An over active imagination? Ya, I have one of those! My love affair with rocks is pretty well known and that’s due in part to my imagination. For example this one at Lake Tahoe, it looks like a fish monster rising its head from the depth to spit out some chewing tabaco on us dumb photographers getting up early on a bald sky morning to shoot rocks. Perhaps a little more nuts is not only seeing this but then shooting to bring it out. Getting down near water level with D800 (ya, even wanted extra detail in the head) with the spooky sharp 18-35 and then processing it in Perfect Suit 7 B&W. Of course, when I say out loud what I was seeing, I was perceived as nuts and that is probably very correct. But then getting up early on a bald sky morning, is nuts!
There are many reasons and uses for B&W photography just as there are for color. In understanding some of these, you can expand your use of this very romantic medium. One that I’ve not talked about (at least I couldn’t find it on the blog) that I use a lot is detailed texture. No, this is not some official photographic term, just the simple term I keep in the back of my mind when it comes to B&W photography. While in Yosemite a week ago, I was fortunate to have a number of opportunities to practice this concept. It starts with “flat light,” light where there is no real shadows. Why is that important? Because you can then use the contrast of B&W to bring out detailed textured rather then fighting shadows. Next, spring hadn’t spring so there were lots of bare trees and bare branches work great for this. After that, just had to let the magic of The Valley in and go click!
What I have here are two different foreground but the same basic everything else, trees. Now the one thing you might think is a requirement in capturing detailed texture is a D800E. Well lots of megapixels aren’t required! This was shot with the D4 with 18-35AFS. What is required is lots of DOF (shot at f/22 / f/29) and since shooting in a forest, a tripod. Then a personal thing, I underexposed a little more than normal so I have tons of highlights to pull out in post. Then it was simple a little ACR processing and then my favorite, onOne perfect 7 B&W shooting the Detail slider up to around 35. The one drawback to B&W detailed texture is that this image size you see here really doesn’t show off the detail. I’ve already made a 24×30 of the top image and at that size, there is oodles of texture and just sucks you in. Just thought I would pass along the thought.
As per my normal MO, I looked at the weather radar and weather forecast before heading out. Now when I saw small craft advisory and Gale Warning, I thought I’d best have my shell handy and white towel from my room along. As we drove the island, we couldn’t help but notice that the calm waters of the day before replaced with white caps. We stopped at The Reef to see the outdoor lounge chairs and tables being blown about the deck and folks scrambling to secure them. When I looked up, I couldn’t believe the speed in which I saw the lower level clouds rip past us! We didn’t stop, we just kept on going. We get to Glass Beach and I looked out to see this wall of black. I said to the gang, “Best get moving, we have minutes!” Two minutes later the rains from the gale combined with its winds hit us and I mean, hit us! Within seconds I was soaked except under my shell where I had tucked the D4 / 18-35AFS when I felt the first drop on my head. I’ve been in a lot of rains in my day, but never one like this with the wind speed rain felt like rocks. And just as fast as it hit, it was gone! In fact, it was gone so fast I found myself wanting it back to experience again. It was cool!
Have you ever noticed how moths can find even the smallest drop of light in the night? Ever wonder how they do that (or why?)? I do especially when they are buzzing about bugging me. But I don’t really think we’re much different, other than we don’t have wings. We seem to gravitate to light just like moths, but I think at times we miss the smallest, simplest light in favor of the big, bright light. This past week in Grand Canyon, I once again thought about how much light we really need?
I’m not talking exposure here, don’t want to step on that land mind. Rather, I’m talking about in the overall scheme of our image, how much of the scene, subject, story needs to have light on it? Can we make do with the smallest possible amount and still have a successful photograph? I want to propose that ya, we can be successful with the smallest amount of area lit. Why?
With the mind’s eye going to light and bright first, does it take much to trigger this response? I think when the overall scene is dark, then no, the smallest amount will do. And when you add to that color, texture, sharpness and some other elements, how can the mind’s eye help but latch onto that spot, instantly? Then if all of is true, how much light do YOU need?
Read a good book lately, a mystery perhaps? Was the book really good because the author didn’t put everything on the table at once? You had to continue to read to get all the pieces so you could get to the light at the end of the tunnel. What if you incorporated this same communication technique in your photograph?
