As I was going through archives today, looking for some grand pictures to use in a new set of greeting cards that are in the works, I ran across this great shot from an excursion in the Sierra foothills near Mammoth Lakes, California. It didn’t quite make the cut for this set of cards, but I thought it was at least clever enough to show to the world on the blog. I can’t recall using a foreground object to frame any of my shots recently, so this was a great inspiration for me to keep my eyes open to objects that might, well, appear to just be in the way.
Posts Tagged ‘Sky’
You might think that after shooting landscapes for a while, I would know all about how to read the clouds. Well, I have to admit that I’m still just learning.
The first time I began to realize the importance of reading clouds was during a visit to friends in New Hampshire last September. Being on “vacation” and in a new location, I had time to shoot the sunrises and sunsets. On one evening, I figured I’d put away my camera because it was getting too dark . . . when all of a sudden, the clouds lit up crimson red. Needless to say, I stayed out till it was completely dark. Why did I not know beforehand that there were still clouds that would catch the light?
This got me thinking a lot about clouds a lot more, so I began to observe them regularly. And not until recently have I been able to draw some conclusions. Here are some principles to keep in mind next time you see these type of clouds during the magic hours:
1. Dark Clouds
I don’t mean storm clouds. Just clouds that the sun is obviously not shining on. Basically, because something is between the clouds and the sun (ie. landmass or other clouds), they appears dark against the sky.
At Sunrise: get ready! The clouds will light up very soon!
At Sunset: you’re too late. They are past their peak and will not light up again.
2. Edge-of-Light clouds
The picture says it all. These clouds, colorful only at the edge of light, are the reason you didn’t sleep in or why you missed dinner. There are a whole lot of factors involved in why clouds will light up like this, but color usually lasts anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
At Sunrise: you’d better shoot! The highest—cirrus—clouds light up first, then the mid-level—altocumulus—clouds, followed by the lower altitude—cumulous—clouds if the situation is in your favor.
At Sunset: you’d better shoot! Clouds light up in the exact opposite sequence as at sunrise.
3. White clouds
Clouds are white when they are exposed to direct sunlight that is not traveling through the earth’s atmosphere. White clouds appear lighter than the sky behind them.
At Sunrise: you’re too late. Cloud formations can still make great content for your landscapes, but they will not turn color again.
At Sunset: get ready! They will turn colorful very soon!
These are just a few basic principles to keep in mind next time you’re out shooting at the edge of light. They are not hard rules, and it’s impossible to know exactly what the clouds might do, but they are definitely helpful for determining whether or not the clouds will catch the light. I don’t want to miss those crimson red sunsets if I can help it.
As I walked to dinner this evening at the CEF International Headquarters here in Missouri, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful cloud formations in the sky. The past few days have been either very cloudy or completely clear, so I knew the sunset was going to be pretty nice tonight. I requested a carry-out dinner and walked back to my apartment to grab my camera. One question nagged me all the way: what should my subject be?
This is the kind of question I ask myself all the time. Beautiful clouds and dynamic lighting should really only complements of a good subject. And this truth has been ever circling in my brain ever since my arrival here a week or so ago. I haven’t had to do much scouting to know that, without a car, there’s not much to shoot around here. And that’s why I didn’t really know where to go after grabbing my camera.
As the perfect light approached and the clouds began to light up in the south, I finally had to settle with the fact that there was nothing but this big pond and the CEF IHQ campus in the background to serve as a subject. That’s when I began to play around with this little waterfall. And that’s when I got a spark of hope! Shooting vertical and squatting on a rock in the middle of the stream gave just the right perspective for including the flowing action, the wispy sky, the colorful reflections, and an angle on the buildings that minimized the visual-clutter that usually surround subjects of this nature.
It’s instances like these that make photography so much fun. Not all my pictures turn out this way, but you can view a few more shots from around the CEF IHQ campus in this album.
Have you ever ordered prints that looked fabulous on your screen but looked sickeningly yellow, or deathly blue, or awfully dark when the actual prints arrived in the mail? I’m a very particular person when it comes to printed material, so this happened to me all the time in one degree or another. I simply could never get my laptop screen to be color calibrated correctly, so ordering prints was always a drag. But not any more! With a high-resolution screen that allows for accurate calibration and fine-tuned color and brightness adjustments, printing pictures is fast becoming part of my normal picture-editing process.
So, now that I can actually print with relative confidence, I’ve been experimenting with printing on canvas. Having asked myself “Should I print on canvas?” in the past, I thought it would be neat to share my observations on what little I now know about canvas:
- Canvas is awesome if you want it big! 20×24, 24×36—you name it—if you are viewing it from a distance, it’s an excellent way to display a masterpiece of art. Up close, the canvas texture doesn’t reveal the same detail of matt or glossy papers, but canvas appears crisp from a distance of a foot or two.
- Canvas has no glare. It’s a smooth material texture so there’s nothing for light to reflect off of. There’s no need to frame it or put it behind glass which always causes glare.
- Canvas is super easy to hang! All you have to do is drive a nail in the wall and hang it up.
- Canvas is very stylish and simple. It is complemented perfectly by blank, solid-color walls that are normally drab or empty.
- Canvas is tough. It’s not fragile, breakable or flimsy. No need to worry about someone accidently bumping it off the wall or touching the print with their fingers. It would be hard to scuff, and you won’t have to wash finger prints off glass any more.
- Canvas prints are expensive. Though a regular print of the same size may cost less than half as much, canvas offers very few hidden expenses such as framing and matting because they are not needed.
