Video: How to Hand Hold Grad ND Filters

Here’s a quick video clip from my instructional DVD that showcases the effectiveness of several filters from Singh Ray. It also gives a good demonstration on how I hand hold my filters when shooting. (to order the DVD, click here)

Why do I hand hold my filters?

1. Speed—in rapidly changing conditions, I want to be able to adjust my shooting position, composition, lens selection or any number of other components quickly and without too much hassle. By hand holding my filters, I’m able to adapt quickly to whatever may present itself in those fleeting moments of magic.

2. Control—many times we find ourselves shooting scenes with parts of the image that may require less filtration than others. By hand-holding my filters, I am able to manually dodge and burn the parts of the image that may require more or less filtration. This is an advanced technique of sorts, but will become more intuitive with time and practice.

3. Versatility—many of the active lifestyle images I shoot are done on unsteady surfaces and without a tripod. There simply isn’t time to screw on a filter holder and even if I were able to, my gradient transitions (where I want that filter line to fall) are never stationary. Hand-holding allows me to micro-adjust that filter placement for each shot.

How do I hand hold my filters?

Let me first say that all of the Grad ND filters I use are the 4 x 6 size. This larger size is much easier to hand hold in general, and nearly essential if you’re shooting wide angle lenses on a full frame sensor.

I generally grasp the edge of the filter between my thumb and index finger or middle finger. Taking special care not to shake the camera, I place the filter flush against the front element of the lens. If I’m shooting at longer focal lengths or with longer shutter speeds, I may remove the filter just slightly from the lens to avoid any sharpness sapping vibration.

Plan. Go. Do.

Sunset over wildflowers near Caineville, UT

Sunset over wildflowers near Caineville, UT

Several years ago I saw an image that struck me. It was a desert landscape, dotted with purple and yellow wildflowers. In a word, it was beautiful. In another word, it was mysterious. I wondered how such a barren landscape, void of color and feeling,  could suddenly spring to life as if fed by some unseen fountain of youth. I had to go there. I had to see it for myself. And really, I had to capture it for myself.

This just happened to be the year I was able to make it down to Caineville. I happened to have some spare time, and was committed to finally making this shoot happen. Caineville is, quite literally, a bend in the road. There’s no stop lights, no gas stations. There’s nothing except for mesas and buttes shaped by time and weather. Gravel ridgelines criss-cross into the distance, clawing their way further towards the base of north and south Caineville Mesas. At the right time of year, and given the proper winter/spring snow and rainfall, the valleys between these small buttes fill with yellow and purple. Seas of beeplant and purplemat flow between the mesas and fluted miniscapes. It is, quite simply, a photographer’s paradise.

Wildflower landscape image shot near Caineville, UT

Wildflower landscape image shot near Caineville, UT

It certainly is one of those places that feels nearly impossible to capture. It’s big and broad and colorful and supremely unique. My best suggestion to shooters hoping to stumble upon this symphony of nature??? Take all your gear, and take all your creative energy. You will need it. There are innumerable ways to shoot the flowers and desert landscape in and around Caineville. Some of it has been shot before, but I guarantee you will find your own nook and your own way of telling this beautiful story to those unable to attend in person.

I was also fortunate to visit Factory Butte, surrounded on many sides by an endless carpet of yellow. From what I understand, it’s a somewhat rare occurrence to see such prolific displays of wildflowers here, and I felt fortunate to be there. Alone. On an absolutely stunning morning.

Factory Butte with Beeplant (amazing widlflowers!)

Factory Butte with Beeplant (amazing widlflowers!)

As this was a solo trip, I had plenty of time to reflect on the experience of shooting such grandiose scenes. I have posted just a couple of tips below that are particularly relevant to the Caineville/Factory Butte area. They are also applicable to any shooting situation in which you find yourself slightly overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of what lies before you.

1. Go with a plan. Whether you have a written list, or mental notes of the types of images you’d like to capture, have some sort of “plan of attack”. It will help you to keep a level head and stay focused, to a degree. It’s easy to arrive at these locations and start running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Don’t do it. Be methodical, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Factory Butte and grazing cattle.

