Top 10 Photography Gadgets

Your camera and lenses are the most important tools in your bag.  Hands down.  But there are so many more helpful instruments out there, that sometimes choosing what to pack and what to leave behind is overwhelming.  Here are my top ten, don’t leave home without them!

10.  Filter Holder

Filters help us achieve the look and feel we want in camera.  I hear the excuse all the time, “Why use that when you have photoshop?”  But to put it bluntly, getting it right in camera the first time is where we get the latitude and quality that makes professionals stand out from the amateurs.  Though I often handhold my 4×6″ ND filters, my Cokin Z Pro Series Filter Holder allows me to hold my filters (up to 3 at a time) in one consistent place, making it easier and more accurate to shoot long exposures and time lapses.  The downside though, is at super wide focal lengths, the edges of the holder are visible in the frame.

9.  Velcro… Yeah, You Heard Me… Velcro.

How did people live without velco??  On most trips I carry a 15ft roll of the stuff.  “Why?”, you may ask.  Well, I can tell you many uses, but I seem to find more on nearly every trip!  Right now I use Scotch Self-Stick Reclosable Fasteners on my tripod legs to fasten my intervalometer and cable releases.  When shooting long exposures and time lapses, you don’t want them flapping around in the wind messing up your shot.  I also use it on my pocket wizards to fix them to whatever I need; the power packs, stands, flashes, etc.  There are so many uses, I could hardly name them all…

8.  Filter Pouch

My Lowepro S&F Filter Pouch 100 allows me to keep all of my filters in one place, where I can access them conveniently.  It clips around the neck of a tripod, and can hold several circulars, 150mm x 100mm NDs, and even a filter holder.

 

7.  Multi-tool

It’s hard to argue this one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had emergencies where I’ve had to tighten crews on my lens in the field, or cut something, use my players to fix a wayward piece of metal, etc.  No matter where you are or what you’re shooting, you’ll thank me if you take your multitool, I promise.  And I recommend the Leatherman Wave.  It has just about any and every tool you would ever need in the field to fix any problem… you could even field dress a deer with it.

6.  Small Stand

The Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand fits in a standard size suitcase.  When space and weight are a premium and I’m traveling around the world, this little bad boy gets packed first.  It folds down to less than 20 in, and can easily support speedlights and boom mics.  When full size stands won’t do, this compact solution will save the day for you.

5.  Geared Tripod Head

It’s an obvious and necessary accessory… a good tripod head.  But recently I’ve been introduced to the Manfrotto 410 Geared Head.  It was love at first use for me.  It’s heavy and meaty, which I love for it’s stability when shooting long exposures.  Now I’ll admit, it’s not the best for mobility with video, but I rarely shoot anything but handheld or static shots anyway in video.  Its precise controls, and super fast yet secure quick-release plate keep me loyal.  It’s perfect for landscape, long exposures,  and architecture… the majority of my work.

4.  2X Tele

A good 2X teleconverter is a must for nature shooters.  It’s all fine and good to have your 500 or 600 f/4, but let’s face it, they are beasts.  And sometimes a 5 or 600 isn’t even enough.  A good 2X like the Canon EF 2X III Extender will give you what you need with minimal image degradation.  I often use it just in conjunction with my 70-200/2.8 so I can have a 400mm reach without the bulk of a prime, when hiking or backpacking.  It’s not better than good prime glass, but it’s a supremely valuable tool when space and weight are a premium.

3.  PocketWizards

If you shoot portraits, these are a must.  Whether you’re using strobes or speedlights, PocketWizard Plus III Transceivers are the best solution to consistency and stability in communication between your camera and lights.  But something that most folks don’t know about these little magic machines… you can also remotely trigger your camera.  It comes in really handy for wildlife and sports photography.  They run on two AA batteries, and they’re quite small, so you don’t have to worry about them taking up valuable space in your bag.

2.  Intervalometer

I really don’t know how I lived without this for so long.  Seriously.  My work was so much more difficult and time-consuming without the Canon TC-80N3.  It will control long exposures and time-lapses like a boss.  You can tell it exactly how many frames at what intervals… I mean.  Remember the days of the cable release with your 35, medium, or large format camera?  Yeah, this totally kicks their butts.  And what it does most valuably for me, is that it allows me to get a little shuteye when I’m shooting star pictures and night time-lapses.  I really cannot say enough about this genius, little gadget.

