Shallow Isn’t Always Bad!

When it comes to photos and Depth of Field (DoF), shallow is sometimes the way to go. A shallower DoF can sometime enhance a photo and make it look better. If you are looking to put the focus on a single subject where there are other potential subjects in the frame to steal the spot light, then the best way to do that is to throw everything else out of focus so the viewer is drawn to what you want the main subject to be.


If you look at this photo for instance, shot at f/13, it may be easy to see that the mushroom on the far left of the frame is the main subject, but there are so many other elements in this photo that seem a little distracting. You could easily add some blur in post processing if you wanted to but I don’t think it would look the same as just opening up the aperture a bit more to get a shallower DoF.


For this next photo I opened up the aperture to f/5.6 and you can immediately see the difference. When I look at each photo, the second one seems less distracting to me. I am not as drawn to the background because the trees are more out of focus and another thing that I notice is that I’m not distracted as much by the log as I move to the right of the frame. When looking at the first photo I find myself going all over the photo and have a hard time trying to find a single place to rest my eyes. With the second photo I am drawn more to the mushroom on the left side and my eye wonders along the log towards the right but then I’m always drawn back to the mushroom.

The one thing I wanted to do with this photo was to show the environment in which the mushroom lives in with its surroundings without taking away from the main element, that one mushroom. I think by creating a shallower DoF I was able to accomplish that while still making the photo interesting. This is also something that I believe separates your typical snapshots from the better looking photos. I know this isn’t the best example but yet shows how a normal everyday scene in the woods can be transformed by just changing one setting on the camera. Well, technically two because when the aperture is changed the shutter speed needs to also be changed to maintain the same exposure, but you get the point.

And for those that may not have seen the macro shot I got of the mushroom:



Light, Light, and More Light!

Water is essential to life as light is essential to photography. Ever look at a completely black photo and think “That is the best photo I’ve ever seen!”. Didn’t think so. If you wanted to see that all you need to do is cover your eyes to block out all light and you’d have your “photo”. Or you can just look up the meaning of “photography” and find out that it is “drawing with light”. Of course you all know that so why bring it up? Because light can actually make or break a photo. Light can have very subtle or very powering effects depending on the way you use it. There are all different types of light, but in order to create a photograph, you only need just one of them, or a combination of them.

Shining Down - Color

I will admit that it is much easier to create stunning photos during the blue hour or golden hour, but that doesn’t really help you understand light in its entirety. It’s easy to go out and view a sunrise or sunset and see a great scene before you, compose your shot, and snap a photo. Many people, especially friends and family, will think you are a great photographer. Now go to that same spot in the middle of the day and get a shot that gets the same reaction. It’s quite difficult. But it’s possible if you know how to use the light at the moment to your advantage.


I don’t have the luxury to get out and shoot at the best times so I’ve learned how to use different lighting situations when they come. Give me a bright sunny day and I’ll find something to photograph. Give me a cloudy day and I’ll find other things to photograph. Give me a partly cloudy day and again I’ll find things to photograph. I’ve forced myself to get out when I can no matter what the lighting is like and used my creativity to find things to shoot that turn out nice. Sometimes I’ll experiment and nothing comes out but that’s still learning how light works and what not to do with certain lighting. The two photos above alone with the one below were all shot during non-sunrise/sunset hours and I think they turned out nice.


At some point during my photographic journey with experimenting with light I came across a set of acorns. I decided to photograph them to experiment a bit. Then I left them. Some weeks later I found myself in the same place and the acorns were still there. The season had changed and the lighting was different so I decided to experiment more with them and left them again. Then sometime later I was at the same spot and they were still there. I took this as a sign so decided to just put them in with my camera and now I have them everywhere I go. Because of this I’ve been using them in different situations and they have been helping me understand how to use light in order to get different effects whether I knew about it or not. I’ve also learned some things I never knew before. Why acorns? Because I find that they make a nice subject to shoot. Pretty much anything that makes a good subject would work, but I wanted something that is found in nature naturally, not placed there by man.


These two photos were taken during the middle of the day. I was walking around with my oldest daughter and this was the first time we came across the acorns. I thought they would make a nice subject as I was having a hard time finding anything to shoot. I think they worked out quite nicely. Of course they were on the ground so I was able to move them around to place them in a nice spot to work with the lighting, but it’s because I knew what I wanted that I was able to do that.


This photo was also taken during the middle of the day. I decided to place them in a place where there were shadows but yet had some light shining on them. This allowed me to get the look I was going for to get a somewhat of a low key photo with bright portions. I like the way it worked out as the light from the left of the frame looks as though it is shining on the acorns with the glare that is coming off of them. This would have been easier with an off camera flash possibly but at the time I didn’t have one and the sun worked out nicely.

