Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Autumn In Alaska
Tips from the Field, Denali National Park, August 2010
Expand Your Creative Approach
In my seminars, I often remark that you need to understand and apply techniques that can solve problems and improve your capture—and free your creative vision—before you find yourself facing a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. The era of digital offers remarkable, almost magic, solutions to photographic problems that have plagued photographers from the early days of the craft, but often these techniques must be applied while still in the field. Examples are High Dynamic Range (HDR) to control contrast, Extended Depth of Field (EDF) and panoramas to expand the view.
In Denali, the landscapes often have a contrast range that’s impossible to capture in one image. There’s a magnificent mountain, white as the driven snow, dominating the scene. At its base are bands of dark, rocky foothills, and the foreground is a combination of dark spruce forest and colorful tundra. Did I mention the brilliant sky and/or bright clouds? To hold detail where it’s needed, it’s often necessary to use HDR, capturing a minimum of three exposures in one- to two-stop increments. I frequently encounter photographers who despise HDR for its overdone and grungy creative effects, but in fact, HDR is a tool that can help us to convey the natural and true qualities of light and tone in nature. Think of it as a tool, not an effect.
Denali’s landscapes are vast, and you want to get it all sharp, from the dried grasses in the foreground to the mountains in the distance. Stop way down to ƒ/22 and you lose sharpness due to diffraction. One answer is the tilt/shift (T/S) lens, which uses the depth of field you have more effectively, by tilting the front element of the lens, and the plane of sharpness, along the plane of the subject. For motionless scenes and subjects, capture multiple images from a tripod, overlapping the focus in the series, and later combining the layers using either Helicon Focus or Adobe Photoshop CS5 software. The extended focus techniques are especially useful with macro subjects, such as berries or tiny lichen on the tundra.
Panoramas extend the view either horizontally or vertically and can help you get undistorted ultra-wide-angle images when you can’t get far enough away to get it all with a normal lens. The small amount of extra effort yields images of superior quality and unique perspective that hold up in large prints. Face it, a small, low-res, cropped print of Mount McKinley at sunrise with Wonder Lake in the foreground just doesn’t do justice to the miracle you’re viewing, especially when you’ve been waiting for a week—or even all your life—to photograph The Mountain.
For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.
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