Entries by Josh Cripps

How to Photograph the Full Moon: 4 Tips for Epic Shots

How to Photograph the Full Moon: 4 Tips for Epic Shots

Oh, my God, look at the moon tonight! That is unbelievably beautiful! I’m going to take the best moon picture anybody has ever seen. That sucks.

Hello my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that the full moon is one of my favorite things in the world to photograph. And I go on missions almost every month to shoot it, but I didn’t start out taking moon photos like these. I started like everybody else. Does they again? Okay. It’s nighttime and it’s dark out. So I need to put my camera on a tripod and use a longer exposure and a high ISO. And I ended up with photos that looked well, frankly, like crap. So trust me when I say that, I understand your frustrations. If you want to shoot the full moon, but you’re ending up with photos that look like this. The big breakthrough moment that I had, that allowed me to take photos of the moon that I was actually happy with was realizing that as beautiful as the full moon is to our naked eye, it is incredibly difficult to photograph because of four main things. One it’s not very interesting by itself, too. It’s so much brighter than you realize that it screws up your exposure. Seven ways from Sunday three, it’s tiny. I know it looks huge, but it’s not. It’s tiny. And four, it moves around like a drunken sailor. Well, not really, but it moves a lot. Overcome those four challenges and you’re going to have killer moon photos, oops, killer moon photos.

So in this video, I’m going to give you four quick tips to address each of those particular points.

Like I said, the moon is not really that compelling out there by itself, floating in the inky blackness. Even if you’re able to get a decent shot of the moon like this, it’s kind of dry and academic and isolated from the viewer and a full moon one month kind of looks like a full moon the next month and like the full moon the next month and on and on and on. So endless, you are doing some of those insane detail shots like Andrew McCarthy of cosmic background. Guys, definitely check out his Instagram. It’s blow your mind. Cool. So unless you’re doing shots like that, you are way better off shooting the moon when it’s near the horizon. Uh, that way you can align it with some cool stuff here on planet earth. And this is great because I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but it turns out all of your viewers live here on planet earth.

So they’re going to more easily connect with earthy stuff. And so if you connect the moon to that same earthy stuff, you’re automatically going to help create a much stronger connection to your viewer as well. And in my opinion, the best subjects to photograph the moon next to basically it’s anything that sticks up into the sky by itself and is a long way away from you. So things like mountains, lighthouses, or even people can work if they’re far enough away. Okay. So why is this important that your subject be far away? Well, it’s not the farther your subject is from you. The bigger the moon is going to appear compared to that subject. So this is how you make the moon as big as a person, or even as big as a mountain. And the reason it’s important that your subject sticks up into the sky by itself is so that you can actually align the moon with that thing, right? Even though this is a really cool tree, for example, and it would be neat to see the moon behind it from where I took this shot, the moon would actually never align with that tree because obviously the moon is going to drop behind this Ridge first. So you need something that sticks up into the sky. 

Crazy bright it’s orders of magnitude brighter than the earth at night time, or even the earth during blue hour. And so if you try to shoot it at night or during blue hour, you either end up with photos that look like this, where you’ve got no detail in the landscape at all, or you end up with a photo like this, where you’ve got a blown out nuke where the moon is supposed to be to overcome this challenge. We simply need to shoot the moon when there’s light on the landscape as well, because what happens is the overall dynamic range of the scene goes from something extreme to something way more manageable, which means that you can get a single exposure that captures the detail of the moon and of the landscape at the same time. Now, can you bracket exposures and combine them later in post?

Of course you can. Me personally, I like to do it in one shot. It’s just part of the fun challenge. Okay. So when does this actually happen? Well, we can use a little bit of moon geometry, one Oh one to figure it out. It turns out that the full moon is always in the exact opposite part of the sky as the sun. Nope. That’s kind of a bummer for us because it means that during the day when the landscape is fully lit by the sun and you could easily get a shot with the full moon and the landscape and have the dynamic range be manageable. Well at that time of day, the moon is on the other side of the planet underneath you. It’s not visible at all, but right at sunrise and sunset, both the sun and the moon are going be right at the horizon. Meaning at these very special moments, you can see the full moon and you can have light on the landscape as well. So that’s when I recommend you shoot sunrise and sunset. And sometimes the actual day of the full moon is best, but sometimes the day before is better or sometimes the day after is a little bit better just based on the timing. So look up the sun and moon rise and set times and just look for when they line up the best and then go out.

The moon always looks obscene really huge when it’s coming up over the horizon. Right? But as you probably know, that is just an optical illusion. It’s never more than about half a degree in diameter, which means you can actually completely hide the moon by holding out a single finger at arms length. Yeah, it’s tiny. And for this challenge, I have a really, really simple tip for you. Just use a long telephoto lens when you’re shooting. So anything between 200 and a thousand millimeters will work, but in my experience, the sweet spot is about 400 to 750 millimeters. And in this range, it helps the moon appear very large within your frame, but it also shows a lot of what makes your subject or makes the landscape interesting. It may be really tempting to get a 600 millimeter lens and then put a two X teleconverter on there.

But what ends up happening is that you blow up your landscape so much that there’s no longer any context of what it is. And that completely kills the connection for the viewer. And it kills the photos impact. Now those super long telephoto links like 1200 millimeters. They actually can be awesome when you’re shooting smaller subject. It’s like people, but you really have to make sure that your subject is far away like 500 feet or a thousand feet or 2000 feet or more. Or you’re just going to end up with a closeup of somebody’s ear with the moon behind it. The lens that I use for my full moon photography is this one from Nikon. It’s the 200 to 500 millimeter. [inaudible] for a lens that has this kind of reach and versatility. It’s super reasonable and cost. And it is crazy sharp as well. So get some kind of a super zoom like this. And I think it’s going to serve you really well for your moon photography.

Last challenge that we need to overcome is that the moon is well squirly in, it moves all hot. It does not set in a straight line up or down, but at an angle. And it wanders all over the sky and the full moon only sets at the same angle twice per year, roughly, which means that if you have everything lined up for a shot like this, but then something wrong and you don’t get the photo that you wanted. So you think, Oh, I’ll just go back the next full moon. I’ll go to the same spot and I’ll shoot it again. Then we’ll the alignment. Most likely is going to be completely off like this. The other thing is that the moon moves really fast, surprisingly fast. In fact, it moves its own diameter, roughly every hundred and 60 seconds. So if you’re not prepared or you’re not paying attention, the moon is going to go from being perfectly coinciding with your subject to being completely behind it, behind the mountain Ridge or whatever it happens to be in less than three minutes, it’s going to vanish before you realize it.

So to solve the challenge of this wiggly moon, you just need to be able to predict where the moon is going to be at any given moment. And for that all you need to do is use some kind of a planning app. My app of choice is photo pills. And I heard he know just by saying that I’m going to get a ton of comments from people who are like, I try to get into photo pills, but I just couldn’t understand it because it’s too complicated and I get it. Yes, there are a lot of tools and features in photo PhotoPills, but listen, you guys, I’m going to simplify this for you. I’m going to make your lives as easy as I can. All you have to do to get started with photo pills and shooting. The full moon is learn how to use the augmented reality tool.

You can go out the day before the full moon and the augmented reality feature is going to show you exactly where the moon is going to rise and set. So you can plan ahead super easily. And the cool thing about the moon, because it’s so far away from us, it tracks with your position. And what I mean by that is if you move to the North, the moon relative to the landscape, also moves to the North. And if you move to the South, the moon moves to the South as well. So if you’ve got a subject picked out like a mountain, let’s say, and you use a photo pills, augmented reality. And it showing that the moon is going to set to the North of that particular mountain. All you have to do is move to the South. The moon is going to track South with you.

So you just keep checking the app until that line that it shows you goes exactly through the mountain. It’s easy right now, of course, there is a, a lot more to learn about planning, moon photos using PhotoPills. But if you just learn to use this augmented reality tool, you can at least get started shooting these awesome full moon photos and getting started is what it’s all about. I could talk for hours about photographing the full moon. I’m kind of obsessed with it, but I know you guys want to get out there and try it yourselves. So I’m going to leave it at just those four tips for now. And I’m gonna encourage you to get out, to explore and shoot, and please tag your full moon photos. Hashtag Joshua Cripps photography on Instagram. I would love to see them and I might even feature them in an upcoming video. Thank you very, very much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, I would be honored if you could subscribe to the channel as it really does, help me bring you more photography tips like these. This is Josh grips signing off. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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4 Fantastic Features in Lightroom You NEED To Be Using

4 Fantastic Features in Lightroom You NEED To Be Using

Hello my excellent friends! It’s Josh Cripps here. Now I like many of you use the Adobe suite to edit my photos. And in particular, I spend a lot of time in Lightroom. And today I want to share with you four fantastic features that I love about the program that I think you should be using. So let’s go ahead and dive right in

One of the reasons that I like Lightroom so much is not just because it’s a powerful, raw editor, but also because it has fantastic organizational capabilities. And one of the best parts of those organizational capabilities is wording. So if you’re not utilizing keywording, you’re missing out on an amazing way to keep track of your images and find them quickly when you need to. Now, most of the time I do my keywording when I import photos, I tend to import in small batches. So it’s really easy to apply the same keywords to a bunch of photos at once, but you can always do keywording at any time, simply by clicking on a photo or a batch of photos, and then putting in the keywords that you want over here in this keyword area. Now, me personally, the way that I like to do my keywording is I try to include where the photo was taken what’s in the photo, and then anything unique about the photo.

