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Mountains and Forests

Lesson 8 from: FAST CLASS: Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

8. Mountains and Forests

Lesson Info

Mountains and Forests

today, we're gonna be talking about working with different subjects here in the morning. And when I talk about different subjects, well, you're going to see we're going to talk about mountains and trees and forests, and each type of subject that you have kind of has a slightly different treatment and a different approach to photographing them. And so let's go ahead and get started with what we love here in the Northwest, which are mountains and we've got some great mountains. We have a huge mountain range if you're not familiar with the Pacific Northwest, there's a huge line up of volcanoes and mountain ridges here in Washington and Oregon and the Great Northwest, and we spend a lot of time up there because it's very beautiful country. So, of course, the icon around the Northwest is Mt. Rainier National Park, and I had, uh, five really good days. I decided I needed to kind of beef up some of my photographic collection mind landscape collection. And so I spent a week down at Mt. Rainier...

National Park, and I had in some ways it was fantastic. Whether it was very sunny, which made for the mornings and evenings. Very nice, but the middle of the day wasn't so great for shooting, as you will see in these tips that I'm giving out. And so let's start off with some mountain tips. And the first thing that a lot of people make the mistake of is wanting to take a picture of the mountain and nothing else. They forget about adding some sort of four grounds and the mistake that I have made in the past And then I see a lot of other people make at Mt. Rainier is they go up to the parking lot of paradise and they're like, Wow, this is a nice picture. Wait, let's hike up the trail a little bit. They hike up the trail a little bit. Oh, wait. I think there's a better viewpoint up closer and they just keep hiking and hiking about two hours later. Well, there's a little bit of a snow capped, but you can't really see the mountain at all. And so there's a lot of different approaches, and the first thing is finding a foreground. And so, in this case, this is one of those trails that leads up the mountain, and we're gonna get into a little bit of a composition section towards the end of the day. But leading lines into your subject is always a good thing. And so the trail leading right up into the mountain helps out in this case, using verticals so that we can stretch further from the top to the bottom so that we can have those elements helps out as well. Now these mountains are often going to be best inside light. I'm gonna have a lot of tips like this where it's best in the sidelight. That doesn't mean that it won't be good in some other situation. It's just kind of that's a recipe that frequently works. And 1/4 thought on this is that if you are inside light, this is when a polarizer works out really well. Remember, a polarizer works best added 90 degree angle. So if the sun's coming up over here and I'm shooting something straight ahead, that's where it's gonna be a major benefit. If the sun's behind me or it's coming right at me, it doesn't have nearly as much impact. And so here's a couple of good vertical shots. Mount Rainier. They're taken in the morning. They have foreground elements. So not only do you have not Rainier, but you have something else to help tell the story of what's going on at Mt. Rainier. This is a volcano down in Bolivia, and I remember very specifically skipping dinner so that I could go shoot because it looked like it was good conditions. And I'll actually show some more photos in the Siris on a slightly another section, I think when we're talking about lighting, but here the side lighting really helps out because you can see the light coming around the front of that mountain. You can kind of see it causing these little shadow ripples over different hills and bumps on the mountain, and then really brings out some nice texture. Also, what also what helps out in this one is that the clouds behind the mountain are quite dark, and that that little puff of little plume of smoke right on the top really is illuminated with that dark background. And that's another concept I'll talk about in the composition section is having a dark background, and this is one of the challenges of nature. Photography is You can't just roll up a black seamless and let it fall down and back. This is something that you really have to take advantage of and notice when you're out in the field. Here's Mount Rainier again, this time photographed from 70 miles away, right here in Seattle, and this is shot in the morning again, and we have that sidelight, and this is where I am using a polarizer. And that's one of the reasons why the water in Lake Washington there is so incredibly saturated blue. That's not from me faking something later in Photoshopped. That's the That's the polarizer working, and that really cut through a lot of the haze. And so keep those polarizer is out in the morning when you have the sun to your side. So let me give you a few more tips on the mountains. And it's kind of a weird thing with the clouds, because a lot of people think a cloudless day is the best time to go out and enjoy the day and take pictures. Well, cloudless skies are not real interesting, and so you would like some clouds in the sky, but not too many to obscure everything. And so this It's this very mixed bag, not too much, not too little when it comes to the clouds. And then also, as I said, moving back further away so that you can actually see the shape of the mountain. This is Athabasca falls up in Banff, Canada, and there's a beautiful mountain. I'm not sure of the particular name of this mountain, but I was there for one evening and I was just hoping and hoping that the clouds would clear and break away because this is my my one shot. I had about a week long of shooting up there, and there was only one day that I was gonna be in this region of the park. And I remember getting there around four o'clock in the afternoon, and I just waited and waited and waited for those clouds to break and they never, ever, ever broke. But, you know, I'm still gonna shoot what I can when I can, and I guess it's a reasonable shot