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Every type of location presents its own photographic challenges. For the stark wilderness of Death Valley National Park, these can include harsh desert light, stark landscapes, and a vastness that can be daunting to capture in a single frame. In this course, travel along with author, teacher, and photographer Ben Long to Death Valley to learn about the challenges and techniques behind capturing the exotic beauty and surprising details of the desert.
I said we were coming up here to shoot big vistas. And I'm going to do that. But we got up here. It, it was closer than I remembered. So we got up here with good light and a lot of time to spare. So I decided there was no reason not to walk around and shoot some other stuff. And when I got up on top of the ridge here, there's all this lava flow and, in the low light it looked beautiful when you looked into the sun. The flat planes of the rocks really light up in this really nice way. So that's what I'm doing here, walking around shooting. And, mostly what I was playing with was just trying to find something to do with those beautiful black rocks.
Sometimes it was composing them against the landscape in the background. Sometimes it was trying to compose them against these little white bushes. There was there were these perfectly white branchy things that looked really nice against the black, or at least I thought they should. I, I couldn't really figure that one out. Some people ask me about the fact that I shoot with my sunglasses on, and. Yes, I do take a hit to contrast that way. Actually I get more contrast with my sunglasses on because they're polarized.
The thing is, I'm prone to migraines, and light is a trigger for me so. It's better for me to have some inaccurate contrast perception (LAUGH), rather than no perception at all, which is what I'll get if a migraine comes on. So, yeah I shoot with my sunglasses on for that reason. I actually like it now, I've learned to understand how to translate what I seen through the sunglasses into a final image. And they're kind of an interesting pre-visualization tool, because they do give me a dramatic increase in contrast. And so a lot of times I'll look at the images straight out of the camera and go, "Well, that's kind of boring." But when I go in and start playing with the contrast and get it back more to like what I was seeing through my sunglasses, then something really happens.
So It's nice in this instance to have the luxury of enough light to really play around. I feel like I've got a little more afternoon light than normal, because I'm up higher. It's not setting behind a mountain range. So I'm a little more relaxed today than I was yesterday. So, I'm probably going to keep shooting around here a little more, and then go to a couple of the big vistas. I did quickly shoot two, though. and before I get to my methodology here, I just want to show you the difference between, I keep talking about how having empty skies Is a little bit disappointing.
And here's why. Here's a shot today that I took today. Looking here from this look out. It's nice enough. Here's the same shot, I shot a couple of years ago when the sky was really dramatic. And you can really see the difference when there's something in the sky. It not only, fills that upper half of the frame, but it gives you elements to compose with. This, cloud over here on the right side, I was just treating that as another geographic element that I could use to border my image. Here's another shot. here's this lookout point as I shot it today. It's certainly very dramatic. I like having the big view. But look at what happens, if you're lucky enough to get here on a day when there's a big dramatic sky. Much more compelling image to me, much more atmospheric. So ideally you want to, if, if everything works out you come to Death Valley and you get some of both.
Or you come to the desert, you come to any landscape and you get some of both. You get some nice clear days where you get good sharp contrast and nice deep shadows. And then you get other days with some stuff in the sky. It has turned out to be insanely windy here up. It's, it's almost uncomfortably windy and it's a lot colder. We've had a big elevation gain, so I'm glad I brought an extra layer particularly since I'm laying around in the dirt. However, there's still a lot of time left and so I'm going to get back to shooting. One thing that I'm liking that's happening Is, I'm, we are having some good luck here with the clouds today, we do have some clouds in the sky.
And, as the sun is getting lower the bottom side of them is darkening, so I'm glad I waited because they weren't dark like that before and it makes them a lot more interesting. In post production, I want to be careful about my contrast adjustments. I never want any bottom part of the sky to go to pure black. In fact when you get out here and get the chance to see skies like this, take note of how dark the darkness part goes. Because you never want to edit a cloud. Past that, because it really doesn't look real. So I'm going to get back out there. The wind's kind of exhausting, it just pounds at you all the time, and it's really noisy.
So it's nice to take a little break here in this little shelter. I'm going to get out there. I don't know how much light is left, so I feel like I need to keep moving.
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