Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brian Rueb reminds us there will be times when conditions are just right -- so it pays to be ready!

Veteran freelance photographer Brian Rueb leads a lot of photo workshop these days, and he pays close attention to the weather reports. "Weather happens," says Brian, "There's no good reason to expect -- or even wish for -- perfect shooting conditions every day we're in the field. In fact, many of our most interesting and dramatic images are captured in rough weather with stormy clouds, high winds and light that changes every minute. And then there are those times when conditions seem almost perfect.

"The Sand Harbor area of Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite areas to explore. There are endless possibilities for photography here. I have tried for many years to find a morning that yielded the conditions I found on this particular sunrise you see above. It was spectacular in every aspect. This image of Bonsai Rock was one I’ve been trying to capture for a number of years. The conditions here are often less than favorable, and the lake itself is notorious for sucking the life out of a good sunset or sunrise by removing the clouds from the area. If by some chance the clouds do stay put, then the wind is usually blowing, removing all the reflections.

"When I arrived on this day, I knew the location well enough to know where I wanted to shoot from and what I was hoping to get. I knew I needed the warming effects and polarizing of the Vari-N-Duo filter to help me bring out the right amount of reflection in the surface of the lake as well as providing a glimpse into the amazing rocks lying below the water's surface. I also used a 4-stop soft graduated ND filter to help balance the tricky lighting and brightness of the morning sky with the foreground. The rest of the shot was simply a matter of balancing me and my tripod in the crevice between two large boulders. It was a bit tough as one of my feet was forced to be submerged in the lake in order to get the right angle. It was so worth it though, because seeing the image I’d had in my head come out great on my screen made the 2:30 am departure time, the 4 hours of driving, and the bitterly cold morning nothing but afterthoughts and details to a good story.

"The Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California, are amazing in every regard. Towering snow capped peaks loom just beyond this landscape that looks like someplace on another planet. It’s actually a relatively small desert located minutes from majestic mountains. By wandering and climbing over these rocks, I’ve found several places that I really enjoy photographing. On this crisp morning there weren’t any dramatic skies, but the pastel pinks radiated off the fresh snow in the mountains. What's not to like?

"Here again, the conditions were just about perfect for shooting this scene -- as long as we didn't overlook something. The Alabama Hills is another area I find tricky to photograph. It’s been shot a billion times... maybe more, by photographers with stunning portfolios and rich landscape history. I know going into the location I’m not breaking new ground with what I’m bringing back. My goal is to make the best of what conditions I have, and try to find a slightly different take on this spot. I chose this area because I loved the lines in the rock, and the way they lead the eye into the scene. It also was a higher vantage point, which allowed me to show the depth of the scene, and the magnitude of this otherworldly landscape. I didn’t have the best of conditions for this shoot as far as sky goes, but I used the pastel pinks that I did have, which I thought went well with the warm tones of the image. I used my LB Color Intensifier, which works well on warmer tones to really bring out the warmth of the rocks and the sky. I also used a 3-stop soft graduated ND filter to help balance out the top portion of the frame. The whole morning, while not earth-shattering in terms of epic conditions, was a great way to spend time working on composition and trying to find new takes on old locations.

"We’re on pace this year to teach over 1200 students at the Aperture Academy, in our gallery and out in the field. By far the most frequent questions asked by people who have been into photography for a while is how to use filters. We love to talk about filter use. For me and the other instructors, filters play a big part in what we do as landscape photographers. They help balance tricky light, accentuate color, provide or cut out reflections, add time to exposures, and so on. Using filters takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve learned when and how to use them properly, they become a tool in your bag that you can’t live without. I’ve actually turned around and left a photography outing because I forgot to bring my filters."

Brian is based in Northern California and is a full-time instructor with the Aperture Academy in San Jose. He recently completed a 65-day photo trip around Iceland with a full kit of Singh-Ray filters. To check out more of Brian's work and follow his workshop schedule and other projects, just visit his website or add him on Facebook.

No comments: