education, photography, random thought, writing

Photographic Trophy Hunting

“For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.”

A thought occurred to me recently as I was contemplating how to make my workshops better for my clients… There are a lot of photo enthusiasts and pros out there nowadays that are essentially “trophy hunters”.

You might be wondering, what is a photographic trophy hunter? It’s an individual who sees an image on social media or the internet, and travels to that location to come away with their own social media “trophy” shot.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. Obviously, actual trophy hunting is not a very well-liked practice by the public these days. I’m not equating the general idea that many folks looking for the trophy shot are somehow shallow or calloused. It’s much more nuanced than this.

What I mean to say, is that even with actual hunting, there are positives and negatives to this trophy-type approach. First positive, hunters are one of the most conservation minded groups out there. They bring in massive amounts of cash that goes directly toward furthering conservation efforts all over the world. In fact, many species have been saved by the efforts and financial support driven by hunters. But trophy hunting clearly also has it’s draw backs.

For one, it feeds a desire to destroy, with little regard for the “why”. Notice, I didn’t say with no regard. In subsistence hunting, there is a clear why. Sustenance. Food. Clothing. Tools. Etc. There is so much that can be done with a deer, elk, moose, or other game species. Now, there are other reasons of course for hunting; population control, strengthening of the species, human rites of passage, etc., that reach symbiosis when coupled with utilizing the entire animal. Mismanagement (at all levels) and illegal poaching are the biggest concerns.

In the realm of photography, the same is true. The dollars brought in to local tourism are undeniable and absolutely necessary. Also, the awareness created through the sharing of these beautiful places, in theory, causes a broader audience to care enough to support protecting these special locations. However, the increased interest leading to the degradation of many of these incredible locations seems unstoppable, simply due to the sheer numbers of trophy seekers. That’s not even to mention the uneducated, or simply those who don’t care beyond their own desires who end up destroying places.

I see it first hand everywhere we go these days. I’d like to think it’s just a matter of educating people into proper outdoor etiquette, but I’m increasingly afraid that there are many folks out there who just don’t think beyond themselves, in this Instagraming culture we’ve created. And what that breeds is two things; closures of public places (which I despise) or destruction for no good reason (which I despise even more).

In each of my workshops, there are undoubtedly trophy locations that all of my clients desire to see and photograph. It is understandable. There are many great reasons why these places have become legendary. However, as a tour/ workshop leader, I do feel a responsibility to educate and minimize our impact. For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.

What this has caused me to begin to do in recent years is to seek out the “off-the-beaten-path” locations. The places I used to frequent, for instance Snake River Overlook (as pictured below), I rarely visit anymore. I have opted away from the easy locations, for the creatively challenging. And though it is markedly less fruitful at times, it is most rewarding to my soul and sense of adventure. And at the very least, it takes one person away from the crowds at these trophy locations.

There is a potentially harmful issue though that arises from this approach as well… at least with the “trophy locations” they are already well known and we as a society can mitigate the risk to the environment at these places more easily. But if we introduce more “off-the-beaten-path” spots to more and more people, they become less “off-the-beaten-path.” In an effort to self regulate, I have incorporated non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) into my workshops, so folks legally cannot share the locations. I know it seems heavy-handed, but I’m adamant about keeping some places sacred.

Over the years, I have changed my tune on the whole sharing locations issue. And I think we all have continually evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate our long held beliefs on how things are and how they should be. We have a drastically changing society and landscape out there, due to technology and social media. Some of it good, and some of it catastrophically bad.

But to me, just like with nearly any issue, it all comes back to the individual. To you, and to me. Personal responsibility.

If we want things to change for the better, we have to live it for ourselves, and educate others with truth and love. Photographic trophy hunting is an important issue we need to tackle head-on, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for a society increasingly less responsible for our own actions, and more dependent on government or authorities to do the jobs we all should be doing. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have official regulatory practices and entities, it just means that for these regulations to work (and not shut the public out completely), we have to take responsibility for ourselves first.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to know what you think about this issue. Have you seen the affects on our public lands, or special places that you love? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

— Andrew


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advanced, beginner, education, instructional, photography

