Entries by Josh Cripps

Photographing the Deepest Valley in the US (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 1)

Photographing the Deepest Valley in the US (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 1)

In photography. It’s easy to focus on the results and to forget about the process. It’s easy to see the pretty picture and not have any sense of what actually went into creating it. Those early wake ups, the cold, the wind, but the truth is every photograph is like an iceberg. There’s this pretty little tip sticking up out of the water. The only part that’s visible, but down below that’s where everything else lies that gives the photo substance. Good morning, everybody. And a very good morning. It is in fact, it’s Josh cribs here, and I am out this morning at a wonderful, fantastic, beautiful place. The Owens river here in the Owens Valley in Eastern California. And the beautiful thing about the Owens river is that it is a serpentine river and it bobs and weaves and it zigs and zags through the entire Valley floor running for a total distance of, I have no idea how many miles, but it is quite a few.

And the cool thing about that is, as it goes through all these neat little Oxbow bands, all over the place, pretty much any mountain that you could want to compose on with a little Oxbow bed in front, you can find it. If you just look hard enough. And one of the most striking mountains along the three 95 corridor is called split mountain named because it has these two very distinct bands of color that run across the top of it. And it’s one of California’s, fourteeners, it’s one of the highest peaks in California, but it’s relatively overshadowed by Whitney and Williamson, which you can actually see just down the way over here and this morning, something that’s really special. That’s going on here in the background that you can see is there’s actually a little bit of a Sierra wave cloud lenticular cloud. That’s been running along the top of the mountains there and catching that morning sunlight and the colors out here this morning, spending a whole spectrum, the whole rainbow from blue and green and yellow out on the horizon to the East, to the reds, purples and oranges here, looking to the mountains to the West.

So I’ve set up a couple of different compositions here. I’m shooting a vertical right now, and I have a horizontal as well. So let me show you what these compositions are looking like here. Here’s my vertical, a nice, simple little S curve where the mountains in the background, I’m at F 11, I associate 64 and uh, about half a second to get some of that smooth glossiness in the water. Look at that light on those

Swap out off my wide angle here and go for a little bit more of a mid range telephoto the 24 70, because right now the lenticular cloud is basically, there’s no light on it. It’s been snuffed out by the clouds to the East, but there’s a lot of really dramatic, strong light on the mountain range itself. That’s reflecting fantastically here in this Oxbow, Ben, so you have these beautiful blue and golden tones in the water that are complimenting so lovely. The blue and golden tones they’re in the sky and the wide angle is just including way too much. So I’m going to go for a little bit of a tighter shot to really just call out those particular elements. Photography is so much about what you exclude as what you include, and you really want to distill the scene down to its very essence. And so the essence of this scene, as I see it right now is the repetition of those blue and gold tones. So let’s grab this lens, see what we can do.

Oh, it’s no, just get a little bright up there. Fill out snow who wore this? Try to expose a photo here. You don’t need it.

The blow out my eyeballs. Oh yeah, that’s nice. Okay.

It’s nice. I’m going to move over a little bit. Try to get a little more separation in the colours.

Here between the two sides of the bank of

River. I’m losing a lot of the smoothness

Point in the water. The light has come up a lot. It’s a lot brighter out here.

I still really want that flow. That smoothness.

To the mirror, that peaceful feeling that I’ve got out here this morning. So I’m going to grab a six stop filter, throw it on the camera here. A 10 stop would be way too overkill at this point. I’m at a fifth of a second. So that means a 10 stop filter would put me up at about a 202nd exposure, which is absolutely unnecessary right now. All I need to do is get about one to two seconds and the sixth stop is going to be perfect for that.

It’s going ahead and giving me a three second shutter speed, which is going to glass out this water beautifully. Now the only downsides, there’s a little bit of a breeze out here this morning. And so the reeds on the far side of the bank are moving a little bit. They’re going to be a little bit wibbly wobbly in the final shot, but if I can get a nice little stillness.

There should still be enough detail in them to make a nice contrast with the flowing motion of the water. Oh, that’s nice.

That is nice. All right. Let’s just make sure these details are sharp. Oh yeah. Razor sharp. You could cut yourself on those details.

It is changing here by the minute. So it’s gone from this beautiful rosy purple light to this bright red vivid Ruby light splashing across the peaks right at sunrise. And then it turned orange. And now it’s started to enter that more daylight phase. It’s still very yellow and nice right now, but it’s changing, changing, changing, and just bring out this complete suite of colors. As you can see, there’s just blues and reds and tans and greens and oranges. And then you have that lovely cloud formation there with that deep blue sky. These are the kinds of mornings here, the Owens Valley that make it so much fun to be a photographer, especially when it’s blow and howling wind all night. That’s what tends to bring out these crazy cloud formations. These beautiful skies is all worth it for this kind of a scene.

It’s getting cold out here. There’s a wind blowing and it’s flowing from a weird direction. It’s coming from the South. It’s usually doesn’t make sense. It’s usually coming from the West over the mountains or from the North, the frigid blast, but it’s coming from that way and it should be warm. Why aren’t you warm? It’s called that. All right. So I think I’m just about done here. I’m going to pack it up because as fun as this is, and as beautiful as this is, this is not the reason that I’m actually out here this weekend doing photography. No, I I’m headed to the Alabama Hills because there’s a specific arch that I want to go fine. It’s an arch that I uncovered a few years ago when I was out scouting and it’s fairly remote. It’s deep into the rocks. It’s way up on top of one of the Hills and it’s a huge art, but it’s in this gigantic egg-shaped Boulder.

And the beautiful thing about this arch is the portal of the arch looks directly out on lone pine peaks, really unique view. It’s a perfect alignment and I want to get back there for a sunrise, do some more photography. So that’s my goal is to redefine that arch market on the GPS and see if I can get some good shots of it. And the only thing I’ve got going for me right now in terms of locating it again is a clue. And I remember very distinctly that this arch is located near a gigantic dead pine tree on the top of a Hill. So if I can find that dead pine tree again, I can find this arch let’s back it up here. I’d get on out last time I was here, I just stumbled across it. And honestly, I don’t really remember about how to get there. You even get within an inch of them. They somehow magnetically shoot out of the cactus and land inside of your skin. I found this clue, this tree that’s the big X marks, the spot point for this adventure here. I realized that I, I think I made a fatal miscalculation that where the arches is not here at all, but way over on the next rise and look at this rock up here. Oh, look at this guy. If anybody’s watching this video and you know the name of this arch, let me know.

Come take a look.

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Photographing Remote Arches at Sunrise in the Alabama Hills (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 3)

Photographing Remote Arches at Sunrise in the Alabama Hills (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 3)

Now it is one fantastic day for chasing arches. I found this clue, this tree, last time I was up here, I think I made a fatal miscalculation. And I’m pretty sure that where the arches is not here at all, but way over on the next rise. I can see that tree right there. It’s only about 300 yards away. Ah, it’s here, so let’s get down to it.

So here’s the arch right here. As you can see, it’s in a really cool location, but as I’m starting to scout with my camera, a huge problem is immediately evident in order to actually see lone pine peak through the eye of this arch. My camera has to be positioned about just like this. Now my tripod doesn’t go up anywhere near that high. So it’s going to be a lot of creative tripod wrangling to try to get it into place. If I want to shoot anything with a shutter speed of longer than about a 16th of a second. See how it goes.

Welcome to another episode of Josh Cripps on the struggle bus.

That might just work. The only question is how do I get my camera up there now? And do I trust it?

I think we might be in business thankfully night. Guns have built in Bluetooth and wifi connection so I can, Oh crap. I spoke too soon and I tempted the fates. Here we go. Again. Three hours later. All right. Now that feels okay. It’s actually pretty perfect. All right. Well, at this point it’s been quite a successful outing, found the hearts. I scouted a good composition and I got something lined up. I think it’s going to work nicely. And I got a lot of great footage with the drone. That’s pretty much all I needed to do today. It’s time to head back down to the car, figure out the most direct route between here and where I parked and then figure out what time I need to get up in the morning to get up here.

Let’s hit it next day.

Oh, good morning, everybody. It’s a little bit after 5:00 AM the sunrises at six 15 and yesterday, that would be roughly 30 minutes to get down from the arch back to the car. It turns out it’s really not that far at all in terms of distance, but there are a hell of a lot of rocks in between the arch and rote. And so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get back up there this morning. I’m giving myself 45, 50 minutes to get all the way back up to the arch here. That’s why I started hiking so early this morning at about five Oh five, but man, does it feel good to be back out here? It’s fairly calm. It’s fairly mild. The temperatures are just lovely and I’m hoping as you can see, it’s still totally dark out. Uh, we still have just about another hour till sunrise.

You can see just a little bit of color out there on the, the Southeastern horizon starting to brew. And I’m really hoping the forecast called for cloudy skies today. And so far, it is completely crystal clear up there, except for those little bit of clouds out there on the horizon. So I’m hoping in the next 45 minutes or so, it’s going to keep clouding up to give me that little bit of extra juice to make this morning. Even more special than it already is going to be otherwise. But sunrise waits for no man. So I can’t talk for too long, got to keep moving up through this jigsaw puzzle of boulders up to the arch. I’ve just topped out here on the summit plateau. The arch is just right over there, but I wanted to show you something pretty cool. All that warm glow up there. That’s true. Alpenglow not a whole lot of time for monkeying around. It’s only about 12 minutes before the sunrise now. So I’ve got to get my composition set up. Cause as soon as that sun breaks, the horizon is peak is going to ignite with that direct Ruby morning light

Speaker 2: (05:39)
Connection to the camera has failed. Try again. After reading the online help information about how the problem can be addressed. Well, that would be great if I add any service or just worked good Lord. Sometimes I just hate these technologies. They don’t work a little lie blade. 

In a situation where you need it to work, like that’s the thing that drives me the most crazy is this stuff works in ideal conditions, you know, lab conditions or whatever. Like when you set up in your desk at home, it’s great. But out here, this is where I need it to work. Like I don’t need it to work from my desk in a perfect setting. I need it to work here. God what is going on here? Come on Lord, who would have thought the Nailbiter problem in this situation was getting the fork and wifi connection to establish, give me a boring when I do this, the old fashioned way.

Okay, come on now. Deep breaths.

So in my opinion, this is the most annoying kind of light that you can get in the mountains. Now on a totally clear day, on a beautifully crystal day it’s okay, because then you get this absolute laser beam of light that splashes across the peaks and makes us really fiery Ruby, beautiful glow on the mountains. And that’s wonderful. But as you can see, that is absolutely not happening this morning because we’re already about 10 or 15 minutes past the sunrise. And it is dead as can be up there. It’s just this flat dull Elmer Fudd crap light because what’s happening is all the cloud that does exist in this sky. This morning is over there. It’s to the East, it’s blocking the sun. So not only am I not getting into interesting, cool dynamic light in the sky, but it’s also preventing that interesting dynamic light from hitting the mountain.

So I’m really just swinging and missing and weapon and try to get something and just all these it’s not happening for me today. There is a little bit of thin wispy clouds starting to fill this Western sky over here and maybe in about five or 10 minutes, that sun is going to break free of the layer of cloud that I can see blocking it out there to the East. And so I think what’s going to happen at that point is the mountains are gonna light up. They’re not going to be Ruby, but they might be a nice glowing orange and the sky, that little bit of cloud that’s up there in the sky right now might just catch that light. And I think we’re going to get something a little bit more interesting and what we’ve got right now. That’s probably going to be the time to shoot the time to go. So I’m going to get ready for that. Oh, look at that. As I’m yakking it’s happening, let’s get to it.

Well, to be honest, the light didn’t quite materialize way that

I was hoping it might this morning. That’s all right. With the little bit of wispy thin textured clouds in the sky and all of the gritty detail here in the arts. I think this one might work pretty well as a black and white. So I’m going to do the conversion and I’ll throw it up on the screen right here.

Now, am I done with this arch now? Not even by a long shot. This whole experience has just got me excited to come back. Try again. When the lighting conditions are a little bit more dynamic, perhaps in the late afternoon during a thunderstorm or something like that, I’m going to keep trying until I really nail a cool shot from here that I’m happy with. But in any case, it’s hard to complain about spending time in such a magical place as this, with this golden light, glowing across the foreground, these mayor’s tail clouds filling the sky. And of course the grandiose Sierra in the background, it’s not a bad way to start the day. That’s going to do it for this video. I’ll see you guys in another one soon until then have been happy shooting.

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The Most Remote Arch in the Alabama Hills (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 2)

The Most Remote Arch in the Alabama Hills (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 2)

It’s Josh Cripps here. And I am out this morning, the Owens river here in the Owens Valley. Look at the light on those peaks. That is nice. This is not the reason that I’m actually out here this weekend. I’m headed to the Alabama Hills because there’s a specific arch that I want to go fine. Let’s back it up here and get on out.

Right? Well, we’re just getting ready to go here. Find this arch, but you can’t hike on an empty stomach. You gotta bring food with you. So today I’m preparing meal in a bag, in a bag. This is something that I learned how to make when I was hiking around in Peru, uh, six or seven years ago. And you basically just combine a bunch of grids stuff in a bag. I’ve got rice cooked chicken here, got to get that protein. If you want to grow up big and strong, like a Dwayne, the rock Johnson, you know how much protein that guy eats. It’s ridiculous. Fresh cut veggies here, which squeeze that lemon in there as well. Greek yogurt right here and fruit. They would always use Manet’s and tuna instead of Greek yogurt and chicken. Hey man, whatever floats your Peruvian boat, it’s good for me.

Salt garlic as well. Now you basically just stir that whole thing up. Let it cook inside of your backpack as you’re hiking all day. And then when it’s time to eat, boy, you just got the tastiest treat in the land. Everybody’s going to be jealous. They’ll be out there with their cliff bars. There’ll be out there with their bananas. Gimme a break. You’re going to bust out this lunch in a bag. People’s eyes are going to explode out of their heads and your taste buds are going to explode out of your mouth. Looks disgusting, tastes amazing. All right, let’s get going.

Now it is one fantastic day for Jason arches. It’s warm. The sun is out.

Chipmunks are chipping, and I’m going to head up over that way. See if I can find this thing last time I was here, I just stumbled across it. And honestly, I don’t really remember much about how to get there other than it’s up in those rocks, some plan. All right. So here’s everything that I’m going to be bringing with me today. I’ve got an ultra wide lens, got my Z seven, the 24 70 on there bringing the drone food and water course. And then even though I don’t really plan to shoot anything today for right now on this scouting mission, I’m bringing a tripod because as I remember this particular arts, it’s in quite a precarious position in terms of where you can actually shoot it from to get the view of lone pine peak through the opening. And so I’m going to bring my tripod just to see how to position it, to see if it’s possible to get in the right spot or not. So don’t really want to lug it, but gotta suck it up, bring it. I’m also bringing a lot of sand. That’s just falling into my backpack as I make this part of the video. And you know, that’s just to get stronger. It’s just extra fund carry a little more weight.

Right here. We’ve got the friend list of the cactus species that Joya. This one is soft, like a Teddy bear. So it’s called a Teddy bear, Julia. And so you can actually just, if you’re out in the desert, you can gather a bunch of these and lay them down in a bed and lay on it. And it is the best night sleep you will ever have. It’s so soft. No, I’m just kidding. These suck. If you even get within an inch of them, they somehow magnetically shoot out of the cactus and land inside of your skin and a thousand points of bitter pain. So avoid the joy. They’re beautiful, but man, they will.