1.  Graduated ND Filters

Again, it’s only been the last few years since I’ve really seen the necessity of my Singh Ray Graduated Neutral Density filters.  I’ve already talked about “getting it right in camera”…. well, this is how you achieve that.  Have you ever been shooting a scene and not been able to balance the amazing sky with your perfectly composed landscape?  Well sometimes these shots would be impossible without grad and reverse grad nds.  There is no Lightroom or Photoshop equivalent, though one can achieve decent results in post.  You really can’t argue the difference in quality once you start using the appropriate filters.  And it opens your ability to convey the emotion and drama you envisioned for your image without it looking too “photoshopped”.  Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Lightroom and Photoshop, I use both everyday for very single image I shoot.  What I want to do though as I grow as an imaging professional, is to minimize the distraction to my viewers.  I want them to get lost in the fantastic beauty of my image… and I don’t want them seeing the tell-tale signs of having to use Photoshop salvage an image.

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The fact is… there are so many wonderful little gadgets that help us take our images to new heights of creativity.  I would love to hear which I’ve left off the list that are true must haves.  I know there are plenty out there with which I am not yet familiar.  Thanks in advance!

— andrew


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

Buy Local // BUY ART

The “buy local” movement has gained considerable momentum in the last few years.  And there are many great reasons to support your local economy.

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But I’d like to see a movement in the art community to encourage people to buy local art specifically.

As the Christmas and holiday seasons approach, artists could begin promoting the idea that locally produced art is the perfect gift.  Because it is.  Where would be as a society without art?  Music, painting, sculpture, theatre, film, photography, culinary art, fashion, architecture, etc.  It’s a seriously sad prospect to consider.  So we as creatives have to find a way to continue living and producing.  And that involves the very important roll of the art patrons.  The art consumers and appreciators.  Everyone, no matter how cynical, is an appreciator of art.

So how do we as producers turn the casual appreciators into patrons?

I think one way is for us to encourage patronage of art in general.  When the population becomes great appreciators and consumers of art, we all benefit.  And it starts in our local communities.  That’s not to say that buying art around the country or around the world is bad.  I frequently sell around the U.S. and internationally, but it should all start at home.  Appreciating and buying art locally = a broader base of more informed consumers/ patrons.

We as artists should be supporting and promoting each other’s artwork.

Let’s start a movement.

Let’s help the arts everywhere by buying local.  Buying art.

~ andrew

BLBA-2


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

Travel Portraiture // It’s All About The Light

It’s not so easy to travel with heavy, bulky strobes.  But sometimes, it’s an absolute must.  And if that’s the case, I would recommend the battery powered Profoto D1 or 7b systems.  If you’re like me though, and have an A/C power system, strobes aren’t even an option when traveling to remote locales like my most recent job in South Sudan.

So what do I do to get those dramatic and compelling portraits that I have in mind before I ever step on the plane?  Well, in short… you work with what you’ve got.

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So what does that mean?

The first, and most obvious answer is an off camera flash, like my Canon Speedlite 580EX II on a small stand, triggered by PocketWizard Plus III.  When I want drama, that is usually my “go to” set up.  Here are a few field  examples with that system, including the shot above…

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So what are the pros and cons?  Well, the pros are that it is a very light weight, quick set-up, cost-effective solution to the problem of poor/ low lighting.  It can certainly take a little practice before hand to understand the power and ambient relationships you’ll need to achieve the look you want.  But it’s very effective.

The downsides are that you don’t get as much power as strobes, so it can be tough to overpower the ambient when outside on a sunny day.  Also, the quality of the light you get from most speedlights is not as rich as strobes.  It can be harsh and cooler looking.  But there are several ways to counteract this with light modifiers like small softboxes, grids/ honeycombs, and gels.  I recommend playing around with all of these options before your trip in various ambient scenarios to see what you like and don’t like.

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In the absence of our comforting strobes, it’s also a good time to get reacquainted with our old friend, available light.

