Ever heard the phrase “a picture can’t do such a beautiful place justice”?
For the most part this can be true but this should not deter anyone from getting as close to capturing the essence of a place as best as they can.
Ever since I picked up a camera I have never been happy with just capturing light with a click of a button as I found what we see and feel is vastly different to the actual physical qualities of light. To me this is the point of capturing landscapes, to take a piece of what we were feeling the moment of being there and to show off a place at its best possible moment. This is why I resort to bend the rules of light to give the viewer a better glimpse into that moment. This is just my approach to my style of work. By no intentions is it the right and only way to capture ones outdoor moments.
One of the techniques I use is to control the dynamic range in the physical world to allow a better result captured as we would see it with our own eyes as if we were there. I find as the best moments in a day are during the golden hour there is always a challenge in balancing the high contrast between the bright sky and the dark foreground. There are various ways I can achieve this control but like all things in life there is never one sure answer. They all have their pros and cons.
The graduation filter is the oldest (except for holding a black card over the top half of the lens during exposure but good luck getting that right) and yet it is nowhere near redundant. It’s the best method for taking a single exposure and sometimes this needs to be done. The cons of them are that they become expensive for good ones and bad ones are just not worth it as they scratch and cause some bad colour casts. They can also scratch and reduce the sharpness significantly.
Exposure blending is fast becoming the accepted norm. By taking two or more exposures at different stop increments and blending those in post processing can allow one to get great natural looking results. This method is particularly handy where there is no set straight horizon such as mountains, rocks, trees and highlights and shadows are too high contrasting. Down side to this is that good processing expertise is needed to achieve good results and one can never take a single shot. There are many tutorials on the net which can explain in very easy terms how to do this. Unfortunately my word count is limited for me to explain further plus I am quite lazy.
There is also automated HDR and many, many tutorials on this to. Take many exposures and let highly clever software made by supernerds merges them and tone maps them automatically. Personally I believe this is best done by a photographer him/herself as there is inconsistency created by tone mapping that seem unnatural but usually only picked up by the more experienced eye. Images can also loose sharpness but the plus side is that it is easy. Like getting McDonalds easy.
Another effect I often use is a slower shutter speed. This causes any movement such as water and clouds to soften and paint streaks. Like a narcotic it’s become very popular amongst photographers and like a narcotic I am not sure everyone understands why they are doing it but for me it’s simple. Like contrasting tones a good image has contrasting textures to and if certain areas can be softened to help created the mood and feeling of being there it should be explored. Water is soft, we see it as a dynamic mineral and if it’s moving we can sense its softness. A slow shutter can helps convey this.
To control your Shutter speed is quite easy with the right tools, These tools being Neutral density filters which can slow down your shutter speed substantially. When one merely changes the aperture to get to the desired speed causes one to have to compromise depth of field. That’s why NDs can be very useful. Otherwise it’s a wait for the light to fade.
The trick behind it all is to choose what kind of shutter speed best suites the situation and mood or effect one wishes to capture. For instance when water is fast moving and rougher a faster shutter speed of 1s will give a silky effect. 30 seconds or more turns the water into mist giving a completely new result and mood. Anything in between will turn water into burned out white area. With calmer water a shutter speed of 15 s can turn water into an electric texture, but will do nothing interesting at 1S or thirty s or more.
Personally I don’t like to get sucked up into concentrating too hard on getting the perfect exposure balance and effects. No amount of colour can compare to a good solid composition. To me it is the soul of the image and should come first. Everything else can add to an image but not own it.
I’ll end with saying that we live in a strikingly scenic world and I do my best to give its subject’s justice in my photography