DSC_3650 DSC_3641

These two photos were taken around sunset as I wanted the the angle of the sun to be lower to get the proper lighting. Now that I have a flash though I won’t need to wait for the sun anymore and can get shots like this whenever I want. Other than working with light in this manner one other thing I learned is when nature provides you with a specific composition it is nice. But when coming up with your own composition it can become a little difficult as nature is more random where some of us tend to have a hard time at placing objects more randomly. This is especially true for those of us who like to see things in order or want more symmetry.


This photo was of course taken during a sunset. You wouldn’t shoot the sun directly like this in the middle of the day due to it being much brighter and a possibility of causing harm to your eye and possibly your sensor as well. But I did learn how the sun can be used to take photos like this. I would have never found this out if I didn’t experiment and this also makes me want to see about getting a round diffuser for my flash and seeing if I could possibly mimic the look.


For this shot I decided to put the acorns on a wooden post during a sunset to see what I could get. I also wanted more angled light as well for this shot so waited until the sun was down low. The color helped out as well. But again like the previous shots of the acorns in the snow, I’ll be able to use my flash to replicate shots like this as well which will be very helpful. I’ll be getting some gels for my flash as well in order to mimic the sunset/sunrise colors as well as seeing what I can create with different colors.

DSC_3872-2 DSC_3872

And last but not least are these two shots that I did right after getting my flash. These were taken on my dining room table and because of the results I was able to get with this setup I know that I’ll be able to get some great photos when I’m working in the field no matter what the lighting conditions are.

So the next time you are able to get out don’t let it discourage you that it is cloudy or sunny or that the sunrise/sunset is going to be an overcast one. Learn how to work with what you have. Use the current lighting to your advantage. Don’t expect anything and go out with a clear mind and be ready for whatever situation that you are in. For landscape photography you can’t always choose what you get to work with. Light is something that is always changing and we need to know how to work with it as photographers. As I continue to explore new places and re-visit old places I plan to continue to learn about and work with different lighting situations. I believe that by doing this it doesn’t matter what the weather is like when I travel and visit other places, I’ll be able to work with what I have at that moment.

Why Shoot in Manual Mode?

Shooting in Manual Mode

Cameras contain all these different settings so why shoot in Manual Mode? What’s the point? Why not just set the camera to the proper pre-defined built in scene mode to shoot what I want? Many of us have different reasons why we shoot with the settings we do. But when it comes down to it, the different settings only change three different values in the camera. Aperture. Shutter Speed. ISO. The Exposure Triangle. What do Triangles have to do with taking photos? Absolutely nothing unless you are taking photos of triangles. But Exposure has everything to do with taking photos.


So lets get down to the basics. I don’t have all the fancy graphs that can visually show you everything, but I can sure try to explain. Lets start with Shutter Speed. It seems to me to be the easiest to explain. Shutter Speed controls how long the sensor/film is exposed to create the photo. When wanting to shoot a fast subject, you need fast Shutter Speed. If you want long exposures, you need a slower Shutter Speed. The longer the shutter is open then the more time light has to hit the sensor/film. In darker situations you need more time for the sensor to capture the photo. In brighter situations you don’t need as much time.


Now on to Aperture. Aperture is what is used in order to control how much light hits the sensor/film. It is also used to help with creating more or less depth of field in your photos. Aperture I think is the most confusing piece of the puzzle, or triangle in this case. The smaller the number (f/1.8) the larger the Aperture. The larger the number (f/18) the smaller the Aperture. I know it seems a little backwards but that’s just the way it works. Larger Apertures (f/1.8) will allow more light to hit the sensor/film which also allow for a more shallow depth of field photo. To not make this more confusing I won’t get into how focal lengths play into this role but if you are testing this on a wide angle lens, you might not notice much of a difference. You also need to keep into consideration the distance from the subject in focus as well, but that’s a whole other topic that we can cover later. Now where were we… Yes, Apertures. Smaller Apertures (f/18) give you a greater depth of field. This is more useful for a lot of landscape photos where you want a lot in focus throughout the frame. Below are example photos of using a large Aperture and a small Aperture.