It’s funny how we can rely sometimes on the trends and tricks of the trade, but when it comes down to it, for many of us at least, our first love is working with the light we’re given… not creating our own.  So on these trips I try to reconnect (when the situation calls for it) my eye to identifying my best available light.

Often times it’s the soft, indirect sunlight from a doorway or window.

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And other times, it’s the soft, diffused light of an overcast sky.

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But don’t get discouraged when the light just doesn’t appear any good at all.  It’s always a motivating excuse to get creative… and perhaps make a compelling silhouette portrait.  It’s amazing how much can be said with a completely shadowed subject.

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The point is to keep seeing and creating in new ways.  Push yourself beyond your comfort level, and make the most beautiful portrait you can with what you have.  This last one was the ugliest, hottest middle of the day (near the equator) kind of light you could get.  But her smile, her eyes, and the colors she wore compelled me to photograph her in this wrap-around light, and not worry about blowing out the background.  It was beautiful light to me.

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So keep shooting and exploring.  And don’t let your long-held notions about good light and bad light cause you to stumble.  Let it instead challenge your creativity to see that all light is good light… you just have to find out how to use it!

Happy shooting…

— andrew


 
Come learn light with me… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

 

Telluride Photo Fest // Preview

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I have had the pleasure of spending much time in the incomparably beautiful Telluride, Colorado.  But never in the Fall.  So the fact that I’ll be attending the 2014 Telluride Photography Festival in October has me really excited.

With Joel Sartore, Barbara Davidson, Aaron Huey, Ian Shive, and Jennifer Wu as the lineup of speakers, a lot of photography wisdom will be at the helm, ready to be gleaned.  And I’ll be ready.  In the past, I didn’t follow many photographers… But Joel has been on my radar since I was very young in my work, because of the amazing stories he has shot for Nat Geo.

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There are workshops, seminars, panel discussions, a photo contest, portfolio reviews, and all of the other usual convention perks.  Not to mention the opportunities to network with industry professionals and other great photographers.

But perhaps what I’m still looking forward to the most, is the fall colors.  I can’t believe that in the last 18 years of frequenting the town of Telluride, I have never personally seen the amazing explosion of color that is Autumn in the southern San Juans of the Rockies.

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If you have a chance to make it this year, please drop me a line, I would love to get out there with all of you and shoot some of the spectacular vistas of the surrounding area!

~ andrew

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Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

The Pursuit

I am in constant pursuit of the perfect image.  A story told through the capture of a singular moment in time.  Sometimes the pursuit is brought about by clients who hire me to go tell their story, and other times it’s a personal quest.  Either way the goal remans the same, and the lengths to which I will go know no end.

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A beam of sunlight breaks through the morning clouds in Kajo Keji.

This trip for Seed Effect went as follows: DFW to AMS to KGL to EBB to Kajjansi to RUA to Nimule to Kajo Keji to RUA to Kajjansi to EBB to AMS and finally back to DFW.  11 legs and 48 hours of travel each way to capture a story that is as old as the earth; the human struggle and God’s unfailing love.

And on this trip it occurred to me the amazing parallel that was happening. I was quite literally traveling to the far reaches of the earth to capture stories of God moving heaven and earth to pursue His people everywhere.  The LORD has given us all the privilege of being His hands and feet.  He has given each one of us very different gifts… in so many different capacities.  But the fact remains; God pursues His people relentlessly.  And sometimes we get to see it first hand.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

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Lily Lawa Isaac quietly prays. Last time we saw Lily, she was pregnant and enjoying the modest success of her business. Her daughter is now over a year old and healthy.

God never promises that we will not experience horrible trouble on this earth.  But He does promise us a hope in the midst of trials and hardships.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

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Local neighbor children watch as a Seed Effect loan group meets to encourage one another with scripture and fellowship. These meetings have a direct impact on their surrounding communities.

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Atem Anthony is already finding much success with his businesses. With his profits, he recently bought a home and is now renting it out.

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We visited a client in the hospital with her son suffering from malaria. She was distressed but not hopeless.

