The Milky Way Over Mount Hood

The Milky way over Mount Hood

The Milky way over Mount Hood Oregon.

There once was a time when I would stay up for several nights in a row and had no stories worth telling. These days I stay up for one night and have a wonderful story that I could tell.

I could tell about enjoying this warm, calm dark Summer night with a sky full of stars and a snow capped mountain so close it seems as if you can reach out to touch it, with the Milky way above it like a feathery plume from a hat, and then coming home with a photograph that needs no description.

I have so many wonderful stories that I could tell, and so many photos that need no words.

Click Here - https://gary-randall.com/product/mount-hood-milky-way-night/

Working Through Creative Slumps

Nature Photographers Network

My latest blog post at my favorite Photography website, Nature Photographers Network.

In a creative slump? Perhaps you’re experiencing some discouragement because it seems like everyone else is creating brilliance, but your own worst critic, yourself, is telling you that your work is junk. Maybe you feel that you’re just not progressing as fast in your skill as you think you should. I’m here to tell you that it’s natural. We all get into a slump now and then. We have our good days and bad days. Sometimes we feel inspired and encouraged while on other days we feel uninspired and ready to take up another hobby like cultivating moss.

Click the link below to read more...

https://naturephotographers.network/articles/working-through-creative-slumps/

Your The Camera’s Aperture Affects your Focus

Single Exposure using my focus technique

We’re focusing on focusing this month. How do I focus my photos is one of the most asked questions of me by other photographers. It’s a great question, and one that one would think would be pretty basic and simple. It’s usually the last skill that a beginning photographer considers when starting out but seems to be the toughest to master. I mean it seems that it would be pretty basic, what with the sophistication of the Auto Focus features in modern digital cameras, but once one takes a few photos and is let down by the Auto Focus Mode it’s easy to see why in many cases, especially landscape and portraiture, you will want to manually focus your photo.

There are several things that will affect the focus or clarity of our photos including a completely out of focus image, one where the focus is so far off that nothing is clear or in focus. That issue is obvious, of course, so we won’t discuss this in depth. We will assume that we are focusing but want to refine the clarity and focus of the shot. I’m going to try to proceed without citing mathematics or terms and theories such as Hyperfocal Distance, Circle of Confusion etc. The purpose of this article is to just understand the basics enough to understand how to overcome a common problem with focusing. Trust that this could become so lengthy that it would require another ten pages of the Mountain Times to cover it. Sometimes when someone is learning something new more information beyond what it takes to understand the concept causes confusion and discouragement. Once the basics are learned the understanding can be broadened in the future. I always tell people that if it requires mathematics to take photos I’d be a C-Minus photographer.

First let’s consider blurring caused by the camera moving or objects in the scene moving. This is not a focus issue but it can affect the clarity and areas of focus in the photo as you affect it. If movement is causing problems then your shutter speed is too slow. You’ll need to make sure that your shutter speed is sufficiently fast to freeze the movement. There are times where a slow shutter blur effect is desirable such as in creeks or waterfalls. This typically requires one to make an aperture adjustment to vary the shutter speed. Opened more to make it quicker and closed more to make it slower, but the depth of field will change with each aperture change.

So what’s this depth of field of which you speak you ask? The depth of field is how deep the area that will be in focus is from front to back. The wider your aperture the shallower or narrower your depth of field will be and then when you stop down, or close the aperture down, the depth of field becomes deeper. Remember that the larger the aperture opening the smaller the f/stop number and the smaller the aperture opening is the larger the f/stop number. Something to consider when you’re trying to maximize your focus is that the closer you are to the subject or foreground narrower your depth of field will be as well. If you’re having trouble getting everything in the scene within acceptable focus stand back a little. The same with portraiture. If you’re shooting with a wide aperture to blur the background intentionally you may have trouble getting the person’s whole face in focus. There’s not a lot worse in portrait photography than having the eyes in focus but the nose out of focus or vice-versa. Either stop down (close down the aperture) or stand back a little further or both. This works best with a zoom lens so you can recompose as you move away.

Hyperfocal Distance - I know. I said that I was going to try not to mention this but I think that curiosity will eventually lead a photographer to wonder. Simply and basically, the hyperfocal distance is the point where you will focus to allow everything from the foreground to the background to be in “acceptable focus”.

There’s a mystical mathematical formula to determine what that the hyperfocal distance is, but if you remember this advice you will get by like I have been for a long time without taking a calculator into the field with me. Here goes - I remember that I want to be in my lens’s sweet spot, which is the upper and lower limit of the aperture’s clearest settings. Each lens is different but the average lens is approximately f/8 to f/14. Compose your shot but try not to get too close to the foreground unless you don’t mind the background to be soft - Remember the closer to your foreground the less likely the object in the background will be in focus - And then focus to infinity on your lens focus ring and then focus back until the foreground just comes into focus. Then you will usually have the depth of field maximised and pushed out as far as possible while still maintaining a focused foreground. It’s easy to understand once you try it.

That may have been a long road to a short conclusion but just a basic understanding of how your aperture and depth of field affects focus allows you to take control of exactly how you will focus your photo. I hope that I made that as clear as possible.

Shallow Depth of Field Photo
Shallow Depth of Field Photo
Focus Stacked Photo
Focus Stacked Photo

Lost In The Mossy Forest

Lost in The Mossy Forest.

Here's a photo that I made yesterday while guiding my friends Al and Kathy Baca, from Long Island New York, around the Mount Hood National Forest. We spent a day in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and a day in the Mount Hood National Forest with a day of post processing between. It was a great time.

This photo was made while they were photographing bugs, flowers. lichen and moss with their macro lenses. I let them be for a few moments while I dove into the forest to get to this area. The roots captured my attention immediately. While I was there I felt as if I was in the realm of the forest sprites and gnomes.