Rather than going and lighting everything, perhaps try adding more shadows, mystery to your photograph using just a dabble of light strategically placed. This is an example of what I’m talking about. The morning sun just peeked through a hole in the morning clouds. It was raining so the beam of light was displayed in the falling rain until it smacked into the temple and lit it up. Making the photo took no more than realizing that this was all the light the photograph needed. Anymore light and the beam would disappear and the small degree of detail lost in a sea of information. So next time you’re out shooting, be it with ambient light or flash, ask yourself as you peer through the viewfinder, “How much light do you need?”
Jake & I made another what we call a “suicide run” where we hit the road at 3am (on a snowy morning) and drive to SoCal to do a shoot and then drive back home. Twelve hours of driving for a couple of hours of shooting. Like this one, the majority to turn out to be more than worth the time invested driving. And the drive up and down the Owen’s Valley is always gorgeous! We’d just come past Owens Lake where a Air Guard F-16 had crashed 30min earlier when we saw this unique snow flurry on the eastside of the valley. Being so cold, the weight caused this cool little snow storm which for us photographers, was a great shot. So we stopped and shot a couple of frames. After making the couple of shots, we got back in the truck and merged will all the skier traffic heading to our town and proceeded north.
I’d left the D4 / 24-70 out because, well, you just never know what Mother Nature is going to do. We were watching the clouds when all of a sudden what seems to be an updraft took this cloud and gave it a very bad hair day! Loved the shape, loved the light and loved the “bad hair” look to the top of the cloud. The thing that always amazes me is that the really cool shots just take a minute to happen. Then a minute later they are gone. It’s your being there that minute that counts! It was a great road trip with a great ending. Oh, and that plane crash, it was reported the pilot was seen ejecting and then later walking across the lakebed carrying his parachute.
Have you ever had a day when, you’re on a photo expedition but you simply wake up not in the photographic mood? You’ve traveled somewhere special, you have new toys with you and the photography up to that point has been excellent and your hard drives are full. And yet, that morning things in your head just weren’t clicking. I have days like that and I hate them! They are a two edge sword, you don’t feel like shooting and you feel guilty for not feeling like shooting. Staying in bed in not an option, gotta push through it.
A minor case of this happens at certain locations when I simply don’t feel the love. That happened to you? Be it the weather, your mood, the light or the company (or lack there of), you get out of the car and you simply don’t see a photograph to save your soul. I hate times like that but they happen and they happen more times than not. But you’ve traveled some distance and taken some time to be at this place. You can’t just crawl back under the covers!
I ran into this problem A LOT when I first started out. We traveled somewhere and the mental road block would smack me right between the eyes. It was expensive but I found totally by accident a solution for the photography blues. I remember the morning on the California Coast with the F3 in my hand. By accident I hit the firing release button (never found a cure for that screw up) and I ripped off a bunch of frames. It finished the roll so then I had to rewind it which the motordrive did for me. And all of a sudden, with that sound of the motordrive the mind snapped and I saw a photo. It sounds so lame but for me, it works.
So we were in New Hampshire no to long ago and it was one of those mornings when, there wasn’t a pixel to burn on nothin! There wasn’t even a stupid image to put up on twitter…how bad is that?! We had tickets for the Conway Scenic Railroad so I knew that if nothing else, I would have a cool ride. But I knew I wouldn’t be doing this again anytime soon so the guilt started to weigh in. I went into my mode to bust out, a great thing abut HDR. Why HDR? How many frames do ya gotta take to do a HDR? Even though I was shooting with the D600 which only takes 3 frames (18AF attached), I started to screw around. While I ended up deleting those photos that night back in my room, the sound of the motordrive triggered the Pavlov’s Dog in my head and I got back to shooting.
Now the top photo is not one I would recommend you doing. The train on the right is off on a siding and not moving. The train on the left if what we’re on and I’m obviously handing out the window further then I should be. The shutter speed was 1/3 @ f/22 (ISO100), the camera strap wrapped around my wrist and elbows pulled in tight against the outside of the train. And now with my photo mojo workin again, we went chasing back up the tracks after the ride to find this boxcar we’d seen during out ride. This is a 7 frame HDR, handheld shot with the D4 and 18AF. Not too bad of images for a day starting off with the photo blues. Now I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but next time you’re feeling this way, just hold down the shutter release and let the sound of the slamming snap you out of it. You follow my train of thought?
