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.

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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

Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Back Light

•September 22, 2010 • 3 Comments

In honor of the the fall foliage season that is upon us here in Vermont, arguably one of my absolute favorite times for photography, I thought I’d offer a series of posts during the coming days that provide some helpful tips for capturing some stunning Autumn photographs.  I’m thinking five posts each featuring a different tip for improving your fall photography.

First let me start by stating that as I write this things are really starting to pop here in northern Vermont.  We’ve had some cool to down right chilly nights in the past week and the color is rapidly advancing.  I’m predicting peak color above 1,400 feet and in the northern part of the state to be sometime next week, definitely by the first of October.

Okay tip #1: Use back light to make fall foliage colors pop!  Find an angle that places the dominant light source (most likely the sun) behind your subject, ( you know, the pretty trees you’ve traveled so far to see and photograph).  This type of light literally makes the tree canopy or vegetation look as though it is emitting the light and the color takes on an almost electric vibrance.  Metering these scenes can be tricky so make sure to check your histogram (particularly the color or RGB version) to avoid blowing any important highlights, especially the red channel which I’ve found particularly prone to clipping.

Here’s one from yesterday while out scouting the foliage in my neck of the woods.  As you can see the leaves of this red maple take on an eye catching luminance and vibrance that makes them pop against the darker forest background.  The other thing to note is that because the tree is backlit the near side of the trunk is in shadow and as such is very dark, resulting in some really nice contrast against the brighter leaves.

fall foliage photography in vermont

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Don’t like the weather in Vermont…

•September 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

…wait 5 minutes (or 10 as is the case here) because it’s bound to change.  I love September in Vermont, the air is crisp and clear, the skies full of puffy clouds and there is a hint of fall color in the canopy.  It’s a great time to dust off the camera gear and get out and work some compositions before the real color starts in ernest.

I spent the past few nights up on Nichols Ledge in Cabot hoping to catch some dramatic light around sunset.  People that know and photograph with me know that I tend to be cursed when it comes to sunrise and sunset light and this week was no different.  On both evenings the skies were filled with beautiful clouds and held much promise for a dramatic scene at sunset.  And on each night massive storms rolled in from the west just minutes prior to the best light of the evening, scuttling my chances of a killer sunset.  I’ve included two images from last night, taken about 10-15 minutes apart to illustrate just how quickly the light and landscape can change.  The first image depicts a rather peaceful mood while the second packs a bit more drama, with a rather ominous sky.  If there is a lesson or tip here it’s to get out regardless of the forecast and stay on your toes as the light and weather change.  My original expectations for images didn’t pan out but I kept an open mind and altered the plan based on the conditions in the field.

Both images were made using a canon 5D II, 24-70 f2.8, and some graduated neutral density filters (2 stop soft for the first and 3 stop hard for the second).

vermont landscape photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont landscape photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Blinking Light Gallery Show – Light on the Land: Autumn Selections

•September 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well final preparations for my upcoming show at the Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield, Vermont are finally completed.  I hung the prints last night in what seemed like 90 degree heat, summer is hanging on for one last blast before it relents to Autumn.  The theme of the exhibit is “Light on the Land; Autumn Selections” in honor of the upcoming season.  Much of the work I’ve chosen to print for the show is new, with a couple oldies but goodies thrown in.  The prints will be on display for the entire month of September so please swing by if you’re in the area.  There will be an opening reception with yours truly on Saturday September 11 from 4 – 6 PM at the gallery.  More details below.

Vermont landscape photography exhibit

© Kurt Budliger Photography

Sheila and Gerard, Wedding at the Skinner Barn in Waitsfield, Vermont

•August 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment
vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

My apologies, I haven’t been keeping up with the blog very well of late.  It’s primarily due to the time of year, summer is typically a very busy time for wedding photography here in Vermont, and as such, much of my time has been spent shooting as well as editing lots of new work.  Below you’ll find a bunch of my favorite images from a fantastic wedding I shot back in late May at the Skinner Barn in Waitsfield, Vermont.  The couple was super cool, big skiers at Mad River Glen, the decor and ambiance at the Skinner Barn was fantastic and the weather was perfect.

As always I’ve chosen a sample of my own personal favorites from the day.  They are favorites for a variety of reasons, perhaps the light was particularly engaging, the moment spectacular, the composition pleasing, story compelling or better yet, all of the aforementioned.  The one thing that’s for sure, the images are not cheesy, gimicky or contrived in any way.  You know what I mean, we’ve all seen the set up, and in my humble opinion hokey shots of the groomsmen jumping off some rock or the bridesmaids all peeking out from behind trees with the bride in the foreground.  Give me a break, no one really does that, it won’t seem cool when you are looking back at your album in 30 years and I simply am not that kind of wedding photographer.  My goal is always to produce the most authentic and artistic images without dictating the day or interfering with the natural flow of events.  As always enjoy!

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

vermont wedding photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

 
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