Monday, November 26, 2007

Photographing both the forest... and the tree

Steve Kossack sends these two images from his recent Great Smoky Mountains fall-color workshop along with an instructive article just posted on his website. We're picking up parts of that article here to provide a glimpse into how thoughtfully and carefully Steve approaches all his landscape photography.

"Blinded by the light? It happens to all of us at times. I'm always looking for light, color and texture to help me tell the story of every landscape and how I feel about the scene. While with our Smoky mountains workshop in October, we entered Cades Cove on a warm but stormy dawn as the light danced across the vast expanse before us. The weather was moving very quickly and the light was fleeting at best. With so much great color, I now became worried about being overwhelmed and not seeing the forest for the trees!

"In a small section of the cove we were presented with both muted light, strong directional light and beautiful color, but not all at once. In the top image, using the muted light, I saw the wide array of color as the focal point and used a telephoto lens to capture detail.

"The second image of the single tree took more time, however. As the storm drifted by in the distance, the cove before us became dark. The tree had lost most of its leaves and color but I saw it as a strong focal point, isolated as it was. One of the first questions I ask myself when setting up a composition is, 'What brought me here?' In this case it was the tree. Without any filtration the image seemed flat and lifeless. However, foreseeing the possibility that the light in the distance might soon bathe the tree as well, I placed the Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier on my lens and waited. As the light hit the tree the need to darken the sky behind it became apparent, and that was accomplished by using a 4x6-inch Singh-Ray 4-stop, hard-step Graduated ND filter which I moved quickly through the composition during the exposure."

We thank Steve for these two equally fine -- but very different -- color compositions made within minutes of each other in the same thoughtful manner... by seeing and distinguishing the forest from the tree. To read Steve's complete description of this process and explore his Great Smoky gallery, you can visit his website.

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