Factory Butte and grazing cattle.

2. Be receptive to new images. Although you may have a plan in your head, conditions may cause your photographic plans to vary, and this is A-OK. I really believe that some of the most magical images are visualized on site, from the hip, so to speak. See with your photographic eyes, and don’t be stubbornly committed to an image that may just not be there. Vision can change rapidly, and more than anything, you must be willing to work to find the best image for that exact moment. It may be as simple as changing a lens, or as difficult as hiking a ridgeline. Regardless–make it happen. You’ll be justly rewarded.

3. Shoot different lenses. I guess this could be better suggested in shooting different focal lengths. It’s easy to get stuck in wide angle mode, or telephoto or macro mode. You haven’t properly worked a scene until you’ve at least TRIED numerous different focal lengths and angles. Sometimes the big picture will be incomplete, but there will be “pieces” of that picture that are five-star images in and of themselves. Mess around. Work on seeing through different lenses without having to bring the camera to your eye.

WIldflowers and North Caineville Mesa

WIldflowers and North Caineville Mesa

4. Visit the same locations at different times of day. Simply put–light changes, winds dies down, clouds pour in, more flowers bloom and your mind’s eye transforms. Do yourself a favor and don’t throw in the towel at any given location after one shoot. Many photographers chase that one idealistic image for days/weeks/months/years. Put in your time, and even if you don’t get that keeper this time, you’ll be better prepared the next time you visit the location.

Broken light on North Caineville Mesa

Broken light on North Caineville Mesa

5. Forget what you’ve seen. Let me clarify–forget what you’ve seen online, in others’ portfolios, on postcards, etc. This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, as what we’ve seen largely dictates what we hope to capture. Find a way to wipe your mental, emotional and creative slate clean. This is when your own, special style will take over. This is when you will create your own magic. This is what will help you with tip #2 above. Challenge yourself to see what others have not.

Factory Butte with wildflowers

Factory Butte with wildflowers

So now–Plan. Go. Do.

A Monday Manifesto: Sharing Photography “Secrets”

The Iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT

The Iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT

Understanding the technicalities of photography is only half the battle. Actually, it’s much less than half as it’s probably one of the easier things to learn. You can teach shutter speed, aperture, HDR, filter usage and numerous other technical components of photography. You can even teach composition. However, you can only hope to be able to teach vision.

Many people ask my why I am so open about my photographic techniques. Firstly, I enjoy teaching photography. I enjoy seeing the light bulb come on in others’ brains. It makes me think of all the times that happened with me in my earlier years with a camera (and it still does!)

Secondly, you would be hard-pressed to find a photographer out there who hasn’t been the beneficiary of a counselor or mentor of sorts in the field of photography. Although there are many out there who are self taught like myself, none of us have really done it alone. I guess it’s a good way to give back to a small extend.

Thirdly, there really are very few, if any secrets. No matter what I, you or anyone else is doing out there with a camera, there’s a good chance that someone else either in your own backyard or at the far corners of planet earth is already doing it as well. I just have to do it better.

Fourthly (and most importantly), you aren’t me and I’m not you. No matter what I share with anyone out there, they’ll never be me and they’ll never have my own, specially packaged, delivered-on-demand vision for whatever lies in front of my lens. This isn’t some arrogant stance on career and life, it’s simply my own little safety net–one that allows me to create, share and witness things come full circle as those who learn produce something exceptional and push me to do better.

So many are afraid of being one-upped, and therefore hold tight to whatever technique or “secrets” they may have pertaining to their imagery. If you one-up me, then good on ya.

So if you’ve made it through this journal entry…WHAT IS UP with this image??? It’s a 54-second exposure of the iconic Osguthorpe Barn in Park City, UT. It’s been shot ten ways to Tuesday and I wanted to find something truly different. The light on this particular morning was lackluster, but the clouds were something else.

