Category Archives: Landscape
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Technical Details: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm @ 105mm, f22, ISO 100, @ 2.5 sec.
This post is about being flexible and aware of your surroundings. The image above is from the Lutsen Resort at the mouth of the Poplar River on Lake Superior. I was planning on shooting the Poplar River as it empties into Lake Superior and the shoreline/lake/sky across the river as darkness approached. I figured the incoming waves and rocks would make a nice foreground scene with the blue & pink post sunset sky. As started to set up for the shot out of the corner of my eye I noticed the two Gulls land on the rock directly to my right. I had seen the rock as I approached but without the gulls I didn’t see much of a shot. With the gulls I saw some potential in the scene. I immediately turned my tripod 45 degrees and began to shoot as long of an exposure I could get without fiddling around with filters as who knows how long they would stay on the rock. When a potential shot like this suddenly develops the adrenline can get flowing and it seems like everything goes in slow motion (at least it does for me). Fortunate for me I was on the tripod when the gulls landed and my cable release already plugged in. I managed 10 exposures in 4 minutes, (that’s how long the birds stayed put). Each exposure was 2.5 seconds and I had to wait for the gulls to stop moving as they changed position on the rock. I liked one out of the 10 images more than the others mainly due to the position of the gulls. I didn’t quite feel like the scene isolated the subject well enough so I added a Gaussian Blur giving the appearance of fog. This eliminated the horizon line and added the mood I think the image needed. So in a nutshell be flexible, aware of your surroundings, and willing to take an image where your instincts feel it needs to go in post processing. And of course as always realize that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good so be prepared to take advantage of that luck :-)
Have fun and keep shooting,
I’m drawn to the area between Duluth and Silver Bay, Mn by it’s numerous photographic opportunities. After making several trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior in the last few months this is my first sunrise from the area known as Brighton Beach just north of Duluth. I met some very nice folks at Camp 61 (Hotel Restaurant) in Beaver Bay and am planning on more trips to this area as winter storms and dramatic weather develops.
Several individuals have asked me how I got a shot like this so I’m going to explain the process I went through. I apologize for the length of this post and the amount of technical detail as I’m sure it will seem a bit to much for some.
I’ve seen this stretch of the Willow River (located just outside Hudson, WI) on many occasions but never really took the time and effort to fully explore it’s potential. Most photographers pass this stretch by and go a bit further up river to the main falls which can be viewed from the bridge at the top of the image. I planned in advance to shoot this stretch having taken the time to climb down the steep hill on a previous trip to see what kind of shot I might be able to get. I knew the best time to get the shot would be in the last hour before sunset on a sunny day so when the right conditions were present that’s when I took the trip to the river. So basically pre-scouting for a shot is the best way to go. Planning ahead allows you to be prepared when the conditions are just right.
Now I had to plan my gear accordingly. Select the appropriate lens, and since I was planning long exposures a tripod is a must. Long exposures may require a Neutral Density Filter to hold back some light unless the shot is taken at night or heavy overcast. A cable release will also be necessary to trigger the exposure.
When I arrived I thought I could get the shot from shore but soon realized I was going to have to get in the water. I set up in the river making sure the tripod was solid and camera firmly mounted. I wanted to get the look of the smooth flowing water and natural saturated colors. I was shooting this shot with a Canon 5D MarkII camera body and I attached a Singh-ray Neutral Density Filter to the end of my Canon 24-105 zoom lens. I set the camera in manual mode with the mirror lock enabled. This achieves the sharpest image possible because it eliminates any vibration caused by the mirror opening just before the shutter is tripped exposing the shot. I plugged in a cable shutter release so I wouldn’t have to touch the camera to trip the exposure. After framing the scene the way I wanted it I dialed in the amount of polarization I wanted which cuts glare and helps with more saturated color. The Singh-ray neutral density filter I was using also has a built in polarizer ring. I set my aperture to F22 so I could get the maximum amount of depth of field in the shot and long exposure. ISO set to 100 for the least amount of grain and also helps achieve longer exposure. Turn off the image stabilization on your lens, if you don’t you will get blurry images on long exposures. I picked a spot to focus on about 1/3 of the way into the scene so I could get the maximum depth of field in the image. I won’t get into the reasoning behind this as it’s another long subject known as hyperfocal distance. Next I set the exposure time I was after which was about 25 seconds. I still had too much light for a long exposure like this so I then dialed in the amount of density required on the Singh-ray Neutral Density Filter until I reached the proper exposure on my meter in camera. With everything framed the way I wanted, exposure set, I tripped the mirror, waited 5-10 sec and tripped the shutter and waited while the exposure took place (25 sec). Then I reviewed the image (the histogram mainly) to make sure I had the proper exposure. I re-focused did the shot again after making any adjustments and reviewed the histogram again to make sure all the values in the scene were recorded properly. The histogram is a graph which displays the density values recorded, complete black to complete white and everything in between. You want to make sure no highlight detail is lost and no shadow areas are unnecessarily lost when possible, highlights being priority. The histogram is the most important tool to get to know on your camera for achieving proper exposures. In the shot above I slightly underexposed the shot (1/3 stop) so the smooth water highlights would not be completely blown out white and lose detail. The reason I re-focused between shots to make sure if I was not focused properly on the first shot then all shots would not be bad. After a handful of shots I was confident I had at least one shot I would be happy with and I moved on to my next location. It sounds like all of this may have taken a long time but I was probably in the water no more than 10-15 minutes to get the shot I really wanted.