Archive for the ‘Landscape’ Category

Superior Sunrise

Superior Sunrise © 2012

Morning Light

An early spring trip to the shore found the Great Lake mostly devoid of ice and activity.  The hue of he sky reflected on the waters surface, broken only by a stray piece of ice here and there.  As though a nod to the rising sun the beacons cast the last of their light to welcome the day.  The morning, strangely warm but expectedly calm, was ushered along by a warm breeze like a spring kiss.   The clouds covered the skies and let through only light with shades of blue.   Slowly the blue was replaced with the Gray of the clouds but for now a splash of color entertained the senses.

Painted Falls

© 2009 Gary Udstrand

The Falls

The Tettegouche State Park is located along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.   Through the park runs the Baptism River and a short hike along its banks finds the High Falls.  On a beautiful sunny summer day my family and I made that hike and were rewarded with the scene above.  The day was hot and humid and the cold water running along the stream quickly refreshed our feet and our souls.   The site, the sounds and the gentle breeze made this a day to remember.   I am fortunate to have picture of that day to take me back there.

Finding Summer

Here in Minnesota spring has not been very warm, or dry. Rather it has been cold and wet for the most part which only added to the impact of a very long winter this year. After several days of cold and rain I decided that it was time to find some sunshine on my own. So off I went to browse my image catalog to see if I could find our missing summer.  When I ran across the image above I was brought back to that wonderful day and whisked away from the cold dreary day just outside my door. With the thoughts of that day still on my mind I found a smile on my face. And that is why I love photography.

So, find your summer even if Mother Nature refuses to cooperate. Post some pics and put a smile on your face, and if you (and me) are lucky, a smile on someone else’s as well. Smile

Topaz Adjust

The impact of the image was very good but when I looked at the original it seemed to me it could benefit from some more “pop”.   To me that usually means a trip to Topaz Adjust.  Once the image was loaded in the plugin I started clicking on the presets but once I got to Spicify I stopped.    Typically I like to tweak the various sliders and see if I can find any improvement, in this case I did not even try.  The preset was exactly the look I wanted and it could not have been any easier.

Shining Sea

© Gary Udstrand 2009

Shining Sea

The Lake’s surface appeared as though a stage for the dancing moon light, accompanied by the gentle ripples pushed along by the steady summer breeze.  It is late, and it is quiet and it is peaceful.   Time here seems to slow, the only indication otherwise is the almost imperceptible climb of the moon higher and higher above the horizon.  

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is not really a sea but then again its very size makes it unique in almost every way.  It is clear, deep, cold and expansive and its shoreline is among the most dramatic here in Minnesota, or almost anywhere.   I am fortunate to have the Great Lake in my backyard, as I was to be here on this night.

The Shore in Shades of Gray

The Shore In Shades of Gray © 2011 Gary Udstand

The North Shore

The heat of a hot summer day slowly eases its grip the closer we move towards the cold waters of Superior.  The sun’s rays dance on the surface of the water and it warms the stones on the beach.  Like a beautiful symphony the water laps upon the shore and the steady breeze whispers off the leaves and trees.  The view is spectacular and the day wonderful.  

 

Silver Efex Pro 2

All of my black and white images lately have been processed in Silver Efex Pro 2, and this one is no different.  Using SEP2 it was easy to open up the shadows of the foreground rocks while still maintaining the detail and the brilliant whites of the foliage.     Besides a few quick clicks in SEP2 the only thing I needed to do was sharpen. 

Left Behind

©2009 Gary Udstrand

Left Behind

The small shanty had once been the center of a vibrant and growing family, providing warmth and protection to all those who graced its floors. Laughter and Love and the patter of small feet echoed insides its walls, but that is now long gone. As the years passed the children moved on one by one until there were none.

The prairie winds blow effortlessly unfettered by the shattered windows. The silence is only occasionally interrupted by the sad creak of hinges as the door slowly works free of the frame. The house is slowly dying along with the dreams of the once proud builder. Time passes and people move on, the forgotten building stands alone, left behind.