Well, a couple of minutes walking across the Sandy scrub here and I’ve gotten to the base of the boulders announced starts the really fun part where we basically just get to scramble up Hill, try to locate, like I said earlier, I found this clue. This tree, last time I was up here, gigantic dead pine tree. That’s the big X marks the spot point for this adventure here. So I’m going to go ahead and just start clambering up these things, get to a high point and then see where that tree is. And from there, the arch will be within arms .

Well, I’ve topped out on the first little Ridge here and I feel good. It was really fun climb. I just enjoy being out, moving through terrain like this, but having gotten to the top here, I realized that I, I think I made a fatal miscalculation. Now that I’m up here, my memory is starting to come back to me a little bit more and I’m pretty sure that where the arches is not here at all, but way over on the next rise over there. So I think we’re going to head back down through a gully and back up, but before I had that way, this is a great spot with a great view and I’m starving. So I’m going to sit down and grab some light.

After scarfing down my lunch.

I decided that before I went charging off, down the gully and back up the neighboring Ridge, it would be prudent to at least see what was on top of the summit, just behind me. So I’ve just popped up to the top of the Hill here. And as I came around the corner, I spied right up there in the distance, a craggy tree. And I think it’s the tree it’s right over there where I thought I needed to go was way over that way. And now the tree is telling me that I actually need to go that way. So I’ve got these two things pulling me in two different directions. And if I guess the wrong one, that’s a whole lot of time spent chasing down a wild goose that I’m going to go that way, even though I’m not a hundred percent sure that’s the same tree or the right tree, or if there are a bunch of trees up here or not. But the likelihood of there being two craggy, gnarly old dead trees on top of two different pinnacles here in the Alabama Hills, to me seems fairly small. So that’s why I’m going to go this way over to that tree. Hopefully it’s the right one.

Now the wonderful thing about exploring, even if you don’t end up going the quote unquote right way, you always find something else. That’s really cool. I came down through this little narrow cleft of a Canyon and popped out around the corner here and look at this rock up here, but it’s like a blob of rock. It looks like a Play-Doh rock got extruded from the Play-Doh factory. So I’m going to go and I’m going to go check that arch out now because in my book, the book of arches, there’s no such thing as too many arches, all the pages at the back of the book they’re blank. So you can just write in more arches when you find them. And there’s an infinite number of blank pages. So you can’t have too many arches. That was a stretch. Oh, this guy cool. It is actually solid rock over here that has left out like a slinky to land on the rock over here with this massive opening here in the middle, you can fit at least half of an elephant in here and it looks like a grapple, a snout. So I don’t know if this one has a name. If anybody’s watching this video and you know the name of this arch, let me know, let me know down in the comments. I would love to know. Now this is a fantastic arch, but it’s not the arch that I’m looking for. I can see that tree right there. It’s only about 300 yards away. It’s so close. I can taste. It tastes like dirt.

Ah, it’s here. It’s right here. Just as cool as I remember, come take a look

Here. It is right behind me. Now. I also don’t know if this arts has a name, but I like to call it EG arch because of that beautiful rounded shape of the rock that it’s in. And from this side, it’s really cool and impressive. It sits in this broad plateau, the Sandy bench with all of these great Sage brushes and desert plants. And of course that cool tree and some whale shaped rocks, but what’s really neat about this. Arch is the view from behind it. Looking back this way from here, you look straight out on lone pine peak. It’s a fantastic Vista right through the arch fantastic alignment. It’s going to be great for sunrise and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing here today is trying to find this arch scouted for potential shoot at sunrise. So let’s get down to it.

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Create PERFECT Milky Way Composites Blends in Photoshop (3 Common Mistakes)

Create PERFECT Milky Way Composites Blends in Photoshop (3 Common Mistakes)

So I recently took a poll about one of my Milky way photos. And unfortunately I only got one response and that response was really harsh. That’s right. You was complaining about a very common problem in Milky way photography, which is the foreground and sky blend looking funky. So in this video, I’m going to teach you exactly how you can make that blend look totally kick. So let’s get to it.


Hello my excellent friends it’s Josh Cripps here with Milky Way season. Just about upon us here in the Northern hemisphere, I wanted to bring you a really powerful tip to help take your Milkyway shots to that cosmic level. Now, once you start shooting the Milky way, you quickly realize that a huge problem when you’re doing this, as you expose for the stars and it causes your foreground to look like crap, right? It’s blurry, it’s out of focus. It tends to be super duper noisy and just plain ugly. So one of the easiest ways to overcome this problem is to do a blend where you take two shots, one during say dusk or blue hour, where you expose really nicely for all the details of the foreground. And then you wait for it to get dark. You photograph the Milky way, and then you put those two photos together in post.

And if you’ve already tried doing this yourself, you know that sometimes you just get results that look janky. Even if you have a perfect mask, your results, something about them is not quite right. The blend just doesn’t quite work. And in fact, a lot of the times, this is why you see this really overdone, glowy light blasting out from the horizon of Milky way photos it’s to help disguise that transition between the sky shot and the foreground shot. But if you know what the problems are that create these funky blends and you know how to overcome those problems, then you don’t need any of that smoke and mirrors. So I’m going to teach you in this video, the three things that caused these weird blending mismatches and exactly how to overcome them, and they’re basically color issues, exposure issues, and masking issues. So we’re going to talk about color and exposure first, and I’m going to jump over to Photoshop to demonstrate this.

So here’s what I mean. You can see how in this shot, which was exposed for the Milky way, the foreground itself is extremely dark and overall, this image has a lot of blue and cyan tones to it. Whereas the shot that I took for the foreground is much brighter, as much warmer tones and a lot more magenta in it. And so there’s a bast Gulf between both the color and the brightness values of these two different shots. And so if you just try to slap one on top of the other, your eye intuitively knows that something isn’t quite right, because a sky that’s dark like this, your brain intuitively that it just doesn’t match what they foreground that’s as bright and differently colored as this. And so in order to get the cleanest possible composite, what you actually need to do instead is try to match the brightness, the exposure and the color of these two shots as closely as possible, especially along the transition zone.

And what does this going to do? It’s going to hide a lot of these funky issues, even if you have a less than perfect mask. So let me show you exactly how I like to do this. So let me get out of Photoshop here. And I’m actually going to jump over to Lightroom and here in Lightroom, I’ve got my two photos queued up. I’ve got my sky shot and I’ve got my foreground shot. And what I’m going to do now is I’m going to go ahead and open these edit in Adobe. That’s weird. You can’t open them from right here.

Oh, that’s why. Cause he can’t find the fricking things. It’s got to wait a second here for this.

There we go. So here in my room, I’ve got my two photos, got my foreground shot and my sky exposure. And what I’m going to do now is right click on either of these photos. I’ve got them both selected here and then go to edit in. And instead of just going edit in Photoshop, but I’m actually do is open these as smart objects within Photoshop. And what that allows me to do is adjust the raw properties, the raw file properties of these two shots from within Photoshop. Okay, cool. So now that I have these two files open here in Photoshop, and they’re both smart objects where you can see this little icon down here in the thumbnail indicates that they’re smart objects and the way that I like to layer them up. Cause that’s what we’re going to do right now is layer them up.

Like a nice little Manny sandwich is use my move tool and I’m just going to drag the one over to the other. And if you hold down shift, when you release it, it’ll just plop it right on top, perfectly centered. So you don’t have to worry about the alignment too much. And I do this with my foreground on top of my sky exposure. And the reason that I do it, that specific way, I’m going to get to a little bit later in this particular video. So the process from this point is actually fairly simple. All you need to do is take a note of the different color shifts within the image and the exposure shifts within the two images and then try to match them up. So you can see, like I said earlier, the foreground shot is very bright and very warm, very magenta compared to the sky shot, which is very cool and very dark in comparison.

So the first thing I’m going to do is double click, the little smart object icon there on the sky exposure. And that’s going to allow me to make adjustments to that smart object. And I am basically just going to try to meet in the middle. I’m going to make a compromise between the sky exposure and the foreground exposure now in terms of the brightness. So if I pull the exposure up, is that a plus one right now? But the other one is so much brighter. I’m going to pull that up, maybe like a full stop. And you’ll notice that the foreground starts to get super grainy, super noisy in this particular case, that’s totally fine. We’re going to replace it with that much cleaner, nicer foreground, but we still need to, to brighten it up to help make that blend seamless. So I’m gonna brighten that up quite a bit.

Say a full, just about a full stop plus two. That’s good. I don’t want my, uh, Milky way core to blow out too much. So I’m going to pull the highlights down a little bit. And of course you can do some local adjustments if you need to, to kind of keep those details in place. So that looks better in terms of the exposure. And I also want to try now to match the color. So, like I said, the foreground shot is so much warmer and more magenta than the sky shot. So I’m just going to try to get this closer as I can something maybe a little bit like that. And this is an iterative process. You just try it, go back through the blend, see how it looks. Okay. So now I’ve got a sky exposure and you can see already how much closer in terms of overall brightness and overall coloration.

The sky here is compared to the sky there and that’s great, but the foreground exposure here is still a little bit brighter, still a little bit warmer. So I’m going to open that one now as a smart object. And I’m simply going to drop the exposure on that a little bit. And I’m going to cool it down a little bit as well. Something like that, maybe add a little bit of green to pull in some of those magenta tones or pull out some of those magenta toes, a little more of those cyan toes. So once this is done processing, but due to do now, I should have a much closer overall match between the exposure and the color of these two shots. And this one is still actually quite a bit more magenta than the sky shots. So let me go ahead and add a bit more green to it.

A little bit more green, a little bit more green, a little bit more. The subtlety is key guys, right? So just do this a little bit at a time. Try to get a matching, you know, as close as you can and now what’s going to happen. Not I’ve made that adjustment. I’m going to go ahead and make a very quick preliminary mask, uh, for this foreground exposure. And I recommend that you use your foreground shots when you’re making your masks because the edges are going to be much cleaner, right? If I zoom in here, you can see how clean the edges of the mountains are here. Whereas in the sky shot, they’re pretty fuzzy. They’re pretty noisy. So that’s going to make making a mask a little bit more muddy. So use that foreground. And I’m just going to do this quick and dirty for the purposes of this video.

There’s lots of great information out there about how to create masks, whether it’s using luminosity masking or our color channels, or even the selection one, which is what I’m going to do right now. So I’m going to go ahead and just hit w on my keyboard to bring up the selection wand and I’m going to mask the sky. Oops, undo. We’ve got a little overzealous there, so let’s go ahead and just start painting around the mountains. So horizon line here. There we go. So the selection breasts, if you have a clean, does a pretty good job of making a little exposure, and this is the part that I want to mask out. So then I’m going to go down here to my, uh, layer mask and hold the altar option key on my keyboard. And that is going to buy Boosh. That is going to instantly mask out the sky and let the sky exposure the Milky way exposure, shine through and already.

You can see the massive difference that has made in this shot. How much more realistic off the bat. This blend already looks than the funky blend. So look at the difference between these two images. This is where I didn’t make any adjustments to the exposure or color. That’s why the blend looks so funky compared to that how much more natural this one already feels. So anytime you’re doing your compositing with your foreground shot and your sky shot, that’s a process you want to be going through match the exposure, match the color it’s going to help make your blend look so much better. In fact, it’s going to look so good. It’s even going to disguise little funky issues with your mask. If your mask isn’t perfect. This is going to help a lot too, to blend that in, to make that transition nice and clean.

And of course you can continue to refine as much as you need this foreground still, probably a little bit too bright, maybe a little bit too warm. So I would potentially go in there and make a few more subtle adjustments. So something else I wanted to mention when it comes to creating these really nice blends is don’t forget about the local adjustments on your smart objects, right? So if I turn off this mask, you can see that the sky over here is quite bright, still compared to my Milky way exposure. And so you could potentially come in and brighten up the Milky way exposure just in that spot. So for example, I could open it as a smart object again here, and then bring up like a local adjustment brush to maybe add a little bit more brightness. And let’s say it a little bit more warmth just in that one spot.

And again, all we’re doing here, we’re just trying to match the characteristics between the two files. You see how that makes that edge a little bit more clean right there. It blends in a little bit better with the color, the tonality of that spot. Let me do it before and after. So you can see how the sky there, it’s a little bit green, right? And it doesn’t quite blend. It looks a little funky with the warmer tones on the rock there, but as soon as I make that local adjustment, boom, it makes such a nice difference to the blend. So don’t forget about your local adjustments there to your raw files when you’re doing this smart object adjustments. Okay. Yes. All right. So now that we’ve understood a little bit more about matching color and exposure, we need to look at the third problem when it comes to making these perfect Milkyway foreground blends, and that is the mask itself.

And like I said earlier, I’m not going to go through a detailed masking tutorial in this video. Uh, I just don’t have the time and there’s a lot of great resources out there, but if you guys want to see how I do my refined Milky way, masking drop comment down below, and maybe I will create a video about exactly how I mask for my Milky way blends. So even if you have a pretty good selection, you know, and I’ve used that, that selection one, it’s made a really nice selection here. A lot of times what happens when you’re lining these photos up is you get a little bit of a mismatch between the edges of the frame. And that could be due to a couple of reasons. It can either be because the camera has shifted position slightly in between the two exposures, these two exposures, for example, I think they were taking something like two and a half or three hours apart.

One was at dusk and one was three hours later when the Milky way finally Rose into position right beside this peak. So in three hours of me, futsing around with a camera. Yeah. It probably moved a little bit. The other thing that can happen, and this is really common is when you adjust the focus, the background can move in and out of focus. And it does something called focus breathing, which is where the size of the object and the frame will actually change a little bit as they move in and out of focus. And so for these two photos, you know, for the foreground, I focus probably somewhere in the bottom, third of the frame. And then when I S uh, focused in on the stars, it blew out the focus, soften the focus of all the mountains and everything like that, and created that fuzzy edge.

And so, as I zoom in here, you can see, in fact, I do have some weirdness going on with the edge of my mask, even though I have this fantastic looking mask, there’s some funkiness going on around it because of that change to the landscape, either from touching my camera or from, uh, things blowing out of focus. So the way that you can deal with this is so simple, and this is the reason that I love to put my sky layer on the bottom here in my layers panel, because you can simply move it. If you grab your move tool by hitting the V on your keyboard, make sure you select that sky layer, and then you just nudge it downward, watch this. You’re going to see those funky edges magically disappear, basically because we’ve got this clean edge on our mask that we created from our foreground layer.

And we’re simply sliding the out of focus, parts of the sky layer behind that mask. And so check out right here in the center of the frame, the difference between when I, before I nudged it, how fuzzy that edge looks, I just nudged it downward so simple. It cleans up those edges beautifully. Isn’t that cool? Okay. But there’s one situation where this won’t work and that is when you are photographing irregularly shaped objects. And when you change the focus they expand from that focus breathing, and you get a fuzzy edge on all sides. So let’s jump over to a different sample photo. Alrighty. So this was one of my favorite Milkyway shots that I personally have ever created. This is over at Mona Lake. These two really awesome two for towers in October, the Milky way just pops right in between them. And let me show you for the sake of showing you something, what the two files look like.

