MOUNTAIN

DO YOU CRAVE SHARPER IMAGES?

I haven't paid too much attention to sharpening my images to date.  Which is rather odd because I am a huge fan of beautifully sharp landscape images.  In fact, I recall pestering everyone I could at the very first photo workshop I attended with my burning question of "how do they (they being the big name landscape photographers I admired) get their images so wonderfully detailed and crisp?"  No one seemed to have an answer for me so I back burnered the issue.

Until this week when I serendipitously discovered Mark Metternich (via his guest posts at Visual Wilderness) and his positively stunning images.  Even better, I've found that he has some wonderful tutorials (a few free and even more available for purchase) on sharpening that I found really really good.

I watched both his Raw Sharpening and Ultimate Web Sharpening video this week and selected an image I made in Banff recently to try out what I learned.  All I can say is WOW and bless you Mark Metternich!  I am so thrilled with the result I got using his raw sharpening method.  Of course I still have much to learn but I am excited to finally have the knowledge to achieve the look I've been chasing for the last 3 years!

BANFF MOUNTAIN TIMBRE - Eureka!  Break through! I finally know how to get the sharp detail I've been pining for!

Since I am no expert, I will not even try to give you details on how to do this but instead will happily refer you to Mark.  Be sure to check out his website and videos if sharpening is something you'd like to learn more about.  

And mind you don't slice your eyeballs on those mountains up there ;) 
Happy image making folks!

 

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SEE THE LIGHT - THE CRUCIAL ELEMENT IN GREAT IMAGES

I have to admit something.  I’ve been stubborn.

Ever since I picked up my camera a few years ago and started to pursue the art of making compelling landscape images I have been following the experts in the field, watching tutorials and taking workshops.  One thing that always comes up is how important light is.  Yes, yes, yes - of course light is important I would say to myself and then I would return to learning another post processing technique to unlock the hidden potential of my images.

But the subject of light would resurface.

It seems I am a slow learner.  Or perhaps I had just not experienced the difference light can make enough times to become a believer.

The other day that changed.  Late in the afternoon a storm rolled over the hills and down towards the bay.  I had checked the weather forecast earlier in the day and was expecting it.  I had also checked the Photographer’s Ephemeris to see just where the sun might be positioned when this storm came through and had picked a location that I thought might have a favourable view.  The one thing I didn’t anticipate though was in the end the one thing that made the biggest difference.  

The light.  It was extraordinary.

Great light can’t be missed.  You'll know it when you see it.  When you stand on site and can’t help but pause to stare at the beauty of the scene, when you look at your shot on the back of the camera lcd and it looks fantastic, when you snap a shot with your iPhone because it needs no filter and when you upload your photos to your computer and they require little to no editing... that’s great light at work.  Great light is powerful.

And now I’m a believer. 

Great light is a crucial element of great images.  Its’ not the only element but it is absolutely key.
Now that I've been converted, will I only take photos when the light is right?  No - for me there is still value in taking photos as often as I can - any practise time is good time.  But when the light is good, you can bet I will be making good use of it.

So if you are still looking for that magic post processing secret... let me just save you a bit of time... look for great light!

 

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IS PHOTOGRAPHY ART?

Photography is such a hot bed of debate.  Yup - it is.  Have a look at almost any image posted on social media and you will find sparring in the comments below it.  

Often the debate centres around what is “good" and what is “real.”  

We all know that "good" is subjective - right? Strangely when it comes to photographic images there are some who feel "good" equals "real" which makes "good" no longer subjective.   Many stand firm that no matter how beautiful the composition, how pleasing the colours or beautiful the lines, a photograph which has been been manipulated in any way no longer qualifies as “good."

I suspect this is due to the historical emergence of photographic images as not an art form but as a method of recording.  The idea that the "camera doesn't lie” became firmly ingrained, though it has never been true.  The camera has always been merely a tool to produce images.  All images are manipulated by the photographer if in no other way than at the simplest level of what is included or omitted from the frame.  Photographic images have always had the ability to span the spectrum from lightly altered (what some might call “documentary or journalistic”) all the way to highly stylized photographic art.  

In my experience, the closer a photographic image moves towards the centre of the spectrum where the line is blurred between documentary and art the more uncomfortable people become. I like to make images (notice I make the distinction between making images and taking photographs) that fit squarely in that space.  I find them beautiful.  And bringing the world to life beautifully is really my goal with my art. 

 

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ONE STRANGE TIP FOR IMPROVING YOUR LANDSCAPE IMAGES

Are you a landscape photographer who embraces post processing as a part of creating beautiful artistic images?  If yes then here’s a tip I picked up from Trey Ratcliff while attending his New Zealand Photo Adventure last year.  It might seem like a strange one at first but it’s one I used on this image and honestly I love the results.