Like if it’s an abstract photo or a long exposure, something like that. So you can see that this photo here from the Alabama Hills I’ve, keyworded it not only with where it is, it’s in California, the Sierra Nevada, and the Alabama Hills, but also what’s in the photo. There’s a lenticular cloud, a specific kind called a Sierra wave cloud and it’s happening at sunset. And so those are the types of things that I typically include in my keywords. You’ll notice that I didn’t put rocks or Rocky formations or pinnacles because in my mind, the Alabama Hills is synonymous with that stuff. And so I, if I’m ever going to be looking for a photo of rocks in the Alabama Hills, it’s kind of a given that searching for Alabama Hills is going to lead to these kinds of photos. Now, if I was shooting, say a big arch, I would put arch in the keywords as well.

Okay. So how does this help me other than being an extraordinarily tedious process and trust me, I know what it is because if you’re out shooting for a long time and you’ve got two weeks of photos to imports and you’ve got to write separate keyword sets for 2000 individual images, it is a pain in the. I realize that, but it’s well worth doing. And the reason is in the future, it makes it so much easier to find any photo that you could ever want to find. So if you’re trying to illustrate something for YouTube, like I do, or if a client asks you for a photo, or if you’re just scratching your head one day going, whatever happened to that time, I shot the Wanaka tree at sunrise and did long exposures there. Well guess what, if you have a robust keywording system, you can really easily find those kinds of photos.

So let me show you an example of exactly how that would work. I’m putting together a video right now about four tips for shooting the full moon. And so I want to gather up as many different kinds of full moon photos as I can. Well, one of the really cool things that you can do with keywording is build out what are called smart collections. And you can see, I actually have a collection here called moon photos. And if you log into it here, you could see that this collection it’s automatically going to pull all the photos from my Lightroom catalog that matched these conditions. So anytime I’ve labeled it with moon and any time I’ve shot a moon photo with my D eight 50. So those it has to match those two things and it’s going to show those particular photos. So in other words, this folder is only going to show me moon photos that I’ve shot with my most current best camera.

And I could adjust this to show me all the moon photos I’ve ever taken. I could adjust it to show me just the full moon photos I’ve ever taken. And to be totally honest with you, this probably needs to be updated. I preach the gospel of the keyword, but I still need to work on it myself. Now, smart collections are great. They get you one step closer to the photos that you want to find. You can see. I have a bunch of them here, like my photos from Columbia and death Valley and photos of my cats, photos from Patagonia, things like that. But what I really love to do with keywording is simply find photos quickly. So say for this video about the full moon that I wanted a demonstration photo from that time that I photograph the full moon rising over mono Lake. Now I could sit here and look through my calendar and try to figure out when the heck I went out there and shot that photo.

Honestly, I don’t remember, or I could do a couple of things. I could simply scroll down here to my Sierra Nevada smart collection. And yes, I keep my mono Lake photos in my Sierra Nevada collection Sue me. So every time I’ve labeled any photo with Sierra boom, it shows up in this catalog from there, you have a lot of other really cool options. And if your keywording is good, you can do a text search within this smart collection. And so I might search for something like a full moon mono Lake and boom. It pulls up all the photos that have that keyword in there. And then I can further refine this search. If I just look for photos that I have edited using this little toggle slider up here, I can find the two photos that I photographed over mono Lake when the full moon is rising over the Lake. 

So I can really quickly find these photos and then do something with them in my catalog. And that leads me to fantastic feature number two: photos. And you want to use them in a couple of different ways. Maybe you want to export them for video, or maybe you want to send them to Instagram or Facebook, or you may be want to make a print out of them. And all of those different use cases are going to require different kinds of settings, right? For your website or for a presentation. You might want to do a more compressed version of the photo that doesn’t take up that much space, but for print, you might want to export it to a full 16 bit TIF with no compression for the maximum image quality. And when you go to export and you can get to the export dialogue box, a couple of different ways, you can go up here to file export. You can right click on the photo and then scroll down to export.

Or you can do what I like to do is use keyboard shortcuts. In this case for windows it’s control shift E for Mac, that would be command shifty. And it brings up this dialog box. Let me scrunch this down so you can actually see it. And over here on the right, you have all kinds of different options from where you want to store these exported files, how you want to rename them. If you want to adjust the file compression, if it’s, if you want it to be a JPEG or a PSD or a TIF, what kind of color space, the size of the image and on and on all the way down through watermarking here. Now, if you have four different use cases that you’re going to put this same image into you, don’t want to have to re input those settings differently every single time.

So you can make these export presets and the way you do it. Oh gosh. It is so simple. You basically plug in the settings that you want. Like for Instagram, I know that Instagram likes photos that are 10 80 pixels wide. It doesn’t need to be a hundred percent quality. It could be like 80 something percent quality. That’s fine. So I like to put this in my, my pictures folder and I’ll put it in a sub folder called Instagram. There we go. And I don’t need to rename it. You could always add a suffix like Instagram to the file name if you want it to, uh, the compression settings there. Okay. That’s okay. I’m going to sharpen a little bit for the screen. And I also want to add a watermark. Now you can go in here and you can create custom watermarks. And there’s, I have a video about how to do that on this channel.

I’ll link it up there. Uh, and I just have this basic watermark with my logo in it. And after export, we can go ahead and in this case, we’ll have it, show it in explore. So it’s just going to open the folder for us. And so if I do all of this work, and then I changed these export settings, I’ve lost this preset. So what I can do with all of these things set here before I hit export is I can go ahead and over here on this button, click add, and that’s going to bring up this dialog box and I can call it something Instagram and click create. It’s going to save it under my user presets. I already have an Instagram preset, but I just wanted to make another one for you guys for the purposes of this video. So now I can even cancel out of this or I can change the settings completely.

Uh, like let me take a quick look at the settings that I use. When I export for YouTube. I put it in my videos folder under a sub folder called 2020, export it at 25 60 pixels. And I don’t put a watermark on there. So let’s go ahead and say that I export this photo it’s working right now. We’re actually exporting both because I had them both selected. Okay. And there it’s done. And you can see that it has gone ahead and export of that photo of both of those photos right here, where I wanted them using the settings that I wanted. That’s great. Now I want to export these and upload them to Instagram. Well, I don’t want to have to go back in here and change all of these settings back, but the cool thing is I really don’t have to, I can just click right here on that Instagram preset and it, boom, it smacks everything back where it needs to go.

And sure enough, as I export it, you’re going to see boom. There it is. It brings it up in that pictures folder that I wanted under Instagram. It put the watermark on there, put my logo on there with the right dimensions and compression that I wanted for that image. So you can create all of these presets for all of the different uses that you use for your image for. You can see I’ve got one for Facebook, Instagram, when I’m doing presentations, when I’m making prints, the ones I put on my website, the ones that I do for YouTube, or when I’m putting a really big image on YouTube. So I’ve got all these presets and you can actually have Lightroom export all of these things simultaneously. You can just click the boxes that you want hit batch export. It brings up this little guy asking you, if you want to save all the images in the same folder, I don’t check this. I just leave it as is. And I hit export. And it does all of that stuff for me automatically. The images are exactly where I expect them with the dimensions and the quality and the watermark and the sharpening and all that stuff that I’ve plugged in there. So that’s why I love export presets because I do these things so many times. It’s really great to have these one click and done solutions.

Talk about a couple of the features that I use for my actual editing. And one of my favorite tools within all of Lightroom is something called the targeted adjustment tool. I recently posted a video about how I took this photo in one of the questions I got in the comments was how do I know where to place these control points within the curve to get the look that I want? And the truth is, I don’t know exactly. Let me get rid of these and I’ll show you how I do it. Now you can make some educated guesses because it does show you the histogram here. So I can guess that this is probably where the highlights are on the curve, and this is probably where the shadows are. And if I adjust from that point, I can make a pretty good curve that I want to see, but there’s an easier way to do it, which is to come up here to this little circle and click on that.

This is the targeted adjustment tool. And any time you hover this over the image, you’re going to see I’ll put my mouse over here. So you guys can see both things at once. When I hover it over the lighter parts, it draws a control point on the curve. And if I move it down towards the darker points, it shows you where that point lies on the curve. So if I know that I want the highlights in this image, brighter in the shadows, a little bit darker. All I have to do is click and drag on the image itself, where I want to place a control point on the curve and the targeted adjustment tool does that automatically. So if I want the highlights brighter, I click and drag on the highlights on the image. I’m going to click and drag up just like that. And you can see it’s automatically placing a control point and moving the curve up.

Now I just move over to the shadows. I click and drag down and it automatically places that control point there, and you can place as many control points using the targeted adjustment tool as you want. So if you think this part of the photo is getting a little bit too dark, we’ll just click and drag up a tiny bit there. And you see it’s going to place that third control point and pull those shadows slightly back up. So you can do this on any image. It’s such an easy way to adjust the contrast and dynamic range within the photo, simply by clicking on the parts that you want, brighter dragging them up and clicking on the parts that you want darker and dragging them down. Now the targeted adjustment tool has another use case, which is adjusting color. So just below the tone curve is the HSL panel.

And for this one, I’m going to need a more colorful image. So let’s do the magic of video editing. Cool. Now we’ve got here an image that has pretty much every different color in the spectrum within the photo. Now say you want to make it a little bit more colorful, but only in the magenta. So if you go up here to that basic tab and you just increase the saturation, everything is going to become more saturated and maybe the Magento’s look good, but God, these yellows right here look like puke. And those blues are looking way too funky. So how do we adjust just the magenta? Well, hopefully you guys know that you can use something called this HSL panel, which allows you to make adjustments within each color range. So you can change the hue itself. If you want the oranges to be more red, that’s fine.

You can just slide this slide or this way, if you want the blues to be more purple-y, you can slide this slider this way. If you want the, say the greens to be brighter, you can play with the luminance of each channel right here as well. Now, the tricky thing with color is that what you see with your eye, isn’t always where the color lies on the color wheel. And this is very common with yellows and greens. You think something is obviously green, uh, but it turns out it actually lies in the yellow channel. So how do you know where to make these adjustments? We’ll again, you can use the targeted adjustment tool. So you click on this little circular dot dude and then whatever color you want to be more saturated. Say, I did want those blues to be more saturated. I could click and drag up on them.

