I was out in my favourite place in Canada this week, kananaskis lakes, on a photo walk beside the wonderful part frozen waters. At the lower lake the squally snow showers added a nice element to the images, and we had a great time in the wild surroundings of the lake shore.
Often as photographers we hear the phrase, oh there's nothing to shoot where I live. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that I do have some spectacular vistas here in the rockies, but after years in the area I'm now shooting the same topics repeatedly. The trick is to see them differently whenever possible.
Timing obviously plays a part, you can shoot your locations at sunrise, sunset, blue hour, midday and nighttime for a start. That provides five very different views, then there's weather, cloudy, clear, sunny, overcast, raining, snowing or foggy, that's another seven views.
Then there's framing, shooting from high, low, straight on or at an angle to show perspective, that's another four ways to bring about a change. Your lens choice will also provide numerous options, and when you start multiplying those options you realise the possibilities are endless.
Seasons are something we all have in common, winter, spring, summer and fall/autumn all bring their own beautiful changes to any location.
Your composition provides another almost endless number of opportunities for change. The three images below from my trip this week, all show the same mountain in the upper third of the frame, but changes to the foreground elements bring a huge change in the overall image. The weather, angle of view and time of day are all roughly the same but the foreground change is enough to make three unique shots (admittedly the third shot has more cloud but it is, in effect the same image)
My message I guess, is that you never fully exhaust a location and you should always challenge yourself to return again and again, and push to make a new image every time.
I set out for kananaskis yesterday to spend an afternoon shooting the early winter scenes with a friend. I had hoped for a nice sunset to end the day, but low cloud moved in just before sunset and killed any chance of that. We did find some nice images and got lucky with nice cloud formations on more than one occasion.
The shot I chose to share today is of the dam on the north east corner of the lower lake. There are a few reasons not to use this location for a landscape shot, beginning with the dam itself. Such a hard straight line cutting across a natural landscape can often spoil the shot, because obvious man made structures can sit awkwardly in natural environments.
As I walked from the parking area I was struck by the shadow 'fingers' reaching out toward the dam and mountains beyond. The hoar frost on the surface of the frozen lake brought a smattering of white into the dark shadows, and by crouching lower I helped elongate those shadows. The elongated shadows then created the frame and wonderful contrast to push the eye into the bright winter sunshine where towering peaks sat perfectly beneath swirling clouds.
The light snow on the dam itself does help it blend into the landscape more comfortably but the shadows are the key player in the shot. A little natural framing can really help a plain image step up to a much more interesting one.
You can learn more about in shot framing on my basic composition page which has 18 elements to start your photographic journey, or to help your continual improvement. You can also find other tips and information under the tips & more section of this site, which I hope to build on over time.
For more than 4 years I chased the shot below at a small spillway pond in kananaskis. I first spotted the location as I returned from a hiking trip and thought, "that would make a great shot if the water was calm". Soon after that day the weather predictions were good and I made the 90 minute drive back to the area with the camera gear in tow.
On arrival, what was a beautiful calm day was inexplicably disrupted by a persistent wind over the water. I waited for some time with no sign of change and opted to go elsewhere rather than lose the day. From that moment on the same day was repeated again and again, until I began to think that seeing calm water here was impossible.
The image I sought became something of an obsession and every time I was in the area I would check in, only to find that persistent wind pushing ripples across the surface. One morning I set out early and found the water perfectly calm, but being so early and facing west meant the light was just not right. I came for sunset on 3 separate occasions and got neither the sunset or the calm waters.
Then in october 2016 (my 4th year here in Canada) I set out once more with the promise of calm made by the weatherman still ringing in my ears. When I arrived at the pond the usual wind was spoiling the surface and I thought I'd missed out again, but I waited for a while. As I walked up and down the bank finding my preferred spot again, the water fell calm a couple of times for short periods. Those short periods of calm were enough to give me a huge boost and I knew today was going to be the day.
Once ready I simply waited for the wind to drop again and made 7 landscape images from left to right across the scene. It took only seconds but the last two frames captured the wind returning which initially frustrated me, so I decided to wait for another attempt at the panorama. Unfortunately the wind didn't die down again and I had just one string of shots to stitch together.
Once the images were stitched, the string of high cloud blown apart above the stunning mountains and colour change in the forest below reflected wonderfully in the spillway. My annoyance at the wind in the last two frames turned to joy at capturing the source of my frustration as part of the image I had envisioned.
So, for those of you who suffer the same at your 'frustration spot', keep on going, because when you do make the image it will hold a wonderful story and much greater meaning with every viewing. As for me and this location, now I'm chasing a perfect sunset with calm water, and if it could be in the autumn too, that would be great.
If you enjoy hearing the story behind the shot, you can see more of my Image Tales using this link, or by visiting the Tips & More section via this link or the tab above.
Abstract photography has always interested me, I've always loved the output from this genre, not just in photography but also in other forms of art. I sincerely wish I was better at it myself, and confess that a lack of practice is not helping.
Today while leading a photo tour in kananaskis I spotted a nice reflection in an area of thin ice on Spray Lakes and made an image hoping to demonstrate the genre. When I checked the shot on scene using the camera screen, I was dissatisfied and moved on fairly quickly.
When I got home and looked through the shots from the day I realised it was actually a nice image. The wind whipping spindrift across the top of the ice and over the reflected mountains really did capture the shot as intended even if the camera didn't show it so well at the time.
I still have considerable work to do if I'm to get better at abstract photography, but every time we try we learn. When we get it right we learn a little more of what to do, and when we get it wrong we learn a little more of what not to do next time. So it is literally a no lose situation, all we have to do is shoot, because if we don't try we don't learn.
That doesn't mean going around waggling your camera at everything you see, you still need to consider what it is you are trying to achieve in order to know if you achieved it or not. But we miss 100% of the shots we don't make, so next time you think you would like to try something with your photography, go out there and do it. Trial and error cost little in modern photography and every shutter release is a potential learning experience.
Out shooting in kananaskis with a friend earlier this week, having a great day chasing the light between dense cloud formations. The weather was predicted to be sunny with scattered snow showers, we certainly got the snow showers but not much of the sun, as is often the way with mountain weather at this time of year.
We parked by the boat ramp on upper kananaskis lake and walked the shoreline from south to north. We spent quite some time chatting whilst waiting around for the light to break through the cloud at locations we had selected, making for a really enjoyable and relaxing day overall.
As we hiked back toward the car park at the end of the day, another heavy snow shower passed by and a burst of sunlight managed to break through the thick cloud layers. The light struck the side of Mt Putnik far beyond the western edge of the lake just moments after we had passed a small island with bare trees protruding from the stunted vegetation below.
I quickly opened the rucksack and grabbed my 5D IV and 70-200mm lens and ran back along the trail to put the trees between me and the illuminated mountainside. The harsh contrast of light and dark in the centre of the frame and surrounding cloud dulling the skies made for a wonderful opportunistic image which became my favourite from the day and certainly worth sharing on the blog.
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