Awaiting Growth

Large Aperture = Shallow Depth of Field (DoF) = Less in Focus

Snow Covered

Small Aperture = Greater Depth of Field (DoF) = More in Focus



Now to the last part of the triangle. ISO. This is one setting that I rarely change but it is useful in some situations. What ISO does is change the sensitivity of the sensor. For those of you who shoot film or remember when you did shoot film, you may remember that film always had a number associated with it. But for film it was more commonly known as ASA but in layman’s terms this equates to the speed of the film, or how sensitive it was to light. So what does this all mean for exposure? It means that you can take photos in low light situations without needing to sacrifice the other settings. That sounds awesome because you could just set your Aperture and Shutter Speed to whatever you want and just adjust the ISO to get the correct exposure! But at a price of course! There’s always a sacrifice somewhere and here it is noise or grain for those film critics. The higher the ISO number the more noise/grain is introduced into your photo. Newer cameras are better at higher ISOs but for those of us who care about the best photo quality you could possibly get, the lower the ISO the better your photo will look.


Now that we have all this triangle business done I hope you are still with me. Getting the three to work together comes into play of how the Exposure Triangle works. Think of it as a an equilateral triangle with three equal sides. One side is Shutter Speed, one side is Aperture and the last side is ISO. The triangle in its entirety is your exposure. The goal is to keep all the sides of the triangle the same length. If you change your Aperture, then imagine that the Aperture side of the triangle changes. You then need to change your Shutter Speed and/or ISO to equalize the triangle again. Sorry if it is confusing about talking about triangles when photography is on the mind.

Vibrant Reflections

Lets take this approach. If you change your Aperture by one stop, lets say from f/1.8 to f/2.5 then that would decrease the amount of light hitting the sensor by one stop. In order to make sure that you maintain the proper exposure that you want, you will then need to adjust the Shutter Speed or ISO counter against that. If you adjust the Shutter Speed you would need to slow it down by one stop. Lets say you are shooting at 1/400 of a second. To allow one more stop of light to hit the sensor you would need to change the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second.  If you decide to change the sensitivity of your sensor to allow for one more stop of light then you would change the ISO from 100 to 200 for instance. I’m not going to go through all possible scenarios but the essence here is that if you change the setting for one then you must change the setting for another if you want to maintain the current exposure.

Peaceful Reflections

So what does all of this have to do with why you would want to shoot in manual mode? It doesn’t really have any reason why you would want to shoot in manual mode. It’s all confusing mumble jumbo and doesn’t equate to specific reason why. But it does give you an idea of how these things work so you understand how to shoot in manual mode. So now that we have all that knowledge under our belt, it’s time to understand the why which is the whole point of this post. To be more honest though, I’m not going to tell you why YOU should shoot in manual mode, but more why I shoot in manual mode and it may help you make a decision whether or not you would like to or not.

Flowing Down

If I’m shooting something with tricky lighting and want a specific exposure to get a specific look, then I don’t want the camera changing exposure values on me all the time which would make it more difficult to get the shot I want. For the below shot I wanted to expose off the sunrise but focus on the grass. Since the camera will expose off either the entire scene or based on where the focus point is, neither would have gotten me the results I wanted. Now I know I could of used exposure compensation but if I would have forgotten to reset that, then my next photo may have been too underexposed.

Asymmetrical Symmetry

A disclaimer about this next photo was that it was shot with a flash but the same principles apply. I wanted to allow the light to hit as little of the frame as I could as possible which meant using the fastest shutter speed I could with a flash and I also wanted to control the Aperture so the Depth of Field was the way I wanted it to be. I would say that without manual mode this shot would not have happened because the camera had no idea what kind of shot I was looking for.


This next shot would have been very tricky without manual mode because the light was constantly shifting due to a sunrise. The light was changing constantly which would have affected my exposure causing different values each time I pressed the shutter button. Because I was shooting in manual I was able to find the proper exposure after I got a nice composition easier.

Behind the Falls

Long exposure shots are primarily why I learned how to shoot manual. These shots are nearly impossible to get with any other setting, especially if you want to go beyond 30 second exposures. Anything at 30 seconds or less can be done in Shutter Priority but if you start to throw ND filters into the mix then the camera’s light meter may get confused and you never know what your results might be.

Free Flowing

When it comes down to it I really just shoot in manual mode because I’m used to it. I always know what Aperture or Shutter Speed I want and I always shoot at ISO 100 unless I don’t have my tripod or I want to freeze motion in lower light situations. I also know how dark I can make a photo before I can’t recover the details in the shadows. This allows me the flexibility to shoot how I want to without the camera stepping in and telling me what my settings should be at. I have a vision when I shoot and the camera doesn’t know that vision. I shoot high key and low key photos at times and want to expose for such. I know there’s a scene mode for both but what the camera doesn’t know is how high key or how low key I want to be. Only I know that. I don’t want to be messing with dials that are tricky to get to or going through a menu. I want to just have my eye to the viewfinder and just have to move the dial on the front or back of the camera to adjust the Aperture or Shutter Speed then click when everything is in place. To me it means getting the photo faster and moving on to the next one.