So this is my Milky way exposure. And you can see when I zoom in here, how ugly these two full up there’s all kinds of noise. There’s all kinds of weird color blobs loss of detail, right? The edges aren’t sharp at all because I focused out on the stars. Now, here is what my sky layer looks like. It’s got fantastic, excellent detail within the two phys how wondrous I love it. Except of course there’s no Milky way. So I need to blend these two things together. And I basically just do the same process. I showed you guys, I try to match the color and exposure between the two frames to get something that looks like that. Okay. Now, zipper problem. The big problem that you’re going to run into with this particular image is right here. The edge of the tufa is grody, right? And that’s basically because the tufa on the bottom is out of focus and it’s expanded sort of Omni directionally.

So it’s out of focus all the way around the tuba. So I can’t simply like if I just take this and I slide it downward, like I would in the other one, well, it cleans up some of the edges on this upper part of the two foot, but it creates more issues down here on the lower part of the tufa. So how on earth do we deal with that? This is one of the other great reasons. I love putting the sky layer on the bottom. I do already have this fantastic mask with these great sharp edges going all the way around it. So all I need to do essentially is to decide skies or hide the soft edge underneath that, the mask and the way that I like to do this is quite simple. I use the clone stamp tool and I’m going to create a brand new one layer here, control alt shift and command option shift.

And for you Macintosh’s now you’ve got this blank layer, go ahead and hit S on your keyboard or move over here to grab your clone stamp tool. There it is. It’s looks like a little stamp and let’s see, I want to make sure my opacity is all the way up. And this is critical. You want to be sampling the current layer and below that, we’ll make sure you don’t inadvertently copy something you’re not supposed to, but it allow you to take sample data from that bottom layer from your two fill layer. So now that you’ve got the clone stamp set and all that goodness going on right there, what we’re going to do is basically just grab stars as your source points from nearby and paste them or paint underneath onto that closed stamp layer. And you’ll see what happened what’s happening here is that edge is being revealed in this very beautifully, perfectly way.

Okay. And that’s because simply all we’re doing, whoops. So I had a little, a little overzealous there, so you gotta be careful as you’re doing this right. You want to be sure that you’re sampling from somewhere that has a similar color and exposure to the area that you’re painting over. Right. And, um, but, and you can see that this works on all sides. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about the top, the bottom, the right, the left, all I’m doing is I’m a, here’s a little spot you can see right there. So long, little spot, let’s just clean up that edge. Notice how it makes these edges of this. So perfect. And you can be as careful as you like, right. You might not want to necessarily duplicate well known clusters of stars or something like that. Again, I just want to reiterate that it’s really important as you’re doing this, to try to grab source pixels or source areas that are similar in color and tone to the areas that you’re going to be painting over.

Otherwise you’re going to get really funky results, right? Like if I grab from up here where it’s quite dark compared to down here, and I start staying cloning in like that, all of a sudden I’ve just made a really obvious blunder in the image, right? So you can see here, it’s quite bright. I probably want to be grabbing source data from summer that’s of equivalent brightness. Okay. I hope that makes sense. Uh, so anyway, you can do this all the way around, just go all the way around all your rough edges, so you can clean them up really, really easily. And let me just fast forward in time here to, uh, another layer that I have already done this all the way on, and you can see now how I’ve gotten such. I went from having this really ugly, soft, fuzzy edge. That is a very obvious blend to something that’s much cleaner, but it doesn’t have those common issues associated with compositing where it looks fake, right?

So that’s how you can clean up your edges really beautifully to create these lovely, seamless composites. So there you have it guys, the three things that you need to do to make seamless Milky way composites match the color and, uh, exposure of your sky photo and your foreground photo, and then go in either nudging your mask around or clone, stamping it to get those edges perfectly pristine. And you’re going to have the most smashing Milkyway photos anyone has ever seen. I guarantee it do-now I’ve went into that voice, but sometimes you just got a little weird that has to come out here. All right guys, and gals, I hope you enjoyed that tutorial and that it helps you put together awesome Milkyway composites with clean Milky way and a clean foreground for those really seamless blends. And if you find this tutorial helpful, be sure to like, and subscribe and do all the thumbs up, great YouTube stuff, but also please tag your photos on Instagram, hashtag Joshua crypts photography. I’d love to see the results that you get from employing this technique. So that’s it for this video. I’ll see you soon in another one until then have fun and happy shooting.


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Finding Paradise: A Short Film About the Most Beautiful Place in California

Finding Paradise: A Short Film About the Most Beautiful Place in California

Every time I’ve come close to dying. It’s involved a mountain, a steep slope and a somewhat reckless human. Uh, me, my name is Josh Cripps and I’ve had the unbelievable fortune to travel the world as a landscape photographer for most of the past decade. And in my years of adventuring around the planet, I’ve slid down IC shoots in New Zealand, tumbled off sandstone ramps in Utah, and been caught in rock slides in Chile. But nowhere have I had more close calls with gravity then on the granite mountain sides of my home range, the Sierra Nevada. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise you. When I start this story here, perched at the top of what I would later come to call Satan’s crack. Do they get a giant shock stone there? John dropped there. Can’t tell how wide it is. It just looks at death and destruction. The whole way down. I had just scrambled up a thousand feet of talus to find a way over an unnamed pass in Kings Canyon, national park only to be confronted by this death trap way. I’m going down that with a bag on. So there, I was wondering how the hell I was going to get down that shoot without killing myself in the process, but in order for you to understand exactly how I ended up in that particular spot, I need to back up a little bit to the summer of 2017.

Wait, wait, there y’all must grant small for another mentor in place out Cal paradise. 

Sergeant Kearsarge is well-known in the world of Sierra hiker, dumb, not just because of its spectacular scenic beauty, but also because it’s just about the easiest way to get over the Sierra crest to access the true wilderness of the Sierra back country. And on that particular trip, as I stood at top of the nearly 12,000 foot high Kearsarge pass gazing into King’s Canyon, I resolved to do something I rarely do all backpacking climb, a mountain or rather a small mountain, or rather this small mountain, the cutest and most pettiest of the Kearsarge pinnacles. After setting up camp near the largest of the Kearsarge lakes, I followed a meandering Creek uphill to the base of the pinnacle

Mosey up down there.

See what’s on the other side. And after

Some fun fourth class scrambling there, I was one single move below the summit.

I get to the very top, which is literally just three feet above me. Cause it’s kind of an awkward move right here over this hang and block with some ridiculous exposure. It’s probably not a hard move, but if you went down, man, you know, down Alex

Honnold, I am not, but as a wonderful consolation prize, I’ve found a granite ledge, some 50 feet below, which offered a sensational view West into the back country of Kings.

Dude who loves maps. And as I stood on that ledge, learning the names of the mighty Sierra peaks in front of me, one particular place on the map, drew my attention, the gardener basin, it was awfully remote, almost exclusively above treeline and surrounded by peaks with no trail leading to it. And no obviously easy way to get there. Now that looked interesting. And in that moment I resolved to visit the Gardner basin as soon as I could, but first I still had to climb down from that pinnacle and try not to get too cold overnight. I’m just a little bit chagrined to admit that I’ve forgotten to bring pants well this year trip, after that overnight trip time leashed by in a flurry of adventures. And before I knew it, summer 2018 had arrived and my backpacking legs were getting In late July long spell of thunderstorm activity was forecasted to hit the Sierra. And since that’s my favorite kind of weather to backpack in,

If you listen closely, you just might hear the peels. Thunderclaps often a distance that’s cast for rejoicing because incredible conditions for photography

That meant it was finally time to see what the Gardner basin was all about. Would it live up to my hopes and dreams of a glorious back country? Shangri-La would there be any good compositions or light for photography? Would I meet the woman of my dreams on her own solo backpacking adventure, or would it all be one big turd vest? There was only one way to know for sure. And that was to strap a 25 pound pack to my back, loaded up with another 10 pounds of camera gear and beat feet into the mountains. Having had the winter and spring to pour over my beloved Topo maps. I knew the exact route I was going to take into Gardner basin, starting from the onion Valley trail head. I’d hike up to the golden trout lakes. And from there head West cross-country over dragon pass and down to dragon Lake from there, I’d find my way into the Rae lakes basin, then hike over 60 lakes pass before turning South to navigate. Get another off-trail pass to finally reach Gardiner basin. That route would be about 13 and a half miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain over multiple cross-country passes. It almost seemed too easy.

It is one hot dry dust is slow.

The route climbed, steeply up a Sandy trail to the beautiful golden trout lakes where I was treated to a particularly stunning sight

Carpets of superstar.

And here I’d like to take a little bit of a detour for a moment by now. You are surely wondering why I’m speaking with that drawl every time you see me in the field,

Well, either most grants, there is nothing quite like the clarity of mind that descends upon you. When you take that first step on a high Sierra trail.

Well, it’s a bit of a long story. So for now suffice it to say whenever that particular hat goes on my head, the accent come

Out of my mouth anyway, not took it about three and a half miles to walk, maybe another 1300 feet up to dragon pass. And it’s clouded up precipitously, which makes me a little bit worried that the Cumulus clouds AskPat earlier over the crest, maybe fixing to drop some range. So I better get a move on.

I continued hiking uphill until I reached the highest of the golden trout lakes where I could finally see my objective now.

Yeah. A little naggy is the pass that I’m trying to get over

Little. Did I realize that was not dragon pass at all, but rather the after mentioned

Satan’s crack, my guess is going to be one hour of travel to get about how to know it’s like half mile in your distance and 800 feet up. Oh boy, here we go.

By happily meandered up the rock and scree until I stood on that three foot wide press

At the top of the shoot. Well friends, I got to say that was an awful lot of hard work who this law was since coming back out, made it to the past and made it to Kings Canyon. So looking down this incredibly steep gully, so go down there at dragon Lake. That’s that first Lake that’s where I played the campsite and beyond that is Rae lakes basin. So how did the scout a little bit make sure these two precipitous drop-offs I can see directly down the Scully or not actually death falls and we’ll go from there.

I took off my pack and gingerly ease myself into the shoot to scout a path down. In this case, it was immediately obvious that this shoot was not a viable way down the mountain, but rather a death trap waiting to happen. I felt the screen sliding under my shoes and knew that if I didn’t get out of there soon, I never would scrambling at the rotten walls and peeling away layer. After layer of rock, I frantically pulled myself out of the shoot and set panting at the top, my heart pounding in my chest

All day long. There’s no way I’m going down that with a bag on it. Well, at this point, I, I meant to feeling a little bit bamboozled, I suppose it’s possible that I misread the Topo map and the two actual passes around that corner. But I do not believe so now I have to go back down in any case, cause they were sure, Hey, no way I’m going down. That gully proposition descent, I am excited about. Nevertheless I’m without option at the moment

Since dragon pass was not marked on my Topo map, I had assumed it would be the lowest point on the Ridge. But since that clearly wasn’t the case. I now had to rely on my own route finding skills to uncover a safe way up and over the Ridge

Came down, skirt that little rib and there’s definitely no, no pass over here then I thought, but it looks like there may be a way up to some of these rocks.

One thing I’ve discovered in my Sierra ramblings is that when you see a bunch of jumbled boulders, there’s almost always a way you can wriggle through them. I picked a line in the rocks above me and began to climb. Just to give you a little,

A bit of a, but not D of the type of tear rain we’re dealing with here, going across country, just rocks, rocks, and rocks up and up and up. We go,

I mean, it was going great for a while until it wasn’t. I had been scrambling of third and fourth class terrain challenging, but not impossible with a heavy pack on, but then I reached an impasse, a low fifth class, move up a whale shaped slap, and remember Alex Honnold I am not. So I could either down climb and look for yet another route over the Ridge, or I could hang myself out to dry on this slab. But since down climbing fourth class terrain with a heavy pack is heinous and sketchy. I decided to go up and with a graceful climbing technique, you could only describe as rock humping. I spread eagled myself on that slab and inched upward until I found solid handholds in a series of easy boulders. That to my great delight led to the summit Ridge.

Well, Holy, snacks combined race. I just want to say after that with a right whale penis, because my heart was pounding, pounding, pounding, pounding, going up dead. Anyway, it’s pretty frigging amazing up here. I got to say, now that I’m here, the views are just spectacular in every single direction. And when I got to the top here, I let out a whoop of trial and you know what came squirreling around the corner? A couple of big horn sheep. First time I seen him here in this year, pretty cool to be that close man, the fidelity with which they just ran down the spine over here and then down a gully was incredible. Now, thankfully I do believe it’s going to be possible to get down this Northwest side of the gully, like goodness, because just going back down to the Lake boy, that would be a hell of a moral defeat.

Great joy. I followed those sheepies to a Sandy gully where I partook in one of my favorite Sierra activities, a 1500 foot boot ski down the screen to the bottom of the gully.

Now that doesn’t seem dangerous at all. Doesn’t

Praise Jesus.

I made it to dragon Lake. I we’ll find like it is from

In the Lake. Not only was there a sensational view of Mount Cotter and Clarence King, but also a perfect look back into the sphincter clenching shoot. I initially thought was dragon pass. I allowed myself a retroactive shiver then went off to photograph the sunset over the sublime Ray lakes basin. Now I’ve heard

We had many, a town that the Ray lakes basin here in Kings Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the Sierra. And I’ll tell you what, in this moment I would be hard pressed to disagree with that.

NOLA rewarding day chock full of stunning scenery, hard work, and only a few heart pounding moments thrown in for good measure.

After a near sleepless night caused

Perhaps by too much lingering adrenaline in my system, I woke the next day to piercingly blue skies in surprisingly warm temperatures.

Now it was hot. Last on downright hot.

As I packed up camp, the heat continued to build and given that it was barely 9:00 AM when the first puffy moisture Laden clouds of the day appeared,

Hopefully we’re going to be seeing loss of these gas today, Cumulus clouds, thunderstorms.

And so I made quick work of that mornings. Hiking first, I’ve got to drop down into

Great lakes. Check that out back gun with Cruz, little 35 minutes drove

All the time. The thunderclouds continued to stack up an hour later. By the time I had hiked up in over 60 lakes, past the skies word, dark and brooding. And while the hiking so far had not been particularly difficult little did I realize I’d soon face a challenge of a different nature? My initial trip plan called for me to stay that night in 60 lakes basin, but the weather intervened in a big way,

Little change plans. I really came out here to photograph the Gardner basin and thunderstorms, and it’s just over there about a mile and a half maybe thousand vertical feet. And since there’s no guarantee of thunderstorms tomorrow, that means today is the only option. So kind of going against my better judgment here to walk towards the storm. But, uh, that’s what you do for photography.

And if that isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what it is. Sometimes you gotta walk toward the storm Upon reaching the saddle. I was shocked to see what lay on the other side,

Starbucks now just kidding. There’s absolutely nothing. This is dark as can be,

Right. It was a moonscape of considerable in hospitality. My gut dropped, where was my back country? Shangrila where were all the Epic compositions I was going to shoot? Where was my solo adventure, babe? I didn’t see them anywhere. This sucks. I shouted at the sky. I was tempted to retreat back down to the lush flower, filled Meadows of 60 lakes basin, but in good conscience, I couldn’t give up that easily.

Well Migos, even though the descent down in gardener place, it looks like garbage and travel across the base and looks like giant diarrhea and stark is hail. I don’t see any flat spots to put a tent down. Well, this is what I came here to check out photographs. So I’d be disappointed myself. If I didn’t at least go down, take a closer look at it. So here we go. Hopefully all this rain and Latin and the thud Hersman going on up here keeps at Bay and I don’t get totally drenched. I don’t know what I’m doing. More pain and suffering in the name of the great Sierra photo.

