Posts from the ‘landscape’ Category

Happy New Year from The Photonaturalist!

Red Sedge Yellowstone NP WY 766_6700_2
Hoping your 2013 if filled with Perfect Pixels, Sharp Shots, Amazing Auroras, Bountiful and Beautiful Birds, Wondrous Wildlife, Luscious Landscapes, Scintillating Sunrises and Creative Compositions.

Yellowstone Abstract & Artistic

In Yellowstone, you could take wildlife portraits till the cows come home…or should I say, “until the Bison come home?” But I always try to think a bit out of the box in order to get some unique images. A few years ago, our buddy Chris Gibbs came with us to Yellowstone. Along one “boring” stretch of snow-covered road that traversed a recent forest fire, Chris rolled down his window and started shooting. Ryan and I looked at each other…What the heck was he shooting? The scene outside was anything but beautiful. But Chris was playing with a slow shutter speed, using the contrast of the black trees and white snow and the speed of the car to create very interesting abstracts. We all jumped in and tried the technique, and had a blast doing it. Next time the “light is bad” or it is harsh midday sun, think creatively and play around with exposures, flash, underexposure. The beauty of digital is that we aren’t losing money with every shot as in the “good old film days.”

Colorful stream rocks during a long exposure. Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f32 at 1/5 second on tripod.

Dawn Bison backlit by strong sun, his breath visible in the chilly air. Converted to sepia and contrast increased by use of Curves in Aperture. Canon 7D with Canon 400mm lens, f5.6 at 1/2000 second, underexposed by 2 stops.

A long exposure blurs the water and rocks to create a true abstract. Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f32 at 1/3 second on tripod.

An accidental photo of a bison with a 20mm lens from inches away…But I love it! The vignetted look, the texture of the Bison’s pelt, and the golden backlit hair in the lower left…It works for me. Of course, it will never sell, but we need to take photos for ourselves first and foremost.

Bridget says I take too many silhouettes…But she actually likes this one! I underexposed the scene by 3 full stops in the field then changed the white balance in Aperture so the sky went from blue to gold. The adult and calf are nicely separated and you can even see their individual legs. Canon 7D with Canon 500mm f4 lens and 1.4x teleconverter, f5.6 at 1/500 second on tripod.

Creativity isn’t limited to the field…Here I opened a stream rock image in Photoshop and applied the “poster edges” filter to create a crazy pattern.

I really liked this Raven image right out of the camera…EXCEPT the background color was blaaah! So I performed a tight crop, took out the background, replaced it with a solid color and then applied the “poster edges” filter in Photoshop. I love the accentuated pattern of the breast feathers.

Wild West Landscapes October 2012

[**Just a reminder, landscapes look pathetically puny at 470 pixels wide, but by clicking on an image you can view it at a bit larger scale in a new window.]

Yellowstone is known for its wildlife, but it is also a fantastic place for landscape photography. Especially good because you can include the wildlife in your scenics for added interest and scale. Here are a few of my favorites from our recent mid October trip.

Ryan brought along a 9-stop neutral density (ND) filter, a high-quality screw in filter from B+W that allows long exposures even on sunny days. I threw it on my Sigma 10-20mm lens to create this 20 second exposure. When on the lens, it is impossible to autofocus, so you need to focus BEFORE putting on the filter. I love the smooth buttery flow of the water and the glow of the shaded rock wall. 10mm lens at f22 for 20 seconds (!) ISO 200.

We were following a bull elk across the landscape when we topped a rise and found this dramatic scene. I excitedly set up the tripod and then realized I’d left my 70-200mm lens in the car. So off I ran, hopping dozens of downed trees from the fires of 1988 still laying on the ground. When I returned the scene had changed…and not for the better. Still, I like this shot…It has a prehistoric Ice Age feel. Canon 70-200mm f4 lens at 200mm.

We thought this cloudless morning would mean a drama-less dawn, but steam from the Firehole Geyser basin created this sunrise scene. Canon 70-200mm lens handheld braced on car door.

