Landscape Pictures thumbnails only

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Schwabacher Landing is without a doubt one of my favorite places in Grand Teton National Park. This picture was taken just as the rising sun lit up the mountain tops. This location is an easy, short walk from a small parking lot. It was recommended to me that I arrive very early to beat the crowd - to get a prime shooting location before sunrise. Getting there early enough to see the sunrise was the only requirement I found this mid-August weekend day as there were only a couple of other friendly photographers joining me.

24mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park, Maine Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park, Maine

There are a lifetime of photo opportunities in Acadia National Park, but the Bass Harbor Lighthouse is one of the best and most-visited locations.
This image is a composite of three shots. A 20 second primary shot includes the water and sky while a second 30 second shot was used to pull detail out of the rocks on shore. A third shot was used to capture the light shining on the trees beside and behind the lighthouse.
These three shots were selected from a huge number I shot at various times during the sunset - with lots of bracketing taking place. The three layers were merged in photoshop.
To keep the long exposure sharp, mirror lockup and the two-second self-timer were used as was a Gitzo GT3530LS tripod with an Arca Swiss Z1 Ballhead mounted to it. A custom white balance and a small amount of saturation were the primary post-processing tweaks aside from compositing the 3 images.
When you are shooting the next sunset, don't leave when the sun sets below the horizon (most photographers I observed in Acadia do). There may be many opportunities yet to come with easier to handle dynamic ranges.

24mm  f/11.0  20s  ISO 100
10-Rated Glacier National Park Sunrise 10-Rated Glacier National Park Sunrise

When all comes together, the rewards are worth every ounce of effort required to get the shot.
Getting to Glacier National Park is a modest challenge for much of the world - it is at best two flights away from most of the us - and three for many of us. For me, it started with an early bedtime and a 2:30 AM alarm setting. Actually, I set two of alarms for insurance. One was on my phone which was on the nightstand beside the other.
The phone went off first. I shut it off and tried to wake my wife (the family was joining me on this trip). After several attempts over a few minutes, she rolled over and in a somewhat unfriendly tone, said "WHAT?". That should have been my first clue.
I said "How much time do you want to get ready?" (I thought I was giving her the amount of time she requested the evening before). My next clue - She said "It's 12:30 AM!?" That's when I realized that I had an actual call - the alarm had not gone off. And that's when I learned that my trip to Glacier National Park had just become much more complicated.
A voice mail informed me that our first flight of three had been cancelled. I then spent an hour on the phone with someone from half way around the world trying to figure out how I was going to make one of the few daily flights into Kalispell. And one that returned to the same originating airport (don't ask).
A 3.5 hour drive put us on an afternoon flight that put me at the St. Mary Lodge at 1:00 AM PDT (3:00 AM in my EDT time). This of course resulted in a missed evening shoot - and required a sleep-in the next morning, so I missed an AM opportunity also.
It didn't take me long to get over the travel exhaustion. This national park is worth every ounce of effort and cost it takes to get there.

24mm  f/11.0  30s  ISO 100
Striking Gold: Maroon Bells Peaks Reflecting in Maroon Lake Striking Gold: Maroon Bells Peaks Reflecting in Maroon Lake

I'm just back from an intensive 9-day photo trip to Colorado. Overall, the trip was great, though the weather was not cooperative for about half of the daylight hours. Bad weather can create the dramatic skies that are highly desired for landscape photos, but rain, snow and heavy fog can be especially challenging when distant mountains are a primary subject.
At the top of my distant mountains list were the Maroon Bells, a pair of fourteeners (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) located in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area near Aspen. These tree-less, maroon-colored peaks are generally considered the most-photographed mountains in North America. They are most-photographed for good reasons. The mountains are beautiful, the scene in front of them, including Maroon Creek Valley and Maroon Lake, is beautiful and the access is very easy. Getting this picture into the portfolio, however, was definitely not easy.
I mentioned that access to the beautiful Maroon Bells scene is easy. The hike from the relatively-small parking lot to Maroon Lake is a short one. I carried about 50 lbs. of gear to the lake in a Think Tank Photo Airport Accelerator Backpack and a Think Tank Photo StreetWalker worn as a front pack. But, this hike is the easy part of getting this photograph.
There are basically two ideal sections of the Maroon Lake shoreline to shoot from with a limited number of photographers fitting into them. Getting the perfect location requires you to be there before the other photographers wanting the same easy-to-get-to location (just getting a parking space can be a challenge). Factor a 30 minute drive from the nearest hotel to the early arrival time requirement at the parking lot (a limited amount of campsites are available closer to the location) and the result is a very early AM alarm. By the time this photo was taken, there were nearly 100 photographers standing beside Maroon Lake, and I assure you that many did not have optimal shooting positions (just hanging out with this many friendly, enthusiastic landscape photographers makes this trip worth the effort).
Aspen in their brilliant yellow (and red) fall foliage colors were my other primary photography target for this trip. There are only a handful of days each year when the aspen trees are at their peak, so the timing of this trip has to be perfect. Locals can simply watch the foliage reports and make the drive (just over 4 hours from Denver) when the trees are peaking, but the rest of us need to plan ahead with airline ticket purchases, hotel reservations and vehicle rentals. My strategy was simple: plan the trip for peak foliage dates from recent years. In Aspen, this strategy worked perfectly for me. Some trees were beyond peak and some remained green, but most were at or near peak color. Though this is a highly desired location most of the year, the peak foliage definitely factored into the large crowds I encountered.
To get the peaks of the Maroon Bells to glow at sunrise requires a clear sky in the east during sunrise and to get a perfectly clear reflection of the peaks requires no wind. I was not hopeful during my 2 hour lakeside wait. Unlike many of the other mornings on this trip, the sky was perfectly clear. But, there was enough of a breeze blowing to create mirror-reflection-destroying ripples in the water. A moment before this photo was captured, the lake became a giant mirror and remained nearly flat for the next 3-4 hours (this duration is unusual for Maroon Lake) until the sun lit the entire valley floor below.
With the right scene unfolding in front of me, capturing the right framing and exposures became the next challenge. The framing was not hard (it is hard to go wrong at this location), but the exposures required more attention. With direct sunlight hitting the mountain peaks and the light-absorbing evergreens in deep shade, there was a significant amount of dynamic range to be captured. Using a multiple exposure HDR technique was the key to capturing the entire scene and all I had to do in the field was to insure that, for each final image, I had proper exposures captured for the highlights (shorter exposure) and for the shadows (longer exposure).
Back home in the studio, the processing work was much more difficult than capturing the right exposures in the field. Blending the two RAW images into a natural-looking HDR image was a complex process. I'd be embarrassed to say how many revisions I've made to this image, and while I have many variations that I like, I can't say that I am completely satisfied yet. This is my favorite revision today.
The iconic photograph of the Maroon Bells reflecting in Maroon lake with an apron of brilliantly-colored aspen trees lining Maroon Creek Valley was high on my bucket list and checking this line item off was my highest priority for this trip. No, this photo is not going to be unique (at least not completely unique). A lot of other photographers (close to 100 from this day alone) could have this or similar photos in their portfolios (if they executed and processed properly). I enjoy looking at photos taken by others, but this one is mine and there is something special about having iconic images in your own portfolio and having photos you created hanging on your walls. The memories these photos hold are part of their specialness. This particular image does not tell much of a story, but the story behind the image is big. That my father joined me on this particular trip was part of the specialness.
Because this shot was a priority, I allotted the most trip time (two full days and an additional half day if needed) to the Aspen area. The first morning was perfect (I shot from the side of the lake until about 11:00 AM and in the valley most of the day) and the second morning was an exact duplicate of the first until a breeze picked up just after sunrise (I moved to other shooting locations at this time – as planned).
Lakeside, I was simultaneously shooting with two complete tripod-based setups (one under the other when space was tight or to better protect tripod legs from accidents). With all of the effort and timing coming together perfectly and with the short duration of mountain peaks being lit, two rigs allowed me to maximize my take-home. This particular image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and one of the best landscape lenses ever made, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens. They worked perfectly.

35mm  f/11.0  .3s  ISO 100
Sunrise at the Portland Lighthouse Sunrise at the Portland Lighthouse

While it is painful to get up early enough to photograph the sunrise in early summer (4:20 AM in this case), early summer is the right time of the year to photograph the Portland Lighthouse and the distant Ram Island Lighthouse from this angle with the sun in the frame.
With the middle daughter accompanying me, I arrived at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, ME just before sunrise. I selected one specific composition to concentrate on during the prime shooting minutes, timed the rotating lighthouse light, bracketed exposures and, when capturing the foreground rocks being hit with the first light rays of the day, adjusted focus to a closer distance.
This image is composed primarily of three source images run through a complicated manual HDR process with manual focus-stacking. After the big effort made to capture this image (a long drive in addition to the early alarm), I was anxious to see how this photo turned out. It was the first-processed from my recent photo trip to Maine. I'm happy with the result – it was definitely worth my effort.
I'm also very happy with the 5Ds R and 16-35 f/4L IS combination. I can say that they "rock".

16mm  f/11.0  1/13s  ISO 100
Old Faithful Geyser Erupting Picture Old Faithful Geyser Erupting Picture

Old Faithful Geyser erupts promptly on schedule. While not the largest geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful is very regular and provides a spectacular display. Also spectacular were the clouds on this day. A circular polarizer filter enhances the appearance of this shot.

105mm  f/9.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Moraine Lake Sunrise, Banff National Park Moraine Lake Sunrise, Banff National Park

One of my primary goals for my time at Moraine Lake was to capture the warm light from the rising sun hitting just the top of the mountains with the amazing blue lake reflecting the same. The scene I was visualizing required a very clear sky to the east, allowing the sunlight to reach the mountain unimpeded/undiffused. The other important factor was wind – I needed there to be none of it. I had three mornings for everything to come together.
Capturing this scene of course meant being in place and ready to go before the sun rose. On the first morning, having never been there before, I not only needed to find the lake, but needed to hike to (find) and climb up the Rockpile (via a trail) followed by scouting – all in the dark. Well, in the dark but with the help of a super-bright SureFire Maximus Headlamp. As incredibly bright as that light is, I was not going to be lighting the distant mountains and it was a guess as to where the sunlit mountain peak reflections were going to fall in the lake.
I picked what seemed like a great position, with a distant glacier framed between the trees, some nice boulders in the foreground and the overall scene nicely framed and bookmarked with a pair of large evergreen trees. After setting up a Canon EOS 5Ds R with an EF 11-24mm f/4L Lens on my primary tripod, I set up a second 5Ds R with an EF 16-35mm f/4L IS Lens mounted on my travel tripod a short distance away. The plan was to go back and forth between the cameras, rapidly capturing multiple compositions with immediate redundancy available if a problem was encountered (it is called the Rockpile for a good reason and I had one very close call).
The weather proved ideal and everything was looking great until ... I realized that the mountain peak reflection was being cut off by the foreground. I immediately abandoned the carefully selected locations, running across the rocks with the primary camera setup to quickly find a better position. There was no time to waste because the sun line moves down the mountain very rapidly.
While I have a large number of images I like from my three mornings at Lake Moraine, this one, one of the first ones I captured on the first day, remains a favorite. The sun line had moved down the mountains slightly farther than I originally visualized, but ... I may actually prefer this version better. While simply having that preference adds to the satisfaction of achieving the goal, I really do think that I like this scene better. With more of the mountain in the still-very-warm sunlight, there is more desired color in the frame and more of the peaks are being lit than when the first light hit only a couple of the peaks.
This is an HDR image. Because, as I mentioned, the line of sunlight moves quickly down the mountain, it is important to capture the HDR frames in very quick succession in this situation. My preference is to use AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) with the camera in high speed burst mode. I used Live View to gain mirror lockup and used a locking remote release to complete to capture. Lock the release down and quickly go to the second camera. Quickly check the results, fine tune if needed and repeat.
For processing the HDR image, I used a combination of Photomatix (the best HDR software I've used) and manual blending in Photoshop.
While 4-5 hours of sleep three nights in a row is not a good habit from a physical or mental health standpoint, I'm sometimes willing to make that sacrifice for a good image. While that effort is not always rewarded with a great photograph, the disappointing efforts serve to make the successful ones even more special. Fortunately, disappointment didn't happen in this location.

18mm  f/8.0  1/5s  ISO 100
Kure Beach, NC Fishing Pier Kure Beach, NC Fishing Pier

This picture of the fishing pier in Kure Beach, North Carolina was taken at 5:53 AM. The rising sun provided just the right amount of light on the clouds to balance the warm glow of the lights on the fishing pier shining onto the surf. A long exposure allows the surf to become a smooth blur.

24mm  f/11.0  25s  ISO 100
Incoming Storm Over Dragon Cay, Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos Incoming Storm Over Dragon Cay, Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos

Storms on the horizon and mostly cloudy overhead. That is what I saw when I stepped out of the Middle Caicos villa well before sunrise. While I admit that going back to bed seemed like a good (and justifiable) option, I knew that storms could bring desired drama and resisted that urge. While a sky completely covered in rainstorm was not of interest to me on this morning, I saw enough breaks in the clouds to give hope for some dramatic skies and I stayed with the plan.
Mudjin Harbor is my favorite location in the causeway-connected North and Middle Caicos islands (Turks and Caicos Islands are just north of Haiti and Dominican Republic). The cliffs and beaches in this location are stunning and the color of the water is among the best anywhere. The close-to-shore reef system brings entertainment in terms of waves and many small ironshore formation limestone rock islands dot the landscape, including Dragon Cay (Dragon Island) as seen here.
At this resolution, it is not especially easy to recognize the dragon lying in the water, but the rightmost large rock is shaped like a horn-nosed dragon head with its body (including shoulders and hips) flowing to the left and followed by its tail. A goal for this trip was to capture some images that included this fun land formation in them and having a nearby villa was part of the plan implementation.
A big attraction of Mudjun Harbor is a pair of caves and one of the caves faces the beast. A great and popular compositional technique is to frame a subject within its surroundings and one of my favorite natural frames is the opening of a cave. In addition to making a good frame, this particular cave offered a couple of additional benefits on this morning.
First, the sustained wind speed was just over 30 mph and gusts were reaching 50+ mph. That is fierce enough to blow a camera and tripod over and strong enough to make it difficult to even stand up, let alone frame and capture a sharp image. It is strong enough to make a painful whistle across one's ears and strong enough to blow salt water deep inland (causing, minimally, front lens element clarity issues). I was able to get deep enough into this cave to essentially eliminate the wind factor.
You can see the other issue approaching in this image. A small-but-significant rainstorm is close and on direct course for my position. The cave offered shelter from the rain and allowed me to photograph continuously as it approached and hit.
The word "cave" is often used to describe a dark venue and though these cave walls were brighter than many, they were quite dark and the backlit clouds were much brighter. This scenario means that an HDR technique was required. Two images with different exposures were manually (painstakingly in this case) blended in Photoshop to achieve the result seen here.
Obviously, this rainstorm was back-lit by the sun and direct sunlight on rain holds promise for another highly valued, loved-by-everyone landscape photography element that I'll share later.

16mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Round Rocks and Otter Point Picture Round Rocks and Otter Point Picture

The round rock beach near Otter Point is a classic sunrise location for photographing Acadia National Park. The TS-E lens was tilted forward a slight amount to keep both the foreground and background sharp. A 2-Stop B+W Neutral Density Filter along with ISO 50 was used to lengthen the exposure time - allowing the Atlantic Ocean to blur.

24mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 50
Sunset at Mauna Kea Volcano Sunset at Mauna Kea Volcano

While Hawaii is not as well known for its snow as it is for its beaches and resorts, it is indeed a land of fire and ice. The 13,796' (4,138m) summit of Mauna Kea Volcano is spectacular at any time of the day, but especially so at sunrise and sunset. And I was treated to the results of a recent snow storm.
My time here was at sunset and my shooting was not of the setting sun itself, but of the landscape being hit with the warm light that was practically shining upward. Lighting as seen in this image does not last very long and the compositions available seemed endless - though in a more horizontal orientation.
I could have used a wide angle focal length and cropped the plain sky and less-attractive foreground from the image, but I instead shot a multi-image panorama that would give me higher resolution for cropping various compositions from later - or for printing large.
This image was shot handheld (relying on image stabilization) as I was moving fast to get as many varied shots as possible.

112mm  f/8.0  1/50s  ISO 400
Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is a spectacular slot canyon on Navajo land near Page, Arizona. While the image appears serene, my back is against the canyon wall and I am elbow-to-elbow with fellow photographers. And just around the corner is another guide blocking access to the scene.
Upper Antelope Canyon is the most visited and most photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. A guide is required for this slot canyon. And to get decent photos here, book a photo tour. The native guides will take you where you need to go when you need to be there.
You need to know what you are doing when shooting here - you do not have much time to capture your image.

23mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
Reflecting Pink from a Clear Sky, Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve Reflecting Pink from a Clear Sky, Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

I was in Lone Pine, CA and the Alabama Hills facing the prospect of a clear sky at sunset. While blue is one of my favorite colors, some clouds in the sky with a fiery glow are an even better end-of-the-day option.

The sun setting in a clear sky casts a beautiful warm light, ideal for landscape imagery. However, the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, including 14,505' Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, blocks the warm color temperature of the late-day sunlight long before it reaches most of this valley and its formations.

There is one reliable way to get a colorful sky during a clear sunset. The Belt of Venus will rise opposite the sun with the earth's shadow following it, and reflecting the Belt of Venus in a body of water doubles the available color.

Mono Lake is over 2,600' higher than Lone Pine, CA, home of the Alabama Hills. This location has a less-obstructed west view and lacks the close tall mountains to the east. That combination provides early visibility of the Belt of Venus, where it appears strong in color

Photographing the tufa tower limestone formations at Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve had long been on my to-do list, so the second round of adventures for this day began.

Upon arriving at the lake, the car thermometer said it was cold out — upper 40s or low 50s? However, it was too hot in the sun to dress warmly.

I opted to go light, grabbing a tripod, two cameras and lenses in Lowepro toploader cases, and no extra clothes. The plan was to scout for the optimal sunset shot, return to the car for everything else, and then capture the selected sunset scene.

After finding a location that worked for the reflection plan roughly a mile into the adventure, I no longer had the energy to make the rather difficult two-mile round trip to retrieve the warm clothes (and flashlight).

The pair of Canon EOS R5 bodies mounted to Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS and Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS Lenses were perfect for the opportunities presented, and the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head held them solidly.

The expected temperature drop was a concern, but I was still very warm. The neutral density filters were still in the SUV, but the smooth water left nothing moving to blur.

Eventually, the sun went low in the sky, the tufas had warm light on them, and many photos were captured. However, the real show began when the Belt of Venus and the earth's shadow moved into view. The Belt of Venus and its reflection nicely framed the tufa formations and their dark blue earth shadow background. This show was over in minutes, but working fast with two cameras provided many image variations within this timeframe.

The show would have been over fast regardless of the sky progression because the temperature plummeted into the 20s as soon as the sun set, and shivering made tripod use mandatory. As the dirt road was closer than the car (and the flashlight was in the car), I opted for a direct path to the road, expecting that the opportunity for getting lost would be reduced and hoping that firmer footing would be gained. It didn't take long for this decision to be deemed questionable, and the "Would anyone ever find me if I went down in the massive, over-my-head sagebrush that I was climbing over?" question entered my mind.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, and the Belt of Venus provided the desired sunset color on this evening. Keep this sky color option in mind for your next clear day sunset — or sunrise — shoot.

70mm  f/8.0  0.4s  ISO 100
Brilliant Sun Pillar Picture Brilliant Sun Pillar Picture

The sun peeks between the clouds while sending out a beautiful pillar of light reflected from ice crystals in the sky.

220mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
When Bad is Good, Sunset in Badlands National Park When Bad is Good, Sunset in Badlands National Park

While badlands may be bad for farming and inhabiting, they are awesome for photography. Late spring brings the storm season to Badlands National Park, and the clouds associated with stormy weather bring the sky color that makes landscape photographers drool.

I can't think of any scenarios I like better than the sun shining under heavy cloud cover immediately before setting. The flat prairie often provides very late in the day ultra-warm, direct sunlight, which was the case this evening.

With a close foreground and a very distant background, this scene called for the use of the Canon EOS R5's focus shift feature.

A very high (100) number of images setting was selected, indicating that the camera should create sharpness until infinity. The closest subject in the frame was focused on, and with the press of the shutter, the R5 determined that two frames were adequate for this 15mm f/11 capture. The Depth Compositing tool in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) merged the two images.

In this case, some soft areas remained in the seams in the lower left and lower right regions of the merged image. A Photoshop overlay using a small portion of the sharp foreground image corrected this issue.

15mm  f/11.0  0.5s  ISO 100
Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii has one of the most spectacular landscapes you will find anywhere. It is also one of the most inaccessible places you will find.
To get around the inaccessibility issue, I employed a helicopter charter. This shooting platform completely opens up the possibilities for landscape photography compositions.
For this image, I used a circular polarizer filter. The result was deeply-saturated colors that "pop".
Because the subject distance was great and the focal length wide, I could get away with a relatively-wide for grand landscape photography aperture of f/5.6. The 1/640 shutter speed is also unusual for normal landscape photography - the wind in the open-doors helicopter necessitated this.

24mm  f/5.6  1/640s  ISO 400
Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos

Warning: You might want to go here. "Here" is Mudjin Harbor in Middle Caicos (Turks and Caicos, British West Indies), where there are surprisingly few people and the scenery is amazing. Capturing my attention for the large part of a day were the large cliffs and the rugged landscape bordering the brilliant turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean here. And, who is the landscape photographer that can pass up a cave framing the ocean?
By moving deep into this cave and zooming the Canon EOS 5Ds R-mounted Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens out to 16mm, I was able to completely frame some of the most-beautifully-colored water found anywhere.
Caves are (usually) very dark and that was case here. This image is composed of three separate exposures – one for the water and sky (slight blinkies in cresting waves), one for the cave walls and another for the upper right portion of the cave wall as it was even darker and needed some detail brought out. With a handful of exposure variations available, I experimented with differing cave wall brightness during post processing. In the end, I opted for noticeable walls, but not bright enough to distract from the idyllic beach and water scene being framed.
Because the sun is constantly moving, multiple exposures intended for combining via HDR that include a shadow line should be captured in quick succession due to that line moving. The always moving and always different waves determined the primary exposure timing. The other exposures were simply captured very close in time to the primary ones.
A circular polarizer filter played an important role in capturing this image, making the sky and water colors pop.

16mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
From Behind Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park From Behind Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Anytime is a great time to visit Ricketts Glen State Park, but the fall is my favorite time. With cloudy weather promising to provide a giant softbox over this waterfall-heaven (22 named falls and perhaps hundreds of smaller falls), I packed two of the world's best wide angle lenses on 5D Mark III bodies, a telephoto zoom lens I was reviewing on the 60D, a couple of other lenses, tripod, rain gear and other essentials (including food and water) totaling about 50 lbs. into my Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW Backpack and headed to my favorite Pennsylvania state park for a long day of photography.
Not long after hitting the Ganoga Glen trail, I realized that the water flow was very low. Low flow at some waterfalls is a big problem, but the falls at Ricketts Glen simply provide different opportunities.
One such opportunity came at Oneida falls, the second falls encountered on this trail when leaving the Lake Rose trailhead parking lot. The water is typically falling over the entire width of this 13' cliff. On this day, access to the cliff was available, though precarious due to slippery rock with very narrow footholds.
Avoiding dripping water as best I could, I placed one foot on a tiny ledge just above the water and the other foot was preventing me from falling into the cliff (with my elbow assisting some of the time). Similarly, I positioned one fully-retracted tripod leg straight out to the left and fully-extended the other two legs downward to catch in small crevices in the rock face. Note that one reason to buy a strong tripod is that you sometimes need to use it for your own safety support.
This position let me shoot through the back of the falls and incorporate some fall foliage into the frame.
The camera was set to C2 mode – my standard custom landscape mode. I have this mode programmed to enable mirror lockup, the 2-second self-timer and long exposure noise reduction. My ISO defaults to 100 and exposure is set to manual.
A B+W XS-PRO circular polarizer filter was used to cut the glare, especially noticeable on the water. I manually bracketed exposures slightly and used manual HDR to darken the colorful trees slightly.
This image was captured with what I consider to be one of the world's best landscape photography lenses, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Lens. It is phenomenally sharp and has little distortion. Another big advantage this lens has is the movements. In this example, I was able to tilt the lens slightly to the left to allow the very close foreground on the left and distant background on the right to both be in sharp focus without resorting to a more-diffraction-impacted narrower aperture.
In the end, a great lens (and camera) along with low water flow yielded my favorite image of the day.

24mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Sunset at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park Sunset at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

The view from high up on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park is awesome even without a sun setting below. To get the star effect from a bright light, use a narrow aperture (such as f/11) and a wide angle lens. This is an HDR image. Photoshop was used to manually create this final image from two differently exposed images.

16mm  f/11.0  .5s  ISO 100
Sunset Over Devils Garden, Arches NP Sunset Over Devils Garden, Arches NP

One type of sunset photo I like is the silhouette. I found this unique landscape in Devils Garden, Arches National Park to be a great sunset foreground. Sometimes the sky performs so well that getting good shots almost feels like cheating.

73mm  f/7.1  1/40s  ISO 100
Curved Aspen Trees of Ophir, Colorado Curved Aspen Trees of Ophir, Colorado

Upon locating these intriguingly-curved aspen trees in the San Juan Mountains near Ophir, CO (south of Telluride), I had hours of entertainment before me. Aspen tree trunks are beautiful and their fall leaf color is amazing. With the numerous curving trunk shapes (likely caused by an avalanche when the trees were younger), there were seemingly endless angles and perspectives to use for images here. Helping was that the lighting/weather was constantly changing, ranging from snowing to sun shining bright enough to create shadows with subsequent images appearing different without even moving the camera. It was perfect.

I have many hundreds of images to choose from (I'll likely share more). Many of them were captured with a wide angle zoom lens, but this particular perspective seemed ideal for 50mm and I happened to have the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens in the MindShift Gear FirstLight 30L backpack I was carrying. I originally thought this image was captured with that lens, but ... this happened to be the last image taken with the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens prior to mounting the RF 50.

