Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Peeking Between the Trees in Yellowstone

There are plenty of trees in Yellowstone and while sometimes they can get in the way, other times you can use them to help frame your pictures.

Here are a few shots from yesterday afternoon in the park about seven miles from the West Yellowstone entrance.

First, here’s how not to incorporate a tree! I liked the way the buffalo formed a v-shape pointing toward me, but the tree was in the way. I moved to the side and down a little bit to get this better view.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Buffalo in Yellowstone, but the tree is in the way. Click for bigger image.

Buffalo in Yellowstone

Here's the same shot, except with the tree off to the left. Click for bigger image.

Here are two more pictures in the same area, this time incorporating trees on both sides of the picture. I like the effect because it helps frame the subject, and makes you feel like you are peeking in on the scene.

Mountain reflection in Madison River, Yellowstone National Park.

In addition to framing this shot with the trees, I was also able to catch the mountain's reflection in the Madison River, which yesterday was extremely still. Click for bigger image.

Grazing at Yellowstone National Park

Grazing along the river at Yellowstone National Park. Madison River is in the background. Click for bigger image.

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Bread and wine in your Yellowstone photographs

Last week at West Yellowstone’s delightful public library I picked up a copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Stranger in Paris novel and came across one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what art can be.

Maugham’s characters vividly illustrate how art can go beyond a technically well-crafted and pretty picture, and deliver meaning, though the viewer’s openness and cultural background are just as important.

The scene starts with Charley, on a Christmas holiday in Paris from his sheltered and wealthy English family, visiting the Louvre with Russian emigrant Lydia. They were looking at La Brioche, a still-life by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin.

Charley said, “Yes, I’ve seen that before” and described it as “well-painted”.

Lydia: “But have you ever looked at it?” and then she talked about what it meant to her.

It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the bread of life and the blood of Christ, but not held back from those who starve and thirst for them and doled out by priests on stated occasions; it’s the daily fare of suffering men and women. It’s so humble, so natural, so friendly; it’s the bread and wine of the poor who ask no more than that they should be left in peace, allowed to work and eat their simple food in freedom. It’s the cry of the despised and rejected. It tells you that whatever their sins men at heart are good. That loaf of bread and that flagon of wine are symbols of the joys and sorrows of the meek and lowly. They ask for your mercy and your affection; they tell you that they’re of the same flesh and blood as you. They tell you that life is short and hard and the grave is cold and lonely. It’s not only a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine; it’s the mystery of man’s lot on earth, his craving for a little friendship and a little love, the humility of his resignation when he sees that even they must be denied him.

Charley thought to himself, “who would have thought a picture could affect anyone like that?”

The book, and even this scene, weren’t about art, they were about Charley learning new ways of looking at life itself, but it applies to photography and your trip to Yellowstone.

When visiting the park, keep in mind Lydia’s emotional reaction to the iconic images and seek to trigger something similar in your photos. Think about the cultural tradition of the American West, the cycle of life so much on display in Yellowstone, the tremendous power of the Earth’s thermal energy, and represent those elements in your pictures.

Those are the ones that will become your favorites from your visit.

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Montana Horse Pictures

Black and White Photography magazine recently included some amazing photos of horses that showed a huge emotional range and regal nature of these animals. Since Montana has its fair share of them, I’ve been keeping an eye out.

While driving between Great Falls and Bozeman a few weeks ago I saw this horse out grazing, pulled over, and used the Canon 300 mm lens to capture this picture.

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman

Montana Horse, between Great Falls and Bozeman. Click for larger image.

This next shot was taken yesterday in Paradise Valley, which is north of Yellowstone National Park and between Gardiner and Livingston. I had been taking a series of pictures when my store landlord called at the same moment the horse walked up to me, so this picture was taken with a cell phone cradled against my ear while talking about plans for the summer.

Montana horse in Paradise Valley

Montana horse in Paradise Valley. Click for larger image.

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Camera Review: Canon T1i Rebel

I’ve had the Canon T1i Rebel almost six months now and I am very surprised by how much I like it. I know that many of you are thinking about getting a new camera for your trip to Yellowstone National Park and this is a great option if you want something other than a point-and-shoot. My previous digital camera was the original Digital Rebel (the 300d) and this was a huge improvement.

Live View, in which I can see a video preview of the picture on the back of the camera, is something I’m using now about 50% of the time. It doesn’t work well in a lot of sunlight, but otherwise I find it makes it easier for me to visualize the final shot. I also seem to be better able to notice clutter or other distracting elements.

The viewfinder is easily adequate and I don’t find myself wishing for a larger one, though of course that would be nice.

Start-up time is fast and has never caused me to miss a picture. Battery life is fine, though I always recommend getting a second battery, especially if you are visiting a location like Yellowstone National Park where you will be in a constant state of seeing photo opportunities. Note: using Live View will quickly drain your battery.

The camera includes video which is something I didn’t think I would use, but I’m becoming very interested in it (here’s my YouTube Channel). I’ve made some nice videos, and a lot of bad ones. Here are some tips (remember that any negative finding in this video section could be due to my newness at this):

  • scenes with a lot of contrast, such as bright blue skies and white snow, don’t turn out very well. I’ve been disappointed that I can’t capture some of the beauty of Yellowstone in winter.
  • I never realized how many cars are around. The audio picks up every vehicle that drives by, so if you need clean sound you have to buy a separate audio system. Canon doesn’t let you hook up an external microphone like they do on their more expensive cameras, so it means having a laptop or recorder around to save the sound.
  • using a tripod makes a huge difference in the quality and professionalism of the final product. I usually don’t use a tripod for still shots, but I can’t get away with that using video.

It’s a great camera for a hobbyist or advanced amateur, and you can use the money you save by avoiding the Canon 50d and invest it in good lenses or a tripod.

Here are the drawbacks, or areas of improvements I’d like to see:

  • I’d love to be able to tap the camera view screen to set my auto-focus point
  • internet forums say that Canon’s marketing department forces engineers to have huge megapixel counts because people associate this with quality. The reality, forums say, is that this reduces image quality, especially under low light or when using a lot of depth of field. If this is true, then Canon should change direction. Each Raw file averages 20 meg in size, and it really slows down my laptop when trying to process it in Adobe Lightroom.
  • I like small and light cameras, so the smaller and lighter the better. But this one isn’t bad.

The updated T2i is available now, and that is the one to buy if you can, but you won’t be disappointed in the T1i.

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