Creative Collective 026: Using Color for Dramatic Pictures

The Big Ocean Fort Stevens SP, ORFujifilm X-E4 – “Fujicolor Super HG

Want the subject in your picture to stand out? There are a few tricks: leading lines, composition, contrast, and color theory (an underutilized tool that seems to be used more often by accident than on purpose). Of course, the problem with color theory is that it can get complex and there are varying schools of thought. There are entire classes in college dedicated to this subject. I prefer simplicity, so we’ll take the easy route as we dive into color theory for photography.

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Tips for Photographing Fort Stevens State Park — The Incredible Apex of Oregon

Sea Grass – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Fujicolor Super HG

There’s a photographic wonderland in the Pacific Northwest that everyone should visit if they have the opportunity: Fort Stevens State Park, which sits at the furthest northwest corner of Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s about a 25 minute drive west of Astoria. There are many great picture opportunities at this historic location. If it’s your first visit, you might not know what you’ll find or where to begin—this article is intended to be a guide, so be sure to bookmark this if you think you might go.

Let’s take a look at what you’ll find at this incredible apex of Oregon!

Peter Iredale Shipwreck

Peter Iredale Remains – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – Vibrant Color filter

Probably the most famous and most photographed landmark is the Peter Iredale shipwreck. This ship was a four-mast barque sailing vessel made of steel that, in 1906, was enroute to Portland from Santa Cruz, Mexico, with a load of rocks. High winds pushed the ship off course, and it ran aground at high tide near the Fort Stevens military base. Nobody was hurt, and for whatever reason the ship was left abandoned. What’s left of the ship can still be seen to this day, and is now an iconic picture location.

There are basically two times to photograph the Peter Iredale shipwreck: higher-tides and lower-tides. At higher-tides, the boat is partially covered in water and the waves crash into the metal remains. It’s less accessible and more photographically limited at high-tide than low-tide, and you’ll definitely want a telephoto lens, but it’s still worthwhile to capture some images. You can use the grassy sand-bluffs to frame the ship. At low-tide, you can walk right up to the ship—heck, you can drive right up to the ship! It’s most ideal if you can catch the shipwreck at low-tide and at sunset (this tide chart might be helpful), and a wide-angle lens will be your friend. Most likely you won’t be the only one at the boat, and it takes some patience to not get other people in your images (or yourself in their pictures).

Finding the shipwreck is super easy. Enter the park on the Peter Iredale Road and follow the well-marked signs (Google Maps). The parking lot is not far at all from the shipwreck, so it’s easily accessible. At low-tide you can drive right onto the beach (I suggest 4-wheel-drive), which makes it even more accessible.

High Tide

Beached Ship – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Fujicolor Super HG”
Wet Shipwreck – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Fujicolor Super HG”
Shipwreck Shore – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Ferrania Solaris FG 400

Low Tide

Ship Remains – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Tri-X 400
Shipwreck Remnants – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – B&W Fade filter
Peter Iredale’s Bones – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Gold v2
Rusty Ship Hull – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – Color Negative Low filter
Golden Shipwreck – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “The Rockwell

Fort Stevens Military Base

Underground Building – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – Vibrant Color filter

Fort Stevens State Park has an intriguing past—if you are a military history buff, this is a must-see place! Fort Stevens was an active military instillation from 1863 to 1947. On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 17 shells at the base. While several of the shells hit Fort Stevens, aside from several severed power lines and some damage to a baseball diamond, they didn’t do any major destruction and nobody was hurt. This was the only attack on the 48-contiguous states during World War II.

There are a lot of old military buildings in various conditions within the state park⁠—about 25⁠ structures, some of which are massive—and many of these are open to the public. It could be an all-day or even multi-day event to explore them all, or, if you’re not all that interested, can be briefly experienced within less than an hour. There are three sites: Fort Stevens Historic Area (Google Maps), Observation Pillbox (Google Maps), and Battery Russell (Google Maps). The Fort Stevens Historic Area is where most of the buildings are located plus the visitor’s center. The Observation Pillbox is accessible via hiking trails. Battery Russell is located not far from the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and can be easily explored right before or just after seeing the old boat.

For photography, wide-angle lenses are probably your best bet, and a large aperture option is a good idea. Consider bringing a tripod for shooting in the dark. Those interested in military history or abandoned buildings will find Fort Stevens State Park to be a treasure-trove of photographic opportunities!