So as mammatus clouds formed above me, I shouldered my pack and began the slog through the Gardner basin, clambering over boulders, the size of refrigerators, looking for something, anything that would justify the effort of getting here

Minutes and barely a mile later, I began approaching the Western shelf of the upper basin. And as I did my day took on the most glorious U-turn I have ever experienced.

Well, it just goes to show you just shows the goal. Yeah. That if you trust in the system, the high Sierra always delivers what is the system? I have no idea, but this view is incredible.

An endless series of terraces lakes, waterfalls, trees, and Meadows, all backed by the mighty Gardner peak, which from the saddle I had thought to simply be a small triangle of rock, but I couldn’t have been more wrong from this spot. I could see how magnificent the peak truly was an ascendent spear of granite, leaping thousands of feet above the surrounding terrain shimmering as snow melt, cascaded down its granite flanks.

Just the landscape that had changed back over the saddle where I had been questioning my decision-making skills. Rain fell as thick and dark as an oil spill, but to West, the skies were clearing and the sun began to break free

Of the clouds. Now you all know what happens when you get sun and rain in the other direction. That’s right. You get rainbows.

And on this day it wasn’t just any rainbow that formed, but one of the most intense and unusual rainbows of my life,

Can somebody please explain what the hell is happening with this rainbow? I see the patterns and the colors repeating three times, y’all see that as well. What the hell’s going on.

And when the bark of a double rainbow appeared to say it was euphoric would be


Rainbows are a femoral things usually gone in a fleeting moment. So I never thought I’d be in a position where I’d get bored of shooting one, but the rainbow that night lasted the better part of an hour. Mine, a glow. I took a short break to set up camp, but I reckon I found is about the greatest campsite. Then I set off to explore a nearby granite bench where the Sierra continued to provide great glorious gifts. Now about an hour and a half may before sunset. So I’m over here, lower down the base and scout in a few places to shoot S Mount Cotter up there knew a lot about the name Mount Kotter. If you put a period after the C becomes Mount seawater, which are agonism much better night, and despite the unsettled weather of the day, the Lake was as smooth as glass reflecting the mountain above, I jumped in for a quick swim, then ventured off toward the West. And what I found there

Is this real life. What is this place?

This may be truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I just can’t, can’t quite believe as I watched that spectacular sunset unfold over that spectacular basin, I couldn’t help, but reflect on the fact that pushing through discomfort so often leads to an even greater room

Lord. No, that was

Truly remarkable day. That kind of comes

Along only, ever so often.

Well cock-a-doodle-doo Mellon farmers today. What I’m going to do, just Rob down to that little Lake over there, squirrel back up over the pond over there, and then cruise back out over to 60 lakes basin all in all I spent most of two days in the Gardiner basin before hiking on to other destinations in Kings Canyon, in order to avoid the drama of dragon pass a second time, I took a longer route home traveling for the most part on good trail. The hike out from Gardner was remarkably beautiful and rewarding, and I enjoy many magnificent moments, but that’s a story for another time. So until then this is Josh Cripps signing off wishing you great light and happy adventuring.

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The 5 Commandments of Landscape Photography (Do These Or Fail)

The 5 Commandments of Landscape Photography (Do These Or Fail)

Now you’re recording yuupppp and this guy is recording too.

Okay. Starting to get a little bit cold, and I’m going to put on a beanie because I’m kinda old and scene! You’re very welcome for that, everybody.


It is a major challenge to be prescriptive with art, right? Whenever I’m teaching workshops and I get questions like, is this the best focal length to use or do I have the right shutter speed? Or is my horizon at the right level? The answer is almost always, it depends because, you know, unless I know exactly what you want to accomplish, I can’t unequivocally say, well, you should do specifically this and point your camera at that specific rock at this exact focal link with this exact shutter speed. There are so many subjective elements to art and to photography that it’s really hard to say, this is the right answer. And this is the wrong answer. However, I can say that there are five things that every single landscape photo needs to do in order to be successful. And if you don’t do these five things, your photo isn’t going to work. So I’m going to tell you what those are, how to accomplish them right now.

Greetings my excellent friends, it’s Josh Cripps here. Now with all of the different types of photos out there, you may be wondering what five things the best ones could possibly have in common. But the truth is it’s not about this specific settings they use or the kind of post-processing or even the time of day that they were shot. Instead. It’s about how the photographers approach the scene and how the photos they create accomplish very specific goals. So let’s get into it.

The best photos, tell stories and landscape photography is no different. Even if that story in a landscape photo is as simple as well, I went to this place and it was really cool and beautiful. And the things in this photo show you why I think that, and as it implies, it can’t be just any story of a place. It has to be your story of a place, not what somebody else thinks is cool or what you think you should compose based on the latest outdoor photographer article you read, or what trends are popular on Instagram, extreme framing. But what you specifically notice about a place I want to know what you see. This is the number one goal. Your photo must accomplish. It needs to tell your story, have a place at the moment that you are pressing the shutter. Okay. So how the crap do you do that? 

A good subject for a landscape photo. Honestly, it’s anything that catches your eye. So that could be anything that you find interesting or beautiful or engaging about the scene that you’re in, in a really easy test for. This is any time you catch yourself thinking, eh, that’s pretty cool. Well, then you have the potential for a good subject for your photograph. Now the big exception to this is light and clouds, and while they’re beautiful, they often aren’t distinctive enough to stand alone as the entirety of the story of your photo. Now, it’s also critical that your subject is something that you care about. And that’s just to say that the more your subject makes you feel an emotion, any emotion, really, whether it’s art or serenity or apprehension or joy, whatever it is, you just need to feel an emotion. The more that you feel that the more that you care about your subject, the more that you’re going to want to photograph it, you’re going to really engage with it and explore it and shoot it from all kinds of different angles until you really find out what makes that subject tick.

And the more that you do that, the more it’s going to draw your viewers in as well. So that’s why it’s important that you find something that you are interested in, something that you care about, something that makes you feel any emotion. Now, more than likely in any scene, there’s going to be a lot of interesting stuff that you’re drawn to. Of course. So what you need to do is just pick the most important two to four things, actual physical things in the scene, and then try to exclude everything else because a photo that contains everything that’s in a scene in front of you, it says a lot without actually saying anything. Instead, you should strive to show your viewer. What’s most important to you in any given scene. Now it’s okay to shoot many different photos to help tell a complete story of a place, but each individual photo should show. What’s so special. What’s most special to you about that particular moment, that particular scene. So that’s what you need to accomplish with your subject. You want to convey to your viewer. What’s most important to you in that particular moment, in that particular scene.

In order to be effective, the composition of your photo needs to show off the most interesting attributes of that subject of your photo. So if you’re looking at a mountain and you’re thinking, Holy crap, that thing is huge, but then you shoot an image like this with a super wide angle lens where the mountain is this tiny little pyramid in the background. Is that really telling the story? Is it really showing off the most compelling attributes of that subject or would a shot like this be more effective to demonstrate to your viewer what it is that you want to show off about mountain specifically how huge it is? You know, here’s another example. If you’ve already seen my video about story and composition and the way that they play together, basically these are two shots from Kings Canyon. And what I wanted to show off in this scene was the expansiveness of the sky.

And I could have shot a vertical like this, which is very engaging and it pulls the viewer in, but it feels very closed off. It doesn’t show that expansiveness of the scene, whereas the horizontal composition, which not only contains a broad swath of sky in the sky, but it also contains a broad swath of sky in the reflection. Basically, it’s giving you all this sky, it’s giving you the sense of endlessness, how this views in this space and go on forever. So that’s what I found interesting. That was the most compelling part of my subject. And that’s what I’m using my composition to convey in this photograph. So use your composition to show off the most interesting parts of your subject. All right. Number four, artistic camera technique.

And what I’m talking about here is basically your camera settings, the gear you use, and even things like timing, like when you press the shutter button now most photographers, when they hear camera technique or good camera technique, they’re thinking, okay, I gotta put my camera on a tripod and get a decent exposure, but good camera technique is about so much more than this because the truth is as an artist, what you are trying to achieve, what you’re striving for is to use your camera and your shooting technique in order to further show your viewer. What’s important about the scene that you’re photographing. So here I was photographing from the top of a Ridge line in Kings Canyon, national park, and I’d been hiking for quite some time under these fairly ominous skies and they kept threatening to drop a ton of rain. In fact, I could see the lightning, I could hear the thunder happening just over the Hill, essentially.

And I felt like at any minute, I’m going to get smacked by this storm and it’s going to be really uncomfortable. So I had this kind of impending sense of doom and drama. And so as I was photographing this scene, that’s exactly what I wanted to convey. Now, technically speaking, in terms of getting a good exposure, I could have shot the scene like this, and you can see the histogram here is really nicely brightly exposed. It’s good data. It’s good, blah, blah, blah, blurb. But does this tell that story? There’s a plane flying over and I’m also dancing cause my hands are cold. So I gotta get this video done and go home and get some tea.

All right. That’s probably good enough. So this light exposure, which is technically a proper, a good exposure, it’s really not telling that story of those emotions that I was feeling and the emotions that I want to convey in the image. Whereas this photo where I expose it more darkly or less brightly, it tells that story so much better. So here I am using my camera settings to very intentionally tell or further emphasize that story that I wanted to tell about my subject. So again, I’ve identified that my subject, which is the storm coming in, what was cool about it, or maybe what I should say I found most compelling is how it really gave me this sense of kind of impending doom and drama. That’s what I wanted to convey to my viewer. And I’m using my camera technique to do that by specifically exposing the exposure more darkly, it’s not just about exposure, histograms or shutter speed and things like that.

Camera technique can also be the way that you use your camera. Like when you press the shutter button. So here I’m photographing Lake Tipu in New Zealand. This is right in the town of Queenstown, the Queenstown gardens. It was a windy day. The wind was sweeping these waves up the Lake and they would come and they would crash on the shore here and send spray, shooting up into the air. And I really loved that. Interplay the energy of the water, hitting the rocks, the excitement of it. It really helped give a sense of the energy of the wind and what it was like to actually be there in the moment. So what’s critical about the creation of photos in a situation like that is when you press the shutter button, right? If I press the shutter button, when the waves are still you, the viewer, you’re not going to get a sense of what I was experiencing and the story that I want to tell in this photograph.

Instead, I’m waiting for the biggest possible wave to hit the rock. And I’m trying to press my Sutter at just the exact right moment to catch the maximum amount of splash and spray coming up into the air so that you really get a sense of what was happening. That wave hitting the rock, flying up. You’re seeing that you’re feeling the energy of what it was actually like to be there in the moment. So there’s another example of how you can use your camera technique to further emphasize and tell that story show. What’s most interesting about your subject to your viewers. All right, let’s get on to the last thing that you have to accomplish in order to have a successful landscape photograph. And that is use light. Don’t let it use you.

Even the light in your photograph needs to serve a purpose. And the truth is the craziest most Epic light. It’s not always the best light because just like composition and technique the light in your photo. What it has to do is enhance the story that you’re trying to tell. And so light is actually only good or to the extent that it helps you convey what you want to convey and with landscape photography, sometimes, maybe even oftentimes that story is really simple. It’s as simple as saying something like this was a really cool, unusual, beautiful place that I visited. And so if you shoot that kind of a location with some really cool, unusual, beautiful lights, well, it, that helps to tell that story. And in fact, that’s a really common story in landscape photography, and that’s fine, but it’s not the only story, right? Because sometimes the story is what it felt like to stumble across a field of wild flowers in the high Sierra.

And you want to share the joy and the happiness that you felt when you were walking through this landscape. And the loop in was blooming and bright purple in the perfume was wafting in the wind and you were just so overjoyed to be there. And if that’s what you want to convey to your viewer, that’s great. But say you decide to wait around until the afternoon thunderstorms pick up so you can get some of that really cool, dark dramatic, moody light now. Sure. Yeah, you could do that, but let me ask you this. Doesn’t that completely miss the point of the story that you’re trying to tell. In fact, maybe the best light for that particular story is right after sunrise, when there’s not a single cloud in the sky, when is completely clear. And that light blazing across the landscape creates these beautiful saturated uplifting colors.

So even though that light isn’t as traumatic, it doesn’t have that thunderstorm intensity. Isn’t that better light for the story that you’re trying to tell. So you always gotta be asking yourself when you’re photographing under different lighting conditions, what better conveys the things that you are seeing and feeling, and experiencing and what you want your viewers to understand as well. Now, the title slide for this little section about light here said, don’t let light use you. But really what I mean to say is don’t let your expectations for light or your hopes for light use you, uh, fantasizing about getting a certain kind of light is going to lead you down a dangerous path, dangerous. I say, this is a path where you start to set up shots that just don’t work because the light that’s present in the scene is telling a different story than the one that you’re trying to tell with your camera.

So take this scene from death Valley, for example, Nope, everybody wants the Epic sunset shot over the dunes. You know, I do too. I’m not immune to that, but if I go to this scene and I asked, what was I really drawn to in this particular scene in this moment? It wasn’t the big Vista and it wasn’t even this nice diagonal line here in the sand dune. What happened is I let my expectations and my hopes lure me into setting up this shot in a kind of fingers crossed desperation that the sky would blow up at sunset. But that’s exactly why this photo doesn’t work because I’m not present in this photo, not me personally, but the things that I actually wanted to convey aren’t in this photo, because what I was really drawn to here were the ripples and the ridges and the alternating light and shadow.

That’s where the real story was. That was the real interesting part for me. And that’s what the light in the scene was also, that’s the story it was trying to tell. And so when I turned my focus to just that, to really think about what was compelling in that moment, what I wanted my viewer to understand, and I let go of my expectations of what was supposed to happen at sunset that’s when I was able to create an actually successful photo. So there you have it guys, those are the five things that your landscape photos must accomplish. And regardless of the style, the kind of scene that you’re shooting or the light that you’re shooting in, if you achieve those five goals, then I guarantee you’re going to be shooting some awesome, successful personally expressive photos that you love that are beautiful and wonderful, and make your mom give you an a plus and slap it up on the refrigerator.

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed this video because I’m a big believer that learning the craft of landscape photography is going to help you a hundred times more than picking up the latest camera will. And I’ve actually got a free webinar where I talk more about my approach to photography and a craft. You can check the link down below I’ll, I’ll link it up there in the corner as well. If you enjoy this video, you’re going to really enjoy that free webinars as well. So definitely check it out.

This is Josh Cripps signing off here from the Eastern Sierra Nevada until next time have fun and happy shooting!

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Create a Magic, Dreamy Glow (Orton Effect) in Lightroom. It’s EASY.

Create a Magic, Dreamy Glow (Orton Effect) in Lightroom. It’s EASY.

If you’ve ever come across a photo online that has a really nice, soft, focused, soft, glowy effect to it. And you’ve wondered exactly how the photographer managed that. Well, this is incredibly easy to accomplish in light room. In fact, it only takes two sliders and I’m going to show you how to do it right now.

Greetings my excellent friends. It is Josh Cripps here. What the heck do I even want to say to get this video rolling? So this soft glow soft focus type of effect is known as the Orton effect. And that’s because it was invented by a guy named Michael Orton and how this is traditionally accomplished with either in the dark room or in Photoshop where you would take two copies of the same photo. One that was in focus with all the details, nice and sharp, and then a out of focus or soft focus copy of that exact same image overlaid at a low opacity, typically with a little bit of extra contrast thrown in so that the glowiness really popped and really had a luminance to itself, but they believe there’s a way to accomplish this same cool effect right here in light room. Well, at first of all, let me say that this effect does not look good on every photo and you should not use it on every photo.