I had just received my Singh Ray Vari ND Filter and wanted to put it to work. I dialed it down to lengthen my exposure, effectively smoothing out the quickly moving clouds against the stark roofline/shape of the barn. I danced around the barn with a hand held 4-stop soft step Grad ND for the entire exposure. It was not easy. It’s hard to replicate. Take it from someone who has tried. This is one of those images that I go back to time and time again and wonder when something else like this will find itself in front of my lens. This is one of those images that keeps me going.

Set a New Standard with Singh Ray Filters

My photographic career is still in its relative infancy, yet I’ve already been fortunate to shoot a wide range of imagery for an even more expansive array of industries. Whether I’m out on a scenic landscape shoot for my own collection, or racing first light for the next commercial client, I always, always have my Singh Ray filters with me.Through my experience, I’ve found that regardless of the type of imagery you’re shooting, the challenges remain largely the same. Something in your frame is often times too bright or too dark leaving the image incomplete without some aid in helping the camera’s sensor to see what your eye is seeing.

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

To use an overly used term, we, as photographers are taught to “think outside the box”. We are taught to find something different to separate ourselves from those less qualified. I have found that by employing my Singh Ray filters in less conventional situations, I am able to deliver a superior image. Sure, you could use artificial lighting in many of these situations, but filters are far less cumbersome. This post is littered with examples of both the more and less conventional uses of Singh Ray filters. Hopefully, you come away inspired to use your filters in ways you never previously imagined.

This first image (top of the post) was made at Deer Valley Resort, UT. When shooting images for a client, it’s important to understand what message they are trying to send through their imagery. I enjoy shooting architectural work, particularly architectural work in the mountain lifestyle genre. I connect well with this type of imagery because I love and live the mountain lifestyle. I understand what it is people hope for when visiting a world class resort. They hope for cold outside and warm inside. They hope for a larger than life winter wonderland. They hope for cozy, comfortable and TBD (to be discovered).

I am able to convey this feeling by enhancing the warm appearance of the lodge on a cold winter’s eve. A 2-stop hard step Grad ND was used to balance and even slightly darken the sky, giving a natural vignette that draws the eye directly to the lodge. Dusk is a fantastic time to use Grad ND filters, as the rich blue sky is deeply saturated and void of harsh contrast.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This second image embodies two of my life’s greatest pleasures: skiing pow, and the warm, soft glow of first light. Images like this require foresight, preparation and a desire to capture something not many others can. I am a big believer in capturing nothing less than a complete image. There are countless photographers out there who could shoot a similar image, but the sky would simply be void of detail, tone and color.

With my background in scenic photography, I’m always particular about making sure the sky is given its just attention, regardless of whether it is a secondary part of the image or not. I hand held a 3-stop reverse ND Grad on this image to ensure no detail was lost. The result is a pleasing, complete image, with pink light so sweet you could drink it up, and a sky with detail to boot.

There are two key things to remember when shooting an image like this (with a hand held filter): 1) make sure to communicate with your skier as to exactly where you’d like the turn/action to take place. 2) Find the proper position for your filter, and don’t move with the skier—keep your camera steady and resist the urge to pan with the skier. This will ensure your initial filter placement doesn’t get skewed and lend an unnatural look to parts of the image.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This next image shows a classic commercial scenic image. It’s not too far off from what many of us do when heading out for a standard scenic sunset shoot: find an engaging composition, hope for great sunset light and shoot away.

This image was made during an editorial shoot for Volkswagen’s Das Auto magazine in Saguaro National Park. The art director for the shoot stood there mesmerized as he watched the 4-stop Reverse ND Grad work its magic, effectively bringing the image to life on the liveview display. One thing worth mentioning is the incredible ease that liveview shooting offers us. If your camera has liveview, make a habit of using it! It’s so much easier to pinpoint filter lines, and to see in real time how the filter is balancing out your exposure/histogram.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

This winter I have been shooting a great deal of architectural imagery. I am a student of existing light (read: I’m terrible with flash photography). Interior lighting can certainly pose some unique challenges when shooting architectural imagery. My preferred time to shoot is at dusk or dawn, when the ambient light balances with the interior light, and you get that soft purple glow in the windows. (Please note that there are countless other ways to shoot architectural imagery, this is simply my preferred method and style).

