NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

Hey there everyone! A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to head out to Yosemite to co-teach a workshop. I’d never been before. And Yosemite has definitely been on the top of my bucket list for years, so I was really excited to get out there.

Side Note: I’m really excited to be teaching two free classes for landscape/outdoor photographers at Creative Live in a couple of weeks. They’re free to watch live, and if you RSVP ahead of time, they’ll send you crazy-good deals to buy the classes ahead of time so you can refer back whenever you want:

1. Mastering Long Exposure Photography – I taught this class a few years ago and had a blast doing it. But I’ve learned a ton since. So I can’t wait to share all of my latest and greatest long exposure techniques for shooting and processing.

2. Lightroom and Photoshop for Landscape Photographers – This is an entire day of my processing techniques for landscape, outdoor and travel photographers.

Okay… on to the Yosemite trip…

The Gear

I try to pack lighter and lighter these days. I used to bring a rolling suitcase with my gear, and pack a backpack in my checked luggage (I fill it with clothes and stuff so it doesn’t take up too much room). But lately, if it doesn’t fit in the small backpack I can take with me through the airport, I don’t take it. This time I took my Nikon set-up with me. Simple… 1 body, 3 lenses and some filters which don’t take up much space.

– Camera Body: Nikon D810
– Lens: Nikon 14-24mm
– Lens: Tamron 24-70mm
– Lens: Nikon 70-200mm
– Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-33 and BH-55 Ballhead
– Lee 10-stop Big Stopper and 6-stop Little Stopper
Tiffen 2,3,4 stop filter set

Lens Rental

I got rid of my 14-24mm lens years ago. I realized I don’t shoot that wide anymore and the small/cheaper 18-35mm has replaced it for me. But my buddy Tom Bol told me I’d need every bit of the 14-24mm because of how close you can get to everything in Yosemite. That if I wanted to include foreground, reflections, and the mountain peaks, I’d need the 14-24. So I rented one from LensProToGo.com. I can’t recommend them enough. It’s crazy easy, and way cheaper than buying a lens that I probably won’t use aside from this trip.

Post Processing

Most of the post processing was done in Lightroom and ON1’s Perfect Effects. I get asked this a lot (especially since I work for ON1 now) about where I do most of my work and about the overlap between all of the programs out there. The way I see it is that Lightroom is still the best raw processor out there. It’s where I’m going to do all of my basic white balance, exposure, shadow and highlight adjustments, as well as add any Lens Corrections, Grad filter adjustments, or things like that. But Perfect Effects is where I go to get my style. You’ll notice these photos have a certain personal style to them. I think we all develop that style over time and Perfect Effect and the presets there are what I use to get that “look”.

Rarely did I go in to Photoshop and some of the photos (like the iPhone shots and the detail shots I posted below were just adjusted in Lightroom).

My First Yosemite Photo

I knew I had to leave the workshop a day early to get home for my son’s birthday, so I planned to get out there a couple of days ahead of the group. On the first day I was going to drive straight through to Mono Lake for a sunrise the next morning (another blog post for that one). But on my way through the park, I couldn’t help but stop and grab a photo (using the rental car as a tripod), as this photo greeted me.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70mm, f/8, 1.8 sec, ISO 100)

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Cathedral Beach

Another Side Note About ISO: Read this article if you want to know why I shot many photos at ISO 64. In short, it’s to get a longer shutter speed, as the D810 will shoot at ISO 64 natively, which gives me longer shutter speeds for water (without an ND filter). 

Once I got back in to the park, Cathedral Beach was one of our first morning shoots. I have to say, it was kinda nice that the sunrise wasn’t until 6am. Because the sun doesn’t really hit the peaks until 15-20 minutes after that, we normally didn’t leave until 5:30-5:45 am. I actually consider that “sleeping in” for a landscape shoot 🙂

There wasn’t much for foreground for this one. And believe me I tried. But mostly it was grass and weeds. So I found a tree and used that as much as I could.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70mm, f/8, 1.8 sec, ISO 100)

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iPhone to the Rescue!

I had the chance to go back to Cathedral Beach on another day. I was helping the class while they were shooting a lot, and didn’t really want to be bogged down by my gear, so I started shooting with my iPhone a lot. I shot some regular photos, but I also took some panoramas with it too. Wow!

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I even took a vertical panorama because the iPhone couldn’t get the whole thing in one scene. Seriously, I have to say I’m really impressed by the quality of the photos it takes. I don’t have much patience for processing panos (even though it’s in Lightroom now), so I think I’ll be taking a lot of iPhone panos in the future.

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Valley View

Valley View was another spot that was top on my list to get to. It’s pretty crazy, but you basically pull up to it and some of the best photos are taken from just 15 feet from the car. I took this photo right in front of the car, but had to crawl under some trees and bushes, and pretty much sit in the water to get the foreground that I wanted for it.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 14-24 mm, f/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100)

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And here’s a few others from around the same area. Some are a hundred yards or so downstream, but they’re all pretty close to each other.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 14-24 mm, f/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 64)

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(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 14-24 mm, f/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100)

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(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 14-24 mm, f/16, 1/20 sec, ISO 100)_MJK3750-Edit

The Detail Shots

It’s funny how it happens, but sometimes I go to a magnificent place like Yosemite and some of my favorite photos are the smaller detail shots that could have been taken anywhere.

We went to shoot lower Yosemite Falls to try to get the rainbow that appears in the morning and it didn’t happen. As I was standing there, I zoomed in on this tree that had some nice early morning light on it. It’s one of my favorites from the entire trip.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70 mm, f/16, 1/2 sec, ISO 64)

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The other thing that happens at a place like this is you end up getting enough of the “hero shots” to fill an entire memory card. I mean, how many photos can you take of El Capitan reflected in the water. At most of these places, there’s maybe one or two shots and that’s it. So once you’ve captured those photos in good light, the law of diminishing returns sets in. So when that happens, I like to walk around and just look at places that the light is hitting and take some photos, just to have a variety when I’m done.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 14-24 mm, f/11, 1/30 sec, ISO 200)

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(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70 mm, f/8, 1/10 sec, ISO 100)

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(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70 mm, f/8, 1/10 sec, ISO 100)

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 Tunnel View

Tunnel View is another really popular spot, and pretty crowded too. It’s essentially an overlook, so there’s not much creativity here. But it’s still a “hero” shot from Yosemite that everyone should at least shoot and go back with a photo from.

We didn’t have great weather that evening, but we did what we could with it. At least we had some clouds to work with and weren’t totally socked in with no visibility.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70 mm, f/8, 1/80 sec, ISO 64)

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There was even some nice low fog and clouds that looked dramatic on the trees off to the sides when you put a zoom lens on.

(Photo Details: Nikon D810, 24-70 mm, f/8, 1/13 sec, ISO 64)

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A Really Cool New Video Series

Thanks so much for stopping by. Also, if you want to see a really cool series of videos that we started over at ON1, check out www.on1photos.com. The series is called “Your Photo… Our Look”. Basically you submit photos, and I edit them. All the info is in any of the blog posts on the page so feel free to watch and check ’em out.

Have a good one!

 

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