This is a shot of Fireweed growing after a wildfire in Canada’s beautiful Kootenay National Park. Fireweed gets its name from the fact that it is often one of the first plants to appear after a fire. I wanted to capture the brilliant magenta color of the flowers, and also show the burned wood and the surrounding landscape. In order to keep the image from getting too complicated, I chose a wide aperture which would create a shallow depth of field. The background is blurred, so your eye is directed toward the flower in the foreground and the blackened tree trunk.
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I love Jasper National Park! On my first and only visit to this park, we spent a few days with our friends Darwin and Samantha. Some of the best light of the entire trip appeared at sunset over Beauty Creek.
The range of light was pretty broad. This is an iHDR blend of 3 bracketed shots… and I also needed a 3-stop GND filter to help balance the light between the sky and the ground. I chose this composition to maximize the reflections and the colors in the sky… ignoring the rule of the thirds. I did put the little rock in the lower third of the image. :) If you look closely at this photograph, you will see both the reflections as well as rocks and details underwater. I did not use a circular polarizer because I wanted to capture those brilliant reflections.
Forest fires dramatically alter the landscape, and often leave it unattractive. But sometimes, fires are necessary to bring about new life. On our last trip to Canada, we got to try out our creative skills in a forest recently that had recently been destroyed by fire.
This photograph was an exercise in learning to see… it was a challenge to create something interesting from a stand of dead, unattractive trees. I took this shot with a wide angle lens, with the camera pointing straight up in middle of the afternoon (I think around 3:00 PM). I waited until the sun was covered by the clouds, and the clouds within the frame formed interesting patterns. My goal was to distribute the trees in the frame in a somewhat symmetrical pattern.
If you want to see picturesque lakes, there is no place better than the Canadian Rockies (in my opinion). Lakes formed by glacial run-off often take on a turquoise color due to high concentrations of glacial silt. This shot from Peyto Lake shows the brilliant colors.
I used a circular polarizer to cut through as much haze as possible on this warm and humid day. I wanted to include various diagonals formed by the tree line, the rocks, and the lake itself. I waited until the clouds had formed interesting patterns on the lake and the sun was shining on the foreground rocks. The clouds made interesting shadow patterns on the water, and the sun brought out the rich colors in the rocks and the lichen.
It rained all night on our first night in Banff, but we were quite comfortable sleeping in our tents. The next morning we woke up to heavy fog and mist. Everything was covered in rain drops… including these pretty little blue bells.
This image is all about composition and white balance. I chose my white balance carefully to bring out the fresh green color of the grass. I had to experiment with the composition to eliminate distractions from the background. I left the background slightly blurred – in order to show some details… but let the subject stand out.
Sometime, when I photograph flowers, I gently adjust the position of the flower for a better composition – but in this case I didn’t want to touch the flower at all for fear of losing those water droplets.
When we visited Beauty Creek at Jasper National Park in Canada, we got lots of chances to photograph stunning reflections. The clouds were breaking up fast, and I took several shots with different compositions to include reflections.
This is a manually blended image. I used our iHDR workflow and a 3-stop, hard GND filter. I tilted the filter slightly so that it was aligned with the angle of the mountains. Because I wanted to see the reflections of the clouds, I did not use a circular polarizer. I adjusted the overall exposure so that I could see the details in every part of the image. If you look closely, you can see under the water and the reflections at the same time.
If you want to see picturesque lakes, there is no place better than the Canadian Rockies. In my opinion, anyway. :) Glacial silt and sediment gives these lakes an incredible turquoise color – and Peyto Lake is no exception. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
I used a circular polarizer to cut through as much humidity as possible on this warm and humid day. For the composition, I chose to include various diagonals formed by the tree line, the rocks and the lake itself. I waited for the clouds to cast shadows in interesting patterns on the lake at the same time that the sun was shining on the foreground rocks. Although the light was a bit harsh, the direct sunlight brought out the rich colors in the rocks and the lichen.
