|1) Abstracts Assignment Winner
Photographer: Dean Cobin
Equipment: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM, polarizer, Induro tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-50 ballhead
Harriman State Park is one of the premier locations for landscape photography in New York State, and it's simply spectacular in the fall, with its abundance of sugar maple and oak trees in vibrant shades of red, orange and gold. The lakes also are filled with water lilies, which turn beautiful shades of green and purple. Spending many fall mornings and evenings tracking the light in the park, I often had noticed the amazing reflective color coming off the surface of the lakes. This gave me the idea to combine that reflective color with the lily pads for an abstract image. In October 2012, after trying several focal lengths, I concluded closer was better. I used a 400mm lens to capture an interesting group of lilies floating in pools of gold created by the reflective light coming off a grove of maple trees. Abstract realism is something I'm always on the lookout for in my photography.
In the late spring and early summer, we ran an eclectic mix of Assignments, including Abstracts, Wide-Angle, Wildflowers and Brooks, Streams & Rivers. The best photos from each of those categories is featured in this issue of OP. You can see all of the submissions in the Assignments Galleries. Send your ideas for future Assignments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor
2) Wide-Angle Assignment Winner
Photographer: Harry Lichtman
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II, Manfrotto tripod
I had made several trips to the Wagon Hill Farm Conservation Area in Durham, N.H., this past spring as various wildflowers came into bloom. The variety of flowers and the ability to shoot in all directions made this a great choice for adding to my wildflower and local collection. The weather forecast on this morning in June was for a chance of showers followed by rain. Luckily, the heavy rain held off, though raindrops were falling at the time of this shot. Great skies often coincide with unsettled weather, so I didn't let the forecast deter me. The ability to react to changing weather and floral conditions was critical in pulling off this shot. I did use some advanced capture and postprocessing to create the finished vision I had for the scene. For the "in-your-face" perspective and depth that a superwide-angle lens affords, I moved as close to the nearest flower as the lens would focus. I quickly took several exposures at ƒ/16 at ISO 100 at increasingly distant focal lengths to combine in post for infinite depth of field. My last two exposures for the sky preserved the dynamic range. I converted each image in Adobe Camera Raw, optimized each in Photoshop CS6, then used the Auto Align feature in CS6 to align all of the focal slices of the flowers and field. The sky was manually blended into the flower and field portion of the image using layers.
3) Wildflowers Assignment Winner
Photographer: Lindsay Daniels
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5 II, Gitzo tripod, Kirk BH-3 ballhead
Every July, wildflowers carpet Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City, Utah. I had explored the area and found that this spot had the most wildflower coverage and the best view of Devil's Castle in the background. But at this specific spot last year, there were several family and wedding photographers working in the area. It was about half an hour before sunset, and I was afraid I would have an inadvertent family sitting in the corner of my frame. I decided to wait it out and be patient. After all, patience is the key to landscape photography. By the time the real magic happened, everyone had left, and I was rewarded with some great pink light and a field of yellow sunflowers all to myself. My postprocessing consisted of focus-blending techniques in Photoshop and fixing tone and sharpening in Lightroom.
4) Brooks, Streams & Rivers Assignment Winner
Photographer: Joe Rossi
Equipment: Nikon D600, AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm ƒ/2.8D IF-ED, Manfrotto tripod
I was at Yellowstone National Park in June 2014 to photograph a half-marathon. It has become tradition that one of the nights before a race, we get out and do a bit of night photography, this time in bear country! This particular trip found us driving through the West Gate and into the park at about midnight. We had failed to scout the location prior to showing up and we spent the better part of an hour shooting from a viewpoint from which you couldn't see the falls. You could hear the falls and you could make out parts of the river in the distance, but it wasn't until you had a good exposure that you knew you hadn't captured the actual falls. We relocated and shortly I was able to frame the shot I had in mind. It was windy, and I was really pleased with the way the moon helped to illuminate the clouds as they moved through the sky. Luckily, we avoided any bears, and at around 4 a.m., we decided we had enough and made for the hotel.