Egret in Black II

egret-breakdown

Since I first released this photograph, I have fielded quite a few requests for information on how I created this image. Is it heavily photoshoped? Did I add the background? How on Earth did you set your exposure to make your photograph to look like this?

To create an image like this you have to understand light. That isSince I first released this photograph, I have fielded quite a few requests for information on how I created this image. Is it heavily photoshoped? Did I add the background? How on Earth did you set your exposure to make your photograph to look like this?

To create an image like this you have to understand light. That is what makes this image. Sure, I brought this in to Photoshop to sharpen and hit the saturation levels. I also put a vignette on it in Lightroom so as to help with the visual flow – specifically at the bottom of the photograph. But what makes this image unique, posture and the like aside, is the white bird against the black background. And this part was done 100% in the field by exploiting the type of light that I had to work with.

If you note the direction of the light, you will see that it is coming in from a strong angle. This angled or side lighting, illuminated the bird but dropped the background into light shadows.

Now, given the fact that this is a great egret with brilliantly white plumage, I knew that those feathers were reflecting significantly more light than the rest of the elements that my eye could see in the composition. Color is a function light. White objects are reflecting all waves of light back at you and absorbing none (as opposed to red feathers for instance which are absorbing all waves of light and only reflecting red). So this means that white feathers are going to be significantly brighter than any other object in a composition. And, the more incident light (ambient), the more reflective light ( what your camera meters) you have to contend with in your exposure.

This photograph was made at about 10am. This is Florida. So this means there was a lot of bright light to contend with.

When we switch over to spot metering from matrix / evaluative, we tell our cameras that we only want one small spot, about the size of a focus point in the viewfinder, to be read instead of the entire composition. So where ever you place your focus point (the little rectangle that lights up in your viewfinder) will be the only thing your camera meters for. Move the camera around and you will watch as the meter in your viewfinder jumps all over the place. This is because that “spot” is different in its tonality of light.

Make since?

So by spot metering off of the brightest area of the bird, I was saying that this spot is the most important part of the exposure equation.

Your cameras meter is still based upon the concept of 18% gray. This means that when spot metering, if you zero adjust your exposure so as to zero out the meter reading in your viewfinder, that tone of light that you spot metered off of will be rendered 18% gray. In other words, it will be made a perfect midtone.

So if I had metered off this bird and shot with an exposure reading that I was given by the camera, this white bird would have been an 18% gray bird. If I had done the same off of a black bear, the results would have been an 18% gray bear.

You see, the meter reading that you get from your camera is not a suggestion. Its literally a statement that at this exposure setting you will render the dominant tone being metered as 18% gray. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing else. Its a fact. Its a declaration.

So, if the dominant tone is going to be rendered 18% gray at that exposure setting, and since I’m spot metering off the bird, this means the brightest light on the bird will be rendered 18% gray. And if i do not want a gray bird, then I know that I must ADD LIGHT to make this bird white.

With this knowledge in mind, I increased my exposure by 1.3 stops of light. This was enough to render white feathers white with ought over exposing those whites. This,is situation dependent of course.

Now, because there was so much light reflecting off of those white feathers to begin with, even though I increased my exposure to render the whites properly, the contrast between those whites and the shadowed background was so great, the background rendered completely black. And the result was beautiful.

To sum this up, the light created extreme contrast between my subject and the background. All I did was properly expose for the brightest part of the composition. This recorded whites as white, and the background faded to black.

Exposing for the highlights or brightest part of a composition is what we are always doing regardless of the situation. So really there is nothing unique here. Sure I used spot metering, but that was because there was so much contrast between the bright areas and the far more dominant shadowed areas. I simply needed my camera to ignore all the shadows.

What ultimately made this photograph was the light in which I was photographing this bird in. Understanding how my camera meters and how to exploit the contrast that was being created was what allowed for this photograph.

Understanding light, and all of its nuances here is what allowed me to “see” the possibility of this photograph. This is everything in photography. This actual scene did not exist in the wild. My eye is looking across something like 24 stops of light. This means details existed in both shadows and highlights for me here. But, I know my camera records somewhere between 5 and 8 stops of light. So I instantly recognized the possibility with this situation. Once realized, it was then just a matter of working the composition out and waiting for this egret to do his thing.

what makes this image. Sure, I brought this in to Photoshop to sharpen and hit the saturation levels. I also put a vignette on it in Lightroom so as to help with the visual flow – specifically at the bottom of the photograph. But what makes this image unique, posture and the like aside, is the white bird against the black background. And this part was done 100% in the field by exploiting the type of light that I had to work with.

