While out skiing I came across this scene and it stumped me. The mountains looked amazing and the clouds rolled back enough that it created a lot of drama but the light was so bright that I couldn’t see the great photo opp. While obviously I still tried to make the photo happen it still feels lacking. If this happens to you then you have to ask yourself, is the photo worth it or is it better to just soak in the moment?
The Rocky Mountains have a lot of great places to go take pictures and one of those areas is the dense forests that surround Gallatin Valley. Hyalite Canyon and Reservoir is a wonderful place to go for a walk or this time of year a ski. Being in a dense forest can lead to some amazing photos but the light options inside the forest can make it a challenge. Forests are a conglomerate of highlights and shadows which create a high dynamic range to work with. It can be easy to miss the photo by taking in too much so going small and focusing on a small area can lead to a more powerful image.
There is an actual name to these things but I can’t remember what it is. When rocks in rivers and lakes are sticking up above the waterline they sometimes will get covered with snow and form these little white bubbles which look really cool! In a fast-moving river, the rocks act like anchor points in the photo. The eyes will stop on these rocks and be a place to rest. If you go to black and white, then these rocks are a great contrast to the rest of the river.
Every snowflake is different which makes every snowfall different. As the blanket of snow covers everything it falls on, the areas that remain uncovered add contrast with different shapes and colors. It’s easy with landscapes to use a wide-angle and try and capture everything but with these patterns, it often is best to use a mid-range lens, like the 70-200, to only capture a section of the landscape. Ultimately it can be a stronger composition by removing unwanted spots.
Winter is definitely coming as the latest snow storm has made it clear. That means a lot of days of cold fingers and toes. It is really important if you go out this winter that your hands and feet are properly protected. It’s not fun taking pictures if you’re cold. Been there, done that. For years I’ve used XC Skiing gloves to keep my hands warm and boots from Northern Face and Alpha. XC’s gloves are thin which are great for pressing the buttons on the camera body. Northern Face boots are lighter while the Alpha’s are for the negative digits. Winter sales are coming up and if you’re planning on doing a lot of shooting this winter be sure to be prepared.
Some people see lots of snow as a burden or a pain in the butt, but to us photographers who enjoy winter landscapes, there is nothing better than a fresh blanket of powder. The challenge with landscapes is always trying to come up with something new and different, especially if you frequent the same spot over and over again. Well snow makes an instant change to any landscape that can yield some amazing results. One of my favorite ways to utilize these great waves of snow is to not only convert to black and white but to find a single black point to focus on.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
I don’t often use anchors in my landscape photos but there are times when they are necessary. When photographing a lot of fast moving water and your intention is to blur all the water, having a single point that isn’t moving helps to relax the eye.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Steam is one of the best parts of winter landscape photography. It adds so much drama and character to the images that the landscapes can take on a whole different life form. If you don’t believe me then find a good spot in winter, take a picture and then go back in the summer and you will see the awesome difference. But how do you protect your camera gear while working in that steam?
First off this is for those that are standing in steam while also photographing it. If you’re a good distance away then your gear really isn’t in any danger. With that when you are standing next to a steam pocket remember that the external surfaces of the cameras are quite resilient. It is the internal electronics that aren’t, so don’t change lenses, or cards or batteries while standing in steam. Next carry a towel with you to gently dab off any moisture that gets on the surfaces, especially by the buttons. Lastly be careful with the front element and what I mean is that steam is hot but the air around the steam is not so if you stick that lens into the steam and it gets hot and then you quickly move somewhere else where it is cool then that difference in temperature can cause damage. Instead try covering the front element afterward and then move. Let it be a little more gradual temperature change. I highly recommend NC Filters for these kind of shoots because if you damage a filter it’s no big deal where as a front element is. Don’t be afraid of nature just be aware of what can happen and be prepared.
Every photographer knows that light is not only an essential element to any photograph but also shapes the story that is told in every photograph. We spend a lot of our time trying to understand and use light to the best of our knowledge but can a photograph be just about light? Does a photo need to follow the rule of thirds or any other of the many rules that we love to regurgitate? Can a photo be just about light and be successful?
Light is never the same in any two spots. It is constantly making everything around it change and thus in itself change. Can that variation be enough to fulfill the rules? Then of course are the shadows that are produced from the light. That adds a whole other element that can fulfill the needs of the photo. These sorts of questions I often wonder about in winter time when there is more time to think then shoot and with a blank canvas like snow, the options are truly limitless. Have you ever tried using a flash in snow? It can be fun. If you live in an area with snow, which right now in the US thats a few places, then try capturing just the light and see what happens.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
December is often associated with winter, snow and of course Christmas. The one thing I’ve learned out of all my years living here in Montana is that winter can never be predicted. Even the weathermen a day beforehand can’t figure out what it’s going to do. So how as a photographer do you deal with that?
Lots of exploration. It really sucks when you’re out shooting in need of a good photograph and you just can’t find it. The days where you get skunked are all too real and can be very frustrating because you know what it should be but it’s not there. The answer is to be patient and to keep driving around until you find something. If you keep a journal of great places to shoot, which I encourage every photographer to do, then that can help with those lulls. Otherwise just keep your eyes open and see what comes your way.