Better Fall Photography

Storm clouds and fall color in northern Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Storm clouds and fall color in northern Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Fall is quite possibly my favorite season. Perhaps it’s because the change in the air is so dramatic. Color, crispness, cooler temps–it’s allllll good. Fall pushes photographers everywhere to dig out both their camera and their personal commitment to creating meaningful imagery. It’s exciting to see the lanscape change so drastically, and quite honestly–there’s beauty in nearly every direction. Nothing fuels a photographer’s fire like gorgeous subject matter at a stone’s throw from nearly every canyon drive.

I’ve had opportunity to get out quite a bit with several workshop students and shoot some of fall’s finest here in northern Utah. The weather, however, has been challenging for the most part, with clear skies and warm temperatures. It has forced us to get creative and really search for meaningful shots without dramatic skies. We did luck out one morning with fantastic storm clouds, and we took full advantage, knowing it was a gift.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student shoots first light at Silver Lake, Brighton, UT.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student shoots first light at Silver Lake, Brighton, UT.

While gorgeous in their own right, colorful leaves don’t themselves a memorable image make. I imagine you, just as countless others, have come home from your fall photography forays only to find your images were flat and struggled to convey the sense of grandeur that you witnessed in person. The challenge, is depth. Conveying depth in our fall images is what really helps to take the viewer “there”. A flat mountainside with pretty leaves just won’t cut it. Sure, it’s pretty. But does it have impact? Probably not. Read below for a couple of tips on creating fall images with depth.

Fall color in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Fall color in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

1. Establish compositional zones. Find foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds for your images. Longer lens shots fall images here in the Wasatch are particularly well suited to this, with intersecting ridge lines and areas of strong color.

Late light long lens landscape at Snowbird, UT

Late light long lens landscape at Snowbird, UT

2. Search out broken light. Spotty clouds cast spotty or broken light. This random placement of lit and shaded areas carries viewers through the frame and creates that near/far perspective that helps to convey three dimensionality.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student waits for evening light amidst swirling storm clouds.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student waits for evening light amidst swirling storm clouds.

3. Use a polarizing filter. Even better, know where and how to use it most effectively. A polarizer will help to reveal full color in the foliage, by removing the natural sheen or reflection. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly (especially on those boring, crystal clear days), a polarizer will deepen skies, helping to add depth and interest to your fall photos. A polarizer is most effective when shot at 90 degrees to the sun–find those compositions that help the polarizer help you!

Dawn light and fall color at Park City's iconic Osguthorpe Barn

Dawn light and fall color at Park City's iconic Osguthorpe Barn

4. Change your angle to the sun. Fall color takes on a completely different look, depending on your angle to the sun. Front lit aspens can appear dull and washed out, but as soon as place that light source behind them, they glow with life. This is a technique you can use to capture stunning imagery even into the mid-day hours.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student, enveloped by backlit aspens.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student, enveloped by backlit aspens.

5. Use Grad ND Filters. Not sure what they are? Search this blog or get on the Google. I use Singh Ray filters–the best! There’s absolutely no better tool out there for balancing difficult dynamic ranges and allowing you to capture dramatic skies.

Storm clouds and lightning bolt at first light over Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Storm clouds and lightning bolt at first light over Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

6. Get out there. The golden rule of landscape photography. Simply being there will allow you to make magic. It’s too easy to stay home and wait for what you think might be the perfect conditions to capture that five-star fall keeper. How do you know that you haven’t already missed it? Nothing helps to get the creative juices flowing like being out in nature. You’re sure to find something that floats your boat, and then some. Forget the boring weather forecasts or lackluster color-get out there and find a way to excel behind the lens.

Interested in putting this into practice in the field with yours truly? Check out my workshop page for details.

Timing Makes All The Difference

Comparison of two images of wildflowers and South Caineville Mesa by Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker.

Comparison of two images of wildflowers and South Caineville Mesa by Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker.