If you note the direction of the light, you will see that it is coming in from a strong angle. This angled or side lighting, illuminated the bird but dropped the background into light shadows.

Now, given the fact that this is a great egret with brilliantly white plumage, I knew that those feathers were reflecting significantly more light than the rest of the elements that my eye could see in the composition. Color is a function light. White objects are reflecting all waves of light back at you and absorbing none (as opposed to red feathers for instance which are absorbing all waves of light and only reflecting red). So this means that white feathers are going to be significantly brighter than any other object in a composition. And, the more incident light (ambient), the more reflective light ( what your camera meters) you have to contend with in your exposure.

This photograph was made at about 10am. This is Florida. So this means there was a lot of bright light to contend with.

When we switch over to spot metering from matrix / evaluative, we tell our cameras that we only want one small spot, about the size of a focus point in the viewfinder, to be read instead of the entire composition. So where ever you place your focus point (the little rectangle that lights up in your viewfinder) will be the only thing your camera meters for. Move the camera around and you will watch as the meter in your viewfinder jumps all over the place. This is because that “spot” is different in its tonality of light.

Make since?

So by spot metering off of the brightest area of the bird, I was saying that this spot is the most important part of the exposure equation.

Your cameras meter is still based upon the concept of 18% gray. This means that when spot metering, if you zero adjust your exposure so as to zero out the meter reading in your viewfinder, that tone of light that you spot metered off of will be rendered 18% gray. In other words, it will be made a perfect midtone.

So if I had metered off this bird and shot with an exposure reading that I was given by the camera, this white bird would have been an 18% gray bird. If I had done the same off of a black bear, the results would have been an 18% gray bear.

You see, the meter reading that you get from your camera is not a suggestion. Its literally a statement that at this exposure setting you will render the dominant tone being metered as 18% gray. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing else. Its a fact. Its a declaration.

So, if the dominant tone is going to be rendered 18% gray at that exposure setting, and since I’m spot metering off the bird, this means the brightest light on the bird will be rendered 18% gray. And if i do not want a gray bird, then I know that I must ADD LIGHT to make this bird white.

With this knowledge in mind, I increased my exposure by 1.3 stops of light. This was enough to render white feathers white with ought over exposing those whites. This,is situation dependent of course.

Now, because there was so much light reflecting off of those white feathers to begin with, even though I increased my exposure to render the whites properly, the contrast between those whites and the shadowed background was so great, the background rendered completely black. And the result was beautiful.

To sum this up, the light created extreme contrast between my subject and the background. All I did was properly expose for the brightest part of the composition. This recorded whites as white, and the background faded to black.

Exposing for the highlights or brightest part of a composition is what we are always doing regardless of the situation. So really there is nothing unique here. Sure I used spot metering, but that was because there was so much contrast between the bright areas and the far more dominant shadowed areas. I simply needed my camera to ignore all the shadows.

What ultimately made this photograph was the light in which I was photographing this bird in. Understanding how my camera meters and how to exploit the contrast that was being created was what allowed for this photograph.

Understanding light, and all of its nuances here is what allowed me to “see” the possibility of this photograph. This is everything in photography. This actual scene did not exist in the wild. My eye is looking across something like 24 stops of light. This means details existed in both shadows and highlights for me here. But, I know my camera records somewhere between 5 and 8 stops of light. So I instantly recognized the possibility with this situation. Once realized, it was then just a matter of working the composition out and waiting for this egret to do his thing.

Posted in photography in the Springtime, Technical Skills, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , |

Egret in Black

Egret-in-Black

Last month I stopped by the egret rookery in St. Augustine Florida for a morning while on my way down to Sarasota for my Florida Bird Photography Workshop. As is typically the case this time of year, there were probably close to a hundred photographers there shooting madly at the chaos that was unfolding all around.  Snowy egrets, little blue herons, tricolored herons, cattle egrets, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks were everywhere. And the great egrets is were in basically every stage of the breeding process from courtship displays to the rearing of chicks.

If you have never been to an egret rookery, these places are basically swirling vortexes of entropy. Nests, chicks, flying, perching, mating, feeding, pooping, squawking, etc. . . The activity levels are overwhelming. So many birds. So many possibilities.