Watch Your Children – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – MetroColor filter
Abandoned Fort – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – B&W Fade filter
Big Hole – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam – B&W Fade filter
Empty Walkway – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – B&W Fade filter
Spiral Stairs – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Ilford HP5 Plus 400
Old Fireplace – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Ilford HP5 Plus 400”
Stairs in the Forest – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Ilford HP5 Plus 400”

Pacific Ocean

The Big Ocean – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Fujicolor Super HG”

There’s about four miles of sandy beach along the Pacific Ocean within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s also additional beach access on the Columbia River side of the park, which is interesting, too⁠—especially if you want to see large ships coming and going⁠—but the vast ocean with its lengthy sandy-beach is the real star.

At the south end is Strawberry Knoll (Google Maps), which is a good place for 4×4 vehicles to access the beach, but for everyone else will require a short hike to the ocean, and there’s limited parking. The easiest beach access is probably at the Peter Iredale shipwreck (Google Maps), which has more parking, but is also the most visited site. As you drive north on Jetty Road, Lot A (Google Maps) has easy beach access and plenty of parking, Lot B (Google Maps) has plenty of parking but it is a short hike to beach, Lot C (Google Maps) has an observation tower, a lot of rocks, a longer hike to the beach, and tons of parking, and Lot D (Google Maps) has plenty of easy beach access and parking, but technically this is the Columbia River side, and the water will be a lot more calm. Any of these locations can be good for photography.

I recommend having both telephoto and wide-angle lenses at your disposal. High-tide and low-tide can be interesting, and sunrise, midday, and sunset all offer interesting light. There’s no right or wrong time to go, and visiting at different times and during different conditions will give you vastly different photographic opportunities. I think one could spend days, weeks, or even months photographing the beaches at Fort Stevens and not run out of inspiration.

Beach Alone – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Kodak Tri-X 400”
Pacific Shore Monochrome – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Tri-X 400”
South Jetty – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Ilford HP5 Plus 400”

Other Sites

Morning Drive – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – MetroColor filter

There are miles of hiking trails, thick forests, camping, ponds, lakes, and streams within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s abundant wildlife, including deer, elk, sea lions, bald eagles, heron, puffins, and occasionally gray whales off the coast. No matter where you are in the park, there are picture opportunities literally everywhere! The landscape is just incredible, and surprisingly varied. It might be easy to overlook all of this in-between the beach, shipwreck, and abandoned base, but don’t! Keep your eyes open, your adventurous spirit eager, and your camera ready, and you’re sure to capture some amazing yet unexpected pictures.

If you have the time and energy, the Fort Stevens/Jetty Loop/Ridge Loop Trail is great—mostly paved and fairly easy, but at nine-miles is a bit long (you don’t have to cover the whole thing). Coffenbury Lake (Google Maps) is worthwhile, and somewhat accessible from the Battery Russell parking lot.

If you are a wildlife photographer, you’ll definitely want to keep your long-telephoto lens handy. If you are a landscape photographer, wide-angle lenses will often be your best bet. Having a couple cameras, one with a telephoto lens and one with a wide-angle, or perhaps a good zoom lens, is a solid strategy.

Forest Pond – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Ferrania Solaris FG 400”
Elk Alone – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X-E4 & Fujinon 90mm – “Fujicolor Super HG”
Clatsop Spit Tower – Fort Stevens SP, OR – iPhone 11 – RitchieCam app – B&W Fade filter

Conclusion

Driftwood & Shipwreck – Fort Stevens SP, OR – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodachrome 64

Fort Stevens State Park is one of the most spectacular locations in northwest Oregon! It is a worthwhile photographic excursion that can be experienced in a day, but if you have more time to spend in the park you will surely be rewarded for it. Some parts of the park (Coffenbury Lake and Fort Stevens Historic Area) require a daily self-pay $5 parking fee per vehicle, and camping isn’t free, but otherwise the other parts of the park don’t have any fee to access.

I used three cameras to capture these pictures: Fujifilm X-E4, Fujifilm X100V, and iPhone 11. On the Fujifilm cameras I used various Film Simulation Recipes, and on my iPhone I used the RitchieCam app. All of the pictures in this article are unedited (aside from minor straightening and cropping, they’re straight-out-of-camera images), which means that I didn’t spend hours manipulating them in software. This is a great way to save time and make photography even more enjoyable. Capturing photographs that don’t require any post-processing is a wonderful way to streamline your workflow and simplify your photographic life. When traveling, where you’re making tons of exposures and opportunities to post-process those pictures are limited, things that save you time can make a huge difference. If you own a Fujifilm camera, I invite you to try Film Simulation Recipes (check out the App!) on your next photography outing. If you own an iPhone, download the RitchieCam camera app for free today!

