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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be A Modern Ansel Adams

Top tips to create high-drama landscapes

This Article Features Photo Zoom
4 Clouds And Dark Skies. On a day when the atmosphere is alive with activity, take advantage of it. While this seems obvious, many nature shooters come up short on a day with great clouds because they don't complete the shot. In Yosemite Falls And Thunder Clouds, Adams used booming storm clouds as an element in the frame. He completed the image by composing the clouds into a scene of the falls and by making the blue sky behind the clouds dark. Whether you're working in color or black-and-white, darkening a sky is one of the best ways to add drama to a landscape. In many of his most famous photographs, Adams renders skies almost completely black through a combination of filtration and darkroom technique. With a digital camera, it's best to shoot everything in color and convert to black-and-white in the computer. If you know you're going to do that, using the classic yellow, orange and red filters that Adams used with black-and-white film is still a good idea. Red will have the most dramatic effect, but it also can kill cloud detail. Yellow will have the least effect on the blue sky; orange is somewhere in between. If you're not planning on converting to black-and-white, a polarizer is the best tool for darkening the sky at capture. The more you do to create an effect in the field, the less time you need to spend at the computer. Adams was adept at dodging and burning, but he still made extensive use of filters when shooting.

5 I Look For Light Vs. Shadow. As the sun rises up or sets, watch the interplay of light and shadow. In this example, the sunlit top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park stands out dramatically from the cool, shaded valley and the blue sky. Scenes like this are much easier to create with digital cameras than they had been with film because digital lets you keep the shaded areas from going too dark.

6 Seek Bold Color Opposites For Drama. Adams is primarily known for black-and-white photography, but if you prefer color, you can still put his techniques to use. Where he used contrast, you can use color contrast by shooting color opposites. Think of the color wheel with red at the top, green on the lower right and blue on the lower left. Yellow hues would be roughly opposite the violets and blues, magenta is roughly opposite the greens, and cyan is roughly opposite the reds. For dramatic color contrast, look for these color opposites and frame accordingly. In this photograph, the bold yellow aspens contrast with the azure sky and dark green conifers.

7 Shoot The Moon. Adams often included the moon in his photographs, most famously in Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. In addition to adding a point of visual interest, as in this image taken at Mono Lake, the moon lends cosmic perspective to a scene. The trick is having a moon in the shot and not having a textureless white disc. To get the exposure right, use this simple rule: Take the reciprocal of your ISO and ƒ/8. If you're set at ISO 400, make your shutter speed 1⁄400 sec. (bracket at 1⁄320 and 1⁄500 sec.) at ƒ/8. Adjust this basic exposure for depth of field or handholding as necessary.

8 Print Big For Big Drama. Size always makes an impact. In his darkroom, Adams made prints large and small, but he made frequent use of an enlarger that was built on tracks so he could make especially big enlargements by projecting the negative to a piece of paper on the wall. Today, high-quality inkjet printers give you the ability to make big 16x20-inch and larger prints. A dramatic photograph looks best in a big print. It's really that simple.


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