Tag Archives: sky

Landscape Photography During a Storm

Storm Light at Lake Tahoe

Two sayings speak to this shot. First, the one about a picture can’t do a scene justice. Standing there in the driving hail, witnessing multiple lightning bolts was quite the experience, but as hard as I tried I could not capture one bolt. The main part of the storm cleared right at sunset, so I was disappointed by the lack of color in the sky; however I was happy to come away with one shot from this quick but memorable trip.

My decision to shoot at Lake Tahoe was based purely on the storm in the forecast, and the chance of it clearing at sunset. This brings me to the second saying that came to mind. Be careful what you wish for…Yea, right!

Essential Gear

  • Rain jacket with head cover
  • Water proof footwear
  • Water proof cover for photo equipment
  • Keep a set of dry cloths in your car so you can change after the shoot
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Sunset Curtain Call at Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Tutorial: Blending Two Images

Due to the heavily debated preference between users of HDR software and On Camera Grad Filters, a third very useful option is often overlooked. Whatever your current preference, the blending option described below is easy to use, effective and can produce images that portray a very accurate rendition of the actual scene. This method was used (in Photoshop) to create the image featured above; “Sunset Curtain Call at Seljalandsfoss.”

The Scenario: Attempting to capture this scene from behind the waterfall, was extremely difficult, due to the heavy spray shooting straight back to where I had my tripod set up. All I could do was take several different exposures, quickly replacing the lens cap in-between each shot. I was honestly amazed to find that there was not one drop of water on my lens after completing the shoot.

Blending the Images: Choosing not to use my preferred method of an On Camera Grad Filter, I discovered that I was left with captured images that were either well overexposed or underexposed. The following workflow was used to make the final image of the falls.

1. First, open both the overexposed and underexposed images in Photoshop. Viewing the images side by side you will see that one image is lighter, displaying a well exposed foreground; however the highlights in the sky are too bright. The second image retains good detail in the sky; however the foreground is too dark.

2. The next step is to place one image directly on top of the other. To do this, click on one of the images. For this example, I selected the darker image. In Photoshop, go to Select>All then Edit>Copy. Then click on the lighter image to make it active, and go to Edit>Paste. You will notice that the two images now appear in the Layers Palette. The images should be perfectly aligned which can be verified by setting the top layer to about 50%, so the lower image is visible.

3. Once you are satisfied with image alignment, look at the tools palette to confirm that the front layer box is black, and the back layer box is white. If not, simply click on each box to set the color.

4. Now you will add a Layer Mask to the top layer. To do this, click on the top layer to highlight it, and then click the New Layer Mask Icon found at the bottom of the Layers Palette. The highlighted top layer will now have a white Layer Mask next to the image icon in the Layers Palette.

5. This is where you will begin to paint on the mask, using the Brush Tool. Select the Brush Tool, and set the Brush Diameter. Choose a large brush for areas with no defined lines, such as horizons to quickly paint areas of light in. Use a small Brush for areas where better control and care is needed. With black selected as the front layer box, you will be simply painting light in. By clicking X on your keyboard or the double arrow in the Tools window, you can switch between the white and black layer boxes, which can be useful if you need to remove areas of light.

Using the Paintbrush, you are literally revealing the lighter bottom layer with each Brush stroke. By setting the Brush Opacity command located in the toolbar above your image, you can modify the strength of the effect. This is a great way to experiment, giving the effect of using lighter brush strokes. Using a lower Brush Opacity is also a good way to fine tune your strokes in areas that require more accuracy.

As with any method you choose to process an image with, the technical aspect can take a back seat to an individuals artistic impression. Using the image blending mode, one can choose to produce images that are very natural, or to add individual artistic impression. One other thing about the image blending mode is unlike HDR or On Camera Filters, it is not an extra expense. This process can be completed with almost any software program that facilitates the use of layers.

Seljalandsfoss Siren Sunset

The result of location planning, and a little cooperation from Mother Nature.

New Gear vs. New Travel

A while ago I found myself having to make an important decision. I had a choice; both options being great; however which one should I choose?

My new website had now generated enough sales in order for me to upgrade to a new camera. With great anticipation, I logged onto the B&H Photo website, and began the process of buying a new Nikon D800 camera body. However, just as I was about to confirm my purchase, a thought ran across my mind. Instead of new gear; why not consider travel to a place I had never been to.

After some thought, I feel that my decision really was a simple choice. While I would love to shoot with a new Nikon D800 camera, I realized that it was not a priority for me to own all the best gear; however it was a much bigger goal for me to visit as many beautiful locations as possible. It may sound cliche, but when it comes to camera gear and landscape photography; no matter how much gear you have, beautiful images can only be captured while visiting beautiful places.

Traveling, especially far away places still requires plenty of research and preparation. Even then, bad or unexpected weather can lead to disappointment. One thing I learned from my recent trip was no matter how difficult, try not to have the highest of expectations. My biggest recommendation is if you are not traveling with an organized group, do as much research on your travel destination as possible. During my preplanning I selected the  exact locations I wanted to visit, time of visit, length of stay and knew my options for overnight accommodation while at each location.

Even though some bad weather resulted in my trip being far from perfect, I have absolutely no regrets. I feel that photographing new vistas has increased my knowledge of my trade, by making me more aware of light and composition than ever before. I also have a renewed desire to be a better photographer, and a passion to embark on new travel again in the near future.

My decision to travel to Iceland resulted in an unforgettable adventure!