Potami Bay, Samos – Landscapes and My Limit(ation?)s

Here is a shot from the North Coast of Samos, shot during a break between hunting for orchids and butterflies.

PotamiBayLandscape1200NF

Nikon D300 / 18-200VR @ 40mm / cpl

ISO 320 1/500 f/10, on tripod (should have been at ISO 200, but I forgot to adjust the dial!!)

I’ve been thinking about this, and this shot seems to have crystallized for me my latest thinking about my relationship with landscape photography.

Before taking the trip to Samos, and having been an admirer and avid reader-up of info about and techniques for landscape photography, I had been pondering whether to up my game in this area and to invest in some more specialized landscape gear, i.e. maybe a new lens.

What I ended up doing was just buying a circular polarizer for my trusty (but now rather antiquated, it has to be said) 18-200VR (that is, the first version).  This lens is DX, so isn’t at all well suited to use on my D3S, so I’m back to the old standard D300/18-200VR combo which I’ve been using as an all-purpose travel combo since 2007.

On reflection, this was the right thing to do.  I knew from previous experience that I definitely needed a cpl for Greece anyway, so this wasn’t really a big decision.  However, I’d been thinking about my gear for a while, and the logical next upgrade for me body-wise is a D800 of some flavour (which I am coveting but cannot afford quite yet), which should be excellent for macro and will improve my ability to get both detailed shots (even with crops) and make the larger prints without having software invent pixels.  But for landscape, I’d have to go for some dedicated FX lens(es), which would inevitably cost me more, not to mention making me worry even more about the weight of my luggage!!.

It’s not just the weight, or the expense, though, it’s the cost-benefit analysis: when it comes down to it, I just don’t have enough time, opportunities, or perhaps most importantly, locations to rationalize a fuller investment in landscape photography.

The present image is, for me, not at all bad I don’t think – I especially like the impact of the polarizer on the water – , but it still takes quite a bit of doing; and in any case, it’s more time taken away from the kind of photography I seem to enjoy most and seem best at, which is macro.  In fact, this turned out to be one of the only shots I took with the D300 on a tripod shooting a landscape on the whole trip.

For those who are interested (well, you’ve read this far…!), the basic raw file was cropped slightly and straightened slightly, with a few adjustments made to shadows, highlights, and exposure in the raw processor (Adobe Camera Raw 7.4), along with use of the all-important lens corrections feature (18-200VR barrel distortion is horrific!).  Photoshop was then opened, where the final image was made by adding 5 adjustment layers (3 for curves and 2 for levels, to darken the sky, to lighten the shadows, and to add overall contrast and get the brightness about right).  An alternative approach might have been to blend in a second exposure with a darker sky (if I had one).

Bearing in mind this is just your average basic shot of a nice view, taken in the middle of the day, you can begin to appreciate how much work can go into those awe-inspiring landscape shots you see in the top photo forums.

Yes, some of the adjustments I made were probably to make up for the relatively limited dynamic range of the D300 by current standards, but: there’s an awful lot of skill out there, being exhibited by people whose work I greatly admire.  They clearly have far more top-quality shooting opportunities than I can even aspire to have at present, without them beginning to feel that it gets in the way of their other photography.  So it pays (literally!) to figure out your limits, as well as your limitations…!

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