No Edit Photography: 7 Tips To Get The Film Look From Your Digital Photos

An unedited JPEG from a Fujifilm X100V using my Xpro ’62 recipe.

Digital photography is convenient. You can review your pictures immediately after they’re captured—no waiting for rolls of film to come back from the lab. You can manipulate the images as much as you’d like in software to achieve any aesthetic that you can dream of. You can get extremely clean, sharp, bright, and vibrant pictures with extraordinary dynamic range that just wasn’t possible in the film era. Perfect pictures are prevalent today—a wonder of contemporary photography, no doubt.

Sometimes I think that digital photography is too good, too flawless, too sterile. Perfect pictures can be perfectly boring. Pulitzer-Prize winning author John Updike stated, “Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.” I think that statement is true in multiple aspects. For example, if you are working hard to create perfect pictures, you will not create very many images. I think, also, that creativity is rarely born out of perfectionism. Creativity is serendipitous. It’s not calculated. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) wrote, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

With film photography, mistakes happen fairly frequently. You don’t know what you have until you have it sometime later. There are a lot of variables that can affect the outcome, which are sometimes out of your control. Occasionally you accidentally and unknowingly discovery something extraordinary. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and when you fortuitously stumble upon something interesting, there’s a lot of joy in that. Film photography is imperfect—it has flaws—and, because of that, it is rewarding. This is one reason why there’s a resurgence of interest in analog pictures.

Film photography is inconvenient. The serendipity of it is fascinating, but I prefer the instant reward of digital. I’m not patient enough anymore for analog. Don’t get me wrong, I shot film for many years. I prefer how film looks, but digital is more consistent, convenient, cheaper (after the initial investment is made), and quicker, so I choose digital. But what if it is possible to get the best of both worlds? What if you could get the “film look” from your digital camera? What if you could do it without editing. Straight-out-of-camera. No Lightroom or Photoshop needed. Would you try it?

The Film Look — What Is It?

Captured on Kodachrome 64 color reversal film.

What exactly is the so-called film look? That’s actually a difficult question to answer, because one film can have many different aesthetics, depending on how it was shot, developed, scanned and/or printed, and viewed. There have been hundreds of different films available over the years, each with unique characteristics. Film can have so many different looks that it could take a lifetime to try and describe them all.

Most simplistically, the film look can be defined as a picture that looks like it was shot on film, but really the answer is more elusive than that. The best way to understand it would be to look at pictures captured with film. Find prints from the 1990’s or 1980’s. Photographic paper (and film, too) fades over time, so the further back you go, the more likely it will appear degraded. Maybe that’s something you prefer? There are as many different film looks as there are tastes, and there’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer to what exactly film looks like.

Captured on Elite Chrome 200 color reversal film that has faded.

The biggest difference between film and digital is how highlights are handled. With film, there’s a gradation to white that’s often graceful, but with digital it is much more abrupt. Shadows can also sometimes be more gradual and graceful with film than digital, but definitely not to the same extent as highlights, and definitely not always. Another difference is that film grain is usually considered more beautiful and artful than digital noise. With film photography, there are sometimes surprises that stem from gear (or film) imperfections that don’t typically happen naturally with digital capture. Beyond that, digital images can be effectively manipulated in post-editing to resemble film photographs, especially in the era of Lightroom presets and software filters.

There are two responses that I expect to receive. First, someone will say, “Shoot film if you want the film look.” Nobody is going to argue against that, but this article is not about merely getting the film look—it’s about getting the film look from your digital camera, because digital is more convenient. Second, a person will argue, “I can easily get this look with software, so why bother doing it in-camera?” Getting the look straight-out-of-camera saves time, simplifies the photographic process, and makes capturing pictures even more enjoyable. There’s no right or wrong way to do things—I’m just discussing one method, which you may or may not appreciate. If you enjoy post-processing, that’s great! I personally don’t enjoy it, so I go about things differently, which works for me.

1. Shoot A Fujifilm Camera

Fujifilm X-E4.
Fujifilm X-T30.
Fujifilm X100V.

