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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stop Trying To Be A “Better” Photographer

Stop Trying To Be A “Better” Photographer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Josh. The honor is all mine.

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

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My 5 Best Photos From 2020

My 5 Best Photos From 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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How Much Post Processing Goes Into My Landscape Photos?

How Much Post Processing Goes Into My Landscape Photos?

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. Now y’all know that I’m a huge believer that you don’t need to be a Photoshop expert in order to be a great landscape photographer. I have nothing against Photoshop and I think all those really cool advanced techniques can be useful tools when you know when and how and why to use them. But they’re not requirements in order to create fantastic landscape imagery. In fact, in my opinion, if you have a really special, magical moment out there in nature, and you capture it well with a strong composition and there’s good light, and you intelligently apply your camera settings in your technique to create a great raw file, then you can turn that raw file into an amazing final image with some pretty simple adjustments in a program like Lightroom. But if you’ve been thinking well, that’s really easy to say Josh, but how much Photoshop do you actually sneak into your photos behind the scenes? Well, in today’s video, I want to show you exactly how I practice what I preach and how much editing goes into my landscape photography.

So here’s a photo that I’m going to be working on today. This is the final product, and this is a photo that I shot just recently, just a couple of days ago in an absolutely breathtaking place called the Darwin Bench in Kings Canyon, national park. This is the final image and here is the raw file. And I got from point a to point B just in Lightroom. So I’m going to show you exactly what I did, exactly what I put into this raw file to create this final image for me, one of the most important parts of the image creation process is the capture in the field and knowing what you want the final product to look like. So you can make decisions in the field. According to that idea. And in this scene, what I really wanted to showcase was the beautiful contrast between the warm colors, the cool colors, all the neat rocks in the pool here, as well as the reflections that would appear in the smoothness of the water.

So I set up a composition and chose my camera settings to capture those things. And that gave me this raw file and having that vision of what I want to see also lets me now direct my processing because I know that I want to bring out the color, contrast the detail in the rocks and the smoothness of the water. So let’s look at exactly how I do that. The first thing I noticed is I feel like the image is very slightly crooked. So I’m just going to pull up the crop tool here by hitting R and make a very small correction to straighten that out. Something like come on there, where we go. Okay, perfect. So to really bring out the details of these rocks, I’m just going to brighten up the overall image and then dark and the bright part. So I have a nice, smooth exposure across the entire frame. So here in the basic panel, I’m just going to pull up the exposure a little bit. I’m just checking my histogram here, making sure that doesn’t get blown out and I pull that up, like a stop or so something like that. I still have detail on the sky. Nothing’s clipped there, but nevertheless, I’m going to go ahead and pull down my highlights to pull back some of those details. And I’m going to increase my shadows a little bit as well.

This is going to start to create a very flat looking image, but that’s okay because we’re going to add contrast back in later, you can see that the sky is still a whole lot brighter than the reflection. And I really want those two things to be close in exposure to create a sense of connection between the reflection and the sky. So I’m also going to add a graduated filter by hitting em on my keyboard. And I have this preset darkened sky. It’s a pretty subtle adjustment and I tend to use it on a lot of my images and I like to make a nice, huge transition like this. So it doesn’t make it obvious where the adjustment is being applied. Right? If this is a very short transition like this, and it’s very obvious where you’re making these adjustments, but if you make this fantastically broad like this, then the transition smooths out and it’s really, really not noticeable.

Okay, let me close that out. Now we have a pretty good overall exposure across a frame, but like I said, it’s still looking pretty flat. So it’s time to start bringing some contrast back in the image and we can do that in two ways locally and globally and locally. I’m going to add just a little bit of texture here that help with some of the details in the rocks. And then clarity is what allows us to bring in that local contrast. The micro contrast in both the sky, the rocks, the water, all that stuff. And if I add a little bit of D hazing as well, that’s going to help bring out some of the detail in the sky. And at this point I’m also going to increase my vibration, my vibrance, and my saturation a lot. And what that’s going to allow me to do is figure out what the overall color balance of the photo is looking like.

