Archive for the ‘golden hour’ Tag

Golden Hour on the Olympic Coast   6 comments

On the way to the intended sunset spot, I had to stop & shoot this sea stack. 50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200, handheld.

On the way to the intended sunset spot, I had to stop & shoot this sea stack. 50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200, handheld.

Sometimes I follow up the previous week’s Friday Foto Talk post with one that relates in some way to the topic.  So this post is an extension to Using Foregrounds Judiciously.  It’s an example of how I go about using foregrounds, and in general how I often shoot landscapes (it’s not how most do it).

EXAMPLE – Golden Hour on the Olympic Coast:  

A few days ago I was at Rialto Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.  You may have seen pictures of the Olympic Coast on the web; it’s pretty popular with landscapers.  Less popular are sections of the coast away from the road that require hiking.  Backpackers are more common than serious photographers in these areas.

I scouted this one in the afternoon, hiking north along the beach to find good locations for what was looking like a great sunset.  I only took a few photos; mostly I just had fun beach-combing and exploring tide pools.  I don’t always scout ahead of time, but it’s nice when time allows.  It helps to give me ideas of how I want to portray the place.  And it’s fun!  Often I scout but then decide before golden hour to shoot somewhere else.  It’s still valuable though, since I can always return another day.

The coastline north of Rialto is spectacular and much too rugged for a road.  It has a wilderness feel, and it’s wise to take care if you decide to hike here.  Slippery rocks, rough surf, sneaker waves, and giant drift logs that can shift alarmingly under your weight are all potential dangers.

After setting up my camp just inland, I was pressed for time.  I knew where I wanted to hike to: just north of a place called Hole in the Wall (image below), but preferably a 1/2 mile or so farther.  Even though I was in a hurry, I shot along the way.The light was beautiful!  I didn’t take time with a tripod, but it wasn’t strictly necessary with the sun still above the horizon.  These little stops meant I wasn’t going to make it any further than Hole in the Wall, and even then it would be close.

Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast, Washington. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200; hand-held.

Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast, Washington. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200; hand-held.

There is a campsite just before a headland that you have to climb up and over to get where you can shoot Hole in the Wall itself.  Some large sea stacks (formerly one single stack that collapsed several years ago) lie just off the beach there.  This spot is the most popular at Rialto (why I wanted to go further).  A few had their tripods set up, waiting for sunset.  I passed them, shooting a few quick hand-helds.  The stacks there are just too big and close for my liking, at least in silhouette shooting sunset.

From atop the headland over Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast. 50 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod.

From atop the headland over Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast. 50 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod.

This may seem like I’m describing a measured approach, and it would’ve been if I was a bit earlier and the sun wasn’t sinking quickly (as it always does except for higher latitudes).  Truth is I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

I climbed the headland and shot a few pictures from up top, looking down and out to the north (image above).  Then I stumbled down to the beach, taking a shot along the way, and still I had not gotten any close foreground.  I spotted a tide-pool that was reflecting the lovely light.  It was on a rock shelf composed of thin-bedded sedimentary rock stood on its end, forming great leading lines.  Running down there, I finally got those close-foreground shots I wanted just as the sun set.  I was actually a tad late for the peak light, more on the cusp of blue hour.  But I was just in time for images that I’m happy with, and that’s what counts.

Post-sunset with turbidite sandstone beds standing on their ends, Olympic Coast. 21 mm., 0.5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Finally some close foreground, which is turbidite sandstone beds standing on end: Olympic Coast. 21 mm., 0.5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

The forest marches right up to the coast, and the big old-growth trees are eventually toppled and add to the collection of huge driftwood logs. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 400; hand-held.

The forest marches right up to the coast, and the big old-growth trees are eventually toppled and add to the collection of huge driftwood logs. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 400; hand-held.

As you can see, I try to jam in as much as possible when the light is good.  This is one reason I like to shoot alone.  Most landscapers would look at me and think “there’s a rank amateur”.  Most prefer to be already set up at one place, from which they will shoot for the entire time that light is at its peak.  They don’t miss shots like I sometimes do, but that’s because they’re not trying to get as much as I am.

