Monthly Archives: January 2011

Red Barn and Pogonip

December brought extremely cold temperatures,  freezing fog and a blanket of frost to the area surrounding Lake Tahoe. Knowing that these extreme conditions can create a special mood for the right composition, I spent three mornings searching within the pogonip for interesting “western” scenes.  I had driven past this traditional red barn hundreds of times, but this is the first image I have composed of the structure.

The frosted trees, pogonip and diffused morning light add an air of history to the scene. I especially liked the way the mountain backdrop disappeared into the mist allowing my imagination to wander. The detail of the tree’s soft shadow on the barn is subtle, but intriguing. I much preferred this “softer” feeling image to the bright contrasty, literal scene I observed the previous morning. An iconic western scene became something special when paired with unique and dramatic natural conditions. Using the panoramic format enabled me to eliminate the clearing sky and retain the intimate feel I desired.

Tips: Given the extreme temperatures (about 5 degrees F) I kept my camera pack in the back of my truck as I explored, eliminating issues like fogging that can occur by taking the camera directly out of a heated vehicle. My camera backpack is padded, so the equipment cools slowly as I explore. In these frigid conditions, I always hold my breath when near the lens. Warm moist air that is breathed out will coat the lens and immediately freeze and will take precious time to thaw. Wiping a frost covered lens can create scratches and damage a modern lenses coating. To protect myself, I was using a new pair of fleece gloves that had pile on the inside, but a smooth weave on the outside. They were thin enough to handle the controls on my bellows camera, but still kept my fingers from becoming frost bitten. Finally, watch your exposure in foggy conditions. This type of scene often requires an exposure compensation of +1/2 to +1 full stop. I usually cross reference my spot metering with an ambient reading. If shooting digital, watch the left side of your histogram.

Posted in Barn, Carson Valley, fog, Lake Tahoe, Landscape, Nevada, Panorama, photo techniques, Pogonip, Ranch, Snow Photography, Uncategorized, western, Winter Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Winter Solitude: An New Look at a Familiar Location


Winter Solitude Panorama

 There is nothing more calming than the quiet one can experience while snow falls from the sky and blankets the landscape. That was the case on this amazing snowy morning at Emerald Bay. The only sounds were that of the snowflakes hitting my hood, and the somewhat distant roar of snow melt pouring over Eagle Falls into Emerald Bay. The blanketed landscape has a surreal feel as the forested mountains disappear into the  snowy distance. While the mountains across the lake are obscured by the veil of snow, Fannette Island can be seen far below, framed by the snowy branches of the foreground Cedar tree. I feel a Zen like peace at moments like these. It is my goal to compose images that translate that feeling to you and enhance your life the same way these experiences enhance mine. Enjoy the view! (and the experience)

Tips for shooting in these Conditions:
I  find that inclement weather (like these snowy conditions) often make for the most unique and emotion evoking images. I try to stay prepared so I can successfully capture the image I envision while maintaining the health of my equipment. I keep a clear plastic bag in my camera pack at all times, and leave a travel umbrella in my truck. Since we all get to our shooting location early…I drape the bag over my tripod mounted camera after setting up and refining my composition. The bag keeps everything dry while I patiently wait for the light. When I am just about ready to shoot I remove the bag and hold the travel umbrella above my setup. When moving the umbrella for a clear shot, the lens can get wet. For this, I kep a chamois handy. My LowePro AW backpack has a built in rain fly, which I use while hiking, as well as covering the open pack on the ground while shooting. As with most situations, I find it best to have a set process (that I make a habit) to follow in every situation. This minimizes confusion and alows me to focus on creating the image I envision. I have a place for everything in the pack, and when I set up, specific items go in the same pockets, ready to use, every time.

Finally, exposure in rain and snow can be tricky. When shooting digitally, review the histogram and make sure your exposure is correct, then compensate if necessary. Since I shoot with large format film, I do some exposure averaging with my spot meter, as well as an ambient reading, to come up with my exposure. Experience helps greatly. I recommend to my seminar students that they not only check the histogram to get that one exposure correct, but observe the conditions and take note of how their camera meter reacts in those particular conditions. This will help you make an education exposure compensation in conditions that change quickly and only offer one exposure. Join me in the field to learn more!

For this image I chose to use my Fuji GX617 panoramic rangfinder camera, as I didn’t require the precise use of split neutral density filters. This made dealing with the conditions a bit easier that using one of my view cameras. Glad I had the choice:) As always, my camera was locked onto a carbon fiber tripod and heavy duty ball head.

Posted in California, Lake Tahoe, Landscape, Mountains, Panorama, photo techniques, Snow Photography, Winter Photography Tagged , , , , |