FREE TUTORIAL: FOCUS STACKING

One of my goals (just like everyone else) during this time of quarantine is to finish a few long put-off projects. And I must say that I am pretty happy with some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish when I’m forced to be indoors most of the time.
Once such project has been to create new tutorials for all of you interested out there. I’m pleased to say that I just finished a new one, and I’m offering it for FREE!
It’s a 15 minute video on Focus Stacking. the new technique to achieve hyper-focus. Check it out by clicking the screenshot below.
I have a few more in the works, some free, and some will be for purchase. Check out what’s available and what’s up next HERE. I hope they are helpful! Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see.
— Andrew

SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
VIDEO TUTORIALS
Check out my free and paid video tutorials and learn from a 20+ year professional.
NEW WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
GIFT CARDS
Give the gift of beauty, travel, and knowledge… buy a gift card. Help a small business.
The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
PRINTS
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
STOCK
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
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advanced, education, photography

SCOUTING IN THE EVERGLADES

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

An often overlooked aspect of photography is the time and energy needed to focus on pre-production.

Pre-production is a term we use in commercial photography. It’s the time leading up to the actual day of the shoot that we spend in preparation to iron out all of the details, so that the shoot can run smoothly. It really is no different with travel and landscape/ nature photography… Perhaps just a little less involved and stressful.

So, for the initiated and uninitiated alike, I have several tips. The first and foremost is the importance of scouting.

From “boots on the ground” experience in years past, I knew this shot was possible, so this year I waited for the prime conditions and was rewarded.

Scouting involves time spent researching locations; utilizing the web, books, social media, and “boots on the ground.” So where to start? Well, let’s take an example location and walk through my process. How about the Everglades, since I’m currently looking at this amazing place outside my window!

Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Knowing from research that this was an area in which I could get close access to american alligators from a low angle, I was placed in the right scenario to catch a dragonfly resting on this gators head.

When I first visited Everglades National Park as a naive college student back in 2000, I did almost no research. As a consequence, I had an amazing adventure, but came away with very few decent images (and really those few were only by chance). Any photographers worth their salt will tell you that scouting is one of the most important ways to improve consistency in outcome. Really, this principal applies to everything. Preparation is one of the most important keys to success in any endeavor.

Learning from research that dragonflies are plentiful in this part of south Florida, I envisioned this shot months before it materialized right in front of me.

There are several effective ways to scout. Some more effective than others. Here, I’ll run through my list of methods…

First, know how to read maps. More specifically, topographic maps. This seems to be a bit of a lost art these days. With GPS and Siri, many younger folks have lost the ability. Reading contours, elevation changes, and even directions are very important if you want to scout before you even reach the location. I always either purchase a physical map, or download the 7.5 min USGS topos for free to my phone via the Avenza Maps app before beginning the scouting process. Properly reading a top map will help you identify potential areas of interest before reaching a location. If you do not feel comfortable reading a map, I recommend this great video by REI.

I had an idea to show human/ wildlife relationships in the Everglades ecosystem. After chatting with a friend who had heard from a park ranger that this alligator was hanging around a popular lake for kayakers, I was given my opportunity.

Next, I scour the internet for images of the place to which I’m traveling. Google image search and social media (specifically Instagram) are excellent places to start. Search geo tags of your location to get ideas and to visualize what images you would like to capture on your trip. Now, be advised that this can take a little discernment on your part, as some people incorrectly tag images. However, it should give you a broad sense of what is possible, and it will help you to create your ever important shot list. You will likely find many stunning captures when researching, so make notes of the specific locations that catch your eye. This may take a bit of diving, as some images on the web are a bit more cryptic with the location info, and for good reason. Blogs tend to have a lot of good info, so that may be a likely place to start.

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

There are only a few places in the U.S. to see the endangered American Crocodile. Proper pre-production led me to this fruitful location to get close enough to nature the reptilian eye.

Many photographers though, myself included, have become a bit more tight lipped about specifics in recent years. This is because of the massive spike in travel, and more specifically, photo-tourism, causing locations that used to be quiet, clean, and cherished by professional photographers to become overrun, trashed, trampled, and disrespected by the masses seeking their “trophy shot.” Rest assured, if you point-blank ask a photographer where a particular image was taken, they will almost certainly ignore the inquiry. After a short stint of widely sharing location info broadly over the web, it appears as though we’re back to the age of investigation to find places. And I’ve come around to think that is a better way.

