Ethical Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography Ethics

As landscape photographers we visit and photograph some of the most beautiful places in the world. Many of these scenic locations attract millions of people each year. A lot of these locations are found by others by searching for the photos that we take and share on the World Wide Web. In most cases we don’t realize the potential for harm of the places that we love and photograph by sharing them. It is natural for us to want to share the photos of these incredible places but I feel that we need to be aware of and to share with others how to protect the environment which, in most cases, is the reason that these places are so special.

In the years that I have spent as a full-time working landscape photographer I've been able to see the gradual damage that's being done to some of the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest by its overuse. Most of the erosion and the denuding of the grasses, ferns and mosses is from repeated footfalls onto areas beside and beyond designated paths and fences.

I spend a lot of time in the field visiting these beautiful places and am a witness to so many people who shun the posted signs or fences that are placed to keep people from fragile environments or those that are being reclaimed due to the traffic that has ruined them. I feel that it’s easy for most people to think that it won’t hurt if they go because as an individual they won’t cause any harm. I personally feel that it’s a form of selfishness and greed to think that the signs and rules are for everyone else but them.

Although it is true that as individuals we have little impact on the areas that we tread, but we’re not individuals when we visit these highly impacted areas. We are a part of a collective of humanity that causes an accumulative, damaging effect. It is not just the one person but the effects of us all wearing these places down. I feel that it is imperative that we develop a collective consciousness that instils a want to preserve these places. We each should develop a personal code of environmental ethics and to encourage others to do the same. We need to take responsibility for these places. We need to take care of them. Not doing so will further erode them to a point where access will be limited or closed completely.

As landscape photographers who share photos of these places, we can take the lead in raising the awareness of the fragility of the places that we photograph. I think that every landscape photographer who shares their work online should create and adhere to their own photography code of ethics and have a Nature First attitude that addresses how we conduct ourselves while in the field. We can also add a short plea in the description of the photos that we share that urges those who go to be careful where they tread.

My personal code of ethics includes three parts. Environment, Social and Self. These principles are endorsed and shared with others via Nature First . Nature First is a group formed to urge photographers to become responsible stewards to the places that they visit and share online. It's a place where the Leave No Trace principle is urged and Nature First Principles are shared. If we all adopt a personal code of ethics and encourage others to do the same perhaps we can turn this trend of abuse of the locations that we love around and make it cool to protect the beauty of these photogenic places. 

Nature First Principles for Photographers

Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.

Educate yourself about the places you photograph.

Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.

Use discretion if sharing locations.

Know and follow rules and regulations.

Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.

Actively promote and educate others about these principles.

Learn More at Nature First

Alaska Grizzly Bears

Alaska Grizzly Bear

I enjoy being a landscape photographer. Being a landscape photographer allows me opportunities to be out within Nature to photograph its beauty, many times in breathtaking conditions. Being out in Nature also allows me to enjoy encounters with the creatures that inhabit these beautiful sceneries.

Landscape photographers are typically unprepared to photograph an encounter with a deer, a squirrel or even an occasional bear, primarily since a landscape lens is a wide-angle focal length. A wide-angle lens will not do justice to any kind of wildlife photography. Most of the creatures will be small and obscure within the scene. A typical focal length for a landscape scene will be somewhere around 18mm/24mm. In the world of wildlife photography life begins at 600mm and so an investment in a long focal length zoom lens must be made. I use a 150mm – 600mm lens.

Photographing wildlife takes a different approach as well. A landscape photographer will set their camera up on a tripod and, basically, take their time constructing the shot. There is usually no rush at all and the shot is usually made with manual settings. But with wildlife the animals do not pose for you and are usually fleeting in their appearance. Your photos usually must be made in a blink of an eye and hand held. 

My method for photographing wildlife is to set my camera up on either Aperture Priority of even Shutter Priority. I then will set my ISO to Auto and make sure that the range will cover all lighting conditions. In Aperture Priority you will set the aperture and the camera will choose the best shutter speed and ISO, again making sure that the shutter speed is quick enough to get a shot without any kind of motion blur. Open the aperture all the way and push the ISO. Some photographers prefer to set the shutter speed and not the aperture to make sure that it is always fast enough. In that case you set the shutter speed and the camera adjusts the aperture and ISO. Either method works and depends on personal preference or conditions. But it is important to make sure that you have a fast-enough shutter speed. Either way these settings will be preferred over manual operation as it allows you to make a shot quickly without having to manually adjust as the animal is moving. Give it a try. 