And for me, that color balance is one of the most important parts of this photograph. I want a really, really nice compliment between the cool tones and the warm tones, so fine tuning the white balance and tint on this photograph is one of the most important parts of the editing process. And from where I shot it, I think I was using the cloudy white balance. It’s a little bit too cool for my tastes. I want to bring out some more of the warm tones. So I’m going to go ahead and warm it up here just till I get a level that looks good. I think that’s looking pretty nice. I’m starting to feel a little bit extra yellow tones though. In the, in the scene, it’s starting to feel a little sickly and that’s just because of some of this excess green here in the tent.

So I’m gonna just pull that up a tiny bit to get rid of some of that yellowness and that’s looking pretty good there. I feel like I’ve got a nice color balance in a nice exposure. I do however want to add some global contrast and I like to do that here in the tone curve. And I generally just make a nice, simple S curve where I dragged down the shadows and then I pull up either the midtones or the highlights or whatever I want adjust, and I might make some fine tune adjustments, you know, just so I get the level of detail in each of these tonal range that I like that really helps bring the photo to life, but of course what I needed to do now, I can’t forget that I need to pull down now that I’ve got the color balance figured out.

I want to pull down that vibrance and saturation back to a reasonable level. So it doesn’t feel like a cartoon photograph. Okay. That looks pretty good. I like the saturation and the blues. I feel like the reds and oranges themselves could use a little bit more saturation. So I’m going to do that in the HSL panel. And I’m basically just going to grab my little targeted adjustment tool. Like for example, I want to see this cloud a little bit more saturated, something like that. I can see that it’s living kind of in the magenta and the red channels here. So I’m just going to pull those up a little bit, just to add a little bit more to the warm tones and let’s see, did they have a very subtle effect, but a good one. Now finally, like I said, at the beginning, I really liked the detail in all the rocks. I want to help bring that out here in the detail panel. And I recommend when you’re doing this kind of sharpening that you zoom in to a hundred percent, either on the foreground or on the background, preferably both. And that way you can see what effect your sharpening is having across the entire frame. Now, overall, I’d say the, the depth of field looks pretty good for this photo, but the details could be sharpened a little bit. 

When I’m doing this, I tend to make a compromise between my foreground sharpening and my background sharpening. And here I’d like to see the background a little bit sharper. And for me that means applying the sharpening and a slightly larger radius. So if I pull the sharpening up a lot, then I can fiddle with the radius to see what looks best for the background. And I don’t really like it on the higher end actually. So I’m going to keep it down here, maybe on something like that, the default radius, that’s pretty good. That looks nice and sharp. And that should have also sharpened all of the details here in our foreground rocks too. Yeah. If I turn this on and off, you’ll see how much sharpness it adds to that. That’s fantastic, but I want to make sure that I’m not sharpening the water here.

So I’m going to pull up my masking quite a lot. And if you hold all your options, while you do this, you can see exactly where the massing is being applied. Let me zoom out so you can see it on a global scale. Cause I really only want to sharpen the rocks, right? I don’t need to sharpen the clouds with the water. So something like that looks pretty good. And then let me just add I’ll zoom in here. You might not be able to see it on the screen capture, but I’m just going to add a kiss of luminance noise reduction to smooth out any details in the clouds. And that’s looking pretty good. And I was very, very smart. I have to say much smarter than I normally am in that I cleaned my image sensor right before this trip. So hopefully as I scroll around here, I’m not going to see any big fat dust spots are correct.