Step One to achieve the film look from your digital photos without the need to edit is to buy a Fujifilm camera. Which one? It doesn’t matter. If you already own one, you can skip ahead to Step Two.

Why do you need a Fujifilm camera? Why not a Canon, Sony, or Nikon? Because Fujifilm has, in my opinion, the best JPEG engine in the industry. They’ve used their vast experience with film to give their digital cameras an analog soul. In other words, Fujifilm has made it easier than any other brand to get a film look out-of-camera. Could you do it with another brand? Sure—I created JPEG settings for film looks on Ricoh GR cameras. You can do something similar with other brands, but, in my experience, Fujifilm gives you more and better tools to do this. The best brand for achieving a film look that doesn’t require post-processing is Fujifilm, so that is why you need a Fujifilm camera.

I’ll recommend the Fujifilm X100V or Fujifilm X-E4, both of which I own and use often. I also own a Fujifilm X-T30, Fujifilm X-T1, and Fujifilm X-Pro1, and those are very capable cameras, too. Additionally, I’ve shot with a Fujifilm X100F, Fujifilm X-Pro2, Fujifilm X-T20, Fujifilm XQ1, Fujifilm XF10, Fujifilm X-T200, Fujifim X-A3, Fujifilm X-E1, and Fujifilm X-M1. It doesn’t matter which model you buy, but, if you can afford it, I would go for one the newer models (X-Pro3, X100V, X-T4, X-S10, X-E4, or X-T30 II), because they have more JPEG options, and it’s possible to get more looks out of those cameras. Don’t worry if a new camera is out of your reach, as there are many quality used options that are affordable.

2. Use Film Simulation Recipes

Film simulation recipes are JPEG camera settings that allow you to get a certain look straight-out-of-camera. They’re basically a customization of the stock film simulations that come with the camera, adjusted to achieve various aesthetics. I’ve published over 175 film simulation recipes for Fujifilm cameras, most based on (or inspired by) classic film stocks. They’re free and easy to use. I even created a film simulation recipe app for both Apple and Android! If you have a Fujifilm camera, you should have the app on your phone. Film simulation recipes go a very long ways towards achieving a film look in-camera. Programming a recipe into your camera is kind of like loading a roll of film, except that you can capture as many frames as you wish on each roll, and change the film anytime you want. 

There are a lot of wonderful options to choose from, including Kodachrome 64, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Tri-X 400, Fujicolor C200, Fujicolor Pro 400H, AgfaChrome RS 100, and so many more! There are nearly 200 of them on this website, plus some more on the Community Recipes page. No matter your Fujifilm X camera, there are some great film simulation recipe options for you to use. I even have a number of unusual recipes, like Cross Process, Expired Slide, and Faded Negative, intended to mimic some alternative analog aesthetics. The three example pictures above are unedited (aside from, perhaps, some minor cropping), just to give you a brief taste of what recipes look like.

3. Use Diffusion Filters

10% CineBloom.
5% CineBloom.
5% CineBloom.

As I already mentioned, the biggest difference between digital images and film photographs are how highlights are handled (and, to a lesser extent, shadows). Diffusion filters help with this. They take the “digital edge” off of your pictures by bending a small percentage of the light that passes through the filter, which causes it to be defocused. The images remain sharp, but a slight haziness is added, especially in the highlights, which produces a more graceful gradation to white.

There are various types of diffusion filters by a few different brands. I recommend Black Pro Mist filters by Tiffen or CineBloom filters by Moment. You want the effect to be subtle, so I suggest a 1/8 or 1/4 Black Pro Mist—I used a 1/4 in the picture at the very top of this article—or a 5% or 10% CineBloom, which I used in the three pictures above; however, I have seen some good results with the stronger options (1/2 Black Pro Mist and 20% CineBloom). A slight effect from a diffusion filter in the right situations can subtly improve a photograph’s analog appearance.

4. Shoot With Vintage Glass

Fujifilm X-T1 & Pentax-110 50mm f/2.
Fujifilm X-T30 & Asahi-Pentax Takumar 55mm f/2.2.
Fujifilm X-T30 & Asahi-Pentax Takumar 55mm f/2.2.

