How I Got the Shot: Family and Fall Foliage

When I first got started in photography I shot primarily landscape and nature photography. When I went to the Hallmark Institute of Photography for my formal photographic training my main emphasis switched to portrait photography. In 2017 I started putting a heavier emphasis on the wedding side of my photography business. Sadly nature, wildlife, and landscape photography is (generally) viewed fairly negatively in the professional photography industry. This is partly due to landscape, nature, and wildlife photography being the main photographic subjects of wealth enthusiasts. Despite its ill deserved negative connotations I have always loved nature and landscape photography even though I don’t get to do as much of it as I would have liked.

2016 was a slower year business wise compared to the next year 2017 and former years like 2014. Due to this I had more time for my fine art work. I spend a great deal of 2016 working on fine art landscape and nature work around (primarily) central Michigan. One of my favorite images from this series is the image featured above.

This image of a lone tree in a field was capture in the country outside Clare, Michigan at sunset. When shooting my fall 2016 and winter 2017 landscapes I would drive around the various backroads in (primarily) Clare, County. One of the regrets I have from this project is not keeping closer track where I took specific images and how to get back to those locations. I admittedly don’t know which road this was shot on nor how to get back to the location.

Usually when I would go on my small trips to photograph the fall foliage I would go alone and listen to podcasts. During this shoot my mom went with me. She loves the fall colors. Her and my dad regularly make trips out to New England to see the fall colors at their peak. She had a great time looking at the fall colors around Roscommon, Gladwin, and Clare as I photographed the best trees. We also used this time to talk and get caught up. It was a great experience. Her and I stumbled upon this tree near the end of our journey.

The scene was very high contrast with the very bright sky and very dark field and trees. Our eyes are designed to see the highlights and darks in very high contrast scenes. Our cameras have a harder time with this. I wouldn’t have been able to get all of the details in the lights and darks with taking only one image. I shot multiple images from the same angle with different exposures (some lighter and some darker) with the intention of merging them later in Photoshop. In the film days people would use filters called graduated neutral density filters to darken the skies of landscape images. Now with digital photography we have even more tools at our disposal for dealing with high contrast scenes. I did some basic retouching to the images I wanted to combine in Lightroom and then took the images into Photoshop. I usually do the majority of my global retouching (affecting the entire image) in Lightroom and use Photoshop for more intricate local retouching (affecting only a part of the image). In Photoshop I used a plug by Nik software (Nik was recently bought by Google and the software is now available for free here) which allows me to create High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. HDR images combine several images of the same scene with different exposures to create an image with details in brightest brights and darkest darks. When I first got started in photography (circa 2009) HDR was all the rage. During this time people were using this technique to create garish cartoony images with tons of detail which were generally loved by non photographers and hated by professionals. I have generally hated the garish HDR look and have seldom used this technique because of that. As time has went on I think most photographers have moved away from the garish HDR took to a more realistic HDR look similar to what our eyes would see. My image showcased here is an example of the more realistic HDR look which strives to create an image closer to what our eyes see at the scene than what our cameras can capture with one frame. I want my images to look timeless and not have novel retouching (or shooting) techniques. This is one of the few HDR images to make it into my fine art portfolio (a few others from a trip to the Canadian Rockies are all featured). This image is also on display (and for sale) at the Four Leaf Brewing in downtown Clare, Michigan.

This image was captured using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens handheld (because I was standing in a road and didn’t have time to get my tripod out). Camera settings where as follows: ISO 400 28mm f/8 various shutter speeds.

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