People in your Landscapes

As fall continues to push forward through our area hopefully everyone is out and enjoying the colors, hiking and of course taking pictures. As photographers we always look for some scene that inspires us. Maybe it’s a mountain, a sunset or a lone colorful tree. Usually landscape photographers want their images to be devoid of all things human such as buildings and people themselves. I personally may not always want a building in my landscapes but if I’m shooting and a person wanders in my image and it adds to the overall composition and feeling than I’m capturing it. I’m speaking specifically about a person that is unrecognizable but adds significance to the photo. person on a rockblog-1If you shoot a person and you can clearly recognize them and that image is published you will need a model release. That’s another discussion for another blog.  Having a person in the image provides scale. It also shows us in context to the greater environment. A deeper connection to the mountains , forest and water that surrounds us.

This image was taken in Harriman State Park. The first thing that caught my eye was the light hitting the tall golden tree and how it stood out against the shadowed mountain. I also loved the person standing on the rock taking in the beauty. She adds scale to image and in a deeper sense our place in the environment as a whole. I don’t go out of my way to find people but sometimes it just happens and it really adds the final capture.

 

2 Photographers 1 spot part 2

This past weekend Dean Cobin and I were shooting in Long Pond Ironworks State Park and Harriman State Park in NY. We spent pre-dawn at Monksville Reservoir looking to capture some early morning light. After a successful morning at the reservoir we made our way to  Harriman and were surprised at the amount of color that the trees had this early in the season. As we were driving to our location we came across a group of trees that were backlit by the bright morning sun. The colors were very intense. Backlighting especially this time of year is a great way to bring out the color and textures in the leaves. After about 30 minutes of shooting we both gravitated to the same spot in this grove. We were less than 20 feet from each other and saw the same scene completely differently. It’s fascinating and fun to see the creative minds work. Hence the title of the blog…… 2 Photographers 1 spot.

Larry-I saw the shot as an overall field of color with shapes and depth. The depth comes in multiple forms in this capture. The trees themselves. Some are closer, others further back, some have detail while others are deep  shadow. backlit treesblogAlso the black negative space between the leaves adds more distance . However, the colors are essential here. If it were all one color in this composition it potentially could have been a flatter image. That’s not a bad thing it’s just not what I saw and wanted to convey. The red color especially adds the pop and distance that I think helps this image successful. Dean and I were talking about how light is the crucial separator in making or breaking a shot. As your out and about look for light and how it hits the landscape that your interested in. You’ll always need a strong composition but great light is what really amplifies the final image.

Dean-Its really interesting as I came over to the area I had a wide angle lens on my camera and immediately switched to a 70-200 zoom. The back lighting was really working and I saw one particular tree I wanted to capture because it had an interesting symmetry to the branches. dean treeI placed the the main trunk down the center and then tried to isolate a pleasing pattern of the branches for the composition. In my minds eye I saw this as an abstract color panel.It is really amazing to stand next to somebody shooting the same scene and see how different the images are perceived. I love the  image Larry came away with  and I also liked mine. Fall color can be overwhelming and does not make a picture on it’s own, remember to always be thinking about the basic foundations for your image of good composition and great light which is what we had to work with here.

 

©Larry Zink

©Dean Cobin

2 lakes 1 morning

This past Sunday I ventured up to Harriman State Park. I left my house at 5:15am to ensure I would get there in time to shoot some sort of sunrise. The weather report wasn’t looking too good the previous evening in terms of cloud cover ( I always look at cloud cover on the weather sites) and sure enough it was clear and bright moonlit skies when I walked out my door. I actually debated in my head whether to go or not. Figuring that I made the effort to be up that early I started the truck and began the trip north. As I was driving into the park there were some clouds passing by so I was beginning to feel a little better about my decision. As the skies were brightening I could start to see some really good possibilities taking shape. Lake KanawaukeblogAt this point, I realized I need to find a spot quickly and I chose Lake Kanawauke. Truth be told, it was the closest lake at the time. Normally I have a plan but on this particular day I was photographically improvising. I usually have some sort of sketchy plan on where I’m going to shoot. Scrambling to find an interesting shot I came across a grouping of rocks and quickly worked out the composition. I chose this dominant foreground rather than an over all wide lake shot because I wanted some additional interest and depth. I wasn’t feeling a straight shot of the lake would be all that interesting.

