Landscape photography takes dedication… Just ask my wife!

Putting It Into Perspective

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Spending cold nights in a tent, waking up at 3am (or earlier) for a week, hiking in the dark, eating ramen, drinking coffee, and not showering for that whole week are all part of the job. I’ve had people tell me that anyone can do landscape photography. While I believe this is true, I don’t believe just anyone has the drive to consistently live in the above mentioned conditions on a daily basis to create real landscape images. True, I return to my apartment and freshen up occasionally, and I have done my fair share of day trips, but to create compelling landscape photographs, a person needs to do more than just show up at the overlook at midday and start clicking away.

I spent the last week fussing over every detail of our next photography adventure. We are headed to Arizona to photograph a myriad of different locations over the next 7 days. Proper planning can make or break a trip.

Planning for a photography trip is multi fold. At the bare minimum it is good to ask these three questions: What locations do I wish to photograph? What is the weather forecast, and sun/moon information? What gear do I need? You may be required to purchase permits, guides, and campsites, sometimes up to 6 months in advance! The forecast says sunny and 75, but if you have been photographing long enough you know that isn’t a guarantee, so don’t forget the rain jacket and cold weather gear.

On average a landscape photographer spends anywhere from 15-100 hrs planning their next photograph. In certain circumstances, sometimes the planning can take years. You can expect them to stay in the field anywhere from 7 days- 3 months in the field at a time attempting to capture the perfect moment and may come away with only 1 photograph.


I have returned from our trip to Arizona.

Although the trip was reduced to 3 days due to a family emergency that developed, I was able to capture a few images from my time in the desert. The planning and research that went into this trip made it possible for me to photograph as many locations as I could in the short amount of time I had.

 Four Peaks  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Four Peaks

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

 Mountain Magic  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Mountain Magic

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

 Sun And Storm  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Sun And Storm

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

RISE, LIKE THE TIDE: Minimalist images that speak volumes.

If I told you that this photo was created in the Zion Narrows, would you believe me?

 Velvet Earth  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Velvet Earth

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

Odds are you’d point me in the direction of the nearest loony bin, but the Zion Narrows is exactly where this was photographed. While countless photographers flock to the Narrows each year to capture the towering canyon walls and incredible color that abounds here, I found myself drawn to the ebony colored pools of water that were left trapped on high ground after the heavy rains.

In a world where every image looks like a thousand others, it is hard to get people to notice mine, and so it is up to myself as the photographer to tell a different tale with my images. Perhaps that is why I was so focused on the ground. Velvet Earth is the turning point in my photography as artist, and not as landscape photographer; the point where I look inward and seek to harness the environment to match my creativity and feelings within. When I clicked the shutter to create this image I grew as an artist.

 Enter Oblivion  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Enter Oblivion

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

 Dust To Dust  © Andrew Lockwood 2017

Dust To Dust

© Andrew Lockwood 2017

Other images in this series are “Enter Oblivion” which was photographed on the Atlantic Coast earlier this year, and “Dust To Dust”, which was taken at Great Sand Dunes National Park last October.

Falling For Fall: A look at my fall images from 2019 thus far.

Every year after the wildflowers disappear from the mountain basins, I find myself scrambling to stay creative through the remaining Summer months. So when Fall comes around, I am usually overly anxious to explore as many locations as possible in the brief window when the colors change. This year was no exception, and I’ve been keeping busy up in the wild country. I’ve managed to capture quite a few beautiful images and some even made the last minute cuts into my annual Calendar, which is available here.

Light is fickle and oftentimes fleeting.

When an opportunity for the perfect conditions arise, it is important that you are ready with your camera. This past week we had rain move into the area that settled on the mountains just before sunrise. It provided me with the opportunity to photograph Mount Timpanogos and the fall color surrounding the mountain in all its glory. So at 3am I headed out from my apartment in Salt Lake City, and made the journey into the Timpanogos Backcountry, down a long gravel road, and along a deer path with nothing more than the light of my headlamp to guide my way (I had discovered the location on Google Earth [an app that I continually promote], while searching for unique perspectives of common landmarks). I came across the clearing and was extremely happy to find the aspens in peak color (the only mystery while using google earth). Because I had arrived with plenty of time to explore, I fussed over my composition for the next 40 minutes as blue hour slowly crept by. I finally fixed my camera to my tripod in the location I deemed best, and waited for the sun to crest the horizon and light the scene in front of me. About 5 minutes from sunrise I knew I was in for a treat as the clouds left of my composition were slowly changing a deep purple. I knew that if the horizon stayed clear for the next few moments, that the high peak of Timpanogos would catch the morning light and turn a brilliant red. The only other factor was the incredible amount of wind that morning. Because it was a storm front moving in, there was an immense amount of wind whipping the young aspen trees around making it impossible to make them sharp. I got lucky and got a few seconds of calm right as the sun crested and captured one of my best photographs to date.