Timing really can make all the difference. Shooting at different times means shooting different light. And different light can give nearly the same image an entirely different feel.

Case in point is this study from my recent trip down to Caineville, UT. These two (nearly identical) images were shot just 13 minutes apart. As you can see, the image on the left still has direct light on the FG flowers. Due to the bluffs to the west, it was impossible to catch the last rays of light on the flowers themselves. This direct light is a bit hot for my taste, but it does accentuate the rows of flowers, and give the FG more of an elongated feel.

The image on the right showcases the flowers in open shade, and succulent late light on South Caineville Mesa. The open shade on the FG gives the viewer access to every last detail, and renders the colors softer and more luminescent. It doesn’t, however, showcase the leading lines of the flower rows.

This truly is the beauty of still photography. And this, really, is how you can go about defining your personal style and your preference to the types of images you’d like to capture. Study the subtle (or not so subtle) difference between images. Are you willing to sacrifice some of the detail in the FG flowers for the compositional definition, or do you prefer the soft tones and colors instead of the open shade? If you had to choose between displaying one or the other of these images, which would it be–and why?

Shot with Canon 5D MkII, 24MM TS-E 3.5II, Singh Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer, Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad

Video: How to Hand Hold Grad ND Filters

Here’s a quick video clip from my instructional DVD that showcases the effectiveness of several filters from Singh Ray. It also gives a good demonstration on how I hand hold my filters when shooting. (to order the DVD, click here)

Why do I hand hold my filters?

1. Speed—in rapidly changing conditions, I want to be able to adjust my shooting position, composition, lens selection or any number of other components quickly and without too much hassle. By hand holding my filters, I’m able to adapt quickly to whatever may present itself in those fleeting moments of magic.

2. Control—many times we find ourselves shooting scenes with parts of the image that may require less filtration than others. By hand-holding my filters, I am able to manually dodge and burn the parts of the image that may require more or less filtration. This is an advanced technique of sorts, but will become more intuitive with time and practice.

3. Versatility—many of the active lifestyle images I shoot are done on unsteady surfaces and without a tripod. There simply isn’t time to screw on a filter holder and even if I were able to, my gradient transitions (where I want that filter line to fall) are never stationary. Hand-holding allows me to micro-adjust that filter placement for each shot.

How do I hand hold my filters?

Let me first say that all of the Grad ND filters I use are the 4 x 6 size. This larger size is much easier to hand hold in general, and nearly essential if you’re shooting wide angle lenses on a full frame sensor.

I generally grasp the edge of the filter between my thumb and index finger or middle finger. Taking special care not to shake the camera, I place the filter flush against the front element of the lens. If I’m shooting at longer focal lengths or with longer shutter speeds, I may remove the filter just slightly from the lens to avoid any sharpness sapping vibration.

A Monday Manifesto: Sharing Photography “Secrets”

The Iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT

The Iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT

Understanding the technicalities of photography is only half the battle. Actually, it’s much less than half as it’s probably one of the easier things to learn. You can teach shutter speed, aperture, HDR, filter usage and numerous other technical components of photography. You can even teach composition. However, you can only hope to be able to teach vision.

Many people ask my why I am so open about my photographic techniques. Firstly, I enjoy teaching photography. I enjoy seeing the light bulb come on in others’ brains. It makes me think of all the times that happened with me in my earlier years with a camera (and it still does!)

Secondly, you would be hard-pressed to find a photographer out there who hasn’t been the beneficiary of a counselor or mentor of sorts in the field of photography. Although there are many out there who are self taught like myself, none of us have really done it alone. I guess it’s a good way to give back to a small extend.

Thirdly, there really are very few, if any secrets. No matter what I, you or anyone else is doing out there with a camera, there’s a good chance that someone else either in your own backyard or at the far corners of planet earth is already doing it as well. I just have to do it better.

