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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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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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.

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter and YouTube channel for even more landscape photography how-to.

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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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My Book! PLUS: Why You Should Start a Personal Photography Project

My Book! PLUS: Why You Should Start a Personal Photography Project

So over the last couple of months, throughout this whole coronavirus lockdown, I’ve gotten not a small amount of messages from people who have been feeling a little bit befuddled by this whole situation. They haven’t been feeling that inspiration, right? It’s really hard to want to get out and shoot when the government is telling you, no, you gotta stay at home. And I totally get that. This whole situation is just nuts. It’s so weird. It’s hard to know what to do. Those kinds of uncertainties. Don’t leave a lot of room for our creative hobbies. A lot of times. So people have been sending me these messages and saying, well, how can I stay creative? How can I stay inspired? How can I keep shooting during this weird coronavirus lockdown? When I can barely leave my house? And the answer that I always give to every single person is the same start a photography project.

And this could be anything from a three 65 selfie project to taking pictures of your dog every hour of the day, or exploring your backyard from, you know, three inches off the ground. It really doesn’t matter what it is. The idea is you just create a project and that project gives you structure. That structure gives you a reason to shoot. It’s kind of like going to the gym. A lot of times, it’s hard to motivate to actually leave the house to get there. But once you do it, once you just leave the house, you drive to the gym, you get on your Spanx. That’s what I work out in any way. Then, you know, you get your workout done. And the photography projects are the same thing. You have. The structure takes so many questions out of the whole situation. You don’t have to ask yourself, should I be shooting?

Where should I go? What’s the weather going to be like, is it going to be good? You know, all those things that we second guess ourselves about all the time, those go away, you have the project. The project means you shoot. And as soon as you start shooting, I guarantee you inspiration is going to Stripe. So for me, I decided to take my own advice and start a photography project. And what I’m doing is documenting this amazing place mono link. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to create a coffee table photo book that had project in my head for a couple of years now. And I’ve kept putting it off and putting it off. I’ve been chasing photos in New Zealand and South America and things like that. But now I’m here. I’m here in California. And I feel like there’s absolutely no better time to get working on this project.

Now the honest truth is I really have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never made a photo book before. I don’t know where to begin, nor do I have any idea what I actually want the theme of the book to even be it can’t just be pictures of mono Lake. No, no. It has to have some kind of a defining structure, but the fact that I don’t know how to make a book and I don’t know what the theme of the book is. Honestly, I don’t even care about that right now. I trust that that stuff is going to appear in time. What’s important to me right now is simply to have a reason to get outside the motivation to go shoot. And the reason that I chose Mona Lake is it is an utterly fascinating place. And I think that most landscape photographers, especially if you’re from North America, you’ve heard of Mona Lake, but probably the only thing you’ve ever heard about Mona Lake is the famous tufa towers, which are just down the beach right over there.

But the truth is mono Lake is so much more than just tufa towers. It also has volcanic craters and resident wild Mustangs and freshwater marshes and nesting ospreys. It is the world’s largest breeding colony for California goals, which are these guys right out here. It’s a major destination for migrating birds of all kinds. And it has a really incredible history that goes along with it, not just the natural history of this place, but also the human history that the fact that the Lake level a hundred years ago was maybe a hundred feet higher than it is today is all because of human intervention. The water in the creeks that flow into mono Lake are being diverted now into the LA aqueduct to provide drinking water for the city of Los Angeles. So the fact that we can even get to these amazing places like the two photographers is due in large part to the human interactions with this place.

And even on top of that mono Lake is so emblematic of the environments that you find here within the Eastern Sierra, that if you ever want to understand the ecosystems in this part, California, you have to understand mono Lake. So that desire to understand, to probe a little bit deeper and to discover these places around the Lake that are new to me is a huge part of what’s driving this project. And the reason that I’m telling you guys this now is because the project is still in its infancy. Like I said, I haven’t even figured out what direction I want to take the book yet, but I figure if I tell you guys, if I tell thousands of people, then I have that accountability. Like I said, I have just started the project. I’m only a couple of weeks into it, but I’ve already uncovered some amazing stuff, some incredible moments and some really unusual places that I’d never seen before.

