Photo: Singin' the Blues

Low light photography in beautiful places.

Iceland was incredibly beautiful... and one of my very favorite locations was this gorgeous beach at Jökulsárlón. I think you can see why. I would have liked to spend far more time shooting these small icebergs. I guess we'll just have to go back for another trip!

We have a long story to tell about our trip to Iceland - and a difficult and painful morning spent on this beach. We've decided to put it all on our blog. You can check out the first installment of our trip report here:

http://www.photographybyvarina.com/photography/blog/iceland-day-1

Anyway - the challenges for this shot included wind and rain, keeping the tripod still as the waves pulled at it and shifted the sand underneath, and getting a shot before the iceberg floated away!

I shoved the legs of my tripod deep into the sand to steady it and chose a 30 second exposure. It was getting dark at this point, but I was happy with that. I wanted a very long exposure to smooth the water behind the iceberg. My goal was to make sure the ice in the foreground stood out as much as possible against a simplified background. The long shutter speed removed any details from the waves, leaving me with a clean backdrop for my giant ice cube.

The intense blue is a result of the long exposure, the extremely low light, the overcast skies, and careful post processing.

Well - what do you think? Did I oversimplify this shot? Or do you like the effect of the long shutter speed?

I really can't wait to get to Iceland again!
Photo:
Photo: *Photographing Reflected Light: "House on Fire" Anasazi Ruins"

#Photography #PhotographyTips 

+Jay Patel and I are back from Utah. Got in around 1am, and we were up at 5:45 this morning. Ugh. :) I'm going to fall asleep with my head on my keyboard pretty soon here. But, who's complaining? This trip was phenomenal.

This is a shot from the "House on Fire" Ruins in Mule Canyon. The sun was high in the sky when we arrived, but the ruins are in shade under a shelf of rock. The stone structures are incredible all by themselves, but when the harsh mid-day light reflects off the sandstone at your feet, it makes the ceiling glow with a brilliant light. That's what we were after. And we got it.

We've seen this effect in countless canyons. The light bounces off one wall onto another, and the reflected light makes the canyon glow. Here, though, the unusual patterns on the ceiling add a whole different dimension to the photo.

I used a wide-angle lens to get as much of the ceiling in the shot as possible. The lens adds a bit of distortion - which also adds some depth to the image. For this shot, I turned the camera at an angle to remove the foreground rocks and help simplify the photo. Post-processing was minimal. I used the default "shade" white balance in Photoshop - and brightened up the ruins by about a third of a stop. I left the "flames" alone.

Who's been here? I found out this morning (too late) that there are hand-prints in an alcove nearby! I was in that alcove, but didn't see them. Darn! I guess I'll just have to go back! Anyway - if you haven't been, it's an easy hike and worth a trip. Definitely!
Photo: Pay attention to ME!

Tips for making a single element stand out in your photographs. ;)

When you shoot, do you take a moment to consider the most important element in your photograph? For this shot, I wanted to get in really close - and show off the beautiful, reflective droplets clinging to the leaf. I also wanted a very clear point of interest. So, I started looking for a single element that would work well for me. This little droplet was perfect. It stands out because it is much larger than the other droplets, and because it breaks the line that runs through the lower third of the image - between the leaf and the background.

Here are a few tips for isolating a single element for impact.

1. You can blur the background to allow sharply focus foreground objects stand out. Blurring the background will also help obscure potentially distracting elements, which can pull the eye away from your point of interest.

2. Look for contrast. In this case I'm using contrast of size. The large drop stands out because it is so much larger than all those little ones. You can also use contrast of shape, color, tone, and so on.

3. Break the pattern. All those tiny little droplets make a pattern in this photograph - but I've broken that pattern. Twice. First, I positioned the leaf so that it's edge cuts through the lower third of the photo. That brings your eye to the lower area right away. And then, just to be sure I have you where I want you, I've broken the pattern again by including the large droplet in the frame.

