Category Archive : Behind The Shot

Leaves By Moonlight

Blog – Outdoor Photographer Text & Photography By Morris Swartz

Leaves By Moonlight, Yosemite National Park, California
Photo By Morris Swartz

Yosemite National Park is one of the most photographed sites in the United States. The park has been heavily visited, and its scenes have been captured on billions of cell phones. The challenge to photographers is to find a time of year when one can avoid crowds.

Fall is one of those “off seasons” when the crowds have lessened and the waterfall runoffs have decreased. Although Yosemite is not known for spectacular fall color, the changing leaves of black oaks, dogwoods and maples do add colorful offsets to the massive rock formations. Mornings are often punctuated by valley fog, enhancing a sense of mystery.

I had last visited Yosemite Valley during the summer 30 years earlier, at which time my current passion for landscape photography was inspired by a ranger-led photo walk. Now I was excited to return to witness the fall season. One of my goals was to find images other than the familiar iconic ones.

On a clear night with partial moonlight, I was crossing a bridge over the Merced River, en route to a planned late-night star trails shoot. Looking down into the dark water, partially illuminated by a particularly bright moon, I noticed a patch of leaves gradually swirling in a stream eddy. Having always been fascinated by photographing flowing water, I knew that the movement of the leaves had the potential to become an interesting visual anchor. I positioned myself so that the leaf swirl in the lower left would resonate with the rounded glacial rock face in the distance.

Using my 14mm lens and a long exposure, I was able to add an element of motion and geometric shape to this quiet nighttime scene. An exposure of 20 seconds worked best to give the swirl the right consistency. Moonlight and the use of a high ISO setting gave the image a daytime glow.

I was delighted by the final capture, turning an undramatic fall scene into a dynamic one and creating a unique fall image in Yosemite.

See more of Morris Swartz’s work at swartznaturescapes.com.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Samyang 14mm Ultra Wide-Angle f/2.8 IF ED UMC, Gitzo 1309 tripod, Kirk BH-3 ballhead. Exposure: 20 sec., ƒ/2.8, ISO 1600.

The post Leaves By Moonlight appeared first on Outdoor Photographer.

Leaves By Moonlight

Blog – Outdoor Photographer Text & Photography By Morris Swartz

Leaves By Moonlight, Yosemite National Park, California
Photo By Morris Swartz

Yosemite National Park is one of the most photographed sites in the United States. The park has been heavily visited, and its scenes have been captured on billions of cell phones. The challenge to photographers is to find a time of year when one can avoid crowds.

Fall is one of those “off seasons” when the crowds have lessened and the waterfall runoffs have decreased. Although Yosemite is not known for spectacular fall color, the changing leaves of black oaks, dogwoods and maples do add colorful offsets to the massive rock formations. Mornings are often punctuated by valley fog, enhancing a sense of mystery.

I had last visited Yosemite Valley during the summer 30 years earlier, at which time my current passion for landscape photography was inspired by a ranger-led photo walk. Now I was excited to return to witness the fall season. One of my goals was to find images other than the familiar iconic ones.

On a clear night with partial moonlight, I was crossing a bridge over the Merced River, en route to a planned late-night star trails shoot. Looking down into the dark water, partially illuminated by a particularly bright moon, I noticed a patch of leaves gradually swirling in a stream eddy. Having always been fascinated by photographing flowing water, I knew that the movement of the leaves had the potential to become an interesting visual anchor. I positioned myself so that the leaf swirl in the lower left would resonate with the rounded glacial rock face in the distance.

Using my 14mm lens and a long exposure, I was able to add an element of motion and geometric shape to this quiet nighttime scene. An exposure of 20 seconds worked best to give the swirl the right consistency. Moonlight and the use of a high ISO setting gave the image a daytime glow.

I was delighted by the final capture, turning an undramatic fall scene into a dynamic one and creating a unique fall image in Yosemite.