For me, visiting a rookery is not so much about all of this action, or the incredible number of birds, so much as it is that the presence of these birds is guaranteed. Numbers mean little except for the fact that my chances of finding a photograph increase with opportunity. Out of all of this chaos though, I would contend that there may only be 3 or 4 really great photographs to be created.

This is how I break it down in my head. . .

When I approach the St. Augustine rookery, I know that there will be a thousand or more birds to work with. But not all of these birds are shootable. So the first thing I do when I arrive is scout out the place to see what is going on. By this, I mean I simply walk around and observe. Be a tourist for a moment. Enjoy the place. Let yourself get past the insanity of the rookery. Let’s face it, rookeries are the definition of stimulus overload. Once I have spent time kind of soaking it all in, I go to work mentally. I begin asking myself questions. I size the place up that morning and take note. Which species are at what stage in breeding? Who is displaying and who is sitting? Where are the possible opportunities?

Say you have 1,000 birds here. A quick walk around the place may reveal that the vast majority of these birds are stuffed in the trees in such a way that you cannot photograph them. Maybe there is too much contrast given the light and shadows fall across faces. Maybe sticks and twigs obscure views. Maybe the backgrounds are too cluttered. There are a seemingly infinite number of reasons that a particular bird or nest wont make the first cut. So we go from 1,000 birds down to maybe 50 birds just like that.

Of these 100 birds some may be sitting on eggs (boring), some maybe guarding chicks (boring after you have shot this before), and some maybe in courtship display (awesome). Courtship displays are not the only thing I’m looking for of course, but another bird sitting on a nest, or just another bird feeding chicks doesn’t cut it for me. These are documentary photographs. If you haven’t done this before, shoot it. But once you have, you will find that these situations very quickly lose appeal after the first time. So from 50 birds we now have maybe 10.

Now that we have boiled things down to just 10 birds, I start getting picky. What is the light like? What is the background like? What is the nest or perch like? Most of the time just a quick glance will tell me if it works or doesn’t. Sometimes you just “know.” You know? And with this next cut, very quickly my 10 birds become 1 or 2 that I really like.

From 1,000+ birds down to just two. Two is manageable. Two allows me to create a plan of action. Two birds let’s me focus and begin to visualize the possibilities (one of the most extraordinarily important skills you MUST develop if you are going to be a visual artist).

The other 8 birds may still have merit. Maybe they will make good fodder for the stock files. But for me, I want to create art. I want something that says something. I don’t need just another photograph of a white bird in a tree.

With this particular trip to the rookery, I chose one single bird to concentrate on. Ironically, it was right where the bulk of the photographers were, only I was facing the polar opposite direction from everyone else. Forty five big telephoto lenses all aimed one way, and mine was the exact opposite direction. Let’s just say that I received more than a few strange looks from folks. This is typical for me though. More often than not in my life, I find myself going against the grain.

To be continued. . .

Posted in The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , |

Telling Stories with Pine Warblers

pine-warbler-longleaf

As of late, I have been spending a significant amount of time deep inside of Croatan National Forest. This is an extraordinary place – quite unlike any other national forest I have ever had the pleasure to work in or explore. I am here to capture the story of the longleaf pine savannas through photographs. From the fire that shapes and sculpts these woods and grasslands, to the impenetrable swamps knowns as pocosins, and the denizens of this forest that have evolved to eke out a living here in this strange landscape.

Pine warblers like this one are unique in the world of warblers in that they eat seeds – and lots of them. Sure they will gorge themselves on caterpillars like any self-respecting warbler will, but their preference for pine seeds allows them to stand apart. Because of the ability to consume this super abundant food source across the southeastern part of the United States, they are one of the few species of warblers that do not leave the country. Many northern individuals move south for the winter, but all that means is that they pop up in places such as Croatan National Forest with its dense stands of longleaf pine.

Pine warblers are extremely common in these pine forests, go figure, but they are a species that is not often seen except for in the spring when they can be found foraging around on the ground. Otherwise, they tend to prefer the lofty perches at the top of the canopy where they go about their business far above the rest of us.

It was for this reason that I wanted to capture one of these pine warblers perched in pine needles. Such a composition as this one helps to tell the story of this bird in two ways. . . first, its preference for the canopy. Secondly, this photograph shows this little warbler interacting with longleaf pine – something I would have been hard pressed to create if he was perched on the ground, trunk, or branch.

So despite a long list of species that I am working on here, the pine warblers, though common, are an important part of visually story telling in the longleaf pines of Croatan.