Even if the exterior/interior light are balanced, however, there still may be hot spots in your image. On a whim, I began using my soft step Grad ND filters to balance out these lighting obstacles. The results were more than pleasing, and before long, I found myself shooting with Grad ND filters inside as much as I do outside. Soft step grads are the perfect filter for this type of imagery as there is little in the way of a defined filter line. Experiment with grad ND filters the next time you shoot interior architectural imagery—it’s much less expensive than an extensive lighting setup, and there’s no setup at all!

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

These last two images demonstrate classic uses of a Reverse ND Grad filter. I am a sunstar fanatic, and have found that with the combination of my 3-stop reverse ND grad and my Canon 16-35mm MkII  (and a bit of help from Mother Nature), I’m able to create dynamic images rich in color and detail, with the added bonus of a sharp, succinct sunstar. The ideal time to capture images like this is right as the sun is either cresting above or dipping below the horizon line.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

The fly fishing image on the Middle Provo River, UT was shot at sunrise. The cactus image, shot in the Tucson Mountain Park was created at sunset. The “perfect opportunity” will last literally just seconds for this type of image, so take special care to find your composition and adjust your camera settings early, allowing yourself to take advantage of the short period of time in which the sun is just hitting that horizon line.  Take special care to stop your lens down to (at least) f16 or so to ensure a tight, defined sunstar.

Regardless of the imagery or circumstance, don’t leave your Singh Ray filters home. As was mentioned earlier in this post, the images may change, but the challenges remain the same. Take your scenic expertise to other genres of imagery and you will find yourself capable of creating magic wherever the camera takes you.

Teaser: AdamBarkerPhotography Master Photo Workshops DVD

Here is a small snippet from my DVD to be released this February by Master Photo Workshops. The DVD will focus on mastering landscape filters. Stay tuned for a pre-order sale announcement. There will be free goodies to go with the DVD for a select number of early purchasers!

Edit: Here’s the link for the DVD Pre-order: http://masterphotodvd.com/site/catalog/dvds/mastering-the-art-of-landscape-filters

Working a Scene Like the Local Buffett

So here’s a question for all you blog readers and photographers out there. When you sit down to chow at your favorite all-you-can-eat buffet, do you simply peck at the salad bar, or do you dive in head first and fill your plate to overflowing with delicacies beyond all earthly comprehension???  I’m guessing the answer is the latter. And if it’s not, you need to check yourself for a meeting with Maury Povich and his never fail lie detector test. Nobody goes to an all-you-can-eat buffet with any other intention than to take full, unadulterated advantage of the calorie-laden offerings on hand.

So what does this have to do with photography? For those of you that managed to stick with me, instead of sticking it to your local convenience store–it is this: It’s time to quit pecking at the proverbial salad bar of photo buffets. When you wake your tired bones up at the crack of dawn, or stay out past sunset, the least you can do is work your particular location until your visual and creative appetite has been satisfied. There is a fine line beween running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and properly working a scene. If you can find the balance, and prepare yourself accordingly, you will leave your photo shoots with so much more than just one or two keepers.  Suer, they may not all be that life-altering contest winner, but they’ll showcase your versatility as a photographer, and commitment to carrying your imagery forward.

For the purpose of this blog post, I have posted a number of fall images shot within a 1/4 mile radius over a period of 24 hrs. The greater majority were actually shot within a period of a couple hours from the same tripod location.  Read on for a couple of tips on taking full advantage of a every photo location you visit.

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

1. Know the area. Having a sure knowledge of the area you plan to shoot is unbeatable. It helps to have visited the location beforehand at different times of day and at different seasons. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, utilize the all-knowing interweb and drum up as much info as possible.

