We’re having a great time in Hawaii. Scenes like the one above abound here on the island of Kauai. This shot was taken at Ke’e Beach which is at the end of the road on the north shore of Kauai. The land beyond is only accessible by trail, boat, or helicopter. Jurassic Park was filmed somewhere in those mountains so many of you have had a glimpse of what it’s like.
As much as I like to take (and process) photos, I *try* to limit it when on family vacations. We went all over the east and north shore the other day but I only dragged my tripod out of the car once. When we walked along Ke’e Beach I didn’t have a tripod so I put the camera down on some mossy rocks and used the timer to fire off 3 exposures. I didn’t quite eliminate the blown-out highlights in my exposures but I didn’t want to be a drag on the group and spend a bunch of time fooling with the camera. I used Photomatix to tonemap the exposures then Photoshop to play with some curves adjustments.
“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!
Headed to Montana in 12 days with my wife and friends. The picture above was taken early one morning during our last visit to the Stillwater Valley in Nye, MT. Had a blast and can’t wait to get back there. Our trip to Montana in the summer of 2009 marked the first time I ever used a real tripod and head, and the first time I made a “real” attempt at taking “good” pictures. I had just read through Scott Kelby’s tips on landscape photography but forgot most of them of course. Nothing overly special about this shot other than the memories. Simple processing with curves.
I’d better start practicing rising early if I’m going to hit the sunrises — it starts getting pretty light by 5am up there. That’s actually one thing I miss from living up north; I love when it gets light very early in the morning as it really helps get the day going.
This is a high-resolution panorama — stitched from 12 individual frames — of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park at sunset. The sharp V-shape on the left is called the Window as it is the only gap in the mountains which allows a view out when you’re in the mountain basin. It turned out that I had one chance to get this right before the mountains were in shadow. I put the camera in manual mode, metered the side of the mountains using partial metering, and quickly shot the frames at about 60% overlap. I’ve found the large overlap to be helpful in eliminating any distortion. You can get by with only 20% but I occasionally get burned by that. When I completed my first group of frames I double-checked my settings and prepared to shoot another set. I always do this until the light’s gone because (1) it’s insurance against having messed up the other images and (2) as the light changes I may end up liking the light at one point in time versus the other. Just as I was about to shoot my second set of frames a ranger showed up. He stopped to chat and then asked if I could take a couple of pictures of him standing in front of this view with his iPhone and point-and-shoot camera. I thought to myself, “People are more important than pictures”, and obliged. We chatted a minute more before he left and the mountains were in full shadow by that point. Fortunately, I’m quite happy with the pano I ended up with.
The brush in the foreground is annoying but this was as high as I could get unless I was in the bed of my truck. I’ve tried that before and the suspension moves around too much and the frames don’t turn out very sharp.
View the original size on flickr for some amazing detail. I didn’t sharpen the image with the large size in mind but it’s still pretty cool.
I spent an enjoyable weekend with my oldest son in Big Bend National Park. It was hotter than blazes in the desert (110 in the shade the first day) but this was our only available weekend for many months. Frankly the heat wasn’t a big problem.
On past trips we’ve backpacked into the high Chisos Mountains but so far this summer all the mountain backcountry sites are closed due to extreme fire danger. So, we camped out in the Chisos Basin campground — enjoyed it very much actually. It was nice not having to lug a 50# pack full of water up into the mountains.
Before heading to bed one night I experimented with long exposures of the skies. I never did seem to find the “right” settings but got some fun shots nonetheless. The above shot of the mountain known as Casa Grande gives a sense of what the sky was like. That night there were clouds moving across the sky which annoyed me at first but they do add another dimension to the shot. This photo needs a frame to make it stand out from the page background…maybe later.
I spent last weekend in the Seattle area and had the privilege of second-shooting my nephew’s wedding. Maybe I’ll post some pics from that later.
Got to bed at 1:40am after the wedding and got up at 3:50am to take my daughter to the airport (she had another wedding to go). The skies had been quite clear during our visit so I had hopes of capturing some dawn shots of Mt. Rainier since I’d be further south toward the mountain.
After dropping my daughter off (at 4:30) I drove up to the 7th floor of the SE parking garage at SeaTac. There was a great vantage point so I abandoned my initial plan of driving further south toward the mountain — didn’t want to end up missing the first sunlight hitting the mountain.
Shot a bazillion images. Bracketed some of them +/- 1 stop to be sure to get something decent. Captured the pano at the top of the post after sunrise, and this one above before the sun hit the face of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy but I’m quite happy with what I got. In several other visits to Seattle over the years Mt. Rainier was only visible for a brief period one Sunday morning — never saw it again. I was fortunate to see it for several days last weekend.
Surely these aren’t the best panos you’ve ever seen but they do look quite a bit better when viewed large on flickr (click the images to go to flickr then click the “All Sizes” button above the image).