One of the challenges of landscape photography is creating visual depth in our photograph. When we have a wide sweeping vista, to communicate to the mind’s eye that it is sweeping, we have to trick it. This is because we are presenting the vista in a very one dimensional manner, computer monitor, iPad, printed page. This is a very flat medium for a very three dimensional scene. How do we trick the eye into seeing depth?
One of the easiest ways to do this is with an anchor point. The anchor point is an item in the foreground that is in focus that the eye can lock on to and then wonder out into the photograph. You have to be selective, just anything in the foreground doesn’t fill the bill.
A beer can in the foreground is not an anchor point. The foreground anchor point has to be of interest as well, part of the story yet not so interesting the eye doesn’t go into the frame.
In this series, you can see the scene as I saw it that evening. With the D4 / 18AF, I walked down to the shore at Mono Lake with the top scene being the first image. No anchor point, not real visual depth. The second photo has an anchor point but it’s too busy. The bottom photo is the best anchor point I could find at that moment. It’s a little too massive for me but it was the best option at the time. You can see though how with that element in the foreground we start to introduce visual depth in the photo. It helps create three planes, foreground, middle ground and background which brings depth to our otherwise one dimensional photo.
Ever seen those photos of the landscape with a sky full of stars rather than sunshine? I have and when I can, I take them. The problem is, they often don’t turn out all the great. This is the first ones I’ve done with the D4 and I was really impressed by what it was producing. Along with that was just the right combination of lunar and sun light. Pointing the camera northwest from the South Tufa parking lot, you could get a little bit of Mono Lake, Sierra Crest and the heavens.
The 24f1.4AFS was still attached, lens set to infinity with gaffers tape holding the focus, ISO to 1600 at f/2.8. I kept lookin around as the shutter was open because the clouds were constantly moving. Seeing a cool scattering, I turned to the southwest and shot. I like htis one because the outhouse airstacks in the photo look like some old western cabin chimney. Opps…did I ruin the illusion for you? These top two photos are moon light influenced.
This bottom photo is sun influenced. Now if you were standing with us and looking to the east, you would have barely, barely seen the glow on the horizon. But an 8sec exposure, it can see it no problem and that’s part of the trick. It’s kind of a balancing act between stars, sun and landscape. This turned out though really cool as fas as I’m concerned because we can see Mono Lake, stars and Area 51 in the east. The perfect way to start the day! If you want to learn this and more about photographing the stars, be sure to join us for our Star Trails Workshop in 2013!
I’m not sure what I enjoy more, photographing flowing water or, listening to the water as I’m photographing it. Whatever the case, I do enjoy it. The process of capturing flowing water, I illustrated a few weeks ago and it hasn’t been modified so far since then. And when it comes to time spent at a location, the reason why I park at times in one location for so long I expressed in this post. And while what I want to talk about now, I’ve taked about before, I wanted to elaborate on a bit more by telling the story of one afernoon. Much of what I want to talk about is summed up in this photo.
This is Flume Gorge in the White Mountains, NH. During our K&M Adventures a couple of weeks ago, we ventured to the Gorge the first time in the mid afternoon. The light was OK at best but the crowds, oh my lord! There wasn’t a place to wedge a pixel into! We didn’t stop, we just kept on driving to another gorgeous locale.
The next day, all bundled up to embrace the cold, we headed over to the Cog Railroad to get a ride to the top of Mt Washington. A great ride, we were really looking forward to it. We got there to see the cloud ceiling getting lower, the winds higher, snow blustering and the railroad only running 3/4 up the mountain. After shooting around the railroad for an hour, we packed it in and went back down the mountain. The light was dark, it was raining by the time we got down the mountain. The choice was either head back to the lodge or….I said let’s go back to the Flume. Off we went. We arrived 30min later about an hour before sunset (though we couldn’t see the sun) to a basically empty parking lot. Up the hill we went. It was raining, foggy, empty and gorgeous in the gorge! The story doesn’t lie here either
The higher we climbed into the gorge, the more we got into the clouds and the more gorgeous it all became. With that rain, there wasn’t a dry rock to be found anywhere (dry rocks suck) and the color in them was spectacular! We got up to the Flume proper and the magic was happening everywhere we turned. It just goes to show, the worst weather can produce the best photography. That’s still not the point.
