Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35 f/2.8 @ 16mm, 0.3 seconds @ f16, ISO 160
The 180-degree rainbow framing the famed Fitz Roy massif is the result of pure luck. Of the dozen or so horizon-to-horizon rainbows I’ve observed while doing photography, none have never appeared in the right place for a good image until this one and this one was a complete surprise. I can usually predict where a rainbow might occur: low-angled sunlight relatively early or late in the day, precipitation in the air in the opposite sky. A rainbow will create a 42-degree arc around the anti-solar point but you still need those first two ingredients in order for it to happen. You will also never see a rainbow in the middle of the day, unless you’re in an airplane or top of a mountain looking down on it.
Seeing a rainbow is still a very special experience to me, no matter how many times it happens. On this recent trip to Patagonia, we saw 4 or 5 over the ten day trip. Nearly every time I do see one, I can’t help but think about John Keats and his accusing Sir Isaac Newton of “unweaving the rainbow” or essentially stealing it’s magic and poetry by explaining the phenomenon in terms of refraction and reflection. I could never understand how science and truth could be boring or could “steal the magic” from anything. If you take the time to look closer and discover the true meaning of nature and how it really works, it’s more wonderful and magical than any fiction, fantasy, supernatural, or mystical explanation.
On to the mailbag…
Tuesday on Facebook and Twitter, I invited my followers to submit questions to me about photography, travel, nature and wildlife, or anything else they were curious about. I received over 300 questions in less than 24 hours via Twitter, Facebook, and emails! I obviously cannot answer all of them here (some are redundant) but over the last few days, I have attempted to tackle at least a portion of those I received. This is #3 of a 3-part series. Mailbag #1 was published here on Wednesday and #2 was published here yesterday.
As a person who likes traveling, photography and nature, visiting Patagonian Chile and Peru is kind of a dream of mine. Due to the distance and other factors I could not make it for real yet, but I will surely do someday. So here is my question: as you are just on your way back from there, could you please tell me one thing – and one thing only – that will urge me to make my dream real as soon as possible? - Direnc from Istanbul, Turkey via Email
Well, Direnc, the image above should provide enough inspiration although it sounds as if inspiration is not something you’re lacking. The mountains of the southern Andes are not the highest in the world, but they are some of the most dramatic I’ve ever witnessed. But I think it’s the weather – the winds, the odd cloud formations, the variations of storms and clearing and magical light that appears “out of the blue” – that really makes Patagonia special. Save up and make it happen. That’s about all I can say.
In all the places you have been to photograph, which has been the most difficult and why? - Luz Marina Martinez, New York, New York USA via Facebook
I would have to say rain forests and jungles, especially for landscape photography. Most forest scenes can be difficult because we are attempting to extract some sort of order from the chaos. In jungles, the chaos is just overwhelming and it’s difficult to find pleasing compositions. Then you have the light, which is a tangled mess of filtered sunlight, direct sunlight, and shadows. The sky, if it’s included in the scene is overpoweringly bright relative to the forest floor. Put it all together and you have a real challenge. But I love challenges!
What camera would you recommend for a beginning photographer? - Elena from San Juan, Puerto Rico via Twitter
Elena, go with one of the starter DSLRs from Canon or Nikon. I’m not up to speed on what the latest models are, but I do know they all have manual and auto-exposure modes which are necessary for learning about exposure and they capture in the RAW format. The image quality of most entry-level DSLRs is excellent too, much better than 4 or 5 years ago, but you could say that about most technology. Now I know the fan boys of Pentax, Sony, Olympus, etc.will call me out and say how their entry-level DSLRs are just as good, if not better than Nikon or Canon. They might be right, I don’t know. But I do know that once you make this initial purchase, plus probably a kit lens, you will be buying into a camera “system” and you are sort of locked into it from this point on. Nikon and Canon offer many more lens choices and accessories to choose from as you grow into the system. Want to specialize in wildlife photography? Canon and Nikon offer the most lens options. Macro photography? Again, Canon and Nikon offer the most lens options and close-up accessories. I use Canon, not because I necessarily think it’s the best camera system, but because I have to use something and it just happens to be Canon. You can’t go wrong – short term or long term with either Nikon or Canon.
What is the best time of day to do nature photography? - Ben from Columbus, Ohio USA via Twitter
While most photographers prefer the dramatic light of early morning and late evening near sunrise and sunset, there really is no “good” or “bad” times of day. It’s all subjective. You can make great images any time of day if you understand light and how to use it.
Wondering what lenses you recommend for a range of landscape and nature photography. Do you use filters on your lenses? How has the transition from film to digital affected your photography career? And lastly, do you ever use film, or do you think you ever will again? - Pamala from Washington D.C. USA via Facebook
Four questions, Pamala? OK, each one real quick. First, you could use any and all lenses to do landscape photography – from 14mm to 600 mm, possibly. It’s like asking which golf clubs would I recommend in order to play a round of golf. You might need all of them depending on the situation and how you want to capture it. If I had to pare it down to two lenses and ONLY two lenses, I would go with my 16-35mm (or something similar in that range) and 70-200mm (or something in that range). Based on my experiences, I think I could handle most situations with those two. Filters? A polarizing filter (absolutely necessary) and a set of neutral density filters for slower exposures. I carry 3- 5- 6- and 10-stop NDs. The transition from film to digital hasn’t really affected my career at all but it has allowed me to be much more creative once I allowed it and quit thinking about everything in terms of how film used to capture things. Would I ever go back? No, and I don’t think it will even be a viable option available to me, even if I wanted to.
Which phone apps do you use for photography, if any? - Jay from Cape May, New Jersey USA via Twitter
Well, I don’t use my phone as a serious photography tool. I know some do, but I just can’t get into it. Therefore, I don’t use or own apps that work on or manipulate phone images. I do have other apps that help me with photography, however. Sunrise/Sunset gives me the sunrise and sunset times from any place in the world using the phone’s built in GPS system. Focalware and Twilight are both good apps for pointing out the exact location of sunrise and sunset. Moonphase gives me the the phase of the moon for any future date, plus moonrise and moonset times. Tidegraph gives me the tide charts for almost all US locations on any future date. I also like Sky Safari and Star Chart for giving me a realtime map of the stars, planets, etc. That’s about it.
If you submitted a question and I didn’t address it, I’m sorry. I tried to choose questions that were entertaining and/or enlightening and/or unintentionally funny and/or the answer was able to cover multiple questions that were asked by others. I might do this again in the future, so stay tuned.
Enjoy this post? Please leave a comment or Subscribe to Earth and Light!