Category Archives: reflection

When the Magic Happens!

Steaming Tree, Light Rays & Reflections

When the magic happens, all is right in the world. This was one of those moments. After several days of rain, and a relatively cold night, the rising sun heated the dark, wet  tree and created steam. A scene I have walked by numerous times was transformed into a mystical wonderland. It was thrilling to experience. As the steam filled the air, obscuring the forest beyond, and filtering the rays of sun breaking through the branches, I immersed myself in the experience. This isn’t a mere photograph. This is a translation of what I feel when Mother Nature is kind enough to let the magic happen.

I chose to shoot black and white film on my 4×5 field camera, as this image was all about mood. The tones of black, white and grey were necessary to translate the emotions of the light show, narrowing the scene down to light, dark and form. i love making these artistic choices in the field, as opposed to shooting haphazardly, and hoping to fix it in a computer later. This is the only way to translate the feelings we experience in nature with our art. For me, the art is the experience. My photography is the simple artistic representation.

Photo Tip:
This is a classic  example of using the Zone System in order to capture a huge exposure range in one sheet of film. I metered on the dark shadow on the tree, then underexposed 2 1/2 stops. This rendered the tree relatively black, with a touch of detail remaining in the shadows. The areas of bright light (lit grass & backlit fog) metered 7 stops brighter than the shadow. To remedy this, I used a N-2 processing time on the film (under processed 2 stops) in order to narrow the range between shadow and highlight to 5 stops. Using these tactics, I was able to create a negative that rendered detail in both shadow and highlight areas, while keeping a full range of contrast. The craft of large format film photography is a real joy to work with, and when done well, renders amazing results!

Equipment used:
Canham 5×7 metal Field Camera, 4×5 Reducing Back, Rodenstock Sironar-S 150mm lens, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Gitzo Carbon Tripod, Kodak T-Max 100 Black and White Film, Ilford ID-11 Developer.

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Special Moments Transcend Mere “Picture Taking”

Spirit of Yellowstone

The Spirit of Yellowstone:
Yellowstone is a place that evokes great emotion in people who appreciate solitude in the wilderness. I happen to be one of those people. I arose early on my last Fall morning in Yellowstone and set out for a sunrise photo excursion. With cold temperatures at night, the Hayden Valley filled with mist from the steam rising off the Yellowstone River. With only the Bison and Elk sharing the valley, there was a  feeling of solitude and peace that permeated the air. I found this quiet bend in the river that offered a visual translation of the tranquility I experienced at this perfect moment in time. Everything appeared soft, yet powerful, as the hint of sunrise color filtered through the mist and cloud. This is a truly special image. It is also an example of the type of experience that moves me to share my vision the way I do. My purpose in using the large format film cameras is to remind myself that my work is not about immediacy and volume. I only take my camera out when I am truly moved by a scene in nature that evokes an emotion I feel is worthy of sharing. When I believe a scene, combined with the light and atmospheric conditions present, have the possibility of transporting my viewers to a special place (inside or out), I know I am going to create a special piece of art. There is meaning in what I do, and my methods dictate how that meaning is presented and the impact that presentation has on the viewer. This is where my motto, “Bringing Home the Fine Art of Nature” was born. I hope this new image, as well as my others, brings you that inner peace I feel in these magical places!

Photo Tip:
Ironically, the simplicity of this scene is what gives it such great impact. The simplicity creates the ambiance. Quite often we will try to add everything we can into a scene; a strong foreground, a fiery sky, etc. This type of scene, which is based upon atmospheric conditions, has just enough landscape structure to draw the viewer in, and let the imagination run wild. The eye is drawn in along the river, through the mist, and around the corner disappearing into the distance toward the brightest part of the scene, the rising sun. With the simple foreground, we are left to wonder what is hidden beyond the bend, where we really wish we could go. The lesson here is, less is often more. Don’t force a composition, but feel it. Let it happen. Compose, with the camera locked on the tripod, then whittle away at everything that is unnecessary. Eliminate distractions whenever possible.

Equipment Used:
Canham 5×7 Metal Field Camera, Canham 6×17 cm panoramic film back, Rodenstock Sironar-S 150mm lens, Singh-Ray 2 stop split ND Filter (soft gradation), Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Gitzo Carbon Tripod, Fuji Provia RDPIII 100 Transparency Film.

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The Joy of Sunrise!

