landscape shoots

By: Geoff Simpson  09-12-2011

From time to time, another photographer, a curious amateur, or a fan of my work will question me about my process for a new image. Sometimes they are trying to create their own striking photographs, sometimes they are just wondering how I arrived with my final creation.
The ‘process’ so to speak, is simple, but each subsequent step is a little different everytime.

Let’s take one of my landscape images as an example.

Firstly, I will decide on a theme, or a certain image that I’d like to create. Often this comes to me or changes while shooting, but like Christmas shopping, it’s a good idea to set out with something in mind.  Once I have the subject in mind, it’s time to put it in motion.

I plan the best time of day for the shot, the location, etc.

Once my gear is packed (of which I leave very little behind, but that’s another story) I hit the road with my chocolate Labrador Hunter in tow.

At the location, it’s important to use the available light. (Remember, we’re talking about landscape images) so planning for the sun’s location, ideally, at that time of day is important. You’ll often hear photographers and painters speak of the “Golden Hour”. This refers to the light at dawn, and at dusk, when the sun is lower, warmer and softer.
Once the right subject is lined up, and the light feels right, it’s time to shoot. This part of the process is one of the shortest, but certainly the most fun. I shoot plenty of  angles and sides, wherever possible. I almost always use a tripod, no matter how inconvenient it may seem. Coupled with neutral density and graduated neutral density filters, it allows me to shoot slower shutter speeds, soaking in the colors and tones. I try to always leave the area on a great shot, wanting more (Sort of like when I SHOULD walk off the golf course.)
Upon disembarking from my expedition, it’s time to put on coffee, load the photos onto my workstation, and clean my gear. I’ve tried to make a habit of recharging batteries, repacking gear and formatting cards immediately, so when it’s time to head out, I can just grab it and go.

If I have the good fortune of being able to work on the images right away, that’s what I’ll do. I import all of the images into Adobe Lightroom®, and backup the files at this point to 2 separate external hard drives. ‘Editing’ or deleting files in camera is a waste of time, and battery life so I save this for the next step. I cull through all of the images deleting ones that have ‘doubles’ (or VERY similar) poor exposure, out of focus, etc. At this point I’ve trimmed down to a reasonable number to start working with, so I will flip through again, and flag my favourites (depending on the subject/trip, between 8-30). At this point, you should let them sit for awhile, and maybe work on something else, so they look fresh to you afterwards.
Once you’re ready to move forward, it’s time to polish those photos. This process for some is very extensive and open to a lot of debate, preference, etc., so I won’t go into great detail here. I do most of this work in Lightroom, often not requiring Photoshop, and personally try to keep it very minimal. (‘Getting it right’ in camera is the best way to speed up workflow; I’d rather be shooting then seated at my desk.) I export (2) files from each image, one at ‘web’ size (800pixels on the long edge) and one at full (printing) size.
After that, I will likely blog it, maybe Tweet it or show it on Facebook. It’s ready for printing and purchase at any time. After all, I shouldn’t keep these all to myself.
Everyone’s workflow is a little different, and mine can certainly vary from this, but if you’re just getting started, some food for thought. And a couple new images from one such trip last week.
Happy shooting.

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It was raining in Kananaskis on Tuesday (September 13th, 2011), so after packing our gear and Hunter into the truck, we opted to head West instead. We didn’t yet know our destination, but we were sure we could find something interesting in the area surrounding Golden, B.C., including a nice spot to camp for the night.
Alberta boasts some incredible campsites, but we have never been disappointed in the wealth of choices in B.C., either.

Well worth the trouble.

Thompson Falls is located about 35 minutes West of the Golden turnoff from the Trans-Canada highway, via a series of small farm roads, and the Blaeberry Forest Service road.

At the rec site, you’ll find a hiking trail along the river bank, a couple of fire pits, 2 picnic tables and plenty of space for a few tents. Of course, there are the falls, too.

Thankfully, we were blessed with the whole place to ourselves, with no one for kilometres in any direction.

On the way home, we were also able to check out this elaborate prescribed burn just West of Field, B.C.


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You can’t win them all.  As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, this makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes, they don’t win any.

Sure, if you live in California, you may have a week of straight sun. But here in Banff, and the Canadian Rockies, you never really know what you’re going to get.  Sun in the morning, rain in the afternoon, and a blizzard at 8pm. Not unheard of.  So when Mr. weatherman tells me we’re going to have a beautiful sunrise, I’m going to go ahead and plan for whatever we get, raincoat in tow.

Hunter, my wee chocolate labrador, is starting to get used to this whole waking up at 4:30 am thing.  He’ll pretend to sleep in the car, but then he’s pretty happy to bound around once we’ve reached our destination.  He was really excited when we hit up Vermillion lakes for ‘sunrise’ last Saturday, June 4th, because there were a whole gang of elk waking up and roaming around.  He stayed on a leash, and watched my back. (It is after all calving season)

We shot for about an hour, the lakes and Rundle mtn. dominating the clouds.

I wouldn’t call it a winning day, but certainly it was worth getting up and taking advantage of some soft overcast light.

Enjoy, keep shooting, and never forget your raincoat.


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It was dark when my alarm went off the first time.  It had been set for 4:15 am, so that sort of goes unsaid.  I’m a huge fan of the snooze button, but only one tap on this chilly day.  I was quick to rise, brush my teeth and pick up my gear.  I had a funny feeling that it was going to be a great day.

My chocolate lab Hunter wasn’t as excited as I was to crawl out of a nice warm bed, dreaming of chasing rabbits. (At least that’s what I think he’s always dreaming about.)  But it was time to chase the early light, and he was my partner in crime, as usual.  We hopped in the ‘Lieutenant’ my 2002 Trailblazer, and hit the road.  A quick stop for fuel and really bad lukewarm coffee, and there was nothing stopping us now.

Heading East to Kananaskis Country or ‘K-Country’ always has a special feel to it, a nice smell in the air. The moon was silhouetting the mountain peaks, and there was just enough light to spot the dozens of deer adorning the sides of the road throughout the drive to our first stop.

Troll Falls is a beautiful little waterfall near Nakiska ski resort. We pulled into the trailhead parking lot, and Hunter’s ears perked up.  There were about 10 large elk having an early breakfast. They split pretty quickly.

We hopped out of the ‘Lt.’ double checked gear, and started the short hike to the falls. It’s only a 3km loop, and the trail is very well maintained and a leisurely walk. The path has signs directing you around the area, and there was certainly no mistaking the roar of the spring melt coming over the crest of the falls.

A beautiful morning, and I couldn’t be happier with the resulting images from the day.



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