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Technical Details: Canon 5d MkII, Canon 24-70mm lens, f/16, ISO100, 50 second shutter, 3 stops ND, 2 stops Reverse ND
Welcome to today’s post. This is again Ellingson Island, but shot on Christmas morning almost exactly one week after the image of it in my previous post. My how much things can change in a week.
This is a more technical post, so stop reading now and just enjoy the image if you’re not into the technical blah blah blah. The image below is the RAW file. The color in this file is the result of shooting it cool (relative to conditions), about 6300 degrees K, and the color shift over the sky which comes from stacking Singh Ray filters. I did not mind the color shift and was not concerned about color cast of the image. I knew at that time I was going to work in Black and White and could work the sky and water on separate layers. I could already see where this image was headed while I was shooting it in the field.
The reverse 2 Stop ND held back the sky while allowing me to open up the water a bit. This, along with good color management in Black and White, gives the incredible look in the water while allowing me to hold drama and contrast in the sky. This is a typical look and approach in my black and white work. The water turns to glass and is getting fairly bright, and the clouds are creating an interesting and quiet pattern in the sky. All of this allows the island to come forward as the main subject.
Technical Details: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 16-35mm lens, ISO100, f/16, 3.2 seconds, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer, bracketed +/- 2 stops for Photomatix (click on image, it always looks better when seen larger)
Welcome to today’s post. As promised, I have some new landscape images from Bandlands National Park to share with you over the next couple of posts, but I had to devise a strategy for sharing them. Options included sharing by order of life threatening moments (fell down a hill in Cedar Pass), by places I had a great conversation with total strangers (Panorama Point), or was nearly attacked by wildlife (Big Horn Ram near Visitor Center). Of course I could use a more conventional strategy, like color vs. BW, but that would be predictable. Since my goal is to share great images and give you a better sense of the park, I’ve decided to go out on a limb and share by location. If you’re thinking of visiting the park and taking some pictures, then these posts might serve as a guide for you.
My journey to the Badlands started late Tuesday night, about 10 pm, after working all day long – a straight drive through the night in hopes of making the east end of the park by sunrise Wednesday. That goal was never really in doubt, at least to the extent of my willingness to drive 90mph, which I did for the last 40 miles or so. Driving at night for over 8 hours is not for the timid. Its exhausting and requires a careful balance of tactics, including caffeine, light food, sunglasses, singing out loud, dimming lights on the dashboard, texting while driving and of course AM talk radio about excessive sightings of UFO’s in Missouri this year.
The good news about So Dak at night is the lack of any human existence and the lack of curves in the interstate. My powers of observation, which are, well…powerful…observed several 30-50 minute intervals during which neither car nor curve was detected. Its a great time to think through the problems in your life, but I will say this; contrary to common cultural wisdom regarding males, I did not think of sex every 7 seconds. Let’s do the math on this – nearly 9 hours on the road equals 32,400 seconds. Divide that by 7 secs and we have 4,629 times I would have thought about sex. No way did that happen. First, 2,117 of those opportunities were given to thinking about the Packers. I counted those. Another 1,977 were given to the show on UFO’s and how I hoped some would show up right there, near Kennebec or Murdo, South Dakota. Of the remaining 534 sex-thought opportunities, 521 went to photography, 11 went to gas/potty break stops, 2 to this blog post and 1 to sex. Truth be told, that 1 sex thought actually had to do with a question that’s plagued me for years now. How do porcupines have sex? Answer: Very carefully.
Ok, so I made it. Heart and nervous system no longer functional. Just twitching. Exhaustion, fatigue, dehydration, over-caffeination, excited with what I saw happening in the early twilight of sunrise. I came in to the east side of the park, near the Door and Window trails which are amazing at sunrise. And what a sunrise I had. I shot everywhere I could and needed at least 3 cameras in different locations to truly capture what was happening. But I don’t have three cameras. So I took shots, ran to another spot, took more shots, ran back to another spot, took some more shots and then went back to the car and nearly fell asleep at the wheel on my way to check in to the motel, while you were just waking up.
4 images from Door Trail. The last is a true, 5 frame pano composed of 15 total frames prepared through Photomatix and stitched together using PTGui.
Welcome to today’s post. First, I guess its only fair to acknowledge my misleading statements from the previous post. I promised to bring you some photography from a place other than Lake Superior, and its coming, but I haven’t shot it yet. I’m planning a trip to the Badlands next week, weather permitting. In the mean time I want to share with you an image I shot last week at Gooseberry Falls and use it to discuss the concept of The Hero, introduced to me by fashion photog Matthew Jordan Smith.
Hero: a subject of distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities. Often understated or unexpected qualities.