Fourthly (and most importantly), you aren’t me and I’m not you. No matter what I share with anyone out there, they’ll never be me and they’ll never have my own, specially packaged, delivered-on-demand vision for whatever lies in front of my lens. This isn’t some arrogant stance on career and life, it’s simply my own little safety net–one that allows me to create, share and witness things come full circle as those who learn produce something exceptional and push me to do better.

So many are afraid of being one-upped, and therefore hold tight to whatever technique or “secrets” they may have pertaining to their imagery. If you one-up me, then good on ya.

So if you’ve made it through this journal entry…WHAT IS UP with this image??? It’s a 54-second exposure of the iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT. It’s been shot ten ways to Tuesday and I wanted to find something truly different. The light on this particular morning was lackluster, but the clouds were something else.

I had just received my Singh Ray Vari ND Filter and wanted to put it to work. I dialed it down to lengthen my exposure, effectively smoothing out the quickly moving clouds against the stark roofline/shape of the barn. I danced around the barn with a hand held 4-stop soft step Grad ND for the entire exposure. It was not easy. It’s hard to replicate. Take it from someone who has tried. This is one of those images that I go back to time and time again and wonder when something else like this will find itself in front of my lens. This is one of those images that keeps me going.

Set a New Standard with Singh Ray Filters

My photographic career is still in its relative infancy, yet I’ve already been fortunate to shoot a wide range of imagery for an even more expansive array of industries. Whether I’m out on a scenic landscape shoot for my own collection, or racing first light for the next commercial client, I always, always have my Singh Ray filters with me.Through my experience, I’ve found that regardless of the type of imagery you’re shooting, the challenges remain largely the same. Something in your frame is often times too bright or too dark leaving the image incomplete without some aid in helping the camera’s sensor to see what your eye is seeing.

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

To use an overly used term, we, as photographers are taught to “think outside the box”. We are taught to find something different to separate ourselves from those less qualified. I have found that by employing my Singh Ray filters in less conventional situations, I am able to deliver a superior image. Sure, you could use artificial lighting in many of these situations, but filters are far less cumbersome. This post is littered with examples of both the more and less conventional uses of Singh Ray filters. Hopefully, you come away inspired to use your filters in ways you never previously imagined.

This first image (top of the post) was made at Deer Valley Resort, UT. When shooting images for a client, it’s important to understand what message they are trying to send through their imagery. I enjoy shooting architectural work, particularly architectural work in the mountain lifestyle genre. I connect well with this type of imagery because I love and live the mountain lifestyle. I understand what it is people hope for when visiting a world class resort. They hope for cold outside and warm inside. They hope for a larger than life winter wonderland. They hope for cozy, comfortable and TBD (to be discovered).

I am able to convey this feeling by enhancing the warm appearance of the lodge on a cold winter’s eve. A 2-stop hard step Grad ND was used to balance and even slightly darken the sky, giving a natural vignette that draws the eye directly to the lodge. Dusk is a fantastic time to use Grad ND filters, as the rich blue sky is deeply saturated and void of harsh contrast.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This second image embodies two of my life’s greatest pleasures: skiing pow, and the warm, soft glow of first light. Images like this require foresight, preparation and a desire to capture something not many others can. I am a big believer in capturing nothing less than a complete image. There are countless photographers out there who could shoot a similar image, but the sky would simply be void of detail, tone and color.

With my background in scenic photography, I’m always particular about making sure the sky is given its just attention, regardless of whether it is a secondary part of the image or not. I hand held a 3-stop reverse ND Grad on this image to ensure no detail was lost. The result is a pleasing, complete image, with pink light so sweet you could drink it up, and a sky with detail to boot.

There are two key things to remember when shooting an image like this (with a hand held filter): 1) make sure to communicate with your skier as to exactly where you’d like the turn/action to take place. 2) Find the proper position for your filter, and don’t move with the skier—keep your camera steady and resist the urge to pan with the skier. This will ensure your initial filter placement doesn’t get skewed and lend an unnatural look to parts of the image.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This next image shows a classic commercial scenic image. It’s not too far off from what many of us do when heading out for a standard scenic sunset shoot: find an engaging composition, hope for great sunset light and shoot away.