This whole forest is in it's Springtime best. All of the deciduous leaves are fresh green as well as the mosses. The forest is moist right now and emits a primordial essence and exudes an aura of primal simplicity. Life in its most primitive and its most beautiful.

I love the Pacific Northwest rain forests, especially in the Springtime. Consider a private Oregon photography exploration tour with Gary Randall Photography some day to explore some of the less visited places in this incredible state. I think that you'll be glad that you did.

You can purchase prints of this photo at this link. https://gary-randall.com/product/deep-in-the-forest/ 

Columbia River Gorge Spring Wildflowers and Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography

Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography

Columbia River Gorge Spring Wildflowers and Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography -  In this day and age of hyper sharp, focus stacked photos, how do you feel about shallow depth of field landscape photographs?

When I'm photographing the wildflowers in the gorge I can almost always expect a wind or at least some sort of a breeze that tends to toss the flowers around. When you're trying to increase your depth of field the breeze makes stopping down more difficult to do. An aperture lets more light in when open wider but the depth of field narrow, blurring the background. In many cases most photographers try their best to maintain a deep focus, but when that's not possible the next step is to photograph multiple exposures at different focus points into the scene until frames are captured with each area in focus. After which these frames are combined to create a full focus from front to back.

But what if you are unable to focus stack or simply do not want to? In that case you will, most likely, deal with an area in the photo that's out of focus. This can be used to a certain effect to create a feeling of depth. It can also be used to isolate an area in the scene that the photographer wants to make the subject of attention. In the case of the photo that is included with this blog post the foreground is in focus but it trails off to the soft glow of the sunshine in the background.

It's not often thought of in landscape photography to use a shallow depth of field, but it's used a lot in macro photography. But using a shallow depth of field is always an option that shouldn't be completely ignored when the photographer is trying to be creative with their work. Does it work effectively every time? No, but there are times when we are challenged with capturing a scene, such as a windy day, when we can try to create something artistic instead of giving up and going home with nothing.

Sometimes super sharp focus from front to back isn't necessarily the best approach to landscape photography. So keep this in mind on those windy or even on dark days. Perhaps it will eliminate a little stress or maybe produce a more creative image.

A Different Point of View

The Guardian of The Gorge

A Different Point of View -  The more time that I spend as a photographer the more that I recognize how I handle life equates to how I should handle photography. How just being patient and using simple life lessons can affect my photos.

How many times have we been challenged by a situation where when we walk away for a period of time and then return everything falls into place? How many times have I came to a location and walked away without a pleasing photo, or with a photo that I’m proud of, only to return another day and effortlessly snap an impressive photo? What makes the difference? In my life it sometimes is only a matter of looking at the problem with a fresh set of eyes, being there under different conditions, using different tools or techniques for the job. Sometimes it takes all three.

When we are challenged by an obstacle that impedes our progress sometimes just a simple break can allow us to throw out or forget about a thought process that keeps us from looking at the situation in a different way, many times creating a “Now why didn’t I see that before” situation. Sometimes it requires a totally different approach with a different set of skills or tools, sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at it with fresh eyes. I’ve been out shooting with a friend and saw their photo and thought, holy guacamole! Why didn’t I think of that? Many times we insist on taking a path that is difficult when the easy way is not far and can be found if we just step aside for a moment and look around. My father would say to me that sometimes you have to stop or back up to make progress again. I apply this to photography when I visit a location where I know there’s a photo but have been challenged in the past.

Technique, or how one uses their camera to capture the scene, is very important. Understanding how your camera works allows you to become instinctual about how to be able to capture the moment according to your vision, adapt to changing conditions and overcome challenging conditions. The three basic settings, shutter speed, aperture and ISO (film speed) and how they’re combined will create certain effects that will capture the scene accurately or will allow the photographer to create an effect that can enhance the image. These techniques can sometimes help create a stronger or more unique image. Another part of technique involves composition, including different points of view. Standing in a different spot, raising or lowering your camera zooming in or out. These are all things that the photographer has control over that allows them to adapt the photo to their vision.

Next is opportunity. An opportunity can be an event, a fraction of a moment in time or a set of conditions that are unique. Simple analogies would be a sunset or a rainbow. A photo’s quality or beauty, in most cases, is enhanced under good light or is made more interesting due to a unique situation. A landscape photographer will typically prefer shooting a scene at sunrise, sunset or in “sweet light”, but the light doesn’t always show up, but when it does it usually creates an opportunity to produce a more beautiful photo than in stark light. Outdoor portrait photography or even real estate photography is no different than landscapes. Being there when these conditions, or opportunities are there brings us to the next variable.

The next variable is planning to take advantage of the previous variables. Planning is being prepared to use skill or technique to capture an opportunity. Relying on coincidence or luck is like a game of chance and it rarely happens and when it does happen, many times the photographer isn’t at the right place or doesn’t have their camera set properly to completely capitalize on the situation. When the opportunity is fleeting, the photographer needs to be prepared.

When I consider how I handle making a photograph I find that I get the best results when I stop, relax and look around, master the proper tools used for the situation and am prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they occur. I find handling life to be much the same.

A Winter Afternoon in The Mt Hood National Forest

A Winter Afternoon In The Mt Hood National Forest

A Winter Afternoon in The Mt Hood National Forest - Gary and Darlene spend some time photographing the forest.

I found some time to practice with my Mavic Pro... and I didn't crash. 😀 Flying this drone and feeling comfortable doesn't come hand and hand to me. I find flying this machine very stressful but I hope that that feeling goes away the more that I fly.

Now that I've broken the ice with this video look forward to more videos from me. Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel in the meantime. I'd sure appreciate it.

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