Even though I live only 30 minutes down the road from the Lake last night, for example, I went to a place I’d never been before PanAm crater. And I climbed up to the top, the check out all the cool volcanic rock that’s in the area. And it provides this monumental overlook of the entire mono basin. And there were thunderstorms flowing through the Northern skies and rain falling through the Southern skies. It was a pretty awesome moment that I got to experience just because of this project because of the impetus to get out of the house and shoot, or like a week ago when I was driving around the East side of the Lake through the eight inches of sand on those back roads. And I stumbled across herds of hundreds of horses grazing on the grasses or when I was photographing at South tuba, the most classic spot here at mono Lake, but there’s always something different happening in the sky.

And as the sun went down that particular night, this crazy beam, this column of light came a repelling out of the Western sky. And I’m fortunately I was in a terrible place to get any good photos of it. I have no good compositions of this, but I want to show you the shot anyway, just because of the unusual quality of light. So these experiences are coming to me and this deeper understanding is starting to develop now, just because of this project, the reason that I’m here tonight in this spot, kind of in the middle of nowhere, is to try to experience another one of those unusual, incredible moments. You see the full moon is going to be rising over there over South tufa in about two minutes. So that’s why I got this big beast ready to go. Now it’s pretty cloudy over there. I don’t actually know if I’m going to be able to see the moon as it comes up over the two foot, but there’s a chance. And that chance is all you need to be excited about in photography. So I’m really excited about this. I’m going to keep you guys updated as the project develops, as I figure out what the book’s going to be about and how I’m actually going to make it. So until the next video have fun and happy shooting. 

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6 Tips for Better Seascape Photos

In large part I built my photography career on seascape images and harbor a deep love for them. Yet as beautiful as the ocean is it can be a surprisingly tricky place to shoot. What can you do to take your images to the next level?  Here are 6 simple steps you can use to start producing some killer coastal photographs.

1) Get Proper Support

tripod-helps-seascapes1A good seascape starts with some essential gear, and a solid tripod comes in right at the top of the list. If you are getting serious about nature photography then you’re probably familiar with the upsides of using a tripod, the benefits of which go doubly for coastal photography. Not only does a tripod give you a stable base to photograph from to achieve tack-sharp details, it also allows you to use longer shutter speeds. Some of the best seascape images are taken with shutter speeds of 1/2 second to 30 seconds or longer, and if you’re trying to pull off hand held 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.

Top tip for tripods: 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 “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 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 gets you 90% of the way to having sharper photos, but to bring out the best in your shots use a remote shutter release as well. The remote release lets you pop off shots without actually touching your camera, so you can eliminate the camera shake that comes from physically pressing the shutter button. Remote releases come in many different styles from wired to wireless, and basic push-button types to fancy intervalometers. In the beginning the kind you buy is less important than the fact that these little gizmos help add extra crispness and detail to your photos. 

2) Learn to Love GND Filters

Graduated neutral density (GND) filters are a must-have accessory which will bring your seascape photography up a few notches. Because these filters are dark on top and clear on the bottom they allow you to balance bright light in the sky with darker foregrounds, letting your camera capture the entire dynamic range of a scene. While it’s true that in this digital age many photographers are avoiding GND filters, choosing instead to bracket exposures to combine later in Photoshop, this practice will get you into hot water when photographing the ocean, for one simple reason: the ocean is moving. If you bracket exposures at the coast, the water will look different in each shot, and your exposure blend stands a good chance of coming out funky. Using GND filters ensures you can capture everything you want in a single frame.

But be aware that GND filters are like magnets for salt spray, which is one of those unique annoyances that comes with photographing the coast. Every time a wave crashes it sends tiny droplets of salty water into the air. If it’s windy this salt spray can become a photographer’s nightmare: an ever-present mist that blows into your face and onto your lenses and filters. It’s a terrible feeling to think you’ve nailed a shot, only to find out later your photo is covered with water drops. To combat this problem keep a lens wipe or shammy cloth handy and be vigilant about wiping down your lens and filters.

Lens wipe tip: Paper wipes or absorbent shammy cloths are better than microfiber wipes, which can smear salt spray, leaving behind a residue on your lenses and filters. Always bring more than a few wipes with you because sooner or later you’re going to drop one into the ocean and you’ll need a backup.