 The Might of Morning  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

The Might of Morning

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The image above is the culmination of 6 hours of planning, 2 hours of fumbling through the dark and cold, and 1/3 of a second in the eternity of time.

Fall was off to a good start, and I wasn’t sure if I could top the image above, so I headed into the forest to capture the more intimate side of fall. As the sun rose higher into the sky I was making my way deeper into the wilderness in search of a magical forest of gold. Around an hour or so into my wanderings I came across the forest I had been looking for and methodically began planning my image. The storm clouds were being held at bay by the mighty mountains, and I had perfect weather to create another lasting image.

 Golden Hour  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Golden Hour

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

I’ve been searching for this image for four years. I always manage to take good images of fall color, but the elusive aspen forest has always been a step ahead of me. To say I was ecstatic when I found this composition would be an understatement. Finally, I found the image I had envisioned so long ago.

I returned the way I had come, and got back to my vehicle with a great feeling of accomplishment. It was now 10:00 am and in the time most people take to start their morning, I had already hiked 5 miles and created two portfolio worthy images. It was a good day.

After a few days of rain, I returned to the woods with my wife in search of more! I was struck with Fall fever and all I could think about was the next location and the woodland compositions yet to be captured. We scoured the hillsides along an old mountain road and I came up with an image that had I been alone, I would not have gotten.

 The Art of Wandering  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

The Art of Wandering

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

Selective focus and a shallow depth of field can enhance a photograph’s story. By focusing on the trees in front, and allowing Anna (my wife) to be out of focus, the image tells a story of a person wandering through a dense forest in search of something. If I had allowed for everything to be in focus, the story would become muddled and the subject would be unclear.

Farther along the road we came across an opening as a light drizzle began to fall. Using my zoom lens I isolated the road in front of us as it wound uphill out of sight, and allowed the fall color to vignette the road.

 A Path Less Traveled  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

A Path Less Traveled

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The light rainfall helped saturate the fall color, making it even more vibrant, while the dense cloud cover helped balance the image’s shadows and highlights. As we continued on, the weather began to get less and less inviting, so we decided to make for the car. I took one more image that day, a closeup of a single aspen tree with a maple sapling surrounding its trunk.

 Aspen and Maple  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Aspen and Maple

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

While Guardsman Pass was shut down for construction, we ventured out along the Mill D Canyon and came across a location of tall standing aspen trees that allowed for a composition looking directly into the sun. I couldn’t resist taking this photograph as it practically fell into may lap. A combination of careful planning and a bit of luck went into this image.

 Under Aspen Canopies  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Under Aspen Canopies

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The key to a good forest image is to find a figurative pathway leading through the scene. The sunlight on the forest floor in this image creates a path through the forest that leads directly to the beautiful rays of sun that are bursting through the aspens.

I am headed to Moab this week in search of Fall in the desert regions of Utah. Check back next week to see if I was successful, or if the weather shut me out!!

Mastery, at its root, is the ability to overcome excessive failure.

Research, Logistics, Gear, Creativity, Camera Settings, Composition, Timing, Light, and Luck.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes of a good photograph, and it is easy to mess it up if you're not paying attention.  

From encountering new scenarios, lacking the proper equipment, forgetting to charge batteries, to hitting that metaphorical wall we have all grown to despise called Creativity Block. These are just some of the things that can go wrong when photographing the perfect landscape. In this week's post I am going to touch on some of my massive failures on the road to mastery. Every day I am making mistakes; learning and growing as a photographer. Even the greatest photographers alive will attest that making mistakes, missing the shot, and ultimately failing has gotten them to where they are today. 

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I call the above image veiled perfection. I got to my location early, composed this image well in advance, set my ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, and focused correctly, then waited for the sun to set over the distant mountain.... What I didn't do was adjust my shutter speed as the light faded and got darker. You see, I got my exposure reading in broad daylight with the sun directly overhead, and in my excitement forgot to adjust my shutter speed to compensate for the change in available light. In todays world digital cameras save our butts 90% of the time and we can still get the shot if heaven forbid something like this happens. 