I generally find that this works best on images that have a lot of direct sunlight striking something in the frame because that glow is going to provide luminance to whatever is being lit within the frame. So this works really well for photos like this, or you have a lot of backlit fall foliage or photos like this, where you might have one or two bright spots in the frame that could use a little bit of extra glowy fairy tale magic. I wouldn’t use this for every photo and I don’t recommend that you do either, but play with it and see where it might lie within your toolkit to create the effects that you want. So to create the Orton effect here in Lightroom, all we’re going to do is play it with these two sliders, the texture and the clarity, and what these do is they allow you to manipulate micro contrast with the texture and find contrast with the clarity.

And when you reduce both the micro contrast and the fine contrast, it helps the light and dark areas within a photo bleed into each other, which creates that magical glowy feeling. And so you can see here as I slide the clarity slider down, you’ll see that the glow increases that fuzziness, that magical fairy tale feel increases and the texture has a similar effect as well. And the way that I like to keep these two sliders differentiated in my own mind when I’m doing this adjustment is the clarity is the amount of actual glow that you’re getting. You can see that as I slide it up, the image starts to crunchier and crunchier. And as I slide it down, you can see, especially looking at the sun there in the middle of the frame, that the amount of glowiness increases, then the texture, what that does as you slide it farther and farther towards the negative side is it increases the amount of what I call painterly ness within the photo.

It kind of smudges out the details and makes it look a little bit more like an oil painting instead of a photograph. So I like the first plate with the clarity to dial in the amount of glow that I want. And then I use that texture adjustment to slide that down as well, to provide a little bit of that painter leanness to the degree that I think looks good within a photo. And for the purposes of this video, I’m going to do all of these adjustments to a high degree so that you can see the effect really clearly you can see exactly what I’m doing, but as with all things, post-processing, I generally recommend to use this very subtly. The less is the more if you know what I the mean. So honestly, that’s really all there is to creating this Orton effect in Lightroom to a first degree.

This is how you can start to create that glow. But of course we don’t want to lose any amount of detail within the image. We don’t want to smear all the nice, cool features within the landscape out. So I recommend that after you start to apply this glowiness and this painter leanness that you come down to your detailed tab and zoom in, just to make sure you haven’t totally obliterated those fine details. And if you have, you can use the sharpening feature to bring some of those back and a really cool tip when you’re doing this, when you’re making most adjustments within Lightroom. Actually, if you hold the alter option key, it helps you visualize really easily how the adjustment is being applied. So for example, if I hold the alt key on my keyboard, which would be option for UMAC users, and I slide the slider up and down, it turns the image gray scale, which makes it a little bit more easy to pick out the amount of detail that I’m doing.

The same is true with the radius. I can see exactly what kind of radius I’m applying in terms of the sharpening, as well as the masking. I don’t necessarily want it to apply to the darkest shadowy East areas. So I can play with that adjustment to bring back some of that detail that I may have lost due to adding some glowiness and some painterly newness within the image. Okay, now that’s a really good first step, but all of the adjustments that I’ve been doing here have been global adjustments. So they’re not only applying this glow and this painterly Venus to the highlights, to the luminous parts of the frame that actually should be glowy that actually should have that theorial fairytale feel to them, but they’re also doing it to the shadow areas. And it has the side effect of making those shadow look a little bit smudgy and featureless.

Like if I zoom in on the tree branch right here, the tree trunk, that’s what this is called. It’s a trunk. You can see that it’s just lost a little bit of the detail that it would have otherwise if the sliders were zeroed out. So if there was a way that we could apply these adjustments to just the highlights and in fact, that’s what a lot of photographers do when they create the Orton effect within Photoshop is they use luminosity masks to apply it just to the highlights to really emphasize that glow. But it turns out there is a way we can do that within Lightroom as well. And we’re going to use the graduated filter tool to do that. So here’s what I recommend you do. Don’t ask, actually apply these adjustments here in the global adjustments. Let me turn off that sharpening as well just for now.

Okay. But instead apply it with a graduated filter. So you can hit that button right here, or you can hit M on your keyboard and that’s going to bring up the graduated filter tool. And you can see, I already have some texture and clarity adjustments dialed in here. And you can just grab the ones that you thought looked good when you were playing with the global adjustments. Just use those same numbers right here in the graduated filter tool. Now, the way that we’re going to apply this tool is a little weird because we want this adjustment to take place across the entire photo, but then we’re going to dial it in so that it plays with just the highlight. So the way that we get the graduated filter to apply to the entire image is not to apply it on the image itself like this.

Oh, no, definitely not. What we do is we start above the image and if your image builds the screen too far, you can always shrink it down a little bit like that. And we were going to do this. Now, remember, graduated, filter begins where you click and it ends where you release that click. And so we want this to apply to the whole image, which means we’re going to click and drag away from the image like that. And that means everything down here. If I show the mask overlay, you can see it’s applying this graduated filter adjustment to the entire image, but what’s cool. What’s really about using a graduated filter in order to apply this adjustment is we can come down here to the range mask, turn that to luminance. And now we have a tool that allows us to tell Lightroom exactly what tonal ranges we want.

This graduated filter to apply to. We only want apply it to the highlights, right? So we can play with the range by dragging the shadows up. Now, remember what I said about that alt or option key being your new best friend in Lightroom. If you hold that key on your keyboard while you’re sliding this light room, we’ll show you exactly what total ranges. It’s applying that adjustment too. Now, remember, we only want to apply it to the bright parts of the photo to emphasize that. And so that we don’t cause our shadows to get all smudged out. So you can slide this up, something like that, perhaps. All right. So if I zoom in now here to an area that has both shadow and highlights and I move this range up and down, you can see that it is applying to the shadows, but as I slide it up, it applies it only to the highlights, which just exactly what we want.

Now, the smoothness slider right here, that is basically how abrupt the transition you are asking Lightroom to make between the shadows and the highlights. So if you want it to go more subtly, a nice, subtle transition between the shadows and highlights. You can slide that up. If you want it to be a little bit more abrupt, you can slide it down like that. Now I’m going to make it a little more abrupt because I don’t necessarily want this adjustment on the trunks. I only want it on those nice backlit leaves. And if I click on this button show luminance mask, you can see now I have this fantastic mask within light room that was created so quickly and easily, that is applying this Orton glow, this soft focus, fairytale glow with the negative texture, the negative clarity, just to the highlights. It gives us a ton of control over exactly where this adjustment happens within the photograph and how freaking sweet is that.

And if I now click on and off the gradient tool here, you’ll see that I did in fact, add some nice glow to this photo. In fact, let me turn that glow up to an extreme degree. So you can really see the effect here. I’ve added that glow too. The highlights, they really have that nice theorial feeling to them now, but I haven’t smudged out all the details in my shadows. Now, something that I want to mention really briefly, which you can add a little bit of extra sparkle to this effect. Remember how I said at the beginning that this effect was typically accomplished by combining two copies of the same photo and that out of focus copy was added with a low capacity, but some extra contrast to help that glow really feel luminous. Now, you’ll see if I turn this gradient filter on and off watch what happens to my histogram.

So with it off, you can see that my highlights are just a little bit brighter because the decrease in contrast, the highlights are bleeding a little bit more into the mid-tones and the mid-tones are bleeding into the highlights. So it pulls the overall brightness of those highlights down. So to bring back a little bit more of that brightness to make those highlights, that glow really pop a really simple adjustment, you can do, uh, go ahead and get out of the graduated filter by hitting close right here, or hitting em again on your keyboard. Then go down to the tone curve to I’m just going to pull up the upper end of my tone curve here a little bit, till that histogram more closely resembles what I had before. And you can see that that glow, that brightness of that glow is being enhanced as well.

Here’s the before. And here’s the after that glow just has a little bit more light to it. All right. Let me show you that whole process. One more time from start to finish. You can see how I would apply it to one of my photos. So I’m going to hit M to bring up the graduated filter tool, and I’m going to dial in a glow and a painter leanness, just to start then, let me apply this to the whole image by clicking and dragging up away from the photo. Now that looks a little bit too painterly for me. So I think I’m going to dial down that texture a little bit, but I do like that amount of glow, and this is really easy to adjust. You guys just slide it back and forth until you get a level that looks good to you. I think that looks pretty good right there.

Now I want to make sure that it’s applied mostly to these bright highlights here in the trees. And so I’m going to turn the range mask to luminance there and then holding alt or option. I’m simply going to slide this up until I’m seeing that this effect is being applied essentially to the brightest parts of the photo, just like that. So we have that nice glow in the tops of the trees there. Yeah, that’s nice. It’s a subtle effect, but again, with processing subtle is good. It’s just that little bit of extra mystery and magic attitude. Your photos without smacking your viewer in the face and saying, look at this cool new trick I learned in light room. All right, you guys that is going to do it for this video. I hope you enjoyed that and found it useful if you did, please subscribe because I got all kinds of videos like this on the channel, and also come in your way in the future. Now get out there, get in the light room and add some glowy magic to your photos until next time, add fun and happy shootings.

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Stop Trying To Be A “Better” Photographer

Stop Trying To Be A “Better” Photographer

This is going to sound really weird, but one of the biggest mistakes I see with landscape photographers is that they’re constantly trying to get better, but this hand wavy a morphous pursuit of better can actually kill your progress as a photographer. And I’m going to tell you why right now.

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. Now. Obviously I’m not against people progressing and trying to become more successful photographers. My problem is with the concept of better. And the reason that I really don’t like this concept is because better is not a destination. It’s not a place you can actually get to with your photography. And therefore it’s impossible to create a plan or a system to get there. How do you know, 100% for sure when you’ve become a better photographer? Now you might look at a photo from a year ago and a photo from yesterday and say, Oh, well, the one from yesterday is better. So I’m a better photographer, but how do you know for sure that it’s not just because you had really rad conditions yesterday, or you got lucky with your camera settings or your composition without pointing to something specific, you can’t actually know if you’ve achieved better. So what’s going on here?

What happens when photographers try to get better is that they attempt to digest all of the information that’s out there about photography. They read every blog article they can find, and they watch every random YouTube video from every photographer who has a channel like me and they absorb and absorb and absorb and absorb information. And you know what happens? They become utterly overwhelmed and paralyzed by the amount of completely meaningless information that they’re trying to digest. And the actual transformative learning process screeches to a halt. And I know this because I did this for years. Do me a favor and think about every article you’ve ever read about the best lenses for landscape photography. Invariably, the author says something like

Sometimes, or like to use my ward. I ain’t go names, but in other situations I love boy Turner photo nodes, and then Stillwell situation. So I think the mid range managers best cool.

How does this help you in any way? Is this kind of information, getting you to an actual real end point where you can say, Hey, look, I achieved my goal of doing this. No, absolutely. It’s not what this kind of information actually does is put you into the field full of photography, anxiety. As you’re trying to remember every single little tidbit from all of those articles about when this expert said he likes to use a word wide lens, or when that expert said, she likes to use a telephoto lens. Let me think about it this way. Imagine that you want to learn Spanish so that you can travel through South America. So you attempt to digest and absorb as much general Spanish as you can before the trip. Then when you get to the bus terminal in Santiago, Chile, you’re struggling to remember if ticket is masculine or feminine, if you should be using the light conjugation or not.

And if you make a bus trip, take a bus trip or do a bus trip and you sit there stammering at the ticket window, cursing yourself for not prioritizing learning specific travel related phrases. Not that I’m describing an actual situation that I’ve been in, of course not this generic absorb as much as possible, kind of learning is extremely inefficient and it almost never helps you achieve what you want to achieve either as a photographer or as a person. So what should you do instead? Well, the answer to this, this is really simple. You need to set clear specific goals for your photography. Pick one thing that you would like to learn and work toward that one thing. For example, I want to learn how to shoot long exposure, or I want to learn how to shoot seascape photography. Don’t try to learn astrophotography and abstract photography and macro photography and luminosity masking all at once.

You’re just going to overload yourself and you’re not going to make any progress in any of those things. So pick just that one thing that’s most important to you right now, and even more critically make the goal as specific as possible with a clear outcome that you can point to and say yes or no. I have accomplished my goal period, for example, eight fantastic photography goal. Instead of I want to be better is I want to learn how to get my entire photo in sharp focus from front to back every single time. Or I want to learn how to use two flashes to create Rembrandt lighting for headshots, or I want to learn how to get that smooth water. Look when I’m photographing waterfalls, notice how with each of these goals you can definitively say yes or no, whether you’ve accomplished it, having a clear outcome like that is absolutely crucial to understanding the right path that you need to take to achieve that goal.

Now, setting goals is just one of the things that you need to do in order to transform your photography, to the point where you are or shooting photos that you want to shoot, where you love the photos that you’re shooting and you know exactly how you shot those photos. In my opinion, there are four other that you need to do as well. And I’m going to talk about those in another video. So be sure to subscribe to the channel, to see that one in the meantime, if you want to know what those four things are. In addition to setting clear goals, I have a free webinar that you can check out. That’s all about my approach to photography and the step-by-step systems that I use when I’m out in the field shooting only get up there in the corner, or you can check it out in the video description down below that is going to do it for this one. So thank you guys as always for watching until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

Greeting my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. I spent some of my most formative years as a photographer here, shooting along the coast, striving to capture it in photos and dodging many a row wave. Now, during those years, I learned many important lessons about what makes for powerful seascape photos. And in this video, I’m going to share with you six techniques that you can use to shoot killer coastal photographs. Let’s go.

A good seascape, starts with some essential gear and a solid tripod comes in right at the top of the list. All of the reasons you should be using a tripod for your landscape photography go doubly. When you’re shooting at the coast, not only does the tripod give you a stable base to photograph from, to achieve those tax sharp details. It also allows you to use a longer shutter speed. Some of the best seascape images are taken with shutter speeds between a quarter second and 30 seconds or more. And if you’re trying to pull off handheld shots at those long exposures, your photos are going to be blurry disappointments. So slap your camera on a tripod and you’ll see an instant improvement in your images. And here’s a pro tip for you. Push your tripod legs deep into the wet sand at the ocean’s edge. And if a wave wraps around the legs, push them deeper.

Still the wet sand will help cement around the tripod legs and give you an awesomely stable base to shoot from. Even if waves are rushing around you and always, always, always make sure that your tripod is level. The last thing you want is for your camera to take a dip in the ocean because your tripod was off balance and fell over a tripod will get you 90% of the way to having sharper photos, but to bring out the best in your shots, you should also use a remote cable release as well. The remote release lets you pop off shots without actually touching your camera. So it removes the shake that comes from pushing the shutter button. And if you’re wondering why you can’t just use the two second timer when you’re shooting at the coast, it’s because you often want to time your shots very specifically and hit the shutter at the exact moment that you need to. And trying to time that two seconds in advance, it’s an exercise in futility.

Graduated neutral density filters are a must have accessory. That’ll help bring your seascape photography up a few notches. In many photography situations you can avoid using G and D filters by bracketing exposures and then combining them later in Photoshop. But that practice will get you into hot water here at the coast. And the reason for that is really simple. The ocean is moving and if you’re bracketing exposures here, when you’re shooting the water, the waves, they’re going to look different in every single shot. And when you go to blend those exposures in post, it stands a really good chance of coming out funky. So using a graduated neutral density filter ensures that you can capture the whole dynamic range of the scene in a single shot, but be aware that G and D filters are like magnets for salt spray, which is one of those unique annoyances that comes with photographing the coast.