3) Get Close to the Action

get-closerThe number one thing you can do to improve the content of your seascape images is simple: get closer to the ocean. Don’t be afraid to get into the surf zone and get a little wet. By getting up close and personal with the ocean you will dramatically increase the impact of your photos. You’ll also be in a better position to show off ocean dynamics like wave action, crashes, splashes, whooshes, and cascades. The photos at left show the exact same subject matter and yet one is clearly more interesting than the other. The photo on top was taken 20 feet above the surf zone, whereas the photo on the bottom was taken in the surf zone and is consequently more dynamic, engaging, and full of impact. The simple act of walking 20 feet closer to the ocean improved this photo immeasurably.

Safety tip: Never ever turn your back on the ocean and be aware that rogue waves can occur at any time and can be much larger than other waves, so always keep one eye on the sea. This is especially important when you are shooting in the surf zone. Always have an escape route planned and keep your gear handy in case you need to make a dash for safety. If you do get hit by a wave, don’t try to run as you will most likely trip and fall. Instead, stand your ground and turn sideways to reduce your profile.

4) Experiment with Shutter Speed and Wave Timing

Back to back shots taken at ISO100, f/20, 1/2 sec. By changing the timing of the shots, the waves look different in each.

Back to back shots taken at ISO100, f/20, 1/2 sec. By changing the timing of the shots, the waves look different in each.

One of the great joys of seascape photography is the ability to dramatically alter the look of your images simply by changing your shutter speed. Playing with shutter speed lets us shoot “into the 4th dimension” by capturing visuals that our eyes can’t see.

Whenever there is motion in a scene, shutter speed can be used to capture that movement. Pick a fast shutter speed like 1/100th of a second to freeze crashing waves in mid-air, creating tension and drama in your images. A longer shutter speed of around 1 second can be used to create silky streamers and soft curls in ocean waves. And a very long shutter speed of 30 seconds is useful for creating a completely smooth, misty look to the water.

But what’s really fun about shooting the ocean is not just that it’s moving, but that it’s constantly changing. Unlike shooting a waterfall where back-to-back exposures at the same shutter speed will look identical, back-to-back exposures at the ocean can exhibit entirely different characters and moods, even if the camera settings remain the same. Depending on whether a wave is just beginning to crest, or rushing up the beach, or flowing over some rocks, or washing back out to sea, when you press the shutter button has a remarkable effect on the outcome of your image. So once you’ve found a shutter speed you like, experiment with timing your shots while the ocean is doing different things, and you’ll surely notice some fantastic elements being added to your photos.

5) Create Leading Lines with Water Movement

Top: a foamy curve is used as a line to draw viewers into the scene. Bottom: out-flowing water is captured with a 2-second exposure to create silky, flowing lines.

Top: a foamy curve is used as a line to draw viewers into the scene. Bottom: out-flowing water is captured with a 2-second exposure to create silky, flowing lines.

Compositionally, one of the most important elements in a landscape photo is leading lines. Leading lines are natural pathways that move your viewer’s eye through your image, connecting your foreground to your background. The ocean does a wonderful job of creating leading lines for us, if you know where to look. One of the most obvious lines you can use in your seascape compositions is the line of foam a wave creates as it comes up the beach, as you can see in the top left photo.

But perhaps even more interesting lines are created by the motion of the water itself. By stretching your shutter speed out to 1-2 seconds you can capture the movement of a wave as it moves up and down the beach, creating beautiful running streamers of water that pull your viewer’s eye into your image, as seen in the image on the bottom.

Top tip for creating wave streamers: set your shutter speed to 1-2 seconds. Wait for a wave to crash, rush up the beach, and pause at the top. Just as the wave begins to flow back into the ocean, trip the shutter. Your 1-2 second exposure will capture the movement of the out-flowing water and create beautiful streamers.

No matter what you use as leading lines for your image, make sure that they flow into your photo. Lines that cut horizontally across your frame or flow out of the shot create visual roadblocks which lead your viewer’s eyes out of the image.

6) Switch to Full Manual Mode

Aperture priority produces inconsistent exposures. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, from L to R: 1/6 s, 1/1.3 s, 1/10 s

Aperture priority produces inconsistent exposures. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, from L to R: 1/6 s, 1/1.3 s, 1/10 s

Many landscape photographers like to shoot in aperture priority mode because it’s easy: you pick an aperture to get the depth of field you want, and the camera decides the necessary shutter speed in order to get a proper exposure. However, when shooting seascapes your camera can be easily fooled into creating bad exposures. As waves are crashing and splashing through your scene, your camera will constantly be adjusting exposure to try to keep up with these changing conditions. And unfortunately, most of the time the camera will fail miserably and produce wildly varying results. Despite being taken back to back, the exposures at left shot in aperture priority vary by as much as 3 full stops!

