Behind the Scenes | Turning Up in All the Right Places

March 26, 2014  •  2 Comments

The BrinkThe BrinkUpper Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan.

"Brink" | Upper Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

If I said I had a three step process for creating landscape photographs would you be thinking...

1. Buy an expensive camera

2. Travel to a beautiful location

3. "CLICK!"

If so, you wouldn't be alone.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there about landscape photography, so I thought I'd "throw back the curtain" a little today and share a few thoughts about my process. 

For me, the creation of a fine art landscape photograph goes something like this...

1. Plan for the Photograph

2. Create the Photograph

3. Bring it to Life in Post-Production

So let's talk about step #1. Plan for the photograph. I always begin with the end in mind.  I develop a plan, then carry it out. To really come away with something special, you must photograph with a purpose.  I define my primary objective, and pre-visualize what the image or collection will look and feel like.  

Once I have the big picture I work on refining it. Where can I find the topography I'm looking for?  Where is the best vantage point? What direction does the canyon or mountain range run? What time will the sunrise? How many miles is the hike in? Can I get there in the dark before sunrise? When will there be a full moon?  What time of year will yield the most unusual weather or interesting skies? Do I need to be there when the tide is in, or out? When will spring foliage arrive? What month is best for good flow for that river or waterfall? How early in the season will that mountain road be clear of snow? What week will the wildflowers likely be at their peak?  When will the fall color be at its peak?

Why is all this planning so important? If you just grab your camera and show up somewhere "pretty", you might end up with this...

Lower Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

Most Michiganders would agree that Tahquamenon Falls is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Michigan. But how about this photograph?  It seriously pains me to post it here, but I took this snap just for you. :) It seems there must be more to creating a landscape photograph than just showing up in a beautiful location with your fancy camera, right?

With photography, timing is everything. The image above, of Lower Tahquamenon Falls was taken about 3:30 on a fall afternoon.  At that time of day, at that time of year, that meant I was shooting almost directly into the sun, so instead of capturing colorful fall foliage, the trees look almost black and that painful glare on the river sure doesn't highlight its lovely root beer color.  There were plenty of people taking pictures of the falls at that time, but that wasn't my plan.

The BrinkThe BrinkUpper Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan.

"Brink" | Upper Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

My plans for photographing Tahquamenon Falls began months before the image was taken when I decided to skip the falls during my summer travels in the area in order to return during the fall.  The image I pre-visualized needed fall foliage to compliment the color of the river, so the trip was slated for October.  The second part of the plan was to wait for the beautiful, even light that would come with the sunset.  This allowed me to use the slower shutter speeds I prefer for capturing waterfalls, and gave me the ability to emphasize the fall foliage. I chose to photograph the Upper Falls, rather than the lower, to make the most of the angle of the setting sun at that particular time of year.  Mother Nature threw in her own twist with a sunset that turned the sky and the river lovely shades of pink and purple.  It all come together in a moment that was definitely worth the wait.

Now that spring is finally here, at least on the calendar anyway (someone really needs to give Mother Nature a heads up), I'll soon be heading west to the photographer's paradise of southern Utah and northern Arizona.  You'll find me camera in hand in Vermillion Cliffs, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Capital Reef and Zion National Park. This trip has been long in the works, my brain is ready to explode with all the planning details, and I'm more than ready to get out there and put my photographic plans into play.

Check back soon for new images from the spring trip and for a few thoughts on steps 2 & 3, creating the photograph and bringing it to life in post-production.

 

You can find the online galleries for my landscape collections HERE.  Fine Art prints and canvases can be ordered directly from the online galleries. Please contact me with any questions you may have about selecting or ordering fine art for your home or office.

 


Comments

2.Kim Kozlowski Photography, LLC
Thanks Mike, I appreciate your feedback.
1.Mike Mock(non-registered)
Excellent piece full of great advise.
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