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.
- 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 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.
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).
An early winter’s morning on the California Coast near Big Sur brings clearing after an overnight storm.
I made yet another left turn on this long trip. I had planned on only going to the Rocky Mountains for a little fall photo tour. But it has turned into a giant loop of the American West. After leaving Mexico I planned to try getting back to Oregon by Christmas, but that plan was unrealistic. Interstate 5 soon became boring, so I turned off and headed for a piece of the California Coast that I’ve never seen before: Big Sur.
The rolling hills of the coast ranges in California undulate below a winter sky.
Making my way over the mountains to the coast, I noticed a sign saying Hwy. 1, the road that hugs the California Coast, was closed. But I kept going and now I am happy I did. There is a landslide just south of Big Sur, and so all today I have been stuck in a gorgeous and wild place. The little cafe at Lucia Lodge has been my home for the past few hours. From its porch I can see hundreds of sea otters and elephant seals playing amongst the kelp beds. They are too far to photograph, sad to say.
The rocks along the California Coast include turbidites, which originally formed when giant underwater landslides traveled down the continental slope.
Last night a storm swept in. I love parking my van right on the edge of precipitous drop-offs which occur along the Oregon Coast, and this was an identical situation. So I found a place where nothing stood between me and oblivion, and enjoyed the cozy confines of my van. The storm tapered off overnight, and sunrise brought clearing, and a morning rainbow!
A morning rainbow appears over the Pacific off the California Coast near Big Sur.
The adventure continues. I will try to make it through to Big Sur tonight after the workers leave the site of the landslide, and perhaps a classic Pacific Coast sunset will be my reward. I’ll post a report.
Winter on the California Coast and a storm approaches at dusk near Cambria.
A sailboat lies safely in Ensenada, Mexico’s harbor.
This is goodbye to Mexico, for now. It’s a long drive to make it all the way home by Christmas. I really like Mexico, and have to wonder about the reputation it has for not being safe. While that might be true in Ciudad Juarez, and perhaps a few other places, it is most definitely not true in any general sense. It is as safe as any country in the world, and the people are generous and friendly. The food is good, the sun smiles nearly every day, and the girls are very pretty (I can’t speak for the guys, sorry ladies). So if you haven’t been here yet, what are you waiting for?
An odd construction from whale bones stands on the waterfront in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
I am leaving via Tecate, my preferred border crossing for Baja. It is more direct to go through Tijuana, but that crossing is very crowded and this is a more scenic route. The mountains just over the border in California are quite beautiful too. I have decided I could be happy living in Ensenada. I met many nice people there, and I came close to tearing my heart a little bit in leaving one particular person. A little longer, and…
Frequent any town square (zocalo) in Mexico and you’ll see clowns who often draw very large crowds.
So Adios Mexico, volvere algun dia (I’ll return someday). Feliz Navidad everyone!
The rocky coastline of the northern Baja Peninsula in Mexico is a peaceful place to be at dusk.