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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here between the two sides of the bank of

River. I’m losing a lot of the smoothness

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

I still really want that flow. That smoothness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come take a look.

Share This Article:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hit it next day.

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

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

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

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

Okay, come on now. Deep breaths.

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After scarfing down my lunch.

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Share This Article:


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

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

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

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

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

Mosey up down there.

See what’s on the other side. And after

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is one hot dry dust is slow.

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

Carpets of superstar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise Jesus.

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

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

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

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

After a near sleepless night caused

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

Now it was hot. Last on downright hot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Is this real life. What is this place?

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

Lord. No, that was

Truly remarkable day. That kind of comes

Along only, ever so often.

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

Share This Article:


Lightroom: 4 Features You NEED To Be Using

Lightroom: 4 Features You NEED To Be Using

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Export Presets

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Targeted Adjustment Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual Copies

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


The Most Underrated Skill In Landscape Photography: SCOUTING

The Most Underrated Skill In Landscape Photography: SCOUTING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


4 Tips For Kickass Telephoto Landscape Photos

4 Tips For Kickass Telephoto Landscape Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


Why I Will NEVER Replace a Sky in My Landscape Photographs

Why I Will NEVER Replace a Sky in My Landscape Photographs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share This Article:


Photographing Reflections in Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Photographing Reflections in Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hey Everybody, it’s Josh Cripps here. And I’m in this place called Dusy Basin, which is in Kings Canyon National Park, my favorite national park in all of the United States, maybe even the world, and this is a place that I’ve wanted to come out for a while. So I’m pretty excited to be here Now for this video. I really wanted to try to find somewhere beautiful to film and do some photography. But unfortunately this is the best that I could find. 

I had a height to the top of Bishop pass, but I never made it any farther. So I didn’t know what to doozy basin was like. And I was always curious about it. Plus I’d seen tons of photos of the place on the internet and it looked so beautiful and so alluring. And so I decided I finally had to go as for why I wanted to take this trip now. Well, it was because of this weather, this flat gray weather that you can see above me. Typically, I like to come backpacking in early July because we get the monsoon thunderstorm kind of behavior in the atmosphere. But this year we’re getting all this late season atmospherics and thunderstorms. So it’s really exciting time to be out here. It’s the end of August, which is great. It means there’s no mosquitoes at all. Uh, but we’re getting these really epics guys.

In fact, the last couple of days where I live up in mammoth, the weather has been unreal. We’re talking crepuscular rays and lightning bolts and double rainbows. We had a full arch, double rainbow and light. They’re just a beautiful, it’s been beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And, um, and w that pattern seems to be holding here into the trip. And so I got my fingers crossed for some really neat conditions. What’s cool and unusual about these summer storms that we’re seeing right now is that typically a Sierra thunderstorm will build up around noon or one start to rain around two or three, and that’ll last till five o’clock or so, and then it starts to break up again, but typically all those clouds just disappear. And by the time sunset rolls around the sky will be completely flawless with not a cloud to be seen. So it can be frustrating from a photography standpoint, but for the last couple of days, the thunderstorms have persisted, not only through the sunset, but on into the night as well.

And it’s made for some really exciting conditions for photography. And I think that’s going to happen today as well. There’s just fantastic, beautiful texture in the sky. You can see curtains of rain coming down over these mighty peaks, but out to the West, there’s a strip of blue sky. It gives me a lot of hope that when the sun drops into that slot, we’re going to see something incredible. I’m thinking we’re going to see light beams. I’m thinking we’re going to see spotlighting on the landscape. And I think we’re also going to see a pretty fantastic sunset. So I can’t guarantee it. I never guarantee anything when it comes to thunderstorm photography, but that’s my hope. And it’s starting to rain and hail on me here again a little bit. So I think I’m going to go hide in the tent and then go out and do a little bit scouting.

One of the problems with seeing too many photos on the internet of a place is that those photos start to infect your mind and they make you think that those are the best, or maybe even the only shots that you can take there. And as I looked online at these doozy basin photos, a specific kind of shot kept appearing over and over in the search results. It was the skyline of Dusy basin with isosceles peak, big and powerful on the right hand side of the photo and all of this reflected in a Lake. And then everything punctuated with beautiful light. Now these shots were gorgeous, but they all had the exact same composition. And so I had two simultaneous, but opposing thoughts. The first one was, I want to find that spot because it looks fantastic, but at the same time, surely there has to be board than just that one composition there.