The group sets up their tripods, we dialed in our exposures (these are 5sec blurs) and we had just settled down to shoot this unbelievable scene before us when…the hords show up! Seriously, I felt like I was in Africa when the Water Buffalo are crossing the river as the hords of people just kept going by! The tripods were vibrating off the bridge! Where in the hell did they come from? The light levels were falling, we didn’t have the luxury of time, what do you do? I just kept shooting and shooting and shooting. I knew some images would be soft, even deleted some in camera knowing when I pushed the shutter release they would be soft. Heck, in the top image, you can see ghosts of the folks walking right through the exposure. And still I kept shooting and loving every moment of it! Photographic opportunities like the one we were experiencing don’t happen everyday. I was shooting with my best friend making some rather crud but poignant jokes about our situations and listening to the roar of the Flume shooting some images I loved.
And that’s the point! When it’s raining, your shoot goes down the drains and you’re having to make lemonade, even after finding success at that you still find yourself in less that ideal shooting conditions, you still find joy in that moment behind the camera. It’s hard at times when you’ve invested so much in finding that moment behind the camera only to have something “spoil” it. But you’ve still gotta enjoy that moment. Because not everyone gets to do it, we are fortunate we can scratch out that moment. And while I couldn’t believe the misfortune of that hord descending upon us, it did make me smile to watch them in the rain, enjoy being out in our wild heritage. I’m a firm believer the photos will happen when they are meant to happen and not before. It’s our mission to be there when they do and then celebrate that moment with others in the images we do capture! That’s shooting the flume!
I’m coming off simply an amazing 8 days of shooting in some great places with great folks and have so much to share, I honestly don’t know where to start! Sharon & I are now at our friends home in NJ and the blessings simply just keep on going. What I simply wanted to do for your Tuesday, is remind you of just how fortunate we are to be able to get out and shoot the wonders we have around us, thanks to all those who make it possible for me to do what I love to do, and give you a hint of some of the stories to come. Of course, I’ve gotta have a moment to sit down and write them and since I’m on the road for another week (and then only home for 2 days), I’ll do my best to tie a thread through all the photos you see here and a lot more. I’m a very lucky photographer to have such problems!
Why do we wait? Why do some not wait? Life as we all know is fast paced, time seems to slip away even though we wish otherwise. So I often wonder as I watch photography, why they seem to want to make life and time go faster than it already does. It is not like if we do wait it guarantees success and often it’s quite the opposite. But when we do wait, even if we do get skunked, we still come away with the sweetness of that time we did stop, smell the roses and wait. I treasure those moment when I can do just that, stop and simply let life blow by me knowing, that’s what life should be doing at that moment
And such was this morning. We got up early and hit the road as usual on K&M Adventures to chase the light. We headed to a favorite Pemiquad Lighthouse, a very unique and moody lighthouse on the ME coast. When we arrived, the light was hidden behind clouds. But we knew with time, it would appear. We just didn’t know how it would appear. So we positioned ourselves for when that moment, if it happened, we could make the photo. What you see is 30min of sweet time just smelling the sea breeze with the sound of the crashing waves waiting. As it happened, the sun broke for just a heartbeat to make this scwheeeet image. This is a single click made with a split grad on the lens and nothing more. Oh, there is that one special ingredient that you can’t buy. Time and a love for just watching life go by.
We continued west and when we came down from Westgard Pass and looked towards home, we saw the eastside in gorgeous light with God Beams showing us the direction. Of course we stopped, got out and enjoyed the view and preserved it for all time with our clicks. John Muir called this the Range of Light for a very good reason. It is nearly a daily occurrence, this gorgeous light on an spectacular landscape making photography really quite simple. To make the shot, I made a 5 image handheld HDR that was finished in Nik HDR Pro.
Sharon & I are very fortunate to have two incredible sons who not only like hanging with mom and dad, but are also shooters themselves. We have been doing this photography thing as a family from the very beginning but we never really thought it would turn into a family affair. With that being said, you have to be careful, especially when you hear the request to “hold still.” In this case, Jake was kind to dad making a cool capture. But there are times when my very Photoshop wise sons take creative license with their photos of mom and dad. We are very fortunate!
