One of the most important rule I have learnt about landscape photography is to capture the right kind of light. Just like any other rookie, initially I scouted for locations and created images. Not that it is wrong to do that, a great location makes a huge difference. The problem comes when you travel to a great location and shoot average images which anyone could shoot. Although I always knew at the back of mind that I need to shoot at “Golden Hours” because that’s when the light is right. But I never knew its importance until I compared my shots with the top landscape photographers in the US. The main difference apart from many other differences, I realized the natural light they captured along with the great location made the image incredibly awesome. Needless to say, in order to improve my images I started shooting during the Golden Hours as well and started getting great results.
However, that was not good enough for me. Every good landscape photographer I spoke to mentioned “Light” as their first rule along with location and other things. So, I thought to myself, if Light is such an important part of an image then the “Right” kind of Light should make an ordinary location look awesome too. The image below is an example of such. This is a spot in Sandy Hook Beach in new Jersey. I have made “believe it or not” more than 20 unique photographs in the same location. And I don’t mean a 1 mile radius, I mean 50 steps radius at the most. What makes every image unique? It’s the “LIGHT” along with other composition techniques. Its a very simple shot, with soft light at sunset falling on the dramatic clouds with a slight long exposure to capture the motion of the waves.
This image landed up as SIGMA Corp’s Fan Photo of the Week. The image below is of the exact same spot, except that I am looking North instead of east. The clouds are not so dramatic, however the afterglow after the sunset is crazy here, and makes the image so much more interesting.
So, my theory was proven correct. And this was important because it helped my improve the quality of my images a lot. All Pro Photogs know and understand this, and that’s why they make quality images. I thought of putting this blog for the rookies who might underestimate the power of Right Light in Landscape Photography.
Some of my images (very few) sometimes get confused for HDR image, in the sense of having a Surreal Effect to them. Here are my thoughts on the technique. Essentially the concept of HDR is to capture more dynamic range of light. The Camera captures 5 to 6 stops less than what a human eye sees, hence, losing out details, specially in the shadow area. So what the HDR technique helps in acheiving is to merge 2 or more images of different exposures to highlight the shadows clearly. This is a very old concept. After taking a shot the photographer would rewind the film roll to the previous frame and take a shot again. In digital photography you can do that with computers.
The Image above has been confused for a HDR. It was shot in Princeton,NJ. The image below was shot in Bear Mt, NY (Appalachian trail). It is an actual HDR. I took two images, the underexposed one was for the shadow and to get that small Sun Burst. The other one was Overexposed for details. It is also an example of how I compensate for not having a good Grad Filter.
I generally shoot in natural light, and mostly at sunset or sunrise, and I love bad weather because then clouds add a lot of dramatic effect. I don’t have expensive glass filters, thats why sometimes end up using the HDR technique. The more popular form of HDR is what you see with the Surreal effect. it makes the Image extraordinary and poster like.
I don’t use the surreal effect on the outdoor and landscape images I take. However, it works perfect for indoor shots, giving that very awesome look and feel.
The Image above, shot in Island Beach SP, NJ, is an HDR of two images. The one below is the same image but not an HDR. The one above has that slight surreal effect to it. I personally prefer the non-HDR version.
I use Photomatix to merge my images and then process them in lightroom buy adding contrast, tweak the clarity and sharpness.
it eventually is a personal choice of how you want your art form to look like. If HDR interests you then may I suggest you have a look at the work of Trey Ratcliff. Also Jay Patel has a free tutorial on Manual HDR technique.
Just heard the title of this post on Two and a Half men🙂 . Last week I went to Island Beach SP in New Jersey 3 times. May sound crazy, but I was absolutely obsessed with wanting to take some Red Fox photographs. I recently discovered that there are a few there, till now I used to have to drive 2.5 hours to Bombay Hook in Delaware.
However, I wasn’t too lucky. Out of the three trips I made, just got one decent shot. The Image below is from the first trip. I reached well in time but had no clue about the park, so had to scout a bit. Unfortunately we saw nothing, and moreover it was a boring day for landscape shots as well. There were no clouds in the evening sky. So decided to head back, and just then, close to the exit we saw it. Light was too dim by then, Sun had almost set and I had to jump out the car quickly ..
On the 2nd trip, almost the same thing happened and saw this one at the same spot. Just when I was about to take the shot a few cars went by at speed higher than what was the limit was. The poor thing got scared and ran away. I didn’t want to stalk it and scare it even more. I did though manage to get the face in focus.
Third time’s a charm, well not in my case. The very next day I was back and unlucky for me I didn’t see nothing, not even a bird. It was so disappointing, you really need a lot of patience for wildlife photography.
There was a small trail right next to the parking lot, so decided to do that. I was quite irritated and was hoping to at least get a good Beach Shot. There was still some light and the Sun was almost setting. Thankfully the trail wasn’t too long and at the end of it got the unexpected surprise.
The Last image (above) is an HDR of two shots, one with a 30 second exposure to get the movement in the clouds.
The Sun had already set, clouds broke out at the horizon and the afterglow just lit up the entire scene. Landscape looked very dramatic.
