That’s a rewarding compliment for a shooter. It makes the photographer feel like they’ve tapped into something special, unique, and personal. It’s why we do what we do. Half the fun of being a photographer is getting out and exploring. Putting ourselves in a position to capture a moment that is definitively ours. The second half is being successful at communicating our vision inside a single frame. Lets face it, content is everything? It requires timing, good exposure, and more often than not, luck. But, I’ve always defined luck using that old photojournalism slogan, ”F/8 And Be There!”` Ya can’t win if you don’t enter, right? You have to be out there making photographs, searching for subject matter, refining your craft to get great photographs. A musician doesn’t get better without practicing. And, neither can a photographer.
The great photographer Henri Cartier Bresson once said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” It takes time to polish your vision. There are many layers to understanding the depths of photographic communication. Following your own instincts is the most important step. When subject matter calls out to you, that’s a message. Listen to it. This is the first step in defining your own style. It came from you, not someone else. Set aside what you’ve seen done before on similar subject matter. Ask yourself, “what is it that drew me in?” Was it the color, texture, or composition? Were there visual relationships between the clouds and waves? Was a monochromatic scene interrupted with subtle colors in the moss in the foreground? Whatever it was, find that answer.
Once you understand what it was that called out to you, the next step is capturing it. Sounds easy, right? This is where photography is challenging and requires work. How one records that message is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The right ingredients of lens, aperture, perspective and exposure all combine to fine-tune your vision. Exploring your subject thoroughly often reveals little secrets that further stimulate your imagination. You get to know your subject intimately. Sometimes giving your subject a 360º walk around provokes you to seeing it in a new way. Maybe from behind is the best side? By the time your done following your instincts, examining your subject, you know it so well that chances are pretty good you’ll walk away with the essence of that moment. If nothing else, you leave with enough material that in your edit, one image will speaks louder than the others. Suddenly, your style is developing.
Giving yourself options during an edit forces you to become a better photographer. Too many photographers just show everything. They are afraid to make choices. And consequently, they bore their audiences with repetition. When you ween through images, asking yourself why one frame is better than the other, even though they are similar, you learn more about your own images. There is a reason one frame is stronger than the other. Image by image, you eliminate the weakest in the herd. By the time you make a final select, you have the strongest image……….and you know why!
You are a better photographer for plowing through that process.
Other considerationsfor fine tuning personal vision include preference for color or black & white. My roots are in black & white. The intense tonal relationships that beckon my camera based on tonal values alone still reach me. At times, I only see in B/W. It’s a different way of seeing, more organic perhaps. I say that because my past (film days) dealt with light sensitive silver halide crystals that become excited when exposed to light and came alive when processed in chemicals. Digital is different, but nonetheless part of seeing in B/W for many photographers is a way of seeing, period. For them, its reality. Color can at times infect content with color alone. A case where color dominates the photograph first, overriding content. However, isn’t that just the flip side to allowing B/W tonal values define the image? There is no right answer to this. Its a personal choice based on the individual situation. Choosing the right medium to allow your voice to be heard is just good decision making. It’s a question of personal style fine-tuning your vision.
In the case of the “Blue Door” at Skogar Folk Museum, I watched everyone walk passed the door. The blue had me so excited. It was like glacial blue. Perfect for Iceland, right? I had to wait for everyone to leave the room so I could huddle into a corner and aim my wide angle at the door. The hues of blue in the corners confirmed my stop. The image had balance and color that electrified my vision of this simple yet complicated scene.
We spotted the well-known black & white church in Budir along the western fjords and knew immediately this scene demanded representation in B/W. The clouds, the stone wall and grasses simply blended in tonal magic. There was never any question of using this in color. Use of a wide angle lens added drama to the scene. But, I was careful not to go too wide. I didn’t want to lose the connection with the white crosses to the right in the cemetery.
On a blustery day along the south coast, the light was fading fast. I spotted a glistening chunk of ice in the waves and wanted to try to create something out of it. Its was a tough photographic challenge. The sea, if captured with a fast shutter speed, made for a confusing image. There was no separation between the ice and the waves. It all blended together and looked awful. The only answer was a long exposure to smooth out the sea water as waves poured around the ice. I was lucky that the ice block was heavy enough that it didn’t move during the long exposure. If the ice lost its sharpness, I had no photograph. Initially, I had seen this image as a B/W photograph. Then, the guy next to me on the beach was shining a green laser on the ice. The light was so bright and colorful, it completely changed my perspective on the drab scene. I asked for a quick blast of light on my ice chunk and magic just appeared.
Along the coast I spotted a cliff with marvelous columnar geology, relatively common in Iceland. It was another overcast, dreary day and perfect for this type of photograph. Using a telephoto lens, I framed the subject and using a long exposure, waited for the wave action to provide me with a highlight in a fairly grey scene. I choose B/W over color for two reasons; One, the rocks were a lovely tone a gray, and secondly, the lower portion of the rocks had a green algae growth to competed with the geology. By choosing not to go with color, you don’t see this distraction and the power of the volcanic action moves forward.
JOIN Layne Kennedy with FocusOnNature in 2014 for a fascinating ICELAND photographic journey:
Experience the midnight sun, waterfalls and dramatic landscape. Sailing in midnight sunlight, birds, animals and the interesting locals.
We will travel on western part of Iceland for a week with the one aim to have fun and take great images. We will photograph horses running in the surf and horsemen riding their horses on sandy beaches and in the sea. We will look for birds in their nest or feeding the young ones. We will visit cliffs full of bird’s nest. We will sail in the midnight sun and in the twilights for hours around it. We will be awake or sleep as our spirit feels. We will scout for whales and hunt for exciting light.
On our bucket list during this week is to photograph horses, sheep, birds, the young ones, Snaefellsnes glacier and waterfalls, seals, farmers, rural farms and villages, the locals and local scenarios. All in one work-win-fun package.
Come and join my exploring and photographing behind the scene in Iceland.
Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson
Ragnar has a long experience as a photographer and if anything his passion for photography is increasing. He also loves to share and assist with technical or creative issues. Ragnar has worked for all the major companies in Iceland and his images have been displayed on some of the world most famous magazines. Ragnar’s main clients to day are Arctic-images.com, FocusOnNature.is, Gettyimages.com and Crobis.com.
Rangar has published 29 books and several new ones are on the way. Books Ragnar is now working on are about low light photographing the night sky and the auroras, a book about water and glaciers related to the year of the glaciers by Unesco, a book about the Icelandic horse and some more.
All the logistics is handled by the elite program organizer FocusOnNature, who takes care of you all the time, from beginning to then end. FocusOnNature ensure you only need to focus on photograph and have fun. During the photo excursion with Ragnar we do what we always have wanted to do, drive less and photograph more. So we are limiting us to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, digging into that area, do things with the assistance of the locals Ragnar knows so well and making the most of your time with us.
We don’t publish and itinerary, but I know Rangar has a main frame in his mind. Ragnar is a natural hunter for exciting moments, continuously reviewing the conditions and situations, with the pure focus on making great images and he loves to have fun and good laughs. And he knows all the locals to make things possible that normally would not be possible.
All accommodation are single except otherwise wished for. All food and provisions, except alcoholic beverage are included.
You won’t be lost in the crowd in this Dan Burkholder workshop presented for a small, select few. With personalized attention at every turn, you’ll learn how Dan’s informative, humorous and generous style can make your week of photography like no other.
Dan Burkholder brings iPhone Artistry to Iceland with an emphasis on creativity, composition and keeping it light, Gone are the sore shoulders and bulky camera bags. With your iPhone and a handful of accessories, you’ll spend your time and energy exploring the magnificent photo opportunities unique to Iceland. Everything from volcanic vistas to ice-filled lagoons will grace your iPhone’s LCD during this week of photography, fun, learning and memory making.
Between shooting adventures and iPhone-specific processing sessions, we’ll eat, drink and love the photographic experience in its purest form. And with an intimate class size that’s limited to five, you’ll get lots of individual help with your iPhone captures, your iPhone image editing, and developing a workflow that makes sense for the way you travel, the way you see, and the way you love your finished images to look.
This is your chance to explore and make artistic images with the guy who literally wrote the book, iPhone Artistry. Why be a Sherpa for your gear when you can carry both camera and digital lab in your pocket. Join us for photography like it was always meant to be! Better move fast to get one of the five spots!
