Death Valley by day and night

We just finished our Death Valley by Day and Night workshop, despite the challenges good old mother nature through at us we were able to photograph in all but one of our planned locations. With landscape photography we are always looking at the weather and looking for those moments when the light is just right. The clouds we had provided us with some great opportunities for dramatic sunrise photography but at the same time the clouds hindered our night landscape work.

But thats the life of a landscape photographer, sometimes you need to return to a place several times before you actually get the light you envisioned. I was looking forward to getting to one of my bucket list locations the race track and the moving stones.  We made the 27 mile dirt road trip stopping at tea kettle junction for a few photo opportunities. Driving up from a few miles out you can see the playa and the large grandstand rock formation.  From the road overlooking the valley it was everything I expected.

 When we got to the south end and started to walk out to the magical moving rocks we found the ground to be way to wet and it even looked like it could have need flooded farther out. We made the decision to stop and photograph some of the smaller rocks in the area were we stopped, It wasn’t the Iconic rocks and slide marks I had hoped for but it was the racetrack. I actually spent more time that evening just taking it all in and experiencincg being there.  Some times we find ourselves only seeing the world through the small view finder and the race track is one of those areas that really needs to be seen in its entirety to appreciate.

I will never forget being there on a cool, cloudy and damp Saturday night, I did take a few handheld wide angle photos because after all we did come here to take photographs.

The slide show with this post is a few of the other photographs I did take while out on the workshop. I hope you enjoy them.

Winter is here!

After last year and the snow drought, here in central NY this year we have been getting our fair amount of white stuff.  I went out last week and spent a couple of days taking some photos of the new white landscapes.  I have also been flying the Mavic Pro and taking some photos from a couple of hundred feet up.  I have been studying for my 107 and will be taking my exam in January.  I am looking forward to offering aerial photography services to my local clients.

One quick tip when shooting snow photography, remember the sensor in your camera reads everything as a middle gray. This means if you have lots of snow in your photo the meter will show you a proper exposure but what happens is your nice white snow shows up as gray.

The solution; use the exposure compensation dial and dial in +1 in compensation.  If you are shooting in Manual mode adjust your shutter speed to add one stop of light and take your photo.  Always check your histogram to confirm proper exposure and to make sure you are not clipping the highlights in your photo.

If you have a bright blue sky meter off of the sky about 45 degrees away from the sun, this method will also give you a properly exposed photograph.

 

Death Valley by day and night

Here are some quick tips for shooting in the sand dunes during our upcoming Death Valley workshop.

Death Valley Photo Workshop, photo workshops, Death Valley, Night Photography

  1. Your hiking boots will fill with fine sand.
  2. Wear a hat and sun screen.
  3. Walking in the dunes can be hard, Walk along the ridge line, keep up a good pace when going uphill. Make sure you have water with you , we will be in the dunes orly in the morning and it won’t be to warm. But the desert air is so dry you can easily become dehydrated.
  4. Headlight is a good idea it keeps your hands free (extra set of batteries).
  5. Tripod before sunrise and for the first fe minutes after sunrise I would recommend having a tripod, after the sun comes up, the Dunes become very bright and you ay find a tripod is not needed.
  6. Be careful if you have a backpack for your gear, if you set it down in the sand you will get sand in it.
  7. Have a plastic bag to protect your camera if its windy
  8. If you have two cameras, bring the both one with a wide angle lens and a second with a normal to short telephoto range.
  9. Changing lenses can be hard trying to not allow and dust into your camera.
  10. Pack only what you need, extra batteries, a polarizing filter, and a lens cloth

Shooting
1. Consider HDR use a tripod extend the smallest legs first to help keep the sand out of the leg joints.
2. Expose for the the highlights in the scene watch your histogram so you don’t clip the highlights.
3. The Sand dunes are vast think about shooting panorama photos to help capture the vastness.
4.Watch the shadow side of the dunes and don’t forget that shadows will define your photos more then the highlights

Seeing the world in grey

Our cameras are very powerful and wonderful gadgets, they can capture our world in great detail. One thing they all do is when you depress the shutter button the camera will take  meter reading of the scene. The camera attempts to take the highlights the shadows and turn everything into an 18% grey.  When shooting in manual mode you can pick the exposure for any area of the photo you want making your colors, highlights and shadows true.