I had the opportunity to photograph wildlife in Alaska recently. Black bears, grizzly bears, moose, harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, eagles and other animals, but the grizzly bears were the most thrilling. This allowed me to use these techniques to nail the photos as the bears were going about their business feeding on fish in the river. Grizzly bears are very focused on fishing and are not aggressive toward humans in this situation unless they were to feel threatened. Using a 600mm focal length allowed plenty of room between us and the bears and allowed them to go about their business as we went about ours. We sat on the opposite side of the Kenai River and watched them as they pulled fish from the river.

Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority works well in other situations as well. Photographing people in quick moving situations, such as candid photos of wedding guests for example, will allow you to pay attention to your subjects and not have to deal with the camera settings. Also a longer focal length zoom lens works well for that too as you don’t have to get up close to your subject, allowing for more candid photos.

I recommend any photographer that wants to photograph wildlife to invest in a “long lens” and practice. Try the automatic settings Aperture and Shutter Priority. Use it in your yard on squirrels and birds and then go out to a wildlife refuge or a natural place frequented by animals and become a wildlife photographer. While you are out in the wild please be careful of your safety as well as being respectful of the animal’s space and safety. And as always when in Nature, leave it better than you found it.

Comet NEOWISE at Mount Hood Oregon

Comet NEOWISE at Mount Hood Oregon

Here's my contribution to the wave of photos that photographers have been getting of this miraculous celestial event. This comet wasn't even discovered until March of this year, 2020. Whenever there's an event such as this, which involves the night sky, you will find leagues of photographers armed with their cameras and tripod searching for the best spot to sit and enjoy the view while they create their own version of NEOWISE.

For this photo I decided to go to White River on the east side of Mount Hood to do my best to get a shot of the comet with Mount Hood in the frame. I am satisfied with my attempt. I'm glad that I was able to get a photo that included a place. A foreground that could give the photo more interest and a feeling of being there.

It was quite dark and the snow cats on Mount Hood were shining their lights as they groomed the ski slopes. Photographing the mountain from this direction will most certainly include the lights from Timberline Lodge. I just roll with it.

To create this photograph I took two shots, one being a super long exposure at a lower ISO to reveal details in the foreground, and then a shorter exposure at a higher ISO to capture the sky without any streaking of the stars or the comet. I then stacked and blended the two using layers and masks in Photoshop.

Settings:
Photo #1 Foreground: 180 sec (3 min) exposure - f/4.2 1600 ISO
Photo #2 Sky: 20 Sec exposure - f/4.2 - 6400 ISO

Prints of this photo are available at this link: https://www.gary-randall.com/product/comet-neowise-at-mount-hood-oregon/

Pacific Northwest Rhododendron Season

Mount Hood Oregon Rhododendrons

It’s rhododendron season again on Mount Hood. The “rhodies” are revered here on The Mountain as they are, most likely, the most popular wildflower that blooms around us. We even have a town that is named for the beautiful pink flowers that line our roads every Springtime. They’re very photogenic and my wife Darlene and I are always glad to see rhododendron season arrive. 

The name rhododendron is derived from the ancient Greek words for rose and tree. Of course rhododendrons are neither a rose nor a tree. They’re a part of a genus of over 1000 species of woody plants in the heather family. They’re found mainly in Asia but are also widespread in the mountains of the American Pacific Northwest as well as in the highlands of the Appalachian Mountains. Azalea are related to rhododendrons. Rhododendrons have been domesticated and come in many colors, but the natives are a beautiful blushing pink. Many homes in the area have domestic rhododendrons of varying colors in their yards, but the beautiful native flowers are my favorite. 

Rhododendrons are so beautiful that they seem to be out of place in the forest. I have been asked several times by those friends not from here if they were planted along the highways as a beautification project. Of course these beautiful flowers also grow far from roads throughout the forest but they love sunshine. You can find them growing along the roads because of that. They also love burned areas or even clear cut forests. You can find places where they cover a clearing in the forest. As photographers we can capitalize on that by going to a clearing with a beautiful view of Mount Hood for our photo. But these beautiful flowers will also grow in the forests among the trees with beautiful columns of trees surrounding them. Many views can be found by taking a hike on many of the trails in the area. Or even by taking a drive on some of the forest roads that are near us. 

They are beautiful in a wide angle photo as well as a macro photo. The flower’s pastel pink blossoms, in contrast with a beautiful blue sky, are a perfect color combination and when blended with a beautiful snow capped peak. This creates a classic composition fit for a calendar or a postcard or even a framed photo for your living room. 