Lightroom automatically selects the appropriate color range, where you select and makes the adjustment that you want without affecting any of the other color ranges. So if I wanted the blues a little more saturated, great, I’ve got it. Say, I want these yellows to be a little bit more de-saturated now to me, they look like yellow, but you can see that light room over here on the right is putting them in the orange channel. So I’m actually, de-saturated the oranges and that’s fine. I just want to work visually. I’ll let Lightroom do all the math and crazy calculations it needs to do. I’m just going to use the targeted adjustment tool to make the colors that I want more saturated by clicking and dragging up and de saturating the ones I don’t want as much by clicking and dragging down. So you can use the tat the tap, the targeted adjustment tool to make these really easy, intuitive adjustments. So I hope that’s something that you can bring in yeah.

And the final thing that I wanted to talk about in this video that I think you should be using in your editing is virtual copies. Say you got a photo like this, and you liked the way that you’ve processed it, but you come back a couple of weeks later, you look at it again and you go, I wonder if that would look better in black and white, or I wonder if it would look better if I processed it really dark and moody and dramatic will you certainly could bring the image into the develop module and you could undo all of the adjustments that you’ve made and said, okay, let’s change this and make it black and white. And let’s readjust the exposure to get something that looks good. And now we’re going to have to readjust the clarity and detail settings we’re going to have to make completely different tone curve adjustments.

All right. Let’s see. Uh, okay. Do I like this? Do I remember what the color copy even looked like? How can I compare the two? Well, one really easy way to do that is by creating virtual copies. So let me back up here. Boom. And I’m going to go ahead and right click on the photo and scroll down to create virtual copy and what this does. If I go back to my grid view here is it simply makes an identical copy of the photo and you can make adjustments to that second copy without altering anything of the first copy. So now that I have this virtual copy here, I can go ahead and develop this one to my heart’s content. Let’s say we want to do a dark dramatic kind of processing here. So I’m going to pull my whites up, pull my highlights up.

Uh, I mean, uh, those are the highlights. That’s what those are called. And I think we’re getting a little bit oversaturated with those colors. So I’ll drop that down a little bit. Maybe I want to add a little grad filter action down here on the bottom to bring some of that detail back in. Hey, that’s kinda cool. That’s looking okay. And if I go back to my grid view, now you can see I’ve got these two different copies of the image that I can bring up. I can compare side by side to see which one I like or I can even export both of these using an export preset to put in a video very much like this one, where I can make before and afters really, really simply. You can also use virtual copies to create raw before and afters. For example, this photo right here.

If I create a virtual copy, I can simply right click on this virtual copy, scroll down here to develop settings and click reset. And it’s going to show me the raw file. So now if I ever want to, for a video do a before and after comparison, I can export the virtual copy and the developed copy. And I don’t have to worry about the adjustments from one accidentally affecting the other, another really useful application for virtual copies is cropping. If you’re like me, you like to shoot a lot of vertical photos, but you probably aware that full two by three vertical aspect ratio doesn’t play well with Instagram. So what you can do rather than cropping your original image and kind of forgetting what it looks like as a whole is you can make a virtual copy and then you can apply a crop just to that virtual copy.

I’ll do a four by five, which is the Instagram crop. And I can just this crop until I think it looks good. Boom. Now I have an Instagram ready version that I can export using my Instagram preset and it hasn’t affected my original version. So I still have both of these photos. I can export the full version for say prints or for my website. And I can export this crop version for Instagram or Facebook. And you can do this for video. You can crop into a 16 by nine, whatever the case may be. And because you’re not actually duplicating the image file, you’re just creating this virtual copy. It doesn’t really take any more storage space. So you can make as many of these as you want for all the different ways that you can think about using an image. So I love virtual copies and I hope that you guys can use them as well. That’s going to wrap up this video for fantastic features in Lightroom that I think you should be using to improve your workflow. If you found any of these features helpful, let me know down in the comments, which one you liked most and how you think you’re going to use it going forward. Thank you guys so much for watching these videos. I really do appreciate the support and I love the interaction in the community here on YouTube. I’ll see you soon in another video until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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Spontaneity

Spontaneity

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken On the Darwin Bench, Kings Canyon National Park, California, on June 27th, 2020.

The plan was to hike the full 51-mile North Lake to South Lake loop in four days. But after two days and 27 miles my friend, Ryan, and I were feeling completely knackered. Pushing on to complete the original plan was doable, but it would have meant long, exhausting days on the trail which left little time for photography or simply enjoying the wilderness. Instead we spontaneously decided to switch things up and take a shortcut back to the car, heading through Darwin Bench to Lamarck Col. This would shave 20+ miles off our total trip and give us plenty of quality time with Mother Nature.

After sleeping in a bit on day three of the trip we set off for the short (but steep) climb to Darwin Bench, where we set up camp for the night. Then we set off in search of stunning scenes, which were in no short supply. The Darwin Bench is a spectacular place which provides marvelous views in all directions. I was particularly drawn to the view to the south, which looked out over Evolution Valley and a prominent triangular peak known as The Hermit. Once sunset itself arrived, color and light exploded in the sky, and swept across the mountains. I loved how the shapes of the clouds mirrored those of the rocks in the stream, and how the warm tones of sunset played beautifully off the cool tones in the shadows. 

Our spontaneous decision to leave our initial planned turned out to be the right one.

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Gradient

Gradient

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, on June 1st, 2020.

I’ve been fortunate to see many spectacular moments of light at Mono Lake. But what was special about this particular night was the way the warm tones in the west transitioned so beautiful to cool tones in the east. Those complementary colors were reflected in the light and shadows on the tufas as well.

I wanted to showcase those color transitions so I created this composition which utilizes two tall tufa towers as a natural frame for the scene.

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Happy Bear-thday

Happy Bear-thday

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken in the Bear Lakes Basin in the High Sierra, on September 2nd, 2020.

The Bear Lakes Basin is not an easy place to get to. Whether you approach from the east, west, north, or south, you are in for a serious amount of elevation gain, cross-country travel, and long distances. However, the rigors of the hike make the destination all that much sweeter. The Basin is a granite playground dotted with about a dozen lakes that follow the theme of the Basin’s name (Claw Lake, Den Lake, Little Bear Lake, Big Bear Lake, White Bear Lake, etc…). And standing sentinel at the west end of the Basin is magnificent Seven Gables, one of the most striking peaks in the Sierra.

On this particular trip my friend, Joe, and I endured the challenges of the hike in with some wildfire smoke thrown in for good measure. At times we questioned the sanity of choosing this particular destination. But when we arrived in the Basin I immediately saw the photographic potential of the place. We had timed the trip to coincide with the full moon and I knew there was a good opportunity to shoot the setting moon at sunrise at some point during the trip. That day happened to be my birthday as well. 

When I rolled out of bed on that particular morning, the moon was shining in my face like a searchlight, and I ran to the edge of some nearby cliffs to line up this shot. Happy bear-thday to me!

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Dwarfed

Dwarfed

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken in the Alabama Hills, California, on January 26th, 2020.

From the Alabama Hills you can see six of California’s tallest mountains, each over 14,000′ high. However, the view is dominated by a smaller summit known as Lone Pine Peak. Thanks to its proximity to the Alabama Hills, as well as its unbroken 9,000-feet east face, Lone Pine Peak looms over the landscape in a display of sheer grandeur. In this photo I wanted to emphasize this grandeur, so I placed a human figure in the frame (a self-portrait, taken from roughly 300 feet away) to create a strong contrast and sense of scale for the mountain.

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Lightroom: 4 Features You NEED To Be Using

Lightroom: 4 Features You NEED To Be Using

Hello my excellent friends! It’s Josh Cripps here. Now I like many of you use the Adobe Suite to edit my photos. And in particular, I spend a lot of time in Lightroom. And today I want to share with you four fantastic features that I love about the program that I think you should be using. So let’s go ahead and dive right in. 

Keywords

One of the reasons that I like Lightroom so much is not just because it’s a powerful, raw editor, but also because it has fantastic organizational capabilities. And one of the best parts of those organizational capabilities is wording. So if you’re not utilizing keywording, you’re missing out on an amazing way to keep track of your images and find them quickly when you need to. Now, most of the time I do my keywording when I import photos, I tend to import in small batches. So it’s really easy to apply the same keywords to a bunch of photos at once, but you can always do keywording at any time, simply by clicking on a photo or a batch of photos, and then putting in the keywords that you want over here in this keyword area. Now, me personally, the way that I like to do my keywording is I try to include where the photo was taken what’s in the photo, and then anything unique about the photo.

Like if it’s an abstract photo or a long exposure, something like that. So you can see that this photo here from the Alabama Hills I’ve, keyworded it not only with where it is, it’s in California, the Sierra Nevada, and the Alabama Hills, but also what’s in the photo. There’s a lenticular cloud, a specific kind called a Sierra wave cloud and it’s happening at sunset. And so those are the types of things that I typically include in my keywords. You’ll notice that I didn’t put rocks or Rocky formations or pinnacles because in my mind, the Alabama Hills is synonymous with that stuff. And so I, if I’m ever going to be looking for a photo of rocks in the Alabama Hills, it’s kind of a given that searching for Alabama Hills is going to lead to these kinds of photos. Now, if I was shooting, say a big arch, I would put arch in the keywords as well.

Okay. So how does this help me other than being an extraordinarily tedious process and trust me, I know what it is because if you’re out shooting for a long time and you’ve got two weeks of photos to imports and you’ve got to write separate keyword sets for 2000 individual images, it is a pain in the. I realize that, but it’s well worth doing. And the reason is in the future, it makes it so much easier to find any photo that you could ever want to find. So if you’re trying to illustrate something for YouTube, like I do, or if a client asks you for a photo, or if you’re just scratching your head one day going, whatever happened to that time, I shot the Wanaka tree at sunrise and did long exposures there. Well guess what, if you have a robust keywording system, you can really easily find those kinds of photos.

