Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park have to be the premier nature photography location in the lower 48 states. Subjects range from stunning and otherworldly landscapes to abundant free roaming wildlife. The best time to visit the parks is either in early spring (June) or my favorite time of year in late September to early October as the leaves start to change. The large summer crowds are gone and the park takes on a much slower pace, as it gets ready for the approaching winter. The image above is of the Teton Range just off the outside road. This image is at first light and I used a Singh-Ray, 3 stop, reverse graduated neutral density filter to help balance the foreground with the much lighter sky and mountain range.
One of the most important rules for macro flash photography is balance. For natural looking macro images you have to balance the ambient light and flash output. When the flash and ambient light are balanced the use of flash will not even be apparent to the viewer.
The problem is that with flash output overpowering the natural light in background it will underexpose and go dark, in some cases like the image below, it can underexpose to the point that is appears black.
Late every summer, nature photographers flock to the Pacific Northwest with the hope of capturing the majestic beauty of Mount Rainier and its gorgeous subalpine meadows. After much obsessive planning and conversations with photographers around Washington State, I was able to make my first trip to the region this year. My biggest concern was whether I would arrive on time to catch the peak wildflower bloom. The area experienced a warm spring and summer, and thus the wildflowers emerged earlier than expected. But, as luck would have it, that shouldn’t have been my primary worry.
One of the biggest challenges with macro photography is working with a limited depth of field or DOF. When I am shooting macro I am always trying to make sure the subject and elements in the frame appear sharp by adjusting the aperture and making sure the important elements in image fall on the plane of focus by adjusting my angle of view. But there is another important element that has a huge effect on DOF that most people don’t even know about, how a different sensor format can and will effect the depth of field in your image. Moving to a smaller sensor format at the same apparent magnification will give you lots more DOF to work with in your macro images.
As photographers, we often strive for that “perfect” image. Those who are most proficient in their art, in one way or another, pre-visualize the final photograph and strive to exercise the most possible control over all the variables involved in achieving the desired end result. The reality is that outside of the studio and particularly true in nature photography, all bets are off. The extensive planning and meticulous research performed prior to photographing a never before visited location may prove useful or lead to a near-fruitless and frustrating trip. The landscape artist cannot control light and precipitation and is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that the iconic shot you saw in someone else’s portfolio will probably not be in yours. This is where you have the chance to prove your worth as a photographer by using your imagination and compositional skills to improvise and make the most out of the presented opportunities.
In my workshops and presentations over the past few years, I have discussed my extensive use of two powerful software packages: Helicon Focus and Photomatix. Helicon Focus stacks multiple images, each focused on different planes, creating one super-focused image. Photomatix combines multiple images photographed with different exposure values, creating one file with a super-wide exposure range.
In conjunction with Sigma and Hunt’s Photo, I recently lead a garden photography workshop at The Botanic Garden of Smith College in Northampton, MA. There and anywhere I lead a workshop dealing with macro photography, I always stress the importance of choosing your f-stops wisely.
Iceland has long been on my list of photography destinations so I was very excited to finally get a chance to explore the country as well as try out the Sigma 12-24mm. The landscapes were just breathtaking and I got an opportunity to photograph the many waterfalls of the country. The lens quickly proved itself as I was able to compose and recompose quickly given that I was often very close to the falls! One of my favorites is a triple waterfall near Mt. Kirkjufell (shown above). While I normally use split neutral density filters to balance a scene, I decided instead to blend two exposures (one for the sky and one for the foreground) because of the mountain protruding on the right hand side. A split ND filter would have unnaturally darkened Mt. Kirkjufell so an exposure blend was the best option in this case.
It’s pretty well known that a polarizer filter may deepen the color of blue skies, but the more subtle effects of a polarizer are often less known–and certainly worth exploring.
Polarizers limit the light that penetrates through them. As such, they help reduce contrast. Polarizers are like prison bars, where the light bouncing up and down through the bars passes through, but the light waves traveling horizontally do not. Of course, polarizing filters can be rotated, changing which directional light reaches a camera’s sensor and which does no
I have always wanted a fisheye lens and have always talked myself out of the purchase, confident that it would gather dust when the novelty wore off. Recently, after becoming interested in wide-angle macro photography, I bit the bullet and got the Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye. It’s now been two months and I honestly can’t put the lens down. A few weeks ago, my dad commented that my worldview is becoming warped and I hope he was just referring to the pleasing distortion in all my recent images.