Using a "standard" or "normal" focal length makes keeping both very close and very distant subjects in sharp focus a challenge, even at f/16. For this image, I focused on the foreground trees for one frame and on the background trees for a second frame. For a simple focus stacking technique, I loaded the two images as layers in Photoshop and used a layer mask to determine which image the foreground trees were showing from.

50mm  f/16.0  1/5s  ISO 100
Layers of Blue Waves Layers of Blue Waves

I watched and photographed a lot of huge Banzai Pipeline waves on this afternoon in Oahu, but I especially liked what I saw as this one was setting up.
Each of the three waves in the frame has a noticeably different color and only the backmost wave is breaking. A strong wind put a lot of the breaking wave's spray into the air. Of course, that strong wind made 700mm handheld framing a challenge.

700mm  f/8.0  1/800s  ISO 250
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park

These reflected-light illuminated hoodoos are as-seen from near Sunset Point at sunrise. I used the gently rolling, hoodoo-less ridge as the foreground base in this shot.

200mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Turquoise Clouds, Wild Cow Run, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Turquoise Clouds, Wild Cow Run, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos

When the clouds become turquoise, you are probably in a great place.
The day started out with no clouds in the sky. After having photographed for 6 days straight prior with good results, I was looking for more than what a clear sky would deliver, so some scouting was the task at hand. The selected location for the day was Wild Cow Run, at the end of Middle Caicos. From my base location in Whitby Beach, North Caicos, this meant a drive through most of North Caicos, across the causeway and through most of Middle Caicos. Then, at the end of the road, a 4x4 road was traversed until going further becomes impossible.
Your reward for this drive is one of the most beautiful beach locations in the world with seldom another person seen. I had hiked about a mile out when some nice clouds began forming on the horizon. Seeing great images beginning to materialize, I ran and swam back to the vehicle, grabbed a Canon EOS 5Ds R with an EF 16-35mm f/4L IS Lens mounted, threaded a circular polarizer filter onto the lens and put the setup in an EWA marine underwater housing.
I know, an underwater housing does not make sense for capturing an above-water image of beach, water and clouds, but ... you may have noted the "swam" part when returning to the vehicle. I had to swim (fins, snorkel and mask) through a channel with a swift tidal current to reach the island with the beach I was targeting. I was not using the camera underwater, but the housing was perfect for the water transportation to the scene.
Once across the water, I removed the camera from the housing, stowed the housing (and snorkel gear) high on shore and hiked over sand and shallow water to reach the desired location. The huge expanse of sand and shallow water had my greatest attention. I was looking for angles and heights that would work best while keeping the clouds in pleasing locations within the frame. The clouds were moving in rapidly and I was shooting quickly, monitoring mostly my manually-set exposures from time to time, keeping the brightest parts of the clouds nearly blown.
What I wasn't noticing was that, as the clouds came closer, they began reflecting the amazing fluorescent turquoise colored water behind the reef, which was located a distant 1.4 mi (2.25 km) from shore at this location. Upon uploading my images for the day, I realized that the clouds, as they came in closer than the reef, had picked up a very strong color reflection from the water below. The result was something I had not captured before, turquoise-colored clouds.
Photography (usually) rewards effort – effort pays off. It was definitely worth the effort of a round trip to the vehicle to add this (and many other similar) images to the collection. I'll leave the "foresight to take the camera with me the first time" topic for another day.

16mm  f/9.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Volcano, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is currently the only active volcano in Hawaii.
I had only one day allocated to Hawaii Volcanoes NP and unfortunately, the day was nearly completely a rainout. The rain was heavy, the fog was thick and the wind was very strong. I didn't even attempt to photograph with the rain protection I had along for both myself and the camera gear.
The plan was to end the day at the Jaggar Museum on Crater Rim Drive. This location provides the best view of the Kilauea Caldera and the glow that rises from it after the sun sets. Actually, I contemplated ending the day completely and heading back to the hotel as my AM flight was a very early one.
While the rain did not end, it did slow down and perhaps more important, the fog lifted. The glow became apparent - and I felt the calling. I put the camera and large lens in a large garbage bag (small hole stretched over the lens hood) and began photographing. I lost a lot of images to blur caused by the wind, but have a very solid collection of "keepers". It was very worth staying for this show.
Note that I would rather have had my Wimberley Tripod Head for this shoot, but I couldn't keep my checked luggage under weight with this piece of kit included. The Arca-Swiss Z1 worked superbly as always. I just had to make sure that I had a good grip on the lens when the head was not locked.

500mm  f/5.0  .6s  ISO 200
Rocky Brook Falls, North Maine Woods Rocky Brook Falls, North Maine Woods

Welcome to the seen-by-few Rocky Brook Falls in the T15-R9 area of Northern Maine.
I frequently drag the family along to the places I shoot. These trips are always a great experience for them - but not always a "happy" experience, if you know what I'm saying.
Rocky Brook Falls is beautiful and is a very fun place to play in the water (at normal summer water levels). There are deep pot holes and a variety of water depths and current speeds in which to enjoy the clear water (note that care must be taken to insure safety here).
Coming up against the enjoyment part is the water temperature which varies between cold and really cold. Cold water means warm air and direct sunlight are needed for the "happy" part to happen. And I do make the effort to keep "happy" around as life is more pleasurable for all when "happy" is with us.
Rocky Brook Falls are located in the middle of the forest approximately 16 miles from anything (including electricity and paved roads). Direct sunlight happens in the middle of the day - the "happy" time for the girls.
You are of course right in thinking that direct sunlight is not the ideal time to be photographing the falls from a landscape perspective. For the photography goal to be achieved, early-mid-morning and late-afternoon-through-nearly-dark are the best times to shoot this location. Cloudy days will also work well, but these are harder to schedule.
The plan for this clear day was to take the family to play at the falls during the direct sun and warmth of early afternoon. This time provided great scouting info for me and the girls had the great time we all wanted them to have. I then brought the girls back to camp (over an hour away including the round trip hiking and logging road driving) and returned alone for the late day shoot.
I packed about 50 lbs of gear in with me, but primarily used 5 wide angle lenses on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I'll share more examples from this shoot, but this sample image came from the new-at-this-time Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens. I'm really liking this compact lens and its also-new sibling, the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens.
This photo was basically out-of-the-camera with the exception of a custom white balance for which I clicked on the white water just below one of the brightest locations in the frame. The Standard Picture Style with a sharpness of "2" was used (I shoot "Neutral" in-camera for a better histogram). Long exposure noise reduction was used in-camera.
A clear sky was ideal for using a manual exposure setting which I adjusted slowly as the sun set. To get the ideal exposure, I allowed a very small area of the very brightest water to go pure white - blinking on the LCD during image review.
A B+W MRC Circular Polarizer Filter, by far my most frequently used effects filter, was used to cut the reflections including those on the surface of the water. The filter also reduces the light reaching the sensor which allowed a longer exposure - creating more motion-showing blur in the water.
Interesting is that the amount of water coming over the falls fluctuates with some significance. This is normal for waterfalls in general, but more visible in smaller falls such as this one. No two pictures look exactly the same even when taken in quick succession without moving the camera. When I dialed in a composition that I liked, I would take a number of shots to gain some natural variation.
By moving in close (just outside of the strongest mist), this composition emphasizes the closest/largest area of the falls with smaller falls diminishing through the frame. I composed to reduce the details intersecting frame borders including no rocks intersecting the bottom of the frame.
I could have spent days creating new compositions in this place.

28mm  f/8.0  2.5s  ISO 100
King of Wings, Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness, New Mexico King of Wings, Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness, New Mexico

King of Wings is a crazy hoodoo rock formation west of Nageezi, New Mexico, near the Bisti Badlands, De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Valley of Dreams, and Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness areas. Photographing this unique feature rose to the top of the to-do list, and the planning started.

The first King of Wings photography challenge occurs during online research. "King of Wings" search results are primarily related to a chicken part covered in BBQ sauce. Adding location-related keywords easily resolved that problem, and considerably more challenging obstacles remained. Getting there was one of them.

The King of Wings trailhead (a generous term) is another long-drive-from-everywhere New Mexico location. The last roads (about 17 miles of them) are rutted, and the final drive is a rough two-track. This long slab of rock hanging about 10' (3m) beyond the pillar holding it is another GPS-guided two-mile hike across a non-descript trailless desert.

For energy conservation reasons, I opted to take one camera and one lens. My choice? The Canon EOS R5 and the RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens.

Based on scouting, this lens's focal length range had the optimal angles of view. This lens delivers superb optical quality, and the R5 is my go-to camera for nearly everything.

King of Wings is unique enough to be photogenic at any time of the day, but the timing goal for this shoot was such that the setting sun would cast a warm light tone practically upward as it set.

With only a few minutes of the ideal light color, it was imperative that clouds not be present. However, clouds in the background would be welcomed. The weather forecast indicating a clearing sky at sunset seemed optimal, and it was go time.

The long hike back to the SUV in the dark and subsequent drive to the airport were better with the knowledge that another goal shot was on the memory card.

21mm  f/11.0  1/4s  ISO 100
Peyto Lake, Banff National Park Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

My pre-trip research placed Peyto Lake, along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, high on my to-photograph list. With a strong glacial flour flow in the summer, this lake takes on an amazing turquoise color, with Caldron Peak and Mt Patterson providing exclamation marks behind it.
To get the high sun position required to light up the lake color, a late morning or early afternoon-timed shoot was determined to be best. Of course, summer is the peak tourist season for this location and tourists come here in droves (and buses) ... and this time of day seems to be best for many non-photographers as well.
Combine this common timing with a relatively small viewing area at Bow Summit and, even though a hike is required, the place was packed. Upon working my way to the front corner of the platform, I took some photos but soon determined that somewhere below deck would work better. Even down there was challenging with people sometimes walking up and sitting right in front of the camera. Patience paid off when a thunderstorm rolled in and created some great drama in the sky and contrast on the lake. No, even the approaching thunderstorm did not chase the crowds away, but patience and my position worked out for the capture of an image that I was happy with. Then, I ran back to the safety of the SUV.
The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens were the perfect combination for this location. The Gitzo GT1542T Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber Tripod (now GT1545T) and Acratech GP-s Ball Head were my choice for their light weight, small size and rigid support. As usual for middle-of-the-day landscape photography, I was using a circular polarizer filter for this capture.

16mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Pretty Marsh, Acadia National Park, Maine Pretty Marsh, Acadia National Park, Maine

Fall color stands out on the shores of Pretty Marsh, Acadia National Park, Maine. Pretty Marsh is located on the western side of Mount Desert Island. A circular polarizer filter was used for this image.

20mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Ricketts Glen State Park Picture Ricketts Glen State Park Picture

Water cascades over the rocks at Ricketts Glen State Park in the fall.

24mm  f/10  1/2s  ISO 100
Laser Light Beam, Upper Antelope Canyon Laser Light Beam, Upper Antelope Canyon

A laser-like beam of sunlight reaches 130' below the ground to the floor of Upper Antelope Canyon. I highly recommend a wide angle zoom lens when shooting at this popular location. There is a lot of sand blowing into this slot canyon (and the 4 other slot canyons I was in during this trip), so any lens changing should be done inside a protective bag. A towel or other protection for the camera and lens would also be a good idea.

16mm  f/8.0  5s  ISO 100
Old Dock Pilings, Barnegat Bay, New Jersey Old Dock Pilings, Barnegat Bay, New Jersey

Time after time, I am in position to photograph the sunset with many other photographers and observers around me. It is (usually) lots of fun talking to those nearby, but ... as soon as the sun goes behind the horizon, most people pack up and leave.
Last week, the same thing was happening as I was bayside in Seaside Park, NJ. Right after the sun disappeared, a friendly photographer came over and asked if I got "it" while showing me his favorite pic of the setting sun. I replied that I did, but indicated that the main show was likely still to come. He said that he liked to see the sun's reflection best. My thought was that his preference is fine, that we are all different, that I too like the sun's reflection and that I was still expecting the best yet to come.
Fortunately, this gentleman had enough question about my opinion vs. his that he stuck around. Fifteen minutes was all that was needed. The color in the sky was very impressive on this evening and Barnegat Bay was very calm. About 25 minutes after the sun set, the other photographer returned very excited. Upon a quick review of his website the next day, I found only one picture from that evening. One captured well after the sun had set.
Unless I am shooting landscape that the setting sun is directly lighting, I am usually more found of my post-sunset images. This image was my favorite from the night (though I have many close runners-up).
This is an HDR image, comprised of three exposures used to balance the overall brightness of the final image.
While an f/2 max aperture lens invites many uses in addition to landscape photography, the focal length range of the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens is great for this use. Since the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens was what I was evaluating at the time, I put it to use for my sunset session. It performed excellently.

24mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Coconut on the Beach, Trunk Bay, St john Coconut on the Beach, Trunk Bay, St john

Shadows play with a coconut in Trunk Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands.

18mm  f/13.0  1/125s  ISO 100
4 Minutes of a Lightning-Spewing Thunderstorm, Badlands National Park 4 Minutes of a Lightning-Spewing Thunderstorm, Badlands National Park

With air-to-ground lightning strikes averaging under 10-seconds apart, this thunderstorm was awesome.

After dark, lightning becomes easy to photograph. Mount the camera to a tripod, frame a composition that includes the location with the most frequent lightning, focus to a long distance, set the aperture and ISO to control the lightning and overall image brightness, and then open the shutter long enough to catch at least one strike. Easy is to use 30-second exposures controlled by the camera (the strategy implemented for this example), but the Bulb setting controlled with a remote release enables the exposure timing to be adjusted as desired. For example, lock the remote release button down until there is a strike or the time duration exceeds the tolerance for long exposure noise.

Make safety a priority. Photographing lightning from a safe distance (far away) is advised. Locations with long distance visibility are advantaged in this regard, and the flat midwest prairie gets impressive thunderstorms.

Along with this storm came wind, wind strong enough create significant camera vibrations with even a sturdy tripod and strong enough to put a significant amount of dirt in the air. The solution to this issue was to drop down into the canyon a bit. The difference in wind speed 25 yards (25 m) down from rim was substantial and a solution to the problem.

Right, the title says four minutes, but a 30-second shutter speed was in use. This image is a four-minute exposure created by blending eight 30 second exposures using the "Lighten" layer blending option in Photoshop. This blending option is simple to use, allowing the lightning strikes from the layers below to show through.

As usual, the Canon EOS R5 and RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS Lens performed impressively on this shoot.

70mm  f/2.8  30s  ISO 200
Bryce Canyon National Park at Sunrise Bryce Canyon National Park at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon National Park is a photographer's dream location. Once finished shooting the hoodoos (rock spires), streams, and other details, move on to the wildlife including Pronghorn, Mule Deer and Prairie Dogs.
This image was shot at sunrise from Sunset Point. The reflected light creates a great color on the backlit spires.

105mm  f/11.0  1/10s  ISO 100
Needles Eye and Milky Way, Custer State Park, Black Hills, SD Needles Eye and Milky Way, Custer State Park, Black Hills, SD

I scheduled three days to photograph Custer State Park in South Dakota. Those three days included two significant travel days and followed a nearly 1-week-long photo trip in Badlands National Park. On that day, the plan was for my daughter and I to scout from Spearfish Canyon down into Custer State Park.

Upon arriving in the park, the highest priority was to scout a milky way photography location in The Needles, featuring incredible rock formations. A Needles Highway closure foiled that plan. An unfortunate person's camper was stuck in the Needles Tunnel, a peril relatively easy to encounter in this extremely narrow tunnel.

After checking in to the hotel mid-afternoon and grabbing a bite to eat, my daughter and I drove the Custer State Park wildlife loop in search of wildlife subjects. That endeavor was mostly unproductive, with only the donkeys cooperating on this evening.

Exhausted from driving all day (and a rough schedule for the prior two weeks), we opted to sleep in the next morning. With the camper now extracted from the tunnel, the original Needles Highway scouting mission was completed late on our only full day in the park. The perfect position was established, and with help from The Photographer's Ephemeris and a compass, it was determined that the milky way would ideally align just before 3:30 AM, just before the sky started brightening in the morning (nautical start).

Hotel checkout was in the morning, and a 7-hour drive to the airport was on the must-do list. Thus, a reasonable amount of sleep was required for a safe drive. However, the National Weather Service forecasted the clouds to (finally) dissipate at approximately 2:30 AM, the already set moon meant that the sky would be dark, and I couldn't pass up this opportunity. So the alarm went off at 2:30 AM. We jumped into warm clothes and drove to the selected site.

While it was the middle of June, the air temperature was low and the sustained wind speed was extremely high. Tucking into the rock spires helped reduce the felt wind, and the high-performing Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head combination took care of the remaining stabilization requirements. Every frame the Sony Alpha 1 and Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens captured on this shoot was tack sharp.

Upon establishing the ideal composition, with manual focus on the stars, images were captured in quick succession (as quick as 25-second exposures permit) to ensure the perfect alignment among the needles spire formations, including the Needles Eye, was captured. Also captured was an increasingly bright blue sky, providing a range of options to choose from later. As the new day dawned, the sky continued increasing in brightness, with the foreground brightening as well. Once the milky way had passed through the optimal alignment among the spires, it was time to do some light painting for foreground compositing options.

My light painting flashlight of choice is the Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp. This small, lightweight headlight is an excellent all-around choice for outdoor photographers, featuring an extremely bright spot light for navigating in the dark, a red light for preserving night vision, and lower-power floodlight that casts a wide, even light, perfect for many uses, including light painting. The duration of the light panning across the scene was informally measured by counting and adjusted from frame to frame to create varying brightness options.

To gain improved directionality to the light painting, the flashlight was positioned around the far side of the nearby rock spire. The 10-second self-timer provided time to run to this position after the shutter was released.

At 4:00 AM, the milky way was no longer visible. Tired but exhilarated, we packed up and headed back to the hotel for second bedtime.

As so often is the case, the memory of the tiredness, coldness, and effort required for this shot was short-lived, already faded. However, the photos and positive memories will last a lifetime.

Note that a benefit of shooting at this time of the day was that, not surprisingly, we didn't see another car or person during this entire shoot.

12mm  f/2.8  25s  ISO 6400
Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

You are looking at one of the first pictures ever taken of "Denali", the highest mountain peak in North America. While that statement is fun to say (and true in a sense), a tremendous number of photographs have been taken of this mountain long prior to my arrival. However, the mountain's name was "Mt McKinley" from June 1896 until about just before I arrived. On August 28, 2015, Sally Jewell, US Secretary of the Interior, announced that the mountain would be renamed "Denali" (Wikipedia). Two weeks later, my opportunity to photograph this mountain came.
With an elevation of 20,310' (6,190.5 m), the peak of Denali can be seen be seen from at least 125 miles away – on a clear day. The last part of that sentence is a key one. Getting close to this mountain (for most) requires a shuttle/tour bus ride deep into Denali National Park's 92 mile mostly-stone road. Even those making the effort to get deep into the park stand only a 30% chance of seeing this mountain's peaks due to the clouds that frequently engulf it.
I spent a large amount of time planning and traveling to get to the location for this image and was blessed with a beautiful day for my long-in-advance-scheduled tour (after a morning snowstorm, the sky even cleared enough on my backup day to make the peaks visible once again). With the weather cooperating, taking the actual photograph was easy part.
I selected a manual exposure that would make the sunlit snow at the top of the mountains nearly pure white (barely blinking in the camera LCD) while using an f/8 aperture (for ideal sharpness and depth of field) and ISO 100 (for noise-free images). The resulting shutter speed of 1/160 was adequate for resting the awesome combination of the Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens on my backpack. With the ideal exposure locked in, I was free to quickly capture a variety of compositions of this incredible view during the 15 minute shuttle bus stop, with all being ideally exposed.
In the end, I merged two images to add a couple of hundred pixels to the right and left sides of the base images, giving the side-to-side balance that looked right to me.
I usually have a circular polarizer filter mounted when I'm photographing landscapes and usually note this use in the notes below relevant image posts. But, I want to make special mention of CPL use here because of the significant difference it made in the deep saturation and contrast of the foreground of this image. Like no other, this filter can add WOW! to your images.

100mm  f/8.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Florida Keys Serenity Florida Keys Serenity

This incredibly serene location is found many miles west of Key West, Florida. When using a lens with no image stabilization and shooting from a rocking boat - with moving water, the minimum shutter speed selection becomes a bit more complicated. A circular polarizer filter was used to capture this shot.

25mm  f/10.0  1/60s  ISO 200
Sunrise at Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, CA Sunrise at Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, CA

What should an outdoor photographer photograph in the winter? Rocks keep their same great appearance year-round, making them a great option.

Sunrise at Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills was at the top of my subject list for a recent California landscape photography trip. With weather being unpredictable, three mornings were allocated on the schedule to check off this line item.

A scouting run the evening before set up the first-morning shoot, ensuring that I wouldn't get lost in the dark. Some images featuring a cool sunburst within the arch made the scouting time especially productive.

On the morning, the sky was clear. A clear sky can usually be counted on to produce a nice alpenglow on the highest peaks, and Lone Pine Peak lit up nicely under the arch this morning. The blue sky provided an attractive, undistracting background for the arch, and as the sun rose higher and the alpenglow faded, the entire snow-capped mountain glowed nicely within the frame of the arch. Eventually, the entire arch was in direct morning sunlight for another pleasing variation.

Overall, day 1 was good, but the forecast for day 2 included 40% cloud cover. The higher the cloud cover percentage, the lower the chances of the sunrise light making it to the western sky. That means lower chances of good sky color and reduced potential of the alpenglow lighting.

However, the higher the cloud cover percentage, the greater the potential for sky drama when the light makes it through. Overall, a 30-60% cloud cover forecast is optimal for high odds of a colorful sunrise (or sunset). So, the day 1 plan was repeated on day 2, anticipating the potential for a color other than blue in the sky.

As seen here, the results of that decision proved quite nice. Intriguing is that all of the work of a good morning can be relegated to the archives when a better image capture comes along.

For this composition, the strategy was to move away from the arch as far as possible make the distant Lone Pine Mountain peak appear large relative to the arch framing it. However, this goal was limited by a relatively small area of rock to work from. A Canon EOS R5 and RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens were mounted to a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head on a TVC-24L Mk2Tripod. The tripod legs were spread outward, straddling a large crevice between boulders. With a 10 or 12' (3 or 4m) drop-off immediately behind the tripod, aligning the frame was somewhat challenging, and determining the perfect focus distance to keep everything in the frame sharp at 31mm was more so.

Trial and error prior to sunrise dialed in the first challenge, and the R5's focus bracketing set to the lowest distance adjustment between shots provided a completely sharp image every time the shutter release was pressed. When longer focal lengths resulted in an insufficient depth of field, the multiple images in the stack ensured that all features, from nearest to farthest, were in sharp in at least one of the frames, with the depth compositing tool in DPP standing ready to merge those results.

While I may not get around to sharing any images from the first morning at this location, day 3 resulted in variation that I'll likely share soon.

31mm  f/10.0  0.5s  ISO 100
Aspen Trunks in Crested Butte, Colorado Aspen Trunks in Crested Butte, Colorado

A high priority for my fall photo trip to Colorado was to capture the beauty of aspen tree trunks. There is little challenge to finding an aspen grove in Crested Butte. Aspen trees, with their beautiful white (or gray) trunks, are the predominant flora in the 10+ miles west of the small ski town of Crested Butte, through Kebler Pass and beyond. The big challenge is finding the right grove of trees to create ordered complexity in an image.
Of the thousands of trees observed in this area, I found some of the most-photographically-cooperative at a strong curve in the road just east of Kebler Pass. Especially missing at this location were the deadfalls that are so common and interfere with the vertical lines I wanted to emphasize.
For this image, I wanted the viewer to feel like they were part of the scene. I attempt to convey that feeling by moving in close to a large, featured foreground tree and using a moderately wide angle focal length. This location allowed one aspen tree trunk to become large in the frame while a couple of other clumps of trunks staggered into a great mass of trunks filling most of the background. All of this while the camera remained level, keeping even the tree trunks in the border of the frame parallel with the sides of the frame.
The 31mm focal length was wide enough to allow everything in the frame to stay sharp at f/11, yet not so wide that the background trees became tiny. Cloud cover reduced the contrast, evening out the light on this scene. A complete lack of wind (something I'm not used to at high elevations) allowed for sharp foliage even with the .8 second exposure. The yellow-green foliage color requires a late Sep or early Oct-timed visit to this location.

31mm  f/11.0  .8s  ISO 100
Rainbow Over St Mary, Montana Rainbow Over St Mary, Montana

This was the longest-lasting rain-caused rainbow I've ever seen. It was visible from mid-morning until the sun rose high enough to put it into the ground in the afternoon.
The weather in Glacier National Park, especially at higher altitudes, can be unpredictable. It is wise to have packable rain gear with you when hiking in this park. This storm was hanging over Glacier National Park but dissipating as it moved out the eastern side of the park - allowing full sun to shine through.
The foreground in this picture is a forest fire regrowth area showing fall color.

70mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Brilliant Aspens in front of Sievers Mountain, Maroon Bells Brilliant Aspens in front of Sievers Mountain, Maroon Bells

I love mountains, but not all mountains are created equally. Height is great, but a flat or round-top mountain, even if extremely high, is difficult to make photogenic. Give me a craggy, jagged-topped mountain with character and I can entertain myself for days. Add some color for an over-the-top mountain.
The Maroon Bells Scenic Area has mountains with character and Sievers Mountain, just north of Maroon Lake, is one of my favorites. Along with having character in its shape, this mountain has color character including the namesake "Maroon" with bands of light-colored rock running through it. While the top of this mountain alone can make a good photo, I worked a set of colorful aspens into the foreground so that the tops of the trees somewhat matched the craggy-ness of the mountaintop and added strong contrasting color. With some room to significantly change my shooting position, I adjusted the perspective so that the amount of trees showing in the frame was balanced relative to the amount of mountain showing. Said another way, the closer I approached the trees, the higher the percentage of the frame consumed by those trees and the larger the trees would appear relative to the mountain.
With the perspective I wanted, I then made use of a zoom lens to retain only what I wanted in the frame. In this case, that meant zooming to 57mm.
With a partly cloudy sky, good timing (note that the odds of good timing are greatly increased by patiently waiting) was required to get a dark foreground base, bright trees, shade on the mountain directly behind the tree tops and some direct sunlight on the mountain above. Blue skies are beautiful, but I often prefer that they remain a small part of my landscape images. In this case, the blue adds another color to the image and forms a solid, uninterrupted top margin to this scene that keeps the viewer's eye from leaving via the top of the frame.
I made strong use of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens on this trip. Nearly every shot I captured with this lens was tack sharp. It is an awesome choice for tripod-mounted landscape photography.

57mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 125
Cinnamon Bay, St. John Cinnamon Bay, St. John

Cinnamon Bay has one of the many spectacular St. John beaches. When shooting on a beach, I spend a lot of time waiting for the right wave action to complete my composition. Great clouds also help.

32mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 160
House on Fire, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah House on Fire, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

On a trip targeting the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area in New Mexico, I ended up in Bears Ears National Monument, Utah.

Why? Two reasons.

First, 3 days of sand and dust storms (even stones were in the air) provided an unfavorable New Mexico greeting. Second, Bears Ears National Monument has some great photo subjects.

This image is of House on Fire in Mule Canyon, Cedar Mesa. Late in the morning, the sun reaches the red rock below this ancient Puebloan granary, creating a warm-toned light that reflects up into the massive rock overhang. That warm light color combines with lines in the rock to create the look of a raging fire over the ancient building.

Photographers chose a wide range of editing choices for this subject, some including red color tone emphasis and wild saturation. The chosen concept is typically to make the flames appear intense, and personal preference or audience preference rules (unless processing for a client).

I opted to process this image using the cloudy white balance setting, cooler than the shade option technically right for the scenario (6500k vs. 7500k), with a bit of vibrance (+30) to bring out the richness in the colors.

House on Fire affords a wide variety of compositions. To fully cover the focal length range potentially desired, I carried two awesome zoom lenses, the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens and the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens.

Primarily, the 12-24mm lens met the needs, delivering this corner-to-corner sharp image in a single shot.

18mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Rainbow in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Lower Falls puts a lot of moisture in the air - moisture that delivers a beautiful rainbow at the right time of the day under sunny skies. The moisture also enables plant life to live on the harsh rock face of the canyon. A slim circular polarizer filter was used to reduce reflections in this shot. Lower falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are located near Canyon Village. The canyon itself is mostly inaccessible but the park has a handful of viewing locations.

28mm  f/10.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Lower Antelope Slot Canyon Lower Antelope Slot Canyon

While Lower Antelope Slot Canyon is not quite as spectacular as Upper Antelope Slot Canyon, it is definitely worth visiting (photographing) - and it offeres some advantages of its own. The first major advantage is the lack of people.
Perhaps the second advantage to this slot canyon is the 4 hours of unattended exploration provided by the photographer pass. Simply drive up to the entrance to the slot canyon and ask for this pass. You will be escorted to the slot entrance and then have up to 4 hours to shoot as desired. The slower pace of shooting in this canyon was especially appreciated. And the landscape down there is incredible.

20mm  f/11.0  .3s  ISO 100
Canon EOS R5 Catches Comet NEOWISE Canon EOS R5 Catches Comet NEOWISE

The Canon EOS R5 arrived just in time to capture the spectacular night show Comet NEOWISE was providing. Sorry that the noise test results for this camera were delayed by a day, but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up (at least I waited until after the R5 review was finished to process this image).

The first challenging comet photography decision to make was the desired composition. Including landscape or filling the frame with the comet were the options, and the latter option was chosen. After determining that NEOWISE would nearly fill a 200mm frame, the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens was the chosen lens. The wide f/2 aperture is excellent for use in the dark, and the impressive sharpness of this lens at f/2 means that stars (over 7,000 software-recognized in this frame) remain pin sharp.

The next decision was whether or not to utilize an equatorial tracking mount. A 200mm lens directed at the comet's location in the sky with an ultra-high-resolution imaging sensor behind the lens meant that relatively short images, about 2 seconds, were the limit before star trails became noticeable. On the equatorial mount, 13-second images showed no motion, and this was the option taken. Though the 200 f/2L is rather heavy for the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Astro Package, this affordable mount along with the Star Adventurer Mini Latitude (EQ) Base and Counterweight Kit were up to this task. With that much weight riding on it, this mount works best on a solid tripod, and the Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod was a perfect choice. B&H had just sent me a Robus RTH-1050 Ball Head. It works great, so that option was mounted on the Sky-Watcher.

The R5 was set to manual exposure with 13 seconds, f/2, and ISO 1250 selected. High-speed continuous shooting in 1st curtain shutter mode (this is where I learned that the full electronic shutter does not allow exposures longer than 0.5-seconds). A Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 was plugged in, and its shutter release was locked on. With the Star-Watcher Star Adventurer polar aligned, the lens framing the comet, including the extensive tail that was not readily seen in the viewfinder, and the camera continuously capturing images, I walked away, watching the comet through binoculars and enjoying a bowl of ice cream.

Despite the night having a clear forecast, clouds showed up in the frame a significant amount of the time prior to the comet setting (while the rest of the sky remained clear). Fortunately, 45 images captured contiguously were able to be made cloud-free with slight cropping. 45 x 13 seconds = 9.75 minutes of exposure, long enough to produce a nearly noise-free image and long enough to capture the color in the ion tail.

While the air traffic is not currently as strong as usual, more satellites than ever are in the sky. Nearly every image had at least one satellite, and some photos had as many as three satellites streaking through. I opted to crop out the clouds before processing the RAW image into 16-bit TIFF files and then removed the streaks using the healing brush tool in Photoshop.

The next task was to stack the images. Stacking comet images is a level of challenge higher than stacking star images due to the comet moving at a slightly different rate than the stars. I know, it is the earth that moves the most, but from an earth-bound perspective, the stars and comet are moving. Stack the comet, and the stars become streaked. Stack the stars, and the comet is stretched. Fortunately, some very smart people created DeepSkyStacker software with an option to align both the comet and the stars.

DeepSkyStacker does a superb job, but you would not know that when looking at the default image created. The low-contrast 32-bit image requires "stretching", contrast significantly increased with colors pulled out. The only adjustments made to this image were contrast (levels and curves to stretch the low contrast 32-bit stacked image), saturation (+10 and -60 in PS), and a white balance adjustment (cooled the image slightly).

I love NEOWISE's colored ion tail, pushed away from the sun by solar winds and separated from the dust tail. BTW, the name NEOWISE uses all capital letters because it is an acronym, named after the device that discovered it.

Now, NEOSWISE is gone, effectively, forever. Comet NEOWISE was awesome but will not be seen again for another 6,800 years. Hopefully, another comet will entertain us in the night sky long before that.

200mm  f/2.0  585s  ISO 1250
Sunrise at Grand Canyon National Park Sunrise at Grand Canyon National Park

This Sunrise at Grand Canyon National Park was taken from near/below Yavapai Point. This image is a composite of two shots - one exposed for the ground and one exposed for the sky.
This particular May morning was very cold (light snow can be seen in the distance) and windy. Having arrived very early in the morning I was disappointed to find cloud cover. But, as so often happens when the cloud cover is not solid, light rays began to stream through the openings in the clouds - and in this case, into the canyon, creating a constantly and rapidly changing landscape to capture.

55mm  f/11.0  1/15s  ISO 100
The Sony 12-24mm GM Lens Finds a Perfect Sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park The Sony 12-24mm GM Lens Finds a Perfect Sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park

The day before my arrival, still late summer, Rocky Mountain National Park received a wintry weather blast that included a snowstorm. With a clearing storm forecasted for the next morning, heading to a high elevation mountain lake for a dramatic landscape image seemed the right plan. That excitement ended abruptly. Instead of an amazing set of landscape images, I was delivered dense cloud cover, continuous snow, and brutal winds.

However, the sunset conditions easily made up for the AM troubles. The wind became still, and the remaining clouds took on great color.

There are times in the field when you know that you are capturing an image that you will be excited about. This was one of those times. I quickly shot a variety of images from my rock perch, capturing bracketed exposures, varying the focal length, and fine-tuning the composition. This selected image was a single exposure captured at an extremely wide 12mm focal length, enabling the large rocks on the lower right side of the frame to be included along with the high clouds and their reflections. A fully-level camera keeps especially the trees on the left side of the frame straight.

What do I like least about this composition? The wide-angle focal length makes the distant mountain appear small in relation to the foreground. I decided that there was enough valuable supporting detail in the frame to offset that deficit (and I zoomed in to capture that image also).

Unknown to me this evening was that the snowstorm had cleaned the air of wildfire smoke and that this would be the last time I would see an even marginally photogenic sunrise or sunset for the duration of my time in Colorado.

12mm  f/11.0  1/4s  ISO 100
Small Geyser Picture Small Geyser Picture

A small geyser located in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park puts on a great show under dramatically-clouded skies. A circular polarizer filter was used for this shot. This area of YNP provides a great thermal feature viewing experience. Long and mostly level board and asphalt walkways lead visitors around to the best sites. Of course, you must decide if the walkways and people on them enhance or hurt your images.

24mm  f/10.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Trunk Bay, St. John Trunk Bay, St. John

This is the classic view of Trunk Bay, St. John. Classic for two reasons - the beauty and ... the access. This is one of the few locations Trunk Bay is visible from other than on the beach itself.
One of the great things about shooting in the caribean is that the water is so beautiful when the sun is high. An early alarm is not necessary to capture a beautiful scene such as this one. Of course, the beach is filled with people at this time. I wanted an empty beach, so lots of clone stamping was required.
A circular polarizer filter is extremely helpful for mid-day landscape photography.

40mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park 2 Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park 2

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is located in southern Utah, 12 miles southwest of U.S. Hwy 89 near Kanab. It features large coral-colored sand dunes amidst green evergreens and sage along with red sandstone.
A circular polarizer filter was used to increase saturation and a short telephoto focal length was used to compress the scene slightly. The sand dune and blue sky provide a clean canvas.

70mm  f/13.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Sunset at Three Mary Cays, Turks and Caicos Sunset at Three Mary Cays, Turks and Caicos

Mixing brilliant turquoise-colored water with a dramatic sunset is not so easy. The ideal light to bring out the water color is from a high overhead sun and that is of course not available at sunset. However, the water in some locations is amazingly colored enough to still show turquoise even at sunset. Three Mary Cays in North Caicos is one such location.
Most of the west side of North and Middle Caicos islands is inaccessible without a boat, leaving few good locations for mid-winter sunset photography (with the sun setting farther north mid-summer, more northern locations can work well at this time of the year). Of those remaining locations, the shoreline by Three Mary Cays presents very nice winter sunset views. And, the shoreline and islands all have the character I was looking for.
Three Mary Cays is amazingly beautiful and also amazing is how seldom it is photographed by serious photographers. Online scouting revealed very few images and I spent two evenings watching the blazing ball drop into the Atlantic Ocean at this location with no one else as far as the eye could see.
While the cloud moving over the sun helped significantly with the brightness balance in this image, I still opted to use an HDR technique to balance the overall exposure.
It has become rare for me to photograph landscapes without the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens in the pack. This lens delivers amazing results every time. Well, at least every time I do my part of the job correctly. It is hard to believe that my other primary piece of landscape kit, the 5Ds R, is now over 1-year-old. #lovingthiscamera.

16mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Rainbow Over Atlantic Ocean Rainbow Over Atlantic Ocean

A small but strong storm moves off the coast of Acadia National Park / Mt Dessert Island, Maine, USA producing a rainbow for all to see.

100mm  f/8.0  1/80s  ISO 100
One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth: Moraine Lake, Banff National Park One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth: Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

I have long admired images of Lake Moraine in The Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada), especially those taken from the Rockpile. While huge numbers of great images have been captured here, none of them were captured by me. That is, none until recently.
The Rockpile (ascended via the Rockpile Trail) is a foreground-rich location overlooking an amazing turquoise glacier-fed lake that, when the wind is not blowing, reflects the close, steep, craggy, with-character mountains beyond it. I was blessed to spend 3 very early mornings at this location (and would return in a heartbeat). One quickly forgets the 3:00-4:15 AM alarms (followed by 11:30 PM bedtimes) when reviewing Moraine Lake images.
For this composition, I moved in close to a carefully-selected large rock. This rock, with plenty of leading lines, appears to fit into the edge of the mountain reflections like a puzzle piece, with even the notches appearing to align with reflected peaks. With the large mountain weighing heavily on the top left of the image, the large foreground rock is positioned proportionally higher on the right to, along with the shaded trees, aid in the overall image balance. Required for this perspective, and not visible in this image, are the tripod feet (and me) precariously positioned on the top edge of several different rocks.
With the mountain peaks being directly hit with sunlight and the dark evergreens being in deep shade, the dynamic range in this scene was extreme. Thus, I was shooting bracketed exposures. A camera's built-in HDR feature is a good way to capture bracketed exposures, but ... I didn't want the in-camera-generated JPG image and didn't want to wait for that composited image to be created.
My favorite method of shooting bracketed exposures is via the camera's AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) feature. Simply select the number of bracketed images desired and the desired exposure difference between them. Each image captured in succession, up to the selected number of bracketed frames, will have a different exposure (ideally for landscapes, the shutter speed is varied), insuring that all parts of the scene are adequately exposed in at least one of the frames.
To speed up the capture, select and use the camera's high frame rate (burst) mode. When the sun is rising, speed matters for HDR captures (this is a manual HDR image). The line between sun and shade moves quickly and ... that line becomes hard to composite if time lapses between captures. With AEB selected, a high speed burst will stop after the selected number of AEB frames.
I usually have MLU (Mirror Lockup) enabled when photographing landscapes, avoiding any possible vibration caused by the mirror raising. However, using MLU adds a short, but undesired, delay between the frames captured in an AEB burst. There is a better way: Live View is another method of achieving MLU. By using a remote release with Live View and high frame rate (burst) mode selected, one press of the remote shutter release (pressing and locking the release button down for long exposure brackets) captures the set number of frames in very fast succession (without the mirror moving).
Depending on the Lake Moraine scene and scenario, I was shooting 5 or 7 frames varied by 2/3 or 1 stop. From most sets, I deleted all except 3 or 4 images with the exposure variations needed remaining available. This image was created from three exposures.
Due to packing restrictions, I nearly left the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens at home. Upon arriving at Moraine Lake, I was SOOO thankful that I had it with me. Aside from using the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens on a second camera and tripod setup some of the time, the 11-24 was the only lens I needed at this location. And, it performed extremely well as did the Canon EOS 5Ds R camera I used behind it.

11mm  f/11.0  1/6s  ISO 100
Driftwood in Sheep's Head Slot Canyon Driftwood in Sheep's Head Slot Canyon

Though not nearly as dramatic as Upper Antelope canyon, Sheep's Head Slot Canyon is far less visited. Along with the guide, we had the canyon to ourselves this morning. Reflected light from the red canyon walls create a very warm light on this piece of driftwood and the worn rock around it.
When shooting in dark slot canyons, it is important to avoid getting directly-sunlit areas in the frame as they will result in unattractive blown highlights.

24mm  f/11.0  .3s  ISO 100
Rays of Sunlight on the Ocean Rays of Sunlight on the Ocean

This vantage point is at the top of Cadillac Mountain. And this scene was as fun to watch as it was to photograph.
Champlain Mountain forms the base for this photo. Heavy but not solid clouds passing over the ocean allowed rays of sunlight to move across the ocean.

85mm  f/11.0  1/400s  ISO 100
After the Storm, Rainbow Over Mudjin Harbor After the Storm, Rainbow Over Mudjin Harbor

I recently shared an image showing an Incoming Storm Over Dragon Cay. That image came with a promise. My promise was to share the loved-by-everyone landscape photography element that a back-lit rainstorm holds promise for. A back-lit storm, once passed, becomes front-lit and that is the recipe for a rainbow, the referred-to strongly-desired element.
As soon as the rain stopped, I left my cave shelter (going out into the high winds) and there was the rainbow, complete with supernumerary bands (a stacker rainbow) and a slight second/double rainbow. I found a vantage point offering a photogenic view looking away from the sun (as that the requirement for the rainbow to be visible). I mounted a circular polarizer filter to the excellent Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, framed the scene, rotated the filter to get the brightest rainbow and captured a series of images.
It was a great feeling to have confidence that some solid keepers were on the memory card as I drove back to the villa for second breakfast. I saw at least one rainbow on every day of this trip, saw several of them on most days and was able to capture some of them in nice photos.
Of course, seeing many rainbows means that there were many storms. Planning enough days at a location can be the key to successful outdoor photography – just to make sure that you get some storms worth photographing. Of course, one can never spend enough time at some locations.

16mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Fall Aspens in Sunlight at Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park Fall Aspens in Sunlight at Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

Wildlife photographers can spend many days or weeks working with the same subject at the same location and, due to ever-changing behaviors of their subjects, they can continuously capture unique images. Sports photographers have unique action at every game/meet/match/race/etc. at the same field/track/event location. Street photographer are always finding new entertainment at the same locations. Wedding, event and portrait photographers have a steady stream of new subjects coming through the same locations. But you, landscape (and cityscape) photographer, usually find the same subjects in the same positions each time you go back. However, you still have reasons for going back.
Basically, you most often go back in hopes that something might be different this time.
Perhaps you didn't get it right the first time. You didn't provide adequate depth of field or didn't focus to the right distance to keep everything in the image sharp. Or, perhaps you want to use a wider aperture lens to better define the primary subject. Perhaps the focal choice was not ideal and part of the scene was cropped too tightly. Maybe you were too close or too far away and didn't get the ideal perspective. You want to move up/down, left/right or closer/farther to get it right the next time.
You now have better skills. Closely aligned with getting it right this time are your improved photography skills. You are now better at reading a scene and better able to select the composition, perhaps including a foreground element or better aligning the background within the foreground framing.
You go back to work on your creativity. The more bored you become with photographing a scene, the more likely you are going to find a creative new way to photograph it.
You go back because you have better gear. While we sometimes think that camera and lens technology is not moving forward fast enough, what is available today is far better than what was available not long ago. Taking your new camera(s) and lens(es) to a past-visited favorite location is an easy recipe for bettering your portfolio. Your higher resolution, lower noise camera and sharper lens will create results that look better, especially at high resolution. Taking a circular polarizer filter, a neutral density filter, etc. that you did not originally have can make a huge difference in your repeat visit results.
You go back in hopes for better weather conditions. You hope for better skies, a better sunrise, a better sunset, better clouds, more/less fog, less (or possibly more) wind, warmer light, etc. Everyone loves a fiery sunrise or sunset and those don't happen every day – you might need to go back repeatedly to find these. Fog? Some locations have it with some regularity, but many others have it only occasionally.
You go back because the timing is different or better. You may have better water flow, creating better waterfalls that give images a completely different look, one well worth the effort of a revisit. The seasons of the year provide a very different look to many locations. Spring brings bright green foliage and (usually) good water flow. Summer brings darker foliage and warmer weather (required for the snow to melt enough to access some areas). Late summer and fall brings amazing color to the trees in many areas. Winter brings snow, completely redecorating the landscape.
The timing of the visit also dictates the position of the celestial bodies. Go back when the sun, moon and/or stars (the milky way) are better aligned. Perhaps the sun shines between two mountain peaks at a certain time of the year. Perhaps you want to go back when the milky way is best aligned over a scene. The same applies to the moon with a specific desired phase and position.
Perhaps the scene has indeed changed and is no longer physically the same. While there are not usually macro changes occurring to landscape without a significant environmental disaster (such as a tornado, hurricane, fire, etc.), micro changes frequently happen. Trees fall, erosion occurs, sediment moves in streams during strong flows and fields have a different crop in rotation. If the scene is significantly altered, new images will be more current than those taken before the alteration. Before and after photos may be valued in this case.
Sometimes, you go back just because things can happen. Wildlife showing up can add a prize-winning element to any image.
If you are considering going back, the location is probably amazing and somewhere you love to be. That alone is a great reason to go back as just being there is awesome. There is no reason why the same location cannot be enjoyed time and time again. If you like the location that much, perhaps you want to share it with a friend or friends.
You go back because the location is a known entity. You know that it is repeatedly good for a quality image – an image worth sharing is sure to come out of the effort.
You go back for practice. If the location is relatively close to home, visiting the location to practice skills and technique prior to a big photo trip is a great idea. Unlike riding a bike, more like distance running, photography requires practice to stay in top shape. It also affords the opportunity to test the camera gear that will accompany you on the trip.
Again, a primary reason to go back is that something might be different this time and the reason that different is desirable is for, minimally, variation and, ideally, for bettering. Photographers are constantly striving to better what we have already done, to raise the bar, to take another step forward in our passion/profession.
The previous time I visited Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, was convenient, but not so well-timed for photography. It was mid-summer (not bad in itself). The sun was high and the leaves were green. The sky was forest fire-hazy. While my cameras and lenses were the best-available at the time, they were not as good as those I'm using today. While I was happy with my results at the time, they do not hold nearly as much value to me from a photographical perspective now.
Late this past year, I was blessed with a revisit to this very photogenic location. And, the results from my revisit were much higher grade in many accounts. Though I'm missing the moose that was in my first set of images (it was so small in the frame that I didn't know it was even there until reviewing the images back at home), but my late summer (photographer's fall in this location), early morning timing for the second visit to Oxbow Bend combined with my now-current camera gear and 9-year-upgraded skillset turned in much better results this time around. I'm sharing one of my favorites with you today.

70mm  f/8.0  1/100s  ISO 100
Canoe on Island Pond Picture Canoe on Island Pond Picture

A canoe invites a ride on calm Island Pond in the North Maine Woods.

16mm  f/13  1/40s  ISO 100
Two Medicine Telephoto Sunset Two Medicine Telephoto Sunset

Long focal length lenses can make great sunset photos from even mediocre sunsets. This sunset at Two Medicine in Glacier National Park was above average and offered these interesting wavy cloud patterns.

300mm  f/8.0  1/10s  ISO 100
COLORado Gold: Maroon Bells Scenic Area COLORado Gold: Maroon Bells Scenic Area

Revisiting a classic: I shared an image similar to this one some time ago, but a publication needed this scene in a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning that a wider-angle capture was required. Since I was making the effort to process another image from that trip (and it is fall), I thought I'd share here as well. I'm also sharing this image because the Maroon Bells Scenic Area is one of the most beautiful locations I've seen.
Maroon Bells has many great landscape image components. Start out with a pair of tightly-positioned fourteener mountain peaks (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) with great character. Mix in some of the most-brilliantly-colored trees on the planet along with beautifully color-contrasting and photogenically-shaped spruce trees. Add light from a clear-sky sunrise just reaching the mountain peaks while the namesake maroon rocks remain in the shade with the cooler lighting emphasizing their color. Take all of that and double it with a reflection in the clear, often-still Maroon Lake that also happens to have some bright green algae growing in it.
Capturing the image was easy. The lake is only a short trek from the parking lot. Setup the tripod, focus and switch to manual focus mode, establish final scene framing, lock down the ball head and capture a burst of exposure bracketed images (the burst strategy is helpful because that sun line is moving down the mountain faster than it may seem). That sounds easy (and it was), but capturing the exposure stack was just the final bit of effort required to capture this image.
Getting a position for one's tripod at the side of Maroon Lake during peak leaf color at sunrise is far more challenging. This particular location gets one of the largest crowds of photographers I've seen outside outdoors. An extremely early alarm is required after, for most of us, a long trip to get to the Aspen, Colorado area in the first place. While photographing alone in the wilderness may seem more appealing to you, the folks on the lake shore (most of them at least) are very friendly and fun to hang out with as daybreak unfolds.
Another challenge awaits your arrival home. Manually processing the HDR stack of a scene with brightness ranging from direct sunlight transitioning immediately to shade on into deep shade (such as within the spruce trees) is a remaining challenge required for this image.
As so often is the case with photography, all of the challenges were worth conquering to get the image, many of them in this case.
A reflection can double the beauty of a scene and a second camera setup can often double (or at least significantly increase) the number and variety of images captured at the optimal time of day. When photographing a scene such as this, one that requires significant effort and has a high reward potential, I generally have two cameras on tripods simultaneously capturing the moments. In this case, the lenses mounted were two of my favorites, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. While the choice of a "wider-angle" image may lead your guess to the model used here, both had the 24mm focal length used here available to them and I didn't have much reason to choose one over the other for this specific image.

24mm  f/16.0  .8s  ISO 100
Photographing Flowering Trees Photographing Flowering Trees

It is early spring here in the northern hemisphere and flowering trees, if not already in full bloom, will be so very soon.
While the spring flowering trees are incredibly beautiful, I find them a challenge to compose into an image I like. Part of the problem is that, when the trees flower, most other trees remain leaf-less and low in their color-rating. Lack of leaves reveal highly detracting power lines in many of the landscapes where these trees are planted. This leaves sky, green grass and man-made objects to provide the other good colors to compose with.
So, how does one create a good photo of this subject? A solution that often works well is to fill the frame with only the flowering tree or trees. In this case, I found a very large, densely-flowered tree, moved back to create a compressed perspective and zoomed in to frame only the flowers with a narrow aperture keeping the entire frame remaining in focus. The result is a pattern of complexity that fills the frame. I positioned the larger limbs visible in the picture so that their lines lead the viewer's eye into the frame. The bright color of the flowers becomes the predominant color of the final image.
Working with the same concept of filling the frame with the color of the tree, a close perspective with a wide aperture can be used to blur the background flowers as illustrated here.
If working with a wider angle focal length, the background is more likely to become part of the image. In this case, consider getting above the tree to use the often-bright-green spring grass as the background. Bright green often complements the color of the tree(s). Another advantage that getting higher sometimes affords is a better angle on the flowers in the image. Dogwood tree flowers, as illustrated in the just-referenced image, typically face upward. Looking downward from a ladder allowed me to see the full flower being isolated with shallow depth of field.
Incorporating flowering trees into portrait images is a strategy loved by many. My advice is to make sure that the tree colors do not steel the viewer's focus from the primary subject, your person. Using the fill-the-frame and blur-the-background strategies again work well for portraits. Use a telephoto focal length and wide aperture to isolate the subject against a completely blurred background of flowers.
Winter is past and the winter-like landscape is about to awaken, bursting into vibrant color. Go capture it!