So let me show you an example of exactly how that would work. I’m putting together a video right now about four tips for shooting the full moon. And so I want to gather up as many different kinds of full moon photos as I can. Well, one of the really cool things that you can do with keywording is build out what are called smart collections. And you can see, I actually have a collection here called moon photos. And if you log into it here, you could see that this collection it’s automatically going to pull all the photos from my Lightroom catalog that matched these conditions. So anytime I’ve labeled it with moon and any time I’ve shot a moon photo with my D eight 50. So those it has to match those two things and it’s going to show those particular photos. So in other words, this folder is only going to show me moon photos that I’ve shot with my most current best camera.

And I could adjust this to show me all the moon photos I’ve ever taken. I could adjust it to show me just the full moon photos I’ve ever taken. And to be totally honest with you, this probably needs to be updated. I preach the gospel of the keyword, but I still need to work on it myself. Now, smart collections are great. They get you one step closer to the photos that you want to find. You can see. I have a bunch of them here, like my photos from Columbia and death Valley and photos of my cats, photos from Patagonia, things like that. But what I really love to do with keywording is simply find photos quickly. So say for this video about the full moon that I wanted a demonstration photo from that time that I photograph the full moon rising over mono Lake. Now I could sit here and look through my calendar and try to figure out when the heck I went out there and shot that photo.

Honestly, I don’t remember, or I could do a couple of things. I could simply scroll down here to my Sierra Nevada smart collection. And yes, I keep my mono Lake photos in my Sierra Nevada collection Sue me. So every time I’ve labeled any photo with Sierra boom, it shows up in this catalog from there, you have a lot of other really cool options. And if your keywording is good, you can do a text search within this smart collection. And so I might search for something like a full moon mono Lake and boom. It pulls up all the photos that have that keyword in there. And then I can further refine this search. If I just look for photos that I have edited using this little toggle slider up here, I can find the two photos that I photographed over mono Lake when the full moon is rising over the Lake. So I can really quickly find these photos and then do something with them in my catalog. And that leads me to fantastic feature number two.

Export Presets

And you want to use them in a couple of different ways. Maybe you want to export them for video, or maybe you want to send them to Instagram or Facebook, or you may be want to make a print out of them. And all of those different use cases are going to require different kinds of settings, right? For your website or for a presentation. You might want to do a more compressed version of the photo that doesn’t take up that much space, but for print, you might want to export it to a full 16 bit TIF with no compression for the maximum image quality. And when you go to export and you can get to the export dialogue box, a couple of different ways, you can go up here to file export. You can right click on the photo and then scroll down to export.

Or you can do what I like to do is use keyboard shortcuts. In this case for windows it’s control shift E for Mac, that would be command shifty. And it brings up this dialog box. Let me scrunch this down so you can actually see it. And over here on the right, you have all kinds of different options from where you want to store these exported files, how you want to rename them. If you want to adjust the file compression, if it’s, if you want it to be a JPEG or a PSD or a TIF, what kind of color space, the size of the image and on and on all the way down through watermarking here. Now, if you have four different use cases that you’re going to put this same image into you, don’t want to have to re input those settings differently every single time.

So you can make these export presets and the way you do it. Oh gosh. It is so simple. You basically plug in the settings that you want. Like for Instagram, I know that Instagram likes photos that are 10 80 pixels wide. It doesn’t need to be a hundred percent quality. It could be like 80 something percent quality. That’s fine. So I like to put this in my, my pictures folder and I’ll put it in a sub folder called Instagram. There we go. And I don’t need to rename it. You could always add a suffix like Instagram to the file name if you want it to, uh, the compression settings there. Okay. That’s okay. I’m going to sharpen a little bit for the screen. And I also want to add a watermark. Now you can go in here and you can create custom watermarks. And there’s, I have a video about how to do that on this channel.

I’ll link it up there. Uh, and I just have this basic watermark with my logo in it. And after export, we can go ahead and in this case, we’ll have it, show it in explore. So it’s just going to open the folder for us. And so if I do all of this work, and then I changed these export settings, I’ve lost this preset. So what I can do with all of these things set here before I hit export is I can go ahead and over here on this button, click add, and that’s going to bring up this dialog box and I can call it something Instagram and click create. It’s going to save it under my user presets. I already have an Instagram preset, but I just wanted to make another one for you guys for the purposes of this video. So now I can even cancel out of this or I can change the settings completely.

Uh, like let me take a quick look at the settings that I use. When I export for YouTube. I put it in my videos folder under a sub folder called 2020, export it at 25 60 pixels. And I don’t put a watermark on there. So let’s go ahead and say that I export this photo it’s working right now. We’re actually exporting both because I had them both selected. Okay. And there it’s done. And you can see that it has gone ahead and export of that photo of both of those photos right here, where I wanted them using the settings that I wanted. That’s great. Now I want to export these and upload them to Instagram. Well, I don’t want to have to go back in here and change all of these settings back, but the cool thing is I really don’t have to, I can just click right here on that Instagram preset and it, boom, it smacks everything back where it needs to go.

And sure enough, as I export it, you’re going to see boom. There it is. It brings it up in that pictures folder that I wanted under Instagram. It put the watermark on there, put my logo on there with the right dimensions and compression that I wanted for that image. So you can create all of these presets for all of the different uses that you use for your image for. You can see I’ve got one for Facebook, Instagram, when I’m doing presentations, when I’m making prints, the ones I put on my website, the ones that I do for YouTube, or when I’m putting a really big image on YouTube. So I’ve got all these presets and you can actually have Lightroom export all of these things simultaneously. You can just click the boxes that you want hit batch export. It brings up this little guy asking you, if you want to save all the images in the same folder, I don’t check this. I just leave it as is. And I hit export. And it does all of that stuff for me automatically. The images are exactly where I expect them with the dimensions and the quality and the watermark and the sharpening and all that stuff that I’ve plugged in there. So that’s why I love export presets because I do these things so many times. It’s really great to have these one click and done solutions.

The Targeted Adjustment Tool

Talk about a couple of the features that I use for my actual editing. And one of my favorite tools within all of Lightroom is something called the targeted adjustment tool. I recently posted a video about how I took this photo in one of the questions I got in the comments was how do I know where to place these control points within the curve to get the look that I want? And the truth is, I don’t know exactly. Let me get rid of these and I’ll show you how I do it. Now you can make some educated guesses because it does show you the histogram here. So I can guess that this is probably where the highlights are on the curve, and this is probably where the shadows are. And if I adjust from that point, I can make a pretty good curve that I want to see, but there’s an easier way to do it, which is to come up here to this little circle and click on that.

This is the targeted adjustment tool. And any time you hover this over the image, you’re going to see I’ll put my mouse over here. So you guys can see both things at once. When I hover it over the lighter parts, it draws a control point on the curve. And if I move it down towards the darker points, it shows you where that point lies on the curve. So if I know that I want the highlights in this image, brighter in the shadows, a little bit darker. All I have to do is click and drag on the image itself, where I want to place a control point on the curve and the targeted adjustment tool does that automatically. So if I want the highlights brighter, I click and drag on the highlights on the image. I’m going to click and drag up just like that. And you can see it’s automatically placing a control point and moving the curve up.

Now I just move over to the shadows. I click and drag down and it automatically places that control point there, and you can place as many control points using the targeted adjustment tool as you want. So if you think this part of the photo is getting a little bit too dark, we’ll just click and drag up a tiny bit there. And you see it’s going to place that third control point and pull those shadows slightly back up. So you can do this on any image. It’s such an easy way to adjust the contrast and dynamic range within the photo, simply by clicking on the parts that you want, brighter dragging them up and clicking on the parts that you want darker and dragging them down. Now the targeted adjustment tool has another use case, which is adjusting color. So just below the tone curve is the HSL panel.

And for this one, I’m going to need a more colorful image. So let’s do the magic of video editing. Cool. Now we’ve got here an image that has pretty much every different color in the spectrum within the photo. Now say you want to make it a little bit more colorful, but only in the magenta. So if you go up here to that basic tab and you just increase the saturation, everything is going to become more saturated and maybe the Magento’s look good, but God, these yellows right here look like puke. And those blues are looking way too funky. So how do we adjust just the magenta? Well, hopefully you guys know that you can use something called this HSL panel, which allows you to make adjustments within each color range. So you can change the hue itself. If you want the oranges to be more red, that’s fine.

You can just slide this slide or this way, if you want the blues to be more purple-y, you can slide this slider this way. If you want the, say the greens to be brighter, you can play with the luminance of each channel right here as well. Now, the tricky thing with color is that what you see with your eye, isn’t always where the color lies on the color wheel. And this is very common with yellows and greens. You think something is obviously green, uh, but it turns out it actually lies in the yellow channel. So how do you know where to make these adjustments? We’ll again, you can use the targeted adjustment tool. So you click on this little circular dot dude and then whatever color you want to be more saturated. Say, I did want those blues to be more saturated. I could click and drag up on them.

Lightroom automatically selects the appropriate color range, where you select and makes the adjustment that you want without affecting any of the other color ranges. So if I wanted the blues a little more saturated, great, I’ve got it. Say, I want these yellows to be a little bit more de-saturated now to me, they look like yellow, but you can see that light room over here on the right is putting them in the orange channel. So I’m actually, de-saturated the oranges and that’s fine. I just want to work visually. I’ll let Lightroom do all the math and crazy calculations it needs to do. I’m just going to use the targeted adjustment tool to make the colors that I want more saturated by clicking and dragging up and de saturating the ones I don’t want as much by clicking and dragging down. So you can use the tat the tap, the targeted adjustment tool to make these really easy, intuitive adjustments. So I hope that’s something that you can bring in yeah.

