Photographing under mixed lighting conditions

In this exercise, I set up my tripod to compose a beautiful group of wild lupine.  These wildflowers bloom in late June at altitudes around 10,000 feet.  On days when the sun is hiding behind clouds and the clouds are moving, there are plenty of opportunities to see the light travel across the subject.  I usually like when the sunlight is slightly diffused by the clouds.  Which one do you prefer?


Full shade was on this bunch of lupine, the cloud cover was heavy. ©Kit Frost


Bright, speckled sunlight was painting across the same bunch. ©Kit Frost


I really like the subtle light as it flowed over the lupine. I waited until the foreground lupine was well, but not too harshly lit. ©Kit Frost


Lupin Lupinus Nederlands: Lupine (Lupinus) Fra...

Lupin Lupinus Nederlands: Lupine (Lupinus) Français : Lupin (Lupinus) Deutsch: Lupine (Lupinus) Español: Lupín (Lupinus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Add this link to your Fall Foliage viewing

Natural History Wanderings, based in California, is a great site for a variety of yearly reports.  The fall foliage, color reports, wildflower and waterfall reports, and so much more.

This blog is written by Sandy Steinman.  Here’s a link to 2012 Fall Foliage reports around Colorado.  Check it out.

Creating a “sense of place” in your photos

When composing my photos,  I try to give the viewer a “sense of place”. Sometimes I include a small creek alongside the main subject, or I use a boulder or rock in the water to “anchor” the viewer.  Often when photographing wildflowers in a high altitude basin, I show some of the surrounding mountains.  I like to think of my compositions as having a “star of the show” and a supporting cast.

A sense of place is created by including the creek, as well as the wilds. I think of the Elegant Death Camas in this scene as the “stars” of the show and the creek and other wildflowers as the supporting cast. ©Kit Frost
The boulder and snowy land on the left anchor this composition. I could have simply photographed the reflection and the distant high peaks, but instead chose to show a nearby edge of the land to anchor the scene and make it less abstract.  ©Kit Frost
By photographing from a low camera position, this composition includes a strong foreground, middle-ground and shows a sense of place in the distance too. A wide-angle lens helps to really show the full sweep of this composition. Moving in close to the paintbrush in the foreground creates the feeling of size and presence.  My tripod leg was just outside of the scene. Nikon D-5100 w/Nikon 16-85 lens ©Kit Frost

The challenge of using Adjustment brushes in Adobe Lightroom

Although I try to be at the right place at the right time, in some instances the light just doesn’t cooperate.  I backpacked for 4 days to this location and was at a high altitude location with storms coming in and out of the alpine basin.  I scouted these locations and went back a few times to capture the photos at the best possible time, but just as with fishing, sometimes I fail to connect.

In the examples here the original captures just did not sing to me.  I took the RAW files into Lightroom and processed the images, weighing my edits to paint light and dark in each of these scenes.  The adjustment brushes work wonders for those times when the available light is a bit flat at the same time as the subject is at or close to prime.

Sometimes the brush was set to increase exposure, contrast, saturation, and clarity.  Often the adjustment brush is set to saturation and to decrease exposure.  Light painting.  Dark painting.  Saturation painting.

Click on the first image below and see the gallery of before and after images.

“Working” your subjects in photography

In the San Juan National Forest, one of the most prolific wildflower locations is Ice Lakes Basin. Here is a mid July creekside composition. ©Kit Frost

When I approach, or am seduced by a subject, I make it a habit to walk around with my camera and frame some ideas.  Hand-holding my camera gives me the freedom to “sketch” a few photos.  The compositions that speak to me most are then committed to by setting up the tripod and “taking myself seriously”.  A good practice for me has been to photograph the same subject in a handful of different compositions.  These example show the same subjects in four different compositions.  In this instance, the creek and the wildflowers were my main subject, but as I “worked the subject” I realized that by including the distant background I could give a sense of place to the photo too.  Do you have a preference for one photograph over the others?

Which version do you prefer? ©Kit Frost

Another example of “working the subject”. ©Kit Frost

Ice Lakes lower basin is full of small creekside compositions. ©Kit Frost

Shoot both horizontal and vertical images

When out photographing the landscape, I like to compose my images in both the horizontal and vertical formats. I took these photos while teaching the use of wide angle lenses on yesterday’s wildflower photography workshop.  A few things are going on in these samples.  One way to change viewpoint is by getting very low to emphasize the foreground flowers and to cut out too much empty space in the middle ground.  Also, when using lenses like my 12-24mm it helps to get really low to the ground so the mountains can be included too.

Which do you prefer?  Horizontal or Vertical?