This week here in New York we had our first lake effect snowstorm last weekend and its been cold enough that we will be having a white Thanksgiving this year.  This afternoon I thought it might be a good idea to show how the camera sees an all white scene and then show you a way to override what the camera things is a proper exposure. Below are two photos taken at this afternoon.

Metered in camera, aperture priority , grey card, grey, exposure, proper exposure,

Metered in camera, aperture priority The properly exposed by the camera is shown here and the snow and leaf have taken on a grey tone.

exposure compensation, exposure meter, proper exposure, what, snow photography, grey card, grey

1.3 + exposure compensation. With the proper exposure compensation the snow becomes white and the leaf is properly exposed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the next time you are faced with a situation where the photo will be mostly white try adding positive exposure compensation to capture the scene how you see it.  If you are photographing a dark object (black cat) against a dark background use negative exposure compensation and you will get a proper tone on the subject and the background.

 

 

 

 

Border patrol

So many times you will hear instructors telling photography students to check your edges, do a border patrol, look for intruders and so on. Optical viewfinders, even on a professional level DSLR, will only display 90-97% of the image. You will lose a small percentage on the very edges of the image. The amount you loose depends on how your camera reports the percent of view in the view finder.  Some camera manufacturers report a linear measurement  while others report it as a area percent. For this article the reporting method isn’t as important as what happens when you are composing your photo in the viewfinder.

Landscape Photography, border patrol, checking edgesThe photo to the left was taken at sunset in Joshua Tree National Park ( check out our upcoming workshop) at one of the parks iconic locations. I am sure you have seen this rock and the Juniper tree in photos before, it is known as the balance rock.  I was working my way around the location looking for new angles from this location.

I framed this shot up and took the photo, then moved on and continued to work the location until after sunset.  You will notice on the left side of the frame is a small amount of bush creeping into view.  when I was framing this photo those bushes were not in the frame.

This makes me wonder why so many instructors preach checking the edges because you could have a perfectly clean composition and when you download your photos there can still be small distractions along the edges. Some times you get lucky and they will drop in from the top and look like a framing element, but most of the time its just a small amount of unwanted subject matter.

Two ways to help decrease this problem the first is use the LCD screen on your camera in live view mode. this will show you exactly what the photo will look like. Using this method has some drawbacks, if its getting dark and you want to preserve your night vision the LCD screen will remove most of your dark vision adaptation and your eyes will need to start all over again. Another issue with using the LCD is battery power, the LCD will use considerably more battery power decrease the time you can shot. If you have been out all day and you are on the last battery of the day this could cut your photo session short.

The second method you can use to decrease edge intruders is to step back from the viewfinder and look at the scene you are about the photograph can you see any objects that could be distracting in the frame if so maybe change your zoom a little or move in a littler closer to your subject.

 

Today we have lots of options when it comes to post processing photos and with Lightroom and Photo shop removing small distracting objects from an image is rather simple. The content aware features have come a long way and do a fine job of removing the unwanted distractions from your photo.   But do we really want to spend a few seconds over and over retouching photos from a session? I would say the answer is no. Most people would rather be out shooting or relaxing instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.

The take away here is next time you are on a workshop or out for the day shooting take a couple of extra seconds then to make sure the edges of your photo will be clean and free of distractions.

 

Forgot something important last week

daylight saving time, turn the clock backAfter shooting the Super Moon this past weekend I realized after uploading the the photos into Lightroom I forgot to turn my cameras clocks back.  The moon was rising about 5:02 pm My capture time showed 6:02 PM. There was no real harm  here for me, these photos were not going to be used for anything except me documenting the event.

If you ware a wedding photographer who uses a second shooter, there could be an issue if you merge photos after a wedding and all the photos are out of order.  Take a few minutes and check your camera settings and get them back on time

This years super Moon

Last evening at moonrise I went out and shot a few photos of the rising super moon.  I had to wait until the moon rose above a layer of haze along the horizon so I wasn’t able to photograph the move with an interesting foreground. below is one of my photos from last night taken with a Nikon D610 and a Nikon 2.8 70 to 200mm lenses. The exposure was ISO 200, f-8 at 1/200 seconds.

super Moon, Nikon,

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