For photographers, I think that it’s vital to cultivate the habit of looking and seeing and finding images wherever you are, even if you don’t have a camera with you. And while finding images in the familiar places close to home is always important, there’s nothing quite like going on a journey that is devoted solely to your photography for super-charging your creativity and taking your image making to a whole new level.
It’s a commitment to your art and craft, to something you really love. It’s an investment in yourself, and in the possibilities that art and creativity bring into your life. Most photographers love nothing more than going out to make images. It’s one of the things in life that makes them feel the most alive and connected to the world around them. And traveling somewhere just to focus (pun intended!) on your photography can be a transformational experience…. part road trip, part vision quest, part adventure.
That’s what my “Creative Discoveries in Iceland” workshop is all about: traveling to an island of stunningly beautiful, majestic landscapes and amazing light, and going on a creative adventure. Learning to see images in new ways, improving your camera work and digital processing technique, becoming a better photographer. It’ll be an incredible week of wonderful sights, memorable experiences, good company, and excellent image-making opportunities. Take a look at the video below to get a small sense of what the trip will be like.
Discover the wonders of Iceland through the creative lens of photography with fine art photographer, author and digital imaging expert Seán Duggan. On this inspiring trip you’ll explore the varied and spectacular landscapes of Iceland, learning to improve not only your camera technique, but also your photographic vision, and understanding of how to get the most from your images in the digital darkroom.
No, we are not crazy. We’re unique. That’s what many photographers are discovering now. With just one quick flight (4-5 hours from Europe or 5-7 hours from the US) you can arrive in Iceland, enjoy Reykjavik (one of Europe’s hippest cities), and experience amazing photographic adventures.
And this time Focus On Nature is going to raise the bar even higher – because we can.
We have the best team we can imagine to take our workshops to new heights. It’s our most experienced team ever. Masters of the medium Digital Photo Destination’s John Paul CaponigroandSeth Resnick, join forces with renowned arctic photographic specialist Ragnar Th Sigurdsson, whose experience photographing winter, glaciers, ice caves, auroras, and night skies is unparalleled.
Join us for this other-worldly photographic experience. Iceland is a natural wonderland. Dramatic coastlines, raging rivers, frozen waterfalls, glaciers, ice caves, icebergs, snowy deserts, geothermals – you’ll experience all this and more! As exciting as all of that is, what makes this workshop even more unique is the night sky. Right now, it’s the peak of a 12 year cycle of aurora activity. The skies have never been more dramatic – and it will be a over a decade before they’re like this again. What’s more, Iceland is located on the auroral oval, where global activity is highest. Plus, the latest advances in digital cameras offer game changing technology for night photography. Photographing the auroras in Iceland is on our bucket list. If it’s on yours, you’d be crazy not to join us!
Response has been so positive that we’ve added session II, March 6-12.
And we have only few spots left. One of them could be yours.
During the DPD’s Iceland winter workshops we do what we do best.
We follow the interesting light as much as possible.
Day or night, we go to the best locations in the best light; chasing dramatic light by day and clear skies at night best for capturing starry skies and auroras. Our “magical mystery bus” is mobile and our accommodations and schedule are flexible so we can adapt to the weather, heading south, east, north or west. We have a lifetime of local contacts (Remember, we are the locals!) that keep us informed of current conditions and allow us access to places only a few can go.
This is not just another photo tour; it’s a workshop! Our world-renowned leaders are at the top of their games. Lectures, demonstrations, exercises, and follow up review sessions deliver unmatched opportunities to improve your photographic skills. It’s non-stop learning, even when we travel, the group shares information and images. Come breathe photography for a week with us!
While we travel to wild remote places, all accommodations are in private rooms with bathroom and shower – and the food is great too.
Get a taste of what this experience will be like and start learning now with these great online resources.
I had the pleasure of traveling with Sean in Iceland last summer; enjoy his great company, personality and humor. Not to mention both his artistic vision and technical knowledge in image capture, processing and creating composites.
Here is one image that Sean made in Iceland that is a great example of his pre-visualization for the end results. The microscope was a tiny instrument he placed among the rocks on this black sand beach, echoing the shapes of the rocky sea stacks in the distance. This is not a composite, but is a single exposure, made with a wooden pinhole camera and black & white film, and is part of his series “Artifacts of an Uncertain Origin”.