A successful image has a hero. This may or may not be in your main subject. The Hero. The hero can take many forms in all styles of photography, but its worth asking in your photography, “Who is the Hero in this image?” Not a super-hero, like Super Man, with the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The hero is often that understated or unexpected secondary subject, supporting subject, that makes the image move from good to great. In landscape photography it can be as simple as a small leaf of color in a big scenic that ties the image together, or a simple cloud structure that rhymes with the lines of the landscape, or the shape of rocks that repeats in some sort of rhythmic pattern. Who is the hero in your photograph? A successful photograph has a hero.
In today’s photo, the heros (in my opinion) are the two tiny falls of water flanking the larger flow. They add that certain, understated quality. They are guardians and protectors of the image, keeping it from being a simple, cliche waterfall shot. They are not random – they are intentional. They are simple, balanced, noble.
Technical Details: Canon 5d MkII, Canon 16-35mm @16mm, ISO50, f/16, 2.5 seconds Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
I need to apologize. Nothing heavy, but you must be tired of seeing images from the North Shore of Lake Superior and for better or worse you’re going to get a good dose of them in the next couple of posts. I don’t even have a good story to tell. No run-ins with animals, no crazy weather, I didn’t drop any expensive electronics into the water, I didn’t risk life or limb to get a shot, didn’t get lost in the dark. A fairly mundane outing by my standards. Nonetheless, last weekend I spent 30 hours racing around some familiar haunts on the shore, mostly asking myself if I had anything new to share; anything that in one way or another might be new or fresh for all of us. I was pretty sure I didn’t until I got home. After going through the images I realized that there are so many new ways to show a tired subject and today’s is no exception.
This is the upper falls or Glen Avon, on the Beaver River. Glen Avon is not in a state park, it’s not one of the quintessential falls like Gooseberry Falls, yet its one of the most intriguing falls I’ve shot on the north shore. Some falls are a one trick pony. Not Glen Avon. I’ve posted several images from Glen Avon going back to last April, the first time I visited the area. I’ve shot there many times since and captured many fun images.
On this day I found myself doing something I often do in my photography; avoiding commitment. I was gaming the weather, the clouds and trying to optimize an outcome. I was not convinced that exciting cloud cover would be around for a shoreline sunset image, so an hour before I would be on the shore I ran up to Glen Avon to scout the water level. Finding it at its lowest since spring thaw, Glen Avon had an entirely new personality and was literally in a new light! The sun has moved quite a ways to the south, presenting the landscape very differently. I shot for 30 minutes, chatted with some strangers that wandered into the area and then packed up to head to the shore for sunset. Some days I hunker down on a spot and some days I keep my feet moving. This weekend I just keep my feet moving – to remain productive, to remain fresh, to change routine, habits, and hopefully see things a little differently.
And I promise by next January I’ll have some new images from other parts of the county! Not sure where yet, but its happening.
Technical Details: Canon 5D MKII, Canon 16-35mm @16mm, F/14, ISO100, 4 Sec. Exposure, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
Technical Details: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 16-35mm @16mm, ISO100, f/16, 3 brackets at +-2 stops
Welcome to today’s post. Over the weekend I attended a family reunion in Estes Park, CO and had a very little time to shoot. What time I did have was put to good use with a morning trip up to Bear Lake and then further on to Nymph Lake. As I’ve written in recent posts, the scout is a necessary part of success for a landscape photographer. I didn’t have the opportunity to scout, so I just relied on luck.
We (my niece, cousin and his wife) all made the trip, with my cousin and I shooting. In the field we discussed how the scene could be post processed and this, in turn, affected how we shot. For today’s image from Nymph Lake I used just a Singh Ray warming polarizer and bracketed images. I knew I WOULDN’T use Photomatix Pro for HDR imaging because I really wanted a pristine, eye catching, photo realistic image. Photomatix would leave a halo around the tree – sky interface and would have required a great deal of work to eliminate. The light and colors were perfect. I bracketed to ensure I had a full range of detail in the scene and used various brackets as layers with masks in Photoshop to create the final tonal range that best represented what my eye saw at the time. I then used a Selective Color adjustment layer to finish off the image. I hope you enjoy this image as much as I do. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time shooting in the Rockies.
Technical Details: Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm, ISO100, F/14, 0.3 second exposure, 3 brackets 2stops, Singh Ray 2 stop Rev. ND, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
Welcome to today’s post. Last week I ran my Lake Superior workshop. Students were instructed on the concept of dynamic compositions and techniques used in creating them. One tool is the a strong foreground, and sky that connects with the foreground, in a way that creates a whole image. The presence of a strong horizon line and a disconnect between sky and foreground can inadvertently create two different images from one. Generally, this is not a good thing. This is a particularly challenging tool to work with in landscape photography and really stretches one’s ability to see and to use a lens that creates/aides the relationship between foreground and sky.
Dynamic compositions are created by capturing dynamic color combinations, use of leading and diagonal lines, movement of light, strong foreground/middleground/background relationships. Dynamic compositions can take your mind’s eye on a visual trip through the image. These aren’t requirements for an image to succeed, just helpful tools to work with along the way. In today’s image, I would have loved some additional dramatic twilight color in the sky, but it just never came around, so I get to go back and try again! I did enjoy the shape relationship and visual movement created by both the foreground rocks and cloud structure. For better or worse, I don’t generally shy away from tricky compositions and in this case I put on my rubber boots and risked limb and photo gear, traversing very slippery rocks, to find today’s image. Thanks to Robert Clark for the great capture.
