Posts Tagged ‘how to’

Oak Tree Challenge

September 16, 2014

Foggy oak tree amongst poison oak.  Central California Coast
Isn’t it strange that most landscape photographers from California do not photograph the oak woodlands that cover most of the state???

I can’t blame them, there are tons of other iconic stuff to shoot in California. But that doesn’t mean they should skip out on something only minutes away from their homes. Coast live oak can get pretty big like this one located in the Central California Coast. Just stay out of the pretty colorful stuff below this gnarled giant or you may begin to itch….

Hope this inspires the lazy photog to get off their butt and go shoot an oak a few minutes from home!!

Oak Tree Challenge

You can’t be from California and not have a pic of oak tree……


Composing for the Edges

June 27, 2012

Plush greens at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California

While composing this photograph I had to imagine the merged files together as one because the 2×6 or 4×6, etc box of the viewfinder didn’t fit the format I was looking for. When we create panoramics we have to use our imagination and establishing the borders or edges of the frame are probably one of the most important parts of doing this. Here I took note on where there were dark areas around the bright waterfall so as the image is viewed there is more of flow downward without distractions along the edges of the frame. Any bright water on the edges would of pulled the eye towards it and disrupted the path and flow of where the water leads the eye through the scene. Here I chose to have an exit at the bottom where the water comes out of the frame. You can compose differently and keep the eye in the frame by keeping the white water away from the edges, this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to have any bright water near the frame just keep conscious thought of where you place it. Conscious thought is what composition is all about. Have you ever felt you placed all elements of frame exactly where they needed to be?

We can create typical images of scenes such as this one but another thing to keep in mind is has it been done this way? If so fine take the picture then move on to the next scene while looking for something different.

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Dealing with Lens Flare in Back Lit Scenes

December 29, 2011

Back lit Cholla cactus in the Maricopa Mountain Wilderness section of the Sonoran Desert National Monument
Maricopa Mountain Wilderness, Sonoran Desert, Arizona

Flare was the hardest thing to control when shooting this back lit desert scene. If you can control the lens flare you’ll get some very dramatic results. If you don’t block the flare you will lose much of the saturation and contrast that initially drew you to photograph the scene. As if you were looking through a pair old and dirty reading glasses. Since this shot has a higher percentage of shadows and minimal high lights it fooled the meter reading into thinking it needed to over expose the scene. I under exposed this scene but kept the high lights from overexposing on the histogram. Then pulled detail out of the shadows with a few layer adjustments and masks. Only a little detail was brought back to keep the stark contrast between light and shadow. Most cameras have a blinking highlight indicator you can use but sometimes that isn’t enough. Even if the highlights are not blinking, the percentage may be to small to blink, you may not be able to recover all the highlights that have been over exposed so be sure to check your histogram.

Here is a what the scene looked with the lens hood and hand to block out some of the flare.

The same scene with out blocking all of the lens flare.

Of course there are many other methods of blocking the sun.. .

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Visualization Before a Trip Into the Mountains

August 9, 2011

Light and Shadow Sketch Sierra Nevada Peaks and Lakes
┬ęSteve Sieren 2011, all work in this blog is copyrighted and may not be used in other blogs with out my written permission.

I sketched out my Plan A idea as shown here. I knew getting up to this spot would take a lot of effort for just a one night trip and I didn’t have the extra amount of energy to climb the 800 ft up the ridge at 2 or 3am in the morning so there’s always next time. I had a plan B shot that turned out to be great but I’d rather spend the extra efforts in getting something not photographed yet. Of course it would of been a lot easier to photograph the lake that I rolled out of bed next to. Instead we walked a few lakes over for a more dominant peak to photograph that was just slightly out of view from our campsite. I pretty much had to trust my photographer friend Floris van Breugel who researched a great spot for sunset and vice versa for my sunrise options, anyhow the place was great for multiple options at both sunrise and sunset.

In California we don’t always have clouds so we learn to shoot with out them, it’s part of the plan. The location in the sketch was removed in photoshop because I don’t broadcast exact locations. The wilderness is too big to have us all flock to one certain place.

Plan B location

Diamond of Sierra Nevada

Visualization is only small bit of what goes into creating great photographs and you’ll find many other options along the trail, near the trailhead and at camp or off in the distance. I have come across many photographic opportunities that I’ve made mental notes of planning on coming back to photograph but in time I forget about many of them. For example I came across an interesting sea arch along the Central Coast of California and completely forgot about until I visited the area again and saw it. I really thought how could I forget about such a great opportunity? In long the run it will help you to keep all of your ideas written down during or at just after a trip. This really helps a photographer keep their views a little fresher in the landscape photography market.

Peaks next to camp.

A quickly composed photograph on the short dawn hike to another lake before sunrise.

An elevated view into the Earth's Shadow from high in the Sierra

An elevated view into the Earth’s Shadow from high in the Sierra Nevada.

Elements of Design - Sierra Nevada Mountains

You can’t always count on colorful fiery clouds at sunset or sunrise in the Sierra Nevada so you’ll find if you practice on working with design of elements under the sky you’ll soon realize you don’t need the sky at all.

I simplified the scene here by making the peak and the grass tussock dominate most of the frame.

I use visualization to maximize what I take home, some of the images were edited years apart but were all photographed within 10 hours of each other in the same one night trip into the mountains. Visualization is a great tool to take advantage of during short trips where you spending a great deal of effort to get to these far out of reach places. It also helps in so many other forms of photography and other aspects of everyday life.

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Photographing the Kelso Dunes

May 25, 2010

A view looking north towards the Old Dad Mountains

If you’re looking for a little more seclusion then the more visited dunes of Death Valley try the Kelso Dunes. Although just like the dunes at Stovepipe Wells there is main walkway from a parking lot area but you can leave this freeway of foot prints and veer off to the east or west and truly lose yourself into the void of 45 square miles of dune field, the largest in the Mojave Desert. Slide down from the top of 650ft high Star Dune on a hot day and listen to the odd booming vibrations. Make sure you are gassed up and have plenty of water and snacks it’s one of those out of the way special places. There is a small coffee shop inside the Kelso Depot but it’s not always open so make sure you check before you plan on stopping there. If you have time the Mojave Preserve is an under appreciated place in the desert with many other unique photo opportunities.

Seeing creatively in the field, 2006
From a first visit back in 2006.

Equipment needed: The bare necessities and whatever else you may have. Photography is about seeing creatively not about what you have in the bag.

Getting there: The Kelso Dunes are located between I -40 and I – 15 towards the Eastern California border. Kelbaker rd connects to the 2 freeways, it will take you there. There is sign for the dunes a few miles south of Kelso. From here a dirt road with the dunes in view will take you 3 miles to the parking lot.

An aerial view of the Kelso Dunes.
The extensive view of the dune field from the air.

Steve’s Mojave Desert gallery
Steve’s workshop listings