To work with Sean on location and then later see the results is a great experience. Sean has been teaching photography and digital imaging for over 15 years and he loves to share and help other photographers take their image making to new levels and realize their creative visions. That’s what makes him such a great instructor. Nothing fancy, just straight to the core practical instruction and a passion for sharing.
The new 2nd edition of the book “Photoshop Masking & Compositing”, by Sean, Katrin Eismann and James Porto has now replaced any other books I have as my number one bible when it comes to learning and mastering Photoshop. It stands apart from so many similar books, in that it is very friendly reading for tackling both the conceptual and the technical approach to masking and compositing with Photoshop.
Sean shares excellent videos online to help people learn some of the essential principles of Lightroom or Photoshop and you can get a good sense of his teaching style and pleasure in sharing his knowledge by viewing these. Before you sign up for Sean’s workshop adventure with us in the raw nature of Iceland, take a look at his latest Lightroom Viewfinder video here:
For information about Sean Duggan’s Iceland photography workshop June 29 – July 6, 2013, you can read all about it under
illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
Software pre-visualized images
and whatever presents itself during our wanderings!
Aside from the remarkable landscape of Iceland, we also have various very interesting and uniquely Icelandic structures that are really fun to photograph and to include in this incredible landscape.
The hillsides on the southeast coast are like something out of a fantasy movie, like Harry Potter. But, the size is only perceptible when this small shack is placed in the foreground.
One of the coolest new structures in Reykjavik is the Harpa Fine Art Center. Aside from the interesting small monoliths outside, we are allowed the shoot inside with tripods where the light play is fantastic!
When shooting this very cool small Icelandic church, the rain became a bit much to deal with. After returning to the vehicle, one of the windows was covered with heavy water drops. We all took turns shooting various versions of this image. Afterwards, the image was optimized using Nik Color Efex Pro 4, including the addition of the graduated blue filter.
Composition is always paramount in image creation. Many of the farms have their own sanctuaries. In this case, the opening was used to frame the structure, more dramatically pulling the viewer into the picture space.
I am a huge fan of long exposures, especially in bright conditions. The thermal power plant gave a perfect opportunity to use my 10 stop neutral density filter to achieve a 10 second exposure to create the surreal look of the steam against the blue sky.
The vastness of Iceland is perfect for illustrating a sense of scale and the small blue farm house was the perfect juxtaposition color-wise and scale-wise. I waited for the shadow, created by the setting sun, to get low enough to balance the composition.
Then, there’s always just driving around to see what presents itself. On a post workshop trip up the west coast, Sue and I came across a small fishing village. Upon driving down a ramp to get to the dock, we looked back and saw this unbelievable scene! We photographed this in subdued light as the sun rose, lighting the house and the rocky shoreline, leaving the background hill in the shade for the greatest visual interest.
This street scene in Reykjavik was of interest to me during both of our visits and I finally decided to create an HDR stitched pan to get the look I was after. Later, optimizing with Nik Software, Lucis Pro, and Flypaper textures to finish off the image.
As you can see, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak!
During our August workshop, we will be on the look out for:
striking architecture in Rekyjavik
long exposure opportunities
illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
Software pre-visualized images
and whatever presents itself during our wanderings!
We look forward to sharing our favorite photography location on earth during our August 19-25 workshop.
With all the workshops and photo tour offerings out there today, people often ask me, “How do I choose the best one for my needs?” First of all, I think you need to begin by thinking about the location/destination. One of the most exotic places I have ever been is Iceland.
For years, I dreamed of going to this magical place and last year I finally had the opportunity while leading a workshop/photo tour with Focus On Nature director Einar Erlendsson. Of all the individuals and groups running photography programs in Iceland, none come close to the organization and experience that Einar and his team provide. Not only do they all have first hand knowledge of the country, as they are all natives, but as photographers they know and understand exactly what photographers are looking for in the way of locations and getting you there. Add to that, the fact that your fee is inclusive of everything and there are no bad surprises. Great accommodations, meals, all terrain vehicles for transportation, etc. all help make the experience first rate!
Secondly, you want to look at the instructor, his experience, knowledge as well as comments from past participants. I’ve been photographing professionally for forty years and teaching for over twenty years in locations around the world. I pride myself in connecting with the best programs out there and that is why I am working with Focus On Nature in Iceland.