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

2. Keep your eye on the prize. I always like to have one potential 5-star image in mind when I go to a particular spot. This will help you not to leave empty handed. As that magical moment begins to take shape for the image you pre-visualized, pay attention to the surroundings, but resist the temptation to move locations unless you’re absolutely sure you have enough time to set yourself up once again for that fabled 5-star shot.

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

3. Forget what I just said. There are times when Mother Nature will be hitting us across the face with her giant frying pan and we’re just too stubborn to pay attention. Know when a better opportunity presents itself. It’s hard to describe exactly how and when this happens, but after enough practice, you will simply be able to see when you need to run like hell and capture an angle different than the one you had previously anticipated.

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

4. Just change your lens. Many times we are able to capture an entirely different take from the exact same tripod location simply by throwing on a longer or wider lens. Fine tune your ability to “see” as if you were looking through your different lenses. This is an unbelievably beneficial skill in learning how to capture fleeting moments that don’t allow you enough time to throw on every lens in your collection “just to have a peek”. Telephoto and wide angle zoom lenses can be particularly useful when practicing this, as they will account for a number of different focal lengths within their given range. Don’t forget to experiment with both vertical and horizontal compositions!

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

5. Anticipate. Just as an athlete anticipates his opponent’s next move, we can anticipate what may happen as Mother Nature makes the magic happen. Anticipate where the light will fall, and how it will affect the particular composition for which you are set up. Look for opportunities to capture skim light as the sun crests mountain peaks. If you’re not capturing this light within the first 30 seconds, you’re too late. Anticipate! (hey, that rhymes…)

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

Cascade Springs, UT in Fall

6. Visit often. The better you know a location, the better you can take advantage of it in differing conditions. Study the location and know it well enough to ace the next test Mother Nature throws your way.

Fall Foliage of the Wasatch Workshop: Day 3

Day three marked the end of my 2009 Fall Foliage workshop. We made the bumpy drive yet one more time over Guardsman Pass and to the Alpine Loop. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, we set up our tripods overlooking intense groupings of red and orange leaves. The maples and oaks were on fire with color! One of the most serene moments of the workshop was watching the dawn glow fade to grey, soon welcoming the rising sun. All was quiet, except for the clicking of shutters, and the subtle grunts of approval as five-star images appeared on everyone’s LCD displays. In addition to the exciting field sessions, we were also able to spend ample time in the classroom, discussing composition, exposure, use of Grad ND filters and numerous other topics pertinent to capturing memorable and meaningful imagery. Many thanks to Cliff Velinga, Todd Smith, Lewie Edwards, Kit Smith, Jon Sheppard and Guy Moore for a fantastic weekend of photography, and maybe just a little bit of fun too…

Photographer Cliff Velinga at the AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

Photographer Cliff Velinga at the AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

Vibrant fall color at the AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

Vibrant fall color at the AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

AdamBarkerPhotography Fall Foliage Workshop 2009

90 Percent…

Ninety percent of the time, ninety percent of your competition is only giving ninety percent.

What does that mean? That means that the other ten percent giving 110 percent are likely getting ninety percent of the clients. Which group would you rather be in???

I couldn’t get this out of my head this morning as I nearly slept through my alarm at 4:45 am to get up and shoot sunrise. The morning had promise, as broken clouds dotted the skies from storms the night before. I was hoping for a real banger as a reward for pulling my tired bones out of bed. As the sun neared the horizon, more clouds rolled in, and promise slipped to hope. I was hoping for something special…and it never quite showed up.

Regardless, this morning was productive if for no other reason than to get me out with the camera. Thinking. Creating. The image below of East Canyon is really all I came home with. It certainly won’t make me famous, and I may not even remember this image in a month or so. What I do know is that I’m doing my part to be included in the ten percent giving 110 percent. Sooner or later, it’s bound to pay off.

Summer storm clouds skirt East Canyon and the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT

Summer storm clouds skirt East Canyon and the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT

Overcome Adversity with Instinct

It seems lately that I’ve been assaulted with numerous mini challenges these days on my shoots. Whether it’s bad weather, disappointing locations or camera malfunctions–any seasoned photographer will tell you that coming home with keepers is about overcoming obstacles. Capturing memorable and moving imagery is never easy, which is why proper shooting technique and creative vision need to be second nature.

