Tuesday, January 1, 2008
A Photographer's Treasure Map
Discover your best outdoor photographs when you learn to use topographic maps
Next, try to pair those prominent features with potential foregrounds like lakes, rivers, interesting rock formations or open meadows. Then figure out where the sun will be at different times of the year based on latitude and mentally overlay it on the map. It’s possible, with practice, to visualize which season, time of day and location are right for the quality of light that works best for potential compositions found on a map.
"I always have a compass clipped to my photo vest to help me calculate where the sun will be rising and setting on any day of the year," Larry says. "You have to know that to be ready when the right light arrives. Being aware of the arc the sun makes across the sky each day is fundamental to knowing where your light source will be and whether potential foregrounds will work and at what time of the day. This is one of the hardest concepts to teach because it’s an interwoven mixture of science and chance.
Larry had envisioned a shot of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak a month earlier when looking at a topo map of the Sierra Nevada. He picked July to backpack into the Ansel Adams Wilderness to get the shot. He explains how he came up with that time of year to shoot.
The important thing is not to guess, but to know where the sun is going to be at any time during your photographic day.
It had taken us a hard day of hiking to reach Thousand Island Lake, where we set up camp because we wanted to spend the morning shooting there. The three tarns, though off the trail, were easy to find. As predicted, the angles lined up perfectly. As an added bonus, we discovered something we couldn’t have seen on the map: lupine and paintbrush adorned a very green and lush meadow along the shoreline of one of them, and the western horizon was clear. Tripod locked, camera focused—the last evening light flushed across the foreground, lit up the peaks and the film was exposed. Photo paradise!
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