Archive for the ‘Landscape photography’ Category

Wordless Wednesday: Evening on the Columbia River   1 comment

Foto Talk: Alternate Versions, Part II   2 comments

I've posted this image before: dawn at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

I’ve posted this image before: dawn at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

This is the second of three parts on creating alternate versions of the same basic image.  Definitely check out Part I; these are meant to go together.  Alternate versions are not totally different compositions, or one shot looking one direction and one the other.  They are those images you may group together on the screen to review and compare.

Creating alternate versions can be as simple as shooting one horizontal and one vertical.  Or it could be as complicated as shooting a dozen versions all with different combinations of variables.  And speaking of those variables, let’s pick up where we left off last time and look at more ways to vary a landscape image.

More Variables

  • Focal Length.  Changing focal length by a lot changes the whole image, by a lot.  But we’re talking about alternate versions of the same image, so think zooming in or out by only modest amounts.  The idea is to keep the main elements of the scene the same but perhaps include or exclude subsidiary elements.  It’s similar in some ways to moving toward or away from the foreground, but although it’s often mistakenly thought that the two are identical, they will yield a different look.
A wider, shorter focal-length version of the above scene, with the fence occupying a much more important position.

A wider version of the above scene.  In addition to shorter focal length, I lowered the point of view, putting the fence in a more prominent position and including more sky.  The light is different too, as it was captured after sunrise.

  • Depth of Field (DOF).  Varying how much of the scene is in focus is something many people don’t consider for landscapes.  Most of us always try for the maximum, sharp from front to back.  But sometimes it’s interesting to limit depth of field for a shot or two after you get the standard landscape.  If you are limiting DOF you may also vary the place where you are focusing.  For maximum DOF you really don’t have much choice for point of focus; that is, there is a ‘right’ place to focus (the hyperfocal distance).
  • Exposure Time.  Another under-appreciated variable.  For example most people get in the habit of shooting waterfalls in one way, using long exposure to smooth the water.  Even when shooting this way you can get quite different looks and textures if you vary that longer exposure.  Another example: changing shutter speed when there are moving clouds can totally change the look of the sky.  Whenever there are elements moving in your frame, changing exposure time will give a different look.
Because of a somewhat dangerous position, I only had time for two versions of this spring along Oregon's Hood River. This vertical has the longer exposure time. 28 mm., 6 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

Because of a somewhat dangerous position, I only had time for two versions of this spring along Oregon’s Hood River. This vertical has the longer exposure time. 28 mm., 6 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

For the horizontal I went with a relatively short exposure for more detail in the water. 24 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

For the horizontal I went with a relatively short exposure for more detail in the water. 24 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

  • Light.  This variable is a bit different than the others.  You don’t have nearly as much control on light as you do the others.  But you do have some.  The classic example is that photographer who shoots the sun as it’s setting.  Then after it disappears below the horizon you look over and they’re packing up, thus missing out on alternate shots under different light.  Another example:  you may like a composition so much that you go out to shoot it both at sunset and sunrise.  If it’s close to home you might shoot it in golden autumn light, crystalline winter light and bright spring or summer light.

There are two main points I want to make.  One is that there are always options and usually enough time to get at least a vertical if not other alternate versions of the same scene.  And so I recommend trying to do at least two versions of each landscape (a vertical and horizontal).  I also recommend that while you’re out shooting, at least initially, you think about which variables you changed and, more importantly, why.  As you become more experienced you’ll shoot alternate versions more or less unconsciously.

Next week we’ll conclude with some thoughts on post-shot review and processing of alternate versions.  Thanks very much for checking in this week.  Have a great weekend and happy shooting!

Sometimes you only have a few seconds to get a single shot. That was the case as I hurried to board a ferry. This is a traditional fishing vessel along the coast of Burma (Myanmar).

Sometimes you only have a few seconds to get a single shot. That was the case as I hurried to board a ferry. This is a traditional fishing vessel along the coast of Burma (Myanmar).