Virtual Copies

And the final thing that I wanted to talk about in this video that I think you should be using in your editing is virtual copies. Say you got a photo like this, and you liked the way that you’ve processed it, but you come back a couple of weeks later, you look at it again and you go, I wonder if that would look better in black and white, or I wonder if it would look better if I processed it really dark and moody and dramatic will you certainly could bring the image into the develop module and you could undo all of the adjustments that you’ve made and said, okay, let’s change this and make it black and white. And let’s readjust the exposure to get something that looks good. And now we’re going to have to readjust the clarity and detail settings we’re going to have to make completely different tone curve adjustments.

All right. Let’s see. Uh, okay. Do I like this? Do I remember what the color copy even looked like? How can I compare the two? Well, one really easy way to do that is by creating virtual copies. So let me back up here. Boom. And I’m going to go ahead and right click on the photo and scroll down to create virtual copy and what this does. If I go back to my grid view here is it simply makes an identical copy of the photo and you can make adjustments to that second copy without altering anything of the first copy. So now that I have this virtual copy here, I can go ahead and develop this one to my heart’s content. Let’s say we want to do a dark dramatic kind of processing here. So I’m going to pull my whites up, pull my highlights up.

Uh, I mean, uh, those are the highlights. That’s what those are called. And I think we’re getting a little bit oversaturated with those colors. So I’ll drop that down a little bit. Maybe I want to add a little grad filter action down here on the bottom to bring some of that detail back in. Hey, that’s kinda cool. That’s looking okay. And if I go back to my grid view, now you can see I’ve got these two different copies of the image that I can bring up. I can compare side by side to see which one I like or I can even export both of these using an export preset to put in a video very much like this one, where I can make before and afters really, really simply. You can also use virtual copies to create raw before and afters. For example, this photo right here.

If I create a virtual copy, I can simply right click on this virtual copy, scroll down here to develop settings and click reset. And it’s going to show me the raw file. So now if I ever want to, for a video do a before and after comparison, I can export the virtual copy and the developed copy. And I don’t have to worry about the adjustments from one accidentally affecting the other, another really useful application for virtual copies is cropping. If you’re like me, you like to shoot a lot of vertical photos, but you probably aware that full two by three vertical aspect ratio doesn’t play well with Instagram. So what you can do rather than cropping your original image and kind of forgetting what it looks like as a whole is you can make a virtual copy and then you can apply a crop just to that virtual copy.

I’ll do a four by five, which is the Instagram crop. And I can just this crop until I think it looks good. Boom. Now I have an Instagram ready version that I can export using my Instagram preset and it hasn’t affected my original version. So I still have both of these photos. I can export the full version for say prints or for my website. And I can export this crop version for Instagram or Facebook. And you can do this for video. You can crop into a 16 by nine, whatever the case may be. And because you’re not actually duplicating the image file, you’re just creating this virtual copy. It doesn’t really take any more storage space. So you can make as many of these as you want for all the different ways that you can think about using an image. So I love virtual copies and I hope that you guys can use them as well. That’s going to wrap up this video for fantastic features in Lightroom that I think you should be using to improve your workflow. If you found any of these features helpful, let me know down in the comments, which one you liked most and how you think you’re going to use it going forward. Thank you guys so much for watching these videos. I really do appreciate the support and I love the interaction in the community here on YouTube. I’ll see you soon in another video until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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The Endless Dance

The Endless Dance

The Story Behind This Photograph:

In the moment I was creating this photo, all I could think about was making sure I had the right focus, exposure, and composition. But in the days since then I’ve had time to reflect a bit more on the unbelievable age of these trees and what they’ve seen. With the oldest bristlecones topping the 4,000-year mark, it’s not impossible to think that this particular tree could be 2,000 years old or more. Imagine the things it’s seen and endured. In all those years it would have seen the full moon rise and set an incomprehensible 24,000 times. It’s an endless dance that I feel privileged to have witnessed merely a few dozen times.

The band of pink and blue you see in the sky is what’s known as the Belt of Venus, which occurs right around sunrise and sunset on clear days. The pink layer is sunlight bouncing off the atmosphere. The blue layer is Earth’s shadow. It’s one of my favorite atmospheric phenomena, not only because of the beautiful complementary colors it creates, but also because it reminds me that we are all living on this finite ball of life, floating in the endless expanse of space.

Tech notes:

Can you guess what the hardest part of making this photo was? Simply finding the right tree! To celebrate the 2020 Halloween Blue Moon I wanted to photograph it aligned with the coolest, spookiest trees around, the ancient Bristlecone Pines. But although there are thousands of Bristlecones in the White Mountains, not just any tree would do. In order to work well for this shot, the right tree would have to check four important boxes:

  1. It would have to be aesthetic, with the right combination of living and dead branches. Bristlecones that are fully alive top to bottom just look downright shaggy!
  2. It would have to be growing on a narrow north-south ridge so that I could align the moon behind it.
  3. It would need to be isolated from other trees and any distractions or obfuscating elements.
  4. There would have to be another small ridge or hill nearby that I could shoot from at the same elevation as the tree. If I shot from too high up the tree will blend into the landscape behind it. If I were too low, the moon wouldn’t appear behind the tree until the sky and landscape are totally dark.

Who says I’m too picky??? 🙂 It was a frantic, fun race that particular afternoon to find a tree that fit these criteria, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I stumbled across this beauty about 45 minutes before moonrise. It gave me just enough time to plot out the correct angles and distances, get into position, and shoot! All in all I captured approximately 50 images of the moon gracefully rising above this tree. But this frame, which captured the warm end-of-day light flowing across this ancient arboreal beauty, was the best of the bunch.

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The Most Underrated Skill In Landscape Photography: SCOUTING

The Most Underrated Skill In Landscape Photography: SCOUTING

If I could recommend one thing to you that would make the biggest difference in your landscape photography. It wouldn’t be to buy a new camera or get a spiffy lens or learn the latest Photoshop techniques. It would simply be this, get outside more.

Excellent friends, Josh Cripps here, you know, I have been seeing more and more ads online from photographers promising to help you make prettier pictures. And while I have no doubt that the tutorials they sell can help you develop your post-processing skills, which is great for aesthetics. I don’t think I’ve seen a single one yet that shows you how to do one of the fundamentally most important things that is required to be a good photographer. And that is scouting. Scouting is one of these unsexy things that is really boring to talk about. But over time it yields insanely sexy results. It’s like eating a nutritious diet and doing sit-ups every day. Nobody cares that you’re doing all of this grunt work behind the scenes. That is until you rip your shirt off at the beach and even your abs have abs. So in this video, I’d like to talk about two big ways that scouting helps you become a successful photographer, as well as a few of my personal favorite ways that I try to find awesome places to shoot.

Think of scouting like romance. You’re getting to know something and building a relationship with it. In this case, it happens to be a place instead of a person, but no matter what, the deeper that relationship gets, the better that you will be able to anticipate that places, moods, and know how it’s going to react and look under certain conditions. When I lived in Santa Cruz, I spent countless hours walking up and down the cliffs and beaches North of town. And I would do this in the middle of the day when the light was harsh and the photography was no good. And I would do this in the early mornings and the late evenings, I would do it when the tide was high and when the tide was low and most often I’d even do it without a tripod or without filters. Just a camera just to take snapshots.

So why would I do this? It was so that I knew every corner and every nook. I knew every Rocky shelf, every wave induced waterfall, every rock and every sea stack. I knew the directions that they faced and the compositional possibilities they created so that no matter what the conditions were when I went out to shoot for real, I knew exactly where to go, Oh, the clouds are looking nice to the Southeast and there’s a moderately high swell. Well, I think that that little hidden shelf with the waterfall is probably going to work pretty well. Oh, there’s a break in the clouds near half moon Bay and it hasn’t rained in a few weeks. I bet it’ll be possible to get across the Creek to the beach at San Gregorio. Oh, there’s a nice sky to the Northwest with a medium tide. It’s going to be a great day to shoot that cool secret bridge I found.

And this is the main superpower that scouting gives you, you know, exactly where to go given any conditions. And there’s no way around it. This just takes a lot of time. So I highly recommend that you get out there and do that legwork and explore which honestly you should like doing anyway. Cause that’s kind of the fun part of photography and it’s well worth doing because I’m not sure that there’s anything worse than the opposite situation showing up to a location that you’ve never been to before, while the light is blowing up. And you have no idea where you might find a good composition. So you freak out, you start running around like a kid who’s eaten too many fruit loops and you end up settling with some lackluster composition because you just have to shoot something. Not that that has ever happened to me.

Of course. Now, the other way that scouting helps you is that simply by being outside bar, you end up seeing more cool stuff and you get more opportunities for photography. I have been on so many excursions where I left home in the middle of the day, thinking I’m just going to go take a quick look and then I’ll come right back. And I end up having so much fun, an absolute blast, exploring a new area and coming home with some great shots to boot. A couple of years ago, I was hanging out at a Lake Tiana in New Zealand and it had been raining all morning. And then I looked outside, the rain had stopped and I thought I’m going to go for a drive and see what I can find. Well, the first thing that happened was a gigantic rainbow parked out over the Lake.