By switching to full manual mode you will lock in an exposure which doesn’t change from shot to shot, meaning you get consistent and repeatable results as seen in the three bottom images.

Manual mode produces consistent exposures when shooting seascapes. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, 1/2 sec

Manual mode produces consistent exposures when shooting seascapes. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, 1/2 sec

For a similar reason it’s important to use manual focus when shooting seascapes. When photographing a moving subject like the ocean your camera’s autofocus can search around a bit before it locks focus. If you are photographing a sequence of wave shots nothing hurts more than having a shot or two in the middle be blurry because your camera was hunting for focus. Use manual focus to avoid this issue. A good trick is to use autofocus to nail your focus initially, but then switch to manual focus and be assured that the rest of your shots will be tack sharp.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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5 Tips for Better Fall Color Photos

Fall is upon us throughout much of the northern hemisphere, and photographers are buzzing like moths to their favorite fall color hotspots. Want to take home fall color photos you’re proud of? Here are five simple tips to elevate your shots.

1) Make colors POP With Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

For most landscape photography you get the best lighting conditions around sunrise or sunset when the sun is low in the sky and much less harsh than at midday. But when shooting fall colors you will see an amazing glow in the leaves if you photograph them under direct sunlight. The effect becomes all the more intense when the leaves are backlit by the sun.

2) Create Complementary Color Contrasts

The golden leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

The golden color of the leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

Glowing leaves are fantastic in their own right but one way to make them stand out dramatically is to utilize complementary color contrasts. Set up your composition so that yellow leaves contrast against a blue sky or red leaves contrast against dark green trees and you will really see your colors come to life.

3) Enhance Colors and Reduce Glare With a Polarizer

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Another way to enhance the colors of your fall shots is a simple gear fix: use a polarizing filter. This will cut glare off the foliage, increase color saturation, and help the hues of your photo become richer.

4) Find a Focal Point

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

Forest interiors are often visually chaotic spaces. One way to help simplify them is by finding an obvious focal point to attract your viewer’s eye. A particularly colorful splash of foliage can work well, but one of the easiest and most powerful focal points is the sun itself. Pro-tip: use a small aperture like f/16 and you will create a sunburst, making the sun even more of an eye magnet.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

5) Get Creative in Tough Light

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene.

If you’re shooting in light that isn’t doing your scene any favors, try shaking things up with intentional camera blur. Stop your aperture all the way down and consider tossing on a polarizer as well in order to increase your shutter speed to the 1/4″ to 1″ range. Then try zooming, panning, or even shaking the camera. These techniques cause harsh highlights and shadows to blur together, creating softer tones as well as funky abstract forest impressions. It takes a bit to master, but shooting like this is incredibly addictive and no two shots are ever alike!

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space. 1/4 sec.

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens. 1 sec.

Got any of your own favorite tips for shooting fall colors? Let us know in the comments below!

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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Create Long Exposure Streaks When Photographing Waves at the Ocean


The ocean is a wonderful place to photograph. Its constant moving and grooving makes it an endless playground to experiment with all kinds of long exposure effects. And it’s obvious why so many photographers love turning these crashing waves into silky ribbons of water, because it totally rocks! So wave hello to a new era in your photography, as we sea how it’s done.

Titles1
First, you want to use a shutter speed roughly in the 1/4 – 2 second range. With faster shutter speeds than that you won’t see enough motion in the water, and with slower shutter speeds you risk your water starting to enter “The Oatmeal Zone,” where it becomes an undefined, gloopy mess. That sweet spot between 1/4 and 2 seconds gives you a good amount of motion while still retaining detail and coherency in the water, which is vital for see strong streaks.

In order to achieve those desired shutter speeds you’ll either need to use an ND filter during the day, or shoot during sunrise and sunset when the light levels are low. In any case, be sure to use a tripod for sharp results.

Titles2
Next, the timing of when you actually trigger the shot is critical. Personally I find I get the best results when a wave has come up the beach, paused at the top, and is starting to flow back out. That’s when I trip the shutter for silky goodness. And definitely make sure you’re using a remote so that you can trigger the shot at just the right time without having to touch your camera.