This image was made during an editorial shoot for Volkswagen’s Das Auto magazine in Saguaro National Park. The art director for the shoot stood there mesmerized as he watched the 4-stop Reverse ND Grad work its magic, effectively bringing the image to life on the liveview display. One thing worth mentioning is the incredible ease that liveview shooting offers us. If your camera has liveview, make a habit of using it! It’s so much easier to pinpoint filter lines, and to see in real time how the filter is balancing out your exposure/histogram.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

This winter I have been shooting a great deal of architectural imagery. I am a student of existing light (read: I’m terrible with flash photography). Interior lighting can certainly pose some unique challenges when shooting architectural imagery. My preferred time to shoot is at dusk or dawn, when the ambient light balances with the interior light, and you get that soft purple glow in the windows. (Please note that there are countless other ways to shoot architectural imagery, this is simply my preferred method and style).

Even if the exterior/interior light are balanced, however, there still may be hot spots in your image. On a whim, I began using my soft step Grad ND filters to balance out these lighting obstacles. The results were more than pleasing, and before long, I found myself shooting with Grad ND filters inside as much as I do outside. Soft step grads are the perfect filter for this type of imagery as there is little in the way of a defined filter line. Experiment with grad ND filters the next time you shoot interior architectural imagery—it’s much less expensive than an extensive lighting setup, and there’s no setup at all!

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

These last two images demonstrate classic uses of a Reverse ND Grad filter. I am a sunstar fanatic, and have found that with the combination of my 3-stop reverse ND grad and my Canon 16-35mm MkII  (and a bit of help from Mother Nature), I’m able to create dynamic images rich in color and detail, with the added bonus of a sharp, succinct sunstar. The ideal time to capture images like this is right as the sun is either cresting above or dipping below the horizon line.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

The fly fishing image on the Middle Provo River, UT was shot at sunrise. The cactus image, shot in the Tucson Mountain Park was created at sunset. The “perfect opportunity” will last literally just seconds for this type of image, so take special care to find your composition and adjust your camera settings early, allowing yourself to take advantage of the short period of time in which the sun is just hitting that horizon line.  Take special care to stop your lens down to (at least) f16 or so to ensure a tight, defined sunstar.

Regardless of the imagery or circumstance, don’t leave your Singh Ray filters home. As was mentioned earlier in this post, the images may change, but the challenges remain the same. Take your scenic expertise to other genres of imagery and you will find yourself capable of creating magic wherever the camera takes you.

Teaser: AdamBarkerPhotography Master Photo Workshops DVD

Here is a small snippet from my DVD to be released this February by Master Photo Workshops. The DVD will focus on mastering landscape filters. Stay tuned for a pre-order sale announcement. There will be free goodies to go with the DVD for a select number of early purchasers!

Edit: Here’s the link for the DVD Pre-order: http://masterphotodvd.com/site/catalog/dvds/mastering-the-art-of-landscape-filters

Zion National Park: Pretty, and then some…

I recently had the opportunity to travel down to Zion National Park with fellow photog Kevin Winzeler to check out the fall foliage at its peak. The Box Elder and Cottonwood trees were going off, making for beautiful yellows, contrasting against the red rock. Unfortunately, an unusual cold spell had pretty much stripped the maples of their red leaves, leaving the color palette somewhat one-dimensional.

Fall foliage at Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park

Fall foliage at Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park

I’m a bit embarrassed to say this was my first time down to Zion. It didn’t disappoint, but it did overwhelm to a certain degree. Much like any other iconic photo location, Zion presents a challenge in finding original identifiable images. Identifiable is the key word there, as there are photo ops around literally every corner in this impressive national park. The majority of people, however, enjoy seeing images of something they recognize. As a photographer, you must answer the question as to whether you want to shoot something a little more common that sells, or something a little more obscure that may give you a greater satisfaction in creating. A little bit of both was the order of this trip, and I tried to balance my shooting time between the customary and the innovative.