The Path   4 comments

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

A worthy theme for this week, Photo Challenge: Path, so here goes.  Paths can be literal or figurative.  Each time I find myself on nature’s path the figurative comes to mind.  It is easiest to be present on the path I’m on and not elsewhere, possibly on another’s path.  It’s easiest to stay in this time and place for long enough to appreciate it before charging off to another place.  The constant need to move forward is not something that is easily avoidable, being human after all.  But I tire of the race sooner than many others do.  I don’t relish it as some do.  What I do relish is the feeling of climbing upward and outward into the world, and the contrasts of the descent off the mountain, and of the path home.

Have a happy New Year!

A path through the tall trees: Humboldt Redwoods, California.

A path through the tall trees: Humboldt Redwoods, California.

 

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Guadalupe Mtns., TX

 

The path down to Gokyo Ri, Nepal.

The path home:  Gokyo Ri, Nepal.

Merry Christmas!   10 comments

This is my most Christmasy image from the past year.  Since I haven’t yet gone out in winter to some forest to find a small fir tree in a meadow, decorated it (including lights), waited for a gentle snowfall, then returned with a small generator to photograph it, this one will have to do!

Merry Christmas to one and all!  (P.S. Friday Foto Talk returns next week)

Wind and snow create spindrift after a rare snowfall at Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Wind and snow create spindrift after a rare snowfall at Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Winter Solstice!   8 comments

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Mountain Monday: The Mogollons   20 comments

This post is one day late for International Mountain Day.  But right on time for Mountain Monday!  It highlights a relatively remote place in western New Mexico.  I’d been wanting to go to this part of the southern Rockies for a long time, and earlier this year I finally made it.  I drove up a dirt road that ended at a gate marking the boundary of the Gila Wilderness.  The road continued beyond the gate, growing worse and clinging to the side of a mountain.

I parked and began to hike along the rough jeep track, recognizing it as an old mining route.  I followed it toward the head of a canyon.  Poking around I found some weathered shacks, a couple adits and other remnants of the gold & silver boom of the late 1800s.  There is a ghost town not far from here called Mogollon.  On the way back, as the sun sank lower, the air cooled and fog began to form over the mountains to the west.  It made for a mystical scene.  The sunset that followed was nice, but this shot was my favorite because of its mysterious feel.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

The Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness march off into the distance.

Wordless Wednesday: Coquina Shore   Leave a comment

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Single-Image Sunday: Storm Light   Leave a comment

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I really love that light that comes with the sun very low on the horizon and a storm almost upon you.  That’s exactly what happened the other day on the beach.  Everyone had left when the sky turned threatening.  I tried to stick it out as long as possible because I saw that the sun was poking underneath the clouds as it set in the west.  All I needed was a bit of luck.  If the storm held off until the light softened and warmed just enough I had the chance for a nice image of the empty beach.

This was my very last shot, standing in the shallow surf as a wall of heavy rain had just started pelting me in the back.  The onset of rain was so sudden and violent that my camera started getting seriously soaked during the 3 sec. exposure.  I quick shoved it under my shirt and made a mad dash for the safety of the car, bolts of lightning hitting disturbingly nearby.  They tell you not to be on the beach in thunderstorms like that, and now I understand exactly why.  Thanks for looking!

Mountain Monday: Outback Oregon   4 comments

Winter begins by dusting the Pueblo Mountains of southeastern Oregon.

Winter begins by dusting the Pueblo Mountains of southeastern Oregon.

I posted Friday on photography around stormy weather but neglected to include snow.  Good images are really difficult to get when it’s snowing heavily.  So let’s follow up and correct that error.  This is an image where the snow had just fallen on the mountains but never really reached me.  It was early morning and I was hoping for the mountains to show themselves.  It was chilly so I though maybe there would be snow, but I was surprised there was so much.

