I do love Spring in the Rockies! The weather starts to get a little warmer but there’s still a little nip in the air. The vegetation starts turning green as new life begins and the crystal clear air can be seen on the gorgeous rivers. The high alpine lakes are a great place to be as the runoff happens further below so the lakes stay clear. Photographically it’s a no brainer but the clarity you feel at that moment is hard to beat.
Heavy darks and blacks have always fascinated me with landscapes. In most photographs, there is a balance between the two creating contrast but sometimes there is an overwhelming amount of one or the other which can make for some interesting photos. High mountain lakes often offer these types of occasions because of the way the light either comes up or down behind the mountains. The result is a spotlight in one area or another. Using a longer lens like the 70-200 VRII along with the D5, I was able to isolate this section of pine trees. In post, I used a couple of split graduated filters, along with the shadow slider in ACR to enhance that dark shadow background. Simple tricks for some good results.
A long lens can be a very useful tool when it comes to landscapes. You can use a long lens to isolate key areas where the light is creating the most drama and keep unwanted or undesirable elements out of your photographs. For instance, the foreground in this image was very bright and didn’t add to the story. By using the D5 and 70-200 VRII, I was able to keep that element along with narrowing the background, so that the light and shadows become more visually powerful. Wide angles work well in a lot of landscapes but don’t be afraid to go tight and pull out small chunks from the overall scene.
With any good photograph, the photographer watches the background and finds the one that makes the image unique. Backgrounds tell as much of the story as does the rest of the elements. Even with a portrait that background sets the story of where everything is happening. Now I think of these more as landscape portraiture since I’m always trying to show more then just water in the background. Each one is a story on it’s own in its own unique place. In this case it goes back to the biology and ecology of the fish and the waterways they inhabit. Right now these Rainbows are towards the end of their spawn so catching them with spawning colors in a high altitude lake is different then anywhere else. You know it’s high altitude because of that background. So the next time you are doing portrait work think about more then just a color behind your subject.
Ghost forests are a pretty amazing natural phenomenon that can yield some gorgeous images. The stark beauty of the dead trees still standing compared to the living world around them always tell an interesting story of what was and what still is. One of the best examples in Montana are the trees still standing in Earthquake Lake.
More commonly known as Quake Lake, Earthquake Lake was formed after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on August 17, 1959. The earthquake caused 18 miles of surface faulting and was felt across 600,000 square miles. The most noticeable damage was done below Hebgen Dam in what was known as Madison River Canyon. Water went surging over the spillway, flooding private cabins, Forest service campsites and makeshift campsites. Along with the water an 80 million ton landslide beneath Rock Creek Campground blocked the river which caused the formation of the lake. Due to the seriousness of the people trapped under the rock and water, one of the largest mobilizations of US Army Corps of Engineers in the western US was launched to create a new spillway for the water to flow out. The Madison River was forever changed and Quake Lake was born. Sadly 28 people were killed, 19 still buried under the landslide. The ghost forest around the edges of the lake are a haunting reminder of the area.