A different take on Temple of the Virgin at Zion National Park, UT

A different take on Temple of the Virgin at Zion National Park, UT

The one thought I had while shooting in Zion over a short 3-day period is that you really must put in your time not only to research the locations, but, more than anything, to hopefully luck out with some dramatic weather. We were stuck with clear skies whether we liked it or not, which made for good bounce light in the Narrows, but uninteresting sunrise and sunset shoots otherwise. You see so many shots from places like Zion, that you really must score unusual weather conditions if you hope to come away with something unique and memorable. My suggestion is to try and get down there for a couple weeks at a time, but it just wasn’t in the cards for this father of two this time around.

Countless photo opportunties abound in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

Countless photo opportunties abound in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

An intense, warm glow is the result of reflected light bouncing off canyon walls high above in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

An intense, warm glow is the result of reflected light bouncing off canyon walls high above in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

One of the shooting opportunities most unique to Zion is found in the Narrows. Carved over time by nothing more than rushing water, this deep slot canyon harbors a plethora of otherworldly images just waiting to be captured. It’s not too common to see direct sunlight in the Narrows, but high canyon walls serve as perfect natural reflectors, sending bounce light to and fro, creating colorful glows in unusual places. Should you decide to venture this way, be prepared to wade through ankle to thigh deep (and sometimes deeper) water the entirety of the canyon. Bring a sturdy tripod, and don’t forget your polarizing filter.

Fall foliage and red rock in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

Fall foliage and red rock in the Narrows of Zion National Park, UT

The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

One particularly helpful tool I had with me on this trip was my Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Combining a polarizer and color intensifier filter, there’s no better way to bring out the color in the leaves and red rock walls, all the while taking the glare off the water for a complete image.

Fall color and emerald water from the Virgin river shot with a Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, UT

Fall color and emerald water from the Virgin river shot with a Singh Ray LB Colorcombo filter. Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, UT

Although not surprising, I was a bit shocked at the sheer number of photographers down in Zion during the display of fall color. Iconic locations like Temple of the Virgin and The Watchman were extremely crowded at sunrise and sunset. It is a bit unnerving to have so many other photogs around, but we all have our own creative vision, and really, in the end, it’s great to see so many people passionate about photography and its ability to tell a story. Be prepared to arrive very early to your iconic locations if you want to have the pick of the litter for your tripod spot.

Photographers line up to shoot The Watchman as sunset approaches in Zion National Park, UT

Photographers line up to shoot The Watchman as sunset approaches in Zion National Park, UT

While I had hoped for a bit more drama in the weather, it’s tough to complain about a place as beautiful as Zion. Just like so many of our National Parks, it truly is a treasure.

Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker shooting in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT p: Kevin Winzeler

Utah landscape photographer Adam Barker shooting in the Narrows, Zion National Park, UT p: Kevin Winzeler

Pushing Boundaries

This past week I was approached by a good friend to do a car shoot for an upcoming charitable project of his. The car? A 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago in a stunning metallic green color. It’s tough to shoot a bad picture of this car, but then again, I’d never tackled a shoot even remotely close to this one, so I was a bit apprehensive.

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

I decided to head out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for some dramatic scenery that would (hopefully) put me in somewhat of a familiar element and add some drama to the standard cool car shot. I really had no idea what I was doing as far as car photography was concerned, but I knew if I had good light, and good surroundings, that I could make something work.