You know when you have a friend in Joe McNally when on his blog he bestows you with such a title. While I don’t think I’m that light on my feet, I do love clouds! During our Napp Photo Safari during Photoshop World, the heavens gave us a heck of a show and I was more than happy to watch, shoot and hopefully inspire others with the experience. Both of these shots are in my book simple clicks, taken with the D4 and 24-70AFS
The scene above is the one Joe describes in his blog. For me, such a scene is a simple click but for many, clouds and B&W is a mystery so I explained what I was seeing with my eyes and how I would translate that to a photograph. We start with the light and how we want to use it to pull the eye through the frame. With that known, we than look at those elements that prevent that movement of our eye and do what is needed to exclude them from the frame. Than we make sure we still include those elements we do want, set the exposure comp to -2/3 and go click. Than head into Silver Efex Pro 2 and do a simple 80 structure move, a little levels for the blacks and we’re done. Some from the safari have emailed asking for the video I mentioned. You will find those along with all my videos in, yeap, the Moose’s Video Library. Thanks to all the folks who joined us…great day!
We are incredible fortunate to live in paradise! As I’ve mentioned probably too many times, summer in the Eastern Sierra is great with our monsoon storms. The clouds just play in the heavens as they float by. For this reason, I’m constantly heading out to the front deck to look up and see what is floating by. My favorite rig is the D4 with 24-70AFS, the format fits perfectly for shooting among the pines in the front. Here’s a series from last evening.
What you have here is the out of the D4 Jpeg and the finished PSD file. In this first image, first step in finishing is ACR using my Landscape preset. In Photoshop, the Apsens in the dead center of the frame were replaced with the Clone Tool with fir as in the rest of the frame. Then the image was run through Silver Efex Pro 2 and finished with Pro Contrast in Nik’s Color Efex 4. The entire finishing process took less than two minutes.
This next image in the series is the one I like the best. Camera gear and finishing all the same except this time, Pro Contrast was replaced with a Levels layer just to pull the blacks down a tad. Oh ya, I removed a couple of tree tops in the lower left corner with Content Aware Healing Brush. Why do I like this one the best? I have that “burning bush” feel to it, really strong graphics. I like that.
I like this last image more as a color than B&W, I think. I like the shape of the cloud but the tree is a little too bulky for me. The camera was all the same. In finishing, the first thing you’ll notice is the limb in the top left missing. That was done with Content Aware Fill. Then the rest of the finishing was done exactly the same as the first image. I hope this series will encourage you to just step out your door, no matter where you live, look up and make a click. Exploring the backyard and simple processing can open up all sorts of creative doors!
“Have you ever been to Bodie?” The calls and emails have been coming in since my bud RC posted some of his images from his recent trip there with Bill Fortney’s workshop. Since we live not too far from the State Park, it’s a reasonable question. Until you head to Photography > The Bodie Series tag above and you see I have. I even wrote a book about the town (never published) and ran a workshop there for years in the early 90′s. But my relationship with the town goes back to 1900.
No, I’m not that old but at times you wouldn’t know it. My grandfather’s cousin was the superintendent at the Standard Mine from 1900-1902 which is why my family first started to come to the Eastside. My mom came to Bodie when she was a little girl when the town was still a inhabited town. So I grew up visiting Bodie before and after it became a state park to the present day. Back in the early ’90s when doing the workshop in Bodie, I was very fortunate to meet some of the surviving citizens of early day Bodie like the Bells. It’s not a real stretch saying Bodie is in the blood.
Naturally, photographers are interested in Bodie as a subject and for good reason. It’s a great subject even if you’re only seeing 15% of the town. The rest has been lost to fire and time. When it comes to photographing Bodie, my favorite time is in August when the summer thunderheads dominant the sky and in October when the light is spectacular no matter the skies. One of the photographic problems about Bodie is it is a state park so there are operational hours which aren’t really photographer friendly. Are there ways around this? Also, once in Bodie you can’t help but look inside the windows to an era gone by.
