Nubble Lighthouse Magic Hour || Lightroom Only

Occasionally I like to showcase the power of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by processing one of my images using only Lightroom. Seeing as I haven’t done such a post in a while, I thought it was about time to do another! This image comes from the Nubble Light (aka Cape Neddick Lighthouse) in York, Maine. I wasn’t intending to visit this location on this particular day – I happened to have a meeting not far away though, and figured I’d stop by for sunset. I wasn’t expecting a great sunset, but it turned out to be quite lovely!

In terms of processing, as I said, this was processed totally in Lightroom. I used a number of basic edits along with targeted adjustments such as graduated filters, radial filters, and brush adjustments to help get the look I wanted. Speaking of filters, I also used a couple of physical filters in the field – the Lee Landscape Polarizer and a Lee 0.9 Graduated ND filter – which helped me get the shot right in camera. The better the image looks in-camera, the easier it is to process it in Lightroom! Lightroom, like any program, can only work with what you give it. But if you feed it something good and know how to use it, Lightroom can produce amazing results without all the advanced tools of Photoshop CC. I think this image is a good example of just that!

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    The Art Of Winter Imagery

    In a previous post, I discussed some of the equipment you need in order to pursue photography during the winter. That’s important, but freezing temperatures aren’t the only thing you’ll battle as a photographer during this season. Winter also brings unique challenges to creating artistic images that inspire the viewer. In this post, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned over the years that has helped me create stunning images of this spectacular season.

    Fresh Is Key

    One of the last things you want to do when it is cold and snowy outside is to get out of your warm bed while it is still dark, go out into the cold, and drive on slick roads. However, this is one of things you will have to do to create the images you envision. Snowy scenes are at their best when everything in the scene is covered – once the snow begins to melt or slide off branches and roofs, an element of the ambiance is lost. In order to find the most magical winter scenery, early morning starts are frequently required. Thankfully, the sun comes up later during the winter, so it’s not as early as it might be at other times of the year, but conditions make it feel tougher in my experience. However, once you see the light of a new day begin to hit the freshly fallen snow, you will know that it was worth it.

    The light of morning illuminates frosted trees in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

    Snowglow

    Speaking of light, winter offers a unique chance to see light and color transform the world around you. Fresh, sparkling snow seems to sparkle like diamonds, and the colors of the sky are soaked into the snowy landscape. For that reason, when you’re planning a sunrise or sunset shoot, look for locations that will have plenty of undisturbed snow. Take advantage of the colorful glow of the sky being baked into your surroundings. It’s an opportunity that’s difficult to find the rest of the year.

    Ice Is Nice

    In colder regions, lakes and ponds will freeze over during the winter. This provides photographers with the opportunity to photograph icy textures in a natural surrounding. The challenge is finding open ice – once the ice is covered in a blanket of snow, it is difficult to distinguish a lake from a field, so it can become far less interesting very quickly. If you can’t find a spot on the lake that is clear of snow, wait for a fresh warm rain to clear some of the snow away. Then, look for big cracks that form leading lines, or even bubbles under the ice if it’s clear enough. Let the ice tell its story though – don’t just use it as a backdrop. Give it its rightful weight in the composition, focusing especially on texture. Another option if you can’t see the actual ice is to look for snow drifts, which create interesting formations and make for a compelling foreground.

    The sky burns over a frozen lake during winter

    Motion In The Stillness

    Along with lakes freezing in winter, it’s common for waterfalls and streams to freeze over as well. This can provide an interesting viewpoint, but personally, I like to shoot when things aren’t completely frozen. The best time to shoot for me: when there’s ice around the edges, but still plenty of motion and life. It gives the viewer a sense of both the waterfall and the wintry conditions that surround it.

    Go The Extra Mile

    Trudging through thick snow is no easy task. Especially when you’re the one breaking trail after a snow with a heavy pack of gear on your back, the journey can easily wear on you – even more so when that trip takes you up a mountain. But the rewards photographically speaking can make it worth the while. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be so difficult for you physically. For example, many ski resorts have lifts you can pay to use, even if you’re not interested in skiing. Sometimes, the view from the top can be as spectacular as any climb would offer. On the downside, you won’t have the story and personal grit behind it, and you’ll be more likely to run into others with similar images. Either way, going to the extra mile to get to places your average photographer won’t travel to can produce wonderful results in winter. Just make sure you are prepared for the conditions you will encounter.

    Hakkoda mountains covered in snow in Aomori Prefecture, Japan.

    No Winter? No Worries!

    Of course, not everyone lives in a climate with an appreciable winter. For much of my life, I’ve lived in places where plants simply die during the winter, and snow is a rare event. If you find yourself in a place like this, there are still a few options. I’m of the opinion that there is always beauty around if you look for it. It may be an open field with a couple of trees, or dead leaves piled up in the forest, but look for what winter means in your area, and try to capture that in your imagery. Another option is to go to places where conditions don’t matter that much. When I lived in the Tokyo area, I would often travel into the city during the winter. Even though there wasn’t snow, the air was clear and could create beautiful skies, especially when seen from tall buildings. I’m also a native Floridian, and the beach is one of those timeless landscapes that you can shoot no matter the weather. No matter where you are, there’s something to be seen and photographed all year around.

