So much goes into creating a new image that I'm proud of and meets my standards. Below is a bit of a breakout description of each of the parts.
The first step is relatively easy, Ive got to decide what it is that I want to shoot today. Is my heart set on finding an incredible landscape? Is that landscape a harsh desert scene or a lush river cutting through a mountain range? Maybe today is going to be all about tracking down birds at the local riparian preserve. What about finding something unique hidden among the landscaping of the city park?
Each scenario will have it's unique challenges that dictate a number of things about the rest of the shoot including what time of day and the gear that I'll need to lug around.
Let's proceed with the idea that I'm going out to create some images of the summer monsoon clouds rolling through the desert with a DSLR.
Besides the camera body I'll need to settle on the focal length of the lens(es) to bring along. Wide lenses will help produce more epic all encompassing landscapes, but features in the background of your image will take up minimal space in the frames. Telephoto lenses will give great reach and allow me to capture features farther off in the distance, but telephoto lenses have a tendency to make images that look more compressed/flat. Both of these are great choices at specific times, as long as I'm sure that I'm making the decision and not just dealing with the consequences of a short cited choice based on what's easier to carry.
How do I feel about lugging a tripod around today? These days I highly recommend using a tripod for all landscape photography (most photography actually) The tripod will provide creative latitude to use HDR, timelapse, and long exposure.
If I bring the tripod I better bring a shutter release cable, right? What filters will help make the image I'm dreaming of? A circular polarizer, ND filter, graduated ND filter? I'd also always recommend bringing a way to clean your lenses.
Food and water are always a necessity!
Put on the hiking boots. Get in the car. Find what I've been dreaming of!
This is the most difficult step for me most of the time. Slow down, don't get caught up in the excitement of finding what I was looking for. Without taking the time to be intentional about the angles, focal lengths, shutter speeds, ISOs and apertures I'll most likely walk away with a lackluster image.
Does my image have a foreground, mid ground and background? How's the framing? Are there any leading lines that will guide your eye around the finished image? Does the scene really work as well when viewed through the viewfinder as it does with just my naked eye when walking through the environment? Am I trying to freeze a bird in flight? Am I wanting to show a passage of time through movement in the clouds? What all do I want in focus? Is this cholla cactus all that's important in this shot or do I want EVERYTHING to be tack sharp?
SO MANY QUESTIONS that need to be answered for every single shot.
I do all of my culling and initial editing in Adobe Lightroom. Since I shoot RAW images every image looks like garbage straight out of the camera. I'll do a run through all of my images and see which ones still pique my interest. Not every image will have the same visual impact on the computer as it seemed to on location. If I see an image that's worth working on I'll mark it either with a single star rating or a color tag so I know to come back later. Once I get through the whole set of the ugly images I'll filter so that just the potentially worthy images are displayed.
At this point the initial edits begin. I'll make whatever global adjustments are needed for one of the images. If there are other images which were shot similarly to the one I just edited I'll sync those development settings between the images. Then I'll proceed through the rest of the images in a similar way. After the global adjustments are made I'll go in and make whatever local adjustments may be necessary. This will include things like spot healing or slight gradients.
Not all images will make it to this step. It's generally reserved for images that are going to print.
After I'm happy with an image as it is in Lightroom, I'll open it up in Photoshop. This is where I do all my heavy lifting. Everything from masked edits to object removal. I'll typically wrap up with some slight sharpening to provide a little extra definition.
All of this was an extremely simplified version of my process. It does give a nice overview of what I go through for each image. Hopefully this gives you some idea of where to start with your own photography journey!
Here are some of my favorite conversations and moments that I had with guests to my booth over the 3 day show. Guest: What's your background, is it scientific? Me: I have a Bachelor's in Studio Art with a Minor in Ecology. Guest: I knew you had some kind of a science background! Me: This is one of the best things you could have said to me right now!