Just do it – even in the midday sun – but shoot raw to tame that contrast.
I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer – I really don’t have enough patience for that. I do have patience to wait for wildlife – birds and mammals – but sitting in one place for hours waiting for the light to become absolutely perfect is not my cup of tea. I’m more of an opportunistic photographer, and my style is more photojournalist than landscape. Plus I like to shoot everything.
In June I challenged myself to get some decent photographs in the middle of the day at three sites in New Hampshire and Vermont. A photo editor had asked for stock images from a number of kayak launch sites, and I was already 10 days late in providing them since I had been in Colorado and Utah photographing two whitewater trips for a rafting company. I had two days to get to her whatever images I had. I pulled what stock images I could find and then made a spur-of-the-moment decision to spend a few hours and visit three of the launch sites for the “serene water kayaking” feature. I hope I could get some newer, better images. These were three sites where I didn’t have much stock — two of them essentially none.
I had two possible routes to get to the first site. Since they were roughly equivalent time-wise, I decided to take the slightly longer one which I knew would take me by a location where I had seen red foxes previously. Sure enough one was waiting for me, sunning itself on rocks in the early afternoon light. I shot out my car window with a long lens braced on a wife-made beanbag.
I arrived at the first launch site just in time to see a couple of kayakers push off and round the bend out of sight. The darn fox had delayed me. However I grabbed my cameras and ran down a path through the woods to a spot where I knew they would pass. From there I shot a photo that was used in the article. I drove further along the road that paralleled the stream they were kayaking. I was able to get the photo below with a long lens just after they turned around and headed back.
At the next spot again two kayakers were launching in the Connecticut River just as I arrived. I quickly parked my car, grab a camera, and was able to photograph the lingering kayaker of the pair still near the boat launch. It was not a great photo, but it had decent composition and told a useful story, so it was used in the article.
I then drove upstream a few miles to the mouth of a tributary stream. I had been in this area earlier doing bird photography so I had an idea of several places that might be good for a photo. The photo below is one of the images I made at this spot.
I crossed into Vermont and headed to the third launch spot along a tributary of the Connecticut River. The launch spot was less than picturesque, but I was able to shoot some photos upstream of it. One of my favorites from that afternoon is below.
To get these high contrast photos, I shoot in raw – always. I process them in ACR from Bridge – for what I do it works better for me than Lightroom, and it uses the same raw-processing engine. For high contrast images I normally turn the Highlights way down, the Shadows way up, and adjust the Blacks to get a good black somewhere in the image. For the image above I used a “Pseudo—HRD Pan” technique that I described HERE.
None of the photos I have included in this article were used by the magazine. However, the magazine used eight of my images including three I shot that afternoon. If you would like to see the eight images that were published you can click HERE.