The people we met in South Sudan are a part of this amazing story about the God of the universe pursuing His people.  We met countless Seed Effect clients whose stories are difficult and heartbreaking.  But the ones who have encountered Jesus all had the same hope.  Hope in something much bigger than their circumstances.  Living water for all of our souls.

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Emmanuel has polio. In spite of being nearly crippled and having little control of his motor skills, Emmanuel has a profitable store and provides for his family.

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But Emmanuel’s blessings don’t end on the surface… God is meeting his deepest needs for companionship. Even though he would generally be considered an outcast for his afflictions, he has a large group of friends and just got married earlier this year.

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Christine has a sewing business in Wudu market in Kajo Keji. She used to be muslim but now she trusts in Jesus Christ. She is still grieving the death of her mother.

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Toban Francis is a butcher in Kajo Keji. He has used his Seed Effect loans to grow into several new business ventures.

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Please pray for Christine as she moves through this difficult season of life, struggling with her mother’s untimely death.

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This is Beatriz’s son. We met Beatriz in a tiny stall in Wudu market 18 months ago. She was selling beans and a few other small perishables. This year, she owns her own beautiful restaurant, supporting her children.

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Selena Guo is one of Seed Effect’s most successful clients. She owns three stores now and has put several of her children through school. Dagula is her eldest who is about to earn his diploma from university.

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Dagula is the first generation direct recipient of the benefits of micro finance. He soon will have his degree in accounting.

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Selena’s second eldest son will be the next in line to receive an education from the profits of her businesses.

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One of Selena’s neighborhood children.

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Sunrise, Kajo Keji.

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Mikaya Aloro is proud of his new store. He is thankful for Seed Effect giving him the ability to keep all of his goods in stock for his customers.

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New Seed Effect client and his son selling greens and onions under a tree.

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Helen Diko is a seamstress, but more, she is a leader in her community. She hosts education seminars put on by Seed Effect at her shop.

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Her restaurant is small but this Kajo Keji Seed Effect client’s dreams are big.

The book of Hosea is beautiful analogy of this great love.  The ESV study bible says this…

Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature.  Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness.  Yet Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to take a very small part in this great love story.  And to see God’s pursuit of us every day in my own life, and in the lives of people all over the world.  To Him be the glory!

— andrew


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

 

When All Else Fails… Time-lapse It

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.” ~ Ansel Adams

Sometimes you get yourself out of bed at 4:30 AM and drive across town to get set up by 5:30 for a shot you need.

You have shown up, but the right weather hasn’t.

That’s okay… just get creative.

You’re already there… no sense in getting frustrated.

Make something unique and interesting with what you have.

Time-lapse it.

Over the last several months, I’ve been shooting time-lapses in tandem with my stills from all over the world… here are a few I wanted to share.

Some are the direct result of the still image never “showing up”.

~ andrew

Music: Parlours Slowly From The Earth


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

Autumn Rules // Top 10 Reasons Why Photogs Agree

I love summer, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the Fall.  Here are my Top 10 Reasons why professional photographers are salivating over the return of Autumn…

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10.  No Mosquitos… Okay, less mosquitos at least.

Depending upon where you choose to go this Fall, mosquitos could be the least of your worries.  Due to lowering temps, unfavorable for mosquitoes, they tend to hide in the autumn and winter.  They’re still there, but mostly inactive.  If traveling to more tropical locals, like the Florida Everglades, Fall could be the wet season, creating perfect conditions for the tiny insects to ruin your day.  Choose wisely, my friends.

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9.  Cooler Temps

It’s the reason for the lack of mosquitoes and other annoying bugs, but it’s also a welcomed relief to folks like me that appreciate the cool, dry air.  Whether you’re in the Smokies or the Rockies, the air begins to teem with a new, crisp energy starting in September.  It’s the coming of winter and the first snow that seems to charge the air with a sense of purpose, unlike the relaxed feel of Summer.  And the animals feel it too…

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8.  The Animals Are Active And Energized

The inevitable coming of Winter that is marked clearly by the changing from Summer to Fall, is perhaps the alarm clock for most animals, especially in the mountains and forests.  They come alive with the urgency of the moment.  Realizing they must feed as much as possible before the unforgiving Winter, they become bold and are easily viewed and photographed during the Fall.  And that’s not even to mention mating season… I’ll get to that later….

