Look Left, Look Right

It’s the start of another week and that means another round of blogs. Oh the challenges of coming up with new topics gets harder and harder but that brings the joy of getting out shooting, to fulfill such topics. While I was out cruising this past weekend, which in itself if is a lot of fun, I was in quick search mode as the clouds were moving fast. To the Southeast the clouds were great! Every other direction sucked! That’s the way it is when a storm moves in. I stopped in one spot where an old barn stands that I have photographed several times. It has this great road leading up to it and i don’t know why but I’ve always been drawn to those roads. They let the imagination tell great stories.

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Shooting with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, one of my absolute favorite combos for landscapes, I quickly captured the scene. But that wasn’t the entire scene. One of the most basic and important rules in photography is to always look behind you. Sometimes the best things aren’t right in front of you but in every other direction. In this case it was a lone pine tree bathed in gorgeous afternoon light, with a lit hillside behind it, making it almost look warm out.

The Hole in Nevada

Well the holidays sure came and went fast as they usually do when you’re having fun. I imagine it seems a little odd I posted yesterday abut going home and here I am posting about driving back to Bozeman. Well for what it’s worth there actually was a lot of fun in between just not a lot of shooting, I spent a lot of it playing games, playing with the dogs and playing with my new Mac. What better to do then that.

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The drive back to Bozeman was not one of my favorites as I was chasing a storm for the majority of the way through Northern Nevada and this time of the year, I’m not really fond of storm chasing. It was pretty darn dark with a lot of low clouds throughout the trip but as I made my way through Elko and headed to Wells Nevada, I stopped and saw a little bit of light peaking through the cloud layer hitting this mountain range. I pulled over and grabbed the D4 and 70-200 VRII and got a couple quick shots of the mountains, isolating the patterns on some slopes while also shooting the entire scene. Another quick winter moment captured.

Winter through the Canyon

Since I was in Africa throughout October I never got a chance to photograph Fall. Well I certainly will have plenty of time to photograph Winter as we already have a bunch of good storms going through. Driving down to Mammoth Lakes for Thanksgiving gave me plenty of time as it had just snowed through Madison Canyon.

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Fresh snow is one of the best times to be photographing Winter. Everything is crisper, the trees are all covered, and usually the addition of warm temperatures after a cold frost can bring out some truly dramatic skies.

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Shooting with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S f/2.8 a couple of quick shots from a fishing pullout along the Madison tells the story of the Winter storm.

The Details on the Hill

One of the joys of landscape photography, outside of the achs of trying to find that one romantic image, is finding that one spot that you can stop and bring in the whole picture as well as those little details in that picture. Snowy mountains are a great example of this as they have that great worldly winter scene to them but inside of that are the little snow mounds, the pine trees and the shadows of each imperfection of the snow as the light goes across it’s face. It’s real easy to get sucked into doing black and whites for a long time when you come across these scenarios and if the clouds are right then why not.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Fast Cards are as Important as Fast Bodies

I talk a lot about my travels and especially the shooting adventures from those travels. Well there is one thing that I don’t talk enough about and it is one of the smallest pieces of tech I carry with me in the field and is probably the most important, flash cards. It’s an amazing piece of technology when you consider how much storage space is on each of those little pieces of metal. Not only that but how important it is to have good ones. I have always used Lexar Flash cards in all of my cameras. They simply are the best. When I upgraded to the D4 it was with no question that new cards were a must. The file sizes would just eat up any small cards. The 64gig 1000x CF cards rock! There fast and dependable which is what I like. For when in that moment that you need that combo you don’t want to be left out.

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Last week when I was down in Yellowstone photographing Bison in the snow, I wasn’t worried about getting that image. I knew by waiting with the D4 and 200-400VR, that this female would eventually turn her head and the moment would be captured. When I got home, I uploaded the cards with the Lexar 3.0 Reader and in a couple minutes there it was for me to enjoy. If you haven’t checked out there line yet then you really ought to.

