I like to tell folks that attend my workshops that there is more to landscape photography than meets the eye. Besides the obvious pun, I want folks to really think about the image they want to create rather than rely upon nothing more than luck. Now don’t get me wrong. Luck plays an important role in landscape and nature photography and the harder I work at my craft the luckier I seem to become. And for an Irishman that believes Murphy was an optimist, that’s saying a lot.
Take the shot below for example. The human eye can see the entire scene and adjust it’s aperture (iris) to see detail in the brightest sections as well as in the very deep shadows. However, the dynamic range of this scene from left to right is well beyond what any DSLR’s sensor can hope to capture and honestly beyond what it’s exposure meter can interpret correctly. So what’s a photographer to do when confronted with a situation like this?
To obtain a “reasonable” exposure (notice I didn’t say perfect, just reasonable) your camera needs the help of two filters; the circular polarizer and the graduated neutral density filter. The CP filter can be adjusted to reduce the glare and “white-out” coming from the far left of the scene. The graduated neutral density filter (two actually) can help even out the exposure levels so that your DSLR’s meter can have a chance to get a decent exposure. I tell folks that attend my workshop that these two filters should be part of every landscape photographers’ basic kit that they take everywhere.
I also tell them the five words no respectable photographer in the field should utter; “I’ll Fix It in Post”. Remember, when you fix something in “post” you are either changing data (Lightroom) or bending pixels (Photoshop) but when you fix something at the moment of capture, you are working directly with the reflected light. You may bend the light, absorb the light or modify the light, but you are still working with the same light your eyes “see”. Deliberately manipulating the light to obtain your final image is the difference between taking a casual snapshot and practicing the craft of photography.
Lake Buescher – Smithville, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 31mm, f/16 for 1/8th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.
View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Lake Buescher – Smithville, Texas