of the waterfalls. But I would love to have had a little bit of those clouds broken up. I think the mountain would have really come out from the background much, much more easily was shooting down in Mount Hood in Oregon and I took a bit of a chance. I took a very long hike right at sunset so that I could get up to see a little bit closer in the mountain because where I was was stuck in the forest. And that's often a big problem is getting stuck in the forest and not having a place to shoot. And this is one of those things where I didn't know what I was getting into. I've never been on this trail. I had no real scouting reports. I knew there was a trail. I knew it went up and that there would likely be some clearing because the trees stop growing at the tree line wherever that happens to be on the particular mountain. And this was just fantastic because the sun was going down over the Pacific and there was these clouds over the mountain and over me. But there was this opening to the West, and I knew that's where the sun could cut in and start bouncing the light off the bottom of the clouds and those clouds. They not only look good in the photo because they're adding another layer of texture, but they are a natural reflector bouncing light down onto the mountain. And so that's one of the reasons that we want some clouds. And there is this their perfect natural reflectors. And then having a little bit of blue sky in there, you know, really helps with those colors, because when you have those blues and those orange, those are very strong colors that work together. Nice contrast on it. Here's a good case of hiking away from Mount Rainier in order to get a better shape of the mountain. And so there's a place called Plumber Peak, and it's due south of Mount Rainier. You hike directly away when you're at paradise, and it's kind of nice to be able to get up there because you can really see the shape of the mountain in the mountain in entirety a little bit more, and you'll notice that I included the trees and the lower left just to let you know that there's some rich line in the foreground to add a little bit of depth to that photograph. Having depth in a two dimensional photograph is really nice to be able to add that element because, well, we don't have three dimensions in R two d photographs, and that's one way of adding that appearance into the two dimensions. All right, let's dive down a little bit and jump into the forest working in the forest. The sunny day. Great time to go hiking in the forest. That's true for a nice hike. You don't have to bring your rain gear. You're not gonna get cold. It's very convenient, but you want to go to the forest on a cloudy day. The sunny days are very, very challenging because you have these beams of light coming in. It makes it very, very contrast. And so if it is going to be sunny and you really want to get good photos in the forest, you need to go. When the sun is extremely low on the horizon, just it sunrise or just it. Sunset. I know I was down in California, the redwoods, and it was sunny every day. I was down there and I would get up really early, and I would be in the forest as soon as the lights started coming around and I would shoot for about an hour hour and 1/2 before the sun got too high in the sky and started getting directly in, and I was able to get in about two hours of good photography per day, and then in the middle of the day there was nothing to do because it was just to contrast in the forest. One of the things that I'm always looking for in the forest is an open area to kind of back up, because when you're in the forest and there's just trees all over the place, it's like you're trying to back up toe, make sense of it all, and it's really hard to do that. And so I'm often looking for little openings. Now the shot that I have on screen here. The trick on this shot is that I shot it on an open road, and so roads will create a natural opening so that you can shoot straight in to the forest to get the side angle. You would never be able to get this in a thick forest. The polarizer is surprisingly helpful when you are getting in on these situations. If you remember the polarizer conversation from the earlier section on filters works very well in force. Polarizer czar. Reducing the reflection of light When there is a strong light coming from a very specific direction, and on a cloudy day, that may not seem like a strong light, but it iss and it may not seem like it's coming from a specific direction. But remember, when you're in a forest, the light's not all coming in from all over directions. It's filtering in through those trees, and the light is essentially coming in straight down. And so it's a very, very directional light where the polarizer has a very, very strong impact. So here is about my last shot of the day in the morning. Down at the Redwoods Son has just come up. It's just starting to poke through the tops of the trees, and those highlights are just right about at the edge of going over, exposed and being clipping. And so I have maybe about five more minutes of shooting, and then my day was over with until the sun went down and it was nice, even lighting. This is back down to Point Lobos in California. You mentioned that before and remember walking along, and there was about a 40 yard stretch of I don't know little just open grassland right in front of the forest. And by using a long telephoto lens, I was able to compress these trees, which were at various distances, into a very flat scene. And I'm gonna talk a little bit more about black and white later. I do like black and white from time to time. This was the scene that had very, very little color in it. It was just brown trees and kind of nothing else, and I felt like it would turn into a better black and white. And that's one of the great things about shooting digital. I mean, I remember back in the days of film, I would sometimes have a camera with black and white in a camera with color, and I'd have to make a decision at that time what to do. And nowadays, what I'll do is I'll just shoot color and then turn it black and white. But one of the tricks that I dio is in the camera. Sometimes. If I think it's a good black and white and I really want to work with it, I'll put my camera in the monochrome mode. Now I shoot raw, and when you put your camera in the monochrome mode, what