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09-10-2012, 07:35 PM   #1
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Tips for Extended Trip Out West (US)

I'll be leaving on an extended driving trip through the Western US in a few days - Arches National Park, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in CA, Death Valley, North Rim of Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and points in between.

I'll be carrying my Kx with it's kit DAL 18-55 and a DA 55-300.

While I've owned this camera for a couple of years now and taken a couple of courses, I haven't exactly amazed myself with my results.

Anyone care to offer any tips for shooting mostly landscapes in the US West.

09-10-2012, 08:25 PM   #2
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If you don't already have them, get lens hoods for your lenses and get a tripod.
Set the camera to f/11 (for good combination of Depth of Field/Sharpness). Put the camera in 2 second timer delay mode (to turn off SR while on the tripod).

Then, the thing I always have to tell myself behind the camera is to spend some time taking in the landscape, then shoot.
09-10-2012, 08:34 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by icywindow Quote

Then, the thing I always have to tell myself behind the camera is to spend some time taking in the landscape, then shoot.
The above is important for sure.

I suggest a polarizer. It really helps with the color in the desert rocks. With the lenses you have f8 will work well, but that's not a big deal.

I find that the shots in those places I liked the most always incorporated a tree, rock, bush in the foreground to add something to the bleak landscape... It somewhat emphasizes that quality; it feels like that one object is the only thing for miles... The effect cash be lost if you always do that.

It's a beautiful area. Have fun.
09-10-2012, 08:57 PM   #4
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I have always tried to shoot several shots and combine them into panoramas, which seems like a good idea for big western landscapes. The key for that is to set the camera so it doesn't change anything between shots. Set white balance to one of the presets or set a custom white balance first, especially if you are shooting JPEGs only. (I prefer RAW for this.) I pick a place that will be the brightest spot in the panorama. Take a test shot there and check it for exposure. It should be just under being overexposed, no blinking exposure warnings, except if you include the sun. Also make sure the focus is right. Then put the mode dial in M and set shutter speed, aperture and ISO to that exposure. Set the camera to manual focus. Now you should be able to take a series of overlapping shots that will make up the panorama. I can do this handheld but I have to pay attention. Use the horizon as a guide. Shoot extra to include everything. It may help organize the shots later to shoot the sky or ground before you start and when you're done, to mark out those shots for future processing. I've gotten back from the trip and wondered what the hell I was doing... oh. Microsoft has free panorama software, ICE. There's other free software too. It may help to use the Pentax software to do lens corrections first. I use Photoshop CS5 because I can get it to match white balance, do lens corrections and create the panorama all at once.

The great shots of these places are mostly close to sunset and sunrise. If you can rearrange your schedule to be in position for a great shot at either time, do it. A polarizer filter is useful. If you're not sure of some setting, take several shots at different numbers and maybe one will work out. Make backup copies so you don't lose those great shots. Don't ignore your travel companions.

09-11-2012, 04:08 PM   #5
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Number 1 for good landscapes, get a tripod and use it with either a remote shutter release or the self-timer. I've posted more on that subject in the forum.

Number 2 is light, or maybe number 1. Could go either way. Most landscape photos are shot early morning or late evening in the golden hour. I often scout during the day and return in the evening or morning for a shot that will catch the best light.

Number 3 is good glass. Your camera is good enough to take great photos. The kit lens is just adequate. Sorry to have to say that. The 55-300 is the best reasonable cost tele lens going.

There is always practice, scouting locations, good guide books. The Photographing the Southewest series is excellent. There are separate books on Utah and Arizona. The Arizona book also covers Valley of Fire in Nevada, about an hour east of Las Vegas. It's not that well known but if you're driving by on I-15, it's certainly worth a stop. There's lots more, but that falls under practice, mostly.

Last edited by mysticcowboy; 09-11-2012 at 04:24 PM.
09-13-2012, 09:01 AM   #6
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Thanks for the tips. I'll head out to get the polarizing filters today. Tripod is packed.
09-14-2012, 10:13 AM   #7
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More tips, travel with the 55-300 on the camera, an example why is that wildlife may may show up also. You may find the telephoto better for many landscapes too, especially in the SW. You'll also have a lot of distant scenes/objects that are inaccessible whether that be by terrain or time.

Sweeping landscapes can be boring or jaw dropping. Many of the best landscapes have interesting elements in the foreground. Pay attention to the whether the ground or sky is more interesting and compose with that in mind. So many people don't look at the composition in taking travel landscapes, they are so awe struck with the scenery they think it all looks great and just snap away, I know I've done that.

As Just1MoreDave said, the hours around dusk and dawn are when the special light can happen. If you get lucky enough to have any clouds that can help.

You really need to have a wireless remote for that tripod, but it may be too late to obtain for your trip.
09-14-2012, 08:21 PM   #8
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Thanks for the tip!

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