Sometimes things backfire on me, but I like the variety I can get from a single “light event”.  And even well-planned shots can backfire anyway.  I do sometimes plan or visualize beforehand and stick to a plan to get a particular image.  On those occasions I try not to extemporize (much!).  But that isn’t my main modus operandi, simply because planned shots so often don’t work out.  There are too many variables at play.

This was actually shot a few days later when I returned to get further north, where many pointed sea stacks lie offshore. 70 mm., 1/4 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100; tripod.

This was actually shot a few days later when I returned to get further north, where many pointed sea stacks lie offshore. 70 mm., 1/4 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100; tripod.

To me it seems a bit old-fashioned to set up way ahead of time and stick your feet in the same place throughout the shoot.  It’s what was done in the old days with heavy large-format film gear, even glass plates if you go far enough back.  It’s also what you have to do when you’re shooting very popular compositions, just so you beat your competitors to the spot.  But digital gear is pretty darn lightweight.  So if you’re practiced at using your tripod and camera you can shoot different compositions in fairly rapid succession.  And who wants over-done shots anyway?

As you can see only one of my many shooting positions had very close foreground; the rest had either more distant foreground or middle-ground elements.  Some are just subject and sky.  I don’t always shoot like this of course.  Sometimes I like to work slower and get fewer shots, with more time to admire the moment.  But in a place like the Olympic Coast in great light, it’s tempting to make it sort of a workout.  When it goes well (like last night) I don’t feel stressed.  It’s actually sort of a rush, one that I slowly came down from walking back along the beach, the Pacific glinting in the moonlight.  Happy shooting!

Sunset captured from atop a big drift log, the foreground not very close. 50 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Sunset captured from atop a big drift log, almost to my close foreground but not quite there.  50 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Friday Foto Talk: Reflections, Part II   8 comments

A calm wetland in the Montana Rockies greets the morning.

A calm wetland in the Montana Rockies greets the morning.

This is the second of two parts on that particular part of the light we encounter as photographers: reflection.  Reflected light can really enhance your images, but it is also a potential distraction.  There are several ways to control and use reflected light to your advantage during the capture phase.  There are additional things you can do during post-processing, but this post will focus on the capture phase.

By the way, I’ve been not posting this week because I’ve been offline, enjoying Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks.  Stay tuned for posts on these destinations. Meanwhile here’s a teaser:

Mount Rainier reflected in Bench Lake.

Mount Rainier reflected in Bench Lake.

Note that the images you see on my blog are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission.  If you do have interest in any of them, just click to go to the main gallery part of my website.  Once you have the large, high-res version of the image you like before you, just click “Purchase Options”.  Thanks for your interest, and please contact me if you have any questions.

The upper Snake River, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, flows across a wildlife-rich and lonely valley.

The upper Snake River, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, flows across a wildlife-rich valley.

Here on a frigid night at Yellowstone National Park, the moon is reflected in a hot pool even though the steam obscures it's shape above.

Here on a frigid night at Yellowstone National Park, the moon is reflected in a hot pool even though the steam obscures it’s shape above.

USING REFLECTIONS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

      • First the bad news:  Reflections can be distracting, unattractive, and rob your scene of color.  The reason why I often use a circular polarizer on a drizzly cloudy day in the Oregon forest (all 8 months of it!) is that the leaves and needles, the rocks, even the soil, all of it is covered with a thin sheen of water.
      • What to do: If you want to bring out the verdant green of those leaves, the subtle hues of that rock standing in the stream, you need to at least partly block that reflection.  That is what a polarizer does for you.  It will also block the reflection from the top of the stream or lake, allowing you to see (if it’s shallow enough) the color of the rocks, gravel or logs beneath.  Be careful though.  Don’t always rotate the polarizer until the maximum reflected light is blocked. You might want some of that reflection in your image if it’s attractive.  Essentially, if a reflection is not adding color or depth to your image, it is usually taking away in some way.
The evergreen trees are turned gold and reflected in a mountain lake just outside Cave Junction in southwestern Oregon.