203mm  f/11.0  1/6s  ISO 200
Sand Fence at Island Beach State Park, NJ Sand Fence at Island Beach State Park, NJ

Even though beautiful, it sometimes takes effort and creativity to find interesting photo compositions at a beach. At Island Beach State Park (near Seaside Park, New Jersey), I was exploring when I discovered this sand fence creating great late-day shadows in the nearly undisturbed sand. The undisturbed sand on the unrestricted side of the fence is not easy to find. The late day sun is of course often available.
I captured many compositions of this scene, but for this shot, I angled the camera and aligned the sun so that the fence was blocking most of it. This in combination with a narrow f/16 aperture allowed a bright starburst effect that helps set off an already attractive image.
Always be looking for one more way to improve your image.

17mm  f/16.0  1/40s  ISO 200
Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge at Sunset Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge at Sunset

Few lenses have grown so important to me in such a short amount of time as the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. Wildlife has been my first-choice use for this lens, but landscape photography is a very close second on the list (sports will compete with these other two uses as soon as the snow melts and more athletes go outside).
I love the great outdoors and landscape photography ties in very well with that love. Landscape photos allow me to take my favorite scenes with me and many hang in my house and studio. Many of these prints are very large (up to 40x60") and I'm always looking for the ultimate image quality. While I'm often using wide angle lenses to capture landscapes, I love using telephoto lenses nearly as much. Narrow angles of view are easy to compose with and, even mediocre sunrises and sunsets can fill the frame with color. The 100-400 L II provides a great focal length range and very impressive image quality, making it the perfect choice for landscape uses.
The historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge (the bridge story) spans the channel between Bahia Honda State Park (Bahia Honda Key, mile marker 37 U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway) and Spanish Harbor Key (Florida). After the new highway was constructed, sections of the old bridge were cut away to accommodate boat traffic. The remaining portion of the steel truss construction bridge provides a great silhouette for sunset photos captured at the western end of the state park and the missing portion of the bridge definitely adds a uniqueness to the images captured here.
This is a single-frame HDR image. I simply processed the same raw image at two different brightness levels to bring up the ocean brightness slightly.

100mm  f/8.0  1/250s  ISO 100
Lower Antelope Canyon Lower Antelope Canyon

A rock structure resembling some kind of bird or other animal looms out over the slot in Lower Antelope Canyon. Shooting upward can be a good method of avoiding people in your frame.

17mm  f/11.0  1/4s  ISO 100
Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

There is a lot of advice to be found regarding photography during the autumn season, but the primary visual difference of fall is the color of the foliage and to capture that color, one must go outside.
While that tip might sound simple, it is easy to sit in front of a computer or TV instead of making the effort to go out. You can DVR the football game to be watched later. Darkness comes earlier in the fall, so you have some time to catch up on the game or what is going on in the photography world after the light is gone. You can catch up on your post-processing backlog in the winter (what I'm telling myself).
A great fall location is Ricketts Glen State Park, near Benton, PA. With 22 named waterfalls in this park, along with many other photogenic woods and stream scenes, it is not hard to find wall-grade compositions. Located just below Waters Meet on the Falls Trails, Harrison Wright Falls, shown here, is one of my favorites.
Don't let the weather keep you inside. My favorite weather condition for shooting in RGSP is a light rain or immediately after any rain. The rain provides more flow in the stream, but it serves a couple of other important purposes. It keeps the other hikers and less-serious photographers out of the image (they stay home). It also makes everything in the scene wet, giving the surroundings a deep, rich color when photographed through a circular polarizer filters.
You will not capture images like this one indoors. Get out and find the colorful fall foliage. Get some exercise and breathe in the crisp air while doing so. Your body and mind will be rewarded along with your portfolio.

24mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Baily's Beads, Prominences, and Chromosphere in Total Solar Eclipse Progression Baily's Beads, Prominences, and Chromosphere in Total Solar Eclipse Progression

This composite image was my primary goal for the 2024 total solar eclipse. What I didn't foresee was the effort required to get the shots.

The weather forecast was the problem, and the over 1,000 miles added to the rental car tell only part of the story that included a day-prior relocation from an ideal shooting location in central TX to north central AR — storm unchasing.

Fortunately, the clear sky chase was successful, and the second-darkest exposures from the C1 brackets described in the Total Solar Eclipse Photography Plan provided the optimal exposures for this image.

The images in this composite were captured 1-second apart, illustrating how fast the favorite Baily's Beads stage passes.

The individual images are straight out of Lightroom with the default settings, with slight shadow brightness and clarity increases added to the final image in PS.

The left and right-side images are independently rotated to enable a horizontal format that retains clear visibility of the progression.

840mm  f/5.6  1/5000s  ISO 100
Arizona Landscape Arizona Landscape

Sandstone, sand, sage, blue sky and interesting clouds compose this Arizona landscape picture. This location is near Page, Arizona.

24mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Wave Crashing in Cinnamon Bay, St. John Wave Crashing in Cinnamon Bay, St. John

More like "splashing" I suppose - waves are typically small in St. John, but timing them just right adds to the shot. Cinnamon Bay in St. John has one of the nicest beaches you can find anywhere along with some volcanic rock to add interest to photos.

24mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

The weather on much of this day in Banff National Park ranged from poor to terrible (including wind and strong thunderstorms). I knew that, if the rain at least mostly stopped, this was the perfect time to visit Johnston Canyon. The ground would be wet and colors would appear very saturated with a circular polarizer filter cutting reflections. The lighting would be void of hard shadows and ... would (somewhat) reach into this cave.
Johnston Canyon is typically packed during the short summer tourist season, but a late-in-the-day arrival timed just after a heavy thunderstorm (waited in the SUV for it to pass) meant that the trail was nearly void of people. Also, few people venture down the steep, slippery (at least when wet) slope to this cave and very unique land formation at the bottom of the canyon. A downside of the late day start meant that I had to run most of the trail, stopping only long enough to grab the occasional photo.
My initial plan (if I could find the cave in the first place) was to include the top of the interesting chunk of land in the frame, but that view included a bit of sky in the background. I went ahead and captured that set of images, but was undecided about the extreme difference in brightness the sky created. To eliminate the sky from the frame, I moved back/up into the large but shallow cave until the top of the cave blocked the sky.
As I find so often to be the case, the Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens were the perfect combination for this landscape situation.

19mm  f/8.0  5s  ISO 100
Backlit Forest Picture Backlit Forest Picture

A strong backlight illuminates this evergreen forest scene. Bright green moss colors the forest floor.

15mm  f/11.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon was one of the top photography locations on my Grand Tour list. This shot was taken in late morning - when the sun lights the Colorado River in the canyon below.
Horseshoe Bend begs for a 17mm or wider focal length (full frame equivalent) lens - unless shooting a panorama. In this example, the Canon TS-E 17mm lens allowed me to capture a much-wider-than-17mm view - in high resolution. Two vertically-oriented, oppositely-shifted shots were combined in Photoshop to create this ultra-wide view of Horseshoe Bend. One foot of my tripod was precariously positioned on the very edge of the cliff - and has been cloned out of the final picture.

17mm  f/11.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Crypt Lake Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park Crypt Lake Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park

I hiked about 50 miles of trails on this trip to Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park. And the Crypt Lake Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park was the most memorable.
The Crypt Lake Trail is ranked at or near the top of all hiking trails in Canada.
This hike begins with a ferry ride across Upper Waterton Lake to a dock at the trailhead. This lake happens to be in one of the windiest locations in Canada - meaning that the boat encounters rough water on this trip (waves were breaking over the top of the smaller boat that returned us to the marina).
Once on land, the 10.8 mile, 2,300' elevation gain trail starts in a pretty forest. Over time, the landscape opens up with great views. The trail narrows and the edges of the trail become steeper. And then you reach the cliff - and adrenaline releases.
People mentioned the narrow trail at the top, but "sidewalk" widths were referenced to us. That would not be even close to accurate.
I didn't have the strength left in me (having hiked about 40 miles before this trail) to carry more than one lens on this hike and 24mm was not wide enough to take in this absolutely spectacular view. The panorama seen here was my solution to that problem.
If you look carefully at the cliff on the left side of this photo, you can see a tiny line that is called the trail at this point. If might be 2 shoes wide, but it is sloped, not smooth and is covered with scree (small loose stones). As you can see, down appears to be a 1,000' step.
It gets better. See the dark spot on the rock just above where the trail ends? There is a narrow (one shoe+ wide) steel ladder bolted into the rock that leads to a cramped, mostly natural tunnel. And it gets even better at the other side of the tunnel.
You have to step down over rocks to the trail - which makes the trail on the other side of the tunnel look like the sidewalk it was referenced to be. The trail is barely a shoe width wide (being generous with my memory) and again filled with scree. But, you have a heavy cable bolted to the side of the mountain to hold onto. But, this cable is bolted at trail level - forcing you to walk bent far over. And, the cable is floppy - not tight.
The trail ends at a beautiful lake, but the view seen above from the face of the cliff is my biggest memory.
I should mention that, at this time of the year, there is one ferry to and one ferry from the dock each day. We had to be back before that second ferry left the dock to avoid an overnight in the wilderness. There was only one other person in this entire wilderness area on the day we hiked Crypt Trail.
The Crypt Lake Trail hike is an unforgetable, amazing experience.

24mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 125
Hidden Falls Hidden Falls

You will not find Hidden Falls listed on the Ricketts Glen State Park map, but with the large moss and fern-covered rock, it is worth the short off-trail hike to find. Unfortunately, what you now find in this compact setting is a huge fallen tree. The fallen tree significantly effects working space, but with a 15mm lens in the pack, I was still able to capture the entire scene.

15mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park

Hawaii has a wide variety of beach sand, but Black Sand Beach in Waianapanapa State Park had one of my favorites. The sand size varied from tiny grains up to round pebbles as shown in this photo.
It was in this location that I proved that Gore-Tex trail running shoes hold water very well - and might not be the best footwear for photographing this subject.
Because the pebble size I was photographing was still below the water line at times, I needed to move into place and get my shots before getting out of the way of the next incoming wave. Most of the time, this tactic worked.
I rarely regret shooting landscape details along with the grand scenes. Having macro capabilities built into this lens is a real bonus.

26mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 200
Snowcapped Mountains in Denali National Park Snowcapped Mountains in Denali National Park

There is no shortage of mountains in Denali National Park. However, a layer of snow adds greatly to how they look. Snow especially contrasts against the darkest-colored mountains.
Bright white snow and very dark rock can potentially be an exposure challenge. When photographing landscape under full sunlight with snow in the frame, setting the ideal exposure usually involves bringing the image brightness level up to the point where the brightest snow has a tiny area of blinkies showing on the LCD (be sure that these are enabled). This insures that detail remains in the snow while shadow/dark areas have as much color information as possible.
You may have noticed that this image is not showing as full-dimensioned for the Canon EOS 5Ds R used to capture it. This image was not cropped (the 100-400mm lens was not set to its longest available focal length), but as is often the problem with long distance photography, heat waves caused enough degradation that I opted to reduce the image size by 66%, using downsampling to improve image sharpness.
Note that I did not use a tripod for this capture. This lens' image stabilization system combined with a solid three-point sitting position (elbows on knees and forehead pressed into eye cup) were very adequate for sharpness in this regard, and a B+W HTC circular polarizer filter blocking less light than a standard filter also contributed to this run-and-gun shot.

349mm  f/8.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Crescent Moon Sunset Crescent Moon Sunset

In my mind, there is only one thing to do when a cresent moon and a great sunset coincide. Take pictures of course. Where to place the moon in the frame becomes the big question. I liked how the brighter red clouds running through the bottom of the frame balanced the more-left positioned moon.
This picture shows how big you should expect the moon to be in your 250mm APS-C sensor format images. Full frame DSLR owners would need a 400mm focal length for the moon to be reproduced at this size.

250mm  f/8.0  1/6s  ISO 100
Maroon Bells Reflection Maroon Bells Reflection

When presented with clear blue skies, I often avoid having significant sky coverage in my frame. But sometimes, blue is beautiful.
With a bright, evenly-colored background, the top of the mountains being hit by the morning sunlight creates a strong, eye-catching line. The strong contrast of the mountain shadow creates a second strong line. Take a great scene and reflect it to get symmetry with the result often being greater than twice as good as the image without a reflection.
The choice of focal length is always very important for composing an image. In this case, the twin peaks of the Maroon Bells were of primary interest to me. A focal length that makes these peaks large in the frame will best emphasize their over 14,000' size. I captured many frames using longer focal lengths, but I also liked seeing the bigger picture. With a mirror-calm water surface large enough to reflect the entire scene, I took advantage of the wider angle focal lengths available in the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens on this morning.
When not to use a circular polarizer filter: at sunrise or sunset, with a wide angle focal length being used and large amounts of blue sky in the frame, it is unlikely that I have a CPL filter mounted on my lens. A CPL filter used with a low sun angle and lots of evenly-toned blue sky in the frame is a perfect recipe for very uneven darkening of the sky, a look that is generally not appreciated.
This is a complicated HDR image based on three differently-exposed source images. Removed from this image was a line of other like-minded photographers.

22mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Walking by the Bay Walking by the Bay

The bay at Pretty Marsh, Acadia National Park, Maine, that is. A little girl explores for treasures along the beautiful Maine coast. This is an HDR image. An exposure for the sky was manually combined with a longer exposure for the shore using Photoshop.

10mm  f/11.0  1/13s  ISO 100
Pennsylvania Maple Tree in the Fall Pennsylvania Maple Tree in the Fall

I have to confess. I'm a fall leaf color addict. If the leaves have changed to their fall colors, I'm struggling to resist being outdoors 100% of the daylight hours with a camera in my hands. Fortunately, I don't have to go far from home to find some of the best color available anywhere.
Even with colorful trees being easy to find, photographing the fall color can be very challenging and one of those challenges is to create a compelling composition. Many of the most-brilliantly colored local trees, primarily old maples, are found in town, where houses and other buildings, power lines, signs, etc. interfere with the natural look I'm typically seeking. A picture of a complete tree may capture the color, but the likelihood of something undesirable being in the frame is quite high. Even in the countryside, the ideal trees can be difficult to work into great compositions for a variety of reasons including a lack of supporting elements.
One fall foliage technique I like to use is isolation of the colorful leaves of one tree with other parts of the same tree or another tree filling the rest of the frame. Find an attractive leaf or set of leaves that are in good condition and then determine what could be a good background for the composition.
Determine the focal length of your lens based on how large the foreground leaves should be in relation to the selected background. The focal length decision will also be affected by how large the selected background is and the space you have to work in with a longer focal length requiring less background area needed. The longer the focal length selected, the easier it will be to make the background blurred and of course, the vice versa is also true.
Determine the aperture used based on how much depth of field is desired with a very wide aperture capable of putting the background into a primary-subject-isolating blur. Also note that a wider aperture makes a faster shutter speed easier to obtain (at a lower ISO setting) and a faster shutter speed may be necessary to stop any wind-imparted motion of the primary subject leaf or leaves.
Don't stop with your first setup. Continue to refine the shot until you have it perfected. Then find another composition to work on.
The brilliantly colored maple tree in this picture was on the corner of an in-town street intersection with power lines and houses directly behind it. I moved in close to the foreground leaves and aligned the angle of view with the lines created by the trunks and limbs. The backlit leaves on the other side of the tree and some green grass across the street complete the composition. The result is a brilliantly colored fall photo that is, at least somewhat, unique.
While photo trips to grand landscapes with brilliantly colored trees are awesome, knowing the isolation technique can land great fall foliage images much closer to home (for many of us) and in many more locations (for all of us).

200mm  f/2.8  1/15s  ISO 200
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Captures Last Light on Rock Cut, RMNP Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Captures Last Light on Rock Cut, RMNP

When the sky is clear, focusing on what the last light of the day is hitting is often the optimal plan. Last light typically falls on high-elevation features, and Rock Cut in Rocky Mountain National Park has that qualification.

A Colorado 14er, Longs Peak, also captures the day's last light. Framing this mountain between the Rock Cut features results in what you see here.

The Sony Alpha 1 and Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens are an outstanding combination. Three manually focus bracketed images were combined for this image.

Join me in RMNP this September. I have an opening or two for the Elk Rut in Rocky Mountain National Park Instructional Photo Tour.

66mm  f/11.0  1/13s  ISO 100
Hurricane Sandy-Damaged Pier Hurricane Sandy-Damaged Pier

While the incredible sunset over Barnegat Bay captures your attention first, it is the pier that tells the story. Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Jersey coast and this pier going out into Barnegat Bay remains witness to the event.
This is an HDR image. Read the HDR article in the tips section of the site for the full story on this one.

16mm  f/11.0  20s  ISO 100
Polihale State Park, Kauai, Hawaii Polihale State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

The secluded beach at Polihale State Park in Kauai, Hawaii is one of my favorites. This location is great for photographing the sand and cliffs in the warm light of the setting sun.
While the sand on a beach may all appear the same, you can often find something different to work into your composition. Here, I found little channels created by erosion. The channels were straight, but by shooting the contour from a close angle, they become oft-desired curves in my composition. The curves separate this photo from many others I didn't find very interesting.
This location also has full view of the setting sun, but I needed more time to explore the area to find a foreground other than the basic (though still beautiful) sun-into-water composition.

24mm  f/16.0  1/60s  ISO 200
Arch and Dead Tree, Arches National Park Arch and Dead Tree, Arches National Park

It is not hard to find rock and arches at Arches National Park, but finding interesting foreground subjects requires more exploring. I liked this dead tree and worked it against the blue sky over the arch in this picture.
I shot this picture with and without the circular polarizer filter - the difference is dramatic - I didn't keep the light-colored sky shot taken sans filter.

32mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 100
Fire Over Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glenn State Park Fire Over Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glenn State Park

Beach trees in their fall colors appear to blaze over the dark, rain-soaked rocks around Shawnee Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, near Benton, PA. This was a perfect situation for the B+W 82mm XS-Pro MRC Nano Kaeseman CP Filter I was reviewing.

24mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Sunset on Na Pali Coast, Kauai Sunset on Na Pali Coast, Kauai

You can't tell from this picture, but it was shot in the rain. The light rain came on suddenly - just as the sunset was reaching peak color. I was not too concerned about my gear as both the camera and lens were sealed against such rain, but keeping the front element dry (for optical reasons) was a bit of a challenge. Always keep a microfiber cloth handy.
Rain comes from clouds and clouds are needed for dramatic sunsets. In this case, I'll take the rain.
I was shooting with two cameras at this time. I was capturing (handheld) waves hitting the cliffs with a telephoto zoom (70-300 L) and was capturing the sunset with a normal zoom on a tripod. This image is an HDR that utilized three exposures to get a little detail in the shaded rock and cliffs.

24mm  f/11.0  1/6s  ISO 100
Toadstool Hoodoos Toadstool Hoodoos

Paria Rimrocks Toadstool Hoodoos in Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, Utah was not high on my Grand Tour to-do list, but it was one of my favorite locations on this trip. My only regret was not spending more time there. White and red sandstone - and rock hats on rock columns - characterize this location.

24mm  f/10.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Maine Coast Picture Maine Coast Picture

The Maine coast by the bay at Pretty Marsh in Acadia National Park at low tide.

10mm  f/11.0  .3s  ISO 100
Clouds and Rock Formations on Crypt Trail Clouds and Rock Formations on Crypt Trail

The clouds seem to match the rock formations under it in this picture taken from the Crypt Lake Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park.

55mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 100
Pennsylvania Beech Tree Pennsylvania Beech Tree

As trees are usually much taller than us, it is common is for us to look upward at leaves or minimally view them from a side perspective. Also typical is for the leaves to be facing, at least to some degree, upward and for the light to be reaching the leaves most strongly from above. While photographing glowing backlit leaves from underneath is commonly recommended (and a good tactic), the top of leaves generally have the strongest color with that color facing the light. Thus, capturing the best leaf color in the best light often means photographing the top of leaves.
Because most leaves (on trees at least) are higher than us, moving in close to the tree can diminish the amount of color seen. Moving farther away, unless that distance means a lower elevation, can provide a more colorful view of a tree by simply lowering the angle of view. Better is to get a higher vantage point. This means going up on a hill, up on a deck, up in a building (shooting from an open window for example), up on a ladder, etc.
A photo accessory that I've long considered acquiring, one that would help greatly in this regard, is a Bucket Truck. I know, you think I'm kidding, right? Not so. I think having such a truck would be a competitive advantage and I am always seeing locations where I could make use of one.
I don't know if that idea will ever come to fruition for me, but more popular is the use of drones. While the rules and regulations book for use of these devices is still being written, drones can get to many locations that would previously have required a bucket truck, crane or helicopter. Getting above the leaves is no problem for a drone.
If moving up means moving back, a longer focal length lens may be desired to keep the same framing and that the perspective will change should not be overlooked.
I was evaluating the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens and while looking down the steep hill from our house, a beech tree with various shades of yellow and salmon-colored leaves caught my eye. At 35mm, the tree was tiny in the frame, so I went down to it. The closer I got, the less I was noticing the color patterns that initially caught my attention and the more I was looking across the side of the leaves, leaving the bare woods showing through the color. While still beautiful, this was not the image I had envisioned from the top of the hill.
I took some photos that I liked at 35mm, but then went back to the house to mount the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. With the narrower angle of view, I could easily fill the frame with color and the downward view on the leaves left few holes into the background.
The next time you are looking at beautiful fall foliage, consider moving to a position that affords a downward view to maximize the color available to you.

300mm  f/8.0  .5s  ISO 100
Snow-lined Trees Snow-lined Trees

A strong snow storm left tree trunks vertically lined with snow. A downward-angled camera position causes the essentially-straight tree trunks to angle outward in this picture. I wanted to keep the bottom and most of the sides of the frame free of intersecting lines (other than the shadows).

10mm  f/8.0  1/125s  ISO 100
The Story from Square Top Mountain, Guanella Pass, CO The Story from Square Top Mountain, Guanella Pass, CO

It started out innocently. After verifying firsthand that Mount Evans was closed due to snow and ice, despite it being summer, we decided to explore Guenella Pass. Traveling the entire previous day gave Brittany a strong desire to go for a hike and she didn't have to expend much energy convincing me to take that option.

The plan was to explore the nearby alpine tundra from trails leading from a parking area near the top of the pass. We grabbed a backpack, some water, snacks, and rain shells and set off on what we thought would be a mini-adventure. Carrying the Canon EOS 5Ds R with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens mounted (primarily for wildlife) and a Nikon Z 7 with a Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens mounted (primarily for landscape) seemed to be an ideal set of gear for the planned short hike.

While hiking, Brittany continuously wanted to see what was over the next ridge. In this location, deception reigned and the answer to the what is over the next ridge question is always another ridge. Still, we kept asking the question until having climbed mostly rock and snowfield over 2,400' (730m) up in roughly 3.5 mi (5.6km). Unintentionally, we found ourselves on top of a very high mountain.

The view at the top of the 13,800' Table Top Mountain was spectacular. What Brit was feeling from the altitude ... was not nearly as pleasant.

Unfortunately, we needed to promptly go back down and couldn't spend much time on top. Fortunately, Brit found the mental fortitude to get some great photos despite the altitude sickness but she didn't feel good until after a nap back in town.

While I was not as strongly affected by the high elevation, I definitely should have left the 100-400 in the SUV as it gained a lot of weight on this hike.

See the distant thunderhead cloud looming over Brittany's head in the image? That was another reason to go down quickly. That storm brought us near white-out snow conditions for a short period of time during our descent, adding to the day's story.

While photography is great for storytelling, going on photo adventures is a great option for creating stories.

24mm  f/11.0  1/200s  ISO 100
Total Solar Eclipse Phase Progression Total Solar Eclipse Phase Progression

Most of us photographing a total solar eclipse capture images throughout the partial phases. While partial eclipse images are interesting, I quickly get bored of viewing circles with a bite out of them, including mine. Create a progression composite image that tells the "full" story, and you will have my attention. Thus, such an image was one of my goals for the 2024 total solar eclipse.

Aside from the center row, these images were captured 2.5 minutes apart. Even with a modest crop from an 840mm focal length, the individual Sony Alpha 1 images are large, and 77 of them in a single PS file created an unacceptable processor load. A 50% overall size reduction made the processing tolerable, and this image still weighs in at over 266 MP, enough resolution to print massive.

840mm  f/5.6  1/5000s  ISO 100
Snow-Laden Blue Spruce Tree Snow-Laden Blue Spruce Tree

Morning light creates a three-dimensional look to this snow-covered Blue Spruce Tree.

75mm  f/11  1/160s  ISO 100
The Tarn, Acadia National Park The Tarn, Acadia National Park

Water in the shade with a reflected subject in the sun is a great photographic scenario. Add maple trees in their peak fall color to that background and the opportunity value increases significantly. That is the scenario that can be found in the fall at The Tarn in Acadia National Park.

The number of composition opportunities at this location is a bit overwhelming and changing continuously as the sun rises and the wind ebbs and flows. Selecting an image to share from the hundreds captured is the resulting challenge.

This is an example of telephoto lens being ideal for landscape photography. Most often a 100-400mm lens is in my landscape kit and on this day it was the excellent Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Many of my favorite landscape images have been captured within the range offered by this lens.

Here is another selected image from The Tarn.

100mm  f/11.0  1/25s  ISO 200
The Right Light in Owl Creek Pass The Right Light in Owl Creek Pass

Stories are great. Sometimes a picture tells a story and sometimes a story comes from getting the picture. One afternoon during a fall photo trip to Colorado, we headed to Owl Creek Pass. This area is very scenic, especially with fall colors.

The dirt road over the top of this pass can be questionable after a rain (at least without an off-road-capable vehicle) and we had plenty of rain but opted to give it a go with the small Ford Edge AWD SUV we had rented. At a relatively high elevation, we discovered that the road was being worked on and by the time we reached the top, we were bottoming out on loose gravel being dumped (tailgated) onto the road. By maintaining forward momentum, we made it over this rather long obstacle but were then greeted by a thick mud road surface until finally reaching the top of the pass.

As we went over the top, the serious question was whether or not we should risk going down the other side. That answer was quickly provided in the form of a 6-wheel-drive grader coming up the other side. It was mostly sideways and consuming the entire width of the relatively narrow road. The large machine had its rear scarifier down and was tearing up the road surface, preparing it for a fresh layer of stone similar to what we had just driven through. The decision to turn back was easy and immediate with a strong sense of that get-out-while-you-can feeling.

