Today’s images are randomly selected. This post is really about how we
manufacture photographic rules of what we can and cannot do, and how
much we would miss in the world if we followed them.
Water/landscape photos, even when they are made around sunrise, do not
always have to contain eye-popping color, or even bright light, to
work. Mood is a powerful tool and capturing the mood of the moment can
be more than enough to make a successful picture. Almost every great
place, has a mood to share with us. It’s up to the photographer to
pass along that mood to others.
I have made as many landscapes in light that was dripping in color as
I could find. I am not shy of colorful pictures. That said, when I was
in the field and the color and/or light was not spectacular, I
searched for that mood or atmosphere that an overly discerning “color”
photographer might pass up. I have seen many a photographer pack up
and leave because the color wasn’t good enough.
I have always viewed my job as finding something interesting about a
subject, and sharing it with others. Sometimes high color will
actually kill a mood.
This wetland sunrise does indeed have some color, but it is lacking
the sort of eye popping stuff that I was hoping for. The more I
watched the clouds and followed their reflections, the more I felt
this scene “had something to say”. so I let it speak.
One thing that I have occasional done with colorless sunrise/sunset
landscape/waterscapes is to convert them to black and white. Sometimes
nature has done that for you, and you just go with the flow.
This one was made in the Colorado Rockies on a foggy morning.
This very similar image was made while looking at an island in
Wisconsin’s Chequemagon N.F. wilderness.
This next photo was created in a thermal area in Yellowstone N.P.,
Wyoming. Notice the small splash of color in the coniferous trees.
This has the feeling of a black and white image with a little green
added to it.
All of the images above were made with what nature gave me, and no
alterations. My personal interpretation came from how I composed each
image via lens choice and camera position.
Contrasty light, or what one might call “difficult” light, is looked
at as the enemy of most wildlife photographers. I always thought of it
as an opportunity. It is true that sometimes that kind of light works
and sometimes it does not, but nothing ventured nothing gained.
In either soft light or direct sunlight, that this would have merely
been a portrait of a Whitetail doe, with insects in her face. Because
of this directional “bothersome” light, it adds much to her
personality and persona. The image is better in my opinion, because of
the high contrast light. Shadows add drama, mystery and character to a
You’ll never know if you put your camera away and give up on the picture.
The pose from this Dark-eyed Junco, is far more striking because of
the shadow area in back of the bird. The harsh sunlight casts the
bird in lighter tones than it really is, and the black background
makes him pop.
This picture of a Snowy Egret with a fish, is of high contrast, but
there is warmth in the white of the bird because it was made right
I was thrilled when I realized just how much the bird was popping out
from its background.
Back to the land and stuff.
This image which was made in west Texas, had just a little too much
contrast. I do like the way the colorful little mountain separates
itself from the old building, but there was no detail at all in the
building when I first viewed the scene on my computer. With Photoshop,
I outlined the barn and fence, and added just enough lighting back to
it so there was a touch of detail. Of course, there had to be a bit of
light on the barn (reflected light) originally in order to reproduce
it while editing.
I general, I like soft overcast light for forest close-ups. It allows
for soft gentle details throughout a plant. There is however a type of
light between bright and constrasty, and heavy overcast. There is,
high bright overcast. A very thin cloud layer between the bright sun
and the land.
That type of light, is soft enough to produce gentle details, but
bright enough to create some soft shadows. Gentle details with a
smidgeon of contrast to separate the background from the subject, is
just another gift from God given to nature photographers. We just need
to recognize it and use it.
Once we discover (or create) all of those little rules that make us
better photographers, the best thing we can do is to break them.