The evergreen trees are turned gold and reflected in a mountain lake just outside Cave Junction in southwestern Oregon.

Black and white works well for reflections too, as demonstrated here in the morning mist and fog at Mount Rainier National Park.

Black and white works well for reflections too, as demonstrated here in the morning mist and fog at Mount Rainier National Park.

      • A little more bad news:  Reflections, especially strong ones, can fool your light meter.  The light meter in your camera does not like extremes of light or dark. So it can mess up and underexpose your picture.  This is especially true if you place the center of your frame right on the brightest reflection in your composition.  If you use Live View, the little white square (it’s white on Canon cameras at least) that floats around inside your frame will read mostly that part of the scene and adjust exposure accordingly.
A Himba girl in Namibia is perfectly lighted by virtue of standing in the shade of a hut with blazing sunshine being reflected off the light-colored ground and back up into her smiling face.

A Himba girl in Namibia is perfectly lighted by virtue of standing in the shade of a hut with blazing sunshine being reflected off the light-colored ground and back up into her smiling face.

      • What to do:  Be careful where you place that white square when using Live View.  If you use Live View to frame and focus your shot, you can turn it off right before tripping the shutter.  That way you can use your camera’s (normally excellent) evaluative or matrix metering.  Basically, you want to meter off of not the absolute brightest thing in your frame but a peg or two down.

When I say “meter off of” I mean being in manual mode and pointing the center of your frame at what you wish to meter, setting aperture & shutter speed, then re-framing to get the image you want.  Or you could, if you prefer to be in another mode (say aperture priority), simply point the center of the frame at what you’re metering and press the exposure lock button.  Then while keeping it pressed, re-frame and take the picture.  Whatever you do, it is safest to review your picture on the LCD (including the histogram) right after capture, so you can re-shoot then and there if necessary.

A frog in a high mountain lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington is reflected in waters near the shore.

A frog in a high mountain lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington is reflected in waters near the shore.

      • Yay, the good news!  Reflections can really add to any image.  The better your sky looks, the more opportunity you’ll have to make y our foreground look better by using reflections.  Let’s take an example.  You are shooting a mountain lake with a beautiful sky where the sun has just set behind the hills.  The light from the sky bounces off the water and gives that part of your photo a lot of interest with the shadows of colorful cloud and azure sky being accentuated in the water.  Instead of getting too excited about that and framing your picture with only water down to the bottom, find an interesting part of the near shore (mud ripples, round rocks, etc.) to include.  If you position yourself right (often you’ll need to get pretty low), the light reflecting off the water can help to light up that extra foreground.  It might just provide rim light around the edges of the rocks.  All this adds depth and texture to your image.
Mount Rainier is reflected in a subalpine pond lined with avalanche lilies.

Mount Rainier is reflected in a subalpine pond lined with avalanche lilies.

A building in downtown Portland reflects the golden light of the setting sun.

A building in downtown Portland reflects the golden light of the setting sun.

      • More good news:  Reflections give you so many more options.  They are really a good friend if you’re into abstracts.  The way sunlit water behaves in streams or in the wind provides fascinating compositions.  In cities you can much more easily shoot into the sun when there are abundant reflective surfaces.  You can put away the flash when you’re photographing someone under a tree or the eave of a building if there is an adjacent marble patio or walk.  You can play around with mirror effects, using store or car windows to put figures & faces in very compelling spots within your compositions.
An example of an abstract composition using reflections: water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

An example of an abstract composition using reflections: water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

Reflections are all around you.  They make up, after all, approximately one half of the natural light you use as a photographer.  Use them to your advantage, be aware of their ability to intrude on your images, and above all, have fun with them.

An empty beach along the lower Columbia River in Oregon glows with a colorful summer sunset.

An empty beach along the lower Columbia River in Oregon glows with a colorful summer sunset.

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