Titles3
You’ll see the strongest possible streaks when the water your photographing is being funneled in some way. Whether it’s flowing around a rock, through a chute, or even around your own legs, when water is channeled in this way it gives the most dynamic look.

Titles4
You may notice that your tripod has a tendency to sink when you’re shooting in the sand. In order to prevent this push your tripod legs 4-8 inches down into the wet sand and this will give you an amazingly stable platform for those long exposures.

And there you have it, the three simple steps you need to take to create those beautiful streaky wave shots, now get out there and practice!

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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Through The Lens: The Making of "Jurassic Monkeys"

monkey-creek-fiordland-national-park

Monkey Creek, New Zealand. f/11, 1/2 sec, ISO64, 23 mm

In April of 2015 when I was photographing the sunrise at Monkey Creek in Fiordland National Park in New Zealand I found myself in a tricky situation that’s very common in landscape photography: the sky was lighting up brightly with vibrant colors, but the surrounding mountains were still in deep shadow, creating a massive range of bright and dark tones in the scene. And not only was I trying capture this huge dynamic range but I was also intent on photographing the movement of the creek rushing by my feet. I knew I wanted everything in focus as well. So this meant that in my exposure I had to solve four major problems: capturing all the details in the shadows, capturing all the details in the highlights, obtaining sufficient depth of field, and targeting my shutter speed to capture the motion I wanted in the creek. It was a lot of variables to juggle, but by applying some fundamental principles of photography I was able to solve all four problems to create this shot. Here’s my process:

1) Compose and Dial In Initial Camera Settings

Using my wide angle lens to capture a good chunk of the sky, the mountains, and the creek, I found that I got the most pleasing balance to the composition and minimized some distracting elements by zooming in to 23mm. Next, because I knew I’d need as much dynamic range as I could squeeze out of my camera I set my ISO to its lowest setting, 64 in this case. Then, because I had somewhat zoomed in my wide lens and was fairly close to my foreground I guessed I’d need an f-stop of around f/16 to get sufficient depth of field. I dialed that in, set my focus roughly 1/3 into the frame, and used Live View to check my sharpness. I needed to fine tune the focus position a little bit but after a minor tweak everything was indeed sharp from front to back, great!

2) Compress Dynamic Range of the Scene

Because the shadows were quite dark and the highlights so bright I knew my camera would have a tough time capturing the details in both tonal ranges. So I used a graduated neutral density filter to help compress the dynamic range of the scene. Placing the dark part of the filter over the top half of my frame I was able to darken the sky with respect to my foreground. Of course, this had the unwanted side effect of further darkening the already-dark mountains in the top half of the frame. However, digital cameras have incredible abilities when it comes to capturing shadow detail, so I knew that I was better off darkening the highlights to a capture-able level. Even though this meant the shadowy mountains got darker, it was very unlikely they’d get so dark I couldn’t recover their details in post. Whenever I’m faced with a situation like this my mantra is: expose for the highlights, recover the shadows.

3) Test Exposure and Salt to Taste

With my dynamic range compressed, and my f-stop and ISO set, the next step was to find a shutter speed that would give me a good exposure. I used the exposure simulation histogram on my Live View to dial in an initial shutter speed of 1.3″ and hit the button. Since this preview histogram is just a guess made by the camera I couldn’t be sure my exposure was correct until I checked the “real” histogram (along with the Highlight Warning) displayed via image playback. In this case, both showed some slight overexposure and blown highlights, although the histogram showed my shadow details were all intact. So I reduced my shutter speed to 1″ and tried again. This time the playback histogram showed no blown highlights and no clipped shadows. Yes! A perfect exposure!

However, there was still a problem: at a 1″ shutter the water in the creek was too smooth for my tastes: a soft, silky blur. While I often love that creamy look, in this case I wanted to capture a little more action in the lively movement of the stream. I couldn’t simply shorten my shutter speed to freeze the water, because then I would start to severely underexpose the image. So to shorten my shutter I needed to compromise somewhere else. The easiest place to start was aperture; if I opened it up at the same time as I shortened my shutter my exposure would stay the same. However, I didn’t want to risk losing depth of field, so I took baby steps. From f/16 I moved to f/14 and found everything was still sharp. Then f/13, and even f/11 were still good. But below that the foreground and distant mountains began softening. So I stayed at f/11, which allowed me to change my shutter speed from 1″ to 1/2″, resulting in a dramatic change in the way the water looked. It kept the smooth parts of the creek silky and sinuous, but that shorter shutter froze more of the action in the bubbling and rollicking parts of the stream. It was a perfect sweet spot in my mind. So then I fired off a final shot, again checking my histogram and highlight warning to make sure I’d nailed the exposure.

