The same photographic area can give you several very different kinds of images in different kinds of light. The morning light had turned cloudy in Rocky Mountain National Park so Bob, my brother-in-law, and I were in the forest doing small scale landscapes and closeups of little forest details.
Bob set aside his serious camera for a moment, grabbed his point-and-shoot and took a picture of me.
A cropped closeup of Bob’s image shows my camera gear and camera settings. I was using 25 mm extension tube in between a 24-105mm lens and the camera body. The extension tube gave me a complete range of magnifications from 0.25X to 1X. I could fill the frame with an as large as a post card (4 x 6 inches) down to as small as a postage stamp (1 x 1.5 inches). When using an extension tube the shorter the focal length the higher the magnification. Changing the magnification was as simple as turning the zoom ring on the lens. An extension tube is a great accessory for closeup photography of subjects that won’t run away. It doesn’t work so well for a skittish subject like a butterfly because the working distance from the front of the lens to the subject is just too close.
The camera was in aperture priority mode. Exposure settings were f/11, 1/4 second, and ISO at 100. This gave me an exposure compensation of plus 2/3 to keep the aspen leaf a nice, light golden yellow. Aspen leaves are lighter than a medium tone. If you let the camera choose the exposure without using some exposure compensation your yellow aspen leaves will be too dark and you won’t get the best colors.
A long shutter speed can lead to slightly blurred photos caused by the motion of the reflex mirror and the touch of my finger on the shutter button. To keep that from happening, mirror lockup was turned on and the shutter timer was set to a 2 second delay. I would press the shutter button, the mirror would pop up, and two seconds later the shutter would open. That insured a nice sharp photo.
I was curious if I could find the exact photo I was taking at the time Bob clicked the shutter. I opened his photo in Adobe Photoshop to check the metadata panel. He took his photo at 11:17:18 am MDT.
I went through my images in Adobe Bridge and found an image taken at 1:17:14 pm EDT according to the clock on my camera (which translates to 11:17:14 am MDT). The GPS time stamp was 5:17:07 pm GMT(which would be 11:17:07 am MDT). It was also the only photo in the series that I used a shutter speed of 1/4 second so I knew I found the photo I was taking (at the top of this article) when Bob took his picture. You can see my aspen leaves in Bob’s photo. The moss and cone are in Bob’s photo too but harder to make out.
The area we were in is one of my favorites for several kinds of photography. The Storm Pass parking lot is my base of operations. With Adobe Bridge and Google Earth both open, I copied the GPS coordinates for the aspen leaf photo from Bridge (far right) and put them into the search box for Google Earth (upper left), and clicked SEARCH. The yellow pin shows the location of the aspen leaf photo on the satellite map. The parking lot on the left is for the trail up to Bierstadt Lake. The smaller parking lot to the right is for the trail to Storm Pass. Both are on the road to Bear Lake, just a little ways past the turn off to Sprague Lake.
Zoomed in you can get a better look at the area around the Storm Pass parking lot. The yellow pin marks the location of the aspen leaf photo. The white X and Y mark the locations for two of the photos below.
Looking west from the side of Bear Lake Road near the Storm Pass parking lot (white X) you can capture Bear Lake Road, the Bierstadt Lake parking lot and the hillside in the background. This is an especially nice view in the fall. Photo editors love well executed road photos in scenic locations. You can try various locations on either side of the road. Experiment.
Looking east from the same spot (white X) you can see the Storm Pass parking lot (red vehicle between the sign posts). The camera on the sign is a great clue. There is a rise to the east of the parking lot which you can see just to the right of the red vehicle. There is just enough elevation to shoot over the parking lot (leaving it out of the photo) at Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.
You can use the evergreens near the parking lot to frame the bottom of your photo. There are several possibilities so move around on the elevated rise and try different focal lengths and use different trees in the foreground. It is a lovely view and especially nice in the fall. This photo was taken from the white Y in the Google Earth image above. We stopped here in the morning which is the ideal time time to be at this location. When we came back a few hours later the mountains were hidden in clouds, so we did the aspen leaf and road photos above.
Two days later we were back at the same elevated rise by the Storm Pass parking lot. I like the drama of the storm clouds rolling in over the peaks. I was at a slightly different location on the rise, but not more than 40-50 feet from the white Y on the satellite map. I used a longer lens focal length and different trees in the foreground.
Most photo locations will give you several photo opportunities. Keep your eyes and mind open and wander a bit. If the light changes, go back and look around again.
Aspen Leaf. Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens at 105 mm with Canon 25mm extension tube. f/11, 1/4 sec, ISO 100.
Bear Lake Road in the fall. Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens at 105 mm. f/11, 1/200 sec, ISO 800.
Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens at 105 mm. f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100.
Storm Clouds Rolling In. Canon 7D. Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens at 120mm (35mm dull frame equivalent: 192mm). f/11, 1/200 sec, ISO 100.
If you want to photograph Colorado in the fall, check out my Colorado Fall Color Travel Guide.
Your Camera Loves Middle Gray – and what to do about it.
Nature Photography Books: The Three Essentials. If you only read three nature photography books, put these on your “must read” list.
My Favorite Introduction to Landscape Photography. If you only read one book on landscape photography, this should be it. This is my favorite for new landscape photographers.