Photo Critique – Fog in Yellowstone by Chris Lascell

Fog and Trees by Chris Lascell

Fog and Trees by Chris Lascell

This week, I’ve chosen to critique Chris Lascell’s photo of fog and trees. Chris shot this on a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park and says that “The photo was taken near Old Faithful. It’s an area of the park with lots of geothermal activity, so remains covered in fog until late in the morning. The fog lifted and almost immediately switched to bright mid-day sun.” Many of my favorite nature photos involve dramatic atmospheric conditions, and fog is something I seek out whenever I can in order to add a bit of mystery and mood to a photo. Being in the right place at the right time is half the battle in outdoor photography, and Chris did a great job of finding a scene with beautiful subject matter and light.

I enjoy the color of this scene and I love how there is just the “right” amount of fog, misting up the bottom of the trees, but allowing the tops of the trees to be seen clearly. I might have exposed this about half a stop brighter to lighten the snow and the mood, but choosing to do this really comes down to Chris’s intentions with the photo. A darker photo feels a little colder and more understated, which is also a valid interpretation of this scene. In weeks 3 – 6 of my on-line course I’ll be getting into composition in greater detail, but one thing I always recommend to my students is that when you encounter a scene or subject that you really like, that you should experiment shooting it with several different compositions, from different angles and perspectives. With this scene, I would try two main perspectives: a close-cropped view of the trees and fog with a telephoto lens, and a more wide angle perspective that gives depth to the scene. In either case, I would include less of the sky, as about half of it in this photo is basically empty space that doesn’t add to the impact of the photo.

Chris was on the right track by including the little bit of a tree in a foreground. This provides an object near the viewer that “anchors” the scene and provides some perspective for determining scale in the scene. However, I would have tried to get the distant trees in the top third of the frame and then use a little more of that tree in the foreground, or find some other foreground object that could provide some interest and could be kept sharp with more depth of field, which can be achieved with a small aperture like F16 or F22. Using a longer foreground like this with a strong foreground element is key to providing depth in a big landscape shot like this.  I notice some tracks in the snow on the pond, and I wonder if they could have been incorporated into the scene as well, or perhaps instead of the foreground tree. The trail leading at a diagonal towards the distant tree line would have been a great compositional tool. Of course, for all I know, Chris would have been swallowed up by a geothermal vent if he ventured any further into the scene!

If you have any thoughts on Chris’s photo or my critique, please post them in the comments section below. To see more of Chris’s photos, visit his Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrislascell/. There are some other cool Yellowstone photos there.

For having his photo selected, Chris will be receiving a copy of The AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography. For a chance to win your own copy, check out this week’s assignment, Maximize the Light, and post your photos to our Flickr Group. I’ll be choosing a photo from this week’s assignment next Wednesday.

Cheers!

-Jerry

P.S. Here’s a look at what’s currently in the Flickr Group:

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