After the beautiful sunrise I walked around and continued to shoot and scout for future visits. I wanted to go down to Silver Mine Lake and see if there were any opportunities to shoot there. It’s one of my favorite spots in Harriman. At this point there were enough clouds starting to build to have some interesting skies. After parking in the lot I took the trail that skirts the left side of the water. Not far down I found a nice quiet spot. SilvermineBlogI like the composition and while I don’t normally go out of my way to shoot with a sun burst effect it does add some additional interest to the shot. When the colors change I will be back in this spot for sure.

Overall, It never ceases to amaze me that this kind of photographic potential is so close to New York City.The variety of the landscapes makes this place a must do in the area. With Fall fast approaching you can bet you will find me there.

©Larry Zink

 

Lower Van Campens Falls

Here is another shot from my hike on the Van Campens Glen trail in the Delaware Water Gap. The hike is better described in a previous hike to photo ratio blog. This water fall is not far into the hike and is one of my favorite places to shoot. Assuming your careful it can be accessed from both sides and the top. Obviously this image was taken from the top of the falls. For this particular spot you’ll want to be sure that you have solid footing for your camera and tripod not to mention yourself. It’s definitely not desirable to have your equipment or you go over the top and in to the pool below.

lower van campen-1 blogThis image is one of my favorite shots of the year so far. Using some of the compositional elements discussed previously with the addition of another creates  an enormous amount of depth in the shot. First, the foreground rocks/ledge anchor the front of the composition. Second, the waterfall itself has beautiful lines as it leads into the creek below and curves off to the distance to a vanishing point. Lastly, on this morning if was slightly misty/foggy which is always accentuated  in the distance. Atmospheric conditions  affect objects further away rather than up close further adding to the depth. Couple all those elements together with a wide angle lens and  the image has many visual points to look at.

I love to shoot waterfalls and there are not that many many in New Jersey to begin with that offer this kind of beauty and solitude. Everyone’s safety is always paramount when shooting around water but the rewards if everything comes together is incredibly satisfying.

©Larry Zink

 

 

Long Exposure Creativity

Take a run of the mill scene and turn it into a dynamic composition. Conveying movement in a picture takes something static and makes it dramatic. In many instances this will draw much more interest for the viewer. The most powerful tool we can utilize in photography is our imagination. If you learn to visualize the potential of the scene you will start to have more creative control of the image.

Here is a little how to for shooting a long exposure using clouds as the dynamic interest of your picture:

Since we are trying to create something dynamic we will also need something static (not moving) to juxtapose with the cloud movement. In the case of the example image I used the mountain. Long exposure-2

Once you have identified a possible composition first and foremost you will need your camera mounted on a tripod. Next you will need to be able to decrease or slow down your shutter speed to several seconds. This can either be achieved via available light shooting very early or rather late in the day. This is when your camera is metering in seconds so you can simply stop your aperture down (raising to larger numbers) to lengthen the exposure.  Another method as with the example image I am using something called a Neutral Density filter (ND).  ND filters in simple terms are filters that knock down the light. ND filters are external filters used in front of your lens. They are measured in stops of light. They come in several configurations and are utilized not only in this type of situation but are also widely used in other applications for landscape shooting. They are used to help balance the light in your exposure which is a whole other story for another time.

Remember when you stop down by one full aperture setting you are doubling the length of your exposure. If you’re at f11 and your camera is metering for a 15 second exposure when you stop down to f16 (1 full stop) you will double your exposure time to 30 seconds.

Using ND filters will give you much more control of the light and can be executed at any time regardless of the current conditions. There is a lot you can learn about ND filters by simply googling them.  In the case of the example image I used a 10 stop ND filter adding 10 full stops to the exposure. This image ended up being 228 seconds.