Sunrise, Misty Reflection, The Oxbow

Sunrise is a special time for landscape photographers. We venture out into a dark world with great hope and expectation. The world is quiet and still, with most creatures (at least humans) still asleep, and the wind waiting to be pushed by the suns first warming rays. Often times it is quite cold, but we come prepared. To endure the lack of sleep, darkness and bitter temperatures is a small price to pay to witness the first glimmers of light on a new day. At times this is looked upon as sacrifice. However, for those of us that have experienced the new dawn in a spectacular, and perhaps remote wild location, this is food for our soul. The image a reminder of the feelings we experienced in that spiritual place.
I have continued to use large format film in the hopes of doing justice to these special moments and places. I hope to share  more than just an image, but to give you, my collectors, the ability to be in that place, at that time, so your life can also benefit from what nature has to offer, if I am willing to endure a little discomfort. Soul food. May it fill you up.

The Story
Sunrise at Oxbow Bend is a classic! The anticipation of waiting for the sun to rise to the east and illuminate Mount Moran, the Teton Range and the yellow aspens in the foreground is fantastic. However, on this Fall morning, Mother Nature shared a visual appetizer! I looked over my shoulder to the east and realized the show was starting early, and in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I had time to move my 4×5 setup, compose and focus in time to capture this incredible light show. The shape of the clouds, the mirrored reflection and the mist rising from the river were capped off by the pastel colors of sunrise. The depth of this image draws us in, as this location draws me back year after year. Enjoy the view!

Photo Tip:
Everyone loves a colorful sunrise reflected in a still body of water. It’s a classic type of scenic image. Depending on the physical conditions of the location, it can also be very challenging to create a solid exposure. Most often, the sky is lit with the best color before the sun actually rises above the horizon. This leaves us with a larger dynamic range (from highlight to shadows) that the film or digital sensor can’t  handle in one exposure. You either end up with accurately exposed sky and black foreground and mountains, or accurately exposed foreground and blown out / white sky. While many people choose to use HDR software or image blending to put together two or more exposures in the computer, I prefer the simplicity of using a split level ND filter. This filter enables you to hold back the amount of light entering the camera from the sky, reducing the dynamic range, and enabling you to capture the scene in one exposure.
In the example above, I used a 3-stop split ND filter with a soft gradation. I was then able to expose for the foreground (bushes and fall color in mist), giving me an exposure latitude easily handleable by my transparency film. The result is a very true exposure in which I held the highlight detail and pastel color in the clouds, along with retaining shadow detail and subtle fall colors through the mist in the middle of the scene. Another bonus; very little computer time and a clean image that can be printed to 48×65 inches!
NOTE: Many people use split filters or image blending / HDR  and forget the fact that reflections are always 1 stop darker that what they are reflecting. To keep a natural look to your image (albeit subtle), make sure the reflection is a little darker than the reflected subject. It’s all about the details!

Equipment Used:
Canham 5×7 Metal Field Camera, 4×5 reducing back, Caltar IIN (Rodenstock) 90mm lens, Singh Ray 3-stop soft gradation split ND filter, Gitzo Carbon Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Fuji Provia 100 4×5 inch Transparency Film.

Also posted in 4x5 film, digital photography, Fall color, fog, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, jon paul gallery, Landscape, large format, Mountains, National Parks, oxbow bend, photo techniques, Photo Tip, Sunrise, Tutorial, Uncategorized, western, Wyoming Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Fall Photographic Workshop in Grand Teton National Park!

A Fall Photographic Adventure in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Tetons in the Fall, 2012: September 27-30.

This will be a four day adventure focussing on iconic Teton landscape images, as well as wildlife photography. Along with putting us in the right place at the right time to capture our dream photos, I will be teaching about composition, exposure, light, perspective and proper technique. 100% of our time will be spent in the field, where we will learn while doing. While our days are long and tiring, they are also extremely rewarding both photographically and personally. Comeraderie is a huge part of our experience. We will have a great time in a world class wilderness environment and come away better photographers for it. This will be limited to a small number of participants so everyone has all the personal attention required to get the most out of the experience.Please call to discuss any details that may help you make your decision.Please call the gallery directly to inquire! 530-544-4269

Also posted in 4x5 film, 617cm film, 8x10 film, aspen grove, Back Light, Barn, Bears, beaver pond, Bison, black and white, digital photography, Elk, Fall color, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, jon paul gallery, Landscape, large format, light painting, Moose, Mountains, National Parks, Panorama, panorama film, photo techniques, Photo Tip, Pine Forest, Ranch, Sunrise, Sunset, Twilight, Uncategorized, western, wildlife photography, Wyoming Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Lily Pads & Fall Reflection Panorama