 

Fine Art

This image was featured on the Fine Art photoblog on May 28th 2010.  It was the first of a few images that were featured and it is one of my favorites.  Growing up in Northern MN this scene is all too familiar and represents a way of life that is slowly slipping away.  This scene will eventually succumb to the elements and will disappear completely from the landscape. And with it the memories of a time that is no more.

 

Interestingly, even though this image was featured on another blog I had, until now, failed to post it on my own blog.  So this post is a bit retrospective and some may have even seen this image before.   But I wanted it to be a part of this blog and representative of my work and style.

 

Conversion to Black and White

This image was converted to Black and White using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.   I am  a big fan of the Nik plugins and have used SEP for all my B&W work since I first converted this image a couple years ago.  For this image I wanted a strong tonal contrast and an emphasis on the powerful skies of that day.  Using SEP I was able to quickly and easily get the look I wanted. 

Skagen Town Hall

©2010 Gary Udstrand

Skagen

Skagen Town Hall is located between Greenbush and Badger in the NW corner of MN.   As a kid we lived just a few short miles from here and drove by it almost every day.  Now, years later I have moved on and get back home just a few times a year.  Seeing the town hall reminds me of my childhood and all the adventures that comes with growing up in rural area.  

Many things are different and have changed since my youth, this town hall however is not among them.  The trees may be a little taller and the paint chipped a tad more here and there but in my minds eye it looks the same as it did the first time I happened to cast a glance its way.

Silver Efex Pro 2

Just this past week Nik released an update to their incredibly popular, and powerful, black and white conversion plugin.   This plugin works with many image editing tools but my use is confined to Lightroom and Photoshop.  For this particular image I used the plugin from within Lightroom.

There are several new features to recommend the updated version.  Two of these features are the Amplify Blacks and Amplify Whites and both are exceptional.  The photo above was shot in very flat light and did not hold much promise.  I tried the usual tweaks in both Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom and could not get the look or the depth that I wanted in the image.

When I finally got a copy of Silver Efex Pro 2 one of the first images that I processed was the one above.   I previewed one preset after another and I have to say I really enjoyed seeing all the possibilities  that were just a simple click away.   I finally settled on one, the default I believe, and then using the amplify blacks and whites I was able to expand the tonal contrast and add some depth to the image.   Just what I wanted.  

Grass Roots

© 2010 Gary Udstrand

Roots

To me this picture has several meanings.  Growing up in this area of MN it is quite literally the origin of my roots.  The Town Hall itself represent the real grass roots of our political system.  It is here that government starts and provides the seeds of democracy.  Pretty cool when you think about it.

But it is not only a place of politics but also a place for gathering.  Like all good rural gatherings there is conversation, sometimes about politics but often about people.  It is no different here; living in the country can sometimes feel isolated and places like this represent something more.

HDR

This image above actually started as three separate exposures.  While I have written about other HDR images in this blog, this one is just a bit different, at least in the terms of tools and techniques.  My attempts at HDR have included Photoshop, Photomatix and Lightroom/Enfuse.    I have achieved great results with all three but with the recent purchase of the Nik plugin Suite I have added a fourth,  Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Nik HDR Efex Pro

I am a big fan of Nik filters and could not wait to try out the latest plugin from Nik.  It is an ambitious and well thought out plugin and  I soon discovered two things, 

Tone Mapping

First, it does a fantastic job with tone mapping.    It is very flexible and offers a myriad of options and controls.  These can be somewhat intimidating so the provided presets are very welcome.  And very good.

Besides the provided presets there are also other preset options available for download on the web.   Getting great results can be as easy as clicking on the various presets until you find one you like.  If it is not quite what you want you can tweak away, knowing that you can save your own preset should you come up with “the look”.

Alignment and Ghosting

HDR by its very definition requires that you shoot multiple images of the same scene which are later blended and/or merged.  Anytime you are dealing with this you have to deal with image alignment and sometimes with ghosting issues.

