We’ve moved!

•December 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by.  We’ve moved to http://kurtbudligerphotography.com/blog/ The new site integrates both my website and blog under one roof.  Please come visit, and if you are a regular reader don’t forget to update your bookmark or consider subscribing to the new blog.  Thanks!

Light “Fen”tastic, Acadia National Park Maine

•November 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I apologize for not being around much lately.  I’m in the process of completely redesigning my website and integrating my blog and Photoshelter archive.  I will post links to the new website and blog as soon as the project is completed.  I’m looking into migrating this blog’s content to the new blog but will probably also keep this one up as a sort of sign post.  Thanks for your patience during this process.

On to the images I’ve included here.  This was from one of the last days I spent in Acadia National Park in October of 2010, and yes I’m still in the process of editing and processing those images 🙂  Nothing says “north country” or “wildness” here in the northeast quite like a boreal forest or bog.  For all the ecologists out there this particular shot could just as easily have been a fen, hence the goofy title of the post.  I simply couldn’t come up with anything catchy that incorporated the word bog.  I digress…

I’ve shot this area on past trips to Acadia but never really came away with anything to my liking.  On this late afternoon the light was still pretty intense and somewhat harsh.  I was attracted to the way the vegetation, particularly the red huckleberry seemed to glow when the scene was backlit by the sun.  When I first stumbled onto the scene and found my composition I envisioned a sunstar with radiating beams of light to give the shot more visual impact.  However, at the time the sun was still too far above the distant tree line to pull it off.  Knowing it would take 1/2 hour or so for the sun to descend into position, I set up the camera and tripod and waited for the magic.  In the meantime I shot several frames without the sun in the composition.  They work for me on a different level, primarily because there is more illuminated color distributed across the frame, especially in the background.

Acadia National Park Maine

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Once the sun was low to the horizon (the tops of the distant trees) I carefully adjusted the camera perspective so the sun was just outside the frame with only the slightest margin bleeding over the edge.  Combined with a small aperture this technique can yield some great sunstars with the radiating beams you see here.  If you include too much of the sun or any other light source the effect can be overpowering and cause a lot of lens flare in the other parts of the frame.  I shot two exposures, one with the sun and one where I blocked the sun with my finger.  Blocking the sun altogether provided me a frame with absolutely no flare that I could use back in the digital darkroom if necessary.  Indeed the frame including the sun had several large spots caused by lens flare and overall, lacked contrast in the background.  I processed both frames with the same white balance and combined them in Photoshop.  Using a layer mask I was able to manually blend the sunstar onto the frame with better contrast and no lens flare.

Acadia National Park Maine

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Acadia Blues: Dawn at Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

•November 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’m still in the process of sifting through images from this Autumn’s trip to Acadia National Park in Maine.  The trip was great and highly productive.  This particular shot is from the second morning of the trip at Sand Beach, the largest sand beach this far north, or should I say down east in Maine.  I had scouted the spot the day before looking for potential compositions and oddly enough was planning to shoot something else entirely, not even including the ocean view.  I arrived 45 minutes before the sun came up to give myself plenty of time to get into position and get a spot, this area can be quite busy this time of year.  I also like to arrive well before sunrise because, as is often the case  the best color can come 30 minutes before the sun comes up.

acadia national park photography maine

© Kurt Budliger Photography

That’s exactly what happened on this particular morning.  In fact, I liked the subtle color in the sky so much that I abandoned (it’s important to be flexible in your plan) my original shot.  Instead I decided to focus my composition on this lovely cloud catching the early light and the reflected color in the wet sand on the beach.  I wanted to emphasize these elements so I purposefully let the distant landform got into silhouette thus simplifying the composition further.  Once I had the composition set I shot a number of frames as the waves would roll back off the beach, each time hoping for a nice pattern to emerge.  I often find that my favorite patterns come as the waves are going out instead of in.  I varied my exposure times after reviewing the images on the camera’s LCD.  If the shutter speed was too long the water masked the reflection on the sand and if it was too short there was too much texture which reduced the sense of flow or motion in the surf.  I also like the subtle arc in the foreground sand formed by the reflected highlights.  It helps to drawn the eye back into the image and repeats the shape of the cloud above.

Fungus Amungus: Autumn Detail, Acadia National Park

•October 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

Here’s another from my recent trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. Sorry about the title, but there was more fungus fruiting in the park while I was there then I’ve ever seen anywhere at any other time.  I’m assuming it was due to a recent slug of rain following a prolonged dry spell this summer.

photo of autumn leaves

© Kurt Budliger Photography

For the most part the days were virtually cloudless except for one brief spell when some high clouds rolled in after sunrise providing some lovely diffuse light. I spent the morning exploring some woodlands along the park loop road and was captivated by this particular spot. There were lots of beautiful freshly fallen leaves on the ground which made for a great couple of hours of close-up photography.

I was particularly interested in not only the mix of great colors found in this scene but also the variety of textures and contrasts provided by the mix of maple and aspen leaves with the birch bark and pine needles.  Aside from finding a nice mix of color and texture for this type of shot, I like to incorporate something that is a little different, a game of “one of these things is not like the other if you will.”  In this case it’s the little mushroom that provides that additional element and also helps to counter balance the brighter birch bark on the left.

