Sunrise at Oxbow Bend and SHOOTING tips

This is the first of what I hope to be many tutorials to help others add to their photography. I want to start by saying I am still learning myself. My mindset is always to learn more and to improve on what I already do. For my first write up I will discuss some of the things I do mentally to set up the shot, and not how I processed it afterwards. I feel the information below will help those new to landscape photography avoid some of the mistakes while learning.

When I first started photography I would go out in my yard a lot to practice technique and learn my gear. It is important to do little things like know the best aperture ranges for your particular lens. Wide open is not always the best even though it might let in the most light. Cranking it down is not always great either because too much will be in focus. Memorizing your buttons is important also. Sometimes the few seconds you look up to adjust a setting can be the difference in great light and blah. Knowing how to quickly change your settings without looking at your camera is extremely handy.

Another thing that landscape photographers should do when they approach a scene is leave their tripod folded up. Walk around first and pay attention to what is around you in the shot. If you are shooting a waterfall the details around the waterfall will make the photo more compelling than the waterfall by itself. Once your tripod is set up, take the time to make sure it is balanced. Most tripods come with balances built in. Mine busted, so I eyeball it all the time. 

So onto the photo at hand. Brandi and I choose Oxbow Bend for our last sunrise for this trip. The downfall is the normal trails were closed off for wildlife protection. So most of the photographers were kind of huddled up. Obviously Mount Moran is the subject of the photo, but I made sure it was not filling the frame. Doing so would leave out important details like the reflection in the water, the color of the morning sun hitting the clouds, and the lush green shrubbery. All of these details help add a lot of depth to the shot. Due to the direction of the water, I set my composition up so that it leads you into the scene. If you do not have something strong to anchor the foreground, leading lines can help.

I must stress the importance of waiting throughout the entire sunset. Too many times I have seen people arrive too late to the scene or leave too early. Being there as early as possible is critical to sunrise shots. The quality of light can make or break your photo. In this particular shot we waited for a bit, and the sun started to break through to light up parts of the mountains. 

Do not get stuck in settings when you are traveling. Always try different shutter speeds and adjust other settings accordingly to see what you get. In other words, if I use a longer shutter speed to record the movement of the clouds, does it look more appealing? Sometimes it does, but other times it does not. Never know if you do not shoot both. This particular shot satisfied me with a faster shutter speed.

The more I evolve in my photography, the more I try to get right in camera. I do my best not to sit on my computer all night working on a photo. Most of my photos involve basic edits... White balance adjustments, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, and saturation. Nothing crazy. It all starts with taking a good photo though. Nothing you do on your computer can make a bad photo good.

The gear I used for this shot was a Nikon D610, Hoya 77mm polarizer filter, Tamron 15-30mm lens, and my tripod. If you are not familiar with what a polarizer filter does, it helps remove the glare in your scene. This can be used with water scenes, shooting fall colors, and even helps remove glare in windows. It is a must have if you are into landscape photography though. I see new photo hobbyists get caught up in thinking an expensive camera means a better photo. There are tech differences between cameras, but unless you know how to tap into that they are of little use to you. So don't be intimidated by entry level gear. Financially, it is the best decision you can make. A good photo is never because of the gear. 

For those wanting to know my settings, here they are. ISO 50, 27mm, f16, and a 1/5th shutter speed. As I mentioned above I used the Tamrom 15-30mm lens, which I highly recommend. The only downside to it is that you cannot use screw on filters. It is a very sharp lens that comes with AF and vibration reduction. I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop to process my photos. If you have any other questions please feel free to email me.