Don’t process all of your photos from a trip or shoot right away.   

Yup.  That’s it.  Simple right?  But why on earth would you do that?  Why wouldn’t you edit all of your photos right away so you can share them?  Well, here’s the rationale.  What you know today is only a fraction of what you will know in a few more weeks, months or years.  So this means that when you re-visit your images after some time has passed, you will have more skills to bring to the editing table.

The problems I encountered while making this image - like very heavy chromatic aberrations for example - I wouldn’t have even noticed a year ago let alone known how to fix them.  It’s a proven truth that practise improves our results and practise needs time.  So why not time capsule one or two of your favourite raw captures from your next outing.  Hold them for your skilled hands of the future.

Of course regardless of the outcome, you still get the joyous side benefit of re-visiting memory lane.

Have a wonderful weekend friends. 

 

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5 REASONS TO GO (BACK) TO NEW ZEALAND

If you read my post yesterday about the pivotal moment I experienced on a mountain in New Zealand, then you might not find it surprising that I want to go back.

Here are 5 reasons why I think you should go (and I want to go back) to New Zealand:

1.  It is achingly beautiful.  A landscape photographer's dream.  Everywhere you turn there is another amazing photo opportunity.

2. The climate and weather is interesting.  I am a bit spoilt living in Canada - we have 4 distinct seasons - and that means lots of landscape variety.  New Zealand is similarly blessed - though they have another edge.  Amazing clouds!  I guess they don't call it Aotearoa (the Māori name for NZ which roughly translates to "land of the long white cloud") for nothing.

3. The people are lovely.  Friendly, relaxed, happy... I imagine there are some kiwi's who don't fit this description, but I didn't find any.

4. The coffee is good.  No, I mean really good - and I am pretty picky about this.  I think you would have to try really hard to find a bad cup.

5. There are crazy talented and inspiring photographers living there.  Trey Ratcliff, Todd and Sarah Sisson just to name a few.  Imagine having the chance to bump into these guys!  

 

PS - if any of the above mentioned inspiring photographers should find they need a keen New Zealand photography workshop assistant... let's talk.  I might be agreeable to working for little more than photo ops and coffee.

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MOUNTAIN TOP REFLECTIONS - finding more than just a place to take a photo

We had to climb a good distance to get to the top of Deer Park Heights from where we were dropped off.  It was quite steep.  So steep that I almost stepped into this pond as I came over the rise.  Very convenient as I needed to catch my breath anyhow.  Catch my breath and take a moment to reflect.

Some experiences change you.  Call them pivot points, critical milestones or defining moments - you know the ones.  They are the enlightening experiences big or small that reshape not only where you are headed but who you are at a core level.  Times that move us to more closely align our authentic selves and core values with our true calling.

My most recent defining moment happened right there, in Deer Park Heights, while attending Trey Ratcliff's New Zealand Photo Adventure.  It was a big moment.  The whole adventure in fact was big!  You can see how profoundly I was impacted in the clip they recorded of me for this video (it's late in the reel but watch the whole thing - you'll get to see all the great folks I met.)  I am nearly speechless, barely coherent.  

A Stuck In Customs Video. More info at http://store.stuckincustoms.com/workshops

Can you name 5 pivotal moments in your life so far?  Perhaps a critical milestone is on your horizon.  Maybe it will happen today!  Have a good one my friends.

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refreshing vantage point

AHHH!

Being here again is like breathing fresh mountain air.  Refreshing, cleansing and almost sweet.

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer which began with a family trip to Scotland.  Our boys had never visited and we were eager to share the home of our family roots with them. We packed all manner of foul weather gear (it rains a bit in Scotland) but fortuitously we were graced with mostly sunshine and moderate temperatures.  This seemed to make the process of falling in love with that wee country of stunning landscapes even easier.

The photo above was taken from the Nevis Range.  Ben Nevis itself is the highest peak in all of the UK, standing at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level.  After a gondola ride part way up the mountain range you can take a short hike to a lookout that offers wonderful views of both the mountains above and the valley below.  Unlike most of the days on our holiday, this one did require us to don the rain gear - but luckily the clouds remained at an elevation high enough not to obscure the view.

I quite liked the short little mountain daisies that lined the pathway and so for this shot I laid my camera on the ground to capture the view from their vantage point.

Have you been to bonnie Scotland? Perhaps I can persuade you to chance falling in love with this rugged place.

Check back here again for more images in the coming days, and as always feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment here.

Until then - deep breath - Sigh.

 

IMAGE DETAILS:
Ben Nevis Range
Fort William, Scotland, UK
56°47′49″N 5°00′13″W
June 2013

 

GEEK DETAILS:

  • Nikon D700, 28-300 mm, f/3.5-5.6
  • Single raw, hand held,  processed in Lightroom
  • then over to Photoshop for polishing
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