Visualization and the Art of Seeing

•October 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

Ansel Adams is credited and as coining the term “visualization” as it relates to photography.  The concept is pretty simple actually, before making a photograph (employing your craft) a photographer must first “see” the image in his or her mind’s eye (employing your vision).  There’s a great little snippet of interview footage where Ansel explains the concept in his words, found here.   This is an import step in the imaging process because it requires the photographer to actively engage in the scene before taking a photograph, make decisions about composition, what time of day, light and weather might work best for the image.  The act of visualization can be the difference between making a photograph and taking a snap shot.

acadia national park photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

This image of the rocky coastline in Acadia National Park in Maine was visualized long before I tripped the shutter.  Before my trip to Acadia this year I spent some time studying park maps and consulting Google Earth to find potential spots to shoot sunrise.  The day before I made this image I scouted this somewhat secluded cove to look for compositions.  I timed my mid-day scouting visit with a point in the tide cycle that would be similar to when I’d be shooting the next day.  The difference between high and low tide on this part of the east coast can be as much as 12 feet so the character and potential for compositions can vary significantly.  When I showed up the in the pre-dawn darkness the next day I knew exactly where I’d be going and how I’d be composing my shot.  All that was left was for mother nature to deliver some nice light and clouds for the shot I’d visualized.  I got pretty lucky on this particular morning as these were some of the only clouds I saw in 5 days of shooting.

I find the best light can sometimes come 30 mins before or after the sun breaks the horizon so it’s important to arrive early when shooting sunrise.  Once I had my composition set up I used the live view mode on my camera to zoom into the scene for critical focus and to check depth of field.  I used a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter to balance the brighter sky with the significantly darker foreground.  I wanted to maintain a natural, pre-dawn look to the image so I was careful to not render the foreground rocks too bright.

Surf Marbles, Photographing Acadia National Park

•October 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

I recently spent an exhilarating 5 days photographing in Acadia National Park on the Maine coast.  Mid October is a great time to photograph Acadia, the autumn color is outstanding and sunrise doesn’t occur until just before 7 Am so you don’t have to haul yourself out of be too early to catch the sweet  light.  Likewise, sunset is relatively early so there is ample time to shoot and still have a nice dinner and get to bed early before you do it all over again.  I’ve only just begun editing and processing the images from my trip.  My plan is to feature a selection of images with an accompanying story behind the shot or simply a tip or strategy employed in its capture.

This image is from the first morning at one of the more iconic spots in Acadia National Park.  It’s definitely an early morning or sunrise location, as are most of the good spots in Acadia.  As my luck usually goes when on a photo trip the conditions were not ideal, no clouds to catch the magic light of sunrise and not much going on in the wave department; bottom line no drama.  Well guess what, it’s not always about drama, although you’d never know it by perusing the internet forums.

When I arrived on scene I quickly realized that sunrise wouldn’t produce the image I visualized so I quickly switched gears.  When shooting sunrise or sunset I always try to arrive at least 30-45 mins. before sunrise and stay 30-40 mins. after the sun goes down.  Often times nature puts on a show of color well before or after the sun breaks the horizon.  On this morning I knew the best color would come about 30 mins prior to sunrise and by using a long exposure the color would have an even greater chance to saturate the sensor.  I opted for a low perspective emphasizing the beautiful cobbles on the beach at low tide as my foreground and found a position that allowed for the shoreline to form an arch leading the eye out to the background.  Since the sky was basically empty of any cloud cover I composed the image with only a sliver of sky which also helped to emphasize the wonderful textures and shapes in the foreground beach cobbles.  Lastly I used a 3 stop grad ND filter to help balance the brighter sky and reflection on the water with the darker foreground rocks.   The resulting exposure was just under 2 minutes allowing the color to really build but also helping to smooth out the surface of the ocean and creating an ethereal, dreamlike landscape.

Acadia Nation Park Photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Look Down for Intimate Details

•October 7, 2010 • 1 Comment
close-up photo of colorful fall leaves

© Kurt Budliger Photography

I thought I’d wrap up my series of fall foliage photography tips with one that is particularly useful as we get toward the end of the season.  Once the leaves start to drop or if you’re like me and get the  inevitable wind/rain storm that accompanies peak color, look down.  Thats right, down!  All that beautiful color that graced the landscape and forested hillsides is now on the ground so that’s where you should be hunting for shots.  The nice thing about shooting these intimate close up shots or as photographer Mike Moats like to call them “tiny landscapes” is that you usually can pick one spot, settle down and really take your time.  You don’t have to drive for hours at breakneck speed to some alpine lake in the predawn glow to get screamers.  Simply find a grove of maples or aspens near your home, or like me in your yard and walk around with your eyes glued to the ground, just be careful you don’t trip over your camera bag 🙂

When I’m shooting these kinds of images I like to search for subjects and compositions that have some real punch.  I like to key in on loud colors, graphic patterns, interesting textures and contrasts.  Some of the best opportunities arise during or after a light rain when there are jewel-like water droplets to be discovered.   Another great time for shooting autumn close-ups is early in the morning after a cold, frost producing evening.


Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Polarize

•October 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There aren’t too many filters that I use on a regular basis with one notable exception, my polarizer.  If there is one piece of equipment that I simply couldn’t live without for outdoor photography it would be my polarizing filter (and of course my tripod).  Most folks already know that a polarizer can be used to darken blue skies and make clouds pop in landscape photos.  But my favorite use of the polarizer is to cut unwanted glare from the surface of vegetation as well as wet rocks and water.  The result is more saturated color from leaves, which during Autumn is a real bonus and more contrast in the surface of water, particularly in stream shots.  There’s no secret formula or recipe for deciding when to use the polarizer, simply pull it out of the bag, hold it up to your eye and rotate the ring.  If you like what you see then use it, if not then put it away until the next shot.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.  In the first set the polarizer cut unwanted glare from the forest canopy and really brought out some great color in the leaves.  In the second series the effect was to cut the glare from the stream side rocks as well as the surface of the stream creating a more pleasing color palette as well as tonal range.

adirondack photography

with polarizer

without polarizer

vermont photography

with polarizer

without polarizer

There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when using a polarizer.  First, the filter reduces the amount of light entering the lens (usually anywhere from 1-2 stops) necessitating longer shutter speeds than without the filter.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially if you are shooting moving water or want to create some kind of motion blur.  Second, make sure to buy a circular polarizer and not a linear as the latter tends to interfere with the camera’s autofocus system.  Buy the best quality filter you can afford to ensure high image quality and always keep it clean.

Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Soft Light for Streams and Forests

•September 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment
fall foliage photography in New Hampshire

© Kurt Budliger Photography

If you’re starting notice that all of fall foliage photography tips so far seem to focus on light that’s good.  One of the keys to making great photographs is choosing the right light for you subject.   During the foliage season I’m often drawn to intimate landscapes that incorporate a meandering river or stream as well as compositions that feature forest habitats.  Without a doubt the best light under which to photograph these types of scenes is soft, diffused light on cloudy, foggy or rainy days.  This type of light is perfect because without the harsh direct light found on sunny days you avoid super dark shadows and ultra bright highlights.  The result is a nice even light that allows all the rich details, textures and colors to be enjoyed.

When composing images on cloudy days it’s usually a good idea not to include the sky.  On cloudy or overcast days the sky will appear as bright white or dull gray in the frame and quite frankly isn’t that pretty.  Since it’s also probably the brightest thing in the frame it will pull the eye up and away from all the beautiful texture and color in your composition.  My rule of thumb is to only include the sky when there is something great going on, perhaps some pretty puffy white clouds against a blue sky, a dramatic storm cloud or a colorful sunset.

fall foliage photography in New Hampshire

© Kurt Budliger Photography

I sometimes go a step further by shooting these types of scenes when it’s raining or just after a rain.  Stream shots in particular really benefit from a little rain.  When the rocks in a stream are wet they are darker and tend to be far more colorful than when they are dry.  Don’t worry too much about getting your camera a little wet, simply dry it off occasionally and make sure to wipe any water from the lens to avoid visible water drops in the image.

Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Shoot Early in the Morning

•September 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment
vermont fall foliage photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Shooting early in the morning offers a number of advantages for creating some striking fall photographs.  On days that aren’t cloudy (the five or so that we get here in the northeast) the light is best early and late in the day.  Try to avoid shooting scenics and intimate landscapes during the middle part of the day, the light is very strong and the contrast range can easily exceed the dynamic range of the camera sensor yielding blocked up shadows and/or blown highlights.  Early morning light however can be magical.  It’s warm, far less harsh and intense than mid-day light and because it’s passing through a lot moisture in the atmosphere that accumulated over night it tends to glow, adding an ethereal quality to any scene.

Another benefit to early morning photo sessions is the fact that there is usually little to no wind (unless of course a weather front is passing by during the wee hours of the morning as was the case this weekend).  I find this to be beneficial when shooting lakes and ponds because calm winds create the best opportunity to catch reflections.  We don’t have huge and dramatic mountains here in the northeast so I often head to lakes and ponds in hopes of shooting the surrounding hillsides and color reflected in the calm waters, thus adding another element of drama to my scenes.  Calm winds also aid in getting sharp images of foliage.  Often times when I’m shooting scenics with lots of depth of field (small apertures) my resulting shutter speeds are quite slow.  The slightest breeze can create enough movement in the leaves to render blurry images, not so early in the morning.

Lastly, I’m not a morning person but shooting early in the morning has another benefit quite different then what’s already been mentioned.  Autumn is prime time to be in the northeast, particularly where I live in Vermont.  When our leaves turn each year we get a huge influx of tourists, leaf peepers flock to Vermont from all over the world.  The iconic spots and roadways throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and the Adirondacks can get very busy, however the crowds don’t usually show up until they’ve had ample time to shower, eat breakfast and make a pass through the hotel gift shop.  So if you’re willing to get up early you’ll not only get the best light and conditions for photography but you’ll have the place to yourself.

adirondack photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

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