Find an article
Most read Posts/Pages
Tag Archives: landscape
One of the most interesting parts of being a nature photographer is the act of using the camera to take control of nature for a split second in time. Or, in the case of waterfalls, 1/25 of a second (or thereabouts, depending). Many of us use a combination of equipment and post production technique to bring our own perspective of the natural world into our collections. Here in New Hampshire, that natural world I speak of is starting to get very, very green. It’s great for the spirit, and a welcome sight for me and my lenses.
Even through spring has completely “sprung” in Southern New Hampshire, it’s still slowly coming along here in the White Mountains. In the past two weeks, we’ve experienced temperatures in the low 20’s at night, and the mercury has struggled to climb into the mid 40’s during the day (we’ve also seen a couple of days in the high 70’s, but that’s besides the point). The emerald spring foliage that the high hills are known for needs rain and warm weather to really start to pop; both are just now beginning to take place. However, I can assuredly say that within the next week or so, “Stick Season” will essentially be over. That means that waterfalls and wildflowers are on everyone’s mind.
Cabin Fever and The Waterfall Problem
With respect to New Hampshire’s waterfalls, one mistake that many photographers and enthusiasts make is researching too early (thanks mostly to cabin fever) and therefore getting into the field too early. Bare branches do not lend themselves to creating a lovely spring waterfall scene, and a little patience goes a long way. By and large, this patience also helps with overcoming a second side effect of an early waterfall adventure — too much water due to late winter/early spring runoff. With shutter speeds of a quarter second and up, a massive amount of water can cause blown-out highlights within your composition.
Just a Few Words on Technique and Equipment
When the time is right, that is, when you are ready and the falls are ready, there are some widely accepted principles that tend to work well in waterfall photography. While these tips might be an insult to the advanced photographer’s intelligence, they will help to get the novice up and running for their first successful waterfall shots. For starters, always bring a tripod. Also plan on getting it wet. You simply cannot handhold a camera at the shutter speeds needed to produce a silky and majestic look to your waterfall composition. And when I discuss composition, you’ll understand why it’s important to plan for a moderate soaking.
Consider a filter or two. A polarizer is always a safe bet since it will help you to take the glare off the water and wet trees and rocks. A neutral density filter will let you get a lot more drag out of your shutter. Stacking is okay, just play with it and find the desired effect.
Pictures that contain a flowing body of water tend to look better when the water appears to “flow through” the image. Therefore, it is necessary at times to be in the stream of water when taking your shot. You will need to keep your own safety (and the safety of your camera) front of mind, but don’t rule out the possibility of getting your feet wet.
My Gift to You – Three NH Waterfalls to Capture
New Hampshire has over 70 waterfalls of varying sizes and types. Some are easier to shoot than others, and some are easier to get to than others. I have personally hiked over 8 miles just to get to a particular falls that I wanted to photograph, and the planning and time that goes into that kind of shoot is a big commitment. There are three in particular that I like to recommend to folks who are looking for a big payoff without a long backpacking journey. And the best part of all, they can all be seen in less than half a day since they’re bundled within a 1.5 mile radius in Pinkham Notch!
Crystal Cascade – 10 minute walk up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Horsetail in type. Absolutely incredible in the spring (and the fall)!
Glen Ellis Falls – 7 minute walk down the trail at the Glen Ellis Falls parking area. Plunge in type, and known for getting even distant onlookers a little wet.
Thompson Falls – about a 1 mile hike from the parking lot at the Wildcat Ski Area. A deeper-woods commitment, but quite a spectacle. Cascade in type.
Entire books have been written on this topic alone, so trust me when I say that I could go on and on. Hopefully you have tamed your early lust for waterfalls, and you’re now ready to get out and capture some images the way that New Hampshire’s landscapes intend for them to be captured.
~ Matt Stearns
Matt Stearns is a freelance photographer and writer based in the Southern White Mountains of New Hampshire. His work is focused on the artistic interpretation of New Hampshire’s high peaks and surrounding waters. Discover his work online at matthewstearns.com.
In a word, no.
I’m afflicted with gear lust as much as the next photographer, but I’ve come to learn that great photographs can be made without spending a small – and in some cases a large – fortune on the best lenses made.
As a Canon shooter I’ve had quite a few of Canon’s pro level “L” lenses over the years, and loved every one of them. But I bet you’d be surprised to learn that the vast majority of the prints I’ve sold have been made with a cheap 3rd party lens for which I paid under $300. In fact, every photo accompanying this article was made with that budget lens.
