Landscape Photography: What I learned in Montana

Went on my first "real" landscape photo outing to Glacier National Park in Montana this past weekend. Got some great shots of some amazing scenery! I learned a lot in the process and thought I'd share... 1) If you think you're carrying too much gear then you are. Leave some of the lenses behind and bring a good wide angle and a telephoto

2) Neutral density filters are a must, graduated neutral density especially. That being said, don't leave a grad. ND on the camera the WHOLE time and remember that grad NDs are not just for making the sky darker. If you're shooting a lot of waterfalls you may need to flip it around. I also quickly learned why cokin style filters are made of resin not glass (they don't shatter when bumped)

3) A circular polarizer is great however I found it got in the way more often then not. You lose a few stops of light and they are annoying to turn with a hood or cokin-style filter holder on there.

4) Lose the lens hood if you're using a circular polarizer unless you actually are getting lots of flair

5) Don't be scared to pull out the tripod. I found the extra weight while hiking was a pain but well worth it. Don't be shy about using it, esp with a bunch of filters on. You don't wanna find yourself kicking up the ISO too much out in the add noise and lose resolution

6) Bring a small towel to wipe off wet gear

7) Bring lens cleaning gear, especially microfiber to clean lens and filters. They get dirty in the field quickly

8) The iPhone 4S takes really good pictures. Kinda made me mad at the quality actually since I was lugging around 30-40 lbs of SLR gear and my friends' iPhone was taking such good pictures.

9) Don't get so enamored with the subject/views in front of you that you forget to look *behind* you.  Sometimes if you just turn around you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Last but not least, if you see an amazing scene....slow down. Our trip was a whirlwind and I found myself rushed VERY often (I was traveling with 2 non-photogs). While I got some great shots, they would've been better if I had not rushed myself and thought about focal length, filter choice, etc. try diff angles, diff focal lengths, but just take your time. This isn't always possible as light can be fleeting, but I found a good landscape scene is like a good hand on poker: don't go all in. Stop and take a breath and take your time.

There you is a learning experience and I learned a lot. Montana is beautiful and I'll share shots shortly. On that note, I leave you with one closing thought: don't get too wrapped up in your gear to the point you forget to enjoy the scenery and wildlife!

Singh-Ray Filters

I've been meaning to get more into landscape photography lately.  The Really Right Stuff tripod package I purchased recently along with lenses such as the Nikkor 10-24mm DX and 24mm f1.4G make nice landscape setups.  Something lacking from my kit: filters!  I just ordered a couple graduated neutral density filters (the Cokin P size) from Singh Ray.  What's a graduated neutral density filter??  Well, a normal neutral density filter simply acts like sunglasses for your camera lens and lowers the amount of light that passes through the sensor without altering colors (hence NEUTRAL density).  A graduated neutral density fades from the desired stop amount (often 1, 2, 3, or 4 stops) to clear.  This allows you to hold back the sky and the sun while leaving the foreground (ocean, field, whatever) unaffected.  You get a more balanced exposure with sky and foreground using them.  I also got a reverse graduated neutral density.  This guy is darkest in the middle, fades to gray on end, and is clear on the other.  This one is perfect for shots where the sun is right on the horizon and about to set.  Anyway, I just received the filters I ordered today and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with what I got.  Each filter has it's own little pouch (something I was not anticipating) and Singh-Ray included a 35 minute DVD on how to use and get the most out of filters in their lineup.  Another added bonus!  So far impressed with what I got so gotta give props to Singh-Ray. Hopefully I'll have examples to post here shortly....stay tuned. PS Singh-Ray has a pretty cool blog where a lot of photographers share their stuff and tips with filters here

Really Right Stuff TVC-33

FINALLY bit the bullet and treated myself to a new tripod...picked up a Really Right Stuff TVC-33 +BH-55 LR package.  For those looking to order one, they were backordered, but it only took about two weeks from the time I placed my order to the receipt of my package.  More pics of the tripod coming along with some field testing next week.