The Vastness of Flathead Lake

This past weekend I was up at Flathead Lake attending a wedding and it was absolutely gorgeous. I don’t get up north that often but I’m sure glad when I do. Flathead is enormous and literally can take hours to drive around. the evening produced some amazing skies and with the D5 and 24-70mm f/2.8, it was the perfect time for a Pano. This time I tried to different things to really make the clouds stand out, first I shot the whole pano vertically so that instead of being really long and narrow it’s really long and wide. This accentuate the clouds which is really what makes this more interesting. Secondly I used Dehaze in ACR globally and then again in a gradient filter on the clouds. Keep in mind when you use Dehaze you have to bring the saturation on the blues down. Dehaze worked great but if you really want to see the detail you have to click on the image.

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Right Place, Wrong Camera

Have you ever been out shooting on assignment or a project, you get back and you want to go out again so you pack quickly and then as soon as you get to your next destination you realizes you grabbed the wrong gear? This usually doesn’t happen to me but it sure did yesterday. I was up at Flathead attending a friends wedding and shooting video for him and being me I was in one mind state the whole time. Then when I got home I swapped out gear and went fishing for a little while to relax. Well wouldn’t you know I grabbed the wrong camera body.

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I ended up shooting with the D4 instead of the D5 which was in no way a life or death situation but I did have to think about what and how I was shooting. If you have been in this situation then you the surprise you get when you first discover your mistake but then you quickly start thinking, okay how do I get done what I need to now? It was a simple answer for me. Knowing what the subject was in this scenario it was a simple matter of adjusting my shooting technique to compensate for the difference. The D5 has better quality and better noise reduction then the D4 so I kept that in mind when I was shooting this spot at sunset and also when I finished the images in post.

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.

The Camera Goes Everywhere!

When you are out and about you never know where that next great image will be and that’s why it is important to have your camera with you. If you saw my post yesterday then you know I had my camera with me while fishing. I have spent a lot of time on the Gallatin River and each time the river yields something different for me. I never know what but something. Well after looking over the weather and the clouds for that evening I knew the sunset would be a good one.

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Spring is one of the best times of the year to be out shooting landscapes. The rich colors of the foliage makes everything look over saturated and often times in the worst light there is still something. Using the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, these three simple clicks show the stages of light as it went down of the Gallatin River. Around 7pm the light was still high enough to make everything stand out.

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An hour later the light was fading and what remained snaked its way through the river canal highlighting some great spots while leaving others in the shadows.

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Then in the last breath of light left the sky lit up and what was left bounced off of the river. With a little help in Adobe Camera Raw those areas where the light wasn’t quite touching anymore but still were more prominent then others were easily brought out, showing exactly what it was like to be there on that great Montana evening.

The Inner Scene Becomes the Whole Scene

When it comes to landscape photography I was taught a long time ago that taking in everything in your scope, while good, is not always the best way to go about it. If you go by the traditional rule of thirds then you have to take everything into effect but if you are trying to capture just the feeling or the beauty of the day then little slices can be just as powerful. Here’s a good example of this.

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Not everyone lives in the most scenic places on earth. The majority of people live in cities and have to contend with many obstacles to make great landscape images. Certain elements such as power lines, telephone poles, cars, houses, lights and other man made objects can get in the way and make the image worse. Well there are three options in such cases; first you take the shot anyways and make the best, second you go in tight and take a section of the overall scene or third do nothing and just enjoy. As a photographer usually we tend not to do the third reason because our brains are often over thinking of everything else and eventually tells us that we need to make a click happen regardless. It takes practice to turn off our brain and just watch the light unfold. The second option can be helpful.

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While out shooting sunset this past weekend, I notice certain areas where the light was hitting but I couldn’t get to. I could have driven somewhere else and seen what else I could’ve done. Maybe something better could have been found. Who knows? Or I did this. Shooting with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, I zoomed in and focused on spots where the light was hitting and I wouldn’t get telephone wires in my frame. Now the 24-70 is one of my favorite lenses that I use constantly! For this type of work the 70-200 VRII would have been better but with the light fading fast I didn’t have time to switch. So, for the bottom image I switched the camera to DX mode or high speed crop which with the D4 doesn’t loose any quality but does give that little bit of extra focal range which got me a little tighter on the clouds. It was a simple solution to a problem that occurred in the field.

Not expecting the Light

I usually like to go out when we have a storm going through because there is a chance we’ll have some great light. Well I didn’t think that that would happen the other night as it got pretty grey and boring out real quick. Then 20 minutes before the sun went down, an opening occurred and lit up this one great cloud. I couldn’t believe it. Well there wasn’t any time to get somewhere so I just shot out my back window. One of the benefits of living next to a ranch is having lots of space. Here is the result….

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Well it was a beautiful sky but just couldn’t get it right. So what happened? I forced an image that wasn’t good. We all do it. We see that one moment when we think it’s going to be great and then we get back to finish it and no matter what it just doesn’t look right. You know it’s not good when that nagging voice at the back of your mind is saying, “something doesn’t feel right.” I tried a number of different ways to finish this one but no matter what I did the foreground just killed me, along with the dark lines going throughout to much of the frame. This was one of those moments that would’ve been better to just watch and enjoy.

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