And that was cool enough, but I started driving up towards Fiordland national park just to look for some interesting scenes that I could come back and shoot later. But all of that fresh rainfall on the landscape was now evaporating creating these massive billowing clouds of moisture piling up into the atmosphere. And the sun was bursting down through the clouds above. So there was this insane combination of beams and steam coming up out of the landscape. It was utterly breathtaking and I wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t just been out scouting looking around. Okay. So hopefully I’ve impressed upon you, how beneficial scouting is, but how do you actually do it? How do you find awesome places to shoot? Well, here are two of my favorite ways of finding unique locations to photograph

The easiest way, start finding your own awesome locations is simply to explore further a field in a known photo hotspot. So for example, Yosemite, it’s a world-class scenic destination, and I’m guessing you guys can probably name at least five classic photo locations off the top of your head tunnel view Valley view Olmstead point, that thedral peak glacier point, but because 95% of photographers will only ever visit those iconic spots. If you are willing to walk maybe a mile further down the trail or follow a cascade deeper into the forest or find out what the view is like from the top of a dome, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to find jaw dropping, but totally unique vantage points that you can use for your own photography. For example, all of these photos that I’m showing you right now were taken within Yosemite national park, but to get to these unique views, it only took a little bit of effort to get off the beaten path. So in short, if you go somewhere that you know already is beautiful and you’re willing to explore just a little bit, you’re going to find some cool stuff.

I’m a map nerd, uh, mapa file or TOPA file or whatever it’s called. I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because whenever I’m out hiking, doing that, exploring that I was just talking about. I love to sit there with a map in my hands to figure out, Hey, what’s that peak over there? Or what’s that Lake? Or what’s behind that Ridge over there. It really gets my blood pumping and it gets the excitement popping, but even knowing what all that stuff is, you can’t always actually then physically go to every single one of those interesting looking places yourself to see what they’re like. So this is where I turn to technology. I get out my computer, have you guys heard of these things? They’re, they’re pretty cool. And I turn on my 9,600 baud modem and I point Netscape navigator to Google image search. And I type in whatever feature I saw on the map.

And it does not matter how remote an area is some Hardy hiker or fishermen or herdsman has been there and has taken some snapshots that you can use from these photos. You can get a huge amount of pre scouting information such as what the terrain is like, what are the main features of the area? You can figure out possible compositions or even the direction of the light at a certain time of day. But most importantly, you can decide if you actually want to go there to shoot. And that’s the real fun, getting your butt out there in person to see what’s what, a few years ago, I was camping on an overnight trip in Kings Canyon park in a place called the Kearsarge lakes. And during the afternoon of my trip, I decided to scamper up to the top of this cute little guy to see what I could see and standing there from the top of this pinnacle, looking off into this massive roadless wilderness, into all of the canyons and valleys and basins and peaks.

I was just floored by how much stuff there was out there. So I busted out the map and I started looking at all up, Oh, that’s Caltech peak. Oh, that’s Forester pass. Oh, that’s the North guard. And one of these places, way, way, way off to the North that caught my attention was called Mount gardener. So as soon as I got home from that trip, I got on Google images and I typed in Mount Gardner and what I saw blew my mind, my eyes popped out of their sockets, like two little Prairie dogs. And I knew that I had to make a trip to that place. So the next summer strapped on my pack and I hooked it in to Gardner basin. It’s a remote basin. It’s not easy to get to you guys, but it is utterly spectacular. It’s one of the most sensational places that I’ve ever seen on the planet.

And it’s in my top, you absolutely must visit if you’re a backpacker locations in the Sierra and I’ve spent some of my happiest days on the planet and as a photographer in the Gardiner basin, enjoying this mesmerizing place and shooting some really satisfying photos, all banks to looking at a map and then doing a little bit of Googling to see if it seemed like a good place to go. Now, I would caution you though, because looking at snapshots to get a sense of what the terrain and the place is like, well, that’s one thing, but I would advise against looking at too many high quality landscape photographs of an area that you’ve never been to because it is way too easy for those photos to get inside your mind and take over your thought process. And then when you actually get to that place in person, all you can think about are those compositions that you’ve seen online, that somebody else has already shot.

And this happened to me, I’ve talked about this more in my doozy basin video, and you can click a link up there to check that out. So there you have it, two reasons that scouting is vitally important to your photography. And two ways that I like to scout personally, to find those cool places to shoot. So what about you? Are you an active scouter or do you wish it was something you were better at? Let me know down in the comments. All right. That’s going to do it for this one. You guys saw catch you soon in another video until then have fun and happy shooting.

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4 Tips For Kickass Telephoto Landscape Photos

4 Tips For Kickass Telephoto Landscape Photos

Hey. So as you can see, I’ve got a bunch of lenses lined up here on my desk. And if you had to guess, which one of these would you think is my personal favorite for landscape photography? Now you might be tempted to say that it’s the 14 millimeter ultra wide angle. This is the super classic. When it comes to shooting landscape photos, or you might think it’s the big gun over here, the 200 to 500 that I use for my eclipse photos and my moon shots. And while I do love both of those lenses, my favorite is actually this one right here, the 70 to 200 telephoto. And the reason for that is because it’s a fantastic storytelling lens. So let me get rid of all these other ones. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about what I mean cool. Over the past few years, I’ve become absolutely obsessed with the idea of storytelling.

And I’ve learned that in order to be effective, any story has to do at least three things which are established the environment of the story, provide storytelling moments. In other words, what’s actually happening in the story and give details about the characters and the places within the story and from a photography standpoint, what that means, if you want to tell a complete visual story is you’ve got to have these overall shots that give your viewer a sense of what a place is like in general, you need photos that show unique moments of what special kinds of things happen at that particular place. And you need detail shots, which show some of the character of the place and the story. And this is important because on your journey as a photographer, you get to a point where superficially bouncing around the world and taking banger shot after banger, after banger, just isn’t going to cut it anymore. If you want to start doing more meaningful work as a photographer, you have to dive deeper and telephoto lenses like the 70 to 200 Excel at helping you tell those unique storytelling moments, as well as shooting those detail shots. And that’s why I love using them. So in this video, I want to give you four simple tips that can help you improve your telephoto landscape.

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. Now, if you haven’t heard me say this before, I like to teach a four prong approach to photography. If you have a great subject, you have compelling composition that shows off the most interesting aspects of your subject. You have intelligent artistic camera technique and you have good light. Then I guarantee that you’re going to have a great photograph. And in this video, I want to give you one simple tip for each of those four points. The first one that’s arguably the most important. It’s a little bit philosophical, but it’s to help you improve the subject and the story of your photo. And my advice to you is when you’re shooting with a telephoto, stop looking at the big picture instead, look for small vignettes that epitomized what’s going on in front of you, or add a little dash of mystery or unexpectedness to the scene.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Here’s a classic wide angle composition from Milford sound. It was shot on her super great day. There was absolutely no color or interest leaking through the sky at all. And it would have been very easy to simply say, well, this is disappointing. These aren’t the conditions I wanted. Let’s pack it up and go back to the hotel. But instead I had to ask myself, what’s actually happening in the scene here. You’ve got clouds swirling around the tops of the mountains. So rather than looking at the scene as a whole, instead, I can use a telephoto to zoom in and focus on the vignette. Just the clouds swirling around the tops of the mountains. That really epitomized the most interesting thing of what’s going on in that particular moment. And by doing so, I was able to create the much more interesting photograph or check out this photo from the Dolomites in Northern Italy.

This was a stunningly sensational scene with a mountain and beautiful puffy clouds being reflected in this turquoise Lake. But this scene as a whole, it has no mystery to it. It’s kind of a smack you in the face. Here’s what the scene looked like, kind of shot, but by really honing in on what was most mysterious or unexpected about the scene, I noticed that the reflection of the Lake didn’t actually match what it was reflecting. Now, this of course was just a cool trick of the geometry, but it created a very interesting juxtaposition between the reflection of the sky and the green mountains beyond it. And by zooming in with the telephoto, I was able to capture that small vignette showing a little bit more mystery, creating a little bit more uncertainty in the viewer’s eye and more engagement with the photograph because they want to know what the heck is going on here.

Why doesn’t the reflection match what’s going on in the top of the frame, and that pulls them in a little bit more into the photo. All right. So if you can start looking at those small vignettes with your telephoto instead of the big picture, you’re well on your way, but let’s move on to those other three points. Now I want to give you a little tip for composition, and this is one of my favorite telephoto lens composition tricks is to use juxtaposition and visual tension. This is a super easy idea, but it is so powerful when you put it into practice. And all you have to do is basically find two things within your scene that have some kind of a relationship and then position those things opposite and diagonal within the frame, kind of like this photo from Alaska, you can see here, how I’ve juxtaposed these lower shaggy tree covered rocks with that IC glacier clad mountain behind there.

That juxtaposition creates a relationship within the frame and that positioning there just across the photo, diagonally from each other, it’s incredibly easy to implement, but it is so and so effective. It pulls your viewers eye back and forth across the frame. It fills the photo really, really well with what you want to fill it with, or take a look at this photo that uses the exact same kind of idea here. I’ve got my friend, Sarah in the foreground and the mountain, lone pine peak there in the background, and I’ve placed them kind of opposite diagonally across the frame and by doing so, it creates a very powerful relationship between those two subjects in the frame and using that diagonal placement really fills the frame nicely, and it keeps the composition super simple, super easy to create. You can see the exact same idea with this photo of the eclipse that I photographed in the United Arab Emirates.

I’ve got the camel and the camel farmer in the lower, right? And I’ve got the eclipse there in the upper left, diagonally across the frame. These two subjects, it creates a relationship between them. That’s powerful, that’s immediate, that’s obvious. And it’s such a simple thing to do with your telephoto composition. So take it, use it, don’t abuse it. All right. Let’s move on to camera technique here and specifically, I want to talk about adding depth to your telephoto landscapes because the most common way to add depth to any kind of landscape photo is to use a wide angle lens and get close to the foreground. And it brings the foreground right up to the viewer. But a lot of times when you’re shooting with a telephoto, you can’t do that. You don’t have a foreground and consequently, your photos end up feeling a little bit flat like this, but one of the things you can do to bring some of that depth back is utilized layering.