Of the two, ghosting can be the more difficult.  In the case of the image above the wind was gusting and blowing 30-40 mph.  Hard enough that when I went to merge the images I found that the telephone pole in the foreground had moved several inches at the top and caused no end of problems   No matter what I did I could not get Nik HDR Efex Pro to adequately remove the ghosting.

Luckily for me, just as I was struggling with this image I ran across a posting on the Canon 5D Mark II mail list outlining a technique that would address the issue I was experiencing.  One of the list members, Henry Heerschap, had posted an outline of a technique he was using with great success.  He was using the superior alignment/ghosting capabilities of Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro to create the 32 bit image, and once created he would load it into HDR Efex Pro to do the tone mapping and any other tweaking.

Henry also adds a few other pointers to the technique.

  • Make sure to check the anti-ghosting checkbox in HDR Pro!
  • Select 32 bit in CS5’s HDR Pro.  You want to save all the image information for HDR Efex Pro
  • Since most tweaking and tone mapping will take place in NEP the only tweak needed in CS5 HDR Pro is to move the slider mostly to the right to recover all the highlights.  

I have to say, this works very well.  I had all but given up on the image above but using this technique I was able to get the results I wanted.   Until Nik improves their ghosting/alignment techniques I plan to make great use of Henry’s technique.   For that, I have to send a big Thanks Henry’s way…. So, Thanks! 

Farm Setting

© 2010 Gary Udstrand – Farm Setting

The Day

The sunset over the horizon punctuated a bitterly cold December day.   The wind was brisk and did its best to remove the warmth from my face and hands, and quite successfully I might add.  Winter in Northern MN can be cold and bleak but it can also be beautiful.   This day I was glad that I braved the weather to enjoy the glow of the sunset.   Even if it was just for a moment; it reminded me that spring is getting closer every day. 

Getting the shot

The click and the click and the click of the shutter.  What??  If you have not already guessed, the picture above is actually three pictures combined together to produce an HDR image.   In a nutshell a HDR image is a photograph that attempts to capture more dynamic range than traditional techniques.

The dynamic range of an image is the difference in the luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.  Make sense?  Probably not, but think of it this way.   Have you ever taken a picture of someone standing in front of a window inside the house during a bright sunny day?   If you have you have more than likely ended up with a picture in which the person is nothing more than a silhouette while the yard and trees outside look great.  Or, if your camera is a little “smarter” you may have ended up with a nice picture of the person surrounded by a wash of blown out white.  Gone are the nice trees and yard.  

If you were thinking ahead and used a fill flash to even out the bright whites of the sunny outdoors and the shadows of the person in front of you then you might get a picture with both.  However, when shooting landscapes and scenery using a fill flash is just not practical or possible in many cases.

That is where HDR enters the picture (pun intended).  Essentially you take multiple exposures of the scene.  Using the above scenario you would take one that exposed the person correctly and one for the highlights of the window.   Then you could combine the images and tone map the results and get both properly exposed.

HDR

For many landscape photographers HDR offers a new and creative way to capture the scenery before them.   HDR has been around for a few years but many photographers have yet to embrace or understand the technique.   It can be complicated, and it can be intimidating but these days there are a number of great software tools to assist the photographer.  Myself, I use Nik HDR Efex Pro and to a lesser extent the HDR tone mapping in Photoshop CS 5.

In the picture above I took three exposures, one at a –2 EV, one at 0 EV and one at +2 EV.  These three images were then imported into Lightroom.  Next, I selected the three images and from within Lightroom exported them into Nik HDR Efex Pro.    I tried a few of the presets and found one that I thought best represented the scene.  I tend to favor the more natural look in my HDR’s but many are fans of more over processed look too. 

The plugin has numerous options and tweaks and could keep the tinkerer busy for many hours.  For those just looking for a quick result there are also several very good presets.  Click on a few and ifind one you like.  It is as easy or involved as you like.  Besides the presets that come pre-installed with the plugin you can also find other presets available to be downloaded on the web. 

