Tag Archives: Rocky Mountains

Story Trumps Everything


When is it OK not to see the eyes of your wildlife subject? When is it OK to photograph “butt shots?” When the story that the photograph tells is powerful enough to override just about every so called “rule” that you think you know in photography. Story is everything in our photographs. When it comes to selling photographs, story trumps all else. It trumps technical perfection. It trumps compositional rules. Story is what sells photographs. Technical perfection has never sold a photograph – ever. No buyer of fine art or editor of a magazine has ever stepped up to a photograph and thought to themselves, “wow. look at the technical quality of this image. Look there at the lack of noise. The exquisite perfection in focusing. And the exposure. Good God man, its perfect. I must have this!” No one in the history of buying photographs has ever thought any of that.

Photography is the art of capturing and telling stories.

So here we have a photograph of an elk bugling while facing away from us. Considering nothing more than the elk himself, this is all wrong. You can’t see the eye. The butt is the most prominent feature of the animal. He is looking the wrong way. But when the elk becomes part of the overall composition, all of this changes. From the perspective of the entire photograph, we have an elk perched atop a ridgeline high in the Rocky Mountains. He is bugling. Calling out across the mountains and valleys that roll off into a world impossibly larger than the bull can ever know exists. He is calling in would be challengers. He is luring in would be lovers. He is the king of the mountain. And he is the master of all that he sees.

This photograph is successful because of the story it tells. It is not simply the subject. It has nothing to do with the technical aspects of the image. As photographers, as visual artists, you have to begin to see beyond histograms and hyper focal distances. You have to begin to see in stories.

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

Explosions of Fall Color


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 Also tagged , , , |

Alpine Meadow and Sunset


Heres another one from the archives of this summer that I am only now getting around to. This is from the Beartooth Plateau in Montana. reaching upwards of 11,000 feet in elevation, Spring time comes late here and there really isnt a summer at all. This was taking in July during the peak of the wildflower bloom.

I had been photographing mountain goats when this sunset came upon me. When I say, “came upon me” i really mean it too. The day was overcast, drab, lifeless as far as light goes. As the late afternoon progressed, I certainly didnt expect anything different. I had essentially packed up my gear and begun climbing again when suddenly out of no where this beam of light shot out ahead of me and I turned around to see this! Scrambling to get my tripod up and a smaller lens on my camera I began searching for compositional elements. There were no rocks here, nothing that would really stand out as a dramatic foreground for the photograph. But there were flowers, and lots of them. The angle of the light really seemed to make them pop and so I dropped to the ground to try and pull them out into the foreground. Being no more than 2 inches tall, I just wasnt able to make this work. So i pulled back up to my knees and attempted to use the entire meadow as my foreground instead.

I think it worked out OK.

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