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7.  Less Crowds

I do enjoy people (sometimes), but when I’m on one of my nature/ landscape trips, I prefer to avoid crowds.  So if you’re like me, Autumn is the time for you.  The crowds of the Summer months dwindle away with the start of new school years, less hospitable weather, and reduction of seasonal services.  All is quiet.  And peaceful.  The way nature should be appreciated!

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6.  Catching The First Snow Is Exhilarating

Ah, the first snow.  It is something I strive to catch every year in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  There is something so magical about it, and as mentioned before, it is the first real indicator of the coming Winter.  The animals get energized and a beautiful dusting of contrast is added to a yellow and sleepy landscape.  Which brings me to my next point…

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5.  Dynamic Weather

With the colder air from the north and first snow comes weather and dramatic clouds.  Those bluebird Summer days feel long gone, and the beautiful “drama queen” that is nature, peeks out to show you her moody side.  The light becomes magic as it penetrates small openings in the clouds, kissing the land.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about spending a month in Colorado and Wyoming this Fall!

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4.  Longer Nights…

I know, I know, this seems weird, right.  But let me just say, if you’re a seasoned photographer, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  We are often slaves to the light.  And during the Summer months, the days are so long.  We must rise before the sun to capture the gorgeous pre-dawn and dawn light (4:30-5 AM), and then we cannot truly rest until the sun has again hidden itself from our little part of the earth (9-10 PM).  It’s exhilarating, but exhausting.  So when the shorter days, longer nights of Fall come, it’s a nice reprieve.  Well, okay, let’s be honest; I still spend the same amount of time shooting, it just allows me to also capture the night shots I so love to shoot.  And thankfully, I still get a solid 5-6 hours of sleep.

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3.  Better Light = Better Photos

What is it about the Fall light?  Well, for one, the sun is lower in the sky, so the angle of sunlight is generally prettier and softer.  But also, as I mentioned before, the weather creates a situation for the light to be filtered and fantastically interesting.  There’s a harshness to the summer sun that fades away with the advent of Fall.

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2.  The Rut… And the Animals Get Crazy

If you’ve ever hear elk bugling, you’ll know what is so entrancing about the rut.  The rut is the mating season of many mammal species, including deer, elk, sheep, moose, pronghorn, caribou, etc.  The shorter day lengths of Autumn are the trigger for many of these animals.  And the side-effects of the increased hormones are what make this time of year so exciting and interesting for wildlife observers and photographers.

Males often rub their antlers or horns on trees and shrubs, fight with each other, wallow in mud and dust, self-anoint, and herd estrus females together.  Bull elk, in particular,  will loudly and frequently bugle.  A bugle is a vocalization made exclusively by bulls and can be directed toward other bulls or toward cows (female elk). A  bull will direct his bugle toward his cows while gathering them or while chasing a cow in estrus.  A herd bull might also direct his bugle toward another bull to express his dominance over the herd, while a satellite bull may use his bugle to challenge the herd bull.  Yelping also known as “grunting” is usually only made by herd bulls when they are excited. Seeing the steam from the cold air streaming from the nostrils and gaping mouth of a massive bull elk grunting and bugling is truly amazing.  But it’s the haunting bugles in the distance that one wakes to that heighten your senses and keep you coming back to the mountains in the Fall every year.

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1.  Fall Colors

What can I say?  This is self explanatory.  The colors of the fall just can’t be beat.  The deep greens and blues (to borrow from James Taylor) of Summer are magnificent.  Totally.  But the colors of Fall, almost exclusively during a few magical weeks each year, awaken my soul.  Red, orange, yellow, and every hue in between.  It’s earthy and warm, but those old familiar cool toned skies and purple hued mountains make for supremely balanced images.

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Sometimes as I drive down the road to Cora in the Winds, the leaves fall and dance in front of my car, and I feel like I might be in heaven.  Or some cheesy car commercial.  But it’s amazing and I really can’t get enough.  I miss Fall as soon as it’s gone, and I can’t wait until it arrives again…  Every.  Single.  Year.

If you don’t believe me… join me this Fall for my Grand Teton Workshop!

~ andrew


 
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