I have been pleased with the canvas prints that I’ve seen so far and just ordered this 20×30 canvas of a chickadee for a customer in Texas. If you would also like this picture, or any picture on Lenspiration.com for that matter, printed on canvas, please contact me. Special prices for the month of January are below:
- 16×20 Gallery Wrap Canvas: $50.00 + Free Shipping
- 20×24 Gallery Wrap Canvas: $75.00 + Free Shipping
- 20×30 Gallery Wrap Canvas: $125.00 + Free Shipping
- 24×36 Gallery Wrap Canvas: $150.00 + Shipping
Just had to comment on a few shots from one of the photo excursions in Montana:
Alone, Yet Not Alone
Odd looking hay bail, eh? I could hardly believe there was a moose as far east as Bloomfield. The locals said it had been maybe 20 years since they’d seen a moose in those parts.
Classic shot. Simple, colorful, full of character. It’s nice that the light was on both the front and side of the structure facing me. Both sides in shadow is bad, one side in sunlight is best, but two sides in sunlight works just fine. Squatting low gives both a creative angle and a bluer sky; as a rule on a clear day, the further from the horizon, the bluer the sky.
This is my favorite pic from the morning. I really wanted to show the terrain in which the building was standing yet I found it quite difficult to do. The problems were fourfold:
- First, I was forced to shoot northward because the front of the building faced south (and the backs of buildings usually don’t make the best pictures). There wasn’t much to see in that direction.
- Second, if I stepped more to the right to include the left side of the building (to produce a feeling of greater depth), the building would then cover the only background hills that were worth including in the shot.
- Third, I couldn’t shoot super wide angle like I usually do because then it would make the background objects appear so small that you would hardly be able to notice them. Neither could I shoot telephoto because then it would blur the background to the point that the details in the hills were lost.
- Forth, I couldn’t do a cool perspective like shooting up at the building because then the foreground elements would again cover the hills (or at least sufficiently eliminate the mid-ground, or ground between the foreground and background, to produce a disconnect between the objects).
So after several tries, I finally found that sweet spot in focal length and positioning that allowed all the elements to fit together perfectly. Or at least as perfectly as I could make them. It took some time, but I am pleased with what I was able to get.
To see more from the excursion, view the Montana Countryside Album.
Today we toured the Canadian badlands of Drumheller, Alberta! Though we went to many places in the badlands today, the hoodoos were by far the most spectacular things we saw!
About the picture: Despite the fact that it was in the middle of the day when we visited the hoodoos of Drumheller, the clouds served as a perfect defuser of light for the landscape and an element of interest in the sky. A polarizer filter helped a lot too. Composing the picture was hard because the boardwalks around the geologic formations were numerous, but they were easy to hide by getting low to the ground. This was also a good thing because it set the hoodoos up against the sky instead of against a background that would camouflage their unique shape.
Today was a long day of driving from the southeastern edge of North Dakota right up through to the northwestern corner of the state and up into Saskatchewan, Canada. Wish I had more time to spend in this fascinating part of the country!
About the picture: What caught my eye here was the fact that the barn stood alone up against the dry, partially changed trees in the background. The key to getting good shots of the countryside when you’re traveling is to focus on simplicity. Focus on it religiously! There are way too many distractions and ugly things that must be intentionally avoided. Otherwise, they they will show up in your picture to do their job of making your great compositions look junky. Telephone poles and wires, fences, shrubby bushes, and blurry foreground grass (if your shooting from the car) simply make your pictures look junky. I cropped this image a little to eliminate a distracting tuft of grass in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.
Just about every flower is beautiful to look at, and for this reason are extremely common subjects for photographs. Hence, to get a unique picture of a flower is not common, and not easy. That is what I was thinking when I pulled out the camera and walked down to Mom’s flower garden at our home in West Virginia. Flowers don’t last forever and I wanted to do some experimentation with these day lilies before something happened to them, like being “harvest” for display on the dining room table.
I’m never concerned about getting dirty when taking pictures. But as I lay on my back looking heavenward with the camera pressed against my face, I was grateful that it hadn’t rained too recently. Using the widest lens I had, I picked the most healthy looking bunch of flowers and circled them a few times before finding the perfect angle at which distractions were minimal, both bases of the flowers could be clearly seen, and the glaring, mid afternoon sun was completely covered by the foreground growth.
Many people have questioned me on the authenticity of the flowers, stating that they look plastic. While it is true that they do look fake, there is no question that they are as real as everything else God created. The surreal appearance is created by the sun shining directly through the partially transparent petals and leaves. Backlighting like this naturally increases vibrancy in a picture like nothing else, and was one of many reasons why I chose this picture to be one of only 12 pictures for Lenspiration’s 2012 Calendar, now available for purchase online at Lenspiration.com.
Have you ever heard of tufa? I didn’t know much about them until today.
Typically, when underwater springs rich in calcium mix with lakewater rich in carbonates, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate, or limestone as we know it. Though tufa is essentially common limestone, to see it in the shape and form of tufa towers above water is a natural phenomenon unique to only a few locations around the world.
Here in southeastern California, one of the largest concentrations of above-water tufa can be found at Mono Lake. I made a special trip out there this evening to photograph them at twilight, the perfect time of day for such a mysterious subject. What an incredible place!
It feels as though I have reached yet another panicle of this trip. The town of Mammoth Lakes, CA, just across the Sierra Mountains from Yosemite, is the gatewate to an incredible system of lakes and mountain ranges connecting several National Forests and Parks such as John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, and Devils Postpile National Monument.
This particular lake, called Lake Mary, reflects the distinct protrusion known as Crystal Crag. This kind of country is perfect for using the new Polarizer filter I picked up a few weeks ago which I hadn’t used much up until today. Looking forward to posting more from Mammoth Lakes! And praise the Lord for clear, sunny days!