Side note: If you aren’t sure how to use the histogram to perfect your exposures and create an in-field workflow like the one I just described, please check out this great video course, Histograms Exposed, from my friends Varina and Jay Patel. In the course they discuss what a histogram is and what it represents. They tell you how to view it on your camera along with the highlight exposure warning. They break down the different kinds of histograms and which is best to use. Varina and Jay also fully explain the most important part of a histogram: what it’s telling you about the exposure and contrast of your photo so you can get great exposures. And they also provide their in-field workflow to give you a system to analyze a scene and to use your histogram to get a good exposure every time.
Histograms Exposed

4) Bonus: Post Processing

Monkey Creek - Before and After

Left: Straight Out of Camera; Right: After Processing in Adobe Camera Raw

Of course, the raw file that my camera produced was very flat and boring. It had all the shadow and highlight detail, but it lacked the color, the punch, and the drama I felt while photographing the scene. So the next step was to bring the image to life in Adobe Camera Raw. And while the before and after results may look dramatically different, the processing was fairly straightforward. I boosted the exposure and shadows, then reduced the highlights. I warmed up the white balance and added a kiss of magenta. I added some clarity for local contrast and made increases to the saturation and vibrance. I then used the tone curve to increase the global contrast of the photo, along with a graduated filter to further brighten the foreground and add contrast and punch. Et voila! The final image.

Another side note: If that last paragraph sounded like Greek to you, check out my 2-hr video course, The Complete Guide to Adobe Camera Raw. I teach you how to do everything I just said and lots more in super easy, bite-sized chunks.
The Complete Guide to Adobe Camera Raw

And there you have it, a step-by-step explanation to the thought processes behind this image. Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

~Josh

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Long Exposure Photography…… Without Filters!

What’s up, photo homies? (Phomies) What happens if you’d like to shoot some nice long exposures but either the light is too bright or you don’t have any filters? Well using the, ahem, “Cripps Method” 🙂 you can double, triple, or even 10-tuple your shutter speed without blowing out your image.

First, make sure you’re using a remote, get your camera on a tripod, and set the shooting mode to Continuous High. Then, in your Camera menu, head down to Multiple Exposure. For the Nikon shooters select Single Photo, Auto Gain On. For the Canon photographers use “Average” mode. Then crank the number of shots crank up as high as you can, mosh down on your remote, and let the camera do its thang!

During any long exposure you can think of the camera as taking an average of all the things going on in the scene during the exposure. This is why oceans, for example, look like mist in a long exposure: because the waves are moving and crashing everywhere and the camera is averaging all that out.

Well when you select the Auto Gain/Average function in the multiple exposure mode your camera is creating an average of all the photos you take, so it’s basically like creating a long exposure from a bunch of shorter ones. In other words, a single 20 second exposure looks exactly the same as 10 2-second exposures smashed together in camera.

Which means that if the longest shutter speed you can get to is 1/6 second, but you can take 6 shots in multiple exposure mode, well then you actually got yourself a 1 second equivalent shot. Or say you’re shooting something like a D810 that can take 10 ME shots. If you can get your shutter to 3 seconds but any brighter will blow the photo out, then in ME mode you can actually create a 30-second equivalent exposure.And this technique is infinitely expandable so if you can shoot a 30-second shot normally then in Multiple Exposure mode you can create a minutes-long photo. How friggin cool is that!??

And a word to the wise if you’re shooting something like clouds, make sure to turn of Long Exposure Noise Reduction, otherwise you’ll end up with gaps in the final image.

And there you have it; a quick and easy hack to open up your creative possibilities.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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Get a Perfect Exposure Every Time

Are you struggling with manual mode, frustrated by the seeming impossibility of getting a perfect exposure? Well here’s a super easy three step process to nail your exposure every time.

[Step 1] – Compose, Set Aperture, Focus. First, set up your composition and adjust your aperture and focus to get the right depth of field. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out this tutorial.

[Step 2] – Meter to the Middle. With your metering set to matrix or evaluative*, adjust your shutter speed till the light meter is dead smack in the middle and take a picture.