There is one right there, but that’s okay. We’ll just bring up the Q tool cleanup tool and get rid of that guy. Oh, there’s a, there’s a good one right there. Smack them. Let’s just say it was a mosquito. Yeah, there was a mosquito on my sensor. That’s what it was. It wasn’t my negligence and cleaning my camera. Now there were mosquitoes flying around a lot of times on my images. I like to apply a little bit of a vignette at the end, just to kind of force the viewer’s eye to stay into the center of the frame. But on this one, I felt like it really doesn’t need it. So I’m going to leave it as is. And that is the final product there. You guys, you can see that these adjustments in Lightroom are not complicated. There are no really advanced techniques that you need to understand in order to create a final product like this. So once again, let’s go ahead and look back at the raw file. And then the final result obtained through some really simple processing here in Lightroom. And that’s going to do it for this video as always. Thank you guys so much for watching. If you enjoyed it, please consider subscribing or sharing it with your friends. It really helps me out a ton. I’m going to see you guys soon in a lot more videos. So until then have fun and happy shooting.

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7 Ideas to Shoot Stunning Landscape Photos in the Middle of the Day (LPQOTW)

Greetings my excellent friends it’s Josh Cripps here. And I’m back with another landscape photography question of the week. And this week’s question comes to us from Chris van Marter. And Chris asks, what advice do you have for taking landscape pictures in the middle of the day? I understand the reasons for shooting at sunrise and sunset, but what about the middle of the day? Like bliss, the default background photo for Microsoft XP? I like those types of blue sky white puffy cloud shots. Yeah, that’s a great question, Chris, because we are so conditioned as landscape photographers to think that the only time you can possibly shoot is during the magic hour when absolutely that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s so many fantastic photos to be taken in the middle of the day. And I talked about this a little bit in my, for landscape photography, myths busted video, but in this one, we’re going to dive in a little more. We’re going to talk in a little bit more depth. I’m going to give you a couple more ideas about what you can do to shoot in the middle of the day.

So the first thing that I think you need to do is basically get rid of your expectations, right? It’s not about going out there with, I’m going to force this light to work for the shot that I want rather it’s what kind of shots can I get with the light that I have? Most of the disappointment that comes from shooting in mid day light is thinking that we’re going to shoot some kind of crazy Epic grand landscape and the light just isn’t flattering for that kind of scene. So first I would just encourage you to look for the interesting moments that the light is actually creating, rather than trying to force the light, to fit into some idea of what you had to shoot.

And that being said, let’s talk about some of the things you can shoot in harsh midday light. And one of my favorite things to shoot in the middle of the day is any time you have atmosphere, like after a rainstorm, this kind of atmosphere tends to break up the harshness of the light and it provides depth and separation between all the different layers of the landscape. And it’s also one of the best times to see these really cool God beams like this. There are also other subjects that work fantastically well to photograph in that harsh midday light like backlit tree leaves. Say if you’re in peak fall color, or one of my favorites is any kind of smooth landscape. And what I mean by that is whenever you have soft, smooth flowing curves within the landscape, this can work beautifully with direct light. I’m talking about things like sand dunes or crops.

If they’re growing on Hills, like in the Paloose and Washington, what that smoothness does is it helps feather off the direct quality of the light, making it a lot more flattering. When you have bright midday light, you can also look for small scenes. A lot of times these macro scale subjects will look fantastic because the quality of light is uniform across that tiny little scale. Or you can look for moments where you have direct light spotlighting, just one part of an overall scene. And this can create beautiful photographs in the middle of the day. I also really love shooting high contrast black and whites in the middle of the day. The direct light can make for fantastic contrasts between light and dark. And of course you can always just try to find some shade somewhere, whether that’s under a rock or under a tree or under a cliff, because you’re going to get this really beautiful, soft uniform light that can be incredibly flattering for portraits or for flowers or small scale scenes or for all kinds of stuff.

So again, it really is just about getting rid of your expectations of, I want to create this photograph and I have this light, how can I smash those two together? It’s so much more enjoyable and rewarding to say, what is the light that I’ve got and what kinds of photos can I create? What kind of stories can I create with that light? And if you guys want to have even more inspiration and ideas and education about how to create wonderful, fantastic photography in the middle of the day in harsh quote unquote bad light, you got to check out a book from a photographer named T J thorn. I’ll link it down below. It’s an ebook specifically about how to photograph in the middle of the day. And so if this kind of photography interests you, I would highly recommend you click on the link in the description, support, TJ, improve your own photography.