While on our way back down the mountain (it is easier to plow stone when going down hill), beyond the active road construction area, the sun broke through the clouds and we stopped to take pictures at the next clearing. Very few people were around this rather remote area, but a couple was at this spot taking a selfie. My daughter asked them if they would like us to take their picture, volunteering me to do so. They were quite happy about that and I quickly obliged while very anxious to get my shot before the small hole the clouds passed and the sunlight again was again shut off.

Looking at my hat, purchased in Hawaii over 5 years prior, the young guy asked if I had been to Hawaii. Turns out that he was a crew member for the boat company I had sailed with during the Canon Hawaii product announcement event only a few weeks prior. He showed me pictures on his phone of the boat I had been on. What are the odds that?

We chatted for a while and I of course captured a large number of images of this spectacular scene while doing so.

Direct sunlight shining under heavy clouds is at the top of my favorite lighting scenarios list. When the light is this good, the image results can be striking without much processing. The standard picture style was used to process this image and no additional contrast adjustments were made. The biggest processing challenge was to determine which image to share with you.

50mm  f/9.0  1/180s  ISO 100
Ibex Dunes, Death Valley National Park Ibex Dunes, Death Valley National Park

The remoteness of the beautiful Ibex Dunes in Death Valley National Park is a big advantage and a big drawback.

The advantage part is that few people make the effort required to get there, and the Ibex dune field is often untracked.

The drawback is that these dunes are located near ... well, nothing. The drive from Furnace Creek took nearly two hours, with very few services encountered on the way, and the last 10 miles are narrow dirt and sand roads that require differing vehicle classes depending on the current conditions (including at an intermittent stream crossing).

The adventure does not stop upon arrival. The dunes are over a mile from the road, but they are massive and easily visible from the road (a generous term for it by this point — more like a trail), and the hike to the dunes is not difficult. In contrast to the size of the dunes, the vehicle is tiny and may not be visible from the dunes. A small angular mistake on the way out could mean a significantly longer walk and perhaps a night in the desert.

That adventure aspect was avoided with a GPS pin, an old-school compass reading, and a feature on the mountain opposite the dunes noted.

On this afternoon, a solitary set of tracks led through the low area between the untouched northern and southern dune fields. After photographing my way around the dunes, I settled into the selected sunset location to catch the day's last rays.

As I shared in the last dune image, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Canon EOS R5 proved the optimal choice in the Death Valley National Park dunes. While focal lengths outside this range had compositional opportunities, the 24-70mm angles of view enabled emphasis on the close subjects while keeping the background details relatively large in the frame.

The R5's focus bracketing feature made complete depth of field easily obtained for every image. Four f/11 images were required for this 48mm focus stacked final photo.

48mm  f/11.0  1/15s  ISO 100
Na Pali Coast Na Pali Coast

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai, with its massive sea cliffs, is a simply spectacular sight.
While the new-at-the-time Canon EF 24-70 f/4 L IS Lens was my primary standard zoom lens for this trip, I used the 24-105 L IS from the helicopter. I made this choice primarily for the longer focal length, but in the end I decided that either lens would have worked very well.
I used a B+W circular polarizer filter in 100% of my helicopter aerial photos on this day - an XS-PRO Nano version in this case.

24mm  f/8.0  1/800s  ISO 2000
Exposing a Big Badlands Sunrise, Badlands National Park Exposing a Big Badlands Sunrise, Badlands National Park

In June, at this latitude, there is not much time between sunset and sunrise. However, at this time of the year, in this location, there are few sunrises and sunsets worth sleeping through.

While driving at a high rate of speed (as permitted by the high posted speed limit on I90) toward the park this morning, I could see the beautiful sunrise color begin to show in the sky and feared being too late. Fortunately, that fear was unfounded.

Near the end of a narrow ridge, the camera could be positioned to capture just the end of that ridge, helping to emphasize the dramatic depth. The 15mm focal length was ideal for this big scene.

The Canon EOS R5 and Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens made this exposure-bracketed capture easy. However, ensuring that the blend between the sky and foreground was void of bright or dark edges while HDR stacking was a bit more challenging. With the foreground carefully separated from the background (in Photoshop), and its brightness reduced by a stop, there is plenty of latitude for changing my mind in a month or 5 years.

While this site's white background is perfect for product photos, it is a touch harsh for sample pictures. Head over to my portfolio site for a larger image on a darker background, a combination that improves especially this image's appearance.

15mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Milky Way and Perseid Meteor, Island Pond, T15-R9, Maine Milky Way and Perseid Meteor, Island Pond, T15-R9, Maine

Welcome to Island Pond, located by Red River Camps in Deboullie Public Reserved Land of T15-R9 in the North Maine Woods. That this location is a nearly 1-hour drive from the grid and paved roads should help set the scene. Along with natural beauty, what you get here is a dark sky and at this time in August, a beautiful view of the Milky Way and the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.

Aside from the effort required to get to this location, this was a very easy image to create.

  • Mount the camera and lens on a solid tripod
  • Manually focus the lens on a bright star using fully-magnified live view
  • Adjust the composition as desired with the camera leveled for roll
  • Dial in a manual exposure of f/1.8 (use your widest available), ISO 6400 and 30 seconds (a stretch)
  • Set the camera to its high-speed frame rate
  • Plug in a remote release
  • Capture a test image and verify that it looks good
  • Lock the release button down (press down and slide forward)
  • Return later
The camera continuously captures images, hopefully with perfectly-positioned meteors in them. These frames can also be made into a time-lapse.

After setting up the first camera, you have plenty of time, so set up a second camera the same as the first, capturing a different composition.

On this night I had three camera setups with four of what I consider the best night sky lenses available. One of the cameras was a Nikon model and the only Nikon-mount star-capable lens I had along (not a Nikon model) showed a serious image quality problem, leaving two cameras in operation.

I mentioned that the 30-second exposure was a stretch and that is what happens to the stars at this focal length, exposure duration, and imaging sensor pixel density combination. They get stretched.

A blur is created when details in an image move across pixels on the imaging sensor, regardless of the reason why that happens. As we all know, due to the earth's rotation, stars are moving across the frame when the camera is in a fixed position. The longer the exposure, the more they are magnified (longer focal length lens) and the higher pixel density the imaging sensor has, the more that star blur will be visible at the pixel level.

Note that when final images are viewed and compared, the imaging sensor's pixel density-caused blur becomes equalized. For example, if you are printing at 8" x 12", the pixel density factor no longer matters in regards to the star trail blur created by two different resolution, equal-sensor-sized cameras.

Also, note that not all stars move at the same rate relative to the camera position. For example, the North Star (Polaris) does not move at all. If you are primarily including the northern sky in the frame, you might be able to use longer exposures than if your camera was directed west, east or up. There are star blur rules that can be helpful, but photography skills rule. Analyze your results as soon as they are captured and make adjustments as needed.

I mentioned having 4 of my favorite star lenses along with me. They are my favorites, but the perfect star lens, at least from a lens in the realm of affordability for most individuals, does not exist. All lenses have at least some issue keeping them from reaching perfection and corner performance is typically their biggest limiting factor.

This image was captured with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens. It is a great choice for this purpose.

For star photography, ultra-wide angles are helpful for taking in a greater area of the sky and allowing longer exposures before star trails become visible, though ultra-wide angles produce rather small stars. Ultra-wide apertures (that produce sharp enough image quality to be used) create a brighter image in less time or at a lower ISO setting. The Sigma 14mm Art lens has those two features.

The worst case: even if the entire night's shoot was a failure, just hanging out under a starry sky would be totally worth the time and effort.

14mm  f/1.8  30s  ISO 6400
Salomon Bay, St. John Picture Salomon Bay, St. John Picture

Salomon Bay is a very popular location for boats to moor. And Honeymoon Beach is a great reason for this location's popularity.

24mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 160
Pennsylvania Snow Storm Pennsylvania Snow Storm

Pennsylvania does not often get the Colorado variety snow storms, but what Pennsylvania gets can be very beautiful. When the cloud cover is heavy, it doesn't matter what time of the day you are shooting in – images taken throughout the day will look the same.
Here I was shooting mid-day during the storm from under the protection of an umbrella. Since you never know when a wind will kick up and blow the snow off of the branches, I was making sure that I got the shot I wanted. The blurred falling snowflakes (hard to see at this reduced image size) also add a different dimension to this image.

16mm  f/11.0  1/25s  ISO 100
Couple Walking on the Beach at Hawksnest Bay Couple Walking on the Beach at Hawksnest Bay

A couple walks on the beautiful beach at Hawksnest Bay, Virgin Islands National Park, St. John. Lines of clouds, trees, sand, water and rocks flow through the composition.

24mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Sunset at Trunk Bay Sunset at Trunk Bay

The lone Palm tree on Trunk Cay caught my attention. I also like how the clouds are shaped similarly to the rocks extending into Trunk Bay from the cay.

105mm  f/8.0  1/13s  ISO 250
Parkman Mountain, Acadia National Park Parkman Mountain, Acadia National Park

A late-day Acadia National Park landscape that includes the Parkman Mountain peak as seen from Bald Peak. Warm light from the setting sun touches the mountaintops while dramatic clouds take care of the top portion of this frame.

24mm  f/11.0  1/60s  ISO 160
Rows of Clouds Over Acadia Rows of Clouds Over Acadia

Rows of clouds let rays of light through, causing small areas of brightness in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Acadia National Park.

17mm  f/11.0  1/200s  ISO 100
Bighorn Sheep Ewe Keeps Watch at Sunset in Badlands National Park Bighorn Sheep Ewe Keeps Watch at Sunset in Badlands National Park

Briefly, the Badlands National Park skies produced a nice show this evening, complete with the clouds seeming to match the ground texture. While I like the photo, the experience was even better.

See the sheep standing on the leftmost peak? We were in location for the sunset photo when this bighorn sheep ewe showed up on the ridge immediately to our right.

Then, it ran down the side of the cliff and ran up the one it is shown on. The sheep's ability to navigate the steep, slippery terrain at speed is incredible.

Experiences like these happen when you spend time in the right places. A second sheep is bedded on the tall peak close to the center of the image, and two more are walking between the two. Also impressive is that all four sheep stood still for a one-second exposure.

The optically impressive Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens got the call for this sunset. With clouds covering most of the sky, the odds of good sunset color were low. However, that scenario meant the entire sky could light up brilliantly, and I wanted ultra-wide angles of view ready to capture as much color as possible.

A small opening in the clouds created a light show that made 12mm a highly welcomed option. The Sony Alpha 1's ultra-high resolution makes the distant sheep easily recognized when the image is viewed large.

12mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
Old Boat on Bambarra Beach, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Old Boat on Bambarra Beach, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos

While exploring Middle Caicos, I came across this great little old boat on Bambarra Beach. I opted to go wide and move in close, emphasizing the boat relative to the rest of the landscape. As I worked the scene, I continued to move in closer and lower until ... cue the pelican ... I settled on this shot.
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens is a great beach and seascape lens option, with or without a tripod.
Whether or not to use a circular polarizer filter when using the widest angles of this lens on a full frame body (and similar angle-of-view-equivalent focal lengths on APS-C format bodies) is a question that one must ask themselves. At very wide angles, a CPL filter can create an unevenly-darkened sky and tastes for such vary widely. One strategy is to shoot in the middle of the day. A high sun places the most-darkened portion of the sky evenly over the horizon. This provides a more-evenly darkened sky within the frame, as seen in this image.
While there is some gradient in this sky, I much prefer the CPL look and the high sky-to-boat contrast over the lighter sky (which naturally has some gradient even without the filter).

16mm  f/11.0  1/100s  ISO 100
Clouds are Important for not only the Sky, Sievers Mountain, Maroon Bells Clouds are Important for not only the Sky, Sievers Mountain, Maroon Bells

Aspen trees do not all change color at the same time in the fall. This can be good or bad news. Good is that there is some flexibility in the timing of fall photo trips to aspen areas. Potentially bad is that there will likely be green or bare aspen trees in your targeted area.
In addition to leaf color, sky cover is a concern for aspen tree photography. While blue skies are beautiful, I much prefer to have photogenic clouds decorating a blue sky (with abundant amounts of sunshine coming through). My reasoning for this preference is probably obvious for images that include those clouds and the sky. But, clouds cast shadows and shadows can greatly contribute to imagery.
On the return hike from Crater Lake on this day, clouds blocked the sun just enough to shade Sievers Mountain while the foreground aspen trees glowed brightly in the sunlight. In the mid-ground was a patch of aspens with only their top-most leaves remaining (these are the last to fall). Also in the sun, these leaves appear as a flame over the trees. While it is not in the limelight, Sievers Mountain, full of character and framed in blue sky with white clouds further separating the sharpest peaks, makes this shot for me.
While a telephoto lens may not have been your first choice for a hike primarily focused on landscape photography, telephoto focal lengths are an integral part of my landscape kit. I often find composing landscape images with a telephoto zoom lens to be easier than a wide angle lens. The next time you head out to photograph the great outdoors, especially in big mountain areas, make sure that a telephoto zoom lens is in your bag.

300mm  f/9.0  1/125s  ISO 200
Red Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado Red Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Why am I posting a fall foliage photo for a summer photography tip? Good question – Let me explain.
Anticipation is one of life's greatest feelings.
Strive to create anticipation for your clients and also in your own life. One of my favorite anticipations is for a photo trip and, while many lament the end of summer approaching, my favorite time of the year to photograph is when the leaves change color. This time of the year is primarily in the fall season, but ... the leaves in some of the most-scenic areas are reaching peak color just as the summer season comes to an end.
Many landscape photographers share my affinity for fall and photographers with interests other than landscape photography can also benefit from the brilliant colors. For example, portrait, sports, car and many other photographers can find the colorful fall backgrounds advantageous. If it is summer and your fall trip(s) is(are) not planned, don't wait any longer.
If colorful leaves are the desired subject, a location experiencing that color during your time there is important. While that timing can change from year-to-year, influenced by water and temperature, trip planning should use historical averages for decision making. There are many fall foliage maps available to help with destination and date planning.
My last fall foliage photography trip was to Colorado, including the San Juan Mountains, a location sure to be found on all USA fall foliage maps. For this image, I used a telephoto lens to bring the snow-capped mountains in close, making them appear large in the frame. A break in the heavy cloud cover provided beautiful lighting and the low-hanging cloud added the extra element I am always searching for.
While your fall foliage photo trip may be best planned even earlier than summer, if summer is here, wait no longer. My big fall trip is planned, but ... I'll let the destination be a small anticipation for you.

112mm  f/11.0  1/250s  ISO 100
On the Ledge at R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park On the Ledge at R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park

The timing was perfect for a visit to Ricketts Glen State Park. The new beech tree leaves were coming out with their light spring green color looking great. It had rained a significant amount the prior day and the forecast was for rain all of this day.

Waterfalls, of course, thrive on rain, rain saturates the landscape, rain requires clouds and clouds ensure even lighting, and also helpful is that rain keeps the (smarter?) potential park visitors at home and out of images. On this day, I had the Falls Trails completely to myself until I was hiking out near dark.

Rain also makes photography a bit more challenging. I was wearing Gore-Tex clothing (boots, pants, and jacket) that kept me completely dry. At least dry until I overheated a bit while hiking up out of the canyon at a fast pace with quick-drying clothing resolving that problem quickly after I was back in the car. I carried a large umbrella to work under (awkward but very helpful) and had a microfiber cloth readily available to wipe water drops from the front of the lens. When shooting waterfalls, a microfiber cloth is often needed regardless of the rain situation. Note that nano-coated filters are easy to keep clean and easily worth their additional cost on days like these. The camera and lens were in an inexpensive rain cover that I was evaluating and that is now on the to-replace list as it was not "waterproof", leaving the camera and lens wet enough that a towel was needed (get a LensCoat RainCoat). This is an example of when weather sealing can save the day.

The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens were the only camera and lens that came out of my BackLight 26L on this day. It was the perfect combination for this image and all of the others I wanted. Also in the backpack was an EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The BackLight's rear access meant that cameras could be swapped without setting the backpack down on the very wet ground and without taking the rain cover off.

I've mentioned that I rely on my tripod for personal support at times and this was one of those. Working up onto this ledge over wet rocks was not easy and a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Carbon Fiber Tripod saved me from a serious fall when my footing broke loose. The ledge position meant that the lower tripod legs were planted rather far below me, making every inch of the "Long" length of this tripod very useful. Saving my images by cutting reflections and increasing saturation was a Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter. Had I forgotten this filter, I would probably have just turned around and gone home.

Overall, it was a great day in Ricketts Glenn SP. I'll likely be sharing more of the images captured on this day at some point.

With 24 named waterfalls, including some of the most photogenic falls around, Ricketts Glen State Park is waterfall photography heaven. I spent over 45 minutes capturing a variety of compositions of this falls alone and finally forced myself to move on, leaving some options for another day. If you are interested in photographing with me here, I need to know. This will likely be the destination for an upcoming waterfall photography workshop!

16mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Sunset on the East Coast Beach, Island Beach State Park Sunset on the East Coast Beach, Island Beach State Park

East coast beaches are usually better situated for sunrises than sunsets and Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park in New Jersey, is usual in this regard.
A habit I have while photographing at the edges of the day, is to make regular glances to the east, "watching my back". While that habit may apply to safety in some locations, I'm referring to the lighting and color in the sky. It is natural for us to watch and photograph the sun rising or setting, but often great images are found behind you at these times of the day.
While photographing the colorful post-sunset sky to the west on this evening, I took that glance to the east. What I saw was that the color in the sky was visible toward the north while the rest of the easterly scene was very evenly lit. The ultra-wide 14mm focal length lens' angle of view was sufficient to capture that color along with the Atlantic Ocean and lots of sand in the foreground. To add some foreground interest, I moved in close to the sand fence post, placing it approximately 1/3 into the frame with the beach fishing party framed between it and the dunes to the left.
While the lighting was rather even, I still used a combination of three 1-stop-different exposures combined via a manual HDR process to darken the brightest portion of the sky relative to the rest of the beach scene.
Capturing a colorful sky is just one of the many reasons that your kit should have 14mm covered.

14mm  f/11.0  3.2s  ISO 100
Oxbow Bend in the Fall, Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend in the Fall, Grand Teton National Park

There are few landscape photography locations more popular than Oxbow Bend, near Moran in Grand Teton National Park. This location is especially favored during the week or two in late summer when the aspen trees take on their brilliant fall colors. However, on a calm morning with interesting clouds in the sky, those colors are just icing on the cake.
When the wind dies down, most often early and late in the day, the Oxbow Bend area of the Snake River becomes glassy and only the jumping fish and feeding ducks remain to mar the mirror-like surface of the water. The highlight of this location is Mount Moran along with the other nearby mountain peaks and a telephoto lens best emphasizes distant mountains. I took a few telephoto pics here, but ... I couldn't resist framing the scene wider, including the reflections of the photogenic clouds present on this great morning.
I always say that a great landscape scene can be made greater by reflecting it and I think this theory holds true at Oxbow Bend. Within this theory, vertically centering the top edge of a large reflecting surface (such as a body of water) usually works very well.
Even though there are many dozens of photographers targeting Oxbow Bend at sunrise, there is plenty of room for everyone to find a good shooting location. Schedule your presence here for mid-late September (this image was captured on the 19th) if you want the yellow aspens in your frame.

41mm  f/8.0  1/30s  ISO 100
In a Crevice, Focus Bracketed Panorama, Lathe Arch, Alabama Hills In a Crevice, Focus Bracketed Panorama, Lathe Arch, Alabama Hills

When other serious photographers are photographing you instead of the amazing scene in your viewfinder, your sanity feels questioned.

Despite appearing big in this image, Lathe Arch is relatively small. Making it appear large in the frame requires getting close to it relative to the background. Getting close from the best side of this arch offers very few options, and gaining this vantage point required getting into a small opening between the large, abrasive granite rocks.

The tripod legs were spread straight out, straddling the crevice, and I was thankful for sturdy boots that were not crushing my feet despite being wedged between the rocks. I was mostly hidden from people walking by but was apparently photo-worthy to a couple of photographers that noticed me.

The widest focal length available on the mounted lens was 15mm, and that angle of view was not nearly wide enough to capture the entire arch and the supporting rocks beside it. Thus, a panorama was called for.

I suspected that this scenario was coming and often have a Really Right Stuff MPR-CL Rail with Integral Clamp in the bag. The rail mounted on the vertical side of the L-plate allowed the lens to pivot over its nodal point, ensuring that the foreground details aligned when stitched together. While nodal alignment is not essential when the foreground is distant, this foreground was very close.

There was a lot of blue sky above the arch, but much of that was framed (and cropped) out of this image. The 22mm focal length provided a sufficient vertical angle of view. The finished horizontal angle of view was determined by the sum of the camera angles used for the pano.

The next issue to resolve was the inadequate depth of field. The closest foreground rock was immediately in front of the lens, while Lone Peak and the mountains beside it were far away. This scenario calls for focus bracketing, an easy strategy with the Canon EOS R5.

I considered adding HDR bracketing to the already complicated capture and processing but didn't — and didn't regret that decision. The R5's dynamic range easily handled this scene.

After dialing in a manual exposure that barely avoided red channel overexposure, the camera was rotated to the left-most side of the capture, autofocus was acquired on the nearest point of the rock, and the set of focus bracketed images was captured. The ball head base was not close to level, so the panning base could not be used for the lateral movement. The ball was loosened, and the camera moved using the thirds gridline to locate the next position. Moving the bottom-left thirds gridline intersection to the former position of the bottom-right thirds line intersection provided a considerable 2/3 frame overlap between image sets, with the electronic level ensuring the camera remained level.

A 1/3 overlap is usually adequate, so moving the bottom-left thirds gridline intersection to the former position of the bottom-right line leaving the frame would have been more efficient.

Additional sets of images were captured until the complete width of the pano was finished. The result was five images per focus stack and four focus-stacked image sets for the panorama.

Creation of the final image involved processing the stacks and then creating the panorama from the four stacked images. While this process may sound complicated, it was simple. The computer did all of the work.

Capturing this image was high on the awkwardness scale, but as usual, I barely remember the discomfort, and the image will bring back the great memories of this morning long into the future.

22mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Total Solar Eclipse with Corona Total Solar Eclipse with Corona

The goal for the middle portion of the total eclipse was to capture a wide range of bracketed exposures to pull out the distant corona. This image shows the result of one optional HDR processing technique.

The exposure bracketed images were loaded as Photoshop layers and manually aligned. Next, the opacity of each layer was reduced, allowing the next-lower layer to show through. The lowest included layer's opacity remains at 100%.

This image was modestly cropped from the top right to center the sun, but it shows an expected result from the 840mm focal length. This angle of view fills a substantial portion of the frame with the corona.

Want to contain the corona streamers within the frame? Do not use the brightest exposures in the HDR stack. The center image in the Total Solar Eclipse Phase Progression image illustrates this strategy.

840mm  f/5.6  1/5s  ISO 100
Hitting the High Note, Whistler, British Columbia Hitting the High Note, Whistler, British Columbia

The girls were my support staff on this trip and we rolled into Whistler late in the afternoon after a challenging 10 hour drive through western Canada. We checked into the hotel, unloaded, drove to the other end of the village to park in the free lot and began walking back through the village to find dinner. The girls were a bit vague about what we were doing on this end of our trip ("Whistler" wasn't a location they knew much about) and they were quite awestruck as we came into the beautiful and impressively-designed Olympic village. Fitting were the Olympics rings being one of the first sights seen in the village as the 2016 summer Olympics were scheduled to begin a few days later. To be at one of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics venues was very fun to them.
I knew that our schedule was tight (and I was really tired and hungry), so I tried to keep moving them along (vs. stopping at every shop we were walking past). We finally found a restaurant (with reasonable prices and still open), ate and went back to the hotel. It was nearly midnight until we got to bed and that meant the morning was not going to be an early one as I needed enough sleep to drive to Vancouver the next night.
By the time we packed in the AM, finished breakfast and waited in line for lift tickets, it was afternoon and we arrived near the top of Whistler at about 2:00 PM. As we got off of the gondola, we noticed a sign stating that the last lift ride down was at 5:00 PM. While it would have been nice to know that piece of information before heading up the mountain (and even better to know it the night before), the 6 mile (9.5km) High Note Trail was a high priority and we were determined to make loop trail hike happen. We had another line and chair lift to go before hitting the trail head and we proceeded. So, we were left with about 2.5 hours to do the moderately difficult hike with photos of course being the primary goal.
Although I had the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L loaded with several lens options, I mounted the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS and left the pack on my back for the duration of the hike, due to the time constraints. That lens mounted to the Canon EOS 5Ds R worked great for the scenery encountered on this hike. I hadn't brought a tripod along and, with image stabilization doing its job, I didn't need one.
If photographing landscapes during the middle of a sunny day, I nearly always have a circular polarizer filter installed and did on this day. By cutting reflections, these filters significantly increase saturation, making colors "pop".
The hike ended up being mostly a run with stops for photos while trying to resist some of the constant photo temptations along the way (for time reasons). At about 7,000' (2,133m) in elevation, the view over the valley 5,000' (1,524m) below (including the turquoise-colored Cheakamus Lake seen in this image) was continuously spectacular. The timing of this trip, to coincide with wildflower season, was also perfect. I captured numerous images I liked and, though exhausted, made it back to the lift in time to ride down. That was a very good thing as hiking the 3 mi (5 km) down the steep mountain would have been rough at this point.

24mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
How to Process Solar Eclipse Exposure Bracketed Images – A Simple HDR Technique How to Process Solar Eclipse Exposure Bracketed Images – A Simple HDR Technique

Like scores of others, you (probably) and I photographed the solar eclipse this year. While partial solar eclipse images are easy to process (simply make them bright without blowing the red channel), the total eclipse images when bracketed, are in a different league in terms of complexity. So, like me, you are probably now asking, "How do I process the exposure-bracketed total eclipse pictures?" While there were many articles teaching us how to photograph the eclipse, those telling us how to process the images we captured during totality are scarce.
A great solar eclipse photography strategy is to extensively bracket exposures during totality, when the corona becomes visible. While the corona is relatively bright just outside the edges of the moon, it becomes very dim far away from the sun. Of course, with the sun being 93 million miles away, the word "far" takes on a significant meaning.
While I hoped I could simply load a set of bracketed-exposure images into my favorite HDR software (Photomatix or Photoshop) and be finished, the results returned were not acceptable to me for a couple of reasons. The primary problem was that the software did not properly align the moon (it moves across the frame in subsequent images), creating ghosting and still did so even if I pre-aligned the moon in each image. I could have overlaid the moon from a single frame, but ... I still wasn't satisfied with the overall look of the results.
In the end, after numerous trial and error attempts, I settled on an easy, relatively fast way to merge the results in Photoshop as my solution. Note that there are many techniques that can be used to process a stack of bracketed total solar eclipse images, so don't think this is the only option. But, this technique is easy and it produces a nice result.
Hopefully you captured your images in RAW format for the highest quality and in that case, processing those RAW files into 16-bit TIFF format is the first step needed.
Next, the images need to be loaded into layers in Photoshop. I use Adobe Bridge for this task, browsing to the folder the files are located in, clicking on the first of the series and shift-clicking on the last to select them all. Then select the "Tools" menu, "Photoshop", "Load files into Photoshop Layers ..." and a new Photoshop document will open with all of the images stacked in layers.
Unless you were using a tracking mount, the moon disk will need to be aligned in the layers. I simply moved each layer into identical position. Click on the layer and move it using the move tool. Toggle layer visibility of the image containing the targeted moon position for use as a guide and use the arrow keys to slide the layer being adjusted into position.
Once the images are properly aligned, crop the image as desired. Trimming away the missing edges and centering the sun was my decision.
Next, Order the layers from top down in darkest to brightest sequence. Because I set up the camera to shoot brackets from darkest to brightest (using three custom modes), this sequencing happened automatically for me.
Select the first/top layer and shift-click on the second-to-last layer. With all except one layer selected, reduce the layer opacity using the "Opacity" box at the top of the layers palette. Try starting at 20% and adjust to taste from there. I suggest keeping the image on the bright side at this point.
Making the opacity adjustment (likely) immediately produced an image that looks decent, but one ready for some contrast adjustment. Click on the top layer and create a new adjustment layer. The adjustment layer type you should select depends on your Photoshop skill level, but it needs to be a contrast-adjusting layer type that you are comfortable with, curves being the most powerful and levels being very easy. Use the adjustments the selected tool offers to bring life into the image. If using curves, try selecting two points to create an S-curve that darkens the darks colors and brightens the light (though likely only slight brightening is needed if the layer opacities were set low enough). If using levels, try reducing the mid adjustment slider. You may find that adding multiple adjustment layers is helpful. The beauty of adjustment layers is that they are non-destructive and can be created or deleted at any time.
Because the edges of the moon become brighter as the exposure becomes increases, the edges of my moon were not as crisp as I liked. Also, Baily's Beads were one of my favorite aspects for the solar eclipse and they were only found in the images captured just before C2 and just before C3. So, I incorporated an additional layer into the top of my layer stack and used a layer mask to make only the lunar disk and Baily's Beads visible. This means a black mask (use CTRL-I with a newly-created mask selected), with the desired visible attributes painted white (I used the paint brush). Another option for sharpening the moon is to duplicate one of the existing layers (CTRL-J), likely a darker one, giving it a 100% opacity and a layer mask with only the lunar disk made visible.
A technique that can be used to bring out some contrast in the corona is via Photoshop's High Pass filter. There are a number of ways to do this, but here is one of them:
Select and combine all layers by clicking on the topmost layer, shift-clicking on the last and pressing CTRL-E. Then copy the combined layers to the clipboard by press CTRL-A to select the entire image and then pressing CTRL-C to copy it. Next, undo changes until one step back past the layer-combining step. Select the top layer and press CTRL-V to paste in the copied combined layer.
With the new layer selected, desaturate it by pressing CTRL-SHFT-U. Implement the High Pass filter selecting from the menu: "Filter" > "Other" > "High Pass...". From the High Pass filter dialog, adjust the radius until it seems like the results will work well, with a low value being good for sharpening hard edges such as the border of the moon and a high value being good for adjusting overall image contrast, such as the corona.
The next step is to change the blending mode of the High Pass layer to "Overlay" by using the blending mode drop-down list founds at the top of the layer palette. The opacity of the High Pass layer can be adjusted to reduce the amount of effect and a mask can be used to hide undesirable portions of that layer. You can create a second or even third High Pass layer if you think it will help.
Adjust individual or smaller groups of layer opacities is another step that can be taken to optimize the final appearance.
For the total solar eclipse HDR image shown here, I combined eight 1-stop-bracketed exposures (out of 14 captured) using opacity values of 100% on the bottom (the brightest frame), 25% for the next three up, 20% for the next three up and 30% for the darkest layer on top. The top layer has a layer mask that allows only the center of this frame to show with a strongly-feathered border creating a natural transition to the layer below (one click in the center with a very large, totally-soft paint brush tool selected).
With so many options available, you may decide it worthwhile to create multiple versions of your HDR image and that is a great idea. You worked hard to prepare for and capture the solar eclipse, so having multiple images processed differently simply increases the reward.

1200mm  f/8.0  1/1250s  ISO 100
Back Against the Rocks, Blue Hour Milky Way, Monument Cove, Acadia National Park Back Against the Rocks, Blue Hour Milky Way, Monument Cove, Acadia National Park

Sometimes, an ultra-wide-angle lens becomes a requirement to get the shot. Sometimes, a wide aperture is also required. Both were requirements down in Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, on this night. The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens had the credentials to get the job done.

As I climbed down into the cove, the plan was to capture the monolith in front of the milky way. Upon arrival, I decided that the rock on the other side of the frame also had great character and wanted it included in the image. Even at the extreme 12mm full-frame angle of view, keeping everything seen here in the frame meant my back was against the rock wall.

The milky way is typically photographed against a black sky. However, if the sky is dark and the milky way is in view, it can be photographed at the end of the blue hour. This image was captured about 7 minutes after "nautical end." Despite a bit of light showing in the sky, it was very dark in the cove, and the f/2.8 aperture proved very helpful, keeping the ISO setting down to a still-high 8000.

12mm  f/2.8  20s  ISO 8000
Epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way Epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way

Sony a7R IV and Epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way The Sony a7R IV and Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens teamed for an epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way on this September evening. While chasing elk in rut was our top priority during the RMNP workshops, photographing the night sky was also on the to-do list and a clear RMNP night sky never fails to wow us.

For the Milky Way to reach down close to its reflection requires the reflecting surface to have little obstruction above it. Large bodies of water have distant shores and that distant perspective usually results in lower shoreline sky obstructions. Small bodies of water are more likely to have a calm surface than large bodies but trees and mountains typically get in the way of the little-obstruction requirement. Mountains often bring elevation gain that tends to bring reflection-erasing wind.

This particular small mountain lake is set high enough for the southern view to open up to the sky while being protected from the wind for the perfect combination. I love pointed spruce treetops and always welcome their great character on the horizon. Reflections can be counted on to double the value.

24mm  f/1.4  13s  ISO 6400
Cavern Cascade and Spiral Tunnel, Watkins Glen State Park Cavern Cascade and Spiral Tunnel, Watkins Glen State Park

I had a backpack full of new gear that needed an in-the-field workout and the right timing for waterfall photography happened – a forecast for very cloudy skies with a strong percentage chance of rain combined with recently prior rains (to provide waterflow). So, I took advantage of the opportunity, photographing in Watkins Glen State Park.
While I knew this could be a busy park, I thought that going on a mid-spring weekday with a weather forecast that most would consider dismal would solve that problem. I was wrong. While I don't know what a normal day is like in this park, the gorge trail had plenty of people on it.
Watkins Glen is a beautiful park but being limited to the trail (mostly stone and concrete) makes it especially challenging to photograph the best scenes without random people in the composition. I spent well over an hour trying to capture this Cavern Cascade and Spiral Tunnel image. Apparently tour bus groups were being dropped off at the gorge trail's upper parking lot and being picked up at the lower lot as hundreds of people were going in the downhill direction.
At one point, I decided to leave and come back later. That approach worked especially well because, in the evening, the path light in the tunnel (very dark) better-balanced with the ambient daylight. I noticed that the tunnel walls were dark in some areas and opted to use my phone light to paint the walls slightly brighter.
I bracketed this exposure to ensure that I had the right brightness options available for HDR processing. The final image is mostly two captures with the longer exposure providing the brighter tunnel.

24mm  f/11.0  30s  ISO 200
Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse 2019 Progression Composite Image Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse 2019 Progression Composite Image

My apologies if I missed an important keyword in that title.

Regardless of what the event was named, the show was spectacular. I hope that you were able to take it in and, even better yet, photograph it.

The sky visibility forecast for everywhere within a long drive provided little hope of this eclipse being viewable. Unexpectantly, the problem, remnants of a significant winter storm, began to move out just in time and the sky started to clear about an hour before the eclipse began. With the full moon peeking out of breaks in the clouds, the hope became strong enough to warrant the effort to photograph the event and I scrambled to put a plan into place.

Also seeming to meet the definition of spectacular were the near-zero-degree (-18° C) temperatures accompanied by very strong winds those of us in much of the east/northeast US were required to endure for 5 hours (some short indoor warm-up breaks were taken). Admittedly, the temperature made shooting through skylights from inside the house a very attractive option, but donning many layers and going outdoors became the plan. While the skies cleared beautifully for the full eclipse, the wind remained an issue and wind is an especially big stability problem when photographing with a large, long focal length lens. Setting up next to a solid fence significantly aided with this issue and also took some of the bite out of the wind chill.

The composition plan was easy. The moon was going to be high overhead and that meant incorporating foreground elements in the frame was going to be very challenging, so making the moon as large in the frame as possible was the choice. That meant 1200mm, a combination of a 600mm f/4 lens and a 2x teleconverter.

For a solid base, the UniqBall IQuick3Pod 40.4 Carbon Fiber Tripod with spiked feet installed (for use in snow) was perfect. Simply stick the spikes into the ground and use the IQuick3Pod's leveling base feature to quickly level the tripod head platform. A gimbal head makes using big, long lenses easy and the Really Right Stuff FG-02 Fluid-Gimbal Head is awesome (the RRS PG-02 is also excellent). With a level base, the gimbal-mounted lens will always be level with only tilt and pan adjustments, both very simple to make, requiring attention while tracking the moon. It is much easier to keep a tightly-framed moon centered in the frame with a gimbal head than with a ball head. Shooting at a strong upward angle can be a challenge with a gimbal mount as the camera body can impact the tripod before a high-enough angle is reached. I'll talk more about that issue soon.

Looking through a viewfinder with the camera directed at such a hard-upward angle is tough, but the D850's tilt LCD made subject framing easy in this situation. An angle finder is another great option for shooting upward.

What is the best exposure for photographing a lunar eclipse? That depends mostly on the varying brightness of the moon and that changes by season and it also changes during the eclipse. When the moon had direct sunlight reaching it, f/8 (my max aperture with this setup), 1/200 and ISO 200 with a -1 EV adjustment in post worked well. During this time, I opted to capture brackets of up to 9-stops to use for adding as much detail as desired to the dark portion of the moon during post processing. A Vello ShutterBoss II Timer Remote Switch made vibration-free capture easy.

Once the moon was completely in the earth's shadow, it became very dark and 1200mm exposures became very challenging. The blood moon image in the center of this frame was captured at f/8, .6 seconds and ISO 6400. Getting tack sharp details from a subject that is over 221,000 mi (356,000 km) away does not happen and these settings do not help.

Photographing the lunar eclipse brought back great memories of the 2017 solar eclipse (a bit ironic is that event occurred in extreme heat for many of us). A similar post-eclipse scenario now faces those of us who photographed it. We have a large number of images capturing the entire eclipse progression and want do something with them. While each individual eclipse image may be great, likely none of your friends want to see all 300 (OK, 800) of them. The friends will be interested in a partial eclipse image or two and perhaps one from totality, but then eyes glaze over and they start checking their Instagram account. Creating a lunar eclipse progression composite is a very logical way to tell the full eclipse story in a single, interesting image.

The method for creating the lunar eclipse progression composite is the same as that shared in the How to Create a Solar Eclipse Phase Composite Image article (skip the HDR part). The arrangement options for such a composite vary greatly. The left-to-right option shared here works well, but this unique ultra-wide aspect ratio is a bit awkward to share online and will not typically be as easily viewable/displayable as closer-to-square arrangements.

Also ultra is the resolution able to be created from such a composite. This one measures 52000 x 5500 pixels for a 286 MP (over SmugMug's max file dimensions limit I learned) final image (the .PSD weighs in at 3.19 GB) looking for a long hallway wall to be displayed on. Those not able to frame the moon tightly in-camera can crop heavily and still have a high resolution result from the composite technique.

Sure, getting images requires some effort. Getting to bed well after 2:00 AM means being tired the next day and it took about an hour under the covers to get my core temperature back up. But, at least a day or two later, only the rewards remain. The memories of this lunar eclipse, with the images to buoy them, will remain a lifetime.

What is the subject calling you right now? Get motivated and go for it!

1200mm  f/8.0  0.8s  ISO 6400
In a Crevice, Focus Bracketed Panorama, Lathe Arch, Alabama Hills In a Crevice, Focus Bracketed Panorama, Lathe Arch, Alabama Hills

When other serious photographers are photographing you instead of the amazing scene in your viewfinder, your sanity feels questioned.

Despite appearing big in this image, Lathe Arch is relatively small. Making it appear large in the frame requires getting close to it relative to the background. Getting close from the best side of this arch offers very few options, and gaining this vantage point required getting into a small opening between the large, abrasive granite rocks.

The tripod legs were spread straight out, straddling the crevice, and I was thankful for sturdy boots that were not crushing my feet despite being wedged between the rocks. I was mostly hidden from people walking by but was apparently photo-worthy to a couple of photographers that noticed me.

The widest focal length available on the mounted lens was 15mm, and that angle of view was not nearly wide enough to capture the entire arch and the supporting rocks beside it. Thus, a panorama was called for.

I suspected that this scenario was coming and often have a Really Right Stuff MPR-CL Rail with Integral Clamp in the bag. The rail mounted on the vertical side of the L-plate allowed the lens to pivot over its nodal point, ensuring that the foreground details aligned when stitched together. While nodal alignment is not essential when the foreground is distant, this foreground was very close.

There was a lot of blue sky above the arch, but much of that was framed (and cropped) out of this image. The 22mm focal length provided a sufficient vertical angle of view. The finished horizontal angle of view was determined by the sum of the camera angles used for the pano.

The next issue to resolve was the inadequate depth of field. The closest foreground rock was immediately in front of the lens, while Lone Peak and the mountains beside it were far away. This scenario calls for focus bracketing, an easy strategy with the Canon EOS R5.

I considered adding HDR bracketing to the already complicated capture and processing but didn't — and didn't regret that decision. The R5's dynamic range easily handled this scene.

After dialing in a manual exposure that barely avoided red channel overexposure, the camera was rotated to the left-most side of the capture, autofocus was acquired on the nearest point of the rock, and the set of focus bracketed images was captured. The ball head base was not close to level, so the panning base could not be used for the lateral movement. The ball was loosened, and the camera moved using the thirds gridline to locate the next position. Moving the bottom-left thirds gridline intersection to the former position of the bottom-right thirds line intersection provided a considerable 2/3 frame overlap between image sets, with the electronic level ensuring the camera remained level.

A 1/3 overlap is usually adequate, so moving the bottom-left thirds gridline intersection to the former position of the bottom-right line leaving the frame would have been more efficient.

Additional sets of images were captured until the complete width of the pano was finished. The result was five images per focus stack and four focus-stacked image sets for the panorama.

Creation of the final image involved processing the stacks and then creating the panorama from the four stacked images. While this process may sound complicated, it was simple. The computer did all of the work.

Capturing this image was high on the awkwardness scale, but as usual, I barely remember the discomfort, and the image will bring back the great memories of this morning long into the future.

22mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

Just another stellar Shenandoah National Park sunrise and being there was the hardest part of capturing this image (being there was not hard either).

This is single exposure image (not an HDR) captured with the red channel being nearly blown on the histogram. At that brightness, this just-before-sunrise scene provided adequate detail in the shadows for Capture One to brighten them while darkening the highlights slightly for improved balance. The f/8 aperture maximized sharpness, minimized peripheral shading, and provided very adequate depth of field. ISO 100 was selected for its low noise attributes. Nothing in this scene was in motion except for the very-slow-moving clouds and the 0.4 sec. shutter speed used for the final scene brightness was easily adequate to stop all motion.

Saturation and contrast were added to this image but this sunrise was so dramatic that the amount of both adjustments was only slight. Auto white balance delivered a cool-toned image and warming it slightly proved helpful.

From a composition perspective, the options were limited in this scene. Moving a short distance would not change the scene much and moving a large distance meant the view would be completely obscured. Thus, selecting the right focal length became the primary method for inclusion and exclusion of elements.

Old Rag mountain, the highest peak shown, was my primary subject. I wanted the foreground layer (trees) included as a base for the image and liked the curvature this element showed, partially encircling Old Rag and its trailing mountain range. Keeping this horizon straight seemed obligatory in this case but how high the horizon was in the frame was left for personal preference. The height selected here seemed to create a nice overall balance.

The remaining area of the frame was filled with color in the sky. While most of the color in the sky is in the frame, a significant amount of the frame is filled with color.

Though this image is uncomplicated, it was one of my favorite Shenandoah National Park landscape images from last fall.

52mm  f/8.0  .4s  ISO 100
Lake Louise, Banff National Park Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Lake Louise, referred to as the "Jewel of Banff National Park" is high on most of the park visitors' must-see lists. Fortunately, for many at least, is that it is easily accessible including large parking lots just a short walk away. Unfortunately, it is so popular that these lots fill up early and the easy-to-access side of the lake becomes very crowded even early in the day.
Photographing this lake wasn't my highest priority, but I did want some decent photos of it. After spending the early morning at Moraine Lake, I headed over to Lake Louise at roughly 8:30 AM. While there were plenty of people here already, the crowd was considerably thinner than later times of the day (the icy boardwalk also helped thin the summer crowd). The crowd was thin enough that I was able to capture a clear view of the foreground rocks and the glacier-fed lake still looked like glass (prior to the lake filling with canoes and the wind picking up). The beautiful mountains reflected where the lake was shaded and a glowing turquoise color showed where the lake was directly illuminated by the sun.
While I captured a variety of images, I found the round rocks at the edge of the lake to make a nice foreground and selected a red-toned rock as the standout. Once again, the 11mm field of view proved very useful.
Note that this is an HDR image.

11mm  f/8.0  1/250s  ISO 100
The Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Finds a Perfect Sunset in Rocky Mountain NP The Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Finds a Perfect Sunset in Rocky Mountain NP

The weather forecast indicated partly cloudy skies at sunset and a clear sky afterward, with low wind speed throughout the duration. That is a perfect recipe for an evening of landscape and nightscape photography over a mountain lake, and our workshop group headed to one of my favorite Rocky Mountain National Park locations. The plan was to photograph the sunset reflecting in the water and then the milky way doing the same after dark.

Which lenses to take? The best nightscape lenses are usually outstanding landscape lenses, and the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens is an excellent choice for night sky photography. It made the small set in the pack this evening.

Post processing of this image involved a manual HDR process.

20mm  f/8.0  1/4s  ISO 100
Sony a7C R and FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Visit Triangle Falls, Ricketts Glen SP Sony a7C R and FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Visit Triangle Falls, Ricketts Glen SP

Do you have go-to locations to use when you must bring home high-quality images?

Three new cameras (Sony Alpha 7C R, Alpha 7C II, and Alpha 6700), two new lenses (Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens and Sigma 10-18mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens), and some new accessories needed a workout. When many good images are needed, that go-to location is called upon, and it the success rate at Ricketts Glen State Park in the fall is high.

The optimal (cloudy) weather forecast selected the day choice, and the above gear (plus some additional gear and food) went into a MindShift Gear BackLight 26L for a big day in the field.

I have many favorite photo locations in this park and often revisit them as it seems new angles that create different, often better, results can often be found. In this case, Triangle Falls was the revisited subject, and I wanted a slightly lower-angle image than the last one from here.

As I said when posting that image, sometimes the picture does not tell the full story. While this image appears to be a simple capture, you don't see that the rock I'm standing on is slippery and the RRS TVC-24L Mk2 Tripod is in the fast-flowing water. Learned was that the tripod flowing downstream during exposures creates interesting motion blurs.

Fast-flowing water meeting a stationary object causes splashing, and in addition to forcing recomposition, the fast-flowing water also splashed onto the camera and lens from the tripod legs positioned forward of the camera. The mentioned lower angle perspective positioned the lens close to the water, and the splashing water was hitting the circular polarizer filter (responsible for this image's deep saturated colors). Thus, wiping the filter with a microfiber cloth between every shot was part of the process, with hope that the next exposure would finish before the water drops reappeared or the tripod washed downstream again. The cameras' weather sealing was appreciated in this scenario.

Fortunately, patience and repetition prevailed, and there were sufficient good images to select from.

The a7C R and FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II got the call for this image. This full-featured compact camera delivers incredibly detailed images, and this lens has the optical quality to support that extreme resolution. This combination is an outstanding choice for landscape and travel photography.

16mm  f/11.0  0.8s  ISO 100
Mercury Transit of the Sun Mercury Transit of the Sun

Smart people told us long in advance that the planet Mercury was going to pass in front of the Sun for many hours on 11/11/2019 and that the transit was going to be visible across a huge swath of the world, including my location on that date, falling during my Shenandoah National Park Workshop.

My first thought regarding photographing this event was that I could take a picture of the Sun anytime and simply use the paint brush tool to drop in Mercury planets wherever desired. While the result would look fine, it wouldn't be nearly as fun or as phsychologically rewarding as experiencing the event firsthand and capturing the real thing. Photographing the Sun is easy and a little black dot in front of it was going to be equally easy to capture so, I packed the required solar filter for the trip.

The Sun was not going to be our primary subject on this day, we didn't have time to shoot throughout the entire many-hour transit, and the cloudy sky made photographing it challenging during the few times we attempted to do so. Still, I wanted to show the entire transit in the final result. To fulfill that goal, I pieced a number of images together and then duplicated a Mercury planet to fill in the entire path across the Sun.

While the Mercury transit does not rise to the level of amazing as the recent solar eclipse, it was still fun to see and photograph.

When photographing the Sun, everything else in the frame is black unless there are clouds being brightly lit while darkening the Sun enough to even out the dynamic range. With black periphery being easy to create during post processing, framing the Sun a tightly as possible becomes the goal. Still, the Sun will not come close to filling the frame even at 1200mm, the longest most photographers will use, on a full frame camera. In a focal length limited scenario, higher pixel density on the imaging sensor means more resolution remaining after cropping and the Sony a7R IV has that. The Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens and FE 2x Teleconverter were used to gain the 1200mm focal length.

Among the many images captured were some with a cloud-caused fiery haze surrounding the Sun. Adding some of these images into the Photoshop stack provided the option of including the haze in the final image as shared here.

Here is a question for you: Since I watched Mercury transit the Sun in an electronic viewfinder, did I really see it?

1200mm  f/8.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Cascade in Ricketts Glen State Park Cascade in Ricketts Glen State Park

It was just another typical rainy weekday in Ricketts Glen State Park. It was the perfect time to take my favorite ultra-wide-angle zoom lens and landscape camera body, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens and Canon EOS 5Ds R, for a hike.

I am not aware of this cascade having a name, but I always find it photo-worthy. It is hard to go wrong with a series of lines leading into the bottom of the frame and the leading lines in the rock are the big draw to this location.

Camera height is something a photographer usually has some control over, at least within their physical reach ability or the height of their tripod if such is being used. When photographing flat water (pond, lake, ocean, slow-moving river, etc.), a higher camera position will often provide a higher percentage of the frame being filled with water than a lower camera position IF a similar overall scene framing is used. For example, photographing an ocean from a standing position with a level camera will result in far more water percentage in the frame than doing the same while lying down at the edge of the water due to the angle of view across a flat surface. Often, supporting that big IF requires that the camera angle be changed and camera angle also plays a role in determining how much of the frame is filled with water. A downward-tilted camera can include more water than a level camera.

The key is to find the right balance for the scene you are photographing and there may be multiple right answers. Work with a scene until you can find no more camera positions that work well. Then move on.

The small waterfalls seen here do not qualify as flat water, but there is still a lot of near-flat water in this scene. The right balance for this image was using an ultra-wide-angle focal length positioned with enough downward angle to show a significant amount of water and low enough to gain the right perspective to emphasize the foreground rock lines.

I don't always take the time to photograph this cascade, but especially with the wet rock bringing out strong color (saturation aided by a circular polarizer filter), I couldn't resist stopping on this day.

16mm  f/11.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Country Sunset, Pennsylvania Country Sunset, Pennsylvania

The most difficult aspect of capturing this sunset image was being there. Once in location, wait until the sun is nearly set behind a distant mountain, use an f/16 aperture to create a sunstar (but not lose too much sharpness to diffraction), select a shutter speed that nearly blows the red channel at ISO 400 (I had been running and did not have a tripod), compose for the foreground, sun, and clouds, focus roughly 1/3 into the frame, press the shutter release, and get that great feeling of knowing that a beautiful scene was part of the evening's take-home.

On this mid-July evening, I timed a trail run with the sunset and the clouds and slightly hazy summer sky cooperated to provide great color. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, small and light enough to not pose a physical limitation, was also getting a workout. This lens has the core general-purpose focal length range needed and it handled this scene nicely.

24mm  f/16.0  1/40s  ISO 400
Hallett Peak Reflecting in Dream Lake at Sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park Hallett Peak Reflecting in Dream Lake at Sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park

On this day's schedule was giving some great gear a workout and the Sony a7R IV and Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens combination were chosen. These were packed in MindShift Gear BackLight 18L along with a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod with a BH-40 Ball Head mounted and the very early AM hike to Dream Lake ensued.

I don't like to be the second person at a popular location and some may say that I arrived too early for this one. The extra time ensures adequate setup time with some starry sky photography included. The extra time also means that very warm clothes were needed, especially with the wind often encountered here.

I love perfectly still water surfaces in the shade and the mirror reflections those surfaces create. This morning did not provide such and the mentioned wind was relentless.