See more of Morris Swartz’s work at swartznaturescapes.com.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Samyang 14mm Ultra Wide-Angle f/2.8 IF ED UMC, Gitzo 1309 tripod, Kirk BH-3 ballhead. Exposure: 20 sec., ƒ/2.8, ISO 1600.

The post Leaves By Moonlight appeared first on Outdoor Photographer.

Milford Sound

Blog – Outdoor Photographer Text & Photography By Alex Meyer

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Photo By Alex Meyer

You know how it works when discovering new locations. You’ve seen it once somewhere, and you immediately start planning the perfect shot, including light, fog and all the fancy conditions that need to be there to make it the money shot. Usually when you get there, however, something is missing. That’s why you go back to the place until everything fits in perfectly, and you finally take the picture you worked out in your head.

At least I’ve been doing this a lot. In fact, I’m doing it so often that my friends started giving me a facepalm when I tell them I’m going back to this specific tree formation or that waterfall within the Black Forest of Germany over and over again. They can’t understand how much fun it is to find a new angle from which to shoot the scene or to wait for perfect conditions, but for me, this is important because I really want to make that perfect shot that I crafted in my head.

When you’re traveling, things are a little different. I had to accept that when I was on a trip to New Zealand back in the last days of 2015. This wasn’t just a photography trip, as I went there with my significant other at the time, and we wanted to see as much as possible of this amazing country. However, you have to make compromises. She wasn’t into photography, so it was hard negotiating to stay for another night at the same place to wait for the perfect light.

I had been to New Zealand only once before, and one of the highlights that I had planned for this trip was to visit Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park on the amazing southern island. I craved this place after seeing pictures taken of this beautiful location. My expectations were very high. Shimmering peaks, some nice patterned clouds glowing in red and orange and—of course— the picture-perfect, mirror-like water. But as you might have figured out by now, it didn’t go as planned.

It had been pouring from above for hours when we drove there; so much, in fact, that we couldn’t even see the magnificent mountains along the road. We got there after a two-hour drive, but the rain wasn’t willing to stop, and I started to lose all hope for a presentable shot. It was only an hour before sunset when it stopped pouring and continued with a light drizzle. When I hopped out of my camper van, I was welcomed by Milford Sound with a seascape that revealed all of these slippery, moss-covered stones that I passed over slowly to find my spot and the perfect composition. Finally, I found it and started setting up my camera. I was able to take two pictures, each with a 30-second exposure, before it started pouring again, and I fought my way through the twilight to my camper van. I wasn’t exactly sure if the pictures I just took were any good. Thankfully, that feeling was replaced with a smile once I had a look at them on my laptop.

The picture is nothing like I wanted it to be in the first place. No light, no glow in the clouds, not even the peaks mirrored in the water. Still, I’m overwhelmed with the result. It’s been more than three years now since I took that picture, and it’s still one of my favorites because, although I was looking for the perfect conditions at this location, this one picture shows just how much more there can be than the “perfect” conditions. Great pictures can be taken even in situations where you usually wouldn’t consider shooting.

On the other hand, though, I still have that one picture in mind that I want to take there. Maybe fortune will smile on me next time, as Milford Sound will see me again soon.

See more of Alex Meyer’s work at instagram.com/alexmeyerfotografie.

Canon EOS 60D, Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX at 12mm, Velbon Ultra REXi D tripod and Induro BHD3 ballhead, Haida ND1000 filter. Exposure: 30 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 200.

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Over My Head

Blog – Outdoor Photographer Text & Photography By Amos Nachoum

Polar bear family, Ellesmere Island, Canada
Photo By Amos Nachoum

I began my photography career as a fashion and war photographer in my homeland of Israel. I’m now a wildlife photographer, explorer and motivational speaker. For 40 years, from the High Arctic to Antarctica, I’ve pursued my quest with a camera to dispel the myth of "dangerous wildlife" and to raise compassion toward these wild creatures. I execute my mission by inviting select people to join my expeditions, which aim to inspire harmonious interactions between man and big animals.