    As someone who loves landscape photography, I always enjoy the unique scenes that winter provides. These are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me create artistic images of the season. I hope it will help inspire you to get out in it with your camera, and create something of your own. Stay warm, stay safe, and happy shooting!

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      Technical Tips For Winter Photography

      Winter photography can be both incredibly rewarding, and incredibly challenging. While the cold and snow makes for beautiful scenery, it simultaneously creates an obstacle to getting out and enjoying it with your camera. Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to shoot in all kinds of cold conditions, and I’ve learned a few technical things that have helped me create beautiful winter images. I’d like to share a few of those in the hopes that it will encourage you to get out and enjoy the season with your camera.

      This post is focusing primarily on technical tips; that is, I’ll be talking about the gear side of the equation. In a subsequent post, I’ll talk more about composition techniques and other aspects of creating beautiful winter photography.

      #1: Get several good sets of gloves for different situations

      Purchasing gloves for winter might seem obvious, but the real question is what kind of gloves you want to have for photography. When using a camera, having thick gloves can hinder your ability to use the controls, but thin gloves won’t protect from the cold as much. What to do? I have two different pairs of gloves that I use for different situations: a thick pair of down gloves that cover my hands fully and a light pair of photography gloves that allow me to expose just my index finger and thumb. If it’s not too cold, I’ll use the photography gloves alone. In extreme cold (see image below for an example), I’ll use both together, and pull out my shooting hand with the light glove still on. There are also advanced gloves with lots of options (even heating! nice!), but these tend to be more expensive. Just make sure you prepare your hands for the conditions you’ll be shooting it. Even when frostbite isn’t a threat, it’s good to be as comfortable as possible.

      The temperature was 0°F with a -20°F windchill when I took this picture. Good gloves (and a face mask, and jacket, etc.) were a must!

      #2: Use a weather cover for your camera

      Photographers naturally shy away from taking their gear out in the rain without proper protection, but it’s easy to let this reservation slide in the snow. However, snow can end up doing damage to your camera just as easily as rain. I know from experience! Once, during a snowfall event in Tokyo, I went out shooting all day. My camera was supposed to be weather sealed, and it was snow, so I figured the camera could handle it. Unfortunately, the snow melted and entered into my camera’s circuitry, causing significant problems and forcing me to pay for an expensive repair. Unless you know for certain that your camera is fully sealed, or don’t mind taking the time and money to repair it, make sure your camera is covered when it’s snowing. It’s a bit of a hassle to shoot this way, but it’s much better than the alternative.

      It was during this outing in Tokyo that snow entered my camera and ruined the internal circuitry. Glad I got the image, but would have been nice to save the repair money!

      #3: Keep your camera warm

      Just like your body, cameras will struggle to operate at full capacity in cold weather. Especially once the temperatures drop below freezing, cameras can become sluggish or even stop working altogether. Even if the camera itself would work, the battery may struggle to provide power in these conditions. If you’re going to be out in the cold long enough, it is good to have some way to keep the camera warm. This can be as simple as holding it close to your body, or you can even attach hand warmers to it. You can also keep a spare battery in a pocket in your jacket, so it’s ready if needed. This isn’t typically an issue unless you’re dealing with extreme cold, but it’s worth keeping in mind as you prepare.

      #4: Use spiked feet for your tripod

      Most tripods come with rubber feet, and in many conditions that works great for keeping the camera steady. However, in icy conditions, rubber feet will slip just like tires. To avoid this problem, you can use metal spiked feet instead. Many tripod makers will include spiked feet in the box. My Benro Series 3 tripod came with rubber feet attached, and a set of 3 spiked feet that I could change to if needed. I have used that feature a lot this winter. A past tripod I owned had an interesting feature wherein the rubber feet actually had holes in the middle, from which a small spike could emerge with just a few twists. That was very convenient, although dirt and gunk would easily build up inside this area. At any rate, just make sure you can keep your tripod stable on the ice. Even an expensive carbon fiber tripod becomes useless if it’s sliding around while you’re trying to shoot!

      I took this image on top of ice which had built up at the edge of the stream. Spikes for both my shoes and tripod were necessary to get this image without getting wet!

