Assignments: March 2015

Winning Images From The Weekly Assignments At outdoorphotographer.com

1) First Snowfall Assignment Winner
Photographer: Harry Lichtman
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS, Gitzo Tripod

Finding the combination of vibrant fall foliage and snow seems to be more unpredictable in New Hampshire than out West. Often, the leaves in New Hampshire’s White Mountains have browned or fallen by the time of the first snow. On this occasion, I was in a great place for the season’s first snow and used the harsh conditions to my advantage. The wind and blowing snow limited me to this type of image, but it was a refreshing change for me from the standard wide-angle shots so tempting in fall foliage landscapes under clear conditions. The sun was occasionally reaching the trees through the clouds, so I tried to find a location perpendicular to the blowing snow that would allow some side-or backlighting of the trees and snow. In this way, the snow would be more prominent in the image.

After some hiking, I settled on this composition. Finding a suitable mix of colorful trees and darker evergreens that would be backlit was harder than it might seem. The darker trees were best at contrasting the blowing snow and made it more visible in the image. I experimented with various shutter speeds to create the streaking effect of the snow. I tried to find a balanced grouping of trees, and used the color and textural contrast to create a visually dynamic scene.

In this issue, we’re featuring the winners of our late autumn and early winter Assignments. Congratulations to Kevin King, Harry Lichtman and Kevin Russell for their winning submissions. A new Assignment is posted every week at outdoorphotographer.com. To get your images into the running, all you have to do is submit. Sign up for our eNewsletters to get updates, and if you have an idea for an Assignment topic, you can find me on Twitter @OPRobinson.

2) Winter Quiet Assignment Winner
Photographer: Kevin Russell
Equipment: Nikon D7000, Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens, Manfrotto tripod

I have a friend that lives a little closer to Tipsoo Lake at Mount Rainier National Park. He mentioned he was going up there to shoot stars and asked if I’d like to join in. I’m glad I went along and grateful he asked. It was a balmy 20 degrees out, but we had fun shooting various compositions under the stars at upper and lower Tipsoo Lakes that night. This was taken while straddling a small stream that feeds into the lake. This location is shot frequently by photographers, and I usually avoid places like that, but I’m happy I walked away with something unique from there. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be back during better weather.

As for processing, I combined two of the same images shot at different settings. For the sky, I used an image that was shot at 30 secs., ƒ/4, ISO 3200, 10mm. For the rest, I used the image shot at 4.5 minutes, ƒ/4, ISO 400, 10mm. I blended the two with a layers mask. I get a cleaner, less noisy foreground by taking the image twice at different settings and blending.

3) Autumn Sunset Assignment Winner
Photographer: Kevin King
Equipment: Nikon D800E, Nikkor 16-35mm ƒ/4 lens, Gitzo 3541LS Carbon Fiber tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead

Lindy Point overlook at the Blackwater Falls State Park, WV, is well known as a good location for sunset shots. I had visited this spot on several previous occasions and had always been skunked with clear skies and poor light. When I pulled up to the parking lot this particular fall evening, I was afraid I wouldn’t get a spot to set up as the lot was overflowing. It turns out that Joseph Rossbach was conducting a workshop that day, and his group was already there when I arrived.

Fortunately, the spot where I was looking to set up necessitates a jump over a small chasm, which generally discourages most people and, sure enough, even though the main overlook area was crowded with people, there was no one in the spot that I wanted. I set up and was soon rewarded with the best light that I had ever seen here. The combination of the autumn foliage and colorful skies made for a great evening; you could feel the excitement as the skies continually changed colors as the sun set. It was a great evening, and I was fortunate to be able to capture a small portion of it with the camera.