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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.
So if you step off the road just about anywhere in this whole park, you've got these little creosote bushes everywhere, and it's the middle of the day. The light's pretty drab. It's really hazy over there, so it's not a great time for big landscape shooting. But I've got so many of these things, it's silly not to try to look at them as potential subject matter. So I've just been wandering around out here. And the first thing that strikes me is, because it's still winter, the sun's still kind of low. So even here, it's coming on 10:30.
We're still getting a nice, good, strong shadow off of them. And it's kind of cool, because I get this sort of symmetrical thing. If I'm shooting into the light, the bush itself becomes more of a silhouette. And, and so there's kind of this axis across the middle that's interesting, the shadow versus the bush itself. that said, right here, this one I'm looking at, the ground's kind of rocky and it, it drops off right here, so the edge of my shadow here is getting a little soft. So I, I, I don't think I'm really that into this shadow. But this bush over here, let me tell you about it.
It's got this wonderful sharp, distinct black shadow underneath it. So I'm thinking this might be kind of interesting. it's got some particularly big rocks around. I'm not a real stickler for, some people would go, huh. You will just move the rock. Now it's not, you know, how you found it. I'm not shooting photojournalism here, so I'm not too worried about that. I've got a wide angle lens on my camera. This is a full-frame camera. I'm shooting with a 16 to 35. And, I'm just going to see about, kind of following this initial impulse. That maybe if I put the, right where the bush hits the ground. Just put that in the center of the frame and shoot. Now, before I even take a picture, I'm already seeing this is a black and white image.
I don't mean that I've got a perfect visualization of what this scene looks like in black and white. What I mean is, I'm understanding that my impulse here in what I'm seeing is just all line. It's just the lines of the branches in silhouette. The lines of the shadow. That means probably a black and white image is going to be best. There's not really any color here to be had. So if I just shoot this, I get this. It's, it's a very busy image. Because of all the rocks on the ground, and because there's that other bush back there it may work, it may not. It's not knocking my socks off right now.
But as in most cases, what I should do next is get closer. Getting in, trying to simplify, trying to cut out any extraneous stuff, is often what leads to a more interesting image. So I'm going to just go in even tighter here. And it's kind of interesting, because now, I'm confusing maybe a little bit of what's the plant and what's the shadow. So that, that might work. Again, there are all these rocks, if this is a, if this is an image that's about line. It's a little tricky because the rocks are creating lots of other geographic elements that might be making the shot a little bit too busy.
So I'm going to see just what else I can try here. working just the shadow is kind of interesting. Leaving a little bit of the plant in the shot like that so that I've got just the shadow. That's might be something, or maybe really just going in right on the shadow, maybe taking the plant out altogether. Now I'm also imagining that in post-production, I'm going to go really nuts on the contrast here.
If this is an image about line, if it's an image about light and shadow, I'm going to want a lot of contrast, so I'm going to be goosing that up. Finally, I do have this nice backdrop here. It's a little bit hazy, but that might actually help, because it's going to make it more of a background. So I'm wondering about this bush in the foreground with a shadow and maybe a little bit of a horizon. This is all being made a little bit more complicated, but I'm not in super high contrast light right now. Again, it's, I'm out of the good light of the day, but this is a good way to spend your time in this bad part of the, of the, of our, of our lighting day. as I've said before, we need to use this part of the day to get to other locations, but it's worth stopping and seeing what you can find, working small details, getting close up, and just seeing what you discover out actually, on the desert itself in terms of light and shadow.
It's not an area to work great color, because we're mostly dealing with browns and greens. But there is potentially a lot of interesting line and contrast.
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