What techniques do you use to help isolate a single element within the frame? There are thousands of ways to do this. I always enjoy the challenge.

#phototips   #photographytips   #nature   #minimalism  
Photo: Do you Think before you Shoot?

Aspens in Marble, Colorado

I love aspens. Who doesn't? But if you've tried to photograph them, maybe you know that getting a shot you really like isn't as easy as you think it's going to be. You pull out your camera in front of all that golden glory, and the resulting image just doesn't do the scene justice. So, how do you go about getting the shot you want?

Start by thinking about the most important element in your image. What are you trying to show? Is it the sweeping landscape? The beautiful mountainside? Or is the most important element of the image the colors themselves? In this case, I really wanted to show off the details on the trunks of the trees - but I also wanted to make sure that the colors were an important part of the photo. And I am almost always looking for a minimalist composition - so of course, that was part of my planning.

The first step was to find the right aspen glen. :) I know - that seems kind of obvious... but the thing is, it isn't that easy. Notice that there's no bright sunlight coming through those leaves. And notice that you can't see the base of the trees, the ground, or any canopy or sky. Those are important details. The elements you don't include in a photo are just as important in the planning process as the things you do include.

I needed a high vantage point with trees growing below me. Standing on the forest floor would put me too low - I'd end up with ground in the photo if I pointed my camera downward or even straight ahead. And I'd end up with sky in the photo - and distortion - if I angled the lens upward. No good. When we drove past this glen, I knew we were in the right place. The road was high enough, and the bases of the trees were low enough. And behind my scene was a vast mountain that blocked my view of the sky. Perfect.

The next step was to find the right tree for my "point of interest". I walked up and down the road searching for the best one - but each time, there was something distracting behind. A trunk that tilted at an odd angle - calling attention to itself. A broken branch. Too much white trunk behind and not enough golden color. And often, trees that were too close to let just one stand out on its own. This tree was just right - but only if I stood in just the right place. There's actually a dead trunk just behind this one, but I chose an angle that hides it. No distracting elements allowed. :)

We were in this spot for about 20 minutes, and I have just one image to show for it. But it's the photo I wanted.

When I finally found my composition, I took a few shots to decide how much depth of field I wanted. I chose an aperture (f/4) that would allow me to smooth the details in the background as much as possible - while keeping the tree in the foreground nice and sharp.

The most important step in post-processing was getting the color balance just right. A slight color cast would be enough to leave the whole image feeling dull.

So, there you go. That's what was going on in my head while I was taking this shot. What do you think? Would you have done things differently?

#photographytips   #photohowto  
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*Photographing Reflected Light: "House on Fire" Anasazi Ruins"

#Photography #PhotographyTips

+Jay Patel and I are back from Utah. Got in around 1am, and we were up at 5:45 this morning. Ugh. :) I'm going to fall asleep with my head on my keyboard pretty soon here. But, who's complaining? This trip was phenomenal.

This is a shot from the "House on Fire" Ruins in Mule Canyon. The sun was high in the sky when we arrived, but the ruins are in shade under a shelf of rock. The stone structures are incredible all by themselves, but when the harsh mid-day light reflects off the sandstone at your feet, it makes the ceiling glow with a brilliant light. That's what we were after. And we got it.

We've seen this effect in countless canyons. The light bounces off one wall onto another, and the reflected light makes the canyon glow. Here, though, the unusual patterns on the ceiling add a whole different dimension to the photo.

I used a wide-angle lens to get as much of the ceiling in the shot as possible. The lens adds a bit of distortion - which also adds some depth to the image. For this shot, I turned the camera at an angle to remove the foreground rocks and help simplify the photo. Post-processing was minimal. I used the default "shade" white balance in Photoshop - and brightened up the ruins by about a third of a stop. I left the "flames" alone.

Who's been here? I found out this morning (too late) that there are hand-prints in an alcove nearby! I was in that alcove, but didn't see them. Darn! I guess I'll just have to go back! Anyway - if you haven't been, it's an easy hike and worth a trip. Definitely!

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