Shallow or Max DOF with Landscapes?

It’s fun to play around with this area because you can make some very interesting and some very bad images as a result. While I have some basic guidelines that I myself go by, I’m always playing around with landscapes because there is a lot of room to do just that. When it comes to depth of field you have to remember what the story is. Depth can really change how the viewer looks at a photo. I put up these two images because they were taken at the exact same spot just different depths of field.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park has some great pools and formations to work with. I’ve gone to those spots many times over the years and each time it’s different. This time I was looking at the steam and the formations. Top image was taken at F/22 and the bottom at F/5.6. The difference is pretty noticeable but each one tells a different story of the same spot. Both exist at the same time so which one is better? There’s no good answer it’s just a different story. If you’re not sure which way to go then take the same composition both ways and see which looks better. Never plan on going back because odds are it will be different when you go back.

Images Captured with Nikon D5, 18-35 f3.5-4.5, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

When Blue Sky Landscapes Work

I often don’t like shooting landscapes that have just a blue sky because they are kind of boring. Unless there is a lot going on in the composition, having a lot of blue sky just doesn’t make for much of an interesting composition. Why is that? Landscapes are often a multitude of colors and there needs to be a balance of those colors, so when one is more dominant, whether dark or bright, it sticks out. Bright blue sky can be like that. There are times when having nothing but a blue sky works.

One great example of when nothing but blue works is with steam. Steam tends to blend in when there is a cloudy background. Makes sense right, white and grey steam blending in with grey clouds. This is where that whole color pallet with landscapes comes back into play. Landscapes aren’t just about majestic areas and great light, a lot comes back to color.

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

A New Twist to the Hot Springs

Have you ever photographed something so many times that you start to think about new ways to make it interesting? This thought was going through my mind when I was photographing Mammoth Hot Springs last week. I have spent many days over the years at these springs and have worked them on some truly beautiful days and some hideous days. As a result I have learned a few things about that spot. In this case I figured I’d try something new.

Mammoth Hot Springs is known for the steam and the brilliant colors that come from the bacteria growth in the water. It truly is beautiful under the rights conditions. What are those conditions? Really cold but sunny days. The sun brings out the color and the cold brings out the steam. On this day we had neither and the whole scene seemed more gloomy then anything else. So with the D5 and 70-200 VRII, I looked for patterns in the contrast between the snow, the trees and the geothermal. It’s a different take on a place photographed so many times.

Going for those little details

Since it was such a nice day out when I was in Yellowstone, I decided to go for a little stroll. Now I hadn’t been up to the upper terraces for some time, but that is where some of the great bacteria pools are. That’s right bacteria actually grow in these thermal pools creating that awesome color. Well in the Wintertime the combination of those colors, pine tree branches falling into the pools, frost, and steam, can create some very cool natural abstract images. With my sling bag, carrying the 24-70 AF-S 2.8 and 14-24 AF-S, I walked along the boardwalk with the D610 and 70-200 VRII attached working these micro details.


As you can see it really didn’t take much, truly just point and click. But that got me thinking. Before I got the D610 I knew that the file sizes were going to be bigger, waaaay bigger than my D3. What that means is more hard drive space is being used up for less images. The images contain more information but when you are feeding, presentations, blogs and articles, you need that library. Well I was thinking about this when I was shooting and what I felt it translated too was having to slow down and take my time. I couldn’t just blast away and kill pixels. Taking more time to get the shot right from the start is always a good thing and having that little voice in the back of your head saying how much space this is going to eat up is a good way to do just that. Frankly I like ripping the shutter, it sounds great! But if the frames aren’t worth keeping and your missing shots, then it’s not worth it.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon Nikon D610, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Gotta Love that Steam!

I finally got the chores done so I can write about this. Last week I got the Nikon D610 from BnH to play with for a while, so you might notice me talking about it from time to time. I love trying out new toys and this is definitely one of them. Since I had a new toy I figured the best way to play with it is to go to one of my favorite places, Yellowstone.


It’s really hard to beat Yellowstone in the Winter time. The low temperatures cause for massive freezes on the ground and in the air. Since the whole place is covered with geothermal activity it makes from some amazing photography with frost covered trees and steam baths. It didn’t take long to find a good spot, with a name like Mammoth Hot Springs it kind of invites itself. Now I’ve photographed here a number of times, including these trees. This is part of the lower terrace. Standing on the boardwalk below you can look up and see these three trees on the ridge above. If it’s not too windy the steam can be great. Well it was one of those days where it was cold and not too windy.


Now I was impressed already with the camera being so light and small, but what I was curious about was the image quality. I’m used to the 12.1MPix of the D3, not the 24.3MPix of the D610. Also I’m used to 200ISO being the basement not 100ISO. This extra range of light and capturing capability really had me intrigued. These steam baths are great example of what this camera can pickup. The steam is entirely back lit. Having any of that information from the steam in the image will make anything else go into shadow. It’s just too great a range. But as you can clearly see there is a lot of information in that hillside below the trees. Now I did run this through ACR but it really didn’t need much. The information was there and the noise was not.

Now I mentioned chores earlier, well because of the bigger file size I had to create new blog poster actions for the D610 files. I’m still playing with them so you might notice them change a little bit.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D610, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A couple options

A couple weeks back I was roaming around Yellowstone as is the usual custom in the Fall. On my way back from Norris Geyser Basin I stopped on the south side of Mammoth Hot Springs to catch the last bit of what was sunset along with the massive storm clouds moving in. If you have ever been to the Hot Springs then you know that it’s just a beautiful mass of calcified rock. The colors can be extremely powerful with the right light and background. This was one of those days where the dark clouds just made for that great backdrop.

Now I often am unsure about this, but I play with this option a lot, going to black and white instead of color. In this scenario the color of the springs is immaculate but the subtle details get lost. I tried it both ways and am still unconvinced which one i like better but i thought i would share it with you all the same.

Images Captured wit Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Leveling with the rocks


A couple miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs is a pass that is absolutely gorgeous. Along this pass is wonderful fall color covered in snow and a large section of granite rocks. I went by these rocks on my way to Norris, i couldn’t decide if i wanted to stop or not. On the way back i thought it would be best to stop. The granite rocks were covered with a light blanket of snow which was originally what caught my eye. As i ventured deeper into the rocks i discovered little pockets of lichens and coloration’s that were too cool to pass up.


These kind of shots i consider to be my Artsy-Fartsy shots. They don’t really have a purpose except to look pretty. They are also images that i have obviously screwed with, purposely trying to bring out the color and patterns in the rock. It’s just fun for me to every now and then screw with these elements. Just one of those things to play with when you’re out getting skunked by the critters.


This is the snow i was talking about. It makes small, light shelves over the rocks. Simple patterns emerge from these pockets of water. Funny thing was, i originally took quite a few images of the rocks covered in snow in the idea that they would be good black & whites. However, upon returning to the computer and some more playing around, i discovered they all looked awful that way. So i stuck with color, what do you know.

Images captured with D3, 70-300 AF-S vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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