*this will give your light meter the best overall sense of the scene’s brightness.

[Step 3] – Rinse and Repeat. Of course by Rinse I actually mean look at your histogram and see if there are any big spikes all the way on the left, which means you have clipped shadows and your photo is underexposed, or more likely, see if there are spikes all the way on the right, which means your highlights are blown out and your photo is over exposed.

Then all you have to do is adjust your shutter speed, faster to fix over exposure, slower to fix under exposure, and take another shot. Review the histogram again and tweak as necessary. You’ll have a perfect exposure in no time flat, no matter what kind of scene you’re shooting.

Finally, just a quick note that many modern cameras have a preview histogram available in Live View, which makes metering somewhat obsolete. But if you don’t have that feature, or you don’t like using live view, or you just like to understand more about what your camera is doing, then this tried and true technique I’ve just laid out will be your bread and butter.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to learn more about understanding the histogram, check out this article.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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How to Use a 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photography

Dreaming of silky rivers, whooshing clouds, and misty oceans? Well then WAKE UP and get yourself a 10-stop filter.

Nowadays many photographers are saying things like: “Cletus we don’t need no filters. That’s what Photoshop is for.” But one kind of filter that Photoshop can’t recreate is the 10 stop neutral density.

The 10 stop ND filter is an extremely dark filter that blocks almost all of the light trying to enter your camera. Which lets you do a couple of things, either shoot with a wide open aperture in super bright light, or more commonly, stretch your shutter speed out to astounding lengths.

For example, I took this photo in New Zealand in broad daylight, and by using a 10-stop neutral density filter I was able to make the exposure 62 seconds! Which caused the clouds to whip overhead and the lake to smooth out like a creamy pudding cup.

Lake Wanaka willow in fall color, South Island, New Zealand

But a 10 stop neutral density filter is so dark you can’t even see through it, so how the heck do you use it? Here comes the step by step.

1) First, compose and focus – Do this before you put the filter on your lens, otherwise you’ll you won’t be able to see anything. Once you’re focused, make sure to switch your lens to manual focus otherwise you’ll cause a rip in the space time continuum. Wait, no, that’s not right.. Oh yeah, it’s that when you put the super dark filter on it makes your camera’s autofocus hunt around because it can’t see, and that screws up your shot.

2) Next, dial in a proper exposure for the scene without any filter on. This is your baseline. For example ISO100, f8, 1/100 of a second.

3) Put on your filter, easy!

4) Math, ugh….. 🙂 10 stop filter: that’s more than just a clever name, it’s telling you that it blocks 10 stops of light. Which means that you need to increase your shutter speed by 10 stops to compensate. So you can manually count stops as you turn your shutter speed dial (only works up to 30″), you can multiply your shutter speed by 1000 (10 stops = 2^10 = 1024), or you can do things the old fashioned way, with an app on your phone! I like PhotoPills for this.

It doesn’t matter what method you use because they all give the same result (10 seconds for my example), so just do what’s easiest for you. And be aware that if you end up with an exposure longer than 30 seconds you’ll have to switch you camera to Bulb mode and use a remote.

And whatever shutter speed you land on, bear in mind it’s just a starting point since many 10 stops are a little darker than advertised and you may need to tweak things.

5) Tweak the color. If you take a picture at this point you’ll get some great long exposure goodness, but you’ll probably also get some funky looks with the color. And that’s because most 10 stop ND filters are not truly neutral, but rather have a color cast, like blue or brown. So you need to adjust for this, either by using your camera’s auto WB or by dialing in a custom WB. Each filter is a little different so it’ll just be a matter of trial and error until you figure out what works for your filter. Here I’m simply using auto WB.

Now that you’ve got your shutter speed and color adjustments dialed in you’re ready to take a totally kick ass photo. Be sure to cover the viewfinder on the back of the camera otherwise stray light may corrupt your image.

Ok, now things are looking cool, but what if you want more??? Well everything you know about aperture and shutter speed is still in effect here, so if I want to stretch my exposure even longer, I can simply stop down. If I change my aperture from f/8 to f/22, a difference of three stops, it means I can increase my shutter speed by 3 stops, taking it from 10 seconds to 80 seconds. And now my long exposure dreams are really coming true.

Thanks for reading. If you want to learn even more about 10 stop filters, or about other fun filters like the 6-stop you can check out a detailed article I wrote about them by clicking right here.

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