A short time ago I was shooting images for my fine art portfolio in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California. This article describes the main steps of the process from start to finish, from making a successful capture to an outline of fundamentals of raw processing and image editing.
Note the flat lighting. The sun was setting to camera left. Clouds were passing overhead, creating changes in brightness, and at times letting some directional light through. The photographer on the left (me) is using a Hasselblad H-series camera with a Phase One back; the photographer on the right (Rick Russell) is using an Ebony 4×5.
Plan the Shot
Look at all the angles. Take note of lighting direction, and how it creates shape and depth in the scene. Side light is your friend—front lighting usually is not. If you haven’t done so in advance, start visualizing what the final, edited shot will look like. Don’t mount your camera on the tripod right away. Instead, handhold the camera and use the viewfinder as a tool to help you visualize. Walk around and look at the scene through the viewfinder. Remember to look into all the details— including the corners. Try to find shapes and angles of objects in the scene that will enhance the viewer’s experience. Leading lines are a good example—in the final shot, the downed branches in the foreground create a triangle of sorts with the fallen tree in the far background. Once you’ve found the “sweet spot,” set up the tripod and mount the camera.
Ensure that everything is secure and stable. In situations like this, you’ll probably be making an extended exposure to show water flow (in this case, f/18-f/22, 0.5—1.0 sec, ISO 50, aperture priority). Tripod movement or camera shake will ruin the shot.