Between reviewing long exposure, high ISO image captures and the light becoming bright enough for the foreground rocks to be visible, this composition was settled on. I wanted the closest round rock centered between the mountain peak reflections with a clean border around it and the other foreground rocks. The camera was leveled for both roll and pitch. I seldom want a camera that is not leveled for roll when photographing landscape and in this case, I also chose to avoid an upward or downward camera angle that would have caused the straight tree trunks to tilt inward or outward respectively. The focal length was selected to be inclusive or exclusive of details in the scene and the camera height was selected for the final composition. The color balance disparity of the warm first light of the day hitting the mountain mixed with cool shade in the valley below is natural and I love it.

The final image is the result of combining two images using manual HDR blending. As is often the case, those exposures were different with the sunlit areas captured darker (f/11, 0.4 seconds, ISO 100) and the shaded areas coming from brighter settings (f/11, 30 seconds, ISO 200).

As you likely noticed, the longer exposure is dramatically longer and includes a 2x-brighter ISO setting. This exposure was needed to compensate for a 6-stop Breakthrough Photography X4 ND filter (great gift idea) being used. The longer exposure this filter permitted allowed the water to be smoothed, averaging out the reflection details in the lake surface ripples, giving the mountain reflections some definition. A third image (another darker one) was pulled in because some of the trees were less motion-blurred than in the primary image.

The aforementioned gear all performed excellently. It was a superb choice for this event. Of course, the bottom line is that Dream Lake and its rocks rock!

20mm  f/11.0  30s  ISO 200
International Space Station Solar Transit International Space Station Solar Transit

Sean's recent Filming an ISS Transit of the Moon article reminded me to check for an upcoming locally-viewable International Space Station transit. Amazingly, there were two ISS solar transits scheduled for the next week, with my back yard being the perfect location for the alignment I wanted for both transits.

International Space Station Solar Transit Schedule

Sean's How to Photograph an International Space Station Lunar Transit article was directly applicable, with a solar filter being an additional requisite.

Only the sun was going to be illuminated in the frame, and the space station is especially small. I combined the longest focal length lens combination I have, the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens and Sony FE 2x Teleconverter, with the highest resolution ILC camera available, the Sony a7R IV. This combination was then mounted to the most solid tripod and head in my kit, the Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head on a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod.

The ISS moves across the sky very rapidly, leading me to select a 1/2000 shutter speed to avoid motion blur. With the transit duration predicted to be a mere 0.52 seconds, timing the shot was crucial. From testing, I knew this camera with a V60 SDXC card loaded would capture an over-four-second burst before the buffer filled. At just under two seconds before the transit start time, I pressed and held the release button on the Vello ShutterBoss Remote Switch.

The a7R IV's high speed+ mode netted three images that included the ISS in front of the sun. That count seemed a little weak in the composite (the space stations were "spaced" too far apart), so some additional space stations were cloned into the final image.

1200mm  f/8.0  1/2000s  ISO 1600
Iconic Monument Cove at Sunrise, Acadia National Park Iconic Monument Cove at Sunrise, Acadia National Park

The warm early morning sunlight breaks through a small hole in the clouds at Monument Cove.

As is typical with landscape photography, being at the right place at the right time was the key to this image capture. While it is easy to control the when and the where, timing the clouds is a bigger challenge, one that often involves going home without the targeted image.

When photographing a large body of water, wave action is another image quality factor involving timing. Every wave is different, and the brightness caused by air in the water changes as the wave approaches, breaks, crashes, and recedes.

This image was captured at 28mm, well within the comfortable range of angles of view provided by the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. When creating a composition, determine the elements that are helpful to an image and frame to include only those.

On this day, the sky was extremely bright and not especially photogenic. Therefore, I chose a downward camera angle combined with a focal length long enough to include only a small amount of sky, just enough to fit the ocean horizon.

As you likely guessed, I pressed the shutter release many times while this window of light availed itself. This image made the cut for the wave position and the shadow of a small cloud creating uneven lighting on the far edge of the boulder beach. The latter helps the monument to garner more attention.

28mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Put a Sky Behind It, Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park Put a Sky Behind It, Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

When you get a good but fleeting photo opportunity, you shoot continuously, capturing as many images as possible in the time allotted. When your gear (and you) are performing well, even a small window of shooting time can create a challenging selection project later. Probably no one wants to see 100 images of the same scenario, so at some point, you have to pick one (or a few) to call the best.

That was the case in the results from this morning shoot, thanks to a lone bull meandering to the top of a grassy ridge as the sun rose behind a solitary tree. I think lone trees with character are interesting subjects. So often, a significant portion of a composition is background, and the sky often makes a great background, especially for lone trees and especially at sunrise or sunset.

Having a bull elk to go along with the sunrise silhouetted tree took the point score up a few levels. The problem (a good problem) was that selecting an individual image from this encounter was a challenge.

Why did I select this one?

Overall, it seemed that the composition had a good balance. The dark ground creates a nice base for the image, and the bright clouds appear to arch over the tree at this moment. The elk is in a readily identifiable position, with all four legs clearly delineated.

When you see a faunascape, take advantage of it. Sure, I love tightly framed wildlife portraits, but a pleasing landscape background with an animal in it is another, often greater, challenge.

A great feature of the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is the vast range of focal lengths it places at your fingertips. In this case, the RF 100-500 enabled a rapid selection of wide to tight compositions. Awesome lens.

200mm  f/5.0  1/125s  ISO 250
Milky Way, Acadia National Park Milky Way, Acadia National Park

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is the Milky Way. The required long exposures provide plenty of time to simply watch the spectacular sky show (unless I'm running two cameras), taking in the awesomeness, and the pictures captured are usually among my favorites. I was blessed with the opportunity to photograph the Milky Way from several top-notch locations this year, including during the Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park workshops. The image shared here was captured from the coast of Acadia NP.

Seldom can the reflection of the Milky Way be seen in an ocean as the water movement completely blurs everything during the required long exposure. However, tidal pools are often still and can make great reflectors (though not at high tide) for a variety of coastal photography needs including reflecting the night sky. Adding value to this particular tidal pool was the low surrounding rock with good character, adding jaggedness to the rock line and its reflection.

To photograph the night sky, I usually want a wide-angle lens with an f/2.8 or wider aperture available with sharp wide-open image quality. The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, with an EOS R behind it and a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head under it, met those needs superbly.

Photographing the Milky Way is easy and very addicting. This image was captured using the 2-second self-timer feature with settings of f/2.8, 15 seconds (longer exposures increase star trail length), and ISO 6400 (with a low amount of noise reduction applied). I opted to brighten the result a bit in post and brightened the foreground by an additional stop for a single-image HDR. Just after sunset, the sky still had some color in it and a slight saturation increase (+1 in DPP and +7 in PS) made those colors pop. Auto white balance was used. Increasing contrast via an S-curve adjustment always makes the Milky Way stand out.

As I was searching through the over-a-thousand images captured with the RF 24-70, selecting a few to share in the review, this one stood out as my favorite and thus I'm sharing it with you here. Add the RF 24-70mm lens to the list of good night sky lenses.

24mm  f/2.8  15s  ISO 6400
Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens and The Lone Oak Tree in the Snow Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens and The Lone Oak Tree in the Snow

A few months ago, I noticed a large oak tree standing alone at the top of a field in the countryside not far from home. I made a mental note of the interesting tree, keeping that photo opportunity in the pocket for later application.

Right after a recent snowstorm and during the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review seemed like the perfect timing to photograph this lone tree. The snow minimalized the scene's details, and the lens was a perfect choice to capture it. I pulled the SUV into a snowbank to get out of traffic (there was little on this country road), turned off the vehicle (eliminating the vibration), and photographed the tree until I couldn't think of any more compositions to try and adding any more insurance shots seemed complete overkill.

This scene was filled with bright subjects. At most, changes in lighting through the thick clouds happened slowly. Thus, a manual exposure that pushed the histogram graph to the right edge proved perfect. In this image, ISO 100 provides low noise, f/8 yielded adequate depth of field, and 1/160 with image stabilization activated made getting sharp elbow-rested photos easy.

The focal lengths in the 70-200mm range are among my most used for landscape photography. These focal lengths provide angles of view that make good compositions easy to find. While parked along this road, I used all of these focal lengths, with the tree filling various percentages of the frame, ranging from the 70mm result shared here to the tree nearly filling the frame. An example of the 70-200mm focal length range using this tree is shared in the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens review.

I shoot a lot of action and other images where timing is critical to get the perfect shot, with a stress-induced adrenaline rush typically accompanying the moment. A nice change for this image was that I had as much time as I cared to take. The tree was not moving, the snow was not melting, and the clouds were unchanging.

At the longer focal lengths, not much time was needed to get the good compositions. At the wider focal lengths, there was considerably more freedom to position the tree in the minimalistic scene within the frame. My favorite tree position at 70mm is shared here, but I also like the tree toward the upper left, and the tree centered at the bottom in a vertical orientation also looks great (at my wife's request, I ordered a metal print of that image this morning).

70mm  f/8.0  1/160s  ISO 100
2.5 Seconds, 70mm, No Tripod, Cadillac Mountain Moonrise 2.5 Seconds, 70mm, No Tripod, Cadillac Mountain Moonrise

On the Acadia National Park bucket list is to be the first person (or more accurately, among the first group of people) in the USA to see the sun on that day. Checking off that item requires an early morning drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Leading a small workshop on this day meant my priority was to make sure each participant was in their preferred location with their camera set up and ready for the action to start. With that goal accomplished, I moved into the next-best location and locked a Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head into a sunrise-ready position.

During this setup, the incredible scene unfolding on the horizon had my attention. A tiny crescent moon is a great supporting element. Combine that feature with a strong, colorful pre-sunrise or post-sunset gradient in the sky and throw in some water and mountains, and images I like are easy to create.

While this scene was in my locked-down composition, even 35mm does not render the moon a substantial size in the frame. Fortunately, the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens and another R5 were in my MindShift Gear BackLight 26L. What was not along was my second tripod, and I did not want to lose the locked-down composition held by the first. So, I sat down on the rocks, rested arms on knees, and began shooting with the settings that would have been used if tripod-mounted. Those settings were ISO 100 for the least noise, f/8 for considerable depth of field and reduced vignetting, and the shutter speed necessary to yield a right-aligned histogram.

That shutter speed was 2.5 seconds, a very long 70mm exposure without a tripod. Amazingly, all of the dozens of images captured at this and, later, faster shutter speeds were sharp. There was no need to use a higher ISO or a wider aperture setting — or a tripod. This is impressive performance from the R5 and RF 70-200 combination.

It is often easy to create nice landscape images with telephoto focal lengths, and the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is a great landscape lens. This image is simple — minimalistic. The dark mountain provides a base to the image, and the waterline is positioned approximately 1/3 into the frame. The position of the 3.2% waning crescent moon and silhouetted evergreen trees work together to create an overall balance to the scene. While many rules can be used for composition, overall balance is what I usually look for first.

70mm  f/8.0  2.5s  ISO 100
An Acadia National Park Mountaintop Experience An Acadia National Park Mountaintop Experience

Looking for a lens to carry while hiking? You likely want a compact and lightweight model but do not want to substitute image quality to get those properties. The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens and its sibling 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens are great choices and both are quite remarkable lenses overall.

This afternoon in Acadia National Park found the 17-28 RXD along with a Sony a7R IV in a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L on top of Bald Mountain anticipating a great light show at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that show mostly did not happen. The weather forecast did not hold true and as can be seen in this image, thick clouds ruled the sky.

Just when we thought there was no hope for seeing a sunset, a tiny hole appeared in the clouds and awesomeness shined through. I dropped the tripod into the nearest location that looked compositionally promising and shot a several frame bracket, ensuring that one image had bright foreground detail captured at f/11 and the darkest of two others had a tiny bit of color remaining in the sun. The latter two images were captured at f/22. While f/22 results in softer image quality than f/11, it delivers a larger, better quality starburst effect and the clouds nicely hide the softness in the portion of f/22 capture used in the final image. Note that changing the aperture changes the starburst including the orientation of the star points. When bracketing such images, be sure that most of the images containing the starburst are captured at the same aperture to avoid an awkward appearing composite.

By the end of the first bracket capture, the warm sunlight was no longer reaching the foreground and after a second bracket at a slightly adjusted camera position, the sun was completely cloud-blocked again. The foreground lighting was better in the first set of images and cropping those from the bottom gave me a result similar to those captured in the adjusted camera position.

I seldom use ISO settings above 100 when photographing daylight landscape but you will notice that a setting of 800 was used for this image. Along with the heavy clouds came very strong winds and I was estimating the exposure duration that could be tolerated between gusts. The Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head held solid and I probably could have used longer exposures — though sun time may not have permitted that.

20mm  f/11.0  .6s  ISO 800
Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens, The Ultimate Northern Lights Lens Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens, The Ultimate Northern Lights Lens

When cost, time, and effort are invested into a photography trip, generally only the best-available gear (or something new being reviewed) makes the pack. Milky way and aurora nightscape photography opportunities were on the potential list for a recent trip, and my three favorite night sky lenses were packed specifically for these subjects.

When the milky way is visible, the scene is extremely dark. While the milky way exposures are long, the earth is rotating, creating a form of action photography.

The aurora has varying intensities and can be pulsing and dancing around the frame. If the exposure is too long, the dancing and pulsing aurora turns into a big smear of color. Thus, aurora photography also involves action, an action that is often moving considerably faster than the earth's rotation.

Wide apertures are a big advantage for stopping action, and each of the lenses included in the above list is the widest available at its respective focal length. Just because a lens has a wide aperture does not mean that you want to use that aperture, as many wide aperture lenses are not sharp wide open, becoming considerably sharper as they are stopped down. However, those in the above list are outstanding performers wide open.

While the f/1.4 aperture is a clear advantage held by the FE 24 over the other two lenses, f/1.8 is still very wide. Motion blur is caused when subject details cross over pixel wells on the imaging sensor. Because the 24mm focal length magnifies subject details more than the 14mm and 20mm options, a slightly faster shutter speed is required to photograph the same subject at the same distance with an equivalent amount of motion blur. This shutter speed difference offsets some of the aperture difference.

Mostly, I selected between these three prime lenses based on the angle of view they provide.

The day started with a 5:30 AM alarm and a long search for moose. Upon returning late morning, we learned that the northern lights forecast was favorable. However, the weather did not appear to be favorable, with heavy cloud cover promising to block all higher altitude subjects. Still, the National Weather Service hourly forecast showed the skies expected to clear at 2:00 AM at our desired viewing location. That time coincided with the moon setting, yielding darker skies.

After a short nap, a 2-hour drive ensued, heading north for darker skies and a favorable viewing location. Intermittently checking the skies, the clearing began right on schedule. Unfortunately, the aurora was not yet apparent to the eye. Dim northern lights are considerably easier to see in a long exposure image, so cameras were mounted to tripods and put into action. Test images showed a small vertical column forming over Denali, the mountain in the bottom of this image.

Initially, the northern lights were small, muted, and stationary. The 24mm lens made the little show larger in the frame than the other two lens options, and also accentuated Denali in the foreground.

The show progressed, significantly increasing in intensity and motion, with this image requiring only a 4-second exposure at f/1.4 and ISO 2500. Eventually, the 20mm angle of view (sample here) was needed to take it all in, and the 14mm angle of view (sample here) became optimal not long afterward.

We pulled into the driveway at 6:30 AM. Aside from a short nap and a few eyes-closed rests, it was a 25-hour day. As is usually the case, I struggle to remember the details of the exhaustion, but the memory of the dancing northern lights is still clear, and the images will last a lifetime, keeping the memory alive.

24mm  f/1.4  4s  ISO 2500
Canon EOS R5 Focus Stacking at the Somesville Bridge and Selectmen's Building Canon EOS R5 Focus Stacking at the Somesville Bridge and Selectmen's Building

In my Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 Setup Guide, I indicated that "Focus bracketing" and "Number of bracketed shots" were included on the My Menu tab 2. The R5 is my first daily-use camera to have this feature (one of the first Canon EOS cameras to get it), and I've been anxious to put this feature to use in the field. Remembering that the feature is now a couple of button presses away is the first in-the-field challenge.

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society beautifully maintains the Somesville Bridge, Selectmen's Building, and the surrounding grounds. This includes planter boxes that always hold attractive flowering plant arrangements in the fall. These planters beg to be included in the frame, but including the plants, the bridge, and the building in the same frame requires extreme depth of field for all details to be sharp. Extreme depth of field generally requires a very narrow aperture, and a very narrow aperture generally results in a diffraction-softened image.

Focus bracketing solves this problem.

For this picture, the focal length that best composed the scene was first selected, and the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Tripod with an RRS BH-40 Ball Head was moved into a somewhat awkward position to lock the composition down. ISO 100 was selected for the least noise, f/11 was selected to gain a significant depth of field for each image (f/8 would have been a good alternative in hindsight), and the shutter speed, 1/10 sec., was selected for the final exposure brightness, just bright enough to cause minor overexposed highlights on the bridge (blinking during image review). The R5's "Focus bracketing" was enabled and the "Number of bracketed shots" was set to 15.

With the lens in AF mode, the focus spot was placed over the closest subject, the ornamental cabbage flower. When the shutter release was pressed using the 2-second self-timer mode, the camera took a series of images. While I selected 15 bracketed shots in the menu, the camera knew that only four were required for this scenario.

In Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), the four RAW images were selected, and the Tools > Depth Compositing > Start depth compositing tool menu option was selected. The default settings were used to output a 16-bit TIFF file that only required minor adjustments unrelated to focus.

My wife thinks the cabbage is too big relative to the background elements, but moving into the street to capture a more distant view was not a good idea from a safety perspective, and that perspective would have resulted in sidewalk and other less attractive elements being included in the frame. Harder to argue against is that the flowers provide lots of color in the frame. Regardless, hopefully the ease of creating a focus bracketed image with the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 is illuminated.

24mm  f/11.0  1/10s  ISO 100
A Gnarly Mountain Sunset Silhouette in Badlands National Park A Gnarly Mountain Sunset Silhouette in Badlands National Park

You don't leave when the sun sets, do you? Usually, the best show is yet to come when the fiery ball goes below the horizon.

With primarily flat ground outside of Badlands National Park, the sun is not blocked by tall nearby mountains when the sun is at a low angle. This scenario bodes extremely well for sunrise and sunset sky color, creating an above-average percentage of great opportunities, especially during the storm season.

Sunrises and sunsets can be seen nearly anywhere, and they are often beautiful — highly photogenic. But, having a great foreground can give sunrise and sunset images an additional positive element, and when you are somewhere special, make your images show that place.

My least favorite foreground element is a power line. My most favorite foreground element is a glassy reflective lake or pond. However, a mountain with character ranks just behind that favorite. So when it became apparent that the skies would light up after sundown this evening, I headed for such a mountain.

Upon arrival on the scene, the first task was to set up a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 15-35 mounted with an also interesting close foreground. With exposure duration bracketing established for later HDR compositing, getting the time of day bracketed was the remaining key for this camera's capture. Pressing the shutter release frequently (using the 2-second self-timer) took care of the latter goal.

As this scene's primary intrigue seemed to be the incredible sunset color fronted by the gnarly character of the Badlands mountain, a panorama capture was calling me. The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens mounted on another R5 was the perfect option.

The first task was to establish a manual exposure. The scene brightness varied significantly throughout the proposed pano, promising a range of auto exposures that would increase the stitching challenge later. This manual exposure was established by pushing the red channel, much brighter than the green or blue, against the right side of the histogram.

After autofocusing on the mountains (I depend on the R5's excellent AF accuracy), the AF/MF switch was moved into the MF position. Having all images focused at the exact same distance eliminates any focus breathing issues for panorama stitching.

The image captures ensued. The camera was rotated from left to right, capturing vertically orientated images with at least 1/3 scene overlap between frames (more like 50% overlap, which was overkill). The frames were captured in quick succession to reduce cloud movement and sky brightness change between the frames. The viewfinder grid was used to keep the images vertically aligned. Upon pressing the shutter release, the height of the horizontal grid line was noted against the background and maintained as the camera was panned.

When quickly capturing frames handheld, it is easy to rush the shots and end up with blurry images. Ensure that the camera is still for each gentle press of the shutter release (with a slight lag to the release of the press — a follow-through of sorts) to ensure sharp images. A tripod works best for this task, but that support was under the RF 15-35 mentioned above, and there was not enough capacity to bring two tripods on this trip (my preference). The RF 100-500 and R5 coordinated IS were not stressed by the 1/100 second shutter speed and delivered a 100% sharp image rate.

I mentioned that the exposure was established to protect the red channel. That exposure provided a dark foreground. While the foreground needed to stay dark for a natural balance, making foreground details slightly visible seemed a good idea. Taking advantage of the R5's dynamic range, the original frames were processed brighter. Note that the brighter foreground is much easier to see in a larger version and with a darker background.

Photoshop's Photomerge feature with "Reposition" selected created the pano from 16 source images. Unfortunately, that PS feature created a slightly different resulting image from the brighter-processed source files than from the darker ones. Creating 16 HDR images to use for the stitching source seemed too much work (and likely prone to additional differences), so the foreground pano was manually position-adjusted where it did not properly align. A small area of the sky was processed slightly darker and blended into position. The final images measure over 300 megapixels. For improved display on devices, the image was cropped on the right side, with a sense of balance used to establish where the right side should be.

100mm  f/5.6  1/100s  ISO 100
Sunrise behind the Alaska Range, Denali National Park Sunrise behind the Alaska Range, Denali National Park

With a very early alarm in the past and the road lottery ticket on the windshield, a friend and I drove the lead vehicle deep into Denali National Park this morning. We were focused on photographing the Denali peak at first light, but with color in the sky and fog in the foreground, I couldn't resist pausing for a few moments to capture this image.

This scene is one of the many reasons the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is part of my standard landscape kit. With the mentioned goal remaining a high priority, this was a jump out of the car, sit, shoot, and jump back in the car scenario. With no time for tripod setup, the Canon EOS R5 and RF 100-500 combination IS was counted on to make the shot sharp, and it did.

When driving by a scene that calls for a photo, I often regret not heeding that call. The captured image is usually worth far more than the very little time and effort the stop typically requires. This was one of the latter cases. Within three minutes of stopping, we were back on the road.

118mm  f/8.0  1/25s  ISO 200
Snow Capped Mountains at Hatcher Pass, Mat-Su Valley, Alaska Snow Capped Mountains at Hatcher Pass, Mat-Su Valley, Alaska

Hatcher Pass is always beautiful, but a recent snow leaving the mountains capped in white made this pass especially picturesque.

The distant mountains with craggy peaks were beautiful, and I was searching for some foreground to go with that background. At the same time, I was searching for Pikas. Pikas live in rock piles, and rock piles make great foreground subjects, so the location had the potential for a win-win combination.

While a couple of pikas were heard (they sound like a squeak toy), the rocks proved best as a foreground on this afternoon.

The 28mm focal length was selected to keep the distant mountains relatively large in the frame. While mountains surrounded this location, the mountain peaks with the most character were what I wanted to emphasize (along with the cloud formation over them). The width provided by a 15mm angle of view (that lens was in the MindShift Gear BackLight 18L) would have been filled with mountains, but the 28mm choice on the already-mounted Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens de-emphasized the already-large rock in front of me and added emphasis on the craggy mountain peak. At the same time, 28mm was not too long of a focal length to achieve sharp focus through the entire image at f/11, an aperture not greatly affected by the softening effects of diffraction.

I recently returned from an intense three weeks in Alaska and Colorado, working in the field with some great gear. As always, the trip was extremely valuable educationally, and the stack of images to be sorted through is a bit overwhelming. This picture was among the low-hanging fruit.

28mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Wide Aspect Ratio Cadillac Mountain Sunnrise, Acadia National Park Wide Aspect Ratio Cadillac Mountain Sunnrise, Acadia National Park

In the 2.5 Seconds, 70mm, No Tripod, Cadillac Mountain Moonrise post, I shared that I had locked a Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head into a sunrise-ready position. It seemed logical to share the image that setup captured next.

I love photographing when the sun is below me and visible. In this case, a location with significant unshaded area (sloping toward the sun) (and void of people) was selected. Granite rock provides a solid foundation, and the evergreens on the right aid in framing the scene.

When the sun is in the frame, an HDR capture is often the ideal strategy. This capture involved using auto exposure bracketing (AEB) set to 5-shots 1-stop apart with the exposure adjusted so the brightest and darkest images had detail in the shadows and highlights, respectively. With the 2-second self-timer enabled, the shutter release simply needed to be pressed for the bracketed sequence to be captured, followed by shooting a few more frames with the other camera. Repeat until the scene decreased in photogenic value.

I use a variety of HDR software but selected Lightroom for this one. The set of images that seemed optimal (the sun reflecting in the water influenced this choice) were selected and processed.

You likely already noticed that this image is not in the typical out-of-the-camera 3:2 aspect ratio. There are two ways to get the aspect ratio shared here. Ideal from a final resolution perspective is to stitch multiple images together. Capturing and processing an HDR pano adds complications, and with the ultra-high resolution of the R5, the other option, cropping, proved easier with a very sufficient final resolution. The primary reason for this final aspect ratio was that the cropped away sky was not adding value to the image.

Some minor cleanup in Photoshop resulted in the picture shared here.

Why f/16? At 15mm, f/11 would have provided adequate depth of field for this scene and exhibited less softening from diffraction, but f/16 is a compromise that provides a stronger sunstar, a strong element in this image.

15mm  f/16.0  1/4s  ISO 100
Water Carved, Badlands National Park Water Carved, Badlands National Park

Among the interesting subjects in Badlands National Park are the shadows created by water erosion channels.

While sunrise and sunset are easily my favorite times to photograph in this park, those times of the day do not provide light on some of the great subjects. A higher sun is necessary to light the depths of the canyon. Higher, though not fully overhead as that light often erases the shadows.

I often talk about wide-angle focal lengths being useful for emphasizing an interesting foreground in front of a vast attractive background, with all details in sharp focus. This scene provided that combination, and the perspective captured by the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens at 15mm was ideal for this photo.

Well, ideal until I decided that more sky might be a nice addition. The clouds were attractive, and it seemed advantageous to sometimes capture a picture of mostly sky to enable stitching later. In the end, the selected to share photo seemed best with the sky image stitched in.

15mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
The Milky Way and Low-Level Lighting in Badlands National Park The Milky Way and Low-Level Lighting in Badlands National Park

The foreground lighting in this Badlands National Park Milky Way image is courtesy of a pair of Simorr Vibe P96L RGB Video LED Lights on Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripods.

