In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog
Ridges and peaks above the fog in the Sierra Nevada foothills, California (170mm)
One of my most popular posts was about creating a sense of depth in landscape photographs. In that post I talked about the most common formula for creating depth: a near-far juxtaposition with a wide-angle lens. And then I looked at other, less-common ways of creating depth, like atmospheric effects, perspective lines, and using an elevated vantage point to show a foreground, middle ground, and background. (If you haven’t read that post I recommend doing so; you’ll find it here.)
Creating a sense of depth in a two-dimensional medium like photography can be challenging. There’s no question that the wide-angle, near-far formula works, and in general it’s easier to make photographs with depth using shorter focal lengths rather than longer ones. Telephoto lenses are often better suited to compressing space, and finding two-dimensional patterns and designs out of a three-dimensional world.
Sun breaking through mist, Yosemite, July 2011
Tioga Pass will be opening fully tomorrow, July 1st – one of its latest opening dates ever. For the past week or so the pass has been open on a limited basis, from 10 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. each day, with no stopping or “recreating” allowed. But starting tomorrow it will be open 24 hours, with stopping and recreating – including photography! – permitted.
Clearing storm by moonlight from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA
I’m pleased to announce that Kirk Keeler and I will have an exhibit of nighttime photographs at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite from June 30th to August 17th. Called “Yosemite at Night,” the show will offer a different perspective on this park by showing its iconic landscapes under the light of the moon and stars.
The gallery will be holding an artist’s reception on July 24th from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. The Ansel Adams Gallery is located next to the Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley.
Storm clouds over Half Dome and Nevada Fall from Glacier Point, Yosemite
When we look at a photograph our eyes are usually drawn to light areas, bright colors, and contrast. Therefore I always try to avoid having bright spots, vivid colors, or anything contrasty and eye-catching along the edges of my photographs. I’d rather put the most visually-prominent elements closer to the middle of the picture, to draw the viewer’s eye into the frame, rather than out of it.
I was very conscious of that last Monday when composing the photograph above. Thunderstorms had formed over the Sierra crest, so Claudia and I drove up to Glacier Point, hoping to photograph some interesting weather. We arrived just as a thunderstorm was approaching from the northeast, bringing dark, dramatic clouds. There was no sunlight, but the sky had great textures, and lent a nice, stormy mood to the scene. I used my widest lens (16mm) to include as much of that brooding sky as possible.
Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
Just a reminder that the special Ansel Adams Gallery print sale ends Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time, so you still have time to get 25% off two of my images: Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, and Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River (shown above). You can see all the details about the sale in this earlier post, or go directly to The Ansel Adams Gallery’s website to purchase a print.
The response to this offer so far has been wonderful; thanks so much for your support!
Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California
The Ansel Adams Gallery is sponsoring another special print sale of two of my photographs, at 25% off the normal price. The two images we selected for this offer are Swirling Clouds and Mist, Sunrise, and Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River. I’ve posted these two photographs on this blog before, of course – in fact Sunbeams, Mist, Half Dome, and the Merced River was selected by you, my readers, as one of my ten best photographs of 2018. But these two images have never been exhibited at a gallery or sold before.
My signed, matted, limited-edition 16×20 prints usually sell for $325, but during this sale you can get one for only $244. Or you can purchase a 20×24 print, normally $475, for only $356, or a 24×30 print, normally $750, for only $562. This is a rare chance to purchase one of my photographs at a reduced price, but the sale lasts just one week, until Sunday, June 23rd, at 6:00 PM Pacific time. Visit the Ansel Adams Gallery website to purchase a print or get more details.
“Twins” – sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California. 25mm, 1/8th of a second at f/16, ISO 200. See the main text for a description of how I made this image.
Many people seem to have a deep, instinctive connection with redwood forests. I’m certainly one of them. Every year Claudia and I journey to the northern California coast prior to our redwoods workshop, and one of our first stops is at a favorite redwood grove. I’ll get out of the car, step onto the trail, and enter the forest. I’ll see the huge trees soaring into the sky. My nose will catch the familiar, earthy smell of the redwoods. I’ll hear the buzzing call of a varied thrush – the soundtrack of the redwood forest. I’m home.
We photographers often talk about gear, technique, light, composition, and image processing. And all those things are important. But I don’t think you can make truly meaningful photographs unless you feel a connection with your subject. More than once I’ve looked at a person’s portfolio of landscape photographs, found them so-so, then looked at images of their children – and thought they were fantastic. It was clear that while they liked nature and landscapes, they were truly passionate about their children (as they should be!).
Redwood and rhododendron in the fog, northern California. 90mm, 1.5 seconds at f/16, ISO 400, polarizer.
When teaching composition I emphasize simplicity, because I think the single most common mistake people make is including too much in the frame. I tell students to ask themselves, before composing a photograph, what caught their eye in the first place, and then try to include only that, and nothing else. Pare the image down to its essentials.
The more specific you can get the better. In other words, if a tree caught your eye, what is it about that tree that you find interesting? It’s shape? It’s color? The juxtaposition between the tree and something else? Part of the tree rather than the whole thing? Does something about the tree convey a feeling to you? If you can identify exactly what drew you to a subject or scene you’ll know what you’re trying to say, which is the first, essential step toward effective communication.
Sea stacks, late afternoon, northern California coast
Learning photography is often a process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. As beginners we usually learn what doesn’t work from our own images, and what does work from looking at photographs and photographers we admire. And that leads to a natural tendency to try to recreate the images and styles of others.
As we spend more time behind the camera we build up our own repertoire of ideas that work – for us. And naturally, when faced with decisions about where to go, or what light to look for, or what lens to use, we gravitate toward places, compositions, lighting situations, and techniques that we’ve used successfully before.
Dogwood and golden reflections, Yosemite. A telephoto lens (116mm) helped simplify the scene by isolating one small section of branches against the water. 1/4 second at f/22, ISO 100.
Claudia and I are up in the redwood country, scouting for our upcoming workshop. I’ll post some photos from this area later, but in the meantime here are a few more dogwood images from Yosemite.
One of the biggest challenges when photographing forest scenes, including dogwoods, is simplifying and organizing all the chaos. Trunks, branches, leaves, and shrubs are scattered about, growing where there’s sunlight and suitable soil. There’s an order to all that, but it’s an organic order that doesn’t translate easily into visual order. To find compositions that make sense, you have to look for ways to simplify these scenes.