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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'm actually, supposed to be, talking to you guys right now. We, we were allegedly shooting a movie, except that at the last minute I, I spotted this thing. I just can't stop out here. There's this cool, crusty sand that's sticking up out of the soft sand. Anyway, that's none of your concern. I, the sun is going down very quickly. I'm losing light. There's still just more and more all the time. It's a really. Really spectacular place to shoot, and just a wonderful place to be. As you've probably already noticed, I'm not using my SLR. I'm using my mirrorless camera. This is a Fuji XE1. Which I really like, but because it delivers exceptional image quality. And I don't have to give up my interchangeable lenses. It's got a great interface, but the reason I'm carrying it with me now is pretty simple.
If you have ever walked along a beach, you know that walking through sand can be really tiring, and here it's climbing up, and down sand, and it's a bit of a hike to get out here in the first place. I wanted to go lightweight. So instead of bringing my SLR, I brought the Fuji and four different lenses. This whole arrangement weighs less than my SLR and two lenses. So I don't feel like I'm giving up anything image quality wise or functionally. But it's a lot easier on my shoulder. It's a little bit hard to work with viewfinder wise because it's got an electronic viewfinder Instead of a nice, bright optical viewfinder. But still, I'm glad that I won't be so sore at the end of the day. There's some little mouse footprints or something across here. They're really adorable.
Anyway like I said, it just, there's just more all the time. If you find yourself in some sand dunes, and you want to shoot them, if I was to sum up, I would offer the following advice. First of all, as you saw I'm kind of overwhelmed here. There's so much to shoot and some of it's macro details. Some of it is, wow, look at that. There's this really cool big black cloud up there. So some of it's this big huge landscape view like this, that you just can't help but keep shooting, and shooting, and shooting.
Don't give over to that so much that you miss the fact that there are really adorable little mouse footprints going along here. You want to shoot the big and the small, and you don't want to get too locked up in either. As we saw yesterday I want to really pay attention to direction of light. I don't want to get so focused shooting mouse footprints, or whatever it is over here, that I ignore the fact that shooting into the light gives me something very different. Something else that you don't encounter in a lot of regular shooting, that you do frequently encounter in landscape shooting, and particularly in an environment like this, is the layering issue that we looked at earlier.
I've got multiple lines of sand dunes. I've got those kind of badlandsy little foot hills over there. I've got mountains. I've got sky. The sky has layers of clouds. I need to pay very, very close attention to the relationship between all those different layers. And I need to manipulate that relationship. And in almost every case the the way that I change that relationship is to move up and down. If I move down I'm going to hide some layers, if I stand up I'm going to typically reveal more. It's really easy to overlook that part, particularly if you're worried about the subject that's maybe in the foreground of your image.
So don't ignore your background and all the different layers of different types of terrain that are in there. You need to pay attention to those and manipulate them the way that you want to. There are not a lot of places like this. There are not a lot of dune fields in the world to begin with, let alone any that you can get access to. A lot of them are covered with tire tracks, and footprints, and so on and so forth. So it's a really great thing when you find an occasion like this. This is not typical, everyday desert landscape shooting. But if you can get yourself to Death Valley or another place with great sand dunes, it's really, really worth the trip.
Wow! The sunset just kept going. It kept going and going and going. it's finally gone. We're here into full on dusk, the temperatures dropping amazingly quickly. You know that it does that in the desert but still it's always surprising. I finally got my camera put away. I just couldn't stop. There just kept being more and more. And even after the sun was gone and the foreground was dead, the sky was still amazing. So, don't, don't short trip the light. Wait it all out, look for all of it.
It's, I was surprised at what all happened even after it was behind the mountains. It's been an interesting day for me because I got up early and went out on the lake bed and then finished out here in the dunes, and. You know, I know this, and I know this. It's like, it's like working out. It's like, you know, that well I should go to the gym. I'll feel better afterwards. But you never do it. I feel the same way sometimes about the getting up early thing and shooting in the light. I don't like getting up early and, but boy it really is. There's nothing like that early morning light, and that late afternoon light. It's not just that it's pretty.
It's not just that it makes nice contrast. It's that you see things that you just don't see at any other time of day. Not just the play of light and shadow, but the shape of certain objects will change depending on, or the appearance of it will change, depending on the light. So it's been a good reminder for me that I can't cheat that, at least in terms of landscape. You gotta get up early and use the light. You gotta stay out late and use the light. It's really makes all the difference.
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