Now this works really well when you have repeating elements that kind of fade off into the distance within the frame, or when you very explicitly use distinct layers within the photograph. So here are a couple of examples in this shot from Yosemite. I have got these Dogwood trees layered consistently within those conifers. And that layering creates the depth. This is not a wide angle photo. This was shot at 86 millimeters, but that layering creates the depth. The same idea is present here in this photo of these cacti from Bolivia. And this is a photo that’s at 145 millimeters, but by utilizing this repeated layering within the frame, it gives more depth than the photo otherwise would have. As I mentioned, you can also create depth by utilizing very distinct layers within the photograph where you have something very obviously on one plane of the image and something very obviously on a different plane of the image.

Now we saw this a little bit already with those compositional tips, but here’s another example. This is me. This is a self portrait of me taken in front of Mount Whitney. Now this was taken at 200 millimeters where normally 200 millimeters would compress a scene and make it feel very flat. But by utilizing these very distinct layers here I am maybe 500 feet away from the camera. And then you have Mount Whitney, you know, miles and miles past that. They’re two very obvious planes within the image and it creates that depth as well. Cool. Now let’s move on finally to that fourth of our four pillars here, which is light and when it comes to shooting with a telephoto lens, my biggest piece of advice to you is, do not be afraid of shooting indirect light. Oftentimes when you’re using a telephoto, you’re working with a smaller or scale of the landscape.

And so the light tends to transition more gradually. In fact, this photo from the Paloose was taken around 2:00 PM and this photo of Yosemite falls was taken at 11:00 AM on a Bluebird clear sky day. This is direct light hitting waterfall, but because I’m working with such a small section of the wall, waterfall that light feathers off much more gradually than it would if you were using a wide angle lens. And consequently, the lighting in this photo is quite dramatic and compelling, even though this is a direct sunlight clear sky trying to shot. But let me say that my favorite time to shoot with a telephoto lens is the hour after sunrise and the hour before for sunset. And the reason for that is you still tend to get that really nice low angle of light that makes the landscape look really good. But the, the light itself is often interacting with the landscape in a really unusual way that you don’t see right at sunrise or right at sunset or in the middle of the day.

And those interactions of the light and the landscape you can really pick out and spotlight those small sections of the entire scene. That’s beautiful. What you can do with a telephone. For example, this shot from tourist till Piney and chili was taken perhaps an hour and a half or two hours before the sunset. The late afternoon sun is filtering through these fantastic lenticular clouds. And it’s creating this engaging spotlighting patchwork effect all over these mountains. The queerness still pioneers. Here’s another example taken maybe 90 minutes after sunrise in the white mountains in California. These are bristle cone Pines, and that sun is shining through the Pines through some dust that was blowing through this Grove of trees, creating these fantastical, very tail kind of beams. Now this didn’t look good with the wide angle at all, but by zooming into 135 millimeters with, by telephoto, I could pick out just this one tiny little vignette again, that epitomized the coolest aspects of what was happening there in front of me.

And because I’m working with such a small scale, the lighting is quite beautiful within this scene. Sweet as an area habit, that’s four tips to help you improve your telephoto landscapes. I’m going to be sharing more tips for telephotos in the future. So be sure to thumbs up and subscribe and hit the little bell and do all the YouTube stuff you guys are really helps me out. And it makes sense sure that you get more content in the future that’s applicable to you. So I’ll see you guys in another video until next time. This is Josh scripts signing off saying have fun and happy shooting.

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How I Got The Shot: Stirling Falls, New Zealand. Behind the Scenes Landscape Photography

How I Got The Shot: Stirling Falls, New Zealand. Behind the Scenes Landscape Photography

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. I’m going to be starting a new series here on the channel where I talk about the behind the scenes of some of my favourite or most well-known or signature photos. And I’m going to talk you through exactly what the shot is, how I got it. Some of the challenges I faced and exactly what went into the making of the photo and to kick things off. I want to start with this photo from New Zealand. This is an image of Sterling falls, which sits in Milford sound one of the most spectacularly, beautiful places on the planet. And this is the very base of the false note Sterling. It’s a pretty big falls. It’s about 500 feet tall, and it only looks small in photos because it’s dwarfed by the mile high mountains next to it. But this is the very bottom of the falls.

And one of the things that makes Sterling so unique is that it plunges 500 feet to land directly on the ocean’s surface. So that’s what we’re looking at here. You’re looking at the falls where the water plunging from the sky impacts the ocean and it creates these radiating patterns of waves and wind coming out from the base of the false. Nope. This is a photo that I did not come up with. The concept of, I’d actually seen photos like this before on the internet and in various galleries around New Zealand. But it’s one of those places that when you get there and you see this, you are compelled to shoot this. It’s like a slap you in the face kind of thing. And you just got to capture it in your camera. Now I’ve been to this falls blue probably 10 times, and you don’t always get to see these exact patterns.

It depends on the wind. It depends on how much water is coming down. It depends on all kinds of stuff, all kinds of conditions, the day of, but on this particular trip, I got really lucky and we have the most perfect symmetric patterns you can imagine. And as we came up around the edge of the falls on the boat, I was absolutely mesmerized by that radiating symmetry. So I knew I wanted that to be the cornerstone of my composition. And that’s why this photo is very symmetric. It’s split almost exactly 50 50 with that rock in the dead center, both vertically and horizontally, the horizontal symmetry is pretty obvious, but the reason that I chose vertical symmetry for this composition is that I wanted to show an equal impact between the water falling and the consequence of that water, which were those radiating patterns. And that’s what I endeavored to capture in this image.

Now, as the boat came around the corner, I did shoot quite a few of shots of a similar composition. This just happened to be the one in the end that I liked the best. So let’s take a really quick look at the settings here and exactly why I chose these values. Okay, so this was taken with a Nikon D eight 10 using the ni core 24 to one 20 lens. And I was using that lens because it allows you to really quickly move between fairly wide shots and kind of mid range telephoto shots. And that’s one of the most fun and exciting things to do at Sterling falls is to shoot all these different kinds of compositions from wide to intimate. Now, possibly I could have really quickly tried to change lenses as we came up to the falls, but I was lining up some test compositions and I really liked the way 24 millimeters looked.

So I just stuck with it because it’s a pretty frantic thing when you’re there at Sterling. And I’ll talk about that in a second. Next, you’ll see that it’s at F eight and given that the base of the falls is probably a good 70 feet away from where I was shooting. I deemed that sufficient to get me depth of field throughout the entire frame. Now the front corners of the image are actually a tiny little bit soft, but I’m not going to worry about it because it’s water and it’s moving anyway. So it’s not really a distraction or even noticeable. The most important settings though that I want to talk about for this image is the shutter speed. And, uh, the ISO, which is sort of a supporting character. I shot this at a 60th of a second. And given the fact that I was already set at F eight, I chose the ISO to be two 50 so that I could get a good exposure because I really wanted my shutter speed to be a 60th of a second.

And I wanted that shutter speeds very specifically, because it was a great compromise between motion and static water. In other words, a 60th of a second was slow enough to show the movement of the water falling from the sky, but fast enough to capture the details of the waves and rivulets and patterns radiating out from the bottom of the falls. If I had chosen a long shutter speed that you would typically do to shoot a waterfall like one second, this would all just be a big blur. And if I had gone really fast, the other side say like two thousands of a second, then everything would be too frozen, too static. There wouldn’t be any dynamicism within the photograph. Now creating this photo came with a huge suite of challenges. So let’s get into what those were. The first big challenge in shooting Sterling falls is that you have almost no time at the location, the only way to get there, because this is a falls again, that falls directly into the ocean is on a boat.

All right. And perhaps you could charter a boat to take you out there and spend a little bit more time. But the easiest way is simply to book onto one of the commercial Milford sound cruises, which is a wonderful experience in its own, right? But because these cruises have such a strict timeline, they only give you about three to five minutes at Sterling falls, which is not a lot of time. And so you need to be ready to shoot when you get there. And so the way that I like to solve that challenge of not having very much time is to be prepared, be prepared, be prepared, be prepared, be prepared, be prepared. Okay. So what does that, what does being prepared look like in this particular situation? Like I mentioned, I’ve been to Sterling falls quite a few times and I’ve known just from experience.

What kinds of shutter speeds look best with the way that the water moves in this particular waterfall? And so I basically had my camera preset to those settings, and I also knew that we would be in full shade just because of the geometry of the sound and the time of day. So I was able to prep my exposure in advance. Then as the boat was coming up around the corner towards the falls, I started rattling off test exposures just to make sure all my settings would actually work. So in the moment I wouldn’t have to worry about, Oh, notably have enough depth of field or as listener speed, the wrong size. I know shutter speeds. Aren’t sizes, just deal with it. And unfortunately, that’s something that has just come with experience. My first few times out at Sterling falls, I didn’t get that great of photos because I didn’t know what to do with my camera settings, but after repeating the process over and over and over, it got me to a point where I could simply shortcut to the end and get the results that I wanted to arguably the bigger challenge when you’re shooting at Sterling falls is that you’re on a moving boat.

So the boat comes in and it gets up as close as it can to the falls. But it’s also swaying and rocking and moving back and forth. So you can’t use a tripod, even if you wanted to do a nice long exposure, your camera would do this. And the photo would look like that. So you can’t use a tripod. You have to be nimble. You have to be able to move around quickly as the boat is pivoting. One of the things that I found actually, that works pretty well is to use your tripod like a monopod, just stick one leg out. Now that gives you some extra stability, but you can also pivot off the ball ahead. If you keep it loose, to allow you to quickly adjust, adjust your compositions and go with the flow of the boat. And it’s also really important that you use vibration reduction or image stabilization, that’s going to help a ton for locking in the details of the rocks while the water is falling in front of them.

