High ISO and Perspective – Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Elk, Great Smoky Mountains NP
Elk, Great Smoky Mountains, NP

I recently read an article by George Lepp in Outdoor Photographer which reminded me of a few things I talk about in the Quiet Light Workshops. With the advent of the digital world and especially today’s cameras with high ISO settings photographers – and especially landscape photographers – need to remember to think outside of their usual comfort zone. Today’s camera ISO’s, or as film folks think, ASA, can now go to an incredible 25,600! Remember when ASA 800 seemed on the edge? As landscape photographers we are used to working at the best possible ISO of 50-100 for the finest in detail. Yet in digital the loss with higher ISO’s is minimal. Yes, there will be some additional noise but nothing which can’t be overcome with noise reduction software.

When shooting my last book Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Thirty Years of American Landscapes I had the need to extend the ISO of my camera’s (Canon 1Ds Mark III) highest setting to 3200 when I was shooting the elk in Cataloochee. It was nearly dark when the elk began to actually begin their rut and clash their heads together. Since this is what I had come for I had no choice. I confess, as I was shooting them I was fairly sure I would need to come back, so imagine my surprise when later that night the images looked great in Photoshop!

Bluebonnets, Rookwood Ranch
Bluebonnets, Rookwood Ranch

Last week I was in Texas and once again wanted to play with expanded ISO’s. This time not because I was forced to but to see how it would help you be more creative. I was visiting my aunt and uncle’s ranch Rookwood near Brenham. Aunt Char is a great photographer herself and was excited to show me around. The wildflowers were just beginning to come out. I found that by using the higher ISO’s I could handhold when necessary to get a better angle. I also played with the depth of field so I could show workshop participants directly the differences in looks when you step out of the landscape photographer mode and use a shallow depth of field to highlight an area of an image. The Indian Paint Brush and Bluebonnets in their fields became my subjects for this study. The fact is by changing the way we work we open up endless possibilities to how we see.

Sometimes we find ourselves doing things the way we have always done them – low ISO and stop down all the way to make sure that image is sharp all the way through. And sometimes it is best to break that “rule” of landscape photography. This may seem a very simple idea, but sometimes we need to be reminded to step outside our comfort zone and see the world in a different way.

Indian Paint Brush, Rookwood Ranch
Indian Paint Brush, Rookwood Ranch

If you would like to see more images from Texas you can use this link: www.mackphoto.com/blog/Texas/    

To see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park book go to www.quietlightpublishing.com

If you would like more information on my workshops please visit www.quietlightworkshops.com

Go on and get out of your zone! Experiment!



Smoky Mountains Book makes Book of the Year Awards Finalist List

We are pleased to announce that our book Great Smokey Mountains National Park: Thirty Years of American Landscapes, photographs by Richard Mack was named as a finalist in the 2009 Book of the Year Awards for Photography.

ForeWord Reviews today announced the finalists in the 2009 Book of the Year Awards. The finalists, representing 360 publishers, were selected in 60 categories. These books are examples of independent publishing at its best. 

The winners will be determined by a panel of librarians and booksellers. Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor’s Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America in New York City on May 25, 2010. ForeWord‘s Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books from independent publishers across a number of genres.

We are honored to be announced as a finalist in this prestigious award. There are 14 books listed as finalists so we will await the decisions of the judges and the award ceremony in New York on May 25th!