Every time these waves out here crash, they send these little droplets of sea spray into the air, which lands on these builders. And if it’s windy, this salt spray is a photographer’s nightmare. It’s this ever present mist that blows into your face and onto your lenses and your filters. It is the worst feeling to think that you’ve absolutely nailed a shot only to get home and find out that you had little droplets all over the front of your camera the whole time. So to combat that problem, you always got to keep some lens wipes handy and be vigilant about wiping down the front of your filters and your lens. And for me personally, I prefer using these paper wipes as opposed to the microfiber wipes, because they do a great job of pulling off that salt spray, that sea air without causing smearing like a microfiber cloth often.

In my mind the number one thing that you can do to improve the impact of your seascape photography is simple. Just get closer to the ocean. Don’t be afraid to get into the surf zone and get a little wet by getting closer. You’re going to be in a better position to show off the ocean dynamics like wave action in crashes and splashes and mushes and cascades though. These photos right here, they show the exact same scene. And yet one is way more interesting than the other, right? This photo was taken 20 feet above the surf zone and this photo was taken in the surf. So consequently it’s much more dynamic, engaging and impactful. The simple act of walking 20 feet, closer to the ocean, improved this photo immeasurably. Now here’s a little safety tip. Always keep one eye on the ocean and be aware that rogue waves can occur at any time, and can be much larger than other waves. So you always want to have an escape plan. You always want to be aware of your surroundings when you’re in the surf zone and it’s best. If you can keep all of your gear on you, don’t put your camera over there and your bag over there because you might need to gather everything up and skedaddle in a moment’s. Now, if you do get hit by a wave, don’t try to run because it’s most likely that you’re just going to get knocked over instead, turn sideways to the ocean. It gives you a stronger base against the force of the water and it reduces your profile.

One of the great joys of seascape photography is the ability to dramatically alter the look of your images simply by changing the shutter speed, playing with shutter speed, lets us shoot into the fourth dimension by capturing visuals that our eyes can’t see whenever there’s motion in a scene, you should be thinking about how to use your shutter speed to capture that motion. When you’re out at the coast, if you pick a fast shutter speed, like say a hundredth of a second, it’s going to freeze the crashing waves in midair, which is going to create tension and drama in your photos, but a longer shutter speed of around one second can be used to create silky streamers and soft curls in the waves. And very long shutter speeds like 30 seconds or a minute or more are fantastic for creating that completely smooth Misty look in the ocean, but what’s really fun about shooting the ocean is not just that it’s moving, but also that it’s constantly changing.

Unlike shooting say a waterfall where back-to-back exposures at the same shutter speed are probably going to look virtually identical back-to-back exposures at the coast can exhibit entirely different characters and moods depending on whether a wave is just beginning to crest or it’s rushing up the beach or flowing over some rocks or washing back out the seat. When you press the shutter button has a remarkable effect on the outcome of your image. So once you’ve found that shutter speed that you like try experimenting with timing your shots when the ocean is doing different things. And you’re surely going to notice some fantastic elements being added to your book.

Compositionally, one of the most powerful elements in landscape photography are leading lines. Those are those natural pathways that move your viewers eye through the image. And the ocean does a wonderful job of creating leading lines for us. If you know where to look, one of the most obvious lines that you can use in your seascape compositions is the line of foam that a wave creates as it comes up the beach, but perhaps even more interesting lines are created by the motion of the water itself. By stretching your shutter speed out to say one to two seconds, you can capture the movement of a wave as it moves up and down the beach. And when you do that, it creates beautiful running streamers of water that pull your viewers eye into the photo and to really nail those wavy streamers. Here’s what you do. You set shutter speed to one half to two seconds. Then you wait for a wave to crash, to rush up the beach and pause at the top just as the wave begins to flow back into the ocean. That’s when you trip the shutter that quarter second to two second exposure is going to capture the movement of the wave. 

Lots of photographers like to shoot in aperture priority mode because it’s easy. You pick an aperture to get the depth of field that you want. And the camera decides what the necessary shutter speed is to get the right exposure. But when you’re shooting seascapes, the camera can easily be fooled into shooting bad exposures. As waves are crashing and splashing through your scene. The camera is going to constantly be adjusting exposure to try to keep up with these changing conditions. And unfortunately, most of the time the camera is going to fail miserably and produce wildly varying results. These three photos, I took an aperture priority mode and despite them being taken back to back to back, the exposure change between them is as much as three stops. So by switching to full manual, you’re going to lock in an exposure which doesn’t change as waves crash over the rocks and recede, which means you’re going to get consistent and repeatable results for a similar reason.

I highly recommend that you use manual focus when shooting seascapes, because when you’re photographing a moving subject, like the ocean, your camera’s auto-focus could start hunting for every single shot. And the last thing that you need is to not be able to shoot because the camera’s trying to lock focus on a moving wave, using manual focus, completely avoids this issue. And a good trick is just to use focus initially to really lock in that perfect focus for your scene and then switch over to manual focus on your lens so that it can’t hunt that way. You’ll rest assured that all of your shots will be taxed sharp [inaudible] means to me, those are six techniques for next level seascapes. So get out there, use them and shoot and be sure to tag your photos on Instagram, hashtag Joshua Crips photography, because I want to see them. And if you haven’t already please consider subscribing to this channel for more tips like this, that’s going to do it for me until next time, have fun and happy shooting.

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Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

Right. You always gotta be thinking about how you can take things up to the next level. You can’t just rest on your laurels. If you want to make really compelling photographs.

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here on this episode of how I got the shot. I’m very excited to welcome a special guest. One of the best landscape photographers in the world, and someone I’m proud to call a personal friend, Ian plant. I’ve been following Ian’s work since the very early days of my own career. And one of the things that has always impressed me about his work is his dedication to the shot. Once he’s got an idea for an image, no matter how crazy or adventurous it is, he goes for it. And he does what it takes to execute his vision. And the photo he’s going to be telling us all about today is no different a magnificent portrait at this volcano, but I’m gonna let him tell you all about it. So without any further ado, let’s dive in ed plant. Welcome. And thank you so much for joining me here on how I got the shot. How are you doing today?

I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me, Josh. It’s a real honor and privilege to speak with you as always.

Hey man, it’s absolutely my pleasure. And I’m so stoked to talk to you about this photograph because you didn’t give me an idea in advance, what you were going to be talking about, what photos you’re going to be showing. And when these volcano images popped up on my screen, I just had to hear the story there’s so much going on in these photos that, that we could talk about, not just the technical aspects and the exposure, but also the colors, the composition, the whole story behind it. I can’t wait to get into it. So I’m going to turn the ball over to you. Why don’t you just get us go and tell me what the heck are we looking at? Where is this and how did you get there?

Well, this is a great story. In fact, it’s an explosive story. See what I did there, a little volcano pawn. So this is actually a sequence of photos. I wanted to share with everyone, my process, as I explored this beautiful volcano, this volcano is in the Island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. And it is literally halfway across the world. From where I live. It was quite an adventure getting there. And I spent a week photographing this volcano. And with this subject, like with my other landscape subjects, I usually spend a fair amount of time trying to understand the subject, get in tune with its rhythms and to really assess what the creative potentials are. And usually what happens is my work goes through this iterative process where one shot, you know, just kind of leads to the next. And so instead of just showing one image and explaining how I got it, I thought it might be fun to go through the series of photos that I took while I was there for one week photographing.

And so it’s really interesting because you get to this remote Island in the middle of the South Pacific and the, uh, scenery is pretty much dominated by this one, giant massive volcano and it’s, and it’s really quite huge. So the first photo I’m sharing here is just a reference photo, and this is a shot I took with my drone after climbing up to the top of the volcano. I launched my drone and flew it up as high as I could looking back down just to give a sense of scale. This is a huge, huge landscape, uh, feature. And this is volcano. Crater is probably, I don’t know, at least a half a mile or a mile across. And you can see there’s these lava pools down at the bottom and they look quite small in this picture. That gives you an idea how big this volcanic crater is.

So that love of pool on the left. In this first photo, you can see the smoke rain coming out of it. That is an explosion that is just happening right there. So there’s magma coming out of this lava pool and it is going hundreds and hundreds of feet into the sky. And it looks very, very tiny. And this smoke ring that you’re seeing coming out of that lava pool is hundreds and hundreds of feet across. I mean, I don’t even know how big it is. It’s just this massive plume of smoke that I saw when I was standing there on the crater edge of the volcano, but from the distance with my drone, it looks very small relative to the overall size of the landscape. So this is just an odd, inspiring humongous landscape, which presented a huge challenge photographically.

Now, how do you get to this? You hike up there or is it, uh, you have to take a guide or a donkey or a horse, or what’s the story like, how do you actually get to the rim there to observe this incredible landscape?

So what I did is I stayed at this little lodge, this Villa that was right below the, uh, the volcano. And, you know, I could see the volcano from where I was. And from there you go into the volcanic park and you hire a guide and the guide takes you up in like a four by four vehicle and you can park below the crater rim and then you have to climb several hundred feet up to the top of the crater rim with your guide. And there’s actually a fair number of tourists that go there. And so in the evening there might be another 30 or 40 people going up there with you. So it’s quite the tourist event, but you could also go up in the early morning before sunrise. And I did that a lot. And typically there were, there weren’t really any other people then. So a lot of times I’d be up there by myself with, uh, with my photo buddy, who I was traveling with. We’d be up there all by ourselves in the morning. And it was really incredible to have that this, this amazing natural landscape, this amazing event, all to ourselves.

That sounds utterly unbelievable. It’s such a primal landscape. So tell me as you come up to the creator for the first time and you’re looking down and you’re seeing this magma and these, and you’re hearing this and feeling, uh, what, what do you, what are your sensory experiences? Like? What does it smell? Like? What does it sound like? Do you feel anything in your chest and how does that start to guide the process for you of coming up with an idea for a photo that flowed downhill into this final image?

Yeah, it’s interesting. Cause I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen a few photos from this location, but it’s not exactly on the map for most photographers. It’s kind of Terra incognita. And so the first experience you have is sound because as you’re climbing up, you hear these explosions that are going on. What’s really unique about Yasir volcano is that it basically erupts everything that it’s, it’s very predictable and the eruptions are the result of magma building up in these lava pools. As the pressure builds up, it releases in this giant explosion that just causes all these magma bombs, do a flying hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air. And so as you’re climbing up, you can’t see anything, but you can hear those explosions. So you hear these, this banging noise, it’s kind of like distant artillery, like maybe a cannon going off or something like that.

And then when you get up to the top of the rim, you’re not really able to look down and see the lava pools from where you’re standing, but every few minutes suddenly you feel this wave of pressure passing you. There’s a shock wave. There’s the sound of the explosion. Uh, so the explosion sound comes first, then the shockwave passes and you can just feel the pressure in your chest. And then you see these giant magma bombs, uh, coming up above the crater rim and just flying in the air in front of you, hundreds of feet above you, it’s really quite a stunning sight. And it’s quite a stunning thing to be just standing there when it happens. It’d be like the noise of the explosions. If you’re not paying attention, it could, uh, it can startle you. And as I said, you could feel it, that sound wave passing through you. And it’s quite an incredible feeling.

So are you in any danger at all of these magnet bombs landing on the rim?

I would say that the danger is pretty low. The guides are very good and they tell you when you see an explosion to keep your eye on the magma bombs. And they, um, because the, the volcanic activity is pretty stable and predictable, the guides know where you can go safely and where not to go. They tell people all the time, don’t climb down below the edge of the crater rim. And you do hear stories occasionally about tourists getting killed, but that’s because they break the rules and they go down into the crater and that’s the danger zone. So as long as you listen to your guides and pay attention, it’s perfectly safe. And as I said, they bring up hundreds of tourists there every month. So it’s actually quite safe and really amazing.

And I’m just imagining some drunk frat like, uh, but you won’t go touch the lava betta who will no offense to drunk frat boys. All right. So you get up on the rim. You’re seeing these magma bombs, you’re feeling the shockwaves pass through your body. And somehow you, as a photographer are starting to think about how you can capture this place and capture what it is you’re feeling and seeing in an image that does justice to it in some way. So what was the process for you like in taking these sensory experiences in understanding a little bit more about the story of this volcano and then turning it into a photo?

Well, the first step with this landscape location as with any landscape location, it’s kind of figuring it out. So doing some scouting, exploring on foot where you can to find out what the angles are, to see what you can see basically. And I can extend that by using my drone. And I actually did some drone photography while I was there. This was kind of like in my early days when I first had a drone, so I wasn’t really doing it as much as I do it now. And so I didn’t take that many drone photos. And so the next photo in the sequence is a, uh, another drone shot this time. You know, the first shot was just a reference shot. Uh, and it was, you know, me being involved in the process of exploring the area and trying to figure out what it had to offer.

The second drone shot is, uh, a bit more specific in its artistic goals. And so for the second shot, I, I was flying lower and exploring the lava pools and the scene kind of looked like an evil face to me. So that’s what attracted me to the second composition, because you can see the two little eyes, which are the lava pools and then the steam, or like bushy eyebrows. And then there’s this Ridge with Ash on it. That looks kind of like a, a nose and maybe an evil smile. And so this was really interesting taking this photo because I had to fly the drone low enough to get this perspective. Cause, you know, as I said, this is a really huge crater. And so I was flying the drone down into the crater and I would fly it over the lava pools, but then there would be the inevitable explosion.

And when that happened, I had to zoom my drone up as high as quickly, full throttle going straight up so that I could avoid that magma coming up. And so usually, uh, I was able to avoid the Ash cloud, but sometimes I’d be flying and all of a sudden I’d just see this wall of black coming towards my drone. And those moments were a little scary, but the Ash cloud turned out to be harmless. And luckily I never lost my drone to the magma, but the drone allowed me to kind of scout a little bit more and to understand what the potential compositions would be in addition to what I was doing on land. And then it was a moment of figuring out the best timing to take these shots, the best kind of light. And it’s a bit tricky because the magma is bright now during the day, you can’t really see it that well.

And it doesn’t really show up in the photographs that well, because there’s so much ambient light. So the, I figured out very quickly that the best times to shoot the magma were after the sun had dropped in the evening or before the sun Rose in the morning. So in the Twilight and in the dark. And so when it was very dark out, it was easy to photograph the magma, but it was too dark to pick up any of the surrounding landscape or anything in the sky. So I very quickly realized that the best thing to do was to wait for that moment during the Twilight, when the ambient light levels had dropped enough that they balanced with the native glow of the Magna. So when the exposure for the magma and the Twilight sky were about the same, that was the best time to take a photo because I could capture the magma and it would stand out really nicely and I’d get its color really nice, but I’d also pick up some of the ambient light on the landscape and in the Twilight sky. And there was usually about a five to 10 minute window of opportunity when the Twilight and the magma were balanced and exposure. So I would have a very short window of opportunity in the evening or in the morning to get that balanced exposure, to get the light in the color that I was looking for.

Well, I love that man, because so often as landscape photographers, we show up at a certain time, we evaluate what’s happening in the scene and we take the best shot that we can in that moment. And then we leave, but it takes it that next step, that little bit of vision to realize, you know, what’s going to actually make this shot sing is the balance between the exposure of the magma and the ambient exposure. So when is that going to happen to be able to think that through and problem solve that to end up with a photo that gives you that nice overall exposure while letting the magma really seeing that’s such a great takeaway for any nature photographers to think about, not just what are the conditions right now, but if you were to wait a little while or come back another time, would the light help you tell the story that you want to tell any more effective way?