I love using vintage lenses on my Fujifilm cameras, because they often have flaws that give pictures character. Some of the charm of analog photography stems from imperfect gear—that serendipity I mentioned earlier is often from flawed glass. Modern lenses are precision engineered and meant to give you perfect pictures. But they can be too good and too sharp. They’re great if you photograph test charts, but vintage lenses often have seemingly magical qualities that make real-world pictures better, and definitely more film-like. A lot of time you can find these old lenses for pretty cheap, but you do need an adaptor to attach them to your Fujifilm camera.

If you don’t want to buy used gear and adaptors, a great alternative is to get yourself some inexpensive manual lenses, like the Pergear 50mm f/1.8, 7artisans 50mm f/1.8, and Meike 35mm f/1.7. There are, of course, lots more manual options like these, many of which have flaws and character similar to vintage lenses, except that they’re brand-new and don’t need adaptors. Manual lenses are trickier to use, especially if you don’t have much experience with them, but I find them to be a rewarding, delivering wonderfully imperfect photographs.

5. Don’t Always Nail Focus

With digital photography, you have many tools to make sure your focus is spot-on; if you are unsure that you precisely nailed it, you can immediately review the image and zoom in to make sure, and retake if necessary. With film photography, not only are the focus tools much more limited, you don’t even know if you got it exactly right until the film comes back from the lab. If you study classic photography, you’ll notice that many iconic pictures didn’t spot-on nail the focus. You’ll even notice this in old movies and television shows, too. It was common, and nobody cared. It has become a small part of the film look.

Worry more about composition and storytelling, and less about getting perfect focus. In fact, my recommendation is to not review the LCD after each shot to check. Take the picture, and if you got focus perfect, great! And if you didn’t, don’t let the imperfection bother you, but celebrate that a little softness can be a part of the analog aesthetic. A little blur is not always bad, especially if the picture is otherwise interesting or compelling.

6. Use Higher ISOs

One of the big differences between digital and film is that film has lovely silver grain while digital has ugly noise. Grain can be ugly, too, but digital noise is generally regarded as undesirable, and usually it is, while grain is general regarded as artful. Fujifilm has programmed their cameras in such a way that the noise has a more film-grain-like appearance than other brands. It’s definitely not an exact match to any film grain, but it’s certainly better than typical ugly noise. So why not incorporate it into your pictures?

A lot of photographers are afraid to use high ISOs. Back in the film days, I remember that ISO 400 was considered to be a high-ISO film. Some people thought you were nuts if you used an ISO 800 or 1600 film. ISO 3200 film was only for the most daring, or for use under extreme circumstances. Early digital cameras were pretty bad at higher ISOs, too, but camera technology has made incredible progress, and now cameras are pretty darn good at high ISO photography. I routinely use up to ISO 6400 for color photography, and even higher for black-and-white. Those ultra-high ISOs just weren’t possible or practical 10 or so years ago. Now combine high-ISO photography with Fujifilm faux grain (found on X-Trans III & X-Trans IV cameras), and the pictures begin to appear a little less digital and a bit more film-like.

7. Overexpose and Underexpose Sometimes

Transparency film often requires a very precise exposure because there’s very little latitude for overexposure or underexposure. Negative film often has a much greater latitude—generally speaking it can tolerate more overexposure than underexposure. Each film is different. But here’s the thing: you don’t know if you got it right until later when the film is developed. In the moment you don’t know for sure if the exposure is really correct. With experience you can get pretty good, and exposure bracketing can help (not something you want to do all of the time because you’ll go through your film too quickly), but it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll end up with a few overexposed or underexposed frames. Sometimes this can affect the aesthetic or mood of the image, and by chance your picture is actually more interesting because of your mistake—that analog serendipity again. If you discover something you really like, you might even begin to do it on purpose (like overexposing Fujicolor Pro 400H by several stops).

Your digital camera has many great tools to help you get the exposure perfectly correct, which is great. And if you don’t get it right, you can know right away, and capture another exposure if need be, or fix it later by adjusting the RAW file. However, purposefully not getting the exposure just right, whether by overexposing or underexposing, is a good way to mimic the film experience, and sometimes you’ll get an unexpected result, which can be a very happy accident. I wouldn’t do this all of the time, but occasionally it is a fun and fruitful exercise.

Conclusion

An unedited JPEG from a Fujifilm X100F using my Fujicolor Superia 800 recipe.