On one such trip to Ellesmere Island, Canada, in the late summer, the ice was mostly gone, and polar bears were moving from island to island in search of food, including birds’ eggs on the hill cliffs. I was there to highlight the lives of threatened and endangered wildlife to help raise awareness and protection when I saw this family of two cubs, each at least 18 months old, with their mother. It was a rare sighting since it’s common that by that age only one cub out of two will make it.

The moment was too precious, and we started following them. The hungry family had to go from one island to the next until they got to the tall cliffs where the birds were nesting. We entered the water from the opposite island, facing the incoming bears from about 200 meters away. My safety diver and I treaded water for over 20 minutes as the family made their way toward the island, keeping their eyes on us the whole time. We remained still and in one place and allowed the bears to make their move. When the family was finally 5 meters in front of us, the safety diver and I signaled each other, and we submerged to 4 meters below. The bears continued on, looking at us underwater, perhaps in curiosity and in peace. From the moment I saw the family in the frame, I began holding my breath to prevent any bubbles from getting in the picture and waited for this exact moment when all three bears were looking at us. We didn’t move toward the party as the family continued in their own direction right above our heads.

See more of Amos Nachoum’s work at amosphotography.com.

Nikon D4S, AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED, Seacam housing. Exposure: 1/320 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 200.

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The Bubbles

Blog – Outdoor Photographer Text & Photography By Christopher Mills

Behind The Shot: The Bubbles
Photo By Christopher Mills

Acadia National Park preserves much of Mount Desert Island as well as some smaller Islands along Maine’s Atlantic coast. Once you arrive in Acadia, you’ll find beautiful woodlands, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks like Cadillac Mountain, along with some of the darkest skies Maine has to offer.

On a beautiful night in late August, I made my way to Jordan Pond around 11 p.m. and hiked a short distance around the pond to set up facing the two mountains known as “The Bubbles.” With my Nikon D7100 and Tokina 11-16mm lens on my tripod, I set my focus to infinity to make sure the stars would be sharp. I set the shutter speed to 25 seconds, the aperture to ƒ/2.8 to let in as much light as possible, and the ISO to 6400. Anything longer than 30 seconds with a crop-sensor camera will result in egg-shaped stars due to the Earth’s rotation. I also plugged in an intervalometer and set it to trip the shutter automatically every 30 seconds. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about camera shake from manually pushing the shutter button and could sit back and enjoy the stars overhead.

This time of year, in late August, the Big Dipper is positioned over the Bubble Mountains and makes for a nice composition. With the sound of the water gently slapping the rocks around the edge of Jordan Pond and the camera clicking away, I didn’t think I could ask for a better night. I noticed the sky over the mountains turning a reddish hue as the northern lights were having a small flare-up. As I sat there in hopes of a bigger flare-up from the small solar storm, an iridium flare streaked through the sky just to the right of the Big Dipper. Iridium flares are caused by a communication satellite orbiting the earth. They’re visible for a few seconds if they orbit where the sun can reflect off of the satellite, which is what you see in this photo.

Being pretty happy with what I had captured, I decided to call it a night and work my way back to my vehicle. I was almost packed up when I heard something running down the path toward me. It got almost to where I was and stopped. Neither what came running down the path nor I made a sound for what seemed like forever. I wondered if whatever it was could hear my heart pounding. After a long wait, I shined my light toward the path and into the woods and didn’t see anything, so I made a very quick trek around the pond and back to my vehicle. Once I was back at the campground safe and sound, I went to sleep very satisfied after a perfect night under a big Maine sky.

See more of Christopher Mills’ work at christopheramillsphotography.com.

Nikon D7100, Tokina AT-X 11-16mm F/2.8 PRO DX II at 11mm. Exposure: 25 sec., ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400.

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