And again, this is one of the other big reasons that I need a 60th of a second shutter is so that I can maintain some detail in the static elements of frame. So that’s how you kind of solve the moving boat problem. There it’s Sterling. And the final big challenge you have to face is spray. This is a big falls. It generates a lot of wind and a lot of outflow when the water hits the ground. And this is a pretty easy one. You just gotta have wipes wipes, everywhere, stick wipes in your pocket, put them in your camera bag, tuck one behind your ear, right? And just have that wipe ready, take a couple of shots, white, couple of shots, wipe it. And the wipes that I like to use go digging back in the Crips cave. There are these ones you can see this box has gotten a lot of use are called Kim wipes.

They’re paper wipes are used for like laser experiments and other cool sciency stuff. But I love them for photography because they’re very absorbent and they’ll just pull water right off the front of your lens. You don’t need any lens cleaner or anything like that. Just give it up and you’re good to go for more shooting. So that was the process of coming up to envisioning, seeing the conditions, knowing the kind of composition I want, knowing the settings that I needed in order to capture the photo, then just focusing, shooting, checking, wiping, focusing, shooting, checking, wiping to ensure that I got a photo that I was happy with. So all of that, all of those times on those cruises, all of those visits to Sterling falls resulted in this photo, which I’m extraordinarily happy with, but it started off as a raw file, of course. And so I want to talk a little bit about the processing that I used to get it to the final form compositionally.

The raw file is essentially identical to the final image. I just did a tiny little bit of cropping on the right hand side to make that rock dead center in the middle. Then honestly, it was a matter of adding contrast and doing some dodging and burning to bring out the details and patterns in the waves, and to add a little bit of a kind of darker, mysterious, moody vibe to the whole photo. So the processing was not extreme or complex. It was simply effective to bring out the things that I wanted to bring out to result in this final photograph. 

And that’s going to do it for this kickoff episode of how I got the shot or how I took the photo or how, however, I figure out what I’m going to title this series. I hope this was interesting and educational and helpful for you and gave you a little bit of insight into my own thought process when I’m out in the field shooting, be sure to stick around for another episode of these coming up soon. In the meantime, this is Josh scripts signing off until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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Why I Will NEVER Replace a Sky in My Landscape Photographs

Why I Will NEVER Replace a Sky in My Landscape Photographs

Unbelievable. I just recorded this whole video and it wasn’t actually recording at all. All right, here we go again. What’s up everybody. It’s Josh Cripps here with another video.

Sick sky bro! Capitol color chap. Whoa it’s sick conditions bra. Well, thanks guys. I appreciate that a lot. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to stand in those spectacular locations and watch those epic conditions unfold over those marvelous landscapes. And the reason I can’t tell you that is because, well, those were all fake photos.

Photoshop has always been a hot button issue within the world of landscape photography. And if you haven’t heard it’s back in the blogosphere recently, because the latest version of Photoshop allows you to take a totally bookie and lame and stupid photo like this and make it super briefly awesome. And fantastic like this with the single click of a button to replace the sky entirely now, sky replacement itself is nothing new. If you’ve had the skills you’ve been able to do this for years and years. In fact, I even have tutorials about how to do it on this particular channel, but it’s always required a little bit of manual labor. Well, a couple of years ago, Luminar came along and they made it a really cool, just single click push button affair, which started the ball rolling. But now single click of a button, sky replacement is available in Photoshop, which means it’s now in reach of thousands and thousands of additional photographers.

And so the discussions regarding the ethics of doing sky replacements have started up again. And I want to throw my 2 cents into the ring to mix a couple of metaphors before we start. I want to say that when I’m talking about sky replacement, I’m not talking about exposure, blending. I’m not talking about blending, a foreground shot with a Milky way shot or anything else that you do to overcome the technical limitations of your camera. I’m talking about when you take a scene like this and you replace the sky with a completely different sky that took place in a different location at a different time. All right. So now that that’s out of the way, let me get to the point and I’ll be blunt about it. I personally believe that sky replacement has no place within the world of landscape photography, and I will never do it in my own work.

Now, if that makes me a curmudgeon, so be it. But here’s why I believe this. First of all, in my opinion, sky swapping weakens the art of landscape photography as a whole, but more importantly, it also robs you the photographer. One of the most meaningful parts of doing what we do, which is experiencing those moments of profound beauty in nature. Now, listen, if you do skier placements, I don’t think you’re a bad person and I’m not going to stop you. It’s not like you’re recruiting child soldiers or something. We’re just saying for me, I’m never going to do it even though look, I totally understand the temptation to do so. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out shooting when the conditions have been almost spectacular. 

Or when I’ve gone to a place that I know I’m never going to go back and maybe this sky just didn’t quite live up to my hopes, or maybe even when I’ve gone out and captured a pretty decent photo, but if the color, it just stretched a little bit farther across the frame, you know, if any of those things had happened, well, the photo would’ve come out so much better. So what’s the harm and using a little digital magic to make it better. I mean, after all a Fetter sky makes the viewer more visually and emotionally engaged with the photo and it gives the photo more impact. So it doesn’t all of this actually make it a better photo. Well, I might accept that if I believe that a photo was just simply and superficially pixels on a screen or ink on a page, but it’s not a photo for me is a representation of an actual moment that I’ve had in nature.

And what makes a landscape photo special? It’s not just aesthetics. In fact, aesthetics are a small part of what makes it special rather it’s the fact that it represents this real moment in time, where there was this confluence of subject and light and composition and camera technique and conditions. And all of this came together and you, the photographer were there and you were able to capture the magic of that experience. Now take a look at this. Here’s a moment of beauty, which to me is so much more powerful because this is actually what I saw when I was standing on that beach. And this is what gives a good landscape photo impact. The fact that it captures the magic of a real moment and makes a statement about the beauty of the planet that we live on, not the beauty of the planet that you wish you lived on.

So if the power of a photo comes from the fact that it is a representation of reality, how can your photo have any impact at all? If you manufacture the reality behind it, by pasting in a totally different sky. Yes, sometimes it becomes more aesthetic, but again, if it’s just about aesthetics, why not also blow up the size of the moon or add a second moon or a rainbow or a giraffe or wolves howling at a unicorn. I mean, this kind of photo might have a lot of visual impact, but for me it’s completely superficial and meaningless. So that’s one of the reasons that I will never a sky in my own photography. I want to represent those actual experiences I’ve had, but even more important than that, if you start swapping out your skies, you are cheating yourself out of one of the most important parts of photography, which is experiencing those moments of unique beauty, because those perfect moments they’re rare and they should be right, because that’s what makes some special.

When every image you create is Epic. It diminishes the actual experiences that truly are the power of this photo. For me, stems, from the experience of watching those actual clouds below and blossom over those actual mountains and reflect in this actual Tarn, it was an experience of profound beauty and joy. One that I wouldn’t want to diminish by having created it digitally. Replacing the sky also cheats you out of the satisfaction of capturing those rare moments, right? Creating a successful landscape. Photograph requires there’s discipline, persistence, perseverance, dedication, hard work, sweat planning, patience, creativity, a good eye and technical skill. Just to name a few things. When you let yourself off the hook from developing those qualities, you’re not really earning the photos that you create. To me, it’s a hollow victory to create a spectacular photo with a sky replacement. It’s like running a marathon, except I took an Uber for the second half of the race.

I mean, did I earn that ribbon? In my opinion, it’s a big fat note. I would much rather know that when mother nature showed me something special, I too was able to bring my best to capture that magic moment. And if that means I have to shoot hundreds because of mediocre photos in order to get one really, truly incredible one, you know, that’s a price that I personally am willing to pay. Here’s a scene from the Santa Cruz coast. One of the most breathtaking sunsets that I have seen, sure. I could have just gone down to this beach any evening, shot the yard, shot the waves and pasted in a sky later, but I got so much more satisfaction out of looking at the weather forecast, chasing the conditions, knowing the locations, knowing how to use my camera, to capture the right exposure, the right sensibilities, the artistic sense of what I wanted to happen with the motion and the waves.

All of those things came together in alignment. And that’s where the satisfaction of this image comes from. For me, not simply clicking a couple of buttons to make a pretty picture. All right, now I’m going to pump the brakes a little bit because aren’t all photographs, a distortion of the truth. I mean, no photo is truly real, right. So what about things like using a Whiting lens to exaggerate the foreground or make a mountain peak look bigger by putting it near the edge of the frame? Or what about long exposures? I mean, you can’t actually experience a long exposure, so isn’t that faking it, or if you’re talking specifically about post-processing, what about things like contrast and saturation if replacing the sky in post is simply changing some pixels around, well, isn’t adding contrast and saturation also changing pixels around and fundamentally changing the image.

So is that also faking the moment now these are great questions and they’re ones that I encourage everybody out there watching us to explore for yourselves. For me again, what it comes down to is that I want my photos to be a representation of the actual experience that I had when I was out in the field. I want my viewers to feel what I was feeling to experience what I was experiencing and to see the most important things that I was seeing. I want them to say things like Holy cow, those clouds look so dramatic. Yeah. Because they actually work or wow. The wind looks like it was really ripping by overhead. Yeah. Because it was howling or, Oh my gosh, that waterfall looks so peaceful. Well, because it really was, or, Oh my gosh, that melted. It looks huge. Yes. Because it actually was that what I experienced and you’re getting that the point is coming across in the book photograph.

So if a long exposure or a little extra contrast or a little wider angle, distortion helps me convey what I’m actually experiencing in the field. Then for me, it’s all gravy. But when the essence of the photo is manufactured and it no longer represents my experience, then that’s where I draw the line. And that’s why I will never do sky replacement in my landscape photography. So what do you guys think? Does sky replacement weaken the art of landscape photography and cheat you out of some of the most profound experiences with nature? Or do I just sound like an old fart from the dark ages? Let me know down in the comments, that’s going to do it for this one. This is Josh grips, signing off. Thanks as always for watching. And I’ll catch you guys in another video soon! Until next time, man. Have fun and happy shooting.

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