Step One, which is using a Fujifilm camera, and Step Two, which is using film simulation recipes, are the most critical of these seven tips. You could use Ricoh GR cameras instead of Fujifilm, but I definitely recommend using Fujifilm. Step Three through Step Seven are optional, and they aren’t necessarily intended to be used all together or all of the time, although you certainly can if you want. Pick a couple of them—perhaps diffusion filter and vintage lens or high-ISO and underexposure—and see what results you get.

There are two things that I’d like for you to get out of this article. First, you don’t need software or editing apps to achieve an analog aesthetic. You can do it in-camera. All of the pictures in this article are unedited (except for some minor cropping). This saves you a whole bunch of time, and you might even find the process more fun. Second, I hope that this article inspires you to try something new. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mistakes can be highly rewarding, and you might even discover something extraordinary.

A few more example photograph:

Vintage Color recipe & 1/4 Black Pro Mist filter.
Fujicolor Pro 400H recipe & 1/4 Black Pro Mist filter.
Kodacolor VR recipe – 5% CineBloom filter.

Find these film simulation recipe and many more on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!

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5 Tips For Photographing Grand Teton National Park (Without Going Inside The Park)

John Moulton Barn Grand Teton National Park

Barn by the Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

The Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming is incredibly beautiful! It’s one of my favorite places. Once you’ve been, you’ll want to return again and again. There’s a magical quality to it, similar to that first view of the Grand Canyon or a misty morning in Yosemite Valley. If you’ve never visited the range, it should be high on your bucket list of places to see! The Grand Tetons are a landscape photographer’s playground, and you definitely need to visit with a camera in hand.

Many people who see the Grand Tetons do so from their car. U.S. Highway 191 runs north and south just east of the mountain, offering spectacular sights the whole length. There are so many amazing views of the range that don’t require an entrance into the park. Yellowstone National Park, which is a little north of the Grand Tetons, is the more popular park of the two, and Jackson Hole has itself become a destination, so a lot of people only see the Teton Range as they travel between the two places. While taking time to go inside the Grand Teton National Park is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, it’s definitely possible to experience exquisite views from outside the gate. Going inside the national park isn’t required for a memorable Teton visit. Below are five tips for photographing the Grand Tetons from outside the park entrance.

The Off Season Is The Best Season

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Tetons From Mormon Row – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Avalanche Canyon – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

The Grand Teton National Park can get very crowded. Even though it plays second fiddle to nearby Yellowstone, it still sees a ton of visitors from across the world, especially in the summer months. The winter months are harsh yet could provide some amazing photographic opportunities for those willing to brave the elements, but that’s not when I’d recommend visiting. There are a couple of small windows that are better suited for travel to the Grand Tetons.

The month of May is an excellent time, as the crowds are low since school is still in for many people, and the weather is usually decent enough. The earlier in the month you go, the smaller the crowds will be, but the temperatures will be colder and it still might feel like winter. Mid-May is the sweet spot. Mid-September to mid-October is another excellent time, as most children have returned to school, and the weather is still decent enough. The earlier you go the better the weather, but the larger the crowds will be. Late September is another sweet spot for visiting Grand Teton National Park. If the forecast is for clouds and cold temperatures, it could provide a dramatic environment for your pictures, so it might be preferable over endless sunshine, but be prepared for the conditions.

Early Morning Is Magical

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Mountain & Clouds – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Sliver of Illumination – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

While sunset can be a spectacular time to photograph the Grand Tetons, nothing beats sunrise. Since the highway runs on the east side of the range, the sunrise light is often better for photographing the mountains. The early morning “golden hour” is a time that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to arrive well before the official sunrise because the peaks will illuminate before the valley. If you can only be there for either sunrise or sunset (and not both), make sure that it’s sunrise. It’s worth getting up while it’s still dark outside to catch the early morning light on the Teton Range.

Because the sunrise will light the tips of the peaks first, it’s a good plan to begin the day with a telephoto lens. Once more of the landscape has daylight, you can switch to a wide-angle lens if you’d like. The Grand Tetons are a place where you’ll want the option for both telephoto and wide-angle focal lengths, and you’ll probably switch between both frequently.

Mormon Row Is Historic

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Mountain & Mormon How – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Barn In The Mountains – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

If you are starting off your photographic journey in the early morning, make the Mormon Row Historic District your first stop. It’s located just north of the Grand Teton National Park entrance on the east side of the highway. The old houses and barns are found about a mile down Antelope Flats Road. The John Moulton Barn is probably the most famous of the historic structures, and surely you’ve seen pictures of it, but there are other buildings that are equally picturesque. Mormon Row is one of the most famous spots at the Grand Tetons for photography, so even during the off season you’re likely to find a crowd with cameras at this place.