It’s a double super bonus for everybody. And that’s going to do it for this question of the week. If you guys have any other questions about landscape photography that you think a lot of other people would like to know the answer to just pop them down in the comments and I’ll choose the best ones to feature in this segment at some point in the future. And if you enjoy this video, please, please, please. I would love it. If you could just like and subscribe, share it with your friends. It helps me out an incredible amount. It’s a really small thing, but it really does help me grow the channel and keep creating more videos like this one. So that’s going to do it from here. This is Josh Cripps signing off until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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EVERYTHING I Carry on a 20-Mile Photography Day Hike

EVERYTHING I Carry on a 20-Mile Photography Day Hike

Hey there, Joe pal here, JC. And today I’m coming at you from about 10 miles into the back country of Kings Canyon national park. I’m on a little day hike out here today for a couple of reasons. One, it’s just one of my favorite places in the whole world. I think it’s one of the most monumentally, beautiful national parks that I’ve ever been to. And I want to see if I could shoot some photos. I mean, this is a photography channel after all, isn’t it? I wanted to challenge myself on a nice long day hike of about 20 or 22 miles with maybe 5,000 feet of climbing and 5,000 feet of descending. And the reason that I want to start bumping my fitness up is because it’s summer, which means it’s backpacking season. And if you guys have been following me for any amount of time, you know, that backpacking is basically my favorite thing to do in the entire world. That, alongside with photography.

And the nice thing is those two things go together hand in hand. In fact, I can’t think of any better place than the wilderness to experience those truly special, unique and personal moments that we’re all trying to find all the time as landscape photographers. So my recommendation for any landscape photographer is get into the wilderness, whether on a long day hike or on a backpacking trip. And I realized that if you’ve never done this before, that it can seem kind of intimidating to try to carry all of your camera equipment, all of your food, all of your clothing, all of your shelter, everything that you need to stay safe and warm and comfortable and happy in the back country on your back in a pack like this. So in this video, I thought I’d share with you guys out there, everything that I bring with me in order to have a great experience on a nice long day hike like this one, just a tad windy out here today, just a tad. And let’s go ahead and roll the intro.

You can break down all this stuff I carry into four basic categories. (1) You’ve got your trekking equipment, (2) you’ve got your camera equipment, (3) you’ve got your clothing and (4) you got your food. So let’s dive into each of those categories

Trekking Equipment

All right. So this guy right here, my pack is the foundation of all my back country experiences. And this, I bring this same pack. It’s by hyperlight mountain gear. And I do this, whether I’m day hiking or overnighting, it’s just an amazing pack. It’s super light, incredibly comfortable. And it has this roll top, which means that I can use this on maybe a seven or eight day trip, or I can just roll it down and smack myself in the face with it like that and use it on a day. Hike like today. It’s just an incredible pack.

If you’re looking for a place to start highly recommended and it’s made out of this fabric called Dyneema, which is super bomb-proof and essentially waterproof. So you don’t need any kind of cover really rugged. And overall, this is by far the best pack that I have ever owned. When I Trek, I also use hiking poles. These are not just for the old Martin up there. You guys, they’re also for the young fart, send the fit fart, send the outer shape parts. It’s pretty much for every fart who likes to hike. Those things are amazing. They’re going to help save your legs, increase your endurance, involve your upper body. It’s just a win, win, win. Did he win to use those? And the other stuff that I got with me here in the back country today for my day hike, pretty simple stuff. I’ve got a paper map. I just don’t trust electronics back here. So even if you have GPS on your phone, if the batteries die or the phone dies, the GPS doesn’t work, you’re sunk. So I always bring a paper map and a compass. This is my back country. First aid kit, just ibuprofen. Then I have very important sunscreen bug repellent, pocket knife. If I need to, um, you know, what are those animals called and star Wars?

