t include increasing saturation, which is the one thing that most think about when it comes to finishing landscapes. Often times it’s better to bring down the shadows or bring up the exposure to make the eye go to where you want it to go.
Then of course there is the classic black and white landscape that has been made famous by so many photographers in the past. The allure is simple in part because it’s how we grew up looking at landscape images. So many have been captured that way that it’s just enticing. In truth landscapes are all about emotion and sometimes the removal of color can break any image down to just feeling. While Adobe Camera Raw does have a black and white option I actually don’t prefer using it. It’s great for prepping the image before converting it by bringing out those areas that will look the best after the conversion but I still use SilverEfex Pro II for the conversion. On1 Suite does an amazing job with their black and white software as well.
In the end my favorite shots no matter what the subject is are still the ones that require nothing in post. Why you might ask? Well as much fun as I have finishing my images to create what I see in my head, there are times when it is best just to be able to capture the world around you and enjoy. Even in the realm of landscapes there exists those images that require nothing in post, just click away and enjoy.
The other day I was looking around on Google+ and I saw this image of a beautiful sunrise. It had great color, great reflection and great clouds. Well on the right hand side was a tree, and then a whole bunch of muck. As soon as i saw it i lost all interest in the photo. My question is this, why do photographers find it a necessity to always have something, a rock, a stump, a grass batch, something in the bottom corner as foreground for a lead in when in fact that lead in SUCKS!?
Take the above image. It has color, reflection, some clouds and no lead in. Yes it has the silhouette of a tufa on the side but it’s not a lead in. It’s more for understanding of what kind of place it is. The image works without that stump or rock. Believe me there were a couple when I took this. The point I’m trying to make here is please don’t ruin a great opportunity for a shot with adding some debris in the corner because you see everyone else doing it.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S f2.8 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
This past weekend we took a quick trip up to Reno, so nice going up there and not for the airport. As we got tot he top of Conway Summit, the clouds to the north were wispy due to the wind cutting over the ridge.
This morning was the start of another Eastern Sierra Adventure and began at one of our all time favorite places, Mono Lake. The family has come to the lake for decades, photographing everything from the Violet Green Swallows to the Sage Thrashers, but this time we left our 6’s at home and focused on the landscape.
The morning was a beautiful one, with a small slit in the clouds letting in enough light to make some drama happen. Starting at -2 exposure comp and in vivid, the light as it slowly rose caused the compensation to rise to around -1. It was a simple clean shot morning minus all the Eared Grebes that migrate through at this time of year and stop at the lake. I thought they looked like little bumper cars floating around ready to hit one another, Dad just shook his head. This is also the time of year of many photographers on the shore line being that it is such a great time to be shooting. Of course Dad and I shoot there even just to practice panning technique in sucky light before photographing planes but I’m sure that’s just us .
Towards the time our stomachs were ready for something to eat and some more coffee, a low cloud hovered over Lee Vining for a while giving another unique opportunity. I thought it was cool to see a cloud that low. We all agreed that it was a UFO trail left from an abduction. Oddly enough it disappeared not too long after we said this.
It’s that time of the year again when the leaf’s change and the snow comes in. That’s awesome, it means ski season is around the corner. Since this past Thursday the weather has been grey skies, thunder storms, and now snow. Well yesterday i had to make a small trip up to Reno to get the folks. It was the typical fall drive, windy wet roads, snow coming down, and low visibility. Oh yea good stuff.
The way up didn’t reveal any images worth stopping for but the way back sure did. Over Mono Lake we had some nice puffies along with some very slushy rain. This particular white puff ball was enticing. However when i shot it i had an image in my head with the foreground as it is, but when i got to the computer and looked at more closely that image disappeared. Not sure why.
Making the image a bit tighter and removing the foreground seemed better but doesn’t have the same affect. It feels like my head got in the way of what i saw and am trying to make the image into something it’s not. Back to the drawing board!
Up here in the Sierra’s we seldom have time to visit the beach. Dad and i have been going to Mono Lake looking for birds for the last few summers chasing the Violet Green Swallows and Sage Thrashers, but for the first time in a while we went down to enjoy the scenery and not the local species. Real mind flip walking around with a 24-70 on my shoulder and not a 600, having to watch the light on the Tufa’s to get to the right spot. This one cove was of particular interest to everyone and for good reason. It had great light and a great reflection, which made for and amphitheater of opportunities. Mono being as big as it is, is never the same in one place or contains the same Tufa’s.
Around another corner of the lake, down a different dirt road leads us to more adventure. This time with Sand Tufa’s, the remnants of the high tides that the lake once rested at but are no longer seen. With great skies covering the area down to the pillars, we began our march to more opportunities and images awaiting for the plucking.
These Tufa’s are only about waste high, and are more fragile than any other around the lake. We walk through them like walking through a valley of collasping stone. Photographing them can be done in many ways, everything from the intricate details of the cracks in the rock itself to the multiple ones around. With the sky we lucked out with there was only one way to shoot, good clouds are a shame to waste. The sun popped in and out, lighting up areas clouds then fading. It never fully came out from behind the clouds permanently. We knew it was time to go when the call of pancakes was sounded, kinda flat call but then how do you play a pancake?