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Conditions were crystal clear, making for uninteresting skies on the one hand, and predictable, consistent light on the other. Equipment used was nothing too fancy–a ladder and 30″ reflector. That’s it. I’m comfortable shooting natural light, so I chose to stick with natural light. I also used my Singh Ray Grad ND filters pretty heavily–a nice skill set to have if you’re not too familiar with artificial lighting.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

In the end, I was quite pleased with the way things turned out. While I’m sure there are distinguishing eyes out there that could certainly point out some weak spots in the images, I’m fairly content with the results. What did I learn from this shoot? Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. After all, it’s still photography, and you’re still you and you’ve still got your style. Remember the basics, and focus on what you do know, not what you don’t know. I know how to use what Mother Nature has cooked up to give me memorable and meaningful images, and just as this has worked so many times in so many locations around the world, it worked on the Salt Flats. What a cool place to do a shoot! The landscape grew more and more eccentric as the sun dropped nearer the horizon. And in the end, I truly think it was the location that made the shots. Thanks to David Watkins for the photos of me shooting!

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photographer Adam Barker shooting photos of Lamborghini Murcielago and Porsche Boxter S at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Photo of Lamborghini Murcielago at Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, UT

Visual Storytelling

It’s good to be back in Utah after a five-day fishing road trip through Idaho and Montana. It was an adventure for sure–weather was gnarly at times and fishing was challenging. Weather, however, always makes for interesting photos. While I wasn’t on assignment for this trip, I often take advantage of work/play vacations and treat them as if I were shooting a story for a publication. Practice, after all, makes perfect.

If you’re interested in being an editorial photographer, start looking for opportunities to work on your visual storytelling. With a background in fine art scenic imagery, it took me a while to look for the smaller, mundane photos that carry weight and meaning. I had trained myself to find that one iconic image that people would want hung on their wall large and in charge. Telling the whole story requires commitment and dedication on the part of the photographer. Many times, the grittiest moments carry the most impact in telling a story. Sometimes the most mundane or boring images tell a big part of the story, and it is the photographer’s job to make that image visually engaging. Regardless, you must have your camera close at hand and your head in the game at all times. Challenge yourself this week to tell a story through your imagery–you’ll be surprised how much you grow as a photographer.

Below is the story in images from this past week. Hope you enjoy!

Nick Granato enjoys the view from his drift boat along the South Fork of the Snake River

Nick Granato enjoys the view from his drift boat along the South Fork of the Snake River

Rainbow trout from the South Fork with a bit of leftover hardware...

Rainbow trout from the South Fork with a bit of leftover hardware...

Fishermen hanging out in the drift boat on the South Fork of the Snake River

Fishermen hanging out in the drift boat on the South Fork of the Snake River

On the road.

On the road.

Nick Granato preps for a day of fishing at sunrise on some water in Montana

Nick Granato preps for a day of fishing at sunrise on water in Montana

Matt Warner dips a line in paradise. AKA Montana.

Matt Warner dips a line in paradise. AKA Montana.

Early light and fog spotlights cabins near West Yellowstone, MT

Early light and fog spotlights cabins near West Yellowstone, MT

Fishermen wait for the take on Montana water.

Fishermen wait for the take on Montana water.

A fine stretch of Montana water, captured with Singh Ray's Gold N Blue Polarizer

A fine stretch of Montana water, captured with Singh Ray's Gold N Blue Polarizer

Sunrise along the Beaverhead River

Sunrise along the Beaverhead River

Viva El Tacobus! Dillon, MT

Viva El Tacobus! Dillon, MT

Exiting the revered Tacobus with full stomachs in Dillon, MT

Exiting the revered Tacobus with full stomachs in Dillon, MT

Matt Warner and Nick Granato enjoy some time in the drift boat on the Big Hole River, MT

Matt Warner and Nick Granato enjoy some time in the drift boat on the Big Hole River, MT

Brook Trout caught on the Big Hole River, MT

Brook Trout caught on the Big Hole River, MT

Matt Warner tries his hand at some wood cutting along the Big Hole River, MT

Matt Warner tries his hand at some wood cutting along the Big Hole River, MT

Matt Warner replenishes the streamer selection along the Big Hole River, MT

Matt Warner replenishes the streamer selection along the Big Hole River, MT

A hefty brown trout caught by yours truly in the Big Hole River, MT

A hefty brown trout caught by yours truly on the Big Hole River, MT

Fishermen relax on a bench with beer in hand after a lengthy float on the Big Hole River, MT

Fishermen relax on a bench with beer in hand after a lengthy float on the Big Hole River, MT

Capture Complete Images with Singh Ray Filters

Below is a blog post that will go up on the Singh Ray Filters Blog shortly. Might as well give a sneak preview here.

