I have been photographing for over 30 years and running my Roamin’ with Roman workshops for over 13 years now and if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that you need to be flexible and adapt to any situation that presents itself. My just concluded workshop out to Washington State really tested my “adapt to thrive” philosophy as the weather in the Pacific Northwest can change in a matter of minutes. Proper planning is essential and having a nice array of Sigma lenses, from wide angle zooms to fast fixed primes, allowed me to pack for this landscape shoot with relative ease while giving me maximum focal length coverage for any situation I would encounter. My go to lens for landscape photography is the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art as the zoom versatility allows me to compose and recompose as the conditions change. In the image up top of Mt. Rainier, the fog was coming in and out quickly and at some points, obscured the mountain entirely, in a matter of minutes as you can see in the image below.
One of the newest lenses in my bag is the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art. Later that evening the skies suddenly cleared. I quickly took the group out to do some night photography on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, as I didn’t know if we would have another opportunity. The fast aperture and wide angle of view of the lens allowed me to capture the entire vista along the Golden Gate Trail even though the moon had set. I light painted the foreground of the wildflower scene using a single burst of flash while on the scene of Upper Myrtle Falls I light painted with my headlamp during the exposure.
I often revisit locations I find interesting multiple times during a workshop, which allows everyone to look for different compositions. A classic example of this is when it was overcast and rainy and the group went out to photograph some waterfalls. This cascade is right beside the road and while it is only a small portion of the falls (the much larger portion of the falls is inaccessible) I found the lush greenery around the Upper Sunbeam Creek falls much more interesting and once again, I reached for my trusty the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art as the zoom range would allow me the most flexibility in composing without having to go back to the car and my camera bag for another lens.
The next morning brought more rains, which are ideal conditions for waterfall photography, along with some very dramatic clouds. We were headed back to Upper Sunbeam Creek because one of my clients showed me his composition from under a bridge that the creek flowed under. When we got to the location, I grabbed my Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art and a rain cover (aka garbage bag) and made my way under the bridge to the vantage point my client had shown. I liked how the walls of the bridge framed the cascade although I had to be very careful not to fall into the creek!
We continued chasing the stormy skies that day when suddenly the clouds started to part. The wildflowers along the road were in full bloom giving the perfect foreground for the Tatoosh Range and having the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art already mounted on my camera allowed me to quickly compose and recompose the scene as the light and clouds were quickly changing without having to grab my tripod.
If you were to put me on the spot and only allow me to bring two lenses on a landscape shoot it would of course grab the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art and my second lens would be it’s perfect compliment the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II. I use this lens in most cases where 24mm’s just isn’t wide enough and I want to capture the entire view. As we continued our waterfall quest I knew the extra wide angle of view of the lens would capture the entire cascade and river flow along with the bridge at Christine falls. I was standing right on the edge so as not to get the cliff foreground in the frame.
We photographed countless other waterfalls in the park as we made our way out to the coastal areas of Olympic National park. This is another area where foggy conditions can change as quickly as you can imagine. We were staying at a motel about 26 miles from Ruby beach and the Hoh Rainforest and after dinner, the skies were clear and I gathered the group to head out for a night shoot of the rock formations with the stars as a backdrop. As we drove to the beach, the coastal fog became so thick; we could not make out any of the formations even though we were only about 100 feet from them. I quickly changed plans for a morning shoot in the Hoh rainforest in the morning where fog can have a magical effect on the moss-covered trees. As you can see in the image below, the fog had vanished from the inland location so once again I reached for the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art to allow me the flexibility in composing images with and without the sky. I focused on a mossy area along the trail and decided to capture the mood of the forest without including any of the now bright sky. This area is one of the most difficult I have ever photographed in but you need to adapt to any situation that presents itself so I took a standard image of the tree roots and trees and then got a little creative and did an in camera zoom blur. My wife prefers the regular sharp image where I am leaning more to the zoom blur. What are your thoughts? By capturing both versions, I am able to decide which I prefer when I get home so don’t forget to do multiple images of a scene that intrigues you because it is more expensive to return to a location than it is to take the same shot, multiple ways, while you are out in the field the first time!
The next evening’s forecast was looking to be ideal as the temperatures would be much warmer and they called for clearing skies through the evening hours although by this time, I was becoming a bit skeptical. It was also approaching the peak time for the Perseids meteor showers as well, so with much anticipation we headed out for sunset to scout some locations for later that evening. The skies did not disappoint and treated us to one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in a long time. I forgot my split neutral density filters back in the car so I had to do multiple exposures and blend two images, one for the sky, and one for the foreground to get the proper exposure for the scene. This is the beauty of todays’ digital photography as it allows us to overcome obstacles, even if they were by your own doing, as long as you think and adapt.
Afterwards I gathered the group and we headed out to dinner knowing that we would be going out later that evening when the tides would be receding. It is extremely important to know these things before you head out as you can get caught out there and possibly get hurt if you are unprepared. That night I grabbed my Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art and headed back out to Ruby beach just before midnight to walk out onto the beach while the moon was still up. We got to our location just as the moon was starting to set creating an orange glow on the horizon through the mist which providing some illumination on the water yet not so much as to obscure the Milky Way as seen in the image below.
Our entire night out (which lasted till about 3 am) we were treated to the spectacle of the Perseids Meteor showers and is a night that none of us will soon forget but later that day, it was time to head back to Seattle and conclude the workshop. I did have one last treat for the group, as we would head out to Kerry Park and photograph the Seattle Skyline from a high vantage point with distant views out to Mt. Rainier. This place gets is very popular and gets crowded so you need to get there a bit early to claim your vantage point with minimal room to change positions so once again, the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art would come to my rescue. Once positioned, I was able to do multiple compositions from my single vantage point and not worry about having to move with the slightly tighter composition pictured below being my favorite.
Many of you have heard the phrase: adapt or die. I much prefer the phrase adapt to thrive because as long as you are flexible and willing to work with whatever conditions you may encounter you can succeed. As you can see from my images in this post, that just four Sigma lenses allowed me to cover any situation that I encountered and made this workshop almost magical, when conditions were less than ideal.
Roman Kurywczak is a full time nature photographer and proud Sigma Pro team member who conducts lectures and workshops across the globe. His boutique tour company, Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours, caters to very small groups (only 4) to provide the ultimate learning experience for participants. His down to earth and easy to follow teaching style make him a highly sought after lecturer. The author of several instructional eBook’s on nature photography, Roman strives to share his passion for photography as others have shared with him. He is married for over 26 years with two sons and lives in NJ. You can learn more about Roman’s workshops, lectures, eBook’s, galleries, and more at: roaminwithroman.com