And furthermore the bear grass blooms along with the rhododendrons on a typical year. The shape of these flowers, with their stem shooting up from the ground and their hundreds of small, white sparkle like blossoms flaring out into an orb reminds me of fireworks bursting in the sky. 

There’s really not a lot more to say about these beautiful flowers besides my encouragement to take some time to appreciate this local flower that represents the beauty of our forests. 

To make this photo I took focus stacked five images due to how near the minimum focus distance the flowers were. This allowed

Quarantine Springs Photo Series

Quarantine Springs Series

I'm proud to announce my latest series that I've chosen to call "Quarantine Springs" to pay homage to this social isolation situation that we're all caught up in.

Where I live it's convenient for me to walk out my back door and down to the Sandy River. I have a hiking trail in my own backyard. I'm also so familiar with this area that I know of special places that I can drive to within a five mile radius from my home where I can just stop on the side of a back road, hop out and snap photos of the forest with nobody around.

This is one of those spots. Some of you might recognize this place from previous photographs that I've posted here that were so full of moss.

I'm fortunate, true, but I live where I do by design. I've sacrificed a lot of things that many are unwilling to live without so that I can have so much. And I do have so much, and I'm thankful for it all. Since I was a boy I knew that I wanted to live in the woods near a stream. that seed was planted a long time ago, and the fruit tastes pretty good right about now.

I just hope that my photos bring some sort of comfort to those who aren't able to go out into the forest.

This is a series of 3 photos that are available for purchase at the links below.

Quarantine Springs - Scene 1
Quarantine Springs - Scene 2
Quarantine Springs - Scene 3

These are fine art photographs applied to your choice of either paper, canvas or metal in sizes:

  • 12" x 18"
  • 16" x 24"
  • 20" x 30"

Please contact me for larger or custom sizes.

Gary Randall Limited Edition Oregon Landscape Photography Posters

I'm really proud to announce my new Limited Edition Oregon Landscape Photography Posters This is a beautiful set of limited edition posters of some of my favorite Oregon photographs. All are printed in full color on 100# Gloss paper. These are suitable for framing. The posters are the first in a series of future editions. This edition is Series 1 – Limited to 100 copies each design.

By purchasing the complete set you save 20%.
The set includes all of the following posters.

  1. Boulder Creek, Mt Hood National Forest, Oregon
  2. The Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
  3. Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
  4. Rhododendrons at Mount Hood Oregon
  5. The Sandy River Oregon

This Scenic Oregon Limited Edition Poster Series will sell out quickly so act now. 

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOURS
 

Photography Close to Home

Macro Photography

If you are like most of us, you have been spending a lot of time around the house lately. We can only spend so much time working or doing chores before we start to try to figure out something that will occupy our creative minds between obligations. I like to give my mind a break by taking time to be creative. As photographers, and creatives, we have a lot of options for making some creative artistic images at home.

Macro Photography - Macro photography is a type of photography that involves photographing small things. It is Springtime and the flowers are blooming and the bugs are starting to crawl. They both make excellent subjects for macro photos. You do not necessarily need a lens that is made specifically for macro if you have a zoom lens that will shoot at a focal length of about 90mm or more. Something that I like to do with flowers is to take a spray bottle and spray water drops on the flowers. I also like the look of a shallow depth of field. Using an open aperture and getting close to your lens will create a soft feel around the narrow-focused area in your shot. Give it a try.

Abstract Photography - Everyone knows about abstract painting, but abstract images can be created with your camera too. An observant eye can find patterns and textures that could be interpreted as impressionistic paintings. Structural shapes, angles and patterns can be framed in a beautiful yet abstract way. Not only are you able to create abstracts by observing your surroundings but you can use the camera adjustments to alter the reality of the scene. Something that I enjoy doing is to extend the shutter speed to a second or more and move the camera to create patterns of movement. This technique is called Intentional Camera Movement. Try varying the degree of focus. Shoot into the sunshine through leaves. Be creative.

ICM - Intentional Camera Movement

Portraiture - Photograph your family or your pets. Artful portraiture is something that can challenge you. Try using your family members or your pets as subjects for your photos. Be mindful of the background and consider the lighting on your subject. Some beautiful portraits can be made using the light that comes in from a window. Set up a sheet as a backdrop and use shop lights with a fabric or some translucent paper in front to reduce the harshness of the light. Be creative.