And I’ve got a pocket knife here in case I ever need to, you know, cut open a tree and crawl inside to save myself during a blizzard on the ice planet hot. And then of course I always carry with me some TP and a plastic bag just in case duty calls. And the plastic bag is so that you can carry your TP back out with you guys. Don’t bury your TP. Just bring it back out with you. It’s really not that gross. And then some hand Sani as well. In terms of safety. I also highly recommend that you bring some kind of a personal locator beacon, like a spot or a Garmin inReach, especially if you’re hiking solo. I typically always have one of these with me, but today I spaced out and I just forgot to throw it in the bag, but that’s okay because I actually have 12 bars of five G signal here in the back country.

Hey. Yeah. Could I, uh, can I get a pizza delivered if the extra cheese and extra sauce and extra crust, you know what, just make it two pizzas. Oh, the address. Um, I dunno, I think you’re going to have to send it by mule or something hung up. No, I’m just kidding. Don’t rely on your cell phone. You’re not going to have service. Your bone battery could die. All kinds of things could happen with your electronics. So one of those ruggedized PLPs could be a literal lifesaver for you. And here are a couple of little pro tips about extra things to bring chapstick. Don’t forget the chapstick, the air out here can be really, really dry. Your lips are going to thank you for that. Make sure it’s got SPF in it. And here’s my super special secret, extra bonus. Cough drops, especially menthol cough drops.

These things are incredible when you’re climbing up some steep trail and you’re just sucking down dust and your mouth is parched. And you feel like you’ve got a porcupine trying to claw its way out of your throat. Chuck a cough drop in your mouth and it will open up your airways, open up your lungs, help you feel you can breathe again. And it just makes life a whole lot better. So get some of those too. Funnily enough, water is one of those things that it’s really easy to overdo on a big hike. A lot of people think like, Oh, I’m hiking 20 miles today. I’ve got to carry four liters of water. You know, how much four liters of water weigh and weighs about 8.8 pounds, four times 2.2. Yeah. It’s almost nine pounds of water. Just weighing you down. That’s absurd. I typically, especially here in the Sierra where streams are everywhere, I never actually bring more than about a liter and a half.

And if I can just bring three quarters of a leader, I try to get away with that because there’s so many places to fill up. Now, typically you want to bring some kind of water purification or water a filter. Me personally, I only do that about half the time. It depends on where I’m going. And if I’m going to be in an area with lots of people camping, or if I’m going to be in a true wilderness area where I’m literally just drinking, snowbelt from the streams. I typically don’t bring a water filter, but if you decide not to bring a water filter, don’t blame me. If you get sick, it is on you to make your own responsible decisions. I’m just telling you what I do in my experiences, but for you, if you’re just starting out, I highly recommend bringing a water filter until you feel more comfortable about assessing the quality and cleanliness of the water that you’re drinking.


Now let’s talk about clothing because that is one of the most important items that can make or break your back country. Experience. Everything I wear is some kind of synthetic fabric. I never bring cotton into the back country because when it gets wet, it doesn’t insulate. And it chafes like crazy. So everything from the briefs that I wear to my outer garments are all synthetic breathable, wicking fabrics. So I generally like to hike in one of these, it’s called a sun hoodie. Most people wear them for fly fishing, but they’re awesome for hiking because they have fantastic set production. They’ve got a full hood. They dry really fast. They’re lightweight and they’re wicking. So even in hot weather, they’re very comfortable to wear down here in my bottoms. I’m also wearing all synthetic everything. I’ve got a pair of lightweight running shorts under those. I’ve got some tights because it’s actually pretty cold today.

And then I have some wool socks here and because it was so cold this morning and so windy, I opted for the knee high wool socks. And I highly recommend you guys Merino wool or synthetic socks, never, ever cotton socks in the back country. These little fancy things are called dirty girl Gators, and they just help prevent this kind of stuff. The rocks and detritus from getting in your shoes. The shoes that I’m wearing are called ultras. They’re ultra lone peaks. And these are a great shoe. If you have a really wide foot, like I do very comfortable, lots of cushion and very lightweight. They’re not waterproof though. So your feet will get wet. If you go through any river crossings and nose. Now, like I said, it was actually really, really cold and windy today. A lot of the lakes above 11,000 feet still had ice on them.