I was in what is called Oregon’s “outback” (apologies to Australia).  Southeastern Oregon is very thinly populated and is wide-open high desert.  Geologically, the mountains are fault-block type.  This simply means that they were formed by high-angle faults which throw one side down (becoming the valley or basin) and one side up (forming a long relatively narrow range).  It’s also known as basin and range terrain and continues south through most of Nevada and east to the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

The reason I didn’t get snowed on is because of the “rain shadow effect”.  This is when rain or snow is essentially blocked by a mountain range.  The clouds are lifted by the mountain slopes, cooling the air and causing precipitation.  When the air descends the lee side of the range, it warms and dries, leaving little or none of the wet stuff for the valley beyond.  In areas where the weather pretty much comes from one direction, there can be very dramatic differences in vegetation between the windward and lee sides of any range that runs nearly perpendicular to the direction of prevailing winds.

Enjoy your week and Happy Labor Day to my fellow Americans!

Single-image Sunday: Frames   10 comments

Early morning in the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness, New Mexico.

Early morning in the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness, New Mexico.

It had been quite awhile since I’d used this simple technique, but recently I had a golden opportunity to use it.  Photographic frames (or frame within the frame) are actually more common than you might think.  But they’re usually much more subtle than this image shows, particularly natural frames.  I was inspired by this week’s Daily Post.  Check out many more examples over there at Frames.

Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness

I recently checked out an area that I’d been wanting to get to for awhile.  It’s in a fairly remote part of the western U.S. in northwestern New Mexico.  Just north of Chaco Canyon, it’s a protected area called the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness.  It’s usually just called Bisti, which is a shortened translation of the Navajo word for adobe walls.  I like the second part of the name better.  It’s an exact rendering of the Navajo for cranes.  South of the wilderness are petroglyphs of cranes.  I love cranes and it’s a beautiful name for them, but with little time, I didn’t locate them on this trip.

 Landscape photographers have been coming here in increasing numbers, so you’ll see plenty of images online if you search.  But these are mostly shots of the interestingly shaped hoodoos (pinnacle-like rock formations), with the most popular being a large wing-shaped formation.  Of course I went for a different take, so explored the canyon floor and an area outside the main concentration of hoodoos.

Despite De Na Zi’s popularity I didn’t see another soul.  I got up very early to be out there at sunrise.  It can be difficult to know how to proceed when you first foray into an unfamiliar area.  And when you start out in the dark pre-dawn hours, it can even be quite disorienting.  This is what I was feeling as I hiked out there into the De Na Zi, still half-asleep.  But there was a moon so I soon got used to it and relaxed, enjoying the detached feeling and the solitude.  See the Extra below for some guidance on confidently heading out into unfamiliar lands to shoot.

I found this little arch just after sunrise.  The badlands beyond were receiving full sun while the grainy rock of the arch, inches from my camera, had just been touched by the sun.  I had to scramble up to it and it was a little precarious to position the tripod, but not too bad.  It was very quiet out there as the shadows gradually shortened and the sun rose, promising a hot August day ahead.  Thanks for looking!

EXTRA: Finding your Way

I don’t use a GPS while hiking & photographing.  Too much temptation to locate and find specific things instead of exploring for my own compositions.  Also I have a good sense of direction and rarely get truly lost.  The most important thing to possess, though, is the right attitude.  I don’t mind wandering around temporarily unaware of exactly where I am (I don’t call this lost).

But whenever I go hiking with others, I realize that most folks do mind not knowing where they are, and do call it being lost.  So for most people who want to go off-trail to find unique photo opportunities, I recommend a GPS.  Learn how to use it in a local park before trying it out in the wilderness.  Even for short forays away from the road, it’s nice to tag your parking location so you’re able to head straight back to the car, particularly if the sun has gone down.

Without GPS, I just keep track of my route using landmarks and position of the sun/moon/stars, occasionally turning around and studying the terrain.  So I’m normally confident of the general return direction.  It’s not as exact as a GPS, but terrain usually dictates an indirect route anyway (something that GPS users sometimes forget).  Even if you use a GPS, I suggest getting used to using landmarks and awareness of route direction relative to your parking spot, the direction the road runs, and the sun (or moon/stars if it gets dark).

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