Finally, consider the specific program. My class, “The Color of Iceland”, differs from the others that are offered in that we will be exploring the country from all points of view… the landscape, the architecture, the people, the culture, etc. with color as the common denominator. All of these elements are key in defining a country’s sense of place and my hope and desire is to not only help take you to your “next step” photographically but show you how to create a body of work that illustrates your vision of this awesome place called Iceland. To help accomplish this, we will have the added benefit of some classroom time for lectures, editing and critiquing before, during and after our travels giving you the advantage of constant feedback as we go.
So, if you’re trying to decide on a workshop/photo tour that offers you the total package, join me August 5-11 in Iceland for what promises to be one of the best photographic experiences available.
- Arthur Meyerson
For more information or to sign up to my workshop in Iceland, August 5-11, go to The Color of Iceland
You’ve probably noticed that when you travel you’re more likely to come away with strong images. Sometimes with images that break out of what you have been doing and set a new creative direction. Why is that?
Humans are wired in a way so that when we move out of routine, our brain chemistry changes. Maybe it has to do with the protective “fight or flight” response of our early ancestors. But in any case, this change in blood chemistry results in heightened awareness that alters how we respond to a new environment.
As photographers, this is huge gift. Put in a new situation, we are more aware of composition, color, line, texture and pattern; the key elements every artist explores in their work. Moreover, taken out of our routine world with more time to think about the world in front of our lens, we are more open to the “what if” in a situation. We are more willing to try a different composition, play with a new concept, collaborate in a new way with a model.
Of all the places on the planet, Iceland is in my opinion the best place to capitalize on the heightened awareness that comes from travel. With every ecosystem on the planet but one, there are incredible geological formations around every turn. From steaming mudpots, to thundering waterfalls, spongy moss-covered lava, calving glaciers and crystal blue fjords, Iceland has spectacular landscapes begging to be photographed. And with just a little over 300,000 inhabitants it’s easy to experience the raw, unspoiled environment just a short distance from civilization.
With all thatis available for dramatic backgrounds, it’s really important to have great talent when shooting fine art nudes. Models who in energy and spirit can match the magnificence of the environment in which they are placed. Fortunately, we are working with models who are Scandinavian and European. In my experience, these models are different from models in the United States. They may share the same professionalism with talent in the U.S., but their attitude toward nudity is different. They are comfortable with their bodies, and as a result not shy in front of the camera. They are terrifically talented and great collaborators in the creative process. With these great models, the opportunity to place them in remarkable environment and your heightened creativity, great things are bound to happen.
On our first day together, we’ll gather to get acquainted, talk about the legacy of images in fine art nude photography and look at the work of all the participants. It’s an opportunity for a supportive critique of your work, and the chance to familiarize yourself with the people you will be working alongside of during the week.
Then it’s off to shoot on location. Each day, we’ll seek out environments that will inspire you to explore the human form in all its power and beauty. Watching the weather, we’ll choose where to go to optimize you image-making opportunities. The rides to and from the location are full of conversation, music and laughs and camaraderie builds each day through the week.
Once we are at a location, I’ll do a short demonstration that is tailored to your growth. It may have to do with composition, the technical aspects of creating a great digital file or negative in challenging lighting, or how to work with talent in a collaborative way. The shoot will not be about me, but about you and your development.
After the demonstration, you’ll take turns shooting with a model on a one-on-one basis, rotating with two other photographers in your group. If you are not shooting, you’ll continue to learn by assisting the participant that is behind the camera, observing how another photographer thinks and works. I’ve had many comments from past participants of how valuable this is for their own growth.
At the end of the day, it’s off to dinner, and editing work for a critique the following morning. After the review and answering any questions on aesthetics or technical matters relating to shooting or post processing, we jump back into the SUV’s for another round of shooting.
On Saturday, after five days of location photography. you’ll spend time editing images and working in Lightroom and Photoshop to create final files for reproduction. I’ll be there for a critique and to answer any questions about software and post processing techniques to maximize the impact of your favorite images. We end the workshop with a fun filled dinner that night to celebrate your new-found expanded vision.
I firmly believe that combining the human figure with the dramatic landscapes of Iceland can open up new worlds for you as a photographer. I encourage you to join me in this wonderful exploration that is sure to create lifetime memories.