Besides the historic buildings, this is a location where you might spot bison, as buffalo commonly graze in the area. You might also see deer or even moose. Always be vigilant around wildlife and keep a safe distance. While the animals are fairly used to crowds of people, they can still be quite dangerous, so don’t get too close.

Schwabacher Landing Is Unbelievable

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Tetons From Schwabacher Landing – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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Schwabacher Landing Beaver Dam – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

After you are done photographing the barns at Mormon Row, head further north up the highway to Schwabacher Landing. There’s a little road on the west side of the highway that takes you down close to the river, which is calm and reflective thanks to a bunch of beaver dams. Honestly, this place is magical! It can feel unreal. It’s my favorite place at the Grand Tetons, so be sure to stop here.

If there’s a place that you’ll want to use a tripod and really take your time, this is it. Walk around the trails a little. Soak in the scene. Enjoy the incredible nature that’s around you. Don’t be in a hurry to head down the road. Be in the moment, because the moment is amazing. If you are visiting during the off season, there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself. Don’t miss Schwabacher Landing because it’s unbelievably beautiful!

Snake River Overlook Is Iconic

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

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The Tetons and the Snake River, 2017 – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

About 21 miles north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the Snake River Overlook, which is a pullout on the west side of Highway 191. There are a bunch of scenic pullouts along the highway that offer stunning views of the Grand Tetons, but this one is special because Ansel Adams captured one of his most iconic pictures at this spot. What makes it especially great is that you can capture the Snake River winding in front of the incredible mountain range. This is a good place to finish the morning, and, if you can, return for sunset.

As a photographer who has studied Ansel Adams’ work, who has been inspired and influenced by his pictures, there’s something prodigious about being in the exact spot where he captured one of his famous pictures. It’s walking in the footsteps of greatness. It seems particularly appropriate, when you visit the Teton Range, to pay homage to Adams by making your own photographs at the Snake River Overlook.

See also: 5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer

5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer in 2020

Fujifilm X-E1

It’s almost the new year! 2020 is at the doorstep. This year is nearly over. You might be wondering how to improve your photography in 2020. Perhaps you feel that your pictures aren’t “good enough” and you wish you could make pictures like what you see others creating. Maybe you are in a rut and don’t know how to move forward. Or it could be that you always keep your camera in auto because you are intimidated by all of the different settings and you don’t really understand all of the technical stuff. Perhaps you just received your first “real” camera for Christmas and don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, you want to become a better photographer in 2020. Well, this article is for you!

If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. No matter what your skill level is, you should always be striving to improve. You should be pushing yourself to be more technically proficient or to learn a new technique or to be more creative or to have a stronger vision. Throughout your life, and not just in 2020, you should be trying to become a better photographer. Keep working towards improvement. Don’t stand still, because you can’t.

Really, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to become a better photographer in 2020. I’m pushing myself to improve my camera skills. My advice is aimed at myself just as much as you. We’re all in this together. I hope that you find the five tips below helpful in your quest to become a better photographer in 2020!

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UP 4014 & UP 844 Racing West – Richardson Draw, WY – Fujifilm X-T20

Tip #1 – Know Your Gear, Part 1: Read The Manual

This might sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to know your camera and other photography gear inside and out. You need to know what all of the different settings do. You need to know how to make adjustments. You need to know how it all works. Most people thumb through the manual when they first get a new camera or other gear, and never look at it again. It’s a very good idea to take a careful look at it during unboxing, but it’s also a good idea to revisit the manual every so often. Pull the booklet back out after owning the camera for three months, and again at the one-year mark. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find! If you are like me, you’ll learn new things each time that you do this. Knowing your gear is the necessary foundation for improving your photography.

Tip #2 – Know Your Gear, Part 2: Understand How It Works

Knowing how to change the aperture is one thing, but knowing how it will affect the picture is another. Those who have been doing photography for awhile likely have a good grasp on what all of the different settings do to a picture, but those who are inexperienced might have no idea. Even if you have a good grasp, it’s always beneficial to investigate more deeply, understand more precisely, and try new techniques. There are tons of people who don’t understand even the basics, and things like the exposure triangle are completely foreign to them. If you rely on the camera to guess what the right settings should be, you are basically crossing your fingers and wishing on a star that your picture will turn out well. If you intimately understand how your camera works and how different settings affect the image, you can ensure that your pictures turn out just as you want them to.