Even at their lowest intensity settings (1%), half the light face required gaffer tape to bring the overall light balance down to Milky Way levels.

Post-processing of this image primarily involved peripheral shading correction and increasing the contrast of the foreground and background independently.

24mm  f/1.4  13s  ISO 6400
Falling Roof Ruin Cliff Dwelling, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah Falling Roof Ruin Cliff Dwelling, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

On a trip targeting the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area in New Mexico, I ended up in Bears Ears National Monument, Utah — twice.

Why? Two reasons.

First, 3 days of sand and dust storms (even stones were in the air) provided an unfavorable New Mexico greeting. Second, Bears Ears National Monument has some great photo subjects.

I told you that before. This image is of Falling Rood Ruin Cliff Dwelling in Cedar Mesa, and this image capture shares the same circumstances and concepts as House on Fire.

Late in the morning, the sun reaches the warm-toned rock below this ancient Puebloan granary, creating a warm-toned light that reflects up into the massive rock overhang.

The name suggests the unique feature of this subject — the chunks of roof that appear to have fallen. While walking under this overhang, one can't help but wonder when the next chunk of roof will let go.

This image was processed using the cloudy white balance setting, cooler than the shade option technically right for the scenario (6500k vs. 7500k), with a bit of vibrance (+30) to bring out the richness in the colors.

While the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens was in the BackLight 26L, a cliff immediately behind this tripod position ensured there was no backing up. The Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens covered all the angles I needed at this location. This corner-to-corner sharp image is a single shot.

The 12mm angle of view captures a vast portion of the scene, including the lines in the rock under the structure.

12mm  f/11.0  1/6s  ISO 100
Exercising the Red Channel, Sunrise in Badlands National Park Exercising the Red Channel, Sunrise in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park has the full deal for landscape photography — interesting foregrounds in front of incredible backgrounds. Mix those features with the warm light from a rising (or setting) sun, and great results are waiting.

With the extremely warm light hitting the red-colored rock, the red channel is the one to watch. Make that channel too bright, and the red details will be lost. Use the RGB histogram to monitor exposure levels, and having an understanding how far your camera's red channel can be pushed is helpful.

While there were a few lenses in the backpack this morning, the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was the only one to see use. This lens on the R5 produces outstanding results and is an ideal choice for landscape photography.

In this camera position, the sunlight angle made own-shadows a bit of a problem. So I hid in the shadow of a land formation during the image capture, and the tripod shadow was removed with the healing brush tool in Photoshop.

15mm  f/11.0  1/20s  ISO 100
My Favorite Milky Way Lens, A Meteorite and Hallett Peak, Rocky Mountain NP My Favorite Milky Way Lens, A Meteorite and Hallett Peak, Rocky Mountain NP

As long as the correct exposure and basic compositional skills are applied, it is hard to take a bad picture of the milky way.

Here is a list of steps for photographing the milky way.

  1. You need to be able to see the milky way, and it is not always visible. Find that schedule. The Photographer's Ephemeris and similar apps are useful for this. Mid-late summer is ideal.
  2. You need a dark sky. Dark as in no city lights, even in the distance, is most important, and no moon or a small moon is also helpful. Plan for the dark sky location and moon schedule.
  3. You need a clear sky. Heavy cloud cover is a milky way photography show-stopper.
  4. A camera is required. Most modern interchangeable lens cameras will work fine, but with equivalent lenses, the full-frame models have an advantage.
  5. The camera requires a lens, and lens selection is critical. The lens needs a wide aperture to create a bright enough image in an exposure short enough that star trails do not appear within the acceptable ISO range of the camera. Think f/2.8 as a minimum, and f/1.4 is awesome. A wide-angle focal length is needed to get enough of the milky way in the frame. While 35mm can work, go with 28mm and wider (full-frame equivalent). Stars are pin-sharp and you want a lens that renders them pin-sharp fully into the corners at the wide-open aperture. That lens does not exist, but some lenses are considerably better than others for this purpose.
  6. Mount the camera and lens on a solid tripod and head.
  7. While the milky way looks great without any other supporting environment, an attractive foreground can make such an image stand out, as illustrated in this image.
  8. Focus the camera. If the moon or another very distant light is visible, autofocus on it, and then switch to MF. Otherwise, or alternatively, use manual focus (pick a bright star and fully zoom in to focus manually).
  9. Set the camera to manual exposure, and remember that your LCD is going to appear very bright in the dark.
  10. Use a wide-open aperture.
  11. Set the shutter speed. Basically, use the longest possible shutter speed that does not create offensive star trails. Consider starting at 20 seconds for a 24mm lens on a medium resolution imaging sensor. Higher resolution imaging sensors more readily show star trails and require shorter exposures for equivalent pixel-level results. Review the shot until the ideal duration is established.
  12. Set the ISO. Too high is the setting most often needed. At f/2.8, ISO 12800 is probably needed. At f/1.4, try ISO 3200 or 6400.
  13. Set the drive mode to 2-second self-timer.
  14. Frame the scene as well as possible (it will be very dark), capture an image, adjust the camera, and repeat that process until perfection is achieved.
  15. When the composition is just right, cue the meteorite to streak through an ideal area of the composition. Want a meteorite in the frame? The odds for any given frame to have a meteorite in it is low, but selecting a date within a known annual meteor shower, such as the Leonids, greatly increases the odds. After establishing the perfect shot, set the camera's drive mode to high speed, plug in a remote release with a locking button, lock the remote's shutter release down, and walk away. Tending a second camera setup is a good use of this time. If available, a bowl of ice cream is also entertaining. Come back to adjust the composition for the milky way's movement across the sky (I know, the earth is what moves).

Amazingly, and out of the norm for me, was seeing a meteorite streak by while the shutter was OPEN, without using the continuous drive mode technique. While I welcome meteorites, I do not fancy satellites. They get removed (this is easy with Photoshop's healing brush and clone tools).

As mentioned, the earth rotates, causing the milky way to move across the sky like everything else up there. On this evening, I followed the heart of the milky way around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park until Hallett Peak was a foundational element in the composition. Despite the 4:30 AM alarm, it was well after midnight before exhaustion overcame excitement.

What is my favorite milky way lens? Currently, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens holds that title for me. The 24mm focal length fills a significant portion of the frame with the heart of the milky way. The f/1.4 aperture is extremely wide, permitting lower ISO settings for less noise. This lens's image quality at f/1.4 is excellent. The size is compact enough that I can take it along as a lens dedicated to this purpose.

24mm  f/1.4  13s  ISO 6400
When the Sun Rises Below You, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park When the Sun Rises Below You, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

When you have to look down to see the sun rising, you know you are in a great location, and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is such a location. This particular morning greeted our group with extraordinary sky color – this image is practically right out of the camera.

Telephoto lenses are excellent choices for filling the frame with the color of a sunrise or sunset. The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was the choice for this morning. It's a superb lens. At least that is the lens I originally thought I captured this image with. I later realized that the EXIF indicated the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was the lens responsible for this image. The two lenses are interchangeable at this focal length.

70mm  f/8.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Why I Don't Use Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filters — The Loche, RMNP Why I Don't Use Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filters — The Loche, RMNP

A June sunrise image of The Loche in Rocky Mountain National Park requires a 2.7 mi, 1,056 ft elevation gain hike in the middle of the night. Getting location information on a relatively remote lake early in the season is challenging, but there was a report of open water, so my daughter and I set off for an adventure.

Upon arrival, the report proved technically correct. However, ice prevailed in the target location. While the ice would have been an OK foreground (these mountains can make nearly any foreground work), a reflection was the big benefit of hiking to a lake.

Moving to a nearby small area of open water accomplished the reflection goal. Here, a twisted tree and its roots, along with rocks flowing into the scene, provided additional foreground entertainment at this location.

Back to the leading question: Why don't I use graduated neutral density (GND) filters?

I'll start with the answer to a more basic question, what is a graduated neutral density (GND) filter?

Since Wikipedia already created this answer, I'll share it here:

"A graduated neutral-density filter, also known as a graduated ND filter, split neutral-density filter, or just a graduated filter, is an optical filter that has a variable light transmission. Typically half of the filter is of neutral density which transitions, either abruptly or gradually, into the other half which is clear. It is used to bring an overly-bright part of a scene into the dynamic range of film or sensor. For example, it can be used to darken a bright sky so that both the sky and subject can be properly exposed. ND filters can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and densities and can be used in all types of photographic applications from still photography, motion photography and scientific applications."

Here is the big problem. In general, graduated ND filters have straight lines of transition. However, these filters are primarily needed outdoors, and the outdoor landscape transition from dark to bright is seldom a straight line — unless a large body of water or a great plain fills the background. It is unrealistic to create filters for every horizon shape, and especially wide-angle zoom lenses usually have focal lengths with geometric distortion that further complicates the needed transition shape.

While soft transition GND filters better hide the dark to light transition, the final image seldom hides the unnatural brightness change.

Round threaded GND filters are available, and logically using one requires the brightness transition to be placed in the middle of the frame — another big limitation. To vary the location of the brightness change requires rectangular filters sized much larger than the front of the lens. While the density transition is still in the center of these filters, the larger size means they can be positioned off-center, placing the brightness transition anywhere desired.

Rectangular GND filters can be handheld during the shot, though avoiding movement against the lens requires a steady hand, and holding the filter slightly off of the lens permits light leaks (that may or may not matter). A filter holder provides a better solution optically, but the large rectangular filters require even larger filter holders.

Purchasing the complete set of transition types (hard to soft) and densities required to ideally mix the various lighting levels encountered, along with a filter holder, is expensive. In addition, the functional set is somewhat burdensome to carry and time-consuming to set up.

What is the alternative? Capture the scene in two or more exposures (if necessary, as processing a single image to differing brightness may be adequate), and blend the results using an HDR technique. A straight transition line is no longer important, and the adjusted areas do not need to be contiguous. Any brightness transition rate can be used (hard to soft), and the rate can vary in a single image.

Additionally, all focal lengths and lens sizes are supported, from a circular fisheye to the longest telephoto lens available.

I can often tell when a GND filter was used for an image, and usually, the result is not my favorite. Not everyone shares my view, and that is OK.

There are a lot of graduated ND filters sold, and sometimes only a graduated ND filter can get the job done properly. A primary advantage of graduated neutral density filters is that action transcending the density change (waves on an ocean, for example) remains perfectly aligned. Another big filter advantage is that post-processing is greatly reduced or eliminated, and those recording video or JPG format still images need to capture the final brightness.

Circling back to the image shared here. There are no graduated neutral density filters in the shape of the shadow line. Also, the perfect filter to match the digital graduated neutral density processing needed to darken the sky, excluding the tree. That filter, of course, does not exist. Thus, I don't carry it — or any other variant.

17mm  f/11.0  0.3s  ISO 100
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is one of those locations that evokes the kid in a candy store emotion for landscape photographers.

Ordering the chaos in a beautiful scene is a frequent landscape photography challenge. While details abound at Zabriskie Point, these details are more easily ordered than most. In addition, there are so many strong shapes and colors here that direct light becomes much less important. While Zabriskie Point's morning and evening light is especially attractive, some of my favorite images were taken before sunrise and after sunset.

Having so many great compositions makes selecting a few favorites to share a mental challenge. Of course, culling many images would have been easier if I had approached the area in an orderly manner. Instead, I opted to revisit subjects for a fresh take, ensuring an open mind to find the best options. Still, I'm certain that a return trip would generate new compositions in this target-rich environment.

A pair of Canon EOS R5 bodies with Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM and Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lenses mounted provided the ideal angle of view range for this location and, of course, outstanding image quality.

32mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
Canon R5 and RF 15-35mm Lens Visit Cracked Eggs, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area Canon R5 and RF 15-35mm Lens Visit Cracked Eggs, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area

The Cracked Eggs (or Alien Egg Hatchery) rock formations about 2 miles into Bisti Badlands, De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area are an intriguing subject.

This scene called for the classic use of a wide-angle focal length. Move in close to render the foremost egg large while keeping nearly the entire hatchery and a significant amount of interesting background in the frame. This lens can go significantly wider, but 22mm seemed the right choice for the background details inclusion.

Selecting the camera height is typically a necessary consideration for landscape photography. In this case, a high position provided separation of the foreground cracked egg and the one behind it. This position also showed the number of cracked eggs vs. having foreground eggs obscuring them.

Scouting showed that this scene would look great at sunset, and that timing was the photographic plan implemented. As is often the case, the light was best immediately before the scene went into shadows, the optimal (warmest) light only lasted for a few minutes, and the images shot before the best light are seldom seen by anyone else.

Immediately before the eggs went into shadows, I flipped the camera to vertical orientation (Cracked Eggs at Sunset) (an L-bracket makes this change fast and holds the same alignment) to capture a variation. When the eggs went into shadows (Cracked Eggs in Sunset Shade, they were evenly illuminated, and the glowing canyon walls in the background remained attractive.

22mm  f/11.0  1/8s  ISO 100
The Canon EOS R5 Takes on Extreme Dynamic Range During Intense Denali NP Sunset The Canon EOS R5 Takes on Extreme Dynamic Range During Intense Denali NP Sunset

Direct sun on snow delivers an extremely bright subject. Evergreen trees in the shade are an extremely dark subject. This scene provided both.

While an overhead sun is a bit brighter than a setting sun, this a very intense sunset scene. Bracketing exposures for potential HDR use is the safe way to photograph such a scene, but I was shooting handheld with the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens and relied on the Canon EOS R5's capabilities to capture all of the brightness levels in this scene in a single exposure.

When photographing landscape at sunrise and sunset, the red channel is usually the one to watch. The light is strongly warm-toned, and the directly lit portion of the scene will push the red channel high on the histogram.

In Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), this image's exposure was reduced by 1 stop, bringing the red channel in the brightest pixels to at or just below 255, with detail remaining in this channel. The foreground was then processed at a brighter setting and combined in Photoshop.

The setting sun hitting the tops of the Alaska Range and the clouds whisping over it in Denali National Park was breathtaking. Or, maybe I was just holding my breath too much while shooting furiously.

223mm  f/8.0  1/40s  ISO 200
Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens and a Shenandoah National Park Sunset Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens and a Shenandoah National Park Sunset

The whitetail buck were not cooperating this afternoon, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens and Really Right Stuff Ascend Tripod needed a workout, some clouds were in the sky as sunset approached, and one of my favorite sunset locations was not far away. I did not pause to implement the plan revealed to me, and the show as and after the sun set was superb.

The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens produced very nice image quality — remarkable for the size, weight, and price of the lens.

This image is a slight pano (to add some foreground rock) and HDR processed.

As suggested, a Really Right Stuff Ascend Long Tripod with Integrated Head provided the support for this capture.

16mm  f/11.0  1/10s  ISO 100
Where the Sheep Take You in Denali National Park Where the Sheep Take You in Denali National Park

A good reason to pursue many wildlife species is that you get to go where they live. That is the case with dall sheep, and few animals have a more stunning daily view.

On this day, fall was officially a couple of weeks away, but the Denali National Park tundra was aflame in color, and the mountains were loaded with snow.

While climbing to the sheep, I couldn't help pausing to capture this scene. The strong-textured dark foreground ridgeline, red huckleberries in mottled sunlight in the valley, high contrast snowy mountains in the distance, and a straight dark cloud putting a cap on the scene seemed a composition worthy of a photo.

The ability to capture this composition is an example of the advantage of a 100-something mm telephoto zoom lens vs. a 200-600mm, 200-800mm, or similar option.

167mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Colorful Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park Colorful Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

This morning's sunrise delivered the highly desired pink sky to the west as I was overlooking the incredible landscape from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park. That is a perfect combination, right?

What if the colorful sunrise sky color does not match the tone of the landscape? Warming the sky reduced its purpleness, bringing the color tones into closer alignment, but does the pink sky complement the yellow and brown landscape in this example? Or, does that combination clash?

Attractive distant details abound at Zabriskie, making foreground details easy to overlook. This composition takes advantage of the lines and texture in a nearby rolling hill just off the point.

24mm  f/11.0  0.5s  ISO 160
Shadows Rule, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park Shadows Rule, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park

While the individual grains of sand in a dune likely have some color variation, those grains blend together at typical landscape photo distances, leaving most dunes a single color. A single color does not alone make an interesting photo. Therefore, shadows rule in the dunes — they are necessary to add intrigue.

Shadows are created by uneven lighting, and the early and late sun angle brings on the desired strong directional lighting (barring clouds).

Taking a dune image to the next step means finding great shadows, and footprint shadows do not fit into my "great" definition (unless the footprints are an intentional part of the composition).

Rarely is wind appreciated for photography, and it is especially unwelcomed when photographing landscapes. However, I celebrated as a significant wind storm blew through during the drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park. The dust and sand were dense enough to severely impact visibility at times, rocking, and properly initiating the brand new Toyota RAV 4 rental SUV.

Why celebrate a wind storm in the desert? The wind erased ALL of the Death Valley dunes' footprints, replacing them with fresh, seemingly unending and highly photogenic ripples in the sand.

The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on a Canon EOS R5 proved the optimal choice in the Death Valley National Park dunes. While focal lengths outside this range had compositional opportunities, the 24-70mm angles of view enabled emphasis on the close subjects while keeping the background details relatively large in the frame.

Still, the depth of field available (at apertures not impacted by diffraction) from this focal length range was often insufficient. The R5's focus bracketing feature was the solution to that problem. With focus bracketing enabled, the smallest increment specified, and the number of shots set far above what was ever needed (the camera automatically stops at infinity), the R5 proved itself foolproof, automatically delivering the complete required range of sharp focus bracketed images at nearly a 100% rate (and I probably caused the 1 or two insufficient sets). Walk up to a scene, select the composition, position the focus point on the closest subject (the closest sand), and press the shutter release. This strategy takes away the careful attention to the depth of field otherwise required and facilitates images not otherwise possible.

Do you ever struggle to obtain the ideal white balance? I do, and this image challenged me. Unfortunately, adding the needed contrast creates a bright yellow glow that I've been attempting to neutralize. This image is one of those likely to get re-adjusted in the weeks and months to come.

31mm  f/11.0  1/20s  ISO 100
Triangle Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Triangle Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

The fall foliage timing aligned with the weather forecast on this day.

The beech trees in the canyons at Ricketts Glen State Park were in their peak yellow color, with some early leaf drop adding color to the ground. The latter is sometimes as important as the prior.

The weather forecast? Cold, windy, and very cloudy, with snow and rain expected. That combination meant few people to work around and perfect lighting. It was one of those clear-the-schedule scenarios.

I went to RGSP with three specific images on the hit list. This image of Triangle Falls was one of those priorities. Triangle falls is always interesting, and the beech trees in the background were bright yellow. Moving in close to the relatively small falls made it large in perspective, and the white water leaving the falls created leading lines.

The Canon EOS R5 and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens were selected for this image. That combination was mounted on a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head and TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod.

Sometimes the picture does not tell the full story. What you don't see here is that the rock I'm standing on is as slippery as ice and the tripod is in the fast-flowing water. A lighter or less-rigid tripod would not have created sharp images, and once I caught the camera, lens, and tripod being washed away by the current. There's nothing like an adrenaline rush to keep one going after a long day.

A Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter and light rain are responsible for this image's deep saturated colors.

15mm  f/8.0  1.6s  ISO 200
Mt Shuksan Reflects in Picture Lake, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Mt Shuksan Reflects in Picture Lake, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Any lake earning the name Picture must be worth stopping by, and this lake, in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, just west of North Cascades National Park, deserves that name.

A great scene is made better when duplicated by a reflection, and this still evening enabled full advantage of this lake's reflecting surface.

The Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens was this day's walkabout lens choice. In addition to covering the ideal angles of view, this relatively compact and lightweight lens consistently delivered sharp images, as always.

30mm  f/8.0  1/125s  ISO 100
The Lens I've Bought the Most Times, Badlands National Park Prairie Storm The Lens I've Bought the Most Times, Badlands National Park Prairie Storm

I've probably purchased a Canon 24-105 F4 L IS Lens a dozen times. This series of lenses, including the Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens, and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, are professional-grade, high-performing, relatively compact and lightweight, and affordable. That combination, along with the versatile 24-105mm focal length range, make these lenses ideal for many uses, including family, travel, and hiking.

So, why do I keep rebuying them, aside from the new models becoming available? Well, I try to keep the kit trimmed to the gear that is most important to me. I sometimes shoot moving subjects in low light, such as at indoor events, and in these scenarios, an aperture wider than f/4 is desired. Thus, there is always a 24-70mm F2.8 L lens in the kit.

With a significant general-purpose focal length range covered, it seems that 24-70mm lens should be adequate for all needs. When there is some time space since the last 24-105 F4 need, the 24-105 gets sold to finance seemingly more important needs.

Then, a need arises that reminds me that I really do need that lens, usually for its size, weight, and focal length range, and I re-buy it. And, the story repeats – more often than it should.

The second Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens arrived in my kit earlier this year. With some long hikes on the schedule, the need for this lens again became apparent. I bought it to keep this time (unless I forget the reasons again), and it performed impressively.

One location that the RF 24-105 was perfect for was Badlands National Park.

Few elements make a prairie more photogenic than a good storm with a rainbow, and the first thing I grab when a rainbow shows up is a Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter.

61mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Photographing a Stand-alone Tree in Stunning Red Fall Foliage Photographing a Stand-alone Tree in Stunning Red Fall Foliage

It is my favorite time of the year — Fall. The landscape is taking on spectacular colors, and I feel the need to make the colors last by photographing them.

However, I frequently encounter beautiful trees in full fall color with uninspiring surroundings. The challenge is to capture the beauty without including unsupporting subjects, especially power lines, in the composition.

As the relevant example for this image, our local high school grounds have a border of large maple trees that get extraordinary color each fall. While the school property and nearby neighborhood are nice, the buildings, streets, wires, etc., are not what I'm looking for in a nature picture.

In this case, the simplest tactic is often to get out the telephoto lens and isolate a portion of the tree.

The timing of this year's peak fall leaf color coincided with the Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD Lens review. This lens has the perfect range for isolating leaves (and the excellent image quality necessary to make the shoot worthwhile).

A large tree can offer many compositions, but after moving around to figure them out, I typically come back to a small number of favorites. To find these, try zooming out to the widest focal length and then zooming in as the composition is adjusted until nothing extraneous is in the frame, and the remaining limb lines and leaf clumps are balanced. Lock the tripod head, take that shot (perhaps several if the leaves are moving in the wind), create some variations, and then zoom in further to get a different look. Then, start over, perhaps after moving to a different position.

This maple tree's foliage was not solid, meaning some background showed through. The best options were to fill the foreground tree's holes with sky or, as shown here, with a background tree across the street. Note that the horizon and other orientation-identifying subjects are not discernable in this image. In this case, it is OK to tilt the camera slightly to adjust for the available details (I keep telling myself that).

This image was captured just before the sun set. The bright red leaf color lit by warm light made the red channel the one to watch for exposure. A Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter reduced the reflections on the leaves, further saturating the primarily red colors.

277mm  f/11.0  1/20s  ISO 100
Shiprock, New Mexico Shiprock, New Mexico

Shiprock, named for its resemblance to an old clipper ship, is surrounded by a vast desert, with clear views from nearly all directions. While the enormous rock formation provides a dramatic subject over the flat desert, I found the tall, narrow, naturally formed dike leading to it especially entertaining and a great foreground subject to include in the frame.

On a clear day, the first sunrise light casts a golden color on this landscape, and this light angle's contrast emphasizes the texture of Shiprock.

I planned, flew, drove, lodged, got up early, drove farther, and then hiked. That effort and expense meant no settling for second best on the camera and lens. Why were the Canon EOS R5 and RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens selected?

The R5 is currently my preferred Canon camera. It continuously delivers beautiful, accurately focused, high-resolution images.

The light shown in this image only lasts for a few minutes, and the RF 24-105 had the optimal focal length range to rapidly capture a variety of compositions, including some with Shiprock more isolated in the frame. Since a narrow aperture was needed for increased depth of field, a larger, heavier, and wider aperture lens was not necessary or desired, and this L lens feeds the R5 the impressive optical quality required for stand-out images.

56mm  f/8.0  0.8s  ISO 100
Lines, Textures, and Reflected Light at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP Lines, Textures, and Reflected Light at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP

The key to photographing at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is knowing when and where to point the camera. Fortunately, there are so many good options that it is easy to get some of them right.

The simplistic and distinct erosion features seen in this image held my attention long enough to create a selection problem. Today, it was time to pick one and move on. Well, that is at least until I decide it is time to pick another one.

This scene is looking into the rising sun, with reflected light creating a warm color temperature.

While a telephoto lens may not be an obvious first-choice landscape lens, the long focal lengths often provide easy compositions even in locations with limited beauty. The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is an outstanding choice for this purpose (and Zabriskie has unlimited beauty).

177mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 100
The Aging Log at Hidden Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park The Aging Log at Hidden Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Sometimes the leaves on the ground are more important than the leaves on the trees. Such was the case for my last visit to Hidden Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park.

The bright leaves stood out in sharp contrast with the dark wet rocks on this rainy (with a little snow) day.

The log? Well, logs are a problem for waterfalls deep in the forest. Trees are constantly falling down, and some of them land in the water features. The fallen tree shown here caused me to skip this falls for years. However, it has been down long enough to take on an old look, complete with a bright green moss layer.

By crouching under another large fallen tree and zooming out to 15mm (the widest focal length I have available with standard filter threads), this scene fits in the frame.

A Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter (and light rain) is responsible for this image's deep saturated colors.

15mm  f/11.0  4s  ISO 100
Yellow Mounds, Badlands National Park Yellow Mounds, Badlands National Park

The Yellow Mounds make all the Badlands National Park top photography locations lists. They are beautiful, intriguing, and worthy of their position on those lists.

However, creating great images that include these mounds is not easy. Of course, lighting changes everything, and dramatically reducing the image quality challenge on this day was natural spotlighting that, incredibly, illuminated the feature highlights of this scene.

As is often the case, the Canon EOS R5 and RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens combination was outstanding for this landscape photograph. The RF 24-105 is relatively compact, has an excellent general-purpose focal length range, consistently produces impressively sharp images, and was my primary lens for over two weeks in this park last year.

67mm  f/11.0  1/25s  ISO 100
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