So I also have a fleece hoodie with me. I’ve also got a Merino wool beanie windproof waterproof shell to go over the top of everything. And even though it’s really lovely and more of a blue skies right now today, it was hot and freezing cold earlier. The sunny skies, Julia, there is a soul stealing Arctic Gale blowing, and I had every single layer on including this, which is a net Gator or a buff, which you can pop on and you can use it as sun protection, wind protection, just a little bit of extra insulation, whatever you want. And I’ve also got some lightweight gloves as well. So that’s everything that I’ve got with me in terms of the clothing. And this is a really good setup. It’s going to keep me comfortable from hot temperatures, say 80 degrees or above all the way down to below freezing temperatures. I can just add or remove these layers as I need to.


 Let’s talk about the food that I bring for a hike like this. I actually don’t bring a ton of food, even though I’m doing a fair amount of mileage today and probably burning a lot of calories. Our bodies have reserves of calories built in that they can use for hiking all these long days. So what I like to bring is basically some snacks and one big meal. So I’ve got some bars, I’ve got a banana, well, an extra banana anyway, a couple mandarins. And this is, uh, my lunch, a big fat burrito. I probably won’t eat the whole thing at once. I’ll have half now and half a little bit later. And I’m a big fan of having sugary sweets in the back country, especially Toklas. These are Werther’s. These are great too, any kind of sweets, they really just give you that quick sugar boost and you don’t have to feel guilty about eating them cause you’re burning thousands of pounds.

Camera Equipment

And finally, let’s talk about, about photography because I have a full kit with me. I have everything that I need to be satisfied and happy taking pictures and pretty much any kinds of conditions. Now I’m recording this blog with my Nikon Z seven. That’s what I’m also using for any kind of stills. So when I’m hiking, I only bring one body, which means I don’t have the capability to shoot stills and video simultaneously. I have to switch back and forth, but that’s a trade off that I’m willing to make. And on today’s trip, I brought two lenses, the 24 70 that I’m filming with as well as an ultra wide of 14 to 30. And then typically on a backpacking trip, I’d also bring a 70 to 200, but I just didn’t feel like lugging the extra weight today. I also bring some cleaning stuff like a rocket blower and microfiber wipes.

And then this little baggy just has extra stuff in it, like memory cards and batteries. And I also bring an entire full filter kit. I got a six stop filter on the lens right now that really helps for filming to keep a nice shallow depth of field and a good shutter speed that produces good quality video. And I’m also got a polarizer as well as a 10 stop filter because we’ve had such nice clouds and wind today. I really wanted to bring the whole filter kit. And of course I also have a tripod as well. This is an Enduro legs with a Colorado tripod company, mini ball head. Those things are freaking sweet. You guys, they’re tiny, they’re incredibly strong and they cost like $20. So I highly recommend everybody pick up one of those. And when I’m hiking, the way that I carry my camera is with this peak design capture pro.

And I’ve got my tripod, as you can see back here and I use this extra little strap to just kind of hold that shoulder up off of my shoulder because the camera wants to yank it down like that. So that helps keep it off my trapezius muscle. It makes it a lot easier to keep hiking long distances through day. And that’s it. That’s absolutely everything that I’ve got in my pack with me today. I’d say in total, it probably weighs somewhere between 12 and 15 pounds. So it’s not a ton of weight to carry over a long distance. It’s actually okay. Now, before I wrap up the video, I’m sure people are wondering, did I actually manage to take any photos on this 20 mile day hike? And I got a few that I like well enough to at least show here in the video. So let me close out with those.

That’s going to do it for me for now as a summer goes on, I’m going to be putting together some more blogs about my backpacking adventures places I go, the photos I take as well as some of the extra gear that I need to carry for those overnight trips. So I hope that you guys found this interesting, helpful, and maybe a starting point. If you’re thinking about getting into the back country, just drop your questions down in the comments below. And I will try to answer as many as I possibly can. That’s going to put a pin in this video. So until next time everybody have fun and happy shooting.

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