Monthly Archives: September 2012

Photo Tip #6: Photographing Fall Color

Photographing Fall Color

Fall is a truly magical season–a time of great movement and change. Days grow shorter and shadows grow longer. Animals migrate to their wintering grounds and the Autumn displays of color offer their final farewell to the abundance of Summer. Fall is rich with photographic opportunity–and Autumn color and slant light of the season can provide for striking imagery.

This Photo Tip is an addendum to Photographing Landscapes. While certain locations are well-known for their vivid displays, most areas of the country experience some kind of Fall color. Aspen, ash, birch, maple, oak, and numerous other deciduous trees turn ablaze with the season’s arrival of colder temperatures and waning sunlight. The first thing I recommend when photographing Fall color is to assess the scene. A few minutes spent here can make for a more efficient and productive photo session. View the big picture. What immediately attracts your attention? Does that small, isolated stand of aspens provide the bright splash of color to make your landscape pop? Or is the stand of trees an interesting and worthy subject in itself? When is the best time of day for optimal light? Consider all the possible vantage points. The best photographs are often hard-won. A little extra effort may mean the difference between an average photograph and one that really stands out. A polarizing filter can increase color saturation and contrast, but I suggest going easy on the amount of polarization you use. Too much polarization takes on an unnatural appearance and can reduce subtle detail, particularly in shadow areas. When using a zoom lens, check your composition at a variety of focal lengths. If multiple compositions appeal to you, photograph them all. If you are a professional photographer offering stock images for licensing, having several options increases your chances of selling the image. You can never foresee what might appeal to a particular client.

 

Photographing Fall Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think outside the box. While sharp depth-of-field and crisp detail are usually desirable when photographing trees and foliage, you can also apply the same principles you use to create the effect of soft, flowing water. Long exposures (1/8 second or longer) allow blowing leaves to paint abstract blurs of color across the photograph. As a counterpoint, consider anchoring all that motion with a sharply focused branch or tree trunk. Try using a flash at dusk to photograph the leaves as they rain down in a windstorm. Experiment–and most of all, have fun. It’s a wonderful time to be outside embracing nature’s beauty and diversity.

Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Photo Tips Tagged , , , , , , |

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo Ops

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Klamath National Wildlife Refuges offer some of the finest photography opportunities you will experience anywhere. Few places in the world rival the Klamath Refuges for sheer numbers of birds, and, also, for the importance of its ecosystem as a stopover along the Pacific Flyway. Because it’s just a little more than an hour from Mount Shasta, it is a place I love to visit as often as possible.

Situated along the California-Oregon border, the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are comprised of six refuges–Clear Lake, Tule Lake, Lower Klamath, Bear Valley, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. The Lower Klamath Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and is the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. The Klamath Basin was once a vast complex of large, shallow lakes and extensive marshes totaling some 185,000 acres. More than six million birds migrated through every Spring and Fall. Today, about 36,000 acres of that habitat remain. A variety of pressures have reduced the number of migrating waterfowl to around one million birds. The refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.. I was there in February of 1988, when more than 900 baldies stayed the season. December through February are prime months to view the eagles. Dress warmly, as the elevation lies around 4100 feet and Winters here can get quite cold.

Over 400 faunal species have been identified in the refuges. 263 bird species are found here, including 23 species of raptors. Mammals include mule deer, elk, and black bear. Don’t be surprised to see a herd pronghorn antelope grazing placidly in a grassy meadow. A limited number of blinds are available on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges by advanced reservation. Self-guided canoe trails are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges, offering additional photo opportunities. Check with the Visitor’s Center (530-667-2231) for current information and availability.

 

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

As an added bonus, make the short trip over to Lava Beds National Monument, a worthwhile destination in itself. I find myself drawn to its stark and primal beauty. View ancient lava flows. Numerous lava tubes honeycomb the area and several caves are open for exploration. A helmet and more than one light source are recommended. Captain Jack and his band of Modocs made their final stand here in 1872, in what is commonly referred to as the Modoc Wars. Five prominent sites are located within the Monument’s borders. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can continue south to the Medicine Lake Highlands. There is much to discover. Check out Glass Mountain. This is an all-too-convenient addition to your wildlife viewing excursion. Please note that the road to Medicine Lake is seasonal and not plowed in the Winter.

Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Mount Shasta Area Photo Destinations Tagged , , , , , , |

Photo Tip #5: Photographing Landscapes

Photographing Landscapes

Landscapes account for more photographs, historically, than any other genre, with the likely exception of portraiture. We are all immersed in some kind of landscape. Even the city dweller resides in an urban landscape. While this particular article focuses on the natural world, everything I present here can be applied to cityscapes, as well.

Photography is all about light. Take note of those landscape photographs that really catch your eye. Almost certainly, the scene is awash in beautiful light. Light is the foundation upon which all photographs are created, and the more beautiful the light, the more visually impactful the photograph. Photographers are constantly referring to the golden hour— that one hour beginning just before sunrise and the one hour ending just after sunset. Colors grow rich and shadows long. Textures become accented. It is a rare occasion that great photos just happen. They are usually the product of hard work and committed effort–of knowing the subject, its characteristics, the best vantage point, and also the best time of day and optimal season. If you have the luxury, make repeated visits to a site. Learn it. When you get to know a particular location intimately, that begins to reflect in your photographs. Galen Rowell is an outstanding landscape photographer and high on my list of favorites. Galen’s photos of the Eastern Sierra Nevada are stunning. He has climbed, skied, and photographed on all seven continents and chose to live in the Eastern Sierra because of its unique quality of light, which he felt to be the most beautiful he had experienced anywhere on the planet. When metering for landscapes, take readings from middle tones in the landscape itself. Or, take a gray card reading, providing you are positioned in the same light as your subject (See Determining Exposure).

 

Photographin Landscapes

Composition is critical in good landscape photography. Apply the rule of thirds. I prefer to call it a principle rather than a rule. Use it as a guideline (See Composition For A Stronger Photograph). Many factors combine to influence a photograph’s composition. Determine your center of interest, whether it’s a human figure, a towering mountain peak, incredible light, or a splash of bright color. Look for interesting color contrasts, but also be aware of competing colors that draw the eye away from your intended point of interest. Be conscious in the placement of your horizon line. One-third up from the bottom emphasizes an expansive sky. One-third from the top directs attention to the landscape itself. Pay attention that oceans and lakes don’t flow down hill. Don’t restrict yourself to a horizontal camera orientation. Maybe the soaring conifers require a vertical orientation. Get in the habit of viewing the scene in both directions. If you are a professional photographer providing stock images to clients, they may request a vertical orientation, specifically. If the image is intended for a calendar, the client may require a horizontal format. If a scene works both vertically and horizontally, photograph it in both directions. It ups your chance of selling the image.

When photographing sunsets, meter the middle tones in the sky at about a 45-degree angle from the Sun. Silhouetted objects in the foreground can add visual interest and drama to a scene.You can use a flash to light up foreground detail. When properly applied, this can provide striking results. Determine the proper f-stop for your flash-to-subject distance and set the shutter speed to your flash’s sync speed (usually 1/125 sec) or slower. I will cover the use of flash in an upcoming Photo Tips.

When shooting backlighted landscapes, use your hand, or a hat, or your gray card to shade the front of the lens to eliminate lens flare. On occasion, I find lens flare adds an interesting visual component. And there are going to be those times when it is unavoidable. Note: Never look directly at the Sun through your viewfinder. You can severely and permanently damage your eyes!

Filters can help to render more pleasing results, but I recommend using them sparingly. A polarizing filter is great for reducing reflections on bright surfaces, such as water, snow, and glass. It also increases color contrast and deepens the blue sky. A rotating ring and lens adjusts the amount of polarization. It works best when the camera is pointed at a 90-degree angle from the Sun. I suggest not getting too heavy-handed with the polarizer. Skies can become unrealistically saturated. Try different degrees of polarization and see which offers you the most optimal results, but less is usually better. A note on polarizers. They have a tendency to muddy up green foliage, particularly conifers–especially when they are bathed in warm light. A second filter I recommend is a graduated neutral density filter. This filter is indispensable in balancing a bright sky and a less reflective landscape. The glass element is divided in half, one half being denser than the other. This reduces the amount of light entering through that half of the filter without affecting overall color balance. Graduated neutral density filters are available in 1-, 2-, and 3-stop differences, on up to 8- and 10-stop filters. Keep all filters and lenses clean and free of dust–particularly when shooting in the direction of the Sun. Removing filters entirely reduces the amount of reflection and helps to eliminate that washed out quality in backlighted scenes.