Checking out (at your local library), or buying books on your location is one of the old, time-tested ways of scouting as well. Purchasing is especially helpful if you want to take them with you and if you plan to visit these locations again and again. However, when I’m researching on the cheap, the public library is invaluable! There are several good guidebooks that are specifically oriented to photographers, like The Photographer’s Guide To The Everglades by M. Timothy O’Keefe, for example. There are several in this series, so unless you are planning to visit a very remote location, chances are you will find a suitable guide to give you some ideas.

Guidebooks and previous in person experience gave me the knowledge that purple gallinules can be observed closely on the anhinga trail. I wanted an overhead shot to show the incredible feet of this colorful bird.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Photopills are both excellent apps that will help you to figure out whether your specific shots will be best at sunrise or sunset. This is an important step in the research process, as it will insure the best use of your time once you arrive.

At this point, you should have enough specifics and general info to create an extensive shot list. I start with specifics, images that are in my head that I want to achieve first and foremost. Then I add more general shots that I’d like to achieve. Since I’m a pro, I’m also thinking through different ways to make money with my time, so I will often list stock shots, creative projects, video clips, etc. Here is an example of what that might look like to give you an idea. I recommend printing this out before leaving for your adventure, that way, if you think of other shots, you can easily manually add them with a pen or pencil. Also, there is still some scouting to be done once you arrive!

Now that your shot list is made, and you have arrived on location, scouting moves into the “boots on the ground” phase.

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” ~ Bobby Unser

Great blue herons can be surprisingly skittish. I knew I wanted a detail shot if the feathers which would require a closer shot even with a 400mm lens. I found the right location to make this shot through research.

Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to visit the gift shop (or tourist shops nearby) and scour the postcards/ posters/ prints for more inspiration and clues. This practice is often rewarding, if only for inspiration. But sometimes a location or image idea will present itself when you least expect it.

Now is the time to use your map reading skills and spend the midday hours exploring. Drive, kayak, walk, fly your drone (where legal) to get a first-hand look at these lovely places you’ve been researching from afar. Note the challenges they might pose so you can be prepared when you return for the good light. And don’t forget to take your camera along! I know it sounds dumb, but depending on where you are, some great photo opportunities may present themselves to you even in the midday hours.

I’ve shot this particular location several times, but always at sunrise. This year, I decided to hike in the midday hours around it to see what a sunset shot might yield. I was again rewarded for the scouting effort.

This article should give you a road map to prepare better for your photo excursions, whether you are a newer pro or a hobbyist. I can assure you that Implementing these strategies is guaranteed to increase your rate of success.

Just like with anything, success comes to the prepared!

–Andrew

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln


N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
 
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beginner, education, instructional, national parks, photography, travel, workshop

10 Comp Tips For Better Photos

As photographers, there is much that is out of our control; weather, wildlife, seasonal changes, road/ trail conditions, etc.

But one thing that we always have ultimate control over is our compositions. Just like a composer of music has the ability to manage the notes, tones, and rests of his/ her musical compositions, photographers have the responsibility of choosing what to include, what to leave out, and how the viewer will ultimately see and feel the final image.

Here are 10 major composition techniques that, if used properly, will make your photos drastically better, immediately.

1. THE RULE OF THIRDS

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

2. BALANCING ELEMENTS

Placing your main subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more in- teresting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

3. LEADING LINES

When we look at an image, our eye is naturally drawn along lines. Being thoughtful and intentional about how you place lines in your composition can dramatically affect the way the viewer sees the image. It can pull the viewer into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of leading lines – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.

4. SYMETRY + PATTERNS

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the sym- metry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

5. VIEWPOINT/ PERSPECTIVE

Before photographing your subject, take time to think about from where you will shoot. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.

6. BACKGROUND

How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject. Silhouettes can be an incredibly valuable and striking way to do this well.

7. DEPTH

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

8. FRAMING

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

9. CROPPING

Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background “noise”, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.

10. EXPERIMENTATION

Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the “rules” above should be taken with a grain of salt. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they usually prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.

— Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE


Check out our new show, ONE WILD LIFE, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel! 


Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
REMOTE WYOMING // ADVENTURE + LANDSCAPE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLORS + LANDSCAPE
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2018
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education, nature, travel

Scotland: Revisited

Many years ago, when I was still single… I decided to take a very unconventional trip. I knew the time was right to visit my family’s country of origin… Lebanon. I was half-Lebanese, young, and single, and I had a shoot in Spain, so I would already be more than half way there. This was my first big international trip, and of course, it triggered what would become a lifelong passion for travel and experiencing different cultures.