A word of advice for those of you who would like to shoot manual mode. Know how you learn the best. Take baby steps and learn about each part of the Exposure Triangle to fully understand how each part works together. Because when it comes to working in manual, it means to understand how each piece creates the exposure for the end result.

Sorry if this is confusing to any of you. I know it is a lot of content to digest for some. I also know that you can get pretty much any shot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority and even some shots in Auto, but when it comes down to it, shoot in whatever mode that gets you the shot you want.

Low Key in Landscape/Nature Photography

When thinking about Landscape Photography we think about an entire scene that is in nearly perfect exposure. When thinking about Nature Photography we think about the elements within a landscape scene that are in nearly perfect exposure. Now what if Week 3we pushed those boundaries and took something that is mostly used in portrait photography and apply those to landscape and nature photography. This is where we can start to create more photographic art and give a scene more mood for these types of photos. Low key photography is defined as having most of your scene within the shadows or dark areas on the histogram. Think of it as looking at the histogram, it will peak at the left and then gradually slope down as you move to the right, or the higher points in the histogram will be on the left side. This will create a photo where the majority of the frame is dark while a small portion is brighter.

What exactly can this do to create a better photo? I believe that by darkening the parts of the frame thatDSC_2183-2 are more distracting, this leaves the eyes to be drawn to the portion of the frame that you want to showcase. While photos like this may not do well in a normal photographic setting where they care more about proper exposure overall, in my opinion they do draw more attention and tend to make it up on the walls more often rather than just sitting in the archives on a computer or file cabinet. This is where landscape/nature photography can become more fine art photography. By doing this, it allows us to take something in its normal setting and apply creativity in a way to make it stand out where it would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

RestingWhen doing low key photography of any type, the most important thing to think about is how the light is hitting the subject. By creating shadows it helps create a more creative photo. It is when the subject is only partially lit that it can help you create more mood in the photo. I have only recently dipped into low key photography but have seen the benefits it gives. I’m hoping to continue learning more and will think more about how I take my shots in order to create more of a low key effect by how the light is positioned. We all know that light is one of the most important things in photography. It’s how you position that light that can help create the art you have in mind.


Using Props in Landscape Photography

Using Props in Landscape Photography

Overlooking the Sunrise

When many people think of props in photography they probably think immediately of portrait photography and the props that are used on or around the subject. When thinking the other day I came upon the realization that props don’t have to just apply to portraits but can also apply to landscapes as well. Why not? They can help to make a photo more interesting or increase the value of a photo. Whether put there by someone else or by you, props can help transform a landscape from something with little interest to something that stands out. Giving a landscape scene something to draw the eye to creates an anchor that keeps the viewer in the photo just a little longer. It can also create a balance to a photo as well.

In the above shot, while I didn’t place the bench there, I did use it as a prop for this photo intentionally. Some might not think of it as a prop, but I see it as one. Or if looking at it at another angle one could say that the bench is my main subject and mother nature has provided me with vegetation as props around the bench. Either way props were used in creating this photo.

Relaxing on the Beach

This photo on the other hand was not put together for me. The sand was there and the lines were already made, but the seashell was sitting elsewhere. Why does a prop need to be man made? Some may think that by creating your own scene for landscape photography can be cheating, but I say that as long as you don’t disrupt nature in its original state, such as killing or cutting things down, then why not use what is available to create the canvas in which you want to photograph? By using other natural elements in nature you can strategically place them in a landscape surrounding in order to create an interesting photo.

Sitting Alone

In this photo I thought the lighting was nice and the moss made a nice surrounding, but it felt like it was missing something. After taking a quick look around I found that there were acorns scattered across the ground. By placing the acorns in the photo I created an anchor for the eye to rest on. Otherwise to me the scene doesn’t seem to have a nice focus point.

Sunset with the Rocks

It’s getting harder and harder to create sunset and sunrise photos that are unique. This shot was taken on the side of the road in a ditch. There were plenty of rocks laying around. I didn’t choose this location because it was more interesting than any other along the road. I picked it because I was running out of time to get a shot. After laying down on the ground and experimenting with trying to get something I took notice of a couple of rocks that stood out from the others and decided to use them as props in the scene.