In my last article for the Guild I discussed “pixel peeping.” Well it has been my experience that only at this zoomed in 100%, or more, level of examination that you can start to see the flaws in lesser quality lenses.
Guess what, nobody looks at photographs that way!
The lens used to make these photos was far from perfect, but that’s to be expected with a lens in this price range. It suffered from some pretty bad chromatic aberration (CA), that colored fringing along high contrast edges between light and dark areas. And it was terrible at controlling lens flare. The chromatic aberration was easily corrected in post processing, and I was able to prevent flare with either the lens hood, a strategically placed hat held just out of the frame to block the light, or simply making different choices when it came to composing the photo.
Are there reasons to buy better, pro level lenses? Yes, of course. Generally the higher priced lenses have better optics and lens coatings to control both flare and CA. They also offer better build quality, features like weather sealing and internal zooming. Whether or not these features justify spending 3-4 times as much – often more for a lens of a given focal length – is entirely up to you.
The point of all this is that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t make some truly outstanding photographs just because you can’t afford to, or are unwilling to spend a lot on lenses.
~ Jeff Sinon
To purchase prints of these, or any of my many other nature and landscape images please visit www.jeffsinon.com
You can also become a fan of the Jeff Sinon Photography fan page. Click “Like” and stay up to date on my latest images.
I’d also like to invite you to subscribe to the Jeff Sinon Photography – Nature Through The Lens blog where I share tips, tricks, and more of my latest images.
This is not about polishing your job interviewing skills or impressing your mother-in-law. This article is about making impressionistic images, the type that evoke mood and emotion without fretting over accuracy. It pushes creativity beyond the confines of realism to yield dreamy and painterly images that emphasize feeling over fact.
All the techniques discussed here are done in-camera, which means no special software or post-processing tools are needed to achieve the effects. The biggest prerequisite is a sense of adventure and the courage to throw caution to the wind. Making impressions involves breaking the rules and embracing trial-and-error.
You can apply impressionistic techniques to almost anything, but the best candidates involve color, texture, or pattern. Since neither clarity nor sharpness are characteristics of impressions, the scene must exhibit sufficient contrast in order to spark and sustain viewer interest.
Spring is an excellent season for making impressions — budding trees and flowers are ideal subjects for painterly images. Use impressionistic techniques to spice up the familiar, injecting intrigue to enhance the natural beauty of recognizable subjects. Autumn color also makes great subjects.
There are various techniques for achieving impressionistic effects, but there are no absolute rules. And tripods are optional for these types of images. To a landscape photographer, this may seem like tossing the life-saving jacket overboard, but impressions thrive on motion.
When making impressions, the choice of shutter speed is important to capture the effect of motion. But the aperture, focus, and ISO settings are only of secondary interest.
I usually leave the ISO speed on the optimal setting for the camera (typically ISO 100) and apply a small aperture setting. Closing down the aperture to a small number like f/22 may cause diffraction (loss of sharpness in the corners) in an otherwise sharp image, but this is an inconsequential artifact for dreamy images like those discussed in this article.
If a small aperture like f/22 is insufficient to slow down the shutter speed for motion, try mounting a neutral density filter on your lens to increase exposure time.
Panning involves moving the camera horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or in a circular motion while the shutter remains open. Try different shutter speeds between 1/20 second to 5 seconds and be prepared to delete and repeat until you see an effect you like.
With the shutter open, turn the focal length ring on your lens to zoom in or out on the subject. Experiment with different shutter speeds and zoom accelerations.
Use your body like a human zoom by slowly walking toward your subject or away from your subject with the shutter open. Do watch out for that telephone pole and street sign though!
Deliberately defocus your subject. Use a large aperture setting like f/1.4 or f/2.8 to add bokeh (aesthetic blur) whenever pointing toward a light source. Try different defocus settings.
The four simple techniques covered in this article are only the beginning. You can also combine several of these techniques at the same time, like walking and panning or zooming while the subject is defocused. The key is to play and experiment. Be prepared to delete a lot of photos.
If you wish to see more of this type of work, I highly recommend the fine art photography of William Neil, who has a wonderful collection of impressionist images.
Now go out and make a good impression!
Inside & Outside Work
Being an outdoor artist isn’t all about time in the field. Many, many hours are also spent in front of the computer on a variety of tasks such as post-production processing, file organization, website updates, and order management. It’s not uncommon to come across a series of shots that utterly transport me back to the day, back to the experience itself. While working by the glow of my monitor this past weekend, I came across a set of shots I took from just about one year ago in Tuckerman Ravine that did just that – took me back.
