Taking a look back at the photographs that defined my year, each photo tells a story of exploration and creativity in different places and challenging situations. From the stunning landscapes of Yosemite to the lively scenes of Times Square, these pictures capture unique moments shaped by patience, persistence, and the quest for distinctive views. I’ll share some behind-the-scenes moments, like challenging the swamps of Texas or capturing the Irish coast, and how these experiences helped me to improve my landscape photography.
Landscape Photograph # 1: Yosemite National Park
The first photo I want to share is from the stunning Yosemite National Park. It was an awe-inspiring moment. Initially, my goal was to capture a passing storm over Half Dome. After it subsided, I contemplated packing up my camera bag and leaving. However, I decided to stay and see if anything else would unfold. To my delight, a little rainbow appeared on the falls, catching my eye. This experience emphasized the importance of investing extra time and not hastily leaving a location, as it can lead to delightful surprises. In terms of technical details, I took this shot with my 100-400mm telephoto lens, using a short shutter speed to capture the intricate texture of the water.
Landscape Photograph # 2: Yosemite National Park
The second image also stems from my Yosemite landscape photography expedition. On this occasion, I patiently endured a rainstorm with my 100-400 lens. True to form, as the clouds drifted over the cliffs, mist gracefully swirled around, generating captivating textures. Landscape photographers typically seek out perfect conditions, like partial clouds allowing a warm, sunny glow to filter through. However, at times, you may not be dealt those cards, and instead, face a rainstorm or less-than-ideal weather. Nevertheless, capturing these moments remains worthwhile, as such conditions often produce remarkable results. Some of my most cherished images were taken in weather conditions considered ‘less than ideal.’
Landscape Photograph # 3: California Coast
The third image is an abstract capture from the California coast, representing a departure from conventional approaches. I aimed to delve into more creative perspectives of places I’ve been photographing for years. This shift arose from a sense of complacency I felt at the start of the year. I firmly believe that complacency is a significant impediment to an artist’s growth. Thus, embracing new techniques in this instance not only resulted in more intriguing shots but also revitalized my creativity.
Using my 16-35 lens, I directed the focus downward into the rock’s texture. I’m captivated by how the formations in this scene almost take on the appearance of little dragons. Employing an aperture of f/16, I sought to achieve maximum sharpness throughout the image. Although focus stacking wasn’t necessary for this particular shot, I would have employed the technique if I were closer, capturing additional focal points and blending them together.
Landscape Photograph # 4: Texas Swamps
Captured from a small kayak in the swamps of Texas, this photo presented a formidable challenge, pushing me out of my comfort zone. Photography from a moving vehicle introduced an extra layer of complexity to the process. The dynamic nature of the environment meant that a beautiful shot could appear and vanish within seconds due to the drifting kayak, leading to a constant back-and-forth struggle to find the right angle.
Moreover, achieving a sharp image proved to be a tough feat in the dimly lit swamp areas where long exposures were not feasible. Despite these challenges, after numerous trials and errors, I successfully captured this image featuring backlit Spanish moss and the enchanting fall foliage. This photographic journey served as a profound lesson in patience and persistence, leaving me eager to return and further explore this unique style of photography.
Landscape Photograph # 5: New York City
This particular photo stands out as a bit unconventional compared to the others. It was once again an exploration of stepping outside my comfort zone and discovering new ways to capture images. Taken in the bustling heart of New York City’s Times Square, the photo features reflections of the large LED lights in small rain puddles. The changing colors of the lights created various contrasts. I utilized my 28-200mm lens at the wider end and had to increase my f-stop to F18 to ensure everything was in focus. Due to the rapid shifts in light, focus stacking wasn’t feasible, making it necessary to capture the scene in a single exposure.
Landscape Photograph # 6: Eastern Sierra Mountains
Capturing this shot was a dream come true for me—a bucket-list photo featuring these ephemeral lupin blooms. However, we faced the challenge of constant wind, making it difficult to achieve sharp focus on the flowers. To counter this, I adjusted to F16, increased my ISO to 500-800, and ensured a fast shutter speed to minimize the impact of wind-induced blurs. Additionally, I employed hyperfocal distance to enhance the overall sharpness of the image.
Landscape Photograph # 7: Dolomites
Captured in the Dolomites, this shot, though seemingly straightforward, holds a special place in my collection due to the extraordinary moment it encapsulates. The enchanting dance of fog weaving through the scene during this particular outing was truly mesmerizing. In an effort to enhance the overall symmetry, I chose to highlight the foreground rocks. What further caught my eye were the recurring V shapes subtly mirroring each other throughout the scene. This was taken with my 16-35mm lens, handheld.
Landscape Photograph # 8: Ireland
Here’s the eighth image from Ireland. This location has been on my bucket list for years, and we were lucky to have gorgeous conditions. I spent most of the sunset fine-tuning this wide-angle scene, capturing multiple shots as waves crashed against the rocks. Facing into the sun, I also had to perform an exposure blend to get all the necessary details.
Landscape Photograph # 9: Ireland
This wave photo is a result of the 400mm challenge embarked upon by Nigel Danson, Mads Peter Iverson, and Darren Spoonley. The challenge posed a one-hour restriction, allowing photos only at a 400mm focal length in somewhat dull midday light. Initially, I felt a bit frustrated, navigating the constraints and deciding on a subject within the limited timeframe.
Towards the challenge’s end, I managed to capture this breathtaking wave photo, ultimately ranking it as my favorite from the challenge and one of the highlights of my photographic endeavors for the year. I utilized a very fast shutter speed of 1/3200 to ensure the wave’s sharpness.
Landscape Photograph # 10: Ireland
The last image of the year was also taken in Ireland, and it stands out as not just one of my favorites from the year but among my preferred coastal photos overall. Patiently waiting for the waves to crash against the rock formations, my goal was to emphasize the rocks’ shapes and create a visual flow in the scene. While I had expected to capture the force of a wave, I was pleasantly surprised to witness the formation resembling something akin to Godzilla vs Ghidorah.
Once again, I used my 100-400mm telephoto lens, opting for a super high shutter speed to effectively capture the scene’s texture. This decision, however, necessitated a slight increase in ISO to compensate for the elevated shutter speed.
My Take Away From 2023
Waiting for the perfect moment, like the passing storm in Yosemite or the waves crashing against rocks in Ireland, really paid off in capturing some genuinely captivating images. Being patient led to stumbling upon unexpected beauty, whether it was a subtle rainbow on the falls or the fascinating shapes formed by the waves. Moreover, thinking outside the box and experimenting with unconventional compositions helped me express my creativity and enhance the quality of my work. From capturing reflections in rain puddles in Times Square to exploring abstract perspectives on the California coast, these approaches not only added depth to my portfolio but also taught me valuable lessons in refining my craft. The commitment to investing that extra time in each landscape and embracing innovative ideas has genuinely fueled the improvement and richness in my photography.