Spectacular Photography 101

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Landscape Photography 101

Allen Tippetts – Midvale, Utah



Several years ago I attended a seminar in Salt Lake City sponsored by the Smugmug web hosting company. It was a very informal gathering of photographers who use Smugmug to host their websites, and when introductions were made, I was the only landscape photographer in attendance. All of the other photographers were wedding photographers. Other than the fact that we both use cameras, record moments in time, and use the Smugmug webhosting service, we had very little in common. The host of the gathering even commented on the fact that she could never do landscape or nature photography – sitting on a rock waiting for the right light was not something she was remotely interested in doing.


Her comments were surprising to me, because I actually turn down work photographing people. I believe portraits, and especially weddings (if you screw up, you REALLY screw up) are the most difficult photographic subject matter.


This is not to say that landscape photography is a piece of cake – it is far from that. It can be mentally exasperating, physically demanding, and spiritually exhilarating, all in the same shoot. Since I have been invited to share some photographic insights on the FOTC website and newsletter, we will explore both the technical aspects and the intangible rewards of photographing one of the most unique spots on earth; the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and surrounding area.


Ultimately, our goal should be to turn your enthusiasm for photographing our lands into artwork that you can proudly display on your walls. Take a second and think back. How many vacation photos are either in your computer, or on film or memory cards?  Now, count how many of those photographs you framed and displayed.  Why are even the best of those photos still in the proverbial shoe box? Is it because you don’t believe that you are really a photographer, but just a snapshooter? Then let’s begin a journey to the next level.


We won’t be discussing equipment very much in this series, mostly because a great photograph is taken by a person, not by a camera. I am much more concerned that you know how to use the camera you have to its full potential. Purchasing a Nikon or Canon camera does not make you a photographer; it makes you a Nikon or Canon owner. The camera that I currently use is over 6 years old – ancient by digital standards. But I know how to operate it with my eyes closed, know its strengths and limitations, and love its size, balance, and how it feels in my hands. It feels like a natural extension of my arm. I dread the day I have to replace it.


First, let’s get some technical matters out of the way, and then we can move on to the fun stuff.  We will discuss resolution, digital file management and software applications, and finally composition.


Resolution. You’ve all heard the term before, but what does it really mean? Simply put, resolution speaks to the level of detail in an image. Pixels per inch (PPI), megapixels (mpx), and pixel column and row counts all relate to the resolution of an image, or how detailed the image is, but measure it in different ways. Digital camera sensors are measured in megapixels. An image file is measured in row and olumn pixel counts combined with a pixels per inch rating. Without getting too technical, larger sensors with more pixels capture more detail. Today’s high-end digital cameras use what is termed “full-frame” sensors, meaning the sensor is the same physical size as a 35mm negative, and they contain more than 20 megapixels. The camera I use has an APS class sensor (slightly smaller than full frame) capturing 10.1 megapixels. I have enlarged photographs to 26 x 38 inches with very little image degradation. Image resolution can also be reduced, enhanced, and even destroyed by software. So be aware that camera/sensor resolution is not the final limiting factor to final image quality. If you never enlarge a photo larger than 8 x10, and never intend on publishing any work, all name-brand current generation digital cameras will give you excellent image quality.


The next installment will look at a very basic workflow process. By that I mean the steps you should take after you have a group of images in your camera, and how software can help you organize your photos.  And by all means, if you have a question that you would like to see answered in a future installment, please send me an email: atipp@comcast.net



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