McClure Pass in Fall

I have been so busy during the last couple of months, that I have not had a chance to work on any of the images from my recent trips. October is always a busy month for me, because I try to travel as much as I can in Colorado and Wyoming to capture the fall colors. This year was different than the previous several years, because we got some heavy snow in the mountains right when the leaves started changing colors. Because of this, many of the areas lost a lot of leaves very quickly. The window of opportunity to capture the beauty was only about 5-7 days and unfortunately, I was a little late (but more on that later).

Here is an image of fall colors right before we got hit with the heavy snow:

McClure Pass in Fall

The photograph was taken with the Nikon D7000 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, without any filters. Actually, I could not use a filter, because the image was shot as a panorama (24 vertical images). As I have explained in my “how to photograph panoramas” article, using filters while photographing panoramas is a bad idea. Although the lighting conditions were ideal with the sun directly behind me, I was actually surprised by how the D7000 captured the scene. Its dynamic range is indeed very impressive and it just makes very colorful and beautiful images.

Post-processing in Photoshop took me about 5 minutes after stitching the image. I first started out by cropping the stitched image, then brightened up the shadows a little and adjusted the levels. Sharpened it up by around 40% in Nik’s Sharpener Pro, then saved and closed the image. The image popped up in Lightroom, I then increased the clarity a little to bring out the clouds and the trees, then exported from Lightroom at 80% resolution, adding our watermark using the same technique described in my “how to watermark a photo in Lightroom” article.

Lens Filters Explained

Camera lens filters can serve different purposes in digital photography. They can be indispensable for capturing scenery in extremely difficult lighting conditions, they can enhance colors and reduce reflections or can simply protect lenses. Filters are widely used in photography and cinematography and while some only use filters in rare situations, others rely on filters for their everyday work. For example, landscape photographers heavily rely on various filters, while street and portrait photographers rarely get to use them. Since digital photography is all about the quality and intensity of light, lens filters are often necessary to modify the light before it enters the lens. Many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age. As I will demonstrate below, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software and some actually help in getting even better results during post-processing. In this article, I will talk about the different types of lens filters available, what they do, when and how to use them.

Lee Filter Set

1) What are filters and why should you use them?

Why do you wear sunglasses? Because along with other benefits, they help you see better in intense light, protect your eyes from harmful UV rays/wind/dust and reduce glare. Filters also serve a similar purpose – they can help reduce reflections, protect your lenses from potential damage, fully or partially reduce the amount of light that enters the lens and even enhance colors. At the same time, filters can actually hurt photographs if they are not properly used. A good analogy would be wearing sunglasses in a dark room. Therefore, not only do you need to know what filters to use, but you also need to know how to use them and in which situations. There are many different kinds of filters out there – from cheap UV filters to very expensive filters worth several hundred dollars, which can make the process of choosing the right filter type rather challenging.

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Mount Rainier and Olympic Photos

The drive from Montana to Washington was beautiful. I really wanted to stop in many different locations and take more pictures, but I had a set and compressed schedule that I did not want to change. It was rainy and wet at Mount Rainier, which is quite normal at this time of the year. The snow was everywhere though and it turned out that I was there too early. Should have done my homework. I wanted to take pictures of wildflowers, but because of the high snow accumulation this year, there were very few areas in the park where you could find them. Apparently, the best time to be there is late August to early September. Oh well! I still managed to take some good waterfall pictures though:

Mt Rainier NP #1

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Yellowstone and Glacier Trip Photos

Here are some photos that I decided to share with you from Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP from my trip across the Western USA. I have not done much processing on these yet, which I am hoping to do during the next few weeks. The images from Yellowstone NP are from the Nikon D5100 that I was testing – all images from my Nikon D3s were on the card that I unfortunately lost somewhere in Yosemite NP. All landscape images of Yellowstone are lost, so I only have some wildlife + wildflower shots to show.