As photographers, we are always looking for that image that will make people do a double take. Spectacular color, irresistible light and engaging compositions are useful components in capturing that “perfect” image. Unless, however, we are able to combine several or all of these components together, our images will still be left lacking that special spark.

Perhaps more than any other tool, Singh Ray filters have been instrumental in helping me to capture complete images. Yes, they are instrumental in extracting that extra dose of color and registering skies that will make jaws drop. They are also instrumental in simply achieving balance in an image. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t help us as much as she should, and we have to help ourselves.

This image of Delicate Arch is no revolution to photography. It’s been shot to death, and then some. That’s ok though, as I’d like to think that no one has captured it as I have. We all know that’s probably untrue, but it’s the mentality one must take when shooting an icon. By the time I set up this shot, the throngs of bustling photographers and tourists had all but gone home. The sun had set, after all—and what was there left to shoot with no light? In a word? Plenty.

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Our camera sensor picks up light the human eye cannot, and with longer exposures at dusk, colors saturate and some things come to life that are otherwise dead when the sun is up. I shot other frames with electric light on Delicate Arch, but what completes this image for me is the stark contrast between the white snow of the La Sal Mountains in the background set against a royal sky and warm redrock. This scene was not present when the light appeared best to most of the other photographers. The sky was washed out, thus sapping the mountain peaks of the contrast achieved in this image.

I used a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND to deepen the sky, and pull out every last bit of detail from the mountain peaks. The soft transition renders the filter line virtually unnoticeable except to the most trained eyes!

This next image was captured at Dead Horse Point State Park. Again, an oft-shot location with little lacking in the way of breathtaking beauty. Skies were uninteresting and clear on this particular morning, which forced me to search for compositions that would isolate the fiery glow on the buttes below.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

The light hitting the butte in the upper third of this image was so intense in relation to the rest of the scene that it required a 4-stop soft step ND grad to balance the exposure. I held the filter at an angle as to not overly darken the mid-ground in this image. I am a stickler about hiding filter lines! Do your very best to make it appear as natural as possible.

What completes this image for me has partly to with the beautiful light and winding river with reflection. Mostly, however, it has to do with the balance created between the lit butte in the lower left hand corner and the (almost) overpowering butte in the upper third. This goes to show that even when shooting a long lens landscape, we can search for separating elements that contribute to the overall balance of an image.

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

This last image was captured at Canyonlands National Park. I was pleased to finally have dramatic skies to work with after a literal multi-day cloud draught. As this storm front raced into action, the sun descended at an equally rapid pace, lighting up the horizon with an intense glow. This combination of light on the horizon and dark clouds above created the perfect storm for my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. Had I used a normal grad ND filter on this scene, the already dark clouds would have been rendered unnaturally dark. With the densest part of the Reverse ND Grad filter placed just over the horizon, I was able to maintain a dramatic, yet believable feel to this image.

Perhaps one of the more “complete” images I’ve captured this year, I was drawn to the contrast between the bright, wind-bent grass tufts and the ominous dark clouds overhead. There is a relationship here manifest in the subtle motion displayed in the tips of the grass—obviously affected by the approaching storm. Special care was taken to ensure the horizon line was not placed in the middle of the frame—an important aspect to remember when gunning for that complete image.

Look for that complete image each time you venture out—be sure to have your Singh Ray Filters on hand, as a sure knowledge of how to use them best will give you an upper hand on coming home with a (complete) keeper.