While I cannot carry a large bench in my pocket to have the luxury of setting up to photograph to make an interesting photo, I can carry small objects with me. Whether its a small interesting looking rock, a seashell, or an acorn, something that can create balance and make a photo interesting may be well worth it. Another lesson to take note by looking at the photos is that another way to bring attention to your subject is to have the right lighting. All of these shots were taken at sunrise or sunset to use the light to help the subjects stand out more.

The next time you head out to capture some photos and notice and interesting object that is small but not quite in the right location to make a good photo, why not transport that small subject to a more appealing location to create your unique shot.

Changing Focus Changes Perspective

Peaceful ReflectionsThe next time you go out and shoot, try to find interesting subjects both in the foreground and the background and then take a photo with one in focus and then the other. In order to do this you may need to find a foreground subject you can get close to in order to create a more shallow DoF to isolate the subject. As you can see in the above photo I have focused on the rocks in the foreground leaving the waterfalls in the background out of focus enough to not be distracting, but yet allowing the viewer to still tell what they are.

In the photo below, I have put the focus on the waterfalls instead which gives a different look to the same scene. Although they are framed just slightly different, I was able to still use the same area to get two very unique photos that can hold their own. One may have a preference for one over the other, but when it comes down to it, if you were to just view one or the other, they are both able to make nice photos.

Vibrant Reflections

For me they both give a nice relaxing peaceful feel to them. If you shoot like this and try to choose one to keep over the other, try looking at them as different photos rather than which is better than the other. Even though both photos technically contain the same elements, the focus on them make them unique photos. I hope that if you keep this in mind it will help you capture a shot just by changing the subject you are focusing on to see how it turns out.

Landscape Photography Lifecycle

Free Flowing

One of my fellow WordPress bloggers, Shane Francescut over at The Weekly Minute came up with a good idea for me to blog about. The idea in a nutshell is basically to talk about the entire process in which I take from the planning, preparation, and processes in which I work through to take photos nearly every time I walk out the door with my camera in hand to a location. I would like to consider this my Landscape Photography Lifecycle as it tends to be the same things I go through every time I plan for one of these types of trips.



I wish I could just go out at any given time and hope that I find something to photograph, but just like a lot of other people, I have to plan it as I have other things that continue to keep myself quite busy. Between work, family, and other obligations, I find that I don’t get to get out as much as I would like to. Because of this I usually do a bit of planning when I go out to strictly do landscape photography. I don’t do extensive planning like you would when going on a vacation and I don’t walk out the door with high expectations. I try to fit the entire planning phase into a manageable amount of time.

Because I don’t have much time to get out a lot I tend to do a little research on the area that I’m going to. If I have control over the time that I’ll be there, I’ll usually aim to be in the Light Winter Dustingarea around sunrise or sunset as those tend to be the best times for lighting. I always find that Bing or Google maps are great tools to use on the fly to kind of get a look at the area in which you are heading. After that I will search for images on those locations to kind of see what other photographers or tourists have gotten to get an idea of the types of photos I might end up getting. Once I have all of this information I then look at what the weather is going to be like for the time frame that I’ll be in the area. Knowing if there will be clouds or if it will be sunny sometimes determine the type of photos I can hope to get at times and I will prepare myself to be ready for those situations. For clear sunny days I tend to have different goals in mind than if there are clouds for instance.

Devils Lake State Park


Preparation for me is two-fold. I say this because I only carry two things to the car to take with me, my camera bag and my tripod, but I don’t take it all with me when I hike. I rarely Newport-State-Park-3ever put my camera bag on my back so I have all of my gear with me. The reason for this? Because after going on many hikes I have determined that I never need every lens I have. Even though I only have 4 lenses, they each have their own purpose, and each one is not needed for every adventure. Based on my planning I can usually determine which gear I need which I place in a smaller bag when I get to the site. It is this smaller bag that I always take with me alone with my camera and tripod.


The most important pieces of equipment I have in the bag are my filters, eye-piece cap, stop-watch (for long exposures longer than 30 seconds), and shutter release remote. If I’m unsure what I’ll be photographing and just kind of going with the flow, I’ll pack two lenses in my bag. Most of the time I have somewhat of an idea in mind so I’ll have an ultra-wide lensPeninsula-State-Park-3 on the camera and a macro in the bag. If I don’t want to take the bag, I’ll just throw my 24-120mm lens on the camera so I have a nice range. I’ll talk a little more about why each piece of equipment may be very important in the next section as they control the process in which I take my photos.

Other items that I have in the bigger bag that I only bring with me on certain occasions include some spikes I can slip over shoes or boots, finger-less gloves, hand warmers, and foot warmers. Some people may not need these if they don’t photograph in colder climates but I have found all of these to be very invaluable for many of my photography adventures during the winter months. I’m also always looking for the little things that will make my life a little easier when doing landscape photography.