Lily Pads & Fall Reflection Panorama

I composed this image on Lily Lake, at the south end of the Lake Tahoe Basin. I love this area for it’s signature Sierra beauty, along with the peace and quiet that can be experience here. Early this fall morning the wind stood still, enabling me to enjoy the crystal clear reflections and mist rising from the water. The old cabins and row boat added to the ambiance of this Walden like scene. I chose to create this image before the sun rose high enough to illuminate the far cliffs, keeping the moodiness of the scene. I didn’t want the electric pop of direct light here. I was mesmerized by the tranquility, and the shaded light enabled me to hold the richness I wanted in the colors. Finally, I chose the panoramic format to accentuate the mist on the far side of the lake, and give an expansive view of the most detail filled portion of the scene I was observing. This image is now available as a  limited edition directly through Jon Paul Gallery.
(Note: This is one of the locations available to my private field seminar participants! Contact me through Jon Paul Gallery for information on my seminar offerings.)

Photo Tip:
I love shooting in low ambient light pre-sunrise, after sunset, or in overcast conditions. Colors are very rich, and otherwise impossible exposures are tamed by the even light. However, these conditions produce a blue cast that our film or digital sensors record. Occasionally, this can be a cool effect, but most often it just looks unnatural. This can be solved in several ways: we can use a warming filter over our lens, we can set the white balance in our digital camera before shooting, we can correct the color temperature in our Raw converter or, within PhotoShop, we can open a curves adjustment layer and use the grey dropper. Shaded light is fantastic for scenes that can become too contrasty in direct light. Just be aware of the color cast and know how to correct it if you would like to. Happy shooting!

Equipment used:
Canham 5×7 Metal Field Camera, Canham 6x17cm panoramic roll film back, Rodenstock 150mm APO Sironar-s lens, Fuji RDPIII Provia 100 transparency film, Gitzo 1325 carbon tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head.

Also posted in 4x5 film, 8x10 film, aspen grove, Beach, beaver pond, California, digital photography, Fall color, Fallen Leaf Lake, fog, forest, jon paul gallery, Lake Tahoe, Landscape, large format, Mountains, Panorama, photo techniques, Photo Tip, photoshop, Pine Forest, Sunrise, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

One Evening in Yellowstone

Madison River Sunset Panorama, Yellowstone N.P.

After photographing my last sunrise in Grand Teton National Park this Fall, I quickly closed up my camper and headed for Yellowstone. I only had enough time to visit the Madison area for sunset before I started my journey home to Lake Tahoe. Fortunately, a storm rolled in and made my 1/2 day a real treat. After a torrential downpour, the sky began to clear and the last light of day created some peaceful magic.

The expansive nature of Yellowstone has me intrigued. In this scene, the meandering Madison River, complete with a glorious sunset reflection, is set off against the simplicity of Yellowstone’s grassland. The two geysers in the background remind me how unique this environment is. The storm clouds above, complete with sunset light, add a mood and power to the scene.  This new image is a reminder of the tranquility I find through the power of natural experiences. I hope this image enables you to, “Bring the Fine Art of Nature Home”. I am motivated to return this coming Spring. Let me know if you might like to join me.

This image is now available for purchase through the Jon Paul Gallery !

Photo Tip: When the weather gets really bad, be patient and stay out there! Quite often, the most dramatic light exists on the edges of storms. Especially when dealing with an expansive landscape, clouds and reflection can open up the image and add depth and perspective. So, when everyone else runs for cover, put on the Gore-Tex, cover your camera with a plastic bag and wait for the magic.

Equipment: Canham 5×7 metal field camera, Canham 6×17 cm panoramic roll film back, Rodenstock 150mm Sironar-S lens, Gitzo 1325 carbon tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head, Fuji Provia 100 transparency film.

Also posted in Geyser, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, jon paul gallery, Landscape, large format, Mountains, National Parks, Panorama, photo techniques, Photo Tip, Sunset, Uncategorized, western, Wyoming, Yellowstone Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Black & White adds Drama and Mood

Moulton Barn Panorama Black & White

This image, taken along Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, has as western a feel as one could ask for. While the image was “nice” in color, I knew it didn’t have that something special that I look for, especially in an iconic scene. The dramatic clouds, mottled light and vintage theme made this an obvious choice for black and white. The wide range of tones from pure white to deep black gave the punch I had envisioned. While it takes some practice to get a feel for tone v.s. color, the results are well worth the effort. Importantly, as a large format photographer, I make all of my choices relative to the final image I envision before clicking the shutter. This is good practice, and helps increase your chances of success. (Don’t have the attitude that you can “fix it” later!)

