Patience is a Virtue

Last summer, I was visiting Acadia National Park to scout out some locations for a NANPA Regional Event that I was to be co-leading there in the fall. I had a list of locations I was scheduled to visit with groups of participants, so I wanted to re-access each spot to make sure I knew the best approaches and find a variety shooting angles that could accomodate a group of photographers with different abilities and shooting styles.

One of the locations I was scheduled to visit was the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. I had never photographed the lighthouse before, often choosing to focus on the less manmade attractions of the park, so I made it a point to get out there and shoot it myself one evening.

I got to the lighthouse around 6:30 or so, more than an hour before sunset, to set up and get a good spot on the rocks. When I arrived, I was met by no less than a dozen people already at the lighthouse, perched in various spots I would have preferred they not be. Typically, I don’t like contending with other people to get a shot, and I feel rude asking people to move out of my way. My rule of thumb is that whoever was there first gets priority, so I scrambled up onto an open spot on a sharp pointy rock where I knew I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. I set up my tripod and wedged my bag in a nice safe spot in the rocks. Then I waited.

And more people came. Photographers – there were at least a dozen with DSLRs, more with point-and-shoots, and at least six tripods, including mine. Spectators, many who wanted their photos taken in front of a completely backlit lighthouse obscured by trees. People who climbed on the rocks right below the lighthouse, I’m assuming just for fun since it is impossible to actually see the lighthouse from that angle. A bird watcher with binoculars. Families with kids. More people came, some people left, and of course no one was sitting still enough to make it possible to include any of the sightseers in my composition. They just kept getting in the way. I was irritated.

Patience is a virtue, I thought to myself, so I waited. I was pretty sure if I waited long enough I would get my shot. While I waited, I observed a bald eagle hunting for fish and some porpoises swimming offshore. At least that made the waiting a slightly less frustrating experience.

As the sun started to set most people cleared away from right in front of the lighthouse so the photographers could get their shots. If I had felt like using a different lens, that probably would have been ok with me too, but I envisioned a wide angle shot, with jagged rocks leading the viewers’ eye into the frame, towards the lighthouse, rimmed in the colors of the setting sun. People were still in my way. So I took a couple boring frames and kept waiting.

From experience, I know that the colors at sunset and sunrise are often the most intense when the sun is about 20 minutes under the horizon. So for sunrise shoots, I always try to get to my location and be set up a half hour before sunrise. During sunset, I stay even when most think the show is over.

And if I’m smarter than the other photographers, and willing to wait longer and work harder for my shots, I can get the place all to myself. I often do. And that’s when the magic happens, and I can unleash my creativity.

Once the sun set people dissipated quickly. One photographer even said “Well I got what I came here for” and left just as the colors were getting more intense – obviously more pink and more saturated – right before his eyes. Others began wrapping up and started to complain about the mosquitos, swatting at invisible demons I hadn’t even noticed yet. Within 15 minutes of the sun setting, I was the only one left.

Patience is a Virtue

This shot was my reward. Because of my perseverance (or stubbornness), I was able to finally capture the image I had envisioned. No people. Brilliant colors. A bold foreground of jagged rocks leading into the frame, punctuated by the red glow of the lighthouse, all bathed in pink and golden light from the setting summer sun.

This is a hand blended combination of seven different frames. I don’t like HDRs, so I bracket my exposures and then combine them in PhotoShop using layer masks. Just processing this shot took at least a couple of hours, but the waiting game was really won in the field. This photograph is the result of being a smarter photographer, one who knows the subject, and who is willing to work harder and shoot longer than the others, not to mention better tolerate uncomfortable rocks and pesky bugs. Mostly it’s because sometimes the one who plays the waiting game best wins.

Flower Photography with Diffusers and Reflectors

 

Reflectors and diffusers are invaluable tools when photographing all sorts of subjects, but especially flowers. Diffusers (white translucent fabric) are used to reduce contrast by softening the light. I like to call a diffuser a “cloudy day in a bag” because when you hold a diffuser over your subject it’s like the clouds rolled in. Continue Reading

Quick Tips for Video with dSLR

Grizzly bear photo by Bill Campbell.

Grizzly bear photo by Bill Campbell.

I will be using the Nikon D4 as an example (the d800 is set up the same way) for shooting video with a dSLR. Continue Reading

The Making of “Clear Water, Hudson River” Panorama

Clear Water, Hudson River

Clear Water, Hudson River

I received a few emails with questions about January’s wallpaper photo “Clear Water, Hudson River”, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to write a “Making Of” article for the benefit of all readers. Continue Reading

Large Format Printing and Paper Selection

Choosing the right paper for your prints can be overwhelming these days given all of the choices available, and especially critical with large print sizes. Recently I had to make 17 large prints for two corporate customers, NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC, and Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, a suburb of NYC. I strive to provide the best possible product and experience for all of my customers, (which for me means going way beyond what is expected, and choosing the best materials and tools available) so I thought I would share some info on my paper choices and printing workflow. Continue Reading

Exposing to the Right – Revisited

Most of us at one point or another have heard or read the maxim in digital photography commonly titled “expose to the right”. But do you really do this on a regular basis, and do you know how? More importantly do you know why? I’ll try to answer these questions as simply as I can and also provide some tips to put this practice into use every time you go out and shoot. After all, I don’t know of a single photographer that doesn’t want to come home with the highest quality images possible.

Many of the students I work with seem to be unclear about exposing to the right, and I think part of this can be attributed to 2 main reasons:

  1. Not having a full understanding of the reading and use of the histogram
  2. Depending on the LCD preview on the back of the camera as a way to aesthetically judge proper exposure, color, and contrast. Continue Reading

Shooting in the Rain

A rainbow over farms in Peacham, Vermont.

A rainbow over farms in Peacham, Vermont.

So many times we give up when the weather becomes inclement. Because we don’t like to get wet, we don’t want our equipment to get wet, it’s a hassle. But have you ever considered the images you can make under stormy conditions? Or being out there as the conditions change? I’m not advocating standing on a beach with Category 4 winds coming at you from Hurricane whomever, but you extend your photographic reach with a little more protection. Continue Reading

Basic Tips for Making Fine Art Prints at Home

Fall colors reflected in the Swift River in New Hampshire

Fall colors reflected in the Swift River in New Hampshire

I’ve heard it said that the process of creating a photograph isn’t complete until you’ve made a print.  I don’t know that I’m in complete agreement but I will confess that I derive tremendous satisfaction in the art of printmaking.   In a blog post I wrote last year titled “Pixels vs. Prints” I wrote about how viewing a photograph on a monitor and in print are two wholly different experiences. Continue Reading

Outdoor Flash Photography – Understanding the Basics

Flash is a very powerful tool for outdoor photographers. While ‘sweet light’ is often available naturally, the midday sun or less than flattering outdoor light may be all that is available and this often presents the need for additional light sources. Continue Reading

How to Paint with Light at Night.

Joshua Trees at Night by Bill Campbell.

Photography derives its name from the “painting with light”. But the term light painting has come to mean using external sources of light (flashlight, candle, etc) to paint in light on a subject at night. The method I use in Light Painting requires a flashlight and some way to color the light. Continue Reading