So how do I take my doozy basin reflection shots and make them my own, this is what I was thinking about. And as I sat in my tent, waiting for the rain to stop and getting ready to shoot where the clouds pulling this disappearing act on me, I’m actually way less hopeful now about the prospects of a good sunset. So I’m going to take advantage of the light that I’ve got right now, because there are some pretty decent clouds in the sky. So nice puffy clouds, really nice textures and contrast with the blue sky. And the other thing that I’ve got going for me right now is it is dead calm. There’s not a breath of wind anywhere. And I think this is going to set me up really beautifully for some incredible reflections in these little tarns and lakes over here. All right. I got to stop grousing because it would have been amazing to have a few more clouds, a few more thunder storm, Marie cool dramatic sky stick around through the sunset, but it’s pretty hard to complain about that.

So, you know what I really like about this scene? It’s not just the reflection, because to be honest with you, I find that reflections are often a crutch in photography. They’re just an easy way to make a photo look good. And so you just see these photos of a sky and some mountains reflected in a Lake and that’s it, that’s like composition one Oh one. That’s the easiest kind of reflection composition to make. But to me, there’s always another level. There’s always another step that you can take to create an interaction between the landscape and the reflection and this spot. It’s wonderful for that because you see how you have this peak, it’s called isosceles peak and it’s coming down right into this little Tarn right here. So it’s really highlighting that one particular component. So I’m really falling in love with this scene. These big lakes are really cool and everything with these views of the mountains, but there’s a lot to explore in this place. And there’s this whole series of tarns here that flowed down the mountain. It’s really cool because right here they split. And part of the outflow goes this way. And part of the outflow goes out that way. So I’m going to keep following this stream a little bit, just to see where it goes, where the outlet takes me.

Do a drop-off here with an incredible view out over this vast Valley. And on this hillside that Heather, the mountain Heather is just vibrant red, and it’s a beautiful telephoto shot with those backlit treats. So I’m going to switch up and shoot that with my long lens.

And as I was exploring around the basin, it was a powerful reminder that those preconceived ideas of what the quote right shots are, are as temporary and ephemeral as the Sierra thunderstorm, when you actually arrive in a place there’s always a million other possibilities. And when you trust your vision as a photographer to respond to the scene with your own unique perspective, then I guarantee you are going to come up with your own personal photographs. And for me, my goal was to take this idea and apply it to the reflection shots that I was seeking in Dusy basin. And here’s what happened next. All right, enough jibber, Jabber, and monkey, and around because it is time to get down to work. You can see that a couple more clouds blue and over the top light is getting incredible over this base in here, we’ve got these amazing reflection that I’m lining up with these rocks down here on the shore of this little Tarn.

I’m having absolutely way too much fun. So I better stop logging and start shooting, but really quickly. I just want to show you one more example of how you can take your reflection, compositions and move them from a simple reflection like this to something really special. You can see that these rocks right down here on the foreground. And if I position my body in just the right place, I can get those rocks to kind of fill in the space that negative space in the reflection, kind of like that. And it makes the composition so much more powerful by using the wide angle lens and bringing this right up to you. The viewer feels like they can stand in the scene instead of just looking at this kind of two dimensional reflection shot. So keep that in mind, whenever you guys are shooting reflections and bring your photos up a notch or six. 

You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face right now with the world’s biggest eraser. I know I say this a lot, but it doesn’t get any better than this. Well, that’s going to do it for tonight, spectacular evening and amazing place with wonderful light and no mosquitoes. I think I might be in habit. I’m going to close this video out now with a couple more photos from the seasoning and be sure to stick around for the next part of this adventure until next time have fun and happy shooting.

Share This Article:


Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken at Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand on April 11th, 2016.

While on a photo tour of New Zealand’s South Island our group was treated to a spectacular light show as the setting sun shone three fiery beams of light through the fjord, igniting a wall of rain perched in front of a mountain known as The Lion.

For a sense of scale, the “small” waterfall visible in the center bottom of the photo is 500-foot tall Stirling Falls.

Buy A Print Of This Photo

What style and size print are you ordering?

Comments On This Photo