And the result you can see here? I mean the color contrast you’ve got is absolutely stunning between these arcs of magma and the deep blues of the Twilight there in the background. And I’m looking at a photo right now that has this wonderful billowing steam clouds and smoke, and it looks like there’s cloud in the background as well. And you’ve got these vivid reds and these intense blues and that color contrast really, really makes this photo pop. So can you talk a little bit about how you worked with the coloration of the scene to make such an effective image

As we go through this progression of photos into the third and the fourth photo, you can see that trying to get that complimentary color scheme between the blues of Twilight and that row, that warm color of the magma. And this is just a technique I like to use a lot with my landscape photography is to juxtapose opposite colors. And this is called complimentary colors if a, if you’re in the art world. And so usually what that means is a warm color juxtapose against a cooler color. And what happens is when you juxtapose these opposite colors, they make each seem more vibrant. They pop out a lot more. And I think in digital photography, there’s this temptation to warm up the scene, too much people like those warm colors, those fiery sunrises and sunsets. But if you do that too much, you’re going to lose those cooler tones.

You’re going to lose that complimentary color scheme. And I think as a result, you’re doing your photos a disservice. So preserving that color scheme was part the result of field work. You know, picking that timing. When I had that ambient light balance with the magma, I knew that the two colors would work together really effectively in these final photos. The other part was in the editing process, which was making sure I selected a white balance that wasn’t going to evaporate that complimentary color scheme that was going to preserve those blue colors. And so once I like worked out the timing when I wanted to be there to shoot and the colors that I was looking for, then it was two other things that I had to figure out. So the first was making sure that I had good clouds in the sky. And so there are a lot of examples in these photos where the sky was pretty clear.

So I didn’t really get great clouds, but I think that the photos with clouds are a bit more effective because the clouds bring extra color and shape to the sky. They bring some texture to the sky. And then the final variable was my shutter speed. And I quickly learned that with these, uh, when it got darker and I had these longer exposures that the magmas and it was flying through the sky would create these beautiful streaks of color. And so I quickly settled on doing exposure times between eight seconds and 15 seconds to optimize those glowing arcs of light that were coming out. And so, you know, you can begin to do the math here. I would have five or 10 minutes of optimal lighting conditions every evening. And I’m doing these like these eight to 15 second exposures, and you do a few of those and you’ve run out of that window of time. So that’s part of the reason why I spent so much time at this location a whole week, photographing this place, going up every evening, going up every morning, 14 bites at the Apple was because I needed to figure all this stuff out. You kind of have to go through it first to figure out the optimal light and the compositions. And then once you get those variables, those variables decided what you want to include in your final photos. Then it’s a matter of just patiently waiting until you get them

You want, and it paid off wonderfully here. And I’m looking at this fourth photo in the series here. And to me, this has all those elements you’ve been talking about. It’s got the arcs, it’s got beautiful control over the exposure, not only of the magma, but also the ambient exposure with those deep blues in the background, in those beautiful billowing clouds. Me personally, I would have been stoked to see this pop up with the back of my camera. I probably would have dusted my hands off and said, great, I got the shot. It’s time to move on to something else, but it wouldn’t be an Ian plant photo if you didn’t think about how can I take this to that next level? And if I jump over to the next photo in this series, all of a sudden things change really dramatically. And they go from just a picture of the landscape to a picture of the landscape with a person in it. So what happened there? What was your thought process? Why did you decide to put yourself in the photo and then take us all the way through the rest of the series? How this developed?

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you’re right. You always gotta be thinking about how you can take things up to the next level. You can’t just rest on your laurels if you want to make really compelling photographs. And so one of the challenges of this, this massive volcano is that because it’s so big, you’ve got to use a wide angle of view to capture everything. And also because you’re working in times of the day, when a lot of the landscape is pretty dark, you quickly lose this sense of place and the sense of scale. And so my thought was, I need to introduce a human element to make the composition more interesting, and to also create a compelling point of interest for these photographs, because you’re just looking at these photographs and you’re just seeing this lava that’s streaking through the air, and it’s kind of hard to figure out what it is.

And it’s kind of hard to really tell a story effectively. So by inserting a human element to these photos, I figured I could create a, you know, a deeper sense of place and scale, and also create a proxy for the viewer. When you insert a human element into a landscape photo that basically invites the viewer into the scene, they can imagine them being that person and it gives them a vicarious thrill. So I’d worked out these variables. I knew I had to shoot during the Twilight. I knew I wanted clouds. I knew I wanted these eight seconds to 15 second exposures with the streaking magma. And now I wanted a human element and it can be often difficult unless you have a professional model that you’re paying to get someone to work with you. So often when I’m out there in the field, instead of asking these random tourists who are walking by doing their own thing to post for me, I insert myself into the photograph.

And so what I did is I would set up my basic composition. I kind of figure out where the magma activity was the strongest, and I would set up the composition and get all my variable set, shutter speed, ISO aperture, et cetera. And then I would use my remote cable. I would trigger the shutter and then I would lock it. And so what would happen is let’s say I had eight second exposures. The camera was then taking consecutive eight second exposures. And then I would just walk into the scene and figure out the best pose and the posture. And I would stand there for two or three or four minutes just waiting for really good eruptions to happen. And once I had quite a few eruptions, I’d go back, stop the camera from taking exposures, review my shots really quickly make any adjustments as necessary to my settings or my composition or my pose, and then keep going while I still had.

Good. And so the series of images shows you a bunch of different experiments with having a human element in the photograph. So the first photo is me and, you know, I was trying different poses. Some friends of mine jokingly referred to this as the Fonzie pose. I don’t know why, I guess I looked like the Fonz and this a, so the first photo I had some really good clouds in the sky and I had that really nice Twilight glow. So there’s some blues and purples in the sky and the clouds. And then you’ve got the orange and the yellows and the reds down below, which is really nice. The second photo, I didn’t really have many clouds, but I do have a bit of a starry sky in the background. And then in the third photo, I started to experiment with putting a camera in the shot to kind of create this metaconcept and to find a more interesting way of, of bringing the viewer into the photograph.

So this is a secondary camera that I had with me, my backup camera on a secondary backup tripod, and I put it into the shot and I turned on the live view of the camera. And then I started taking photos. And whenever the live view would turn off, I’d go back and turn it on. And that way I could get a photo of the magma erupting and then a view of that in the live view of the camera. So I thought that was kind of an interesting way of portraying the scene. And you can see that I continue to evolve this concept. And so the next photo shows the camera set up with the live view, engaged and interruption in the background, but then I inserted myself into the scene as well. And so I sat down next to my camera. I wanted to create this vicarious experience for the viewer so that they could feel like that was them taking the picture that evening, watching the volcano erupt.

And then finally the final photo in the series, which is the one photo. I think that brings all this together. This is the closest thing to the perfect execution of all these concepts into one photo. This is actually not me. This is another photographer that was there, uh, who was standing on the crater rim, photographing the eruption. So I stepped back as far as I could and made this photograph, incorporating him in the scene. And I got a really nice eruption behind him, but what makes this shot work in my opinion is the really dynamic clouds in the sky. So they’ve got this really great shape and they fill that space in the sky. So I’m able to bring together that Twilight glow, the complimentary color scheme of the blues of the sky and the warm colors of the magma, the human element, and some interesting cloud shapes. So this is the closest I was able to get to achieving that vision that was in my head.

Well, that’s a really fantastic evolution. And what I enjoyed about that story just now is that it shows that it’s not just about rocking up to the location, slapping camera on the tripod, hitting that shutter button. And you’re good to go, you know, to really create any vocative iconic photograph. It’s about having an idea. First of all, then spending the time to get to know the place, then developing that idea and seeing where it takes you. But there are so many other elements that you can’t control, right? Like mother nature. And so even if you could position this photographer in this exact spot and have your exposure dialed, you’re also dependent on the clouds. You’re also dependent on where the magma bursts happen and do they create the right silhouette or are they in the wrong spot? So this is such, just a beautiful epitome of what it’s like to be a nature photographer, where you bring your a game and mother nature brings her a game and it all kind of comes together in this half controlled half chaotic dance, this beautiful expression of the world that we live in. And I’ve got two questions for you. Now, one is, um, you said that this was the closest that you got to capturing the vision that you had in your head. Is there something that you would do differently if you could go back another time?

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one other part of this process, this dance that you’re talking about is, is your own creative exploration and evolution. And so what often happens is when you’re out making photos in the field, you take a moment to step back when you’re done and really look critically at what you’ve done. And sometimes you are able to say, you know, I got it this time, everything worked out great. I wouldn’t change a thing. Other times you realize that there might’ve been a better way of doing things. And so one of the challenges I had when I was making these photographs is that the crater rim was very narrow at the top. And as a result, I was never able to really back away from someone I was photographing, whether it was myself or someone else. And so, as a result, the people in these photographs are fairly big relative to the overall scene.

And so the background landscape, this massive volcano, even these massive eruptions end up looking a little small relative to the silhouette of the person in the foreground. And so I would like to reverse that now I wasn’t able to get farther away from these people to make them shrink in the landscape, uh, because of the crater rim sloped so much. If you started moving backwards, you started going down and you lost the angle on the person and you couldn’t see the eruption behind them anymore, the volcano behind them. So I think the answer to this is if I do return is to try to use my drone, to do the same thing and the drone can fly farther back and, uh, it can also fly higher up. So I can keep that perspective where I’ve got that big, massive explosion in the background, but I can shrink the person in the foreground so that I can have the landscape scene look bigger than the person. So I think that would be a, a better way of showing the sense of scale and creating a dramatic image. And actually I was supposed to be back at this location this past may, but the pandemic completely screwed up my travel plans. So I’m going to probably have to wait maybe another year until I can go back and try this new concept and see if I can’t bring these images up to a higher level.

Cool. That sounds totally Epic. And I hope that we can get traveling again, because I want to see you get back there and take that photo, because I’m trying to imagine how that anything could be cooler than this, but if you think it could be next level than I really want to see it. And that leads into my last question that I’ve got for you right now, Ian, which is you spent a lot of time at this volcano, right? You, you were there for a week. You went up at sunrise and sunset every day. Why spend that much time? And you’re talking now about going back another time, you know, a lot of photographers would say, okay, I’ve got a week in Vanuatu. This is awesome. I’m going to hit 14 different locations at sunrise and sunset. You said, I’m going to hit the same location, every single sunrise and sunset. What’s your thought process? Why do you approach photography in that kind of way to go deep instead of broad?

Speaker 1: (27:59)
Well, I think first of all, that, you know, a lot of people are of the mindset that they want to see as much as they can photograph as much as they can and whatever time they have, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think that the end result is more likely to be maybe a bunch of good photos, but not that many great photos. If you want to make really great photos, you really got to put in some time and effort. Like sometimes you can just show up and get lucky, but usually you’ve got to scout the location, figure out what the best compositions are, figuring out the best light. And you can’t just, I mean, you can do some research ahead of time, but you really can’t understand how the light is going to work with a particular landscape until you’ve sat through it.

And you’ve seen exactly how it will play upon the landforms. And so you’ve got to put in some time there, but, you know, as we said earlier, you know, during this dance with mother nature, she’s not always bringing her best. And so sometimes you’ve got to wait it out. And I think it’s important to have a vision in your head and try to impose that vision on the real world. And the only way you can really do that is through patients because you have to wait for the real world to spontaneously align and converge in a way that is close to what your creative vision is. Hopefully you’ll get it to align in a way exactly the way it’s in your brain, but more often than not, you’ll just get as close as you possibly can to something that you’ve thought of. And I think the other thing to keep in mind here is that you’re probably going to make your best photographs when you are photographing something that inspires you.

And this was a place that really inspired. I mean, it really spoke to me in a dramatic and compelling way. And so if you’ve got a place that you really love, if you’ve kind of figured it out, but you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, then the best thing you can do is find a way to get back to that spot and keep working it until you get what you want. Because I don’t know. I think back at the parts of my evolution as a photographer that I regret the most and I, I don’t regret getting to a spot and taking photos, even if it’s a spot I’ve been to many, many times before, what I regret are the shots that get away from me the, the, the times where I was somewhere. And for some reason, I wasn’t able to execute at the highest level. That’s what you regret. And that’s what I try to avoid doing. I mean, I, I just shoot what inspires me and I just try to get the best shots that I can from those places that inspire me. And if I don’t get my very best, then I find a way to get back there and make it happen.

Well, you inspire me, man. I think that’s a great takeaway for everybody out there. Listening is the more meaningful photography that you want to do. It’s worth that time to execute on your vision, to make it happen, to follow the stories that inspire you as deeply as you can, to really get to know those subjects. The last thing the world needs is a thousand photographers skipping across the surface, creating cotton candy, pretty pictures. We need more meaningful imagery that tells these stories of what a marvelous, extraordinary place the planet really is. Right? So thank you so much, Ian. I really appreciate being able to spend this time with you to learn about a place that I didn’t even know existed, first of all, and to see these wonderful images and to know that you’re going to go back and shoot some more cool stuff that maybe we can have a chance to talk about again, in the future for everybody out there, who’s not already following Ian, please do yourself a favor. I’m going to link all of his stuff down below in the video description, go follow him. You’re going to be blown away by the quality of the photography and the commitment to creating these images. It’s really, really inspiring. It’s always great to talk to you, man. Thank you so much for being here on the program. It’s been an honor to talk to you.

Thank you, Josh. The honor is all mine.

All right, everybody. That’s going to do it for this episode of how I got the shot. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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My 5 Best Photos From 2020

My 5 Best Photos From 2020

2020! At times, it seemed like it would never end, but here we are, we’ve made it to the end, Holy cow. And it’s on to brighter days. God, I hope so. Anyway, like I do every year around this time, I recently took a look back at my previous 12 months of shooting to relive some fun memories and pull out a few favorite shots with travel being so restricted in 2020, I spent most of the year pretty close to home and I used the opportunity to explore a lot more cool areas near where I live. And consequently, my five best shots from the year are all from my local neighborhood. Well, so to speak. And I want to share those photos with you right now.

Greetings my excellent friends! It’s Josh Cripps here. Let’s jump right into it. When I started this process, I went right back to some of my first shoots of the year. And the first thing that struck me was Holy crap. I took those photos this year in 2020. I thought I took these like 14 years ago. This year has seemed so long, but it was such a great little pleasant surprise to stumble back on the shoot that I did in the Alabama Hills. 

Let’s start with one of my first photos in 2020 that I was truly happy with. I just loved how it came out, but more importantly, this photo represented a change in the way that I approached photography. This year, I had been thinking more and more about doing self portraits and putting people in my photographs, but I wanted to do it in a way where the figure was interacting with the landscape in a meaningful way and not in some gratuitous Instagrammer. Here’s my bright red jacket, or here are my bright pink leggings. You know what I mean? And this was one of the first photos where I felt like I really pulled that off where I created a sense of an observer looking at this beautiful mountain, lone pine peak here in the Alabama Hills. And actually this is a self portrait that’s me on that ridge line.

