Every autumn I get excited about photographing the brilliant yellow leaves and stark white trunks of that quintessential Rocky Mountain harbinger of fall – the stately aspen tree. Before I head out on the first trip of the season I often wonder whether the world needs another photo of autumnal aspen trees. I then pack my bags, gas up my truck and hit the road. The world may not need another photo of aspen trees in fall but I sure as hell do.
My favorite time to photograph aspens isn’t when they’re at peak color. No, I’d rather catch them as the last few beauty queens strive to keep the pageant of autumn alive. The graphic impact of a forest filled with bare aspen limbs entangled in a chaotic dance before a pale and tattered blanket of yellow is simply too much for me to resist. No doubt, it’s more difficult to make successful images when you’re confronted with less color and more chaos. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy creating images at the tail end of my favorite season. The whole process becomes more visceral. More instinctual and more studied. Having less to work with requires more of us as photographers. It forces us to engage with our beloved subject on a level we may not often attain.
The rewards are often much greater than just a beautiful photograph. I feel humbled. Humbled by the sheer beauty and grace of the natural world in which we live. Ecstatic to have been given an opportunity to create art as one season fades into the next. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace.
I made the image above on Oct. 24, 2010 in the La Sal Mountains not far from my home in Moab. A thin layer of slushy ice covered the small alpine lake at my feet. The ground was littered with millions of yellow, red and brown aspen leaves and a thin layer of freshly fallen snow. A chill descended upon the landscape as the sun crept closer to the horizon behind a veil of clouds filled with snowflakes that would fall only hours after I was back at home, snug in my warm bed.
Learn more about Bret, view his images, scout his workshops and read his blog here.
Our pal Mike Moats has opened up a new Macro Nature Forum.
Mike's new forum is for macro photographers of all skill levels, and It’s free to register and participate. You will be able to post your macro images in different forums, start or engage in a macro discussion, enter contests, and more. Check it out!www.macronatureforum.com
The Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic models are now in! With three models to choose from , the bags offer a new innovation in sling bags: they can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to easily change shoulders.
While most sling bags are designed to wear over only one shoulder, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the features that have made sling bags so popular among photographers.
Check out the video of the Sling-O-Matic features, and you can find them in the store here: Sling-O-Matic.
Hopefully this will be the first in a series of “How to’s” on the blog. One of the things that I seem to hear the most from folks is how to properly balance flash and ambient light outdoors.Well, I can tell you, its not as hard as you think! …
Our own Chris Klapheke is featured in November's issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine, hitting the stands this week!
"On The Wing" showcases five pages of Chris' bird images, from portraits to blurs. Chris shares bird photography tips and gives the background stories to some of his images. He also gives kudos to his mentors including Alan Murphy and Arthur Morris.
You can check out the magazine in bookstores, and we've also posted a pdf of the article for you to read here: On The Wing.
Editors note: Welcome John Batdorff to the blog! John is an award winning landscape and travel photographer who splits his time between Chicago and Montana. John loves the outdoors and traveling, and sharing his images with others. You can learn more about John at the end of this article.
HDR of Tree (Single Exposure)
I don’t shoot a lot of HDR but on occasion I like to mix things up and just have a little fun to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve always used Photomatix for all my HDR photography, but when I heard Nik Software was coming out with its own HDR plugin, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I became a bit giddy. I’ve been in Montana this past week and much of the color has left my corner of the state, so I decide to have some fun with my filters, bracket a few shots, and give Nik’s new HDR program a little test drive.
I was amazed at how easy Nik’s HDR Efex Pro was to use. If you’re familiar with any of Nik’s software then you know they’re the masters of making the most daunting task manageable. Simply export a single image or bracketed images into HDR Efex Pro’s plugin and get ready to have some fun.
Today’s post is a short one, though I believe it imparts an important lesson.
Last month I embarked upon a 4 day, 3 night motorcycle trip to Crested Butte, Aspen and beyond. I didn’t have a set itinerary, although I knew I wanted to photograph an autumn sunrise of the Maroon Bells reflecting in the placid waters of Maroon Lake. On the evening before the final day of my trip I arrived in Aspen and took the road leading to the Bells. I found an idyllic campsite in the Silver Queen campground only a couple miles from the lake. Once camp was set up I headed to the lake to scout compositions for sunrise the next morning.
Having heard stories from friends about dozens of photographers lining the lake with their tripods overlapping I knew I’d need to arrive early the next morning to stake my claim. I awoke early, threw on layers of warm clothing to protect me from the chilly 34 degree ride and proceeded to the lake. Arriving a full half hour before sunrise, I was a bit surprised to find seven cars already in the parking lot.
Our model, Rachael, under overcast skies at the DPE Learning Weekend in Atlanta, GA
Overcast skies may be bad for landscape photography, but they are great for shooting portraits. When shooting under cloudy skies you’ve got a giant overhead softbox to work with. This creates soft light that wraps around your subject and makes it easy to capture a proper exposure without blown highlights or harsh shadows. This soft light is also a great base for adding off-camera flash.
A few tips for success on an overcast day:
•Set your white balance to ‘Cloudy’ to add a little warmth to your colors
•Don’t include the sky in your photos. Unless the clouds are very dramatic, an overcast sky doesn’t make a good background.
•Use off-camera flash (speedlights or strobes) to create more interesting or dramatic lighting. Use the ambient light as your fill and build the main light with your off-camera flash.
•You may need to bump up the contrast (I like to use a curves adjustment) in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Learn more about Rob, view his images and check out his workshops at his website.
Things are busy, feels like no time to head out to the field. What to do? I know! Still life closeups of flowers can be fun.
Sure, flowers smell nice and look colorful, but from arm’s length they’re part of the normal world. How often do we take in their intricate details? Viewed up close, the familiar can become strange or fascinating… perhaps both. Sounds like a job for a photographer.
On the dining room table, some cut lilies in a vase made a perfect subject. My wife remarked on their strong aroma that filled the room, and the beauty of the petals. I nodded my head, but was thinking of the macro lens, a close-up perspective, and some unusual lighting.
I broke out my Canon 5D Mk II, put on the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro lens, and got it all set up on the tripod. As the evening light through the picture window grew dim, I turned down the dining room lights as well. A small flashlight provided some targeted glow while the rest of the normal vibrant colors receded into the shadows. Selecting a fairly wide aperture of f/4 provided a shallow depth of field and the stage was all set for the composition.