Posted in Technical Skills, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Wildlife Photography

What really matters in your photographs

bobcat3
Here is a statement you might not be ready for. When I’m photographing wildlife, I’m not usually paying attention to the wildlife.

Huh?

Here is the thing, your wildlife subject is going to do what it is going to do, regardless of you. You cannot control this. You cannot change this. You are a bystander on the sidelines simply watching as their life unfolds.

As artists though, we cannot simply take what we are given. We must demand more. By the very nature of who we are, we question what is before us. We consider the alternatives. We change and tweak and tinker with everything. We create.

So what can you actually affect? What can you actually control in your photographs?

There are two things that I concern myself with in my wildlife photography. Light and the environment. That is really it.

Like I said, the animal is going to do what the animal is going to do. I set my exposure, I use solid techniques to make sure my subject is sharp of course, but it’s the light and the environment that are the two elements that make or break wildlife photography. Therefore, its these two elements that I am thinking about 99% of the time.

So when I approach a subject, before I ever even set my tripod down, the questions that I ask myself are these . . . What is the light doing? Where is it coming from? What does the environment look like? How about the background? And how is the light and the environment working together?

I will then spend the rest of my time concerning myself over these questions as I allow my subject to move throughout it’s world.

Here is how I would suggest approaching your wildlife photography. . . Light set’s the mood and dictates what is and is not possible. It basically set’s the parameters and rules for the shoot. The environment then set’s the stage and tells the story of your subjects life. When it comes to literature, aren’t these the key elements?  So too in the visual arts.

So let’s do a break down of the accompanying photographs.

bobcat101. In this first shot, I employed a chiaroscuro lighting scenario for this photograph. Chiaroscuro just means light and dark in Italian. With the direction and low angle of the light, deep shadows were being cast all across the landscape of boulders that this cat was crossing. Light and how it was interacting with the environment is what ultimately made this shot. I could not control the cat. I could not put him where he is. What I could do is realize the potential for a composition like this, put myself in place, get my exposure set, and then wait and hope he would enter this little area – which he did. Light and the environment.

 

bobcat82. Here is something totally different. A close up of a bobcat hanging out on its daybed under the trees. This seems simple enough right? In this photograph, once again, light and the environment were everything. Because of where this cat was, I could only photograph this with frontal lighting. Why? Because if there had been any angle whatsoever, then the shadows from the tree would have been cast across the face and body of the cat. The resulting zebra striping would have ruined the photograph. So  here too, light and environment are my key considerations.

 

bobcat2 3. Here is one of my classic shots of a bobcat coming down a fallen log covered in snow. The light almost non-existent. So I was basically shooting in full shade / shadow. This means I do not need to consider contrast in this scene what so ever. So now, I can photograph the cat in any part of the composition that I chose to create without worry of my exposure changing, or shadows falling where they should not be. The overcast like lighting simplified the equation for me. So if light is removed from being a major concern here, that means the only thing I am left with is the environment and how our cat here is interacting with it. I did not put the cat on this branch. But I was very much ready and waiting to capture this cat come across this fallen tree. The tree is everything in this photograph. Remove the tree and what do I have? Just another bobcat shot out of the thousands I have already. But, because of the tree, because of the falling snow from the foot steps, and how our cat is interacting with this environment, the photograph was a huge success. Once again, light and environment.

 

bobcat44. Ok. One more. Here we have a bobcat walking along the banks of a braided channel along the Madison River. This was taken in 7 mile meadow in Yellowstone, and it was after the sun had dropped below the horizon.

First the light. As stated, the sun had set. Water reflects the colors and light in the sky. To capture these colors, it was important for the sun to not be in the sky. If it had, it would have been too bright and I would have lost the gold of the sky reflected here. So this was about timing. Second, snow reflects insane amounts of blue light from the environment. So because the sun had already set, and because I had a cooler white balance, I ended up with loads of blue throughout my snow and shadows. Now in terms of the environment, if it were not for the water to reflect the light, if it were not for the wind swept nature of the snow reflecting blue light, what would we have? Nothing. Another image in the virtual trash can. But because of the light and the environment, and how that they worked together in this photograph, we have something extraordinary. The cat is just a little piece of this puzzle. Its doing nothing more than walking across the scene. The photograph is the light and the environment. The little cat only anchors the photographs. Without the cat, its a weak shot. Without the environment, its a week shot. Without the light, its a week shot. I needed all three of these to make this happen. But the most important parts of the equation are once again, light and the environment.