I’ve not ventured into a building in Bodie since I had keys to the town back in the early ’90s. To say things have changed is a vast understatement! I’ve been told but do not know for fact but you can pay a fee, in the hundreds of dollars and gain access to the town and interiors. The question many pose of me is, “Is it worth it?” Having a personal history with the town, to me I never turn down an opportunity to visit it. As a photographer, I don’t have the same response. When the end game is to capture a gorgeous images, Bodie is like any location where timing is everything. Light is great and there is no finer place then Bodie. When it comes to interiors, I simply don’t have a ying or yang to provide you. Back in the day, I spent all my time in the interiors shooting with scrims on the windows and a little flash fill. I’m told you can’t do that anymore which just leaves HDR to make the most of the light. You look at my parents photos of the interiors and than mine of the 90′s and than now and it’s changed a lot! I love Bodie and if you have the opportunity to visit it with your camera, do so! Just keep in mind it’s like any location, light is everything. And yes, there are ghosts in this living ghost town!
“Moose, do you ever let your hair down with HDR?” This is an email I received yesterday and I’m not really sure how to take it. The fact I don’t practice what I call “Elvis on Velvet” HDR only means, it’s just not my schtick. In my own mind, it’s no different than I don’t do macro. Just not what I do. So I decided to go out tonight and “let my hair down” and see if I could visualize and then produce a crazy HDR photo. Ya…I could take 5 frames, no problem. Ya, I saw some colors I thought I could exploit easily in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2. With the D4 and 24-85VR and Nik, the process was pretty darn simple actually. And the final photo? Well, it kinda has the feel I was thinking about but my issue is, I was there taking the photo and swatting the mosquitoes and this is simply not what I saw or felt. And I guess that’s why I don’t let me hair down and do this style of HDR. I am not saying I think it’s wrong or awful or anything like that. Just that it’s not my thing and like macro photography, I don’t do it well and have no desire to do it better. So now it’s time to put my hair back up.
It’s my favorite time of the year in the Eastern Sierra, monsoon season! Monsoon moisture down in the Gull of California brings the moisture and the heat of the Owens Valley makes the afternoon clouds. In the mid afternoon, we can have down pours that literally create creeks where hours before was dirt. Other than the lightning hitting a very dry forest possibly causing fires, this summer event is something I always look forward to. Why? The clouds have such drama that you can almost shoot anything with them and you have a great photo. It takes no talent, just some time.
There are many ways to photograph these massive towers of moisture but chasing them at sunset it one of the most rewarding. The challenge is finding the spot to make your stand. That’s because as the sun sets, the thunderheads loose their main power source and as such, loose their energy and dissipate. They also loose their energy as they drop their moisture (known as rain). These factors make the clouds fall apart really fast. I’ve chased these giants many times only to have them turn into nothing in minutes. See the peaks in the foreground in there photos? They are there not only because of scale but also because they keep sending up jets of energy which keeps the clouds around as long as possible. If you look at my big cloud photos, you almost will always see peaks in the foreground, that’s my trick.
Photographically, remember two things, you need a split grad and need to switch WB to Cloudy. The tops of the thunderheads can be thousands of feet above their base which means they still have sun when the bases do not. You don’t want that white at the top taking the eye up and away. Use the split grad to pull them tops back down. Switch to Cloudy WB not because you’re shooting clouds but for the reds. AWB just never captures the reds like Cloudy and your want the reds. After that, just have fun and enjoy the show. It’s one of Mother Nature’s best!
I’ve been up to my eyeballs with office work, yuck, so treated myself to some time off finishing images from this past weekend at Mono Lake. I wanted to finish the images to enhance the storm more so went into OnOne Software new Perfect Suite 6.1 for some fun. This really have done a really nice job with this update with more filters, layers and opacity on the preview. Being able to add filters together doesn’t hurt either! So what we have here, the top image I used Daily Vitamin, a filter I’m getting to really like. The next image is a combination of Magic Ocean (50%) and Texture Booster. The bottom image is simply Magic City. All of them are finished off with Borders > Black Key Frame.
One of the hardest things about landscape photography I think is learning the post so when you go click, you already know what you can do and how your want to finish an image in post. On those really great shoots, everything falls into place so you don’t have to do a single thing to finish the photograph. Often, especially when you only have one shot at an image, you have to finish some aspect of the photo. Knowing the possibilities of post give you a broader vision when you go click. If you’ve not tried OneOne Perfect Suite 6.1, download it and try it free for 30days. But here’s the warning, once you try it, you’ll buy it. Have fun with your photography and you will be rewarded!