I’ve been to Iceland several times and the reason I keep returning is that it truly is one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen. I’m sure you can tell by the photos that this year’s trip is going to be a visually-rich journey. What the photos might not explain, however, is how our Iceland trips are also a journey into your own creativity and photographic education.
When I was asked by Focus on Nature to write a blog post about my upcoming June 2012 trip, I decided that, instead of telling you how beautiful it’s going to be (you can see that for yourself), I would actually share some of the things you might learn in my workshop. We don’t have the space to cover everything I might teach, so I thought I’d just pick one topic and give you an example of the type of things you might learn.
In Iceland, there’s one thing you simply can’t avoid seeing a lot of: waterfalls. There are so many that, when you start your trip, you’ll be excited about every one you encounter, but then over time you’ll start to take them for granted and only seek out the ones that offer something overly unique to capture. Here are a dozen tips that I use when shooting waterfalls. I hope you can come to Iceland to learn some of these techniques in the field with me.
1.) Fast Shutter Speeds
Your choice of shutter speed will have most dramatic effect on how your waterfall images will look. Shooting with a fast shutter speed will freeze every drop of water and produce a lot more fine detail than using a long exposure. There’s a trick I often use when shooting this way that will cause a waterfall to look as if it has a lot more whitewater. I shoot multiple exposures using a fast shutter speed and then composite them in Photoshop. I might take 10-12 images and then select the resulting images in Bridge, choose Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers to stack the images in a single file, then click on each layer and change the Blending Mode pop-up menu (found at the top of the Layers panel in Photoshop) to Lighten mode. Setting all the layers to lighten mode has the effect of filing in most of the gaps in the waterfall, which makes it look like there’s more water going down it.
2.) Slow Shutter Speeds
For the traditional silky look in a waterfall, I’ll set my F-stop to f22 and my ISO setting to the lowest setting it goes to. If that doesn’t produce a long enough exposure, then I’ll add a two-stop neutral density filter to the lens to further slow my exposure.
3.) Multiple Shutter Speeds
The problem with shooting a waterfall using a long exposure is that any foliage that surrounds the waterfall can end up being blurry if it’s windy. When that’s the case, I end up shooting a few long exposures to get the silky look with the waterfall and then I’ll increase my ISO setting to ISO 200 and change my Aperture setting to F8 to end up with a much faster shutter speed to freeze any motion in the greenery that surrounds the waterfall. Once I’m in Photoshop, I’ll stack one of the fast shutter speed shots on top of a slow shutter speed image and then add a layer mask to the top layer and paint with black over the waterfall so that the slow shutter speed shot is used in that area while the fast shutter speed is used on the surrounding image.
4.) Wide Angle to Expand Space
If I can get close to the stone wall that is behind a waterfall, then I’ll end up shooting with a very wide angle lens. That will have the effect of visually exaggerating the space between near and far objects in a scene and can make the waterfall feel like it is farther away from the wall.
5.) Telephoto to Pull Things Together
If I have objects that are far away from the waterfall that I’d like to incorporate into a shot, then I’ll consider using a telephoto lens. Longer lenses visually compress the space between near and far objects in a photograph. That way, I can make it look as if a church is much closer to a waterfall compared to shooting the same scene using a normal or wide angle lens. I’ll simply back away from the church as far as is practical considering the landscape and my view of the waterfall, then I’ll find the longest lens that will allow me to include both the church and waterfall in the shot without cropping out anything essential. By doing so, I’ll make the church feel much closer to the waterfall compared to how it would look if it was shot from up close.
6.) Removing Mist
If there is a breeze at the location of a waterfall, then the area to the right or left of the waterfall can become obscured by the mist that’s coming off the waterfall. To reduce or eliminate that mist, I’ll take multiple exposures using the same exposure settings. I’ll end up with 10-12 images that look very similar, but the position of the mist will vary slightly. I’ll then stack the resulting images and then blend them using Darken mode in Photoshop, which will help to break through the mist by allowing the gaps in the mist to add up from each shot. The technique is very similar to what I mentioned in #1 above.
