Camera Setup for Southern Utah/Canyonlands

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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Dec 27, 2012
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I am making the trek to Canyonlands NP this weekend and will be taking my Nikon D90 with a 72mm 18-200 lens, small tripod, and remote. I have basic photography skills but tend to rely heavily on Photoshop. Does anyone have advice on setting up the camera for standard daytime shots for red rock country? Pictures taken on my last trip to Zion NP tended to either wash out the colors or make the canyon walls look like they were carved out of pumpkin because they were so orange. I have several reference books but none of them seem to address this specific issue. This site seems to have some of the best outdoor photographers I have come across. Any tips you could provide would be appreciated. In short, I am trying to get away from the old auto/ "f8 and be there" strategy.

Thanks in advance.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
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Oct 1, 2012
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Hmmm, it sounds like your settings are off. Do you use automatic settings? Manual works best for me. The only automatic setting I use is auto white balance on my Canon, which usually renders accurate colors but I always have to do some LR adjusting no matter what. I usually start with an aperture I like and then check the meter to determine what shutter speed to set. I've found that the automatic mode on your camera (the one where it sets aperture and shutter speed) only works in ideal conditions (i.e. with the sun at your back, low contrast, etc.) which you rarely encounter.

I'm not a technical person so I'm hoping Bill, Nick, Randy, or anyone who gets into the technical stuff will weigh in 'cause that's the best I can do, sorry!
 

IntrepidXJ

ADVENTR
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Jan 17, 2012
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For the best colors make sure you are shooting around sunrise and sunset. Shooting colorful sandstone in the harsh mid-day light usually won't give you the best colors....but there are exceptions.

My camera stays in aperture priority mode most of the time and I make any needed adjustments with exposure compensation. Make sure you're shooting in RAW so you have more info to work with in post.
 

gnwatts

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Joined
May 19, 2012
Messages
1,864
As Laura said, shoot in manual, let the camera average out the white balance, and above all, learn how to use your camera (this cannot be overemphasized), in all conditions. You will not learn by letting the camera decide for you the appropriate exposure. I have found that all cameras, and their sensors, tend to have their own personalities and quirks. I will disagree and agree with Randy here. Learn to shoot at all times of the day, and practice and practice. Underexpose a shot slightly (1/2 or even a full stop) at mid day, and see what happens (easier to do in manual mode). Some of the finest landscape photographers in history did their best work at mid day. Check out Edward Westons (and many others) work in Death Valley. Weston's work was mainly in B&W film but he did some of his later work in color film. There are many other photographers who liked to work in day light and had amazing digital results. If you only shoot in the morning and evening you are not taking advantage of the majority of the day (obviously), and many inherent possibilities to capture a truly memorable shot are lost. And like Randy said ALWAY'S shoot in RAW.
Learn what your camera can do in all conditions, then you will be prepared for whatever the world throws at you. Then you don't need to do as much work in post, as you may have a better RAW shot to manipulate.
 

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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Joined
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Messages
570
For the best colors make sure you are shooting around sunrise and sunset. Shooting colorful sandstone in the harsh mid-day light usually won't give you the best colors....but there are exceptions.

I think that was my issue @Zion NP. The mid day light made it difficult to get the colors right. I think that if I took the shots in the morning/evening they would have looked better.
 

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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Joined
Dec 27, 2012
Messages
570
Hmmm, it sounds like your settings are off. Do you use automatic settings? Manual works best for me. The only automatic setting I use is auto white balance on my Canon, which usually renders accurate colors but I always have to do some LR adjusting no matter what. I usually start with an aperture I like and then check the meter to determine what shutter speed to set. I've found that the automatic mode on your camera (the one where it sets aperture and shutter speed) only works in ideal conditions (i.e. with the sun at your back, low contrast, etc.) which you rarely encounter.

I'm not a technical person so I'm hoping Bill, Nick, Randy, or anyone who gets into the technical stuff will weigh in 'cause that's the best I can do, sorry!


Good point. I tend to try and correct the white balance after the shot in Adobe Camera Raw rather than using the WB of the camera properly.
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,686
For the best colors make sure you are shooting around sunrise and sunset. Shooting colorful sandstone in the harsh mid-day light usually won't give you the best colors....but there are exceptions.

My camera stays in aperture priority mode most of the time and I make any needed adjustments with exposure compensation. Make sure you're shooting in RAW so you have more info to work with in post.

Listen to this guy for sure.

I tend to set my light meter starting at -2/3 always. In bright day light I've got as dark as -3 and liked what I got much more.

Yes, I always shoot in RAW when it counts. My camera can do a RAW+Jpeg which I really like.

Since I've got a good workflow in LR, I never do the RAW+Jpeg anymore. It's much easier to just shoot raw, and quickly export Jpegs when you need to.
 

gnwatts

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1,864
One more tip for canyon country during the day...shoot in the shadows and use the reflected light to your advantage :)


Good point.
Eliminate all direct light, as your camera's sensor cannot handle it, and get's all whacked to compensate.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Lots of good tips here! Also, since you can always delete, shoot several different exposures of your scene. Your camera LCD will usually render the image brighter than it will look onscreen, and you can always delete the ones that don't work. I almost always find that the shots I like best in the end aren't the ones I liked looking at the LCD in the field.

Echoing what Greg says-definitely learn how your camera's manual settings work. That's the best advice anyone ever gave me and I'm passing it on :cool: And practice is key. I took a workshop with a genius composer and his analogy was if you want to improvise you have to practice your scales. It's the same for photography-you have to get out there and practice, find leading lines, try different light conditions, etc. It will develop your eye. I used to just drive to a random location and get out and just shoot for an hour or so. I was amazed at what I could find applying the basic principles of leading lines, rule of thirds, etc., in any location-downtown, the beach, a neighborhood, you name it.
 

HomerJ

Member
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Jan 19, 2012
Messages
1,199
This is just what I needed! I've been running around in auto mode 95% of the time (only take it out to shoot night and waterfall photos)! I'm going to start shooting in manual or at least aperture and shutter priority until I get more comfortable and go full manual. Thanks pstm13 for asking the question!!! And thanks everyone else for your advice!!!
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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May 5, 2012
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No one's really mentioned the importance of understanding metering modes. That's secondary to the basics of iso, aperture and shutter speed, but important when it comes to making informed decisions about the overall exposure. High-contrast situations like midday in canyon country can leave you with one portion of the frame severely overexposed while a nearby portion will be underexposed. Learn to use different modes to get accurate readings from the camera's meter.
 

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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Joined
Dec 27, 2012
Messages
570
Thanks for all the tips. I'll post the results at the end of next week.
 
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