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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Great American Midwest

Tips for getting exciting and dramatic imagery from the prairies and woodlands of the central United States

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Tip 3) Look For The Intimate Landscape.
You’ll have to learn to look for intimate landscapes. This is probably the most important tip that I can give you. The Midwest is choked with skyscrapers, strip malls, farms and subdivisions. With this come power lines, cell towers and other incidences of technology and civilization. Airplane traffic is a killer. Ansel Adams certainly didn’t make any images of the grand landscape of the Midwest, and you won’t find the petrified tripod holes that are common in the national parks and great western landscapes. Most midwestern landscapes are subtle and found in small pockets.

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I recently photographed a small jewel of a prairie right next to a Dunkin’ Donuts. Thus, photographing in the Midwest usually requires shooting closer scenes, close-ups and midrange scenes because the horizon lacks exciting backgrounds. Eliot Porter has a marvelous old book titled Intimate Landscapes. Check it out of the library and study it. I rarely include the sky in any of my midwestern photographs.

Tip 4)
Photograph In Overcast Light.
As mentioned above, one of the ecosystems of the Midwest is the forest. Since there’s so much forest shooting in the Midwest, one needs to know how to photograph in overcast light to make the subject matter look good. Photographing the forest in sunlight generally leads to poor photographs because of the distracting hot spots and shadows. Autumn color and wildflowers look best in subdued, even light. So when the sky is gray and the wind is low, get out to the forests. Even more importantly, get to the forest in a light drizzle. The colors will glimmer and pop!


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