Fast-forward nearly a decade. Ellen and I were doing quite well and we wanted to do an international trip together. Her heritage is largely Scottish (I have a little bit in me too), and I happened to be obsessed with Braveheart growing up… not to mention we both love fine Scotch whisky and dramatic scenery… so it was really a no brainer. Scotland was in our crosshairs!!

Ellen and I fell in love with Scotland immediately. It’s green hills, craggy mountains, moody weather, crashing seas, remote islands, hearty and happy people.

The landscapes completely captivated us.

It was vacation, but it also turned into a 3 week scouting road trip. I knew that I eventually wanted to teach workshops in this dynamic and friendly country. We knew we wanted to make this an annual trip.

So, fast forward again to this year. I had a few folks interested in taking my workshop in Scotland, but they ended up falling through last minute. We were pretty sure Scotland wouldn’t happen for 2017.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we had a client who was all in! He wanted a private workshop, so I began tailoring an incredible trip to his likes and aptitudes.

We set out a week before his arrival to scout and re-scout, making sure our locations were singing… oh… and they were!

All in all, we had an incredible 3 week road trip through the Highlands, Isle of Skye, and Islay. It was magical, as always.

We even discussed moving to the UK after our 3-5 years on the road in the US, making Scotland our “home base” from which to explore Europe, and the rest of the world…

\

If you have any interest, consider joining us in May of 2018 for a magical photo workshop, touring the best of the Highlands, Skye, and a few of your favorite whisky distilleries.

I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2017 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SCOTLAND // LANDSCAPE // SKYE + HIGHLANDS // 2018 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE!
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
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education, travel

The Silhouette

Canon EOS 5D MK II, EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, f/6.3 1/2000 ISO 500

Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In communication, simplicity is king. Getting to the point, and leaving no room for misinterpretation is efficient and effective. We, as photographers, are visual communicators. And more specifically, we as nature/landscape photographers are communicating emotion through our images. So how do we keep the clutter down to get our core point across?

Well, one of my favorite techniques is, you guessed it… the silhouette.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/60 ISO 800

The “Why”

Why does this technique work so well? Well, simply put: it strips down our subject into fewer and fewer elements – mostly shape, light, and color. But even the light element is typically ultra simplified… a silhouette is nine times out of ten backlit. As a consequence, it can often more efficiently communicate an idea, emotion, or memory. It is supremely graphic by nature and it brings unparalleled drama to an image.

There are many instances that would lead one to use this technique. One of those would be when you simply want to accentuate color and cloud texture. This is often during sunset or sunrise. But it requires a simple, uncluttered landscape, like the example above. In this particular image, I wanted to set the viewer’s focus on an iconic landmark of Big Bend National Park, Mule Ears. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Mule Ears, I bet you can pick it out, can’t you? And have an emotional response to the colors. Thus the beauty of a silhouette.

The Technique

Every situation will be a little different, however, one simple rule remains; get your exposure from your background. What do I mean by this? Take a spot meter reading on the brightest part of your image, usually the sky. Now this can get a bit tricky if you are shooting directly into the sun. You may have to play around with it a bit to get just the right exposure. Don’t be afraid to let the sun blow out just a bit. What you really want to watch out for and guard against is for the blacks to get muddy. Determine what will be your deepest, truest black in the image, and pay close attention to how it looks. Does it start to blend with the layer just behind it? If so, you need to open up your exposure a little. Try again.

One of the hardest parts about creating a truly wonderful and compelling silhouette image is the balancing of the highlights and the shadows. But unlike in a conventionally lit exposure, your range will be many fewer “zones”. If you are familiar with Adam’s Zone System, you know that a traditional exposure might have 9 or 10 “zones”, or distinct tones. Nowadays with digital, it is possible to achieve even more. However, with a silhouette, you may have as few as 2. But most often in nature photography, it will be more like 4-5 “zones”.

Composition is Key

Even more important than balancing tones in a silhouette is your composition. The rule of thirds and balance are supremely important to creating an effective silhouette. In the image below, the upper third is dominated by beautiful color and cloud texture, the middle third with warm, pouring light over rocky crags, and the lower third, an imposing, immovable mountain. The upper-middle left third, with it’s eye-catching light rays, is balanced by the lower-middle right third of the black peak.

