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Fall in Badlands National Park

Several years ago I was teaching at the Black Hills Photo Shootout in South Dakota and when the event wrapped up I headed off to Badlands NP.

I had a half day to shoot there before returning to Rapid City for an early morning flight and I arrived in the early afternoon.

I drove the loop road heading west and stopped at each point to see what could be captured. It was unfortunately a perfectly clear day and I adapted the the harsh sunlight and did pretty well.


By late afternoon I left Scenic and was on my way back to Interior ad the park. When I got to the Interior entrance station there was this huge field of grass that was as golden as can be  when the sun was about to set so I stopped and shot this image using a 17mm lens and a near/far composition.

The Badlands is an awesome place and the first time I shot there was 1983. It was March then and I remember it as surprisingly warm for late winter.

Depending on the time of year, it can be empty and even lonely and that is what I love about places like this: just me and the land.

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Early Winter in Colorado

Fall color is still quite good in many places but the first snows have hit the ground in other places, so I am posting this image from Great Sands Dunes in Colorado.

I was out there years ago and it was freezing cold after this winter storm came through. It did not dump a lot of snow, just a dusting in fact, but it was cold.


As sunset approached there was a break in the storm and I grabbed this great sunset on the Sangre De Cristo mountains. It all happened so fast I barely had time to set up the camera and get the shot.

Unfortunately during this trip it was cold a lot and I was prepared for it, but fortunately I had moved up from sleeping in a tent to have a heated pickup camper on my truck and that was certainly more comfortable.


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Window to the World

I have a lot of fall color photography from the last 35 years. Great groups of aspens on a mountainside, full frame images of hillsides in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, aspen lined canyons in the Oregon desert, and much more from many places.

On my last trip to the Great Smoky Mountains teaching a photography workshop with my friend Lewis Kemper during fall color, it was a warm, wet fall and the big landscapes weren’t that great.


Many leaves were turning brown or rust, never really reaching vivid color. This was a challenge when determining where to go with our workshop group. During our scouting prior to the workshop start, we found some great pockets of color and decided to direct our group these areas and encourage them to focus on close-in subjects.

We we at the area known as The Sinks and working right along the river and road. That is where I discovered this image, a sorta window to the river and it worked well.

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Stacking in Colored Layers

Take a look at this photo. Imagine for a moment, that it is all yellow aspens from foreground to background. In this bright, sunny, flat light, there would be little scene depth in the photo.

Scene depth are elements in a photo that give a sense of depth or distance from foreground to background and is achieved in several ways. Lighting is one and can emphasize scene depth, especially when you have varied brightness levels in the scene like a darker foreground and brighter background.

Size relationship is another way to give a sense of depth to the scene. This is usually a subject or subjects that have varying sizes and can be something like a large rock or clump of flowers in the foreground looming large, while the background appears distant.

The San Juan Mountains are a rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The area is highly mineralized (the Colorado Mineral Belt) and figured in the gold and silver mining industry of early Colorado. Major towns, all old mining camps, include Creede, Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Large scale mining is now uneconomical in the region, although independent prospectors still work claims throughout the range. The last large scale holdouts were the Standard Metals operation on Red Mountain Pass which operated until late in the 20th century and the ill-fated Summitville mine on the eastern slope of the San Juans.

Then in situations like this image, where the brightness level is pretty equal throughout the image, you dont get much of a sense of scene depth. So instead, I used color stacking of different colors to to give a sense of depth to the image.

There really was not much else to add unless I want to burn and dodge and simulate varied tonal values, but it might look to fake. So I opted for a different approach.

In Photoshop, I selected the orange/red values and then added that selection to a Hue/Sat adjustment layer, and darkened the oranges and reds. Then I did the same for the greens while leaving yellows alone.

In a way you could look at this approach similar to burning and dodging because I adjusted selected tones to changed the contrast, all with the goal of creating scene depth.

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