5) Intense, dynamic shots like this don't come from shooting in a parking turnout along the side of the road. Using a wide-angle 12-24mm lens on his DSLR, Joseph Rossbach scrambled along the edge of the Potomac River trying a variety of compositions. He adhered to the mantra "If you think you're close enough, get closer." The strong triangular rock in the foreground creates a dramatic focal point that leads the viewer through the frame to the cloud formations in the sky. Using the wide-angle perspective and getting low and close to the rock gives the whole shot depth. Once he had his ideal composition, Rossbach set up the camera on a tripod, hooked up a cable release and waited for the sky to get just right. He used a slow shutter speed to blur the rushing water. Great Falls National Park, Virginia Nikon D300, AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm ƒ/4G IF-ED, Singh-Ray 3-stop ND grad filter, Singh-Ray LB polarizer, Gitzo tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead
The Importance Of Stability
You've heard it a million times: Use a tripod. Using a tripod is the single easiest thing you can do to improve your images for several reasons. It forces you to slow down, it anchors the camera to ensure sharpness, and it lets you set up the camera in preparation for conditions to become just right. For making the sort of intense landscapes we talk about in this article, a tripod is particularly important.
Keep ISO Low
When you want some extra punch to your colors, you need to select a low ISO. High ISOs reduce color saturation and increase noise. To maintain that low ISO, you often need to shoot at a slower shutter speed, and if you're trying to handhold, this is a recipe for blurry, soft images. With a tripod, you can use slower shutter speeds with confidence. If you're shooting around 1⁄30 to 1⁄8 sec., take an extra step by using the mirror lockup to prevent the vibration from the flipping mirror from inducing motion blur.
Show Dynamic Moving Water
In three of the photographs in this article, the water has been allowed to blur slightly to convey the sense of its movement. This technique often makes for much more dynamic images than freezing the water with a high shutter speed. Again, the tripod is a necessity for creating this effect. Also, because the tripod gives you a firm platform, you can experiment with different shutter speeds to get exactly the look that you want while maintaining the same composition from frame to frame.
HDR And Your Tripod
To get the best results from HDR software, you need to have multiple images at varying exposures that can be combined to form the HDR image. These bracketed exposures, usually at different shutter speeds, need to register properly, and they all need to be sharp. A tripod is an integral part of HDR work if you want to get the best final photo.
The Importance Of Filters
Even in the age of Photoshop and other powerful software solutions, using filters in the field gives you excellent results. A polarizer is a standard item for any nature shooter. Other specialty filters like the B+W Redhancer shown here can add intensity to an image by boosting the reds in the shot. It's not perfect for every scene, but it's a nice tool to have in your bag for special situations when you want to add a little something extra to the image.