Earth Through The Lens, with 5 Pro Landscape Photographers
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Mother Nature holds a special place for so many photographers, maybe because she's literally everything: thrilling, refreshing, powerful, delicate... The beauty of our Earth provides amazing scenery through the lens, and amazing adventures will be had in the effort to capture it. This Earth Day, we're sharing inspiration and stories behind some gorgeous shots, as told by 5 professional photographers from our community. Enjoy, and keep it wild!
"One of the most inspirational aspects of photography is capturing Mother Nature's greatest moments. Everyday we are presented with new conditions that are never duplicated, and makes each moment unique. We rely on our Earth’s beauty to create our art, whether you are a landscape, portrait or wildlife photographer. Mother Nature has given me so many unforgettable moments, and being able to capture them with my camera and see them through my photos each day, is what continues to inspire me."
- Jeff Schwab | Santa Cruz, CA
"Perseverance. I think this is one of the most important traits that a landscape photographer needs to embrace. Being an outdoor photographer is not easy; Mother Nature often makes you work for it.
The weather predicted on this night was not ideal: 20+ mph winds, clouds, chance of rain, typical mountain weather. 😄 The thing about Tahoma is that cloud inversions are somewhat frequent here. I know this from perseverance, from many nights of hiking in clouds (safely!) and not giving up.
We didn’t see Tahoma once on the hike up thanks to clouds, but our workshop crew trudged up and up until we were completely enveloped by the clouds, too. For some reason, my Spidey senses were tingling throughout the entire hike that something special was going to happen, despite uncertainty amongst the group.
At the top, we huddled together for warmth, munched on sammies, and sat inside the clouds until about an hour after sunset. One by one, stars started peeking through the clouds. Not long after that, the clouds fully descended giving us one of the most spectacular nights under the stars that I’ve ever experienced. It’s moments like this that remind me how lucky I am to live on such a magnificent planet. I’m so glad that we stuck it out. I’m so glad that we persevered."
- Autumn Schrock | Salt Lake City, UT
"One of my biggest goals and inspirations in landscape photography is to take a normal everyday scene and make it into something extraordinary. This image taken from the Snake River Overlook is from a vantage point made famous by the late Ansel Adams. On any given day countless tourists stop at this spot capturing an image of their own. For most serious landscape photographers this isn’t good enough to just take a quick snapshot of a undoubtably beautiful scene millions have witnessed before them. We need dynamic lighting, or a beautiful sunrise or sunset to depict a mood. I like to take things up a notch and obsess over sun, moon and star alignments to show a very unique view of a place anyone can visit but few will ever witness in this way. In my Snake River Overlook photo we have a once a year alignment of the full moon setting perfectly over the Grand Teton which also coincides with sunrise casting colorful alpenglow during the moonset.
In another one of my alignment obsessed landscape photos we have the Milky Way on top of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. There is only one week of the year for 10 minutes at 3:30am that the Milky Way appears in this location. It happens to be the only chance you can catch the Milky Way over the Grand Tetons at any time of the year from any possible angle."
- Neil Simmons | Jackson Hole, WY
"As the great Ansel Adams once said, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.” After a ten mile hike into the Havasupai Indian Reservation in Arizona, I walked right up to this view at the base of Havasu Falls. A double rainbow. I was struck dumb. As a photographer, part of what makes you good is your ability to respond quickly and effectively to significant (and frequently fleeting) moments in time. But this stopped me dead in my tracks. On an intuitive level, I knew I needed to act. Fast. “Shoot this immediately, don’t miss it!,” my brain was telling me. Finally, after what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably more like 30 seconds, I dropped my bag and worked as fast as I could to get my gear out. Hands trembling from the excitement, I assembled my camera, mounted it to the tripod, and engaged the live-view function as a quick workaround for getting the exposure right without having to meter or take any test shots. ISO 100, f/11, and 0.6 seconds later, this popped up on the back of my camera. It felt like Mother Nature had winked at me."
- Luke Tyree | San Luis Obispo, CA
"The thunderstorm at False Kiva was the most difficult shot I've ever created. I sat, huddled in the cave, wondering if the stars would ever creep out on that cloudy night. It was the Milky Way, after all, that I was hoping to photograph at the kiva... Midnight: no stars. 1am, then 2am... nothing but clouds. I heard a low rumble in the distance. Thunder? I looked out, hoping my ears had deceived me, and there it was: a bright flash of lightning, miles away, illuminating distant canyons.
I panicked. Here I was, alone in the dark in a very remote location in Canyonlands National Park, with a massive thunderstorm rolling in my direction. Did I have enough time to pack up my gear and run to the car? I waited for the next bolt of lightning, which flashed only moments after the first but seemed much, much closer. The storm was moving fast, and there was no way I could outrun it. I had to stand my ground and wait it out.
The raindrops started trickling around the edge of the cave, and then with almost no warning, rain and hail came smashing down. Lightning began crackling almost directly overhead. The wind picked up, blowing sand, dust, rain and hail all over the place. My camera was already on the tripod, so I figured I would open the shutter just to see what would happen.
I knew the intensity of the lightning would require a much lower ISO than usual for my night shots, so I dropped the camera all the way down to ISO-400 (usually I stay around 6,400 for night shots), and stopped the lens to F5 (usually I'm at 2.8). I had no idea if these settings were appropriate, as I'd never tried taking photos from within the middle of a lightning storm before.
Suddenly there was a massive crack of lightning a few miles out, so bright that it lit up the canyon as if it was the middle of the afternoon. If I had any chance to make this photo work, it was now.
I grabbed my flashlight and began light painting the cave, "painting" the beam of light along the surfaces I wanted illuminated in my shot. Usually just a few seconds of light is enough, but with my camera all the way down to ISO-400, I quickly calculated that I would need several times the average amount of light to properly expose the kiva. I ran left and right in the cave, and tried to remember how much light I had applied to the different areas so that the exposure would come out evenly. I had no idea if this would work since I'd never tried anything like this before.
Finally, I turned off my flashlight, crossed my fingers, and clicked the shutter closed. I held my breath and clicked the review button on the camera. Unbelievable! The shot was more amazing than I ever could have imagined. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was one of the greatest and most challenging captures I've ever made."
- Max Seigal | Boulder, CO