Taken in a dark room with a single light

The best thing about a digital camera is that we are not limited on how many photos there are on a roll of film. This allows us to just get lost in taking photos. It allows us to experiment. You can take a photo, preview it, correct, or change a setting and try it again. It allows you to be able to occupy yourself creating artistic images all day. So, do not despair if you are agonizing about not being able to get out and take photos like you would like to. Play and practice close to home in the meantime. 

Midnight Photoshoot by Candlelight

Will at Stonehenge

I received an inquiry late last Summer from Billy Kyle the singer from the Portland Oregon Metal band Will telling me that they had seen a Milky Way photo that I had taken from the Stonehenge replica in the Columbia River Gorge near Maryhill Washington and was wondering if I could photograph their band at night there. I had a full schedule of workshops but had a day after a videography job in the Eastern Oregon town of Halfway when I was able to do it so we set a date to meet.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

I had arrived home the day before from eastern Oregon, unloaded my gear and repacked my gear for the photo session before getting some rest and loading back up to head out. I arrived and Billy Kyle and the other band members were there. They had a few props and some excellent red capes that were perfect for the dark medieval theme that we had planned for the shoot. Something reminiscent of an ancient Pict or Druid ceremony.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

Prior to the photoshoot I had planned on throwing some soft light onto them from some remote flashes. I did a few test shots with the gear that I had brought but the band had brought some candles along with them. We decided to take some shots lit just with the candles, and they nailed the look that we were hoping for. Not only were the candles a part of the shot but their light was the right temperature and gave the scene the right organic feel that helped to make this seem ancient. The architecture of the Stonehenge replica in the dim light gave it a stone castle feel.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

The only challenge was trying to get quick enough exposures without underexposing the shot. Even at some fairly high ISO's these were dim, but with some help from the steady nerves of the band we came away with some images that we were all proud of.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

Will has a new album coming out. They plan on using a couple of these shots for the artwork. The rest they'll use to promote the band as well as their music. I couldn't have worked with a nicer, more professional group of musicians. They were all enthusiastic even in the cold of the night.

If you like dark metal music, please go check out Will. https://vvill.bandcamp.com/releases

The Weeping Walls Autumn Color

Weeping Walls Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

This is an off trail location on Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge near the little town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. This area was affected severely by 2017's Eagle Creek Fire. I feel fortunate to have been able to photograph many of the areas that are now closed to hiking.

Although the Eagle Creek Trail is still closed at the time that I write that, the US Forest Service hopes to have the trail reopened soon.

Although Springtime workshops will be delayed Autumn workshops are still a go. Contact me for more information.

6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing

Paul Processing

As I write this the whole world is dealing with and addressing a worldwide pandemic called Coronavirus - COVID-19. This is a serious situation that we all have the ability to affect. Social distancing and self isolating has become a part of our lives. Those who are able to work from home are doing just that.

As photographers we can take this time to catch up with certain chores that are usually left for more opportune times. If you find yourself with some time on your hands during this odd time I have a few suggestions for you to consider that will help you in the long run. Let's just call them chores - Necessary chores that are easily put off for later. These really don't have to be unenjoyable, especially if there's really no rush.

So here you go. 6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing.

Clean your camera and sensor - Dust bunnies sound cute and cuddly, but they're certainly no friend to the photographer. Most modern cameras have a self cleaning feature that one can use for most common dust specks, but in time there will eventually accumulate more stubborn particles that will need to be dealt with with a direct cleaning of the surface of the sensor.

Sensor cleaning sounds scary. We've all been warned how we could ruin our sensor if we do it wrong, or have heard horror stories about how a friend ruined their camera for good trying to clean their sensor. And, in fact, the earlier methods of sensor cleaning could cause scratches if an abrasive dust particle was dragged across the surface of the sensor. I was scared for years to even try it until one day I decided to take an older camera that I had replaced with an upgraded body and attempt to clean the sensor. This sensor was terrible.

I had done some research into the different methods and kits available for one to clean their own sensor. I decided upon one that had a sticky pad that you would dab onto the surface of the sensor. It worked great and at this time it's the type of sensor cleaner that I would recommend.

But if you still are unable to build up the nerve to try this yourself you can still take some time to clean your camera body and lenses. Once this situation is resolved and we're all able to mix and mingle again, take your camera body to a camera shop and let them handle the sensor. It doesn't usually cost a lot.

Clean your lenses. Purchase some good lens cleaner spray and some soft cloths and take some time to carefully clean the front and back elements (glass part) of your lenses. While you're at it pull out your filters and do the same to them.