Simplifying your compositions will make your silhouettes better. Go in tight, and get rid of clutter as much as possible.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/800 ISO 400

When To Use

On my most recent travels through the American South and Southwest I used silhouetting a lot. Like most nature/landscape photographers, I am often shooting at dusk and dawn, when the sky lights up with the day’s most pleasing light and colors. Silhouettes can help to accentuate and enhance the light and color. It also gives the photographer an easy way to shoot directly in to the sun, without the worry of needing a crazy dynamic range.

See the image below from Saguaro National Park. The saguaro cactus is an iconic symbol of the American Southwest. I could’ve chosen to photograph this specimen with front lighting or even side lighting, which would’ve allowed the viewer to see the color and some of the texture of the cactus. But I chose to silhouette it, placing the setting sun almost directly behind the subject to capture the light and color of the dusk, allowing the viewer to connect even more deeply to the well-known shape and spiny texture of the saguaro. To me, it is a more interesting and emotional image.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/16 1/250 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2.0x, f/5.6 1/5000 ISO 500

I often do this with iconic flora and fauna (like the heron in the image above or the opening elk shot). When I travel to a new place, it is almost an unconscious effort to make sure I capture a very graphic silhouette of recognizable, quintessential actors of the local landscapes.

See below… The giant palms of Florida, the straight, endless, tall pines of the Everglades, the migrating cranes of the American south, etc. They are all quick reads, accentuating the shape, light, and color, rather than the leaf, trunk, feather, etc details.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/4 1/30 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1.125 ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/500 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/100 ISO 500

As we all know, the sun is not our only source of natural light. The moon can be a wonderful backdrop for a variety of silhouetted subjects. The key to a successful shot like this is a (at least near) full moon, close to the horizon, with a long lens (at least 300mm), and a compressed subject that is far enough in the distance that it will fit nicely within the confines of the moon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/200 ISO 1000

Sometimes a partial silhouette is your best choice for an image. What I mean by “partial” is that instead of having a pure black subject, you might have several layers of tones. But it still constitutes a silhouette because there is no real detail in the shadows to speak of… they are simply shades of color (or gray in B&W). These work wonderfully well when there are layers of mountains in the distance. I use this technique often to convey distance, grandeur, and intense color. Below is a good example from a recent shoot in the Grand Canyon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/80 ISO 640

The Active Landscape

Placing humans in your silhouetted landscape brings a sense of scale and a personal connection to an image that cannot be achieved otherwise. The photographer can now convey multiple messages, like a sense of activity or action, like the surfing couple below.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/125 ISO 320

People can add a new set of emotions to an image that without them is much harder to achieve. The man below, craning to capture the gorgeous sunset on his phone is universally understood and relatable.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/250 ISO 125

The lone man (or couple in love) quietly standing in awe and contemplation of the beautiful sunset before them (see images below).

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/16 1/40 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/400 ISO 320

Once you start practicing silhouetting your subjects, you will begin to see silhouettes everywhere. They are great to add to your repertoire and portfolio to mix things up, keep you creative, and to be a more effective communicator.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/9 1/25 ISO 640

And you will be ready when the real magic hits like in the image below, when all the elements come together right before you… the early dawn sunlight filters through fog rising to create a moody and dramatic image that cuts to the soul of your viewers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1/500 ISO 320

Happy shooting!

— Andrew

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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education, travel

The Photographic Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Well, it’s been a little while since I last posted… so much going on here with our new life on the road! I promise I will start posting again soon. But first, I wanted to share some exciting news…

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 9.53.17 AM.pngThis is for all you “do-it-yourselfers” out there! The long awaited second installment to my eBook series of interactive photo guides to our National Parks, The Photographic Guide To Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton is my backyard National Park, and because of that, I know it like the back of my hand. If you are planning a trip to this magnificent area, this is the guide for you.

Everything from clickable GPS locations on every photo and how to capture them, to lodging info and where to find wildlife… plus so much more. I have poured a lot of time and love into this eBook and I know it will make your next visit to Grand Teton incredible.

You can purchase and download it directly on my website right now. Put it on your phone, tablet, laptop, whatever. Do your research at home before the trip, and then take it with you in the field! There is no better way to make the most of your next National Park excursion.

Please check it out. I’d love to know what you think. You can also download a free sample HERE to see if you like it first.

Soon to follow, Big Bend and Yellowstone.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – 1 SPOT LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
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