I took this shot before sunrise at Graveyard Flats – Banff National Park in Alberta Canada. The mist was hanging over the mountain in the distance, and I loved the stark beauty of the scene. It was still pretty dark, so this shot required a long shutter speed… ten seconds at f 7.1. Processing was easy – just a matter of getting the white balance right.
One of the biggest reasons I choose to photograph nature is because I love solitude. I find that this is true for many nature and landscape photographers. We seem to share an appreciation – no… it goes beyond that – a NEED for solitude.
I get along with people just fine. I don’t mind speaking to large crowds. I can navigate my way through a city without a problem…
But I’d much rather be in the middle of nowhere. No cars driving by. No airplanes flying overhead. No lawn mowers or leaf blowers or weed trimmers. No radio or television. Just birdsong and the breeze through the branches and the trickle of the water over the rocks. I’m perfectly happy out there for hours. Days. Weeks.
How about you? What is it about nature photography that keeps you coming back for more?
Here’s a common question: How many shots do you take on-location?
I generally shoot lots of images – but as I shoot, I delete the ones that aren’t worth keeping. Let me walk you through a typical morning shoot.
I’m up bright and early, ready to shoot. Here I am at Graveyard Flats in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada). Lovely mist is rising, and the world looks positively blue. The sun isn’t up yet, so I set up my camera for a long exposure. I take my first shot… maybe it’s a little underexposed, so I take another to correct the damage. I will compare the two images, and then delete one of them. I might take another shot or two from a different angle. But each time I shoot, I compare the tiny image on my monitor, check the histogram, maybe even zoom in to check the focus… and delete any image that isn’t quite right. When I get home, I choose the one that looks the best and delete the others after I’ve processed. (ISO 100, 20 seconds at f/7.1)
The light changes as the sun nears the horizon, and I want a shot that shows the strange landscape surrounding the lake. So, I set up my tripod for another shot. I follow the same steps, and I’ll pay close attention to my histogram. I need to make sure that I’m capturing the entire range of light as the sky gets brighter… and that my shadows aren’t too dark. The histogram shows me that I need just one image for this photo – but I take two anyway… one a little brighter than the other, just to make sure. In the end, I don’t need that brighter shot, so after processing, I delete it.
While I’m waiting for the sunrise, I try out a couple of compositions. This one survives because of the mist still hanging around the mountain, and the appealing curve of the lake… but I’m hoping for something better.
Now the sun is rising over my left shoulder. I’ve been waiting for the sun to light up the top of the mountain because I want to capture its reflection in the lake. My tripod is already set up with one leg in the water at the edge of the lake. I’ve found these interesting stones that make appealing foreground objects, and I have my camera set up low and as close as possible. I’m glad to see a little bit of mist still hovering at the base of the mountains, and although the sky is clearing, I still have some pretty little clouds hanging over my mountain.
At this point, I might have 10 or 15 shots from this location. A few bracketed images, a couple of different angles and compositions, and shots from different times. When I get home, I’ll pull the images off my card and compare them at a larger size. In this case, I end up processing four images. And then, I take this last shot and convert it to black and white. Everything I haven’t used gets deleted. In the end, the file for Graveyard flats contains 9 files… four RAW, 4 processed color tifs, and a black and white tif.
Five processed shots. Typically, just one will end up on my website - and the rest will never see the light of day… unless someone asks specifically for an image from this location.
I know so many photographers who shoot thousands of images at each location – and if that’s what works for you, by all means, keep doing it! For me, the problem with that approach is that I can’t process all those photos. So, if I shoot and keep that many, most will never get any attention. Worse – the good ones get lost in amongst the junk. On an average day, I’ll leave a location with 2 to 5 images (maybe as many as 20 if I’m bracketing). Even if I visit several locations in a single day – and get great skies all day long – I won’t end up with more images than I can handle.
So the question is this… how hard is it for you to delete photos as you shoot? I know lots of photographers who won’t delete anything until they see the image at full size on a good monitor… and others who don’t delete at all. Ever.
Do you come home with 50 shots? Or 5000?
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