“I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?”, Captain Borodin, Hunt For Red October.
I always think of that quote when I think of Montana. It cracks me up. I thought I’d post a few more of my favorite pictures from our summer Montana trip. A very friendly horse and some very green fields with a background of snow-capped mountains at sunrise.
Both images were processed with a series of curves adjustment layers to balance out various areas of the image. Nothing fancy…
Although it was an overcast morning when I was photographing these rapids, an HDR was necessary to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. Of course an overcast sky is easy to blow out but you’ll find that whitewater reflects so much light that it’s often completely blown out also. Or, if you’re letting your camera choose your exposure and your subject is anything other than the whitewater, your subject will likely be way underexposed. There are still a few tiny portions of my image which are blown out but it wasn’t my goal to prevent that — it was just to present the image in a way which more represented what the eye could see as opposed to what the camera could capture in a single frame.
Note that this image was shot at ISO 320. There’s nothing magical about 320 per se but when you’re shooting fast-moving water, you’ll find a certain shutter speed which gives the “look” you want. If you’re shutter speed is too long, the water is simply a blur. If it’s too short, you lose some sense of the motion. Of course freezing motion or completely blurred water may very well be the “look” you want but in this case I wanted somewhere in the middle. I chose f/11 as my aperture because it’s in the sweet spot of the lens yet gives reasonable depth of field when the focus distance is relatively long. With the aperture fixed, ISO became my main lever for setting the range of shutter speeds I’d capture in my brackets. I shot brackets from ISO 100 up to 1600 and chose this ISO 320 value for the final image based on how the water looked. This allowed me to keep some detail in the water such as what you see in the water pouring over the smallish rock outcropping near the center of the image.
I loved Montana. There were scenes like this everywhere — wide open spaces, mountains, horses — beautiful. I passed this place several times and decided I needed to take a picture of it. I waited a little bit for the horses to move into an interesting position (ie not with ALL their backs turned) and took the shot. Simple, but I like it.
Processing consisted of cropping and playing around with things in Lightroom. The main effect is the semi-desaturated, “old picture” look.
Just down the road from this ranch, I captured this shot of an old, rusty tractor and gave it a similar “old picture” treatment.
[Update in response to questions]
What a surprise to featured in Freshly Pressed. Thanks, everyone for the kind comments! What I liked about this picture was its simplicity and its portrayal of the vast open spaces — glad you like it too.
The picture was taken near Nye, MT in the Stillwater Valley. For those familiar with the area it was approximately half way between the Nye post office and the Stillwater mine. While I’ve driven through other parts of Montana, the Stillwater Valley is the only area where I’ve spent significant time (three different trips). There is basically no tourism which makes it that much more attractive. I’d highly recommend a visit to the forests and wilderness in this area. I’d also recommend renting an ATV (http://www.benbowatvrentals.com/) and heading up into the mountains — AMAZING views to be had. Unfortunately severe rain was threatening (and eventually arrived) when we rented the ATVs so the camera gear stayed in our cabin — no pics. The camera used was a Canon 5D mkii with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L (at 70mm). The image was cropped slightly for aesthetic reasons which slightly reduces the “vastness” effect but improved the overall image. Over time I’ll try to visit everyone’s blogs, but it may take a while!
There’s nothing as all-American as baseball or so they say. Last night I had the opportunity to shoot at the Lake Travis High School baseball game with Pete Talke. I jumped on this because in a few weeks I’ll be filling in for him as the “official” photog for one game. One can always use a bit of practice for these things.
Photographing baseball looks easy until you try it. I learned several things based on my experimentation last night and from shooting a little bit at Austin Aztex soccer games. First, finding the “correct” exposure can be tricky. Most of the shots are high dynamic range situations — think blazing sunlight off bleached white pants contrasted with deep shadows on the backside of a red and black shirt. There is also the sun-lit scoreboard in the outfield contrasted with the early evening shadows which are beginning to cross the infield. Since bracketing exposures for action images wasn’t really an option, it came down to a judgment call — picking an exposure which balanced some blown-out highlights with getting enough detail. I found that I was generally able to get away with aperture priority mode and the camera did a decent job with the shutter speed (which was well within the range I wanted to keep it). Occasionally I used manual mode if the lighting was such that the camera couldn’t get it right.
