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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Local Knowledge

Knowing a location well can get you into the right place at the right time

Labels: How-ToOn LandscapeColumn

This Article Features Photo Zoom

on landscape
Oaks near Yosemite Valley, California.
I’ve said it before, and I’m here to say it again. Get to know a landscape! Get to know your landscape, a favorite location where you can return often in all kinds of light and weather and season. Hopefully, this will be a place nearby where, by looking out the window and checking the weather, you can best anticipate the chances of good conditions. If you want to become a better landscape photographer, study a favorite location.

Sure, traveling to new or popular places is great fun. It’s energizing to explore the deserts of the Southwest after a long winter on the East Coast or wander in the glorious, autumn forests of New England, but there’s no substitution for immersing oneself in one, or even a few, special landscapes.

As I’ve written here and in my photoblog, I’ve been creating a body of images that were taken around my home here in the Sierra. Of course, I’m so lucky to live here, and so close to Yosemite itself. When at home, I often can find good opportunities.

The tree photo shown here provides a good example. Last spring, I watched the valley oaks in my front yard as the leaves began to open. I watched the lighting and waited until the leaves and their glorious spring green showed clearly. I just happened to have a new lens from Canon, the 16-35mm L series lens, which would allow me to capture the full breadth of the oak’s spreading branches.

Since I can see this tree from my office window, I selected a day with blue sky to contrast against the green leaves. I set up my camera when the sun was high in the sky, but behind the tree for a strong backlit effect. Compositionally, I was already familiar with the image design I wanted since I’ve photographed from the same position before, especially for winter sunsets.


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