The image here was shot late in the afternoon but with lots of available light so I choose a 10 stop ND to lengthen the exposure time desired. Once I metered the shot without the ND filter I took out my I-phone which has an app that includes an exposure calculator and figured the correct amount of time for exposure when adding 10 stops.  I currently use something called Photo Pills but there are many different apps available. You can do the math in your head for a few stops but with 10 stops a calculator comes in very handy.  Most DSLR cameras will expose up to a 30 second exposure. I find that anywhere from 5+ seconds will usually add the drama and then it is a matter of your own creative taste.

Remember that after 30 seconds you will need to shoot in Bulb setting mode and have a shutter release device to keep your shutter open for the desired length of the exposure time. Once you make your exposure check your histogram and make sure you are getting a good exposure, if not make your adjustments and try again. Lot’s of trial and error on these shots. I also recommend that if you’re shooting real long exposures that you have your LE noise reduction shut off if it’s turned on. You can always control your digital noise in post. This allows you quicker feedback if you need to try again.

All this sounds complicated but it’s not. It will just take a little time, possibly some more research and lot’s of experimenting.  I did not get this shot on my first outing but that is where all the fun lies, in the exploration. Don’t be afraid to take risks and get creative with your image making you will find it will add a whole new dimension to your photography.

About the image:

This is a 230 second exposure shot In Harriman State Park on the shores of Lake Stahahe. ©Dean Cobin

Photo to Hike Ratio 3- Van Campens Glen

DWG blog This trail has been closed for quite some time. Mother Natures storms over the years have wrecked havoc on the area and I’m sure the folly of the government shutdown didn’t help in the cleanup and renewal. On a personal note I’d like to thank  all the politicians who were involved in that fiasco.  I hadn’t visited this spot in about 5 years and I must say my recent hike/shoot  was fantastic. The hike begins off of Old Mine Rd about 20 minutes from RT 80. The parking lot where the trail begins is closed so you’ll need to park by the gate and walk down to the trail head. The trail may be listed as the Van Campens Glen loop trail at the NYNJTC. At the trail head, marked in yellow, you’ll hear and see the reason your there, Van Campens Creek. The trail begins at the closed parking lot begins to meander parallel to the creek.  The lower falls come into to view fairly quickly in the hike on your right. The first set of falls are for more photographic as it is set among large rocks, Rhododendrons and ferns.  As you continue down the trail with some slight elevation the second falls will appear on your left after a bridge crossing. For me though the coolest part of the hike though is up and past the second waterfall slightly less than a mile from the parking lot.  It’s an area that moss covered walls of stone have been carved by the rushing water and thin sliced slabs of rocks are protruding creek side at a 45 degree angle. (The image above was shot from this area).  It can be a little buggy past the second falls so be prepared. The other hidden treasure on this hike and in the Gap in general are the amazing ferns on display especially in the spring. The amount and intense green carpet of color adds to the overall ambiance. It’s a short hike through the Glen but there is so much to look at and enjoy.  Lace up your shoes and grab your camera and enjoy one of the best hidden treasures in all of the state of New Jersey. ©Larry Zink

Composition Depth Part 2-Leading compositional Lines

For any photographer at any level creating dynamic compositions is the goal and part of the fun of photography. In the last blog, I touched upon the use of the near/far compositional element to create depth. In this blog another very popular method of creating distance is leading compositional lines. beach leading lines blogAdding compositional lines can provide multiple composition solutions. They can grab the viewer and direct them into and through your image. They can also take you to a destination but both ways  will create depth.

In this image the animal tracks are the leading compositional lines. I was looking for strong lines in dunes this particular morning and came across these animal foot prints. Without the lines the shot may be pretty but boring. It would have lacked the visual dynamic that I always look for in a composition.  So the next time your out shooting look for things in nature that can lead. Maybe it’s a worn path going off in the distance, a groupings of rocks, a winding stream or lines in a dune (maybe you’ll stumble on other lines like me). There are many leading opportunities in nature , find them and incorporate them in your composition.

©Larry Zink