Technical Details: Canon 5d MarkII, Canon 24-70mm @ 24mm, ISO100, F/16, 20 sec. exposure, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer
Welcome to today’s post. I just completed my 2011 Lake Superior Landscape photography workshop. My next post will be a tribute to the wonderful participants and images they created, but today’s post is about the process we put them through that resulted in so many wonderful images. I’m going to call it “stretch.”
This year we focused on scouting locations as part of developing students’ approach to landscape photography. This is an exercise very few had been through, let alone taught to do in other workshops. My assistant, Robert Clark, also wrote about this in his blog (http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/ ). Many of the students wanted practice shooting moving water so we went up on Glen Avon, on the Beaver River. I’ve shot and previously posted about this very special, but very challenging, landscape. With many potential perspectives, severe contrast on jagged rocks in evening light, difficulty working with the variety of lines created by moving water, getting exposure just right for all of these issues – no wonder the students struggled with compositions. It really stretched their mind’s eye to see better. We scouted it in hard light, shot it in evening light, and returned to shoot it in morning light so students could get the full view of how to approach and see a landscape. In evening light the water compositions are back into the sunset, giving rise to very dark shadows on downstream faces of the rocks and glare coming off the water and into the camera. Students were having difficulty composing such busy, high contrast scenes. In morning light the upstream compositions were all in even, soft light, allowing for more gentle, eye-pleasing perspectives and by then they were very familiar with the landscape. Both Robert and I were amazed by the progression of images from scout to morning light.
Today’s image was in morning light, a shot I saw during the scout in the previous evening.
technical details: Canon 5Ds MkII, Canon 24-70mm, Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter, ISO50, f/11, 150 sec
I was having a few beers on the patio with a good friend recently. It seems we’re both going through some career transitions and he said, “We’re resetting our North Star.” This struck me. We get lost for many reasons: job circumstances change, relationships change, priorities and interests change. For any of us to grow through times of change we are well served to revisit the point of focus that guides us to bigger and better things. We need to reset our North Star.
The metaphorical North Star isn’t a goal or outcome, its a guide. A thing, a belief, an idea, or philosophy that guides us through transition. As a professional and fine art photographer, I find myself getting lost about once year, in transition from one place to another and always revisiting that North Star to guide my path from point A to point B. Choosing a North Star isn’t always a conscious, intentional act. Sometimes its identified after the fact, during some level of reflection. For me, it began while preparing my tax returns!!! Like Polaris, our guides can change over time and what served us in the past may not serve us today. I’m still searching for my new photography North Star for 2011.
A North Star for my photography that served me well in the past is I Am Not A Commodity.
Today’s North Star might include: Fine art or time with friends or zero commercial or different commercial projects or travel or educator or experimenter? A guide helps me direct my time, energy, and intention and I’m leaning towards Intimate Relationships. Let me explain while the snickering subsides.
In my photography this idea would imply that I don’t shoot anything that doesn’t create or arise from an intimate relationship. This might include dramatic effect, camera positioning, a preexisting and deep understanding of the subject (landscapes or people), all of them together. For example, tomorrow I’m shooting two UST athletes because of who they are as people. I feel a connection to their drive, passion, competitive spirit. I want to capture these ideas. My camera positions and lighting are all conceived for this idea of intimacy.
Well, in the course of writing this post I’ve reset my photography North Star. Intimate Relationships. What is your North Star?
Today’s image came at the tail end of a great, but interesting day. Weather on the North Shore was gorgeous and I had been out all morning looking a property to purchase. I went into Two Harbors for lunch and decided to return to a few lots for a second look. Upon returning I parked the truck into what could only be described as quick sand.
With no one around, no one to call, I got down on all 4′s and starting digging with my hands, uncovering both front wheels enough to insert some large rocks upon which my 4WD could find purchase. Of course I got out, but then the noise under the front end began. A mile down the road and I found myself here:
A guy I know who lives on this road came by with some pliers and I was back in business in no time and in need of some relaxation. I arrived at The Landing just in time to watch the Kentucky Derby and a little of this:
(sincere apologies to all my packer friends. The other side of the glass said “Miller Lite” and I had to make a quick photo decision). After all this I drove 25 miles back up the shore to the Beaver River, well above the lake to area some locals refer to as Avon Glen. My research reveals that an “Avon” is Celtic for river, and a “Glen” is more like a gorge and less like a valley. The area I was shooting was certainly more valley than gorge, but I do like the sound of Avon Glen, so we’re sticking with it. Some of the finest stretch of river I’ve seen yet on the North Shore. It will take me days to shoot it properly, but today we have an initial take on it.