I suggest using a tripod and cable release whenever possible. The more stable your camera, the sharper the image. A tripod is a must if you want to create the effect of soft, flowing water that can be so appealing. Try using long shutter speeds–a second or more. When hand-holding your camera, use fast shutter speeds. The rule of thumb is: if you are shooting with a 50 mm lens, use a shutter speed of 1/60 second or faster. If you’re shooting with a 200 mm telephoto, set the shutter speed at 1/250 second or faster.

I hope this article has been helpful. Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. If you have a particular topic you would like to see covered, let me know. I will try to oblige you.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Photo Tips Tagged , , , , , |

Photo Tip #4: Composition For A Stronger Photograph

Composition

Composition is arguably the single most important aspect of good photography. If every other technical skill is expertly applied, but the photograph is carelessly composed, what might have been a memorable image becomes fodder for the delete button. Several elements combine to create a strong image, yet none of them makes or breaks a photograph like composition. I define composition as “the deliberate arrangement of all the elements within the photograph.” The key word is deliberate. When you put into practice these few basic precepts, you will take the necessary steps toward creating stronger, more compelling imagery.

The first and most fundamental principle is the rule of thirds. I briefly discussed the rule of thirds in my Photo Tips post, Photographing People–The Informal Portrait. To review, divide the picture area into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Place your subject along one of these imaginary grid lines, rather than automatically plopping them dead-center in the viewfinder. Avoid running the horizon line through the middle of the frame. Place it one-third of the way up from the bottom or one-third down from the top. If you’re photographing your child riding their bike, have them riding into the photograph. This implies forward motion and is much more visually interesting.

Many elements contribute to a balanced composition. The rule of thirds is only a guide and should not become an automatic exercise. Ultimately, composition is intuitive–a feeling based on all the ingredients visible in the view finder. Light and dark objects carry visual weight and affect compositional balance. Strong converging lines are very effective in drawing the eye in a particular direction and creating interest. When photographing people, survey their surroundings. Is a tightly cropped portrait most impactful, or does placing the subject in the immensity of the landscape make a stronger statement? Don’t cut your friends off at the feet. Most often, it looks accidental and is aesthetically disconcerting.

 

Composition

Pay attention when looking through the view finder. Scan the edges of your potential photograph for unwanted and distracting elements–branches, telephone wires, etc.. Try different shooting angles. Lay on the ground and shoot upward. When taking your girlfriend’s portrait, try looking down from her second story apartment. Sometimes moving your camera position a few feet one way or the other will yield a more pleasing background or eliminate any lens flare. If you’re using a zoom lens, zoom in and out. How does the scene look? Is it most dramatic when shot tightly, or does the scene require a wider view? Maybe each is particularly compelling, but for different reasons. Does a horizontal or vertical camera orientation make for a stronger composition? Look for interesting textures and repeating patterns. They can add visual impact and are often striking subjects in of themselves. Placing objects in the foreground gives a sense of scale and immensity to landscapes. Strong contrasting light and shadow is effective in creating tension, particularly with portraiture. Shooting on overcast days can impart a feeling of melancholy. I always strive for simplicity in my compositions. The fewer objects competing with one another, the better. Ask yourself, do all the elements work together to enhance the photograph? What distracts from it? Critique your work. Get together with friends and critique each others’ work. The feedback is incredibly valuable. See what other photographers are doing. If your interest is portraiture, see what new and exciting things are being done there. When you encounter a photograph that grabs you, what is it that catches your attention? Innovative work often challenges current notions about photography. Experiment. Have fun. And most importantly, get out and shoot!

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Photo Tips Tagged , , , , , , |