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.

Longer Lenses For Landscapes

I really like using longer lenses even mid range lenses when it comes to landscapes. I often find that there are avenues in landscape photography that make for a stronger composition then if you were to use a wider lens and capture more info. A big part of landscape photography is finding those areas where the light is making a statement about the land. Too much negative or positive space can lead to a boring image. Kinda like here, having a wider lens really wouldn’t add anymore to the story.

Winter landscapes and black and white photography really remind me of poetry. I don’t know why but that’s just where my mind goes. When the afternoon goes from gorgeous god beams to so flat a grey that you could use it as a color checker it makes one wonder what kind of poem is being written. Low clouds, steam from the rivers and folks burning ground clutter can make for some interesting backgrounds. Combined with Cottonwoods and snow the valley can become rather surreal, much like a poem.

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

A Break From the Storm

Well it’s starting to feel like winter already which is kind of amazing considering how short fall was. With this last big storm that swept across Montana, a blanket of snow was dropped and it was a pretty good size blanket. We got a good foot here in the valley which is actually typical for November as we always seem to get at least one big storm before Thanksgiving.

When big storms come through I watch the weather carefully never knowing when the whole will come in the clouds letting in just enough light to really make that fresh powder shine. Sunday we had a few hours before the next storm cell would bring in more snow I went out looking at all that great powder. Sadly I returned with nothing. That’s how it goes sometimes. You get all ready to find that image only to return empty handed. Then looking out the window in a brief moment there was the image. This is why it’s important to have a camera on your desk for you never know when it’s going to be needed. This was a simple click with the D5 and 70-200 VRII out my window towards the neighbors horse ranch. A little bit of finishing in ACR and there ya go.

A New Ranch To Explore

One of the reasons I became a photographer was because I enjoyed exploring. One of the great things about Montana is that there is a whole lot of area to explore. One of those areas I got to explore recently was a private ranch outside of Columbus and not only was it a huge ranch it still had that old timey western feel, like at any point some outlaw was about to ride up on his horse.

One thing that can make a difference in your photography is to challenge yourself by only using one lens. While I was out at this ranch I did a lot of hiking. I decided to make life simple and carry only one lens, one body. The light was somewhat diffused but nothing worthwhile by going wide, so I went with the D5, 70-200 VRII and a TC-17E II in my pocket. I was looking for those pockets of light where the most drama could be found.

Obviously, I found an old building. It’s really not that hard to do in Montana, there are a lot of old structures still standing. Each one has its own characteristics which make it unique. This particular one was kinda sinking in on one side and slanted over on the other side. So when it comes to these structures showing these details are important.

As you can see even with just one lens, with a little time you can go from that wide shot, to the detail shot and capture the whole story. My favorite part is all the nails going in at an angle.

Weekend Plans?

If there is one thing that determines where I go out shooting more then the light it’s the weather. Weather means clouds or no clouds, high wind or no wind, hard light or diffused light. All of these elements change where the best shooting locations will be for landscape and will change the behavior of the critters in the nearby areas. No matter what the case is, gotta get the camera out.

After a week of rain and snow this weekend is the first to have sunshine in it. Which means that critters will be active. Not sure what the plan is yet but I know it will involve a camera.

Winter Weather

Despite the fact that it is spring right now, we are getting snow. While this is great for water content, we need as much as we can get, for photography it’s a little boring. Grey skies never make for really interesting subject matter but the key thing to remember is that they don’t always last. If you’re patient, between snow showers comes small openings that let in light and drama in the clouds. That’s when it’s best to be ready to shoot.

Getting Over the PSW Blues

This is actually a real thing. Last I week I was teaching at Photoshop World and I had a great time. Thank you to all that came out and attended the event. But now that’s over and we’re all back home in our regular routines, we have to deal with that lull. When you’re at Photoshop World you’re on a learning high, everything is new and exciting and you just don’t want it to end. But now that it has you have to get past it.

The best way to beat it is to go out shooting. Don’t make a big deal out of it just pick up the camera and go out somewhere. It can be anywhere or anything. Make it a fun simple trip to keep those juices flowing and that excitement alive from being at Photoshop World. Believe me it will help.

Working Those Small Pockets

In winter time there are often more days with overcast skies in the Rocky Mountains then there are sunny skies. This is the case with most areas. While my favorite has always been and will always be puffy cloud days, the winter weather can lead to some interesting moments if you are watching the weather. There are many things that as a photographer you have to pay attention to and the weather is another one of the them.

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In between storms cells is often an opening in which some light will make it’s way through providing some shooting opps. If you’re familiar with your local you can take advantage of these times. In order to do that you have to explore and shoot. With the D4 and 24-70 AF-S I made these two basic shots by just going to a couple spots that I had previously been and knew would have the light.

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If you’re wondering why one is black and white and the other isn’t it’s really simple. When there was great color I stayed with it. When there wasn’t I went monochrome. This was my thinking while I was shooting because not all of those pockets of light produced great color. But every pocket did create great contrast.

Color Contrast

It’s that time of the year again when the leafs turn those gorgeous yellows, oranges and reds. The color is seductive that it’s hard to put the camera down. What most don’t realize is that color can also be too overpowering. Pretty much every photographer has seen at some point a good fall color shot and a bad fall color shot. It’s really quite understandable since, like every over photograph, a bad composition or bad light can lead to a disappointing image. The color by itself isn’t always a savior!

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One great way to make sure that the color isn’t overpowering is contrast. Yellow, orange and red are usually bright colors and thus our eyes often go to them first if there is no white in the photo. If you have something dark like blue, green or black to balance out the photo then the Fall color won’t be overpowering. Now does this mean that every Fall color photograph should be this way? No, of course not. But it is important to keep in the back of your mind that fall color can be overpowering and that the other elements like composition and light are still essential.

Captured with Nikon D4, 85 F1.4, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

First Shots with the D5

If you were expecting to see something amazing and never seen before then you’re probably going to be disappointed. The truth is with any new piece of camera gear the best place to start is right at home. The reason being it’s a controlled environment and there will be differences. The biggest mistake you can make is taking a new piece of gear out to a remote place, see something beautiful and have something happen you weren’t expecting. The D5 is a whole new beast compared to the D4 I’ve been using for years and getting used to those changes is essential.

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What I find amazing are the things not being talked about. For me the first thing I noticed wasn’t the ISO or AF sensor, which is getting all the attention. The first thing I noticed was how good the grip felt. It is slightly different then the D4 and it’s actually more comfortable. Next I noticed the shutter sounded a little quieter to me. Then of course there was the AF sensor. Now it was quite dark when I took these with the shutter speed about 1/40 but I had absolutely no problem getting a sharp image. Just a quick initial test and I can’t wait to do some more.

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