Posted in Wildlife Photography

Westcott Apollo micro Softbox review

softbox

I recently spent 10 days down in Panama bouncing around the islands of the Bocas del Toro area chasing poison dart frogs. If you have ever seen a poison frog then you know they are small – like really small. There are a few species that are a bit larger, but the particular species that I was chasing after, the strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio), are extremely small. Photographing frogs is always going to be the realm of macro, but these guys are really going to test your reserve!

Photographing macro subjects in the tropics means that you will be using flash – like it or not. The light is just way too low in 99% of the sscenariosthat you are going to find subjects. With multilayered canopies towering upwards of 100 feet overhead, a bright overcast day is reduced to the equivalence of candle light inside of the rainforest. Flash is what is going to allow you to photograph in these conditions, period. But the problem with flash in close quarters, especially when everything is wet and shiny like it is in these tropical forests, is that the light from our flash bounces and sparkles off of everything give our compositions a decidedly “flashed” look. Photographing birds at 50 feet away, using a touch of fill flash is not going to be a problem. But shiny subjects like frogs on the other hand can really cause some problems for you.

In order to overcome these issues we need to diffuse the light. Diffusing the light means that we scatter the light around instead of concentrating it. By scattering it, we are not only eliminating a lot of the contrast of a scene (both good and bad depending upon what you are going for) but we are also reducing the intensity of the flash enough to eliminate the sheen of these frogs. You flash probably comes with some sort of drop down diffuser. Many even come with a little plastic cap that you can stick over the flash to cut light even more. However, if you really want to be able to control the light in your macro photography then you need to move in the the realm of softboxes.

I have used a variety of different softboxes over the years – both really big ones for commercial shoots as well as little tiny ones for macro work. The rainforest is no place for a full sized softbox you would see on a portrait shoot. But it is perfect for something like the Westcott Apollo micro softbox. Measuring just 5 x 8 inches, this thing is the ideal size for in the field macro work.

Basically the micro softbox attaches over your speed light (flash) via a couple of strips of velcro that come supplied with the softbox. If you a shooting in TTL then you can just adjust and shoot as normal. If you are shooting manual this is going to reduce your flash output by about 1 stop.

The results are phenomenal. These softboxes are without a doubt the best I have ever used. Westcott is a top of the line company trusted by professionals throughout all walks of photography – not just macro work. The build and construction is second to none, and the whole things folds flat so I can slip it just about anywhere in my photo backpack while trekking through some pretty gnarly terrain or bouncing between islands by boat. If one of these can hold up to the abuse that I put it through when in the tropics, then they will endure just about anything.

The price is more than reasonable coming it at right around $30 usd.

Below are a few photos that I made in Panama while use this micro softbox.

poisonfrog9 poisonfrog8 poisonfrog6 poisonfrog4 poisonfrog3

 

Posted in equipment review, Technical Skills, Travel, Wildlife Photography

Winter 2015 VIP is completed

VIP

So for those of you in the know, the VIP newsletter will be sent out this week. I just finished the winter 2015 edition and it’s being tweaked now. Don’t know what this is? Its quite different than the newsletter I put out called Behind the Lens. The VIP thing is for folks who have joined me on workshops in the past and those who are currently signed up for upcoming trips. The VIP newsletter is sent out quarterly and is a downloadable PDF file all about wildlife photography.

Each edition has a species profile in which I take one particular animal and discuss its natural history and just about everything you need to know about photographing it. Next there is a section on technique, where I write in detail about a particular photography technique that is specifically related to wildlife photography. Finally there is the section called Shoot this NOW!. This final section is all about what you as a wildlife photographer should be out chasing down right now given the season. Often times we as photographers get stuck in a rut. We keep shooting the same old subjects day after day. For this reason I decided to add this last section to help motivate people to step outside of their comfort zone and pursue other wildlife photography opportunities!

This edition:

Species profile: Canvasbacks

Technique: Nail those Silhouettes Every time

Shoot this NOW: Waterfowl

Posted in Technical Skills, Wildlife Photography

Magazine Articles

seal

Writing is a big part of what I do. My business is much more complex than just crawling through alligator infested swamps, climbing snow covered mountains, and floating down the Amazon river to create wildlife photographs. With a never ending thirst for knowledge, an obsession for understanding the minute details of the natural world, a life long love for writing, and a background in both biology and environmental history, I guess it’s something of an inevitability. My niche here is taking the complexities of science and cutting research, and deciphering it in such away so as to make it accessible, interesting, and maybe even entertaining for a general audience.

