The stories behind some winter photos in my portfolio
I am lucky enough to have a dear friend who needs his dog and house taken care of when he’s out of town. His cabin is on a lake just 20 minutes north of Durango in the San Juan National Forest. Snowfall began in the evening and I set my alarm for just before sunrise, knowing it would be a “powder day”. I woke up to almost 3 feet of fresh snow, quickly shoveled the stairs, and set up my tripod and gear.
Shortly after sunrise, the mountains started to appear, revealing themselves. I love the blue, cold, tones of fresh snow on trees. It’s important here in Southern Colorado to get out early before our bluebird day begins and the snow melts from the spruce, fir forests. Oftentimes, a bit of over-exposure (+) helps to make the whites in the sky sing. But be careful of too much exposure; “blowing out” the highlights can cause post production problems in that there is no density in that part of the image to work with. I used Adobe Lightroom to file and edit the image and “sweetened” it up a bit with adding just a tad of magenta to the image above.
The white at the lower 1/3 of this image is Haviland Lake, in the San Juan National Forest, with about 2-3 feet of fresh snow. I used the ponderosa pine tree on the right to balance the view from foreground (pine tree) to background (highlighted Twilight Peak). You can see the blue sky as the low-lying clouds and ground fog clear. No graduated neutral density filter was needed here. I use the Tiffen .06 for about 85% of my landscape images, to hold detail in the sky while letting the foreground and middle-ground metering guide the exposure.
Located in Southwest Colorado, Hesperus Peak is the highest summit in the La Plata Mountains in Colorado. At 13,232 ft, Hesperus is notable as the Navajo People’s Sacred Mountain of the North, Dibé Ntsaa, which marks the northern boundary of the Dinetah, their traditional homeland. I could see this view from my front porch in Mancos. I set up my tripod and enjoyed photographing the fast moving, low lying clouds from the winter storm reveal and hide the mountain tops. A few moments after taking this image, the clouds covered the scene and the mountains didn’t appear for the rest of the day.
Winter in California
A few years ago I spent the holidays along the coast of California, traveling each day from “home base” in Monterey. The coast of California in winter is quite a dramatic change from Colorado. I loves the shapes of the succulents in the sand. The light in late December was quiet, almost somber, and the ocean was a beautiful blue-green color.
Capturing the waves in the background and the shape of the succulents on the beach required the use of my Nikon 12-24 lens and deep depth of field. Sometimes I used the boulders to block distracting elements in the distance. The earth “curves” at ultra wide angle, so I would check in my viewfinder to be sure I had not distorted the horizon lines too much.
Near Santa Cruz, I loved “dodging” the waves after they came through these “Natural Bridges”. By moving my camera only a few inches I could choose what to frame within the opening. Slow shutter speeds and capturing the light on the rocks were important aspects of creating these photos; knowing when to press the shutter release was half the fun too. Timing the waves, cautious about getting the wet sand on my tripod, and framing the distant scene, while choosing a small aperture for deep depth of field were all part of the workflow.