happens is that you download your images into your computer and it pops up black and white for a moment. And then it turns color, because what happened is that the J Peg preview is black and white, but the actual raw image is color, and then I take that color of in China. Go turn it black and white, and it may seem like kind of a useless exercise, because I made it black and white. But then it turned it color than I gotta turn it black and white again. But if it's black and white in the field now, I could look at it on the back of the camera and I can decide well, does this make a good black and white? And maybe I see something different in the composition that I wouldn't have noticed when it was in color. And this is one of the benefits of the E. VFW's on muralist cameras is that you can put your camera in a black and white mode. It's really recording color, so if you want it. You can get that later, but you get to hold it up to your eye and get to see the world in black and white, which is one of the disadvantages of the SLR is you're always kind of guessing. What's this gonna look like in black and white? And so I'll mention more about that in the black and white section. This photo is kind of a standard photo without polarizer. So let's take the polarizer and bring it across and notice how much it reduces the reflections and how much more vibrance we get out of those ferns. And that Moss, one of the things that I'm looking for in the forest is a clean shot, something that doesn't have a lot of clutter and stray branches around. Because I'm not one for going through and cleaning up my scene there certain ethical standards that we might start a whole discussion on, but I'm trying to look for something that's clean. That tells a very simple story. The force could be a very, very complicated place, and I think this is a fairly clean, straightforward shot. I'm and so that's what I'm looking for. Those kind of smooth, even patterns. This is from Allah forested area down in or again looking for the best part of the tree. I'm not trying to show the whole tree. It's another mistake that a lot of people may is. They're trying to show everything in one shot, and that goes true with a lot of different types of photography. But especially in nature is they're trying to get the wide angle lens on there, and this is a good example of using that 72 200 zoom lens zooming in and just capturing a little sense of that place. All right, would you shoot a lot and forest? So let me give you some more tips in the forest. Look up, look down. There's things that are great above you and down below you with that macro lands. Well, I guess I just said this. Don't try to capture everything once, right? Sometimes I get ahead of myself. Be careful of those bright skies when you are pointed up IRA up, and if you have a foggy day, that is a fantastic time to get out there. So this shot is shot with a macro lens. It's 100 millimeter macro. And there's a few weeks in the spring time here in the Northwest with the ferns air growing and they're just young and they're busting out and they're great to shoot much later in the season. They get well worn and they don't looking nearly as nice and still going there at the right time is also critical. Down in California at the red words, this is one of my favorite shots down there. I know there's a lot of people who love shooting these straight up shots and this one a couple of little tricks to let you know about number one. It's a fisheye lands, and I don't really go into fish eyes because I don't use those very much in nature photography. It doesn't look natural. Having all these bendy lines and the secret to having this not have those bendy lines in him. Is that all the lines that run through the middle of a fish? I are going to be straight. In this case, all lines lead to the middle of the frame, and so none of them are going to be curved it all. If I had pointed it straight forward, you would see trees all bent off on the sides, and they don't really like that type of look. But this enabled me to kind of reach down and see as much of the trees on either side of me. The key thing that other that also made this shot work for me is that these two main trees that diagonals are extremely close together. They're about six feet apart, and they were the closest to big trees that I could find. And having those closer means that you can Seymour of the bark on the trees and they filled up more of the frame. This is from Yosemite National Park, and another good example of not trying to capture everything in one shot. These extremely old and very large trees are very, very difficult to capture. In one shot, I did see a great shot that National Geographic did, where they captured one a giant tree and one shot. I'm sure some of you saw, and the way that they photographed it is they spent about a week hooking up a cable system and they had try. Remember this? I think they had six cameras mounted on a trolley system that we're shooting a panoramic and it would they would lift it up. They would shoot one shot. They lifted up and they would shoot multiple shots, mult, bring it up and shoot some more. And eventually they shot something like 36 shots of the whole tree and then stitched it all together. And so that was the extent that they had to go to photograph one big tree in one shot. Most of us don't have those. Resource is, so we're gonna have to work with something else. And just showing us a sense of the trunks gives us a nice feel for that type of forest. One of things have to be really careful about is the bright sky poking threw in the backgrounds. And so this one. There's a little bit of I don't know if it's fog or kind of very low level clouds, but it isn't quite too bright. But those bright spots attract our eyes, and if it gets to be too bright, it's gonna be very, very distracting. In some upcoming photographs. I'll show you where there are too bright, it's too bright and it really throws off. The entire picture becomes too Contrast. This is down in California. Foggy Day. Fantastic time. Very graphic and simple. Good time for black and white photography. Simple lines. Nice little pattern in there.

Class Materials

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Light Keynote
Focus Keynote
Equipment Keynote
Subject Keynote
Timing Keynote
Composition Keynote
Exposure Keynote