When the scenic shooting is best, light is fleeting. When the action is best, time is scarce. Seconds can make the difference between a 3-star and 5-star image. If you’re fumbling with equipment or second-guessing your composition, you will miss the shot. It’s that simple. Here are a couple of tips that may help in making your photography second nature.

Sunrise at Three Dollar Bridge over the Madison River, MT

Sunrise at Three Dollar Bridge over the Madison River, MT

1. Shoot often–this is perhaps the most important tip I can think of. Practice does make perfect. This is a proven fact. Know your camera controls, but more importantly–know when to do what. This can only come with repetitive practice. Your camera should be as familiar as your favorite spot on the couch. It should feel natural in your hands, and you should be able to react quickly when pressed. The more you have to guess, the greater chance you have of missing the shot.

Sunset near Gunsight Bay on Lake Powell, UT

Sunset near Gunsight Bay on Lake Powell, UT

2. Read your camera manual–and then read it again. A lot of the features on your camera may not apply to what you shoot, but you never know when you might discover a nugget that will make what you do ten times easier. Take it when you travel. Read it on the plane or sitting at the airport. Have your camera in hand as you read it so you can practice implementing what you read.

Producer Eric Budget shoots a fly fishing video short for Megaplex Theaters

Producer Eric Budget shoots a fly fishing video short for Megaplex Theaters

3. Previsualize your shot–this is a concept I discuss often. The better idea you have in your head of what you’d like to capture, the better you will be able to capture it when the image presents itself. If you’re shooting action, try to picture where you’d like your model/athlete to be in the frame for that perfect shot. If it’s a frame filler, decide exactly what part of the athlete to be in focus (most often the face) and make sure to put your pre-selected focus zone on that spot if you’re using autofocus.

2008 Summer Dew Tour action over the Salt Lake City Temple

2008 Summer Dew Tour action over the Salt Lake City Temple

If you’re shooting scenic, picture where the light needs to be to capture what you want to capture. Will it be backlit/front lit/side lit/not lit??? Are you going for the big picture, or will you be shooting something more intimate. What is required for each particular shot? When you know this, you can be taking a mental inventory as you hike or drive to your location. By the time you arrive at your destination, you will have a good idea of what type of shot will work best with the conditions given you.

4. Understand your histogram–much of the time, if a shot is botched it has to do with either blown focus or incorrect exposure. Understanding what your histogram is telling you about your image will allow you to make quick adjustments to get the right exposure. This can be done quickly with the exposure compensation feature (most all digital SLRs and even point and shoots have this feature).

Backlit Lupine at sunset atop Duchesne Ridge, UT

Backlit Lupine at sunset atop Duchesne Ridge, UT

5. Understand when to use which Grad ND Filters–mostly applicable to scenic shooters, this is also important for action and/or lifestyle shooters looking to separate themselves from the pack. Here’s a quick field guide: the greater the difference between shadow and highlight (or sky and FG most commonly), the stronger Grad ND you’ll need (i.e. 2-stop, 3-stop, etc.). Uneven horizon with trees or mountain peaks poking up? Soft step filter. Even horizon line? Hard step filter. Shooting into the sun at sunset or sunrise? Reverse ND Grad.

Sunset reflections of Devil's Castle at Alta, UT

Sunset reflections of Devil's Castle at Alta, UT

Hopefully this list will help you in being better prepared for those fleeting moments that can make or break you as a photographer. We all miss it sometimes, but the better prepared we are, the greater chance we have of tasting success!

Featured Article in Salt Lake Tribune

Despite the ridiculously dorky picture of yours truly, I’m excited to have an article featuring my landscape photography in the Salt Lake Tribune. You can see it online at http://www.sltrib.com/outdoors/ci_12141658?source=rv if you don’t get the paper. Thanks to Brett Prettyman for the great writeup!

sl-trib-screenshot1