And part of the fun and satisfaction of this photo was the challenge of lining this up, setting the camera up 200 or 300 feet back from this Ridge line, getting the focus, getting the composition dialed in, then putting it on interval timer and running up there across the landscapes, Grambling up these boulders, getting into place on top and then feeling a little bit silly while trying different poses and holding each pose for about two seconds to make sure that I got a shot in a couple of different orientations. So I could go back later and decide which one the best. So I love this photo for all of those reasons. And another really big one. This photo got me my very first Nat geo publication credit, which was a pretty thrilling thing to do in 2020 in an article about the Alabama Hills. And I’ll put a link to that in the description below. So you can check out the photos in that article.

The next photo in my lineup of five is this shot from a place called Darwin bench in Kings Canyon, national park. Now I gush about Kings Canyon a lot here on the channel. It’s my favorite national park. And for good reason, it’s super wild. The hiking backpacking and camping and photography opportunities are unbelievable. And you really don’t have to worry about things being overshot. Like if you go to Yosemite Valley, it’s hard sometimes to take a unique picture there, but every direction that you turn in Kings Canyon, there’s a fresh perspective. And this particular photo, it’s one of the last photos that I took on. Arguably, what was my favorite and best night of shooting in the entire year, I was out there backpacking with my buddy Ryan and the previous day we had beat ourselves up with a long, hard, hot hike. And we were feeling it, our legs, our feet were sore.

Our backs were groaning and complaining. And because of that, we actually abandoned our initial trip plan, which would have required us to go another 30 something miles around this loop. And we just weren’t up for it physically. So we decided to take the shortcut over the Darwin bench. And we ended up in this truly spectacular place with gorgeous mountains and dramatic views in every direction. And the previous day had been cloudless total Bluebird clear day. But as we hiked up on this particular day, the thunderstorms, the clouds started to build up. And in the evening, the energy was electric. Both of us, Ryan is a photographer as well, and we just could feel the potential in the air. And so we went running out from camp hours before sunset just to photograph, photograph, photograph. And when the sunset hit, there was light, there was color, there was drama.

Let’s just say I burned gigapixels into my memory card that night. And it was hard to pick a single photo from that evening. But the reason that I keep coming back to this one is I like the subtlety of it. It’s not a barn burner. It’s not in your face with color it’s subtle, but all the colors work together in a really nice complimentary way. And the other thing that I love about this image is the composition and the way that it ties these elements together. There’s a mountain in the background there called the hermit. And because I shot this with a wide angle lens, the hermit looks quite small in this image and yet every single part of the composition forces your eye right to that mountain. And so even though that mountain is a small part of the frame, it is the undeniable destination, the end of the visual journey of this photograph. And I love that because it really shows the power of composition to direct your viewer’s attention, exactly where you want it. Let’s go on to number three.

I have been spending a lot of time at Mono Lake because I’m working on a coffee table book about this special place. So of course, I’m going to have some photo from mono Lake here in my top five images from the year. The tricky part was figuring out which photo to choose because I had a lot of really cool moments out there this year. Like this moment when I was on the South side of the Lake and I saw the stacks of lenticular clouds, billowing and blooming over the North side of the Lake, that was a really neat experience or like this night when I was squashing around in the marshy parts of the Lake and just stinky gross, muddy ooze with millions and millions of Brian flies flying around is such a bizarre evening. And this, the sensory experiences from that night, the sounds, the smells, the sights have been burned indelibly into my brain.

And there was this beautiful interplay between light and shadow and reflections and details. And that was another really cool moment. But in the end I decided I had to go with this particular photo from the classic spot from South tufa where a million wide angle, nice sunset photos have been taken. The reason that I love this photo is because it happened very spontaneously. I had these meticulously planned compositions already lined up. When I noticed in the sky, the clouds to the North East, we’re turning deep, deep blues. Whereas the clouds to the Northwest, we’re turning these bright pinks and reds and that color transition that gradient between the warms and the cools was so marvelous to behold, but none of my compositions really capture that. And so I just leaped into action to try to find some kind of frame to demonstrate that color contrast between those two things. And up until that moment, these two to four towers on the edge of the frame, hadn’t really stood out to me. But in that particular instant, they just seemed like the most perfect way to completely frame in the beautiful colors that were unfolding across the Lake. And that’s why this one goes in at my number three spot shoot.

Here we go. Number two on this list has to be this photograph from the bear lakes basin deep in the Sierra high country. And what you’re looking at here is the full moon setting at sunrise above seven Gables, which is the name of this big mountain here in the left-hand side, the frame. And the reason that I love this photograph is because it was so evocative and it brings back such good memories of this particular backpacking trip. And this was a hard, hard trip. I roped my buddy Joe into hiking with me out to the bear lakes basin, which is not an easy place to get to a room, requires a lot of cross country travel, and you need to be really fit because there’s huge elevation changes and long distances to travel with pretty heavy packs. And when we set off on this trip on the very first day, we had beautiful clouds in the sky and there was quite a lovely sunset that first night, but after that, all the clouds disappeared and they were replaced by wildfire smoke.

Speaker 1: (09:37)
So not only were we dealing with the high elevation and the hard physical exertions, but now we’re trying to breathe through this smoke as well. And there were a lot of times where it didn’t seem like maybe the effort was going to be worth the payoff, but on this particular morning, all those worries disappeared. This was the first time that I’ve gone out to the Sierra without a tent because the weather forecast was supposed to be so clear. So all I had basically was a little tarp from the hardware store to block the wind at night. Otherwise it was just me and the stars above and on this particular morning, when I woke up, what I saw was all of the smoke had blown out to the West, leaving the sky, crystal crystal clear, and there, as I looked out towards seven Gables, that moon was shining like a spotlight into my face.

And it was just such a sensational scene that I think I went from being in my sleeping bag to being upright with a camera in hand in a fraction of a second. And I ran the 300 feet from our camp out to this wonderful overlook taking in this Lake and seven Gables. And I just stood there and shot and watched the morning unfold. And the blue hour faded into this insane Venus belt. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but because of that, that’s what made the moment so beautiful on top of that, this was also my birthday. So it was a really, really special way to ring in that day as well. And then after I took this photo, I just ran around the basin for another couple of hours, snapping shots and taking in the really spectacular scenery that you get back there in the deep back country.

And then Joe and I did the long punishing hike all the way back out to the car. You know, that kind of hike where you’re still two miles from the end and you’re in the pain cave. And you’re like, we still have to hike for another hour. And then you get back to the car and you peel your shoes off and your feet breathe, a sigh of relief, and then you drive home and take a shower and it’s unbelievably amazing. And if you think that I didn’t eat my body weight in pizza that night to celebrate all of this.

We have made it to number one, my absolute best and favorite the year. There’s no question. It’s this photo of the full moon, rising behind an ancient bristlecone pine tree taken during the Halloween blue moon. Now, technically this was taken the day before the Halloween blew full moon, but the moon was still like 99.3% full. So that’s full enough for me and I’m going to count it as the Halloween blue moon. And the reason that this whole photo came about was exactly because of Halloween. I wanted to do something cool to Mark the coincidence of the full moon on Halloween. And I thought, well, what’s something kind of spooky and gnarled looking, ah, the bristlecone pine trees. There’s not a better choice for a subject of this photograph. There couldn’t possibly be one. So on the afternoon of the 30th, I got in my car and I drove up to the white mountains.

And then the challenge began timing the moon and doing all the technical stuff. Honestly, wasn’t that big of a difficulty in this particular case, the hardest part was finding the right tree to photograph this scene against because the tree had to fit these four very specific criteria in order to work for the shot. One was, well, it had to be aesthetic. It had to be a cool looking tree. And some of these bristle cone Pines that are, they have, they’re completely covered with pine needles because they’re fully alive. They’re just shaggy looking. They’re beautiful trees, but they look a little bit messy. And so I was looking for one that had a nice mix of this Norell character, along with the living branches, the tree also needed to be on a fairly narrow North South Ridge so that I could actually align the moon behind it.

The tree needed to be by itself without a lot of other stuff around to either block the moon from the back or block my view from the front. And it had to be near another Ridge or another Hill that I could stand on at about the same elevation. So that from my perspective, the moon would actually be behind the tree right at sunset, because if I was up high, then at sunset, the moon from that vantage point would appear to be above the tree like that. And if I was down low, then I wouldn’t even be able to see the moon. And by the time it got into view, it would be nighttime. It would be too dark and you couldn’t see the tree anymore. So my elevation relative to the tree had to be very specific in order to get this timing, right? So I just drove all over the white mountains, like a madman.

And every time I saw a promising looking tree, I’d screech on the brakes, jump out of the car, line it up, go off into the distance. See if I could see the tree with my telephoto lens, see if I could line it up with where the moon was going to come up. And every single time I was disappointed, I find a beautiful tree, but the alignment wouldn’t work or wouldn’t be isolated, or I couldn’t get to it or some other problem. And then 30 minutes before the sunset, I was driving around the corner and I saw this tree and it check, check, check, tick, all of my tick marks. It was on that North, South facing Ridge. It had those beautiful dead branches. In addition to the live branches, it was completely open front and back. It was aesthetic. There was another hillside nearby where I could shoot everything just worked.

And it gave me just enough time to line the shot up, get everything in place. Then start to second guess myself, because that always happens when you’re shooting the moon. Did I do the math? Right? Did I get the plan? Right? And then there, it was, Oh my God, the moon, it’s starting to appear behind the tree. It’s coming up. And then the light to the West, the sun is just going down and it’s painting the scene with this unbelievably beautiful red light. And then the Venus belt appeared in the background and the moon shining through that blue earth shadow with these deep crims and tones. You better believe I was freaking out. I was having the time of my life, absolutely overjoyed by this experience and by what I was seeing on the back of my camera. And then after I got this shot, I put the camera on auto and I ran over.

I was about 600 feet away from the tree. So I ran down, got up next to the tree, did a couple of self portraits just to Mark the occasion. But this photo man, Oh man, was I happy, happy, happy at the end of this night. And there you have it. My five best and favorite photos from 2020. All of these images are available as prints on my website. And you can find the links down below. Thank you guys. So very much for watching. I hope that 20, 20 as tough and weird of a year as it was, was okay for you in some way that you were able to do your photography, that you’re able to express yourself creatively and get out and explore the world with your camera. And if not, let’s hope that 2021 is going to be that year, because heck knows. We all deserve it after the craziness of the past 12 months. So I will see you guys in 2021 until then have fun and happy shooting.

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Composition: A simple, story-based approach to effective landscape photos.

Composition: A simple, story-based approach to effective landscape photos.

Here’s a question for you. How do you tell truly captivating stories with your landscape photography stories that tell your viewers what you want them to know about a place I’d like you to ponder that for a minute? Because it seems to me that when you scroll through social media, these days, the only acceptable way to create a landscape photograph is to get as close as possible to your foreground subject, to have it dominate the entire frame. While I love a composition like this, when it’s appropriate shooting like this purely for visual impact is more like landscape photography porn in that it emphasizes aesthetics and visual impact over everything else, as opposed to being actual effective visual storytelling. In my opinion, the process should go the other way around first, start with the story that you want to tell, and then let that dictate your composition. And in this video, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that.Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. And as you know, I love the concept of storytelling in photography. And one of the things that I find truly extraordinary is that you can take the exact same physical stuff within a scene. And by changing your composition completely change the story that you were telling. Let me give you an example

You’ve ever been to Mount cook national park in New Zealand. It’s very likely that you have hiked the Valley track nurse. One particular spot on this track where you go over a swing bridge. And as you round the bend, you are smacked in the eyeballs with one of the most marvelous views of our [inaudible] Mount cook. This particular band. It’s one of my favorite places in the park for photography. And this particular setting I would say is dominated by five or six main features. There’s obviously [inaudible] Mount cook, but then there’s also this steely blue river. And within that, there are heaps of these cool chocky boulders. And there’s quite a lot of other stuff you can look at in this scene as well, like Mount Wakefield to the East and Mount Sefton out to the West as well of some beautiful little shrubberies. But for this video, I just want to focus on those three things out AKI Mount cook, the river and the Boulder Photography. Aesthetics would dictate that the correct composition for this scene would be to get as close as possible to a Boulder or a cascade in the river and make that foreground element as in face as possible. Now that’s fine. If the story that you want to tell your viewer, now that’s fine. 

Now. That’s fine. If the story you want to tell your viewer is more about your experience with the boulders and the river, more so than your experience with the mountain. And what I mean by that is, well, let me tell you a story. As I rounded the bend, the pathway came right down next to the river. I was mesmerized by the color of the water, the roaring cacophony of the cascades and the wonderful patterns and shapes in the boulders. And then often the background, you could also see our Rocky Mount cook. You see how this photo tells that kind of a story, but what if the story that you wanted to tell was more like I was walking down the trail, I came around a bend and that’s when I saw it out. Rocky Mount cook. It was so enormous and powerful, and I could not believe the way that it loomed over the entire Valley. I mean, you’re looking at 10,000 feet of mountain rising, straight up out of the landscape. And on top of that astounding physical presence, the light from the peak even reflected and started dancing over the river and the boulders at my feet. You see how these two stories, even though they contain the exact same physical stuff, mountain river boulders, they emphasize two completely different things.

If you want to be an effective storyteller as a photographer will, then you need your compositions to match your impressions of the location. Your composition needs to show how you were feeling about the place and what was most important to your experience in that second story that I told you would be much better served by creating a composition like this one, where you stand back a little bit from the river’s edge and you zoom in a little bit more. In fact, this photo was taken with a 50 millimeter lens and you can see how it emphasizes the size of our Rocky Mount cook so much more dramatically than the boulders and the river. If I go back to a photo like this, what I’m telling the viewer is that the most important part of this scene was the river and the rocks. That’s what left the biggest impression on me as a photographer.

So I’m giving it the dominant amount of space in my photo, because that’s what I want you the viewer to take away from this scene. But of course, it’s not just about changing your focal length or zooming in to change the composition. So let me give you another example of how you can change your composition to tell a different story with the same elements. Here are two photos from Kings. They have the exact same elements in them. There’s a tar and there’s mountains, a sky or reflection. And those rocks under the water here in the foreground, and these photos were taken with the exact same camera, same setting, same focal length, same everything, just a different composition. This vertical composition puts so much more emphasis on the clarity of the water. And consequently, it sends a message of the pristine nature of this basin and gives you a sense of what it’s like to stand there, to dip your toes in this water.

But to be honest, that wasn’t exactly the story that I wanted to tell in that moment. For me personally, I was more struck by the infinity pool effect of this Tarn. And I really wanted to tell a story of the expansiveness of this place, how the sky in this basin seems to go on for forever, this vertical composition while it is engaging. It doesn’t tell that story does it. In fact, this composition feels a little bit tight and closed off, but a horizontal composition like this does paint that picture of endless space, right? You can see how the sky in this photo is so much more expansive and not just in the sky itself, but also in the reflection I’m actually giving you twice as much sky, which helps sell this idea of this place going on forever. Now, obviously you don’t have to choose one over the other.

You can think about both stories and take both photos. And that’s fine. I mean, clearly I shot both, but it is important that you actually think about these things in the field so that your compositions capture the stories that you actually want to tell your viewers. So to sum it all up, if you want to be your own artist, don’t be a slave to the popular aesthetic. First think consciously about the story that you want to tell and what you want your viewers to know about a place. Then use your composition to line up the elements in the scene in a way that tells that story. And if you do this, I guarantee that your photographs are going to be more successful and more personally expressive, which is what it takes to create art that you are proud of. Thank you so very much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, please like, and subscribe and share with your friends and your camera club, I will catch you guys soon in another video. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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