Recently I decided put a few of the articles that I have written for natural history magazines online. This list is only a very small sampling of articles and by no means a complete collection. Each article that I have put online is in the form of a PDF and only the text is included – not the magazine layout with photographs and the like. So if you want to get your nerdgasm on, check the new link at the top of the page entitled Writings, or just CLICK HERE.

As time permits, I will put more of these articles on the list here so if you like this sort of stuff, check back from time to time.

 

Posted in Business, Wildlife Photography

Wildlife Tracking skills for Serious Photographers

petersonsI am very pleased to announce that this coming year we are going to be adding something new to our Tetons and Yellowstone photography workshops. There are two books that I view to be absolute essentials for serious wildlife photographers. The first is Peterson’s Reference Guide to the Behavior of North American Mammals. The second is Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species. Mark Elbroch authored both of these books and he will be joining us on upcoming workshops to discuss tracking skills necessary for serious wildlife photographers!

Dr. Mark Elbroch has authored 10 books on Natural History, and dozens of scientific papers. This guy is very well known among naturalists, trackers, and field biologists as one of the top minds in his field. In addition to the above credentials, he is also the project leader for the Teton Cougar Project.

I cannot begin to express what an incredible opportunity that this will provide participants of these upcoming workshops. We are constantly striving to go above and beyond with the workshops that we organize – focusing on photographic instruction, environmental education, experience based learning, and good old fashion adventure. For this reason, we believe that the addition of discussions led by Mark Elbroch will further our goals of offering you the best experience and photography workshop possible.

Want to know more about Mark Elbroch? Check out his bio through the big cat conservation group Panthera: http://www.panthera.org/node/3034

Want to check out the Peterson’s Reference Guide to the Behavior of North American Mammals? Check it out here via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Behavior-American-Mammals-Peterson-Reference/dp/0618883452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323822063&sr=8-1

Want to check out mammal tracking Bible that Mark wrote entitled Mammal Tracks & Sign: http://www.amazon.com/Mammal-Tracks-Sign-American-Species/dp/0811726266/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

Bull Moose Sunrise in the Tetons

moose-sunrise-2

Driving along the base of the Gros Ventre Mountains in Jackson Hole, we were making our way to a river bottom to catch up with the moose rut this morning. As luck would have it however, this young bull moose stopped us dead in our tracks as he worked his away across Antelope Flats. With steam rising into the morning air from a small creek fueled by the Kelly Warm Springs, the peaks above treeline in the Tetons Range began to light up with alpenglow in the background, there was just no way we could pass up the opportunity for photographing this bull against this idyllic setting.  Not a bad way to end this year’s fall photography workshop in Jackson Hole!

Sometimes things just come together for you!

Posted in Wildlife Photography

Explosions of Fall Color

fall

Its simply impossible to escape the Tetons and Jackson Hole this time of year without being mesmerized by the explosion of colors across the landscape. From the reds of mountain maples to the orange of narrowleafed cottonwood trees, and let us not forget the amazing genetic and color diversity of the different aspen stands that also range from yellow to red on their own.

Photographing fall color is not just about capturing the grand landscapes with Autumn hues painted across the scene. Personally, I prefer to chase down these sort of abstract intimate landscapes in the fall. Viewing photographs like this are like looking through a window peering into a forest. Photographs of this nature are all about design and therefore make for good print sales because of their universal appeal.

When I am visually exploring a patch of brilliantly colored forest like this, I am looking to bring order out of chaos. The vertical lines of the aspens become the primary consideration in terms of the composition, followed next by how the color falls across the scene. For my lens choice, I used a Nikon 200-400mm lens at 200mm for this photograph in order to compress the perspective through the forest. In order to further this, I then chose an f/stop of f/8 so as to insure maximum focus across both inside and out of the forest. Photographing this scene in light overcast conditions helped to significantly reduce contrast but left enough light so as to make everything pop. Though exposure rules for digital photograph remain in place while in the field, keep in mind that in film days we underexposed photographs just a bit in order to increase saturation. So once brought into LR or PS consider bringing down the exposure just a touch and bring down the midtones with a curve layer for increase richness in the color of the leaves.

Posted in Fine Art Landscapes, Landscape Photography, Technical Skills Tagged , , , , |