Another tricky area is focusing. I found that pre-focusing in manual focus mode worked better for capturing the batter in the batter’s box. When using auto focus there were some shots which inadvertently focused on the opposite dugout. I also missed a very cool action sequence where a runner nearly got picked off at first when he took a generous lead. I was shooting from the first base side and captured a sequence where the runner was diving back to first as the first baseman attempted the tag — great shots with clouds of dust everywhere. However, my focus happened to latch onto the outfield fence in the background. Bummer. Next time I’ll pre-focus there as well.
I had a great time, especially since I wasn’t under pressure to produce and could just experiment. The shot above was taken during warm-ups. I liked the combination of action and the American flag in the background. Many frames were taken of this scene because I was attempting to all at once capture (1) the throwing motion, (2) the ball in the air, (3) the players not being in (very) awkward positions, (4) the flag blowing in the wind. Unfortunately I didn’t get exactly what I wanted in any frames (I wanted the player earlier in the throwing motion and the ball lower in the frame). The final choice of a frame was a compromise and the main factor was that the flag showed best in this one while the other elements were “OK”. I added more skew to the angle because I found it more interesting. I wanted to crop slightly differently but decided not to so I could retain the “345” marker in the left side of the frame.
As for processing the image, I decided to experiment there as well. First, I flipped the flags to blow to the right rather than the left (artistic liberty right?). Then I added two textures (inspired by Pete’s images), masked in different contrast layers in areas of the frame, and did a little dodging and burning on the ball itself to get the look I wanted. Hope you like it too.
Texture info…arbitrarily picked the first two I saw which were at all interesting. These are used under creative commons from “pareeerica” on flickr.
(Many years ago) I was born on the south side of the Windy City in the Roseland neighborhood. My family moved to the south suburbs when I was pretty young, then out to a rural area (still close to the city) in high school. I went to lots of Blackhawks games in Chicago Stadium, Sox (and Sting) games at Comiskey Park, and even managed one Cubs game at Wrigley. Incidentally, I never made it to a Bears game — haven’t ever been to a pro football game to this day.
I remember watching Stan Mikita, Pit Martin, and Keith Magnuson play for the Hawks. I loved Sox players like Chet Lemon (when I was really young), Harold Baines, and Carlton Fisk. I had a home run ball hit by Brian Downing back in the 70’s. I wasn’t actually at the game and honestly don’t remember if he played for the Sox or the Angels at the time. I was at the 1983 game where the Sox *could have* clinched the division but they needed a win or loss from someone else so they didn’t clinch until the following night…something like that. I watched every game of the Bears run up to the Super Bowl in 1985 — what a fun season. I practically worshipped Karl-Heinz Granitza of the Chicago Sting.
I wasn’t big into autographs but I had Harold Baines, Walter Payton (got that one at the auto show in McCormick Place), and Johnny Morris (got his in the stands at Comiskey Park the same day I got Baines’).
Although I now live in Texas, the rest of my family still lives in the Chicago area and downtown Chicago is pretty much a yearly destination for our family. We take the Metra in to the Randolph station from the south side, walk the streets, and take in whatever attractions we feel like that visit. The kids love it. I haven’t visited since really getting into photography but I’m really looking forward to it. [Side note: One member of the family lives in Milwaukee but we Chicagoans simply consider that a suburb…those of you from Chicago appreciate this I’m sure]
The picture above was taken as my wife and I were landing at O’Hare en route to Paris. I grabbed the camera a bit late and missed some better shots but I’m still pleased with this one — reminds me of home.