Getting Used to the D4

I decided to get out of the office for a while and clear my head which never hurts to do. I grabbed the camera bag and headed south. Recently I was able to upgrade from the D3 to D4 and have been shooting with it over this past week. It’s a lot different than the D3 with the biggest being quality. Now I originally used the D2Hs as my first professional body and when I switched to the D3 I saw a difference. Now looking at these D4 files I’m just blown away. Everything you see here is pretty basic. Shot with the D4 and 70-200 VRII, and then finished in Silver Efex Pro. It just amazes me how going out and playing around can lead to something good. As for shooting with the D4, well I save that for another post when I have some more time in.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Sign Says it All!

This sign really does say it all. Sometimes it’s important to do just that. Stop. While out and about I came to the intersection of a ranch that happens to belong to a good friend of mine. This sign is right there at the intersection and I followed the instructions. I just stopped. It’s easy to forget why we started in photography and why we continue to put ourselves through these hoops so it is important to just stop and watch for a while. It’s an amazing world we live in and through the lens we get to see a unique side of it, even though we often get to wrapped up in the photo to see the world. That’s why we got to stop every now and then.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Looking down the Valley

I really don’t like grey skies. They are just boring and have no definition to them. Thankfully we had some more interesting skies come in that were actually worth doing something with. Now I have spent a fare amount of time on the east side of the Bridger Mountains trying to find that right angle to get the shot down the valley. My two favorite times to photograph the valley are to no surprise fall and winter. The hillside lights up with fall color in the autumn months and as you can see the pines are just stacked with snow when that good winter storm comes through. Well despite my attempts I have still not gotten that one shot that I have been looking for. Despite what you might think it’s actually a good thing.

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Every time we go out searching for that one photo we are looking to bring back something that we didn’t have before. Either it’s entirely new or an improvement on the last one. If however every time we went out and got that perfect image that we were searching for then where would the challenge be? Where would the excitement be? Not always getting that image is part of the game and fighting for it is what makes the game great.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Finding those Halmark Winter Scenes

As the whole country is engulfed in bad weather, up here in Montana we certainly have had our share with over a foot of snow just over this past weekend. We had a huge storm come through Friday-Saturday and finally it let up a little bit on Sunday. It’s great getting the snow we certainly do need it when Summer roles around but why does it always come in on the weekends? Well Sunday I was tired of being cooped up inside so with the break in weather I grabbed the gear and headed up into the Birdgers.

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This is what I found. It was great! I love finding trees that are just covered. There’s nothing like that fresh snow fall. Everything is clean, no tracks or footprints and the trees are all covered. The possibilities seem to just pop out at you as you can go from extreme closeups to abstracts. My favorites are often when the light falls so softly that you can’t tell if it’s a black and white or not.

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One thing I often look for is that one tree or that one clump of trees that just pop out. With the D3 and 70-200 VRII I just isolate that area and go for just the detail, not the whole scene. I was taught when working with snow is that it can be not only seductive but also overpowering at times. When you try and encompass everything in one image often times it’s hard to focus because of all the whites and blacks. That’s why it’s important to go with snippets here and there to compliment everything else.

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One very powerful tool to use when working with snow is a vignette. It’s a simple old school trick to bringing the eye down to one selective point. Personally I like using the darken and lighten tool in Color Efex Pro 4 to do this. By using that filter it’s much easier to isolate that one tree that originally caught your attention and you’re trying to bring out in your image.

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There are those moments of course when you just have to stop and look. This is one of those shots that I just had to do. On the middle of this snow covered mountain was a lone cabin. Everything else seems like a painting except that one orange dot. What a view that person must have.

Smaller Details

I love doing black and whites with snow. They are just so seductive that you almost always want to convert every image that way. It’s easy to understand why. The two main factors in a black and white image in order to be effective is an absolute black point and a absolute white point. Snow naturally creates that white point with no work needed. Keep in mind if you saw my Dad’s post on “forced images”, then you know you have to keep careful of that.

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Then there are times like this when you have a great subject just covered in snow. I really like working with little subjects like this because you can get that little spark of light going across and it becomes just an abstract look. With the 24-70 AF-S f/2.8 I got close and played with the little area that was open from snow. It’s just fun little things that can make all the joy come out in the end.

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