The shaded canyon of the Firehole River at dawn. The water, heated by geothermal features upriver, steams on cold mornings. The pre-dawn blue was emphasized in Aperture. Canon 70-200mm lens handheld.

Our trip coincided with clear night skies and a very late moonrise which enabled us to get great shots of the Milky Way. This one was taken straight up through the Ponderosa Pines, which were lit by just the glow of a campfire. Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm f4 for 30 seconds. ISO 800. On a tripod. Tungsten white balance.

Is this a landscape image OR a wildlife shot? Not sure really, but I like the peaceful feel of the grazing Bison along the Firehole River (Fountain Flat Drive). Canon 70-200mm lens at 122mm. f7.1 at 1/400 second on tripod.

These “skeleton trees” near the Firehole Lake Drive never seem to disappoint. We have shot here many times and the conditions always seem to be different. Blue cast emphasized in Aperture. Sigma 10-20mm lens at 14mm, f9 1/1000 second. Tungsten white balance.

Monochrome Swans

I drive over the bridge that spans the St. Louis River at Fond du Lac nearly every day…And the scene is rarely the same. And this day was no exception. With temps in the 60s and even 70s recently, the snow has melted and the river is opening up. And when the river opens up, the migrant birds appear instantly. Often my first spring Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Flicker, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and Trumpeter Swans are seen/heard from the bridge. On this day, dense fogs created a dreamscape of gray and white. The silhouetted trees and islands really make the shot. I like the shape of the sweeping horizontal limbs on the right. It took many shots to get both Trumpeter Swans with their heads up since they feed almost constantly, heads submerged. I also like the 3 Canada Geese just loafing on the “iceberg.” I tweaked the color balance to the blue side to add a bit of a feeling of winter turning to spring. Moody!

[Note: This image looks better the larger it is, so click on it once to see a larger image, then click again to see it at its max size.]

Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm f4 lens, tripod

Iceland Summer 3—Rekjavik in HDR


Part 3 of a look back at our Scandinavian honeymoon from 2006:

I think the Insight Guide to Iceland put it quite well, “Visitors are often unsure whether Reykjavik is a scaled-down city or a scaled-up village.” At 112,000 residents it is about the size of Duluth-Superior…And most of its growth has been since WWII. It was only a town of 5,000 folks in 1901. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital at 64 degrees North. Strolling through the old city centre is a charming look at Icelandic culture. One thing I noticed right away is that many of the brightly-colored houses were sided with corrugated metal! One amazing fact is that the entire city is heated with geothermal heat…No fossil fuels used to heat a northern city!

We know the explorer pictured above as Leif Erickson, but in Iceland he is known as Leifur Eriksson, and he is a national hero. Son of the Viking Erik the Red (who discovered Greenland), Leifur also became an explorer and (as all Scandinavians know) “discovered” America centuries before Columbus. This reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker…“Proud to Live in America…A Norwegian Colony since 1004 AD.”

[Photo Note:] All photos in this post are “HDR” images. High Dynamic Range images are created in software programs (I use Photomatix), usually from 3 or more images exposed for different parts of the scene. This technique is especially useful in scenes where it is impossible for the camera to capture the entire range of exposure. Examples would be a shadowed landscape with a bright sky. The software averages out the exposures in the highlights and shadows so all areas are middle range. It is a unique look and not everyone likes it. I must admit that I do like the surreal effect.

Jon Gunnar Arnason’s striking sculpture Solfar (Sun-Craft, 1986) sits along the oceanfront in Reykjavik.

Sheep, sheep, everywhere. I’m sure it’s true that, like New Zealand, there are more sheep inhabiting this island than humans. And crazy cool sheep. They say that every single sheep on Iceland is descended from Viking stock. And there are no fences! …hence this road sign not far from Reykjavík.
Every autumn, farmers go on horseback with their Icelandic sheep dogs to round up their flocks. The flocks are driven into huge wheel-shaped corrals with the “spokes of the wheel” defining the pens. Every farm has its own mark cut into their sheep’s ears and this is how they sort them into the correct pens. Icelandic wool is still big business in Iceland.