Setting

HDR is a great way to create new images of even familiar places.  It can add new variety to your pictures and maybe even fuel some creative inspiration.    Get out there with your camera in hand and give it a try.   You may find an entirely new way to enjoy your photography. 

Smile

Tettegouche Arch becomes the Stack

The Stack”    © 2010 Gary Udstrand

Fall becomes winter, spring becomes summer and green leaves turn brown.  Changes,  we expect them and we see them all around us.  Some occur slowly over time and others in just an instant.  In this case it occurred both at once and over eons of time.

One of the most famous icons along the North Shore of Lake Superior is the Stone Arch found at Tettegouche State Park.  As an icon it is photographed each year by thousands of visitors, many coming for the first time and some who are returning for another look.   It had stood along the shores of Lake Superior weathering eons of storms, Minnesota winters and the occasional crash of a powerful wave from the mighty lake.  But no more.

Over the past week visiting photographers were met with something they did not expect, the arch had collapsed.   After years and years of erosion and weathering even rock must succumb.    There were no reports of weather, no big waves, no storm.  It appears that it was the simply felled by the ever moving force of time

The landscape along  North Shore is always evolving but usually in such small increments that only the culmination of many becomes noticeable.   In this case the change was dramatic and sudden and seemingly happened when no one was looking.   The first reports came in on Saturday but exactly when it happened is unclear.

The Arch at Tettegouche had stood in place since the last ice age.   It is hard to imagine that something that had survived for so long is no more.    As an icon it will be missed and all we have left is the many photographs that show us what once was.  Some will remember and some will be sad that it is gone while others will be excited to see the new landscape that now graces the Shores of Lake Superior.

This past weekend I made a trip to Tettegouche to welcome the new icon.  At this time a new name is yet to stick but the park rangers refer to it affectionately as “The Stack”.  Standing before the new formation is it is easy to see why.   I was told that so far no one was really sure what had happened to the displaced rock.    According to the park ranger that I spoke too, several naturalists had hiked out to The Stack and were not able to find any remnants of the fallen arch.

So, while we all will miss an old friend in the Arch we now have a new icon to photograph and to view.   Things change, even those that have seemingly stood the test of time.  So long Arch, and welcome to a new North Shore icon.

Guidance

Eyes on many a ship had turned towards the beacon on Split Rock for guidance. Today its watchful eye is no longer needed by the ships of Lake Superior, instead it stands as a reminder of days, and ships, past.

Split Rock

One of my favorite places to spend time is along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Among its many treasures is the Light House at Split Rock.  Many photographs have been shot of this iconic landscape over the years, and in all kinds of weather and conditions.  One can’t help but think about the many storms of November on the Great Lake and the welcome sight the beacon of Split Rock must have been.

On this beautiful summer day the lake was calm and provided no hint of the great fury its icy waters could deliver.  Instead the warmth of the suns rays fought back the chill of the lake swept breeze and was serene and idyllic.

The couple

The setting, the sun and the calm waters all contribute to this image, but the couple in the forefront add not only dimension and scale but also perspective.  I have no way of knowing for sure but I like to think that they were taking the opportunity to spend time and connect with each other.  In a familiar context the Lighthouse was there for them, as it had in the past for the ships of Lake Superior.

Why that crop?

Soon after posting this image I was asked by a fellow photographer why I chose that particular crop.   My reply was as follows:

I had initially shot this scene in a portrait mode.  When I reviewed it  the sky did not have much interesting detail, so I cropped the top a bit.  At the bottom there was a pattern of ripples on the water but I thought they did not really add to the image.   By cropping top and bottom I was able to distill the image down to only the elements in the scene that were an element of the overall theme.  I felt the Lighthouse was providing guidance both to the ships on the lake (hinted at by the disappearing water over the horizon) and to the couple in foreground.   Ultimately I try to crop images to distill them down to the barest of elements and that is what I have attempted here.

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