Tips for Using Flash to Enhance Outdoor Nature and Landscape Photography

Late on a winter evening, I was photographing atop a ridge in Colorado’s Front Range. I had been working on some landscape shots, but with the light fading from the sky, the thought of beer and food was beginning to overwhelm my desire to stay out. The colors were shifting to the deep tones of blue hour, and the light was long gone from the hills. About to give up and head home, I spotted a lone juniper atop a rocky outcrop, perfectly silhouetted against the deep blue of the mountain sky. I sighed, tempted to ignore the scene, but instead put my camera back on the tripod, walked over and composed a shot. With a click, I snapped the shutter.

CO KenCaryl evening 30Dec2011 6

The image was decent, nice blues with a clean black foreground, but it needed some warmth, an element to contrast with the abundant cool tones. “If only I could get a beam of sunlight to reach back above the horizon…” I thought to myself.

Wait a second… I didn’t need the sun, I had a flash and a remote trigger in my bag. I pulled it out, all thoughts of beer and food forgotten, and placed the flash on a boulder a few feet to my left. I set it low, to 1/4 of full power, then took a shot.

Better, I thought, looking at the image glowing on the back of my camera, but still not right. The light coming from the flash was too cool, lacking the warmth I wanted. Digging back in my bag, I emerged with a pack of gels and slapped a half cut of CTO (color temperature orange) over the flash, and clicked off another.

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