Now that everything has been planned and prepared, I’m out on location ready to shoot. So what is it that I do when I’m out in the field just walking around? Well, it depends on different factors. How much time do I have? Have I been to this location before but just not when I wanted to? Am I going to be able to come back to it again? What kind of subjects Newport-State-Park-1am I able to find? What’s the lighting like? These are just a few of the things I don’t really think about but already have answers to as I’m walking around. Sometimes I already have the answers before I even head to the location.

Lately I’ve just been trying to find time at any point of the day to just go check out some local places. After deciding if there is anything worth photographing I’ll plan out a trip as time permits. During these I usually have limited time, or if I know I’ll be doing a bit of hiking, I’ll have plenty of time. When having limited time I usually limit myself to a few areas that I know will give me good results. I never really have any ideas in mind before going to shoot something as I’ve learned how to work on the fly based on the subject I’m trying to capture.

Once I’m on location I decide if it’s worth taking a hike and try to determine the direction to head off in. I usually start of with my wide angle lens on the camera. If I spot small subjectsFlower-9 that need the macro lens, I make the switch. I used to carry my tripod around in the bag it came with but the constant taking it in and out was getting very annoying and I ended up missing a lot of shots I could have got because I was too lazy to do all of that work. I have now since purchased a tripod strap so all I need to do is just set up the legs and put my camera on the tripod and it’s ready to go. I’ve also been finding lately that I tend to like using the tripod more often than not. I feel like I get better results when I do so. I’m going to break up the processes I take based on the type of photos I take so it’ll be a little easier to follow.

Shooting Small Subjects

Looking OnMost small subjects tend to be low or on the ground. While some people try to find a tripod to get as low as possible, I went a different route. I figured why spend the extra money on a tripod that is advertised as being able to get lower than another tripod? I got a tripod that I was able to remove the middle column and turn it upside down. Can’t get closer to the ground than with the camera almost touching or actually touching the ground. That’s the first step I usually take as it allows me to have more control that by laying on the ground and holding the camera.

Since my camera is upside down at this point, it’s usually nearly impossible or impossible altogether to look through the viewfinder. This is where the live view comes in handy. I used to think that live view was a waste on a DSLR until I started doing this. It makes it so DSC_2212much easier. The first step I take at this point is basically the same as if I’m looking through the view finder, I’ll compose my shot. Once everything is framed the way I like it, then it’s time to focus. There are downsides though when auto-focusing. The sensors used to auto-focus during live view are different than the ones when using the view finder. The live view ones are only more accurate if there is a drastic change in contrast at the focus point. I have also found that when trying to do macro photography with live view that auto-focus very rarely gives me a sharp photo.

So how do I focus when in live view? I do what I call fine focusing. What this means to me is picking a small point and making sure that it is the sharpest it can possibly get. I achieve this by moving the focus point in live view to the subject and then zooming in. If you’ve ever used live view on a DSLR you’ll know that there’s a point when zooming it that it starts to DSC_1855look a bit choppy. If I hit this point I’ll usually step back one click as it’s easier to focus when it’s not so choppy. Once I’m there I’ll then manually focus until I feel it’s as sharp as I can get it.

After I got my macro shot of the subject I tend to look around at the background of the subject to determine if I could get more of a wide-angle macro shot. If I feel that I can pull that off, then I’ll switch to a wide angle lens. Since my ultra-wide-angle lens has roughly the same close focusing distance as my macro lens I usually don’t need to move the tripod. This makes it a little easier for composing. Once the lenses have been swapped, I then go through the same steps again to get my shot. Another thing to mention is that I tend to view the photo on the screen after each shot just to make sure I don’t get anything in the frame I don’t want and I also take a DSC_1842quick look at the histogram to make sure the exposure is correct. If there’s a problem with either, I’ll make the proper adjustments and shoot again until I get desired results.

For these shots the settings I tend to use will be a fairly large aperture that is usually at f/16 or lower with the macro lens (my macro goes all the way to f/51 at the closest focusing distance) and f/5 or lower with the wide angle lens. Since I’m using a tripod, if motion is not a factor, I’ll set the ISO at 100 and change the shutter speed based on the exposure. If motion is a factor I set the shutter speed so that it will capture the subject and adjust the ISO. Because I’m always focused on getting a specific DOF, I always try to keep the aperture constant.

