Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

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Digital Outback Fine Art Photography Handbook

© by Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller

7 Some selective outdoor disciplines

7.1 Landscapes

7.2 Birds

7.3 Plants and Flowers

7.4 Urban Landscapes

7.5 Lost and Found


This chapter glances over some areas of outdoor photography we have the most experience with.
7.1 Landscapes

Point Lobos Impression @ Big Sur

Landscapes are our main passion. Capturing meaningful landscapes is very demanding. The reasons are:

  • Landscapes a huge (compared to small photos)
  • The weather and light
  • Capturing the essence
  • Avoid the cliché

Here an example. Highway 1 at Big Sur is one of the most exciting landscapes we have seen. We love to portrait this amazing scenery but it is very challenging. On the other side this is the fun (and frustration) of landscape photography.


Here are some of the criteria for landscape images:

  • Colors
  • Patterns
  • Light
  • Weather
  • Drama
  • Detail (which makes it a challenge for 35mm and digital)
  • Telling a story (make the viewer wander through the image)
  • Graphical impression
  • Emotions

Landscape is not really a digital domain right now as many fine art landscape photographers miss fine details in digital images. We just try to our best inside the limits of today's digital SLRs. Again the result counts and the resolution of digital cameras will soon get close to medium format film cameras.


Rock Patterns at Hwy 1
Our friend Jim Collum made a whole series of large format prints from rock structures at Hwy 1 (mainly Garapatta Beach and Pebble Beach north of Santa Cruz)

Michael Reichmann's: The Luminous Landscape, the name says it all

Stephen Johnson: Digital Fine Art Landscape Photography Amazing landscape images using 4x5" cameras with BetterLight scanning backs

7.2 Birds

Snowy Egret

In our early photography we never thought to photograph birds. But here in California the beauty of these creatures demanded our attention. Now we think that bird photography can be beautiful art (see Art Morris) and also birds are very amazing in:

  • Colors
  • Patterns
  • Behavior
  • Elegance
  • Movement


Also birds can be very interesting as part of the scenery

Pelican Attack (at Point Lobos)

Now we not only love birds we also have a high respect for great bird photographers. But bird photographers need also some special equipment
7.2.1 Birds are so small (you need long glass)

Pelican at Santa Cruz Pier

If you start photographing birds you never think the focal length of your lens is long enough. Below 300mm it only makes sense to photograph pretty large birds (e.g. Pelicans at Santa Cruz Pier), Serious bird photographers use lenses like 400mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 or even 600mm f/4. These lenses are then even used with tele converters 1.4x or 2.0x (some even stacked!).

Using these lenses requires rigid tripods, special heads (e.g. Wimberley Head) and excellent long glass shooting technique. Also the use of image stabilization (Canon's IS system dominates the market) helps getting sharp images. The long lenses are mostly shot wide open (you need all the shutter speed and ISO you can get). Photographing long glass wide open can result in beautiful blurred backgrounds which let the viewer even more focus on the beauty of the birds.

The downside of these lenses is their price and weight. As we mainly focus on landscape we want to stay more mobile and decided that such long lenses are not for us.


Art Morris: "Birds as Art"

7.3 Plants and Flowers

Tulip at Villa Filoli
Spring is clearly our flower time. Both wild flowers and cultivated flowers can be amazingly beautiful. One of our favorite places is Villa Filoli with one of the most amazing gardens in California.
With flower photos we often enter into the range of macro lenses. Most of our photos are taken with a 100mm macro lens (on a digital SLR this will be ~130-160mm). With such a lens we get close enough and still can keep some distance from the object.

Here are the criteria we focus on with flower photos:

  • Color of course
  • Patterns
  • Abstractions
  • Textures (no surprise that many fabrics imitate flowers



As with all outdoor photography the seasons are important for your work. Flowers and other plants have there most interesting colors in Spring (the fresh, young colors) and Fall (the muted colors).

Eastern Sierra Wildflowers
Recently we also took some photos of cactuses mainly to capture their patters.

Cactus at Big Sur
7.4 Urban Landscapes

Italian Bakery in NY

Urban landscapes can be as fascinating as pure nature. Most often the scenes get more interesting if the time/nature has painted the scene. Newly created buildings hardly ever grab our attention for photography.

Here are some examples (some are just a dream for use right now)

  • Venice Italy
  • Bodie the Californian ghost town
  • New York in Soho and Greenwich
  • Indian temples
  • Mayen temples
  • Mexican buildings (New Mexico)

Always where color and patterns strike the eye we would like to capture these impressions.

We are not dogmatic about only photographing "outdoors". For example in Bodie we consider the views inside as an integral part of our Bodie portrait.

Chair in Bodie
Urban Landscapes
7.5 Lost and Found

Puppet in Niles (photographed through the window)

This is a fun category which include photos which do not fit anywhere else. These are often photos of things just found unplanned on our way and worth capturing:

  • A single moment in time
  • Capture emotions
  • Make us smile
  • Make us sad
  • The beauty of the the ugly

Doll near Gilroy Orchard
Michael Reichmann's: The Luminous Landscape, the name says all
© by Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller
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