While in Yellowstone, there was not a day when I did not see black bears. First day I was super excited about seeing a bear cub walk alone and eat flowers, so I took several hundred pictures of him eating, resting and playing. My favorite picture was with the cub sitting in between many wildflowers. Of course those pictures are all gone, so it is only a memory. During the next bear encounters, I only photographed when the bears were close. For the first couple of shots, I would use the Nikon D5100 and then switch to my D3s, due to better and more accurate autofocus. Here are some images of bears from the Nikon D5100 + Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR combo.

This is a black bear that some call “Cinnamon” bear:

Yellowstone NP #1

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How to Take Black and White Pictures

If you are inspired by the works of Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey or other masters of black and white photography, you probably want to try doing some B&W yourself. If you don’t know how to take black and white pictures and where to start, then this guide might help you to get into the world of B&W photography. I must admit that I am no guru when it comes to black and white photography, but I have been experimenting with it lately and would like to share what I have learned so far.

Tree BW

1) Colors in Black and White Photography

As strange as it may sound, black and white photography is not about the tones of white, grey and black colors that we see in B&W images. Instead, it is all about the colors that are recorded by the camera and how those colors are converted to different shades of grey, whether in-camera or through post-processing. Back in the film days, photographers used color filters in front of their lenses while shooting B&W film, then would employ special darkroom processing techniques like dodging and burning on top of that to lighten or darken particular parts of a photograph (some landscape photographers still do it today with medium and large format film).
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Best of 2010 – Landscapes (Part 4)

This is the last, fourth part of the “Best of 2010” for my landscape images. The first part can be found here, the second (BW) part is here and the third one is here. I hope you enjoyed my wallpaper collection from 2010 and I will be posting more of these in 2011 as well.

Lake Reflection

1) Lake Reflection 1920×1200 Widescreen Wallpaper

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Best of 2010 – Landscapes (Part 3)

This is the third part of the “Best of 2010″ for my landscape images. The first part can be found here and the second (BW) part is here. As I have pointed out before, some of the images were already posted earlier as wallpapers, so I am simply reposting them.

Hells Half Acre

1) Hell’s Half Acre 1920×1200 Widescreen Wallpaper

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Transformation v2

Are there places you go to several times a year? If you are thinking about the next photography project, I suggest finding something interesting/unique and then coming back to the same spot at different times of the year to photograph the location. Two of the three images below were shot by accident at the Rocky Mountain National Park – I just liked the way the four trees leaned to the left and were all very unique and beautiful in their own way. I photographed the image in the middle first, then when I was at the same location in fall, I happened to photograph those four trees again. I was reviewing my images in Lightroom one day and noticed that I have two different images of the same trees – not sure how I even remembered them. Next time I visited the park in winter, I went to the same spot and took another picture (left) to add to the collection. Now I need another image in the spring and I will have a complete set :) Note that all three images were taken at different angles, which is why the backgrounds appear so different.

Seasons

Best of 2010 – Landscapes (Part 2, BW)

This is the second part of the “Best of 2010″ collection for landscape photography. I have not done much of black and white photography, so the below images are sort of “experimental”. Let me know what you think of these! If you like the way they came out, I will post a quick tutorial showing how I did it.

Turret Arch BW

1) Turret Arch BW 1920×1200 Widescreen Wallpaper

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Best of 2010 – Landscapes (Part 1)

To be honest, I have not had the time to go through all of the pictures that I have taken in 2010, so I’m only posting some of the ones that I rated as my “picks” in Lightroom. I surely did photograph a lot more in 2010 than I did in 2009, but I am also getting more and more picky about my work. I believe that a stricter self-critique can only improve a photographer and while it sometimes can be discouraging to look at other people’s works and compare them to yours, I still think it is a good idea to do it every once in a while. Not only will it be a source of inspiration for you, but it will also make you want to get better. I often spend time looking at works of some of the masters of nature photography and their images not only motivate me to go out and try new things, but also remind me that I have a lot to learn!

This is the first part of my 2010 landscape favorites. Please note that some of the images you will be seeing in the “Best of 2010″ wallpaper collection have already been posted earlier last year. Enjoy!

Colorado National Monument

1) Colorado National Monument 1920×1200 Widescreen Wallpaper

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