Here's a fun one! The ever common image stack to get everything in focus. In layman terms, when your subject matters are too spread out and your camera cannot compensate to get the entire image in focus, it is sometimes necessary to "focus stack". This is taking images at different focusing distances then combining them later in post to get uniform sharpness across the image. When you screw this up it is the most frustrating thing in the world because it can be easily overlooked while shooting. In the image below look closely across the first hillside. The entirety of it is out of focus. This is because I only shot two images to stack and focused too close on my initial image. Ideally a tilt shift lens would be the best solution, but a costly one. So, focus stacking is a necessity at times to get the best image. I stopped editing this image when I noticed the error because there is only one way to fix this: Buy a new camera that allows you to change focus later. Thankfully I wasn't satisfied with the image 100% to begin with as the flowers were beginning to wilt. I found a different composition that I was more pleased with. 

 

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Here is an awesome picture of a blurry moose. 

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When photographing wildlife its oftentimes smart to turn on your autofocus, especially for beginners. I am not a beginner (nor am I an expert), but I try to do things as close to old school film shooting as possible and sometimes it bites me in the @$$. Here I attempted to manually focus on the moose with a semi fast aperture of ƒ4.5, while slowly moving backward since we walked up on each other. As I walked backward so did my point of focus, effectively focusing perfectly on the pine tree in front of my subject causing my moose friend to look velvety smooth and extremely blurry ... Chance missed!

Thankfully for all the times I've royally screwed up or done something goofy, there has been countless times when I've done something right. The below image is the most popular image I've ever taken. With 300+ more instagram likes than any other image, multiple reposts, over 60 combined comments, and multiple personal offline congratulations; it's safe to say I did something right when taking this image. 

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I'm no master, but you can be darn sure that I will continue making mistakes until I am. After all, failure is what drives success.

The Wildflower Fields Of The Timpanogos Basin

Sometimes it's hard to put into words just how amazing a place is!

I've written this particular blog entry twice now, and cannot seem to do justice to the experience I had while on Mt. Timpanogos. Therefore, I am going to let the photographs do the talking and only interject a few critical words.

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.
— Ansel Adams
 The Glory Of Timp  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

The Glory Of Timp

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

Capturing images of the Timpanogos Wildflowers is not an easy task. It takes a commitment to carrying heavy camera and camping gear up a steep mountain 5,000+ ft to a basin just below the summit of the mountain in the summer heat.  From the ground Mt. Timpanogos is the most prominent mountain overlooking the Utah Valley. In fact it is the second highest mountain in the Wasatch Range. It is a truly spectacular mountain.

This year the wildflower season on Timpanogos was mildly hindered by the amount of smoke in the air from ongoing wildfires, which this year are plaguing the Utah area. Despite the fact that smoke from a wildfire was evident above the summit of Timp, and there was a ban on campfires I still had to put out a fire that some unintelligent hikers left burning after they had packed up camp and left. I won't go into to detail, but I was furious. They had decided it was a good idea to throw half of a dead tree stump onto a pit at midnight. The photo to the right was taken at 10:00am the next morning. I spent a  good 40 minutes throwing water and dirt on top of it to put it out completely. People, stop being dumb. End rant.

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Back to wildflowers; despite the activities of our neighbors, Anna and I had a great time among the stars, wildflowers, and mountain goats. While I was out in a field on the other side of the basin at sunrise, Anna was surrounded by a herd of mountain goats that were making there way back up the mountain. The light that enters the basin in the morning is enough to warm the soul and as it creeps over the horizon, the expanse of the basin comes into full view. I turned around and grabbed a quick panorama of the sunlight hitting the basin.

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Finding a composition in a field of flowers this big can be overwhelming despite the plethora of subjects. Your never quite sure if you have the best image. I scouted a location the night before, because I knew it would be impossible to find anything in the dark the next morning. I came upon an area at the base of the ridge and took a photograph in case the morning light was bad.

 © Andrew Lockwood 2018

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

 I love the images I captured despite the wildfire haze, and I cannot wait to return again next year to see what the basin will have in store for me.

Next week I'll explore the Martian-like landscape of Goblin Valley and recall my attempt at photographing the Perseids Meteor Shower.