7.) Shooting for Large Format Output
If I know that I’ll want to make a huge print of a waterfall, then I’ll shoot it as a multi-shot panorama and stitch the resulting images. That way, I’ll end up with a much higher resolution image than what I could get from a single shot. To get a really clear and sharp image, I’ll manually focus using the LiveView feature of my camera at 10X magnification. I’ll also use a cable release to insure that I don’t bump the camera when pressing the shutter and use the mirror lockup feature to further reduce camera movement. I’ll also use an aperture setting of f8 or f11 because that’s the range where your lens is the sharpest. All those things put together will allow me to produce a huge image that is extremely sharp.
8.) Show off Scale
A waterfall all by itself is OK, but getting a human element in the scene gives the viewer a much better sense of scale. In that kind of setup, I’ll try to make sure I don’t shoot from a position too close to the human subject. If I stand close to them, then they will appear huge in the frame which can cause the waterfall to feel smaller. Shooting them from further away can help to make the waterfall feel larger since the person will not look as large in comparison.
9.) Bracket for a Blue Sky
I often need to vary my exposures in order to retain detail in the sky. Let’s say I run across a waterfall that is in the shade and surrounded by a dark cliff. Once I get the exposure so that the waterfall is rendered satisfactorily, there is a good chance that the sky will end up blown out as a solid white mass. After capturing a good looking exposure of the waterfall, I’ll take my next shot about two stops darker in order to capture detail in the sky. I can then stack the two images as separate layers in Photoshop and then mask the darker image so that it only shows up where the sky should be. That way, I get detail in both the waterfall and the sky.
If I ever include the sun in a shot of a waterfall, I’ll take multiple shots and vary the aperture setting to change the way the sun is rendered. When shooting “wide open” at f2.8, the sun will look like it does to my eye in the field. Stopping down the lens to f22 will cause the same sun to become a starburst. Shooting both versions will give me two options. I can either call attention to the sun (by using the starburst version) or simply make it look normal. When including the sun in a shot, I always take a look at the front element of my camera lens. If the sunlight is falling on the front glass of my lens, then I’m going to end up with a lens flare in the image and lower contrast in the scene overall. To prevent the flare and increase contrast, I’ll position my hand so that it casts a shadow on the front of the camera lens while it’s just outside of the camera’s view.
11.) Near and Far, Both Sharp
I often try to get my camera extremely close to the pool of water that is found at the bottom of a waterfall. By doing so, the viewer will often feel more connected to the experience. That often involves putting my tripod in the water and getting the camera lens within an inch of the water’s surface. When something is that close to the lens, it can be difficult to maintain sharp focus across the entire distance between the pool water (that’s close) and the waterfall (that’s far). That’s when I might choose to take multiple exposures with different focus points and use an aperture setting that limits the depth of field and therefore renders areas that are far away from the focus point as soft. In one I’ll focus on the water near the camera, in another, I’ll focus 1/4 of the way between the near and far areas, in a third, I’ll focus a bit closer to the waterfall and in another I’ll be focused right on the waterfall. I can then stack the resulting images in Photoshop, select the resulting layers and then use the Edit>Auto-Blend Layers command to have it combine the sharp areas from each shot into a single image.
12.) Water on the Lens
I always keep a towel nearby when shooting waterfalls. Any mist coming off the waterfall can easily collect on the front element of the lens and cause blurry blobs to appear on the resulting captures. I drape the towel over the camera when I’m moving around the scene and getting set up. I also use it along with a lens cloth to clean off any water droplets that accumulate on the lens. If I simply can’t avoid getting a few drops on the lens, then I’ll shoot “wide open” at f2.8 and make sure that I’m focused on an area far away. That will reduce the impact of any droplets on the lens and produce a cleaner looking image compared to shooting at a higher f-stop setting.
Hanging out with me in the field is the only time when you’ll get first-hand experience on how all these ideas can be executed. We only have so much space here on the blog and it’s much easier to understand when you’re actually using these techniques in an environment where you can ask questions and I can review your results. That’s why you should join me in Iceland this year! Our trip will be June 24-30, 2012 with Focus on Nature.
If those are the ideas I might share when shooting waterfall, then imagine how much more you could learn when we explore other subject matter in Iceland. We’ll talk about getting the most compelling compositions, using the most ideal camera settings and the post processing techniques that are essential to producing dramatic images.
The June 24-30 trip will be my sixth visit to Iceland. I know what to expect and have a lot of experience shooting this unique landscape. There is no doubt you’ll leave Iceland a much better photographer than you are right now. You can sign up for this workshop here on the Focus on Nature site.