Iceland Summer 2—Vik i Myrdal


North Shore of Minnesota or South Coast of Iceland? Basalt is basalt, right?

Dutch birders scan the sea from perfect perches of 5-sided columnar-jointed rock, a feature of slow-cooling lava flows.

Black sand meets white surf at Vik i Myrdal. This rare formation was likely created when lava flows poured directly into the cold ocean, fragmenting into tiny pieces. This beach was voted one of the World’s Top Ten Beaches by Island magazine…the only non-tropical beach to make the list.

Vik’s red-steepled church.

I almost lost my wife of 5-days at Vik i Myrdal. We were knocking around on the stunning black lava sand beach (photo above) when we saw a couple birders perched on the rocks looking seaward (photo above). I went to talk with them while Bridget decided to explore a narrow strip of beach hemmed in by cliff on one side and the North Atlantic on the other. I chatted with the hard-to-understand Dutch couple about birds, but it was obvious they were trying to tell me something else. I finally figured out that they were pointing to the sea where Bridget had gone, pantomiming to me—the idiot American—that every so often a big wave would break. I ran down the beach, only to see Bridget nearly swept out to sea by one of these “rogue waves.” The wave surge went all the way to the cliff and engulfed Bridget up to her waist. Thankfully she stayed on her feet and was not sucked out into the cold ocean. It was one of those moments that, after it’s over, you get a whole body shudder at the thought of what might have been.

Other than that frightening moment, Vik i Myrdal was a stunning place to visit (population 400 or so). We stayed at a guesthouse (most lodging choices in Iceland are guesthouses…hotels/motels are few and far between) above the town, with a view to the red-spired church (photo above). Hiking up to the top of the nearby Head wall is a huffing-puffing affair but a worthwhile effort—the scenery is spectacular. Also a great place to be eye-to-eye with flying Northern Fulmars and possibly even an Atlantic Puffin.

Most photos taken with Canon 10D and either Sigma 10-20mm or Canon 70-200mm f4

Lake Superior Icescape

Since I’m daddy-daycare on weekday mornings, I don’t get out for sunrise shooting as much as I used to. So when I get a chance, I like to take it. Though we had a cold winter, not much ice formed on Lake Superior this year. This has more to do with the water temp going into winter and the wind over the Lake in winter, than just cold temps. But with recent northeast winds, some ice had blown in to the “Head of the Lake” which is Duluth.

Huge frozen “drifts” of solid ice formed about 100 yards off Park Point. These form where open water splashes and crashes into shore ice. Some may be ten to twelve feet high. Most are crescent-shaped. On this particular morning, the chunks of ice had rounded off from jostling each other in the swells. Not quite “pancake ice,” which are perfectly rounded ice chunks.

Fortunately there were clouds in the sky when I arrived well before sunrise. This may seem counterintuitive, but landscape photographers live for scattered clouds. If completely cloudy, no sun will peak through and there will be no color in the sky. Completely clear and there will also be no color in the sky…just a brief moment at sunrise when there is a chance for atmospheric color. Today the sun rose above Superior and lit up the clouds with hints of blue, purple and orange. I used a 2-stop Neutral Density filter to hold back the sky which was several stops brighter than the ice.

When I got home, I discovered that I had several nice images of the sky, and several with a better composition with the foreground ice, but no single image that really popped. I decided to combine my favorite sky with my best foreground. I did this with Layers in Photoshop. Easy to do in this case with a relatively level horizon. The Eraser Tool, Levels, Curves and Saturation completed the work. Technically, this image is a photo-illustration since it is two photos combined into one. It can not be entered into competitions unless there is a category for such manipulated images. But I don’t care, as this one is just for me…and I like it!

Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm, f16 at 1/25 second, ISO 320, tripod, 2-stop Galen Rowell Graduated ND filter