      #5: Let your camera readjust to warmth slowly

      If you wear glasses, you probably know the story: a sudden change in temperature, such as moving from an air-conditioned building to a hot summer day, quickly fogs up your lenses so you can hardly see. The opposite is true as well; going from cold conditions to warm in a short period will also produce condensation. Your camera lens is just as susceptible to this phenomenon as eyeglasses. This can cause problems inside the lens, which can lead to buildup on the glass where it cannot be cleaned. In my experience, the easiest way to avoid this is simply to keep your camera in your bag for a while after you come inside (either at home or in the car). If you were only outside for a few minutes it won’t take as long to warm up, but when you’ve been in the cold for hours, it can take quite some time to return to normal. After one particularly cold excursion, I pulled my camera out two hours later and it was still cold to the touch! If you want to get the images off the camera quickly, use an SD card reader and simply remove the card from the camera while keeping it in the bag.

      #6:  Keep the lens hood on

      When it’s snowing, it’s easy for snow to get on the front of the lens, which can cause blurry spots in your image. If you’re shooting with a longer lens, make sure to keep that lens hood on. Unless the wind is really whipping the snow around, this will generally keep snow off the front element. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well with wide angle lenses, since the lens hoods are much shorter. In that case, using the bill of a hat or even your hand might help. Just make sure that nothing is visible in the shot, and that you don’t bump the camera while you’re shooting. Once you’ve taken an image, be careful to check it for spots on the camera’s screen. It can be a pain to keep snow off the lens, but it’s much easier to do that on site than it is to fix a big spot in post.

      #7: Take care of your (human) body

      It can be easy to get focused on protecting your gear and forget to protect yourself. This means more than just covering your hands – it means protecting your whole body. Even aside from obvious things like warm jackets and pants, you might also want to look into gear like microspikes for your boots. I’ve found this simple little tool to be incredibly helpful, as it keeps me from sliding around on frozen lakes and gives extra grip when I’m hiking in the woods. I also have several different face masks I use, depending on cold it is. Even aside from safety concerns (which should always take precedent), all of this can benefit your photography as well. The more distracted by conditions you are, the less you will be able to focus on what you’re shooting. If you’re staying warm, you’ll be more prepared to enjoy the scene.

      These are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me create solid winter images. There are also many photographic aspects you need to consider, and I’ll discuss those in a future post. But before you begin thinking about how to photograph wintry scenes, you first need to be prepared to get out in it. Hopefully, this will help you do that!

      Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you found this helpful. Until next time, stay safe, stay warm, and happy shooting!

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      Top 10 Images of 2017

      It’s that time of year again – time to to go through my images and choose 10 favorites that were taken throughout this year. This year it was hard to choose just ten, because I’ve had the opportunity to see so many beautiful locations, and experience a lot of firsts. But after a good bit of thought, here are my top 10 favorites from 2017…

      #10: Ikebukuro, Tokyo

      #9: Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine

      #8: Flowing Cherry Blossom Petals at Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

      Sakura Petals

      #7: Sunset Over Tsugaru Fujimi Lake, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

      #6: Autumn Swirls at Thompson Falls, White Mountains, New Hampshire

      #5: Tsumekizaki Lighthouse, Izu Peninsula, Japan

      #4: Sunset In The Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

      #3: Cherry Blossoms surrounding Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

      #2: Sunlit Autumn Colors, White Mountains, New Hampshire

      #1: Sunset at Suzumejima, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

      To all those reading – thank you so much for your support in 2017! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my images all year. Here’s to a fantastic 2018! Happy New Year Everyone!

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      Favorite 2018 Autumn Images From The White Mountains

      For the last couple of years, since my family knew we would be moving back from Japan, I have been looking forward to the 2017 autumn season in New Hampshire. Don’t misunderstand – Autumn in Japan is amazing. I’m already missing it! I especially miss my yearly trip to Mt. Fuji, which is lovely this time of year. Nevertheless, I’ve been looking forward to this season in New Hampshire, because I knew it would be different from anything I’ve experienced. This year, my focus was primarily on the White Mountains. New Hampshire’s White Mountains offer some of the most beautiful autumn scenery in New England. From breathtaking mountaintop vistas to hidden waterfalls deep within the forest, the beauty is seemingly limitless. It was so much fun to get out and photograph this amazing region.

      I took a ton of images this year, but I wanted to share some of my favorites with you all. Honestly, I’m not even close to finishing edits of all the photos I took! But I think these are enough to show why I was so excited for this year’s travels. And hopefully, it will inspire you to plan a trip here for yourself next year!

      White Mountains Autumn

      Stairs Falls White mountains

      Autumn leaves on the ground

      Curvy road in autumn

      Abstract autumn image dragging

      Fallen leaves in Crawford Notch Autumn

      Thompson Falls White mountains

      Autumn Path new england

      Autumn colors in moonlight

      Autumn Swift River New Hampshire

      Birch Trees White Mountains


      White mountains photography workshop

      2018 Autumn Workshop Registration Is Up!

      My autumn workshop for 2018 has just opened for registration! You’ll get to join me for 5 days of photographing beautiful autumn scenery, learning composition, settings, and post processing techniques to help you create stunning fall images for yourself. It may seem a bit early, but the spots will go fast, so make sure to get yours now. You can find more details and the registration form here: 2018 White Mountains Autumn Photography Workshop

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