There are tons of great resources for learning different aspects of camera settings. Nowadays, with the internet, everything is right at your fingertips. Oftentimes the best way to learn is by doing, which means that you take your camera out of auto and play around with it. Spend some time experimenting with different apertures, different shutter speeds, different ISOs, etc.,etc., and compare the results. This is a learning process, so don’t worry that your pictures aren’t good yet. It takes a lot of time, but the time investment is well worth it. Whatever you are trying to learn, read up on it, then go out and do it, not being afraid to fail, but trying again and again until it’s second nature.

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Onaqui Wild Horses – Dugway, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

Tip #3 – Invest In Experiences

Camera companies want you to think that you need the latest and greatest gear to become a better photographer. If only you had more resolution, better auto-focus, a larger sensor, a faster lens, etc., your pictures would look amazing, and they don’t because you didn’t buy it. My advice is to use what you already have to the best of your ability, and spend the money on experiences instead of new gear. Travel! Go someplace amazing. It doesn’t have to be far. Even if you were only going to spend $500, that money could get you somewhere. Take your camera with you and use it. Take lots of pictures! It’s better to keep the gear that you own and really use it, than to buy new gear and not use it as much. Eventually it will make sense to “upgrade” to something new, and you’ll know when that time is, but for now spend your money on experiences and not gear.

Tip #4 – Find The Light

Photography requires light, so it should come as no surprise that great photography requires great light. “Great light” is a little difficult to define, and it varies greatly depending on the subject, but oftentimes you know it when you see it. You can find great light anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and most of the time you have to seek it to find it. You can sometimes even create your own great light if it does not naturally exist. The most obvious great light is found near sunrise and sunset, and that’s a great starting point for those searching for it. With practice and experience, you’ll more easily spot great light, recognizing how to best utilize it for stronger pictures. The key is to always actively look for great light, but it takes a lot of clicks of the shutter to be proficient at finding it.

Tip #5 – Be The Man Who Came Back

There was an article in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine by photographer Chuck Abbott entitled You Have To Go Back To Get The Good Ones. In the article he addresses the very question of this blog post: how does one become a better photographer? His answer: be the man who came back. Return again and again to the same subject. Try the picture at a different time of day, in a different season, under different light, from a different angle, etc. Keep coming back to it over and over, and don’t stop, even if you are satisfied with the results. Press yourself to make a more interesting picture of something that you’ve photographed before. Be a better storyteller than the last time. Make a stronger composition than your previous attempts. This is the best piece of advice that I can give you: if you want to become a better photographer in 2020, be the person who came back.

New: Fuji X Weekly Development Page

Fujifilm Blog

I created a new Fuji X Weekly page called Development. You can find it by clicking on the top-left “hamburger” menu and then selecting Development. This new page has absolutely nothing to do with developing pictures, but instead has posts relating to personal development as a photographer. This is where you’ll find things like how-to articles and photography advice. So far it’s not a huge list of articles, but I hope to expand it greatly in the coming months. It’s small now, but it will be much larger soon enough. I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful resource for some of you. I encourage you to check it out, and to revisit it regularly to see what’s new.

7 Incredibly Cheap & Easy Photography Hacks

In the video above I share seven simple and inexpensive (or free!) photography tips and tricks. Feel free to use them, and if you like the video be sure to share it so that others can learn the tricks, too.

Here are the seven hacks in the video:
– mini string lights for foreground bokeh (click here for the mini string lights)
colored page markers for light leaks (click here for the page markers)
– crumpled tin foil bokeh background
– coffee sleeve lens hood
faux wood ceramic tiles for worn wood setting
– backwards mount macro lens (click here for the adapter)
shift the white balance

You’ll notice that I included links above to Amazon where you can see and purchase some of the items that I used in the video. I am an Amazon Affiliate partner (so that I can improve the Fuji X Weekly experience), but I did this more so that you can see the actual product used than for you to go buy something (the items are under $10 each, so I don’t expect the links to be particularly financially beneficial). Perhaps doing this is helpful to someone.

I hope that you appreciate the video and find it useful! It was fun to make, and I hope to do many more videos over the coming days, weeks and months. If you like it, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don’t miss anything!