Photo Tip: Pre-visualize whether the scene you are composing will be strongest in color or black and white. At  that point you can use your judgement as to how to expose for the image, and whether to use different filters to prepare for the processing it may require. (ie-strongly polarizing an image to darken the sky in anticipation of greater contrast against white clouds in a black and white).

Also posted in Barn, black and white, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, jon paul gallery, Landscape, large format, Mountains, National Parks, Panorama, photo techniques, Photo Tip, Sunrise, Uncategorized, western, Wyoming Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Stay Open to Something Different!

Schwabacher's Beaver Pond Reflection

This is one of my favorite landscape images from my recent trip to Grand Teton National Park. I had a morning to myself during my Fall “shoot with the pro” field workshop, so I visited the iconic Schwabacher’s Landing. After the sunrise at the most popular spot fizzled, I wandered around and took advantage of the soft, mottled light that was produced by the encroaching storm clouds just 30 minutes into the day. The low sun at this time of year makes this possible. This beaver pond held a perfect mirror reflection. I was able to include a beaver hut, dramatic clouds , fall color, moody dead trees, and the dramatic peaks in the background. Normally this is a lot to include in one composition, but the reflection helped balance and calm the image. I captured the image on 4×5 inch transparency film, so the detail is amazing. As with most of my images, this composition has a real wow factor, but the viewer will be awed by the subtle details in a large gallery print. Another amazing experience that will endure the ages!

Photo Tip: During Fall and Spring, don’t disregard the soft light one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. Especially when combined with dramatic skies in these changing seasons, early and late light can be a nice compliment to colorful compositions. While dramatic alpenglow and sunrise/sunset colors are exciting, warm light can be more subtle and pleasing for fine art images that will hang in someone’s home. Take advantage of the magic hour at these times of year and you may be greatly rewarded!

Equipment: Canham 5×7 Metal Field Camera, 4×5 reducing back, Rodenstock 150mm APO Sironar-S lens, Gitzo 1325 Carbon Tirpod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head, Fuji Velia 100F transparency film. Film scanned on a Hasselblad/Imacon 646 drum scanner.

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Light “Selection”, Reflection and Beaver Pond

Beaver Pond, Spring Reflections

 Many of you will remember my facebook posts from the scouting I did of this lovely beaver pond here in South Lake Tahoe. Along with a reasonable iphone image I shared, I posted a sweet portrait of my professional assistant, Toby (6), capturing his own rendition of the beaver pond and its inhabitants with a little digital camera. He always gets a great response, and ads huge joy to my excursions. Well, I returned the following morning to capture this beautiful moment.

 I was drawn to this scene for its sheer tranquility. Seemingly every shade of green in the spectrum (very welcome after a never ending winter!), along with the beaver hut, all reflecting in the still waters of the calm morning. I loved the composition and the feeling, but I still had one very important decision to make; in which light should I expose my film? I was hoping to capture the scene with everything in shade and a glowing reflection of the mountains and trees above the background lit with warm morning light. Well, the light didn’t enter the scene evenly, so that wasn’t an option. Fortunately, I arrived early enough to be set up and created this exposure with ambient light softly illuminating the scene before me. After everything was lit by the sun, I felt the image lost its soft relaxing quality. Overall, this image conveys the mood I was after. From the green color, to the stillness of the leaves, the depth of its layers and the mirrored reflection, the natural perfection of the moment takes me to a place of serenity. This wasn’t exactly what I had pre-visualized, but stayed open to what Mother Nature had to offer, and let my feelings influence the final image. I love it!

Photo Tip: Light is the name of the game in photography. I prefer to use only one exposure, so I pay special attention to each phase of morning and evening light as they relate to my subject. This is important for proper exposure, but also for setting the mood of the image and how it conveys my feelings of the natural experience. For sunrise images like this one I like to arrive well before sunrise in order to experience the transition from night into a new day, and to give myself the opportunity to compose images with each phase of changing morning light. While there are many possibilities as the light changes, I like to be conscious of my feelings as the light transitions. My goal is always to share that moment in time, in that place, that makes me feel a special way. If done well, that moment in time can become eternal, and make the lives of its viewers that little bit better each time they view the image.

Details: KB Kanhan 5×7 metal field camera, 2 1/4 x 6 3/4 panoramic back, Gitzo 1325 carbon tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Rodenstock 150mm APO Sironar S lens, Fuji RDPIII Provia transparency film, no filters.

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