Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wild Montana: 4 Exposure in 1 Photo

gorgeous light sunset montana valley cabin
Wild Montana
Increasingly seen these days, multiple-exposure photographs show off greater dynamic range of light and dark in a single scene.  The "old school" method was to use gradient neutral density filters.  I have those and they work well if the horizon is perfectly level.

The "new school" method is to take multiple exposures and then blend them together manually in photoshop.

There is also another method, which I'd call the "school dropout" method which uses an HDR program to create an automatic blend of these photos which the computer finds beautiful.  I own the most up-to-date HDR program and it does not create natural-looking shots.

So, for this shot, I used the "new school" photoshop blending, relying heavily on the lightest shot to give this work a gorgeous luminance.  

Heavy on the Mustard

mustard wild flowers idaho
Mustard in Bloom
I have mentioned luck before as a photographic asset.  Luck gives you the unexpected ray of light, dramatic shadow, picturesque cloud or rainbow.  In this case, luck gave me a field of mustard.  Instead of traveling the usual route from Montana to Utah, I took a scenic route past Mesa Falls.  Just south of that, I came upon this gorgeous field of mustard flowers.  They were at peak bloom and covered the horizon.

With luck, you have to drop what you had planned and take the opportunity.  I stopped the car and spent several minutes wandering the skirts of this field, photographing the immense field and sky, trying to take in the beauty of the many.  

Beautiful Montana Cabin

montana wildflowers and small cabin
Lupine Wildflowers and small Montana Cabin at sunset

 I visit southwest Montana each year for one week.  Each years looks different depending on how much rain/snow they've had and how early/late in the summer I go.  This lonely cabin sits in a big valley and I've taken to shooting it each year.  Sometimes I try sunset, others at sunrise, others with different lenses, etc -- I want to get something NEW each year.  That's the challenge:  to get a quality shot that isn't a copy of prior years.

This year the lupine wildflowers were out in force.  That's very exciting!  The last 5 minutes of direct sunlight shone on these flowers as the day ended.  I'd actually found this bunch of flowers an hour earlier as the best bunch in the area.  I'd picked a few stray grass blades out.  When I returned with a few minutes of dying light, I was so happy to find a perfect bouquet.

This is the first time I've written about this 8-year project and I'm going to post the winning shot from previous years for comparison.  For some different thoughts on these photos, you can also see my post at FredMiranda.com with many comments from other photographers.

montana valley sunset with cabin
Grasses and wildflowers from 2013, shooting from a different angle.
dry grassy valley in smokey haze
Burst of Light:  2012 had many wildfires that sent a dark haze into the sky.
The sunshine just came out before sunset this day.
beautiful valley grass and clouds.
Bound to Earth:  2011 was a lovely year.
big sky madison valley montana
The Biggest Sky:  2010 had the most magnificent clouds sweeping the sky.
tiny cabin in madison valley sunrise
Fire in the Sky:  2009 sunrise shot
golden fields big valley montana
Golden Fields and Blue Mountains:  2008 had magic light.
little cabin in Montana
Little House on the Prairie:  2007 first shot in the series

Friday, August 1, 2014

Montana Bloom: Obeying Photography Rules

mountain stream purple wildflowers sunset
Montana Bloom:  This photo obeys several landscape photography rules.
Lupine wildflowers were in bloom last month in Montana.  Patches of purple mixed in with the green grassland, coloring the charming land.  How to capture this beauty?  I decided to go back to the "rules" of landscape photography and see what happened.  Here are a few of the rules I followed:

1.  Foreground interest.  The flower is the obvious choice here.  The challenge comes in how to include this flower and everything else.  A wide-angle lens positioned just above the highest petals allows the viewer to get a whiff of lupine but still see the wider landscape above.

2.  S-curve.  The S-curve is used mostly in figure photography, particularly the female form.  This same curve can be used when it appear in landscape.  The lovely stream makes such a curve and connects the foreground to the background, helping me obey two photography rules.

3.  Golden hour.  I photographed this just before and after sunset.  This shot was taken after sun had left the ground yet was still touching the distant peaks, giving them the golden glow.