Shooting More Scenic Landscapes

Along with shooting the small things, most of you notice that I shoot a lot more of the more scenic shots with more ‘landscape’ in the photo. I haven’t been doing this as much lately but it’s where I started and what I’ve worked on the most. I’ve also changed my approach to this quite a bit since I started and am continuing to come up with more creative DSC_1916approaches. For these shots I tend to shoot handheld more than on a tripod. If the shutter speed is good for handheld at the aperture I want, then I don’t see the point to take the extra time to throw it on the tripod.

If the lighting is bad or if I’m looking for more of the long exposure shots though, then a tripod is a must. For these shots I tend to keep the camera upright on the tripod vs. hanging it upside down. Unless I want to get a low shot which I’ll follow most of the same steps as the small subject photos except I won’t focus as close DSC_1671or have as much of a shallow DOF.

For these shots the settings I tend to use smaller apertures to get more of the landscape in focus than when shooting smaller subjects. I usually shot with f/12 ore higher to achieve this. If there is a light source involved I’ll try at different apertures to see how the shot looks with more or less of a star like effect. I also keep the same rules in place for the other settings. I keep the aperture constant and just change the shutter speed if motion is not an issue or the ISO if it is. When shooting long exposure I tend to try to get as long a shutter speed as I can get.

What to Shoot?

Now on to one of the most important factor when going out to shoot, what to shoot. Since I have a limited amount of time to shoot in most cases, I usually have an idea of what I’m wanting to shoot. My mood at the time also plays a factor in this as well but I’m usually prepared to photograph any type of subject when I’m out hiking. When I’m going to a DSC_1828location with waterfalls I know that I’m going to be shooting with a wide angle lens doing long exposure shots and some freeze action shots. Some people may think long exposure when shooting water falls but I have found that by freezing the water vs. letting it flow, you can sometimes get some great results. I also find that the waterfalls aren’t usually the only interesting part of the river to shoot either. You can sometimes find an area with a lot of rocks or an interesting tree limb that might make a great shot. During my last shoot of falls I used my macro lens and did some different types of shots than I’ve done before utilizing the more shallow DOF.

While out hiking on a trail I usually look off the path to see if anything catches my eye. Unless it’s an off-limits area that I know I can’t get away with photographing it, then I usually try to get a shot. Something to keep in mind is to always keep looking around. I will look up, down, and sometimes even stop and look back to see if I notice something from the other way than what I was walking. Sometimes a trail can take on a different look when DSC_1834viewing it from the other direction. Things I usually try to catch are things that are not very common in an area. If a subject is rare it usually makes for an interesting photo as it breaks the general theme of the area up a bit.

I’ve also been on a lot of trails where the roots of trees are sticking out of the ground. If you get low enough you can usually create a unique photo by capturing a unique set of roots along the ground. A good way to do this might be to create a sense of depth as you make the roots appear to be larger than the items in the background.


I know this post is a bit longer than I normally do and it has taken me quite a bit longer than I thought, but I hope it has some information that helps. I hope you enjoy some of the new photos as well that I haven’t posted yet. I have also put all the photos in this post into a gallery for you to enjoy as well.


Dynamic Range

This one will be a short post as I’ve been short on time lately but I wanted to show how important it can be to understand and know how much dynamic range a camera can capture within the RAW file of a photo. This first photo is one that is taken straight from camera converted to JPEG.


I wasn’t expecting to get any great shot from this sunset as it was too dark under the trees and too bright out on the lake. I thought about HDR for this shot but I don’t have enough experience, or don’t even know if it would have been possible, to have processed this as HDR as the wind was blowing and there was a lot of grass and tree limbs. Upon thinking of this, I did a bracket photo anyways just to see what I could make out of any of them as I have found that the RAW file does contain a bit of dynamic range.

With only working in Lightroom, this is the result I was able to come up with just by using the RAW file of the photo above.


As you can see there was a lot of detail that was retained within the shadows. If you notice in the original photo, you can’t even tell what the ground is made up of. After adjusting the sliders, I was able to bring back some of the detail that allows the viewer to see what the foreground is made up of rather than just seeing a lot of silhouettes. I was originally going to delete this photo as I didn’t care for the processed version, but then thought it may be beneficial to show just how much dynamic range is available within a RAW file. Of course, the camera itself determines the amount of dynamic range that is captured. This photo was taken with a D610. Other cameras may capture more or less dynamic range than this. It is always nice to know what limits you can push your camera to in order to get the shots when under pressure though.

Wide Angle Macro Photography

What is wide angle macro photography and what does the term mean to you?