Tuckerman Ravine is a special place. It is an iconic back country ski and snowboard destination, a botanist’s and geologist’s dream, and sadly a place with a history of misadventure and tragedy. Whatever way a person thinks of Tuckerman Ravine, one thing is certain — it is an awe-inspiring place to experience in person.
While most folks will experience the Ravine under daylight skies, I’ve always been fond of a different light and an earlier hour on the mountain. The exceptional alpenglow of winter’s early mornings gives gentle color to a very fierce Mount Washington; in interesting juxtaposition.
To be present in “Tuck’s,” as it’s called, for this crimson light, one must brave the harsh winter elements at a very early hour. Prior experience on the trails, the proper equipment, good planning and the right level of fitness are all keys for this kind of journey.
Reflecting on The Shot
The experience of getting into the Ravine is quite spectacular, but what plays out within the Ravine proper is what this photograph is all about. Of course it’s interesting to think about what a photo doesn’t reveal; the process of watching the sun come up over my shoulder, a black sky changing moment to moment starting with a spectrum of unique color on the horizon over Wildcat Mountain. In front of the camera, however, lay an amazing scene that fleeted within a matter of minutes. Perfect shadows, which define the physical features of the ravine including Right Gully and Dodge’s Drop, lay along the vertices of the landscape. The quintessential wind of Tuckerman Ravine, while difficult to capture in stills, is set off by the alpenglow kiss of the windblown snow coming off the snowfields just right of center. The direct light exposes intense ice along the upper reaches of the headwall, and simultaneously hints at a perfect bluebird day over the summit. The unique lines and bowl shape of this massive glacial cirque gathers light and keeps it for as long as the morning will allow.
In a moment, the scene was all white and blue. The sunrise was over, and the bowl would soon fill with enthusiasts of various winter activities. This image illustrates how I think of the Ravine — a beautiful yet unforgiving place.
The photograph pictured is available for sale at the Matthew Stearns Photography Store.
Matt Stearns is a freelance photographer and writer based in the Southern White Mountains of New Hampshire. His work is focused on the artistic interpretation of New Hampshire’s high peaks and surrounding waters. Find him online at matthewstearns.com.
I have always done most of my landscape photography in the summer and fall when scenes are colorful and rich with flora and fauna. It is always easy to find beautiful scenes and subjects in the summer months. Two years ago I was challenged by my peers to explore shooting in the stick season. What I found is that this is a fascinating time to shoot landscapes. The easiest thing to do and to get started right away is to check your favorite photos from the summer and fall and revisit these same scenes during the winter if you can. You will find these landscapes dramatically different from the same scene taken in summer or fall.
I spend a lot of time shooting in Maine and Vermont so it was easy for me to review captures from those trips, then plan a winter trip to revisit, and re-capture these locales. My first challenge was to shoot the famous red barn on Route 100 in Granville, Vermont, which sits on Route 100, one of New England’s most famous byways. This barn is one of my favorite subjects, but I had never captured it during stick season. As you can see from these photos, the same landscape took on a dramatic new view when captured in winter. The lush green grass gave way to contrasts of stark snow and leafless trees.
For these two captures you can see that in the June shot, the surrounding landscape is slightly more prominent than the barn itself. This takes advantage of the full color of summer. The winter shot, taken during a snowy day, did not lend itself to a full shot of the valley behind it, so I chose to concentrate on the barn itself. This is not a hard and fast rule, but for my purposes it worked out well. Walk around the scene and try to see how many ways you can envision it.
Almost any scene you can find will be dramatically different between summer and winter. Vermont changes dramatically in winter, as does Western Maine. Eustis, near the ski resort of Sugarloaf, is one of my favorite destinations. I had been a few times in the summer and fall, but never in winter. My winter trip, completed last weekend, was dramatic. The landscape had changed from colorful to stark, dark, contrasty scenes. It was beautiful.
There are a few rules to remember when shooting bright snowy scenes. Snowy landscapes are tricky to photograph with digital cameras. The exposure and white balance settings can easily be fooled by the bright lighting conditions. Whether the sky is overcast or the sun is shining, special care must be taken to avoid messing up the colors completely. The very bright snow acts as a second light source by reflecting sunlight shining on the ground. There is an excellent article on this site that will help you with your winter shooting.
You can find many exciting and beautiful landscapes to shoot in winter. I often go to Reid State Park and shoot the winter beach in warm afternoon light. Recently I captured a beautiful sunset at Land’s End, on Bailey Island, Maine. I was amazed at the color and beautiful scenes that are available to shoot in the season of sticks. Give it a try. I think, like me, you will really be amazed by what you can find in winter.
Reid D. Albee ralbeephoto.com.