Two weeks back my friend and I drove to Harriman State park to do a trail on Rt. 106, which we had recently discovered. Since plans have a funny way of not working out, this one bombed too. The road was closed. So we decided to drive around on 7 Lakes Drive and hoped to get some evening clouds reflection on the lakes. But by 6pm we decided to drive further and go to Bear Mt., which is also part of Harriman State Park and only 2.5 miles from where we were.
Lucky for us the overcast clouds started to break and by the time Sun came to the Horizon we got to see many of the many amazing colors spread all across the sky. You could literally see the color change and in about 15 min the magic hours came to an end. I wanted to capture the magic moment on timelapse but at the last min could not really figure out the timelapse settings on my Nikon, so that sucked too. However, got the following images:
I did a couple of interviews with my favorite nature/landscape photographers, and one of the most important advice I got was to follow the right light. If you can manege to capture the right light, it would make any ordinary landscape look extra-ordinary. All the images are example of such.
One of the country’s oldest vacation spots, Cape May is at the southern tip of New Jersey. It has one of the top award winning beaches, it is a designated birding location and has a Lighthouse, and also most importantly one of my favorite places in NJ. During WW-II it was a big Naval base, apart from that it has a very rich history in terms of architecture, tourism, movie shooting locations etc.
Though my focus was more on the beaches in terms of photography and had a great time shooting there. My favorite spot there is the Sunset Beach, which as the name suggests gives a clear view of the sun-setting over Delaware Bay. NJ being on the east coast all the beaches are East facing and this is the only part which faces South-West. I have been here a couple of times but mostly during the winter time. I think in one of my posts I mentioned why I go to the beaches during winters. Not because I am crazy but because people don’t get out and you get a People free landscape to shoot. However, its not a bad idea to have people in your shots, but that’s a different conversation.
There are a couple of more interesting beaches you can go check out. I like to drive through the town, gives a very cozy feel of a small town. If you guys visit, do make it a point to stay the night, there is a lot to explore there. Spring and early summer would be a good time.
I have been frequenting Sandy Hook for a year now, and as a photographer one would really get bored of the same spot. That’s the thing about Sandy Hook, every time I have gone there I have found a different play of light, weather and composition. I have seen the most amazing colors in the sky right from Red and orange hues to light green. Some might find that surprising but its a fact.
What makes any place lively is the people, and here I have seen many – families, individuals, artists, photographers, surfers, bikers, bird watchers, fitness freaks etc. All in all it has something for everyone. There are about 2-3 nice sea-food restaurants if you want to stay back for a nice meal. These are open all day long.
I mainly come here just for the fun of photography. I am not a professional, but the landscape here is so wonderful that it would make a hobbyist look like a professional too. The east side of the Sandy hook is more interesting compared to the west. Mainly because on the west you will not find high waves, although you would definitely enjoy a beautiful sunset. Also the vegetation on the sand dunes turn golden and deep green as the sunsets and eventually disappears. The most I have enjoyed coming here is in the winter time. Now of course why would anyone go to the beach in winters? excatly for the same reason, there is no human in sight, you have high tide and lovely opportunity for photography. Summer time is equally great because then on a clear sky night you can sit back late and enjoy gazing at the stars, enjoy the cool breeze and hear the gushing sound of high tides colliding with the rock jettys. Sometimes there are coastal floods, when the water comes inland and covers up most of the beach, but that gives a whole different experience of being there.
Spring and Early summer also witneses a lot of birds there. If you come in May you can see many HorseShoe Crabs which cover most of the beach laying eggs. Couple of times I have seen Dog Sharks and Sting-Rays as well. Although people fish and then let them back into the Ocean, but I am not a big fan of such sport. Its more like harrassing them, but I am no one to judge.
Although New Jersey is supposed to be a Garden State, it has a bad reputation that it is dirty. This post will be an “IN YOUR FACE” for all such people😀 . World is a beautiful place, and you just need to open your eyes to see its real beauty. That’s been my motivation thus far to share the beauty of our planet no matter which part of the planet it is. After all, end of the day it is us who is mutilating it.
A few weeks back I was at Ashbury Park beach. It was very cold, my shoes and jeans got wet, and I had to walk back a mile to get to the parking lot after the shoot. By the time I got back to my car and started to changed my shoes I noticed the shoe laces were frozen and so was the bottom of my jeans. That was very stupid of me, I should have been more careful. Lesson Learn’t !!
Here are the photos from the beach. Since the beach is East facing I could not put the Sun in the frame, although the afterglow after the sunset was beautiful and I captured that the best I could…
I wanted to capture the last sunset of 2010 and the first sunrise of 2011 but unfortunately I could only get half the work done. My alarm did not go off int he morning of 1-1-11. Although I did manage to see the sunrise from my Balcony which faces south-east.
I drove down to Cape May which is about 2 hours drive for Edison, to one of its beaches (Sunset Beach) to capture that last light of 2010. I stood at the edge of the land and just looked at the sun disappear in the horizon, the afterglow was even more beautiful.
Anything with a definite line can be a leading line for example Fences, bridges, even a shoreline can lead the attention of the viewer.
This images are of Venice Fishing Pier in Florida (west coast) ..