Light Winter DustingSoon after getting into landscape photography I found out that ultra wide angle lenses have the natural ability to have close focus ranges. Once I found this out I did a lot of research and experimentation with what is known as wide angle macro photography. I quickly found out that there’s not as much information about this and it doesn’t seem to be widely popular among photographers. I find that I enjoy these types of photos a bit more than a lot of other types. The reason for this is because with just a macro shot, you have one subject that you see up close but not any of it’s surroundings. I do like macro photography but for me personally, I tend to get bored with it as there’s just not that many elements in the photo to help it stand out.Hiding

With wide angle macro photography, it still has the element of a small subject up close, but due to the construction of the lens, it allows for many more items to be in the shot. There are some additional things to consider with wide angle macro vs traditional macro though. Traditional macro utilizing a macro lens has a much much shallower DOF to work with. What this means is that you need to understand that you won’t get that small sliver of focus with a lot of nice bokeh, but instead a little bit more in focus with slight bokeh that you are still able to determine what the elements in the background are. In some cases, if the aperture is set small enough (large f-stop numbers), then the majority of the photo is in acceptable focus. This is portrayed in the two photos above. The first one with the snow, you can see that the background is more out of focus than the second photo with the waterfall.


Another thing I love about wide angle macro photography is that it changes perspective. It makes up close elements look larger than they normally are and far objects look smaller than they normally are. In the waterfall photo above you can see that the blades of the grass look large in comparison to the waterfall in the background. It also makes it look like the waterfall is farther away from the grass than it actually is. In the below images you can also see how perspective is changed as well. In the left photo puddle in the middle of a field looks as though it can be a large pond or small lake. In the right photo the rocks look larger than the sun.

The Sun's Reflection

Sunset with the Rocks






I find that when I am out doing landscape photography I am always looking for small subjects that fit within the entire scene that I want to capture. This is also a little different than traditional landscape where you don’t care so much about the small things, but more about the entire scene. It’s also different than traditional macro where you only care about the small things and not so much about the distant objects for the most part. I find it both challenging and exciting as it can create some great photos that have more of a chance of standing out from the crowd.

Although all my examples above are shown with shots low to the ground, wide angle macro photography will also work with subjects at all different locations of the frame. In the gallery below I have included shots of all different types of wide angle macro photography that I have done. I know that this type of photography may be subjective as macro is defined as very large in scale, scope, or capability. What I consider wide angle macro is a close-up shot of any object in order to make it look larger than what it actually is compared to its surroundings. I also realize that some of the photos may not be considered wide angle macro shots, or borderline, to some people, but to me I think they fit my definition.

Some of the photos at the end of the gallery were taken at a botanical garden. I will be doing a post on this trip to show all the photos that I had taken when I get the time to put one together.

On a side note, I have been enjoying doing these posts and will try to make them a weekly thing as I come up with things to post about. Of course this is also pending that I have enough time to put them together. I like being able to help others explore possibilities they may not have otherwise thought of or even teach someone something new that they might enjoy. I always enjoy feedback and I also do not consider myself an expert by any means so if anyone has any additional knowledge it is always welcome to expand on my posts as well.

Why Post Processing May be Important

Post processing. It’s something that is always hated in the beginning, but eventually loved, as one learns how to use the tools. Some just never seem to be friends with it ever. So what is all the hype with it anyways? Can’t we just press the shutter button and then display the result without needing to make any changes? Well….yes and no. Sometimes the shot we get out of the camera needs nothing done to it as it is perfect the way it was captured.

An example of this would be this shot I took of a new leaf. All I had to do was compose the right shot with the right settings and everything else was taken care of for me. Sure I pulled it into Lightroom to try and tweak it a bit but everything I tried didn’t seem to add anything to it, so I just left it as is. I didn’t even change the exposure.


A good example as to why post processing is important is this next photo:


To me this photo looks like just a mere snapshot with over exposed areas and a few harsh shadows on the left. The composition works, but there’s nothing that really stands out to me that leaves me with not remembering this shot for more than a few minutes after viewing it never to return. Because in this shot I wanted to focus more on details of the stairs and the railing of the bridge, I decided that some work needed to be done if I wanted to at least try to make an impression and to be able to remember the photo.

Here is the outcome:


As you can now see the harsh shadows on the left are no longer a distraction and the brightness of the stairs are replaced by a much more appealing view of the details of the stonework. Now the viewer is more focused on path that is set before them, a trip over the bridge into the unknown, rather than a snapshot that tries to express the purpose of this photo, but falls a bit short. Color may have worked, but I would have found the trees a little distracting as the main subject I wanted to portray in this work was the stairs and bridge rather than the surrounding area.

Happy shooting!