Clean and adjust your tripod. We don't think alot about our tripod until it breaks or quits working. And when it does it's usually because we have neglected it. We've allowed the parts and pieces to corrode or to become out of adjustment.

Most all tripods have some sort of metal parts, be it a screw or the whole thing. Even carbon fiber tripods can have places where corrosive or abrasive material can hide. Saltwater and sand is the worst and it's recommended that you clean your tripod completely as soon as possible after getting it wet with saltwater. Aluminum can corrode quickly and make disassembly difficult. Rinse your tripod with fresh water right away and disassemble and clean it as soon as you can.

Disassembling your tripod can be a bit intimidating at first but once you do it once you'll remember the next time. Especially if you do it with a certain amount of frequency. If you're unsure of your ability to reassemble it, take photos as you disassemble it so that you have some reference when you put it back together again. You can do one leg at a time so that you have the others to reference.

Once it's apart wash and dry the pieces in fresh soapy water and then rinse and dry completely. Never use oil or WD-40 on your tripod as it will attract and adhere dirt particles which will hinder operation and wear the tripod out prematurely.

Calibrate your monitor. I've heard so many people complain that their photos, when viewed on a different computer or their phone, don't look the same as they did when they processed it on their computer. Sometimes the photo is darker or brighter than it looked or that the colors aren't right. There are times when someone is printing their photo and it comes back from the printer looking completely wrong.

Computer monitors need to be calibrated every so often. It's not a difficult chore to do but you will need to invest in a monitor calibration device. It's a good investment and once you buy one you will own it and use it forever. I use a Spyder 5 Pro but most all are good.

Organize and backup files. It's easy to come in from a trip out in the field and download all of your photos and then forget about them until you have time to process one or two. They can all add up and then left unattended, including backing them up. Redundancy isn't just a fun word to say, it's something that's important o a photographer when it comes to keeping their work secure for the future. Hard drives and memory cards fail. Accidents happen.

If you're anything like me you will have ten times more unprocessed files than you will keepers. Create some hard drive space. Thin them out and backup the keepers. In addition to any hard drive backups consider uploading the master files for any photos that you process and finish to some cloud space. Most of us have some free space available to us from our cell phone providers, for instance. Secure some cloud space and create a folder in a file that contains the raw file, the finished processed file in a high resolution/non-lossy format such as PSD or TIFF and even your formatted jpegs for sharing on social media etc. If you do that you won't need to worry about hours of uploading all of your files, good or bad, and you will have a secure copy of your finished photos, the most important ones.

Clean cards/charge batteries. Don't wait until the night before a shoot to clean your cards and check your battery charge. If you have multiple batteries consider getting some small round sticky tags to stick onto the batteries that are charged so that you don't have to put the battery in the camera to check the charge. Take it off of the charger, tag it on the end. Once you use the battery take the sticker off of the end of the battery and stick it on the side so you know that it's been used and needs to be charged once you get back home.

Learn something new. What a great time to sit down in front of YouTube and pull up a few processing videos. YouTube can be a good place to learn something new or to completely run in the other direction, but you have the power to know if someone there aligns with your vision or not. Whether they have value in their video that you can use to make your photos better.

We have finally come to a place in photography where people understand that digital photos can be shot in a format that allows the photographer to decide how the finished photos will look. They are understanding that many of the processes are similar to what was done back in film days in the darkroom by artistic photographers like Ansel Adams. Talented photographers are usually also expected to be talented in how they process their photos in Lightroom, Photoshop or both. Find some videos that will push your understanding of Lightroom or Photoshop, or both.

Also, in this day and age, there are so many other options for photographers than Lightroom or Photoshop. Give one of them a try, you may like it better. Process some of your photos using the help of a tutorial video using software such as one of my favorite alternatives to Adobe, On1. Give some new software a try. You might like it. You can usually download and install a program for free for 30 days to try it out.

These are all ideas for things to do, but in reality they're all things that we are doing or should be doing anyway. Zombie apocalypse or not. This is just as short list of six things. I'm sure that you'll discover more things that you've not had time to do because you had too much time away from your desk. I didn't mention cleaning out Clif Bar wrappers from your backpack. Now's the time. Make social distancing work in your favor. Then once it's over you'll be raring to go. Your camera and sensor will be clean, your tripod will be smooth and functioning properly, your monitor will be calibrated, your files will be organized and backed up, your cards will be clean and your batteries will be charged. And furthermore you'll be smarter than you were before because you've taken the time to learn something new in your down time.

Now. Tell me how bored you are.

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