The basic rules of travel photography still guide my approach to shooting on location. I look for the wide shot that captures the overall scene, the medium shot that isolates one or a few features, and the close-up detail shot. Without exception, I’m out shooting during the soft, rich light of early morning and late afternoon into evening. During the hard midday light, I’m scouting the area, photographing people or details in the shade, or shooting with a polarizer to cut down haze in scenics.
While travel to remote regions can result in images that take us far from the ordinary, there are plenty of features near home that evoke the essence of the landscape and culture. While the photos here may be a mix of familiar and unfamiliar, all were taken in North America. None was planned. Each is a combination of light, weather, serendipity and a desire to be in the right place at the right moment.
Banff Winter Pond
A cold winter’s day of shooting around Banff, Alberta, in dreary light had produced little in the way of keeper images. Late in the afternoon, I walked to some half-frozen ponds outside of town and noticed a slender band of clearing sky just above the western horizon. With temperatures hovering around freezing, I decided to stay and see what might happen. Thirty minutes later, the sun broke through, and golden light spilled across the water and surrounding mountains.
Knowing the window of light would be brief, I worked fast using a variety of angles, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. Switching from medium telephoto to wide-angle lens, I lay down on the frozen pond and crawled toward the water’s edge until the thin ice began crackling beneath me. I started shooting with the aperture adjusted for depth of field, but my camera was unable to expose evenly for both the dark foreground and the bright sky. The solution was a grad ND filter held against my lens, enabling me to balance the difference in light between the two areas and avoid a blown-out sky or lost details in the landscape.
Within 15 minutes, the magical glow faded as abruptly as it had appeared. The rapid shift from gloomy gray to dreamy light was a reminder that patience and watching changing weather conditions can lead to dramatic lighting.
Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM, 1⁄15 sec. at ƒ/10, ISO 100