The World of Light & Shadow

Mountain Dogwood above the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
Mountain Dogwood above the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

In the continuing search to develop our photographic vision it’s often said that trying a new or different approach yields the best results. While we employ many tried and true techniques in our craft that help to define our style, it’s the ongoing challenge to see the world anew that offers the greatest rewards in helping us grow creatively.

If you typically use wide-angle lenses switch to a telephoto and isolate elements from the bigger picture. When shooting  under sunny skies is the norm try the soft diffused light of an overcast day to eliminate shadows and create rich, saturated colors. As I’ve mentioned before, filters can also be an indispensable tool in shaping and controlling light in the field, and are almost always preferable to post processing. One exception is the conversion to monochrome.

With today’s powerful controls in Lightroom and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, it’s now possible to make gorgeous black and white conversions from our color files that express all the subtleties and tonal range once only achievable with film and a darkroom. The challenge here is to seek out images that work well in monochrome. Typically high contrast scenes with defined edges and shadow detail are strong contenders, but there are no hard fast rules and experimentation is the key.

Although I don’t always shoot with black and white in mind, I’ve discovered many images in my files that express my emotional response to the scene much clearer than the color version. Most current digital cameras do have a black and white shooting mode, but it’s always preferable to shoot in RAW and then convert using the full tonal adjustments available in the programs I’ve mentioned. The added benefit is that you always have your original when color is the best option.

So spend some time reviewing your images with a new perspective in mind. You might just find some real gems that were waiting to be discovered in the world of light and shadow.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Nature Photography Day

California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Goldfield (Lasthenia californica), Antelope Valley, California
California Poppies and Goldfield, Antelope Valley, California

June 15th is Nature Photography Day!

Created in 2006 by NANPA, the North American Nature Photography Association, it promotes the enjoyment of nature photography and spotlights the many ways images of the natural environment have helped to advance the cause of conservation and habitat preservation both locally and internationally.

NANPA’s mission is to further the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Nature Photography Day, a great time to celebrate the beauty of nature and share your passion for photography with friends and family.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Go With The Flow

Wildflower abstract, Tehachapi Mountains, Angeles National Forest, California
Wildflower abstract, Tehachapi Mountains, Angeles National Forest, California

Previsualization is an often used term in landscape photography – the process of researching a location, determining perspective through lens selection and framing, and forming a solid image in your mind’s eye before ever arriving at a scene or tripping the shutter.  Ansel Adams referred to it often as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”, and it was a favorite expression of other luminaries such as Minor White and Edward Weston.

There is a lot to be said for this approach and it’s certainly the route I take whenever possible. If all goes according to plan, you do your homework, arrive at the predetermined location, setup the shot, then wait for the ideal light and the image falls into place. This technique works quite well much of the time (assuming you’ve done that homework), but there are those moments when mother nature simply won’t cooperate. The golden light has been replaced with drab overcast, the wind is determined to keep every leaf or flower in motion, or the road has been closed by an avalanche and you can’t even get to the desired location. Fear not, it’s happened to everyone.

This is the time to give in and go with the flow. There are still great images to be made, but now you need to throw out those mental notes and let that right brain have a little fun. When the flowers and leaves are blowing make abstracts. If the light is anything but exciting, avoid the sky and look for the soft even lighting illuminating the ground cover. And even if that avalanche has closed the road, this is the perfect time to take a detour and explore someplace you’ve never seen before.

So the next time that great image you’ve envisioned isn’t working out as planned, try an alternate approach and go with the flow.  You might find your masterpiece was there all along just waiting to be discovered.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved