When A Landscape Shoot Goes Bad

Yesterday I posted some of my favorites from my Grand Teton National Park trip. First off, thank you – there were a lot of really nice comments. So today, figuring why should I end it on a high note, I thought I’d follow it up with some of the not-so-good photos from the trip. As I think you’ll see, so much of landscape and outdoor photography is just about being there at the right time and place with the right weather. You can be in a really beautiful place and, if the conditions don’t cooperate, take some really bad photos. Heck, as you’ll see here… you can be in a really beautiful place, with really great weather, and still take some bad photos :)

Here’s a photo from the Snake River Overlook the night before I got some decent ones (you can see them in yesterday’s post). I kept thinking the light would get good. In fact, I was with a few other people and I made them stay until about 15 minutes after sunset telling them “Guys… this could get really really good if we just wait a few more minutes”. It didn’t :)


Here’s one from Schwabacher Landing the morning before I got the shot that I was happy with. I know the Tetons were back there somewhere but we never saw them.


Maybe putting this ugly area of grass in the foreground will help.

How in the world did I think this would make a good photo? Is it those nice leading lines? You know, the ones that zig-zag you across the photo and back… and across again… and back again? ;)


If you can’t beat the clouds and fog, then join ‘em. Saw this lonely tree on the drive back from the previous photo location. The Tetons are somewhere back behind that cloud layer.


Maybe if I work it from a different angle I can make something happen from this foggy morning.


I’m not shooting this stupid tree anymore!


The God beams that almost happened… but didn’t. Instead we were treated to some really nice gray and washed out skies.


This one I kinda actually like… a little. It actually could have gotten spectacular but again, the sun found a better place to go behind the clouds then to show off for us.


Beautiful morning at Schwabacher Landing. Remember that ugly area of grass I tried in the foreground yesterday that didn’t work? Let’s see it works today. Umm… Nope!


Now let’s see if I can cover the beautiful Grand Tetons with some large trees instead. I actually almost like this photo, but I prefer the one I posted yesterday (from a similar location just a few yards down) much better.


This is what you get when you arrive at a sunset location late. My very first photo as I put down the tripod. You only get a few seconds to catch the sun going down behind the mountains and trees. As you can see, I made the most of it with a very uninspiring composition of a rippled lake and a clump of mud in the foreground up front.


Gee… I wish I arrived early enough to get the sun from the last photo (as it went just behind the peak) in this one instead.


Maybe if I shoot it wider the sun will miraculously pop back up for a minute?


Here, I thought it’d be cool to try some star photos since we were out early for a sunrise shoot. Unfortunately it was so dark I didn’t notice the half-dead trees and my buddy’s camera in the frame until I got it on the computer.


Where the heck did that half-of-a-tree on the right come from?!


I absolutely hate dead pieces of wood. No… like I really hate them…


I may have screwed up everyone else’s photo by removing the dead wood (and causing large amounts of ripples in the nice flat water), but it’s all about me right? ;) And by the time the ripples died down, the light was already getting a little harsh and flat.


And I call this photo “Fly fisherman’s butt with no feet (and tree with dead branches protruding into the right side of the photo)”


Finally, I call this photo: “The Inexplicable Glowing Barn, right in the middle of the frame”

Again… if you haven’t seen yesterday’s post please go back and read it, so you know I don’t totally suck as a photographer :)
Have a good one!

  • http://www.scottygraham.com Scotty Graham

    Matt…that was one of the best posts I think I have ever read. I started a small chuckle at the start, but it turned into full out laughing when you talked about the “stupid tree”…too funny! I would like to share your post on my blog if you don’t mind…

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Sure thing Scotty! Thanks :)

  • David Manuel

    I was in the same area last June – now I feel a LOT better about my pictures – thanks for sharing some of your ‘not so good’ pics. Nice to see that we all take a ‘few’.

  • Dennis Zito

    Great post, Matt! I’m guilty of trees in my photos. They just pop in there! :-)

  • Jan Hill

    Hi Matt. I actually learned more from your “bad” shots than the good ones. Thanks for the giggles. You are my morning cuppa Joe.

  • http://roamthepla.net Dusty Doris

    That was so funny, thanks! I have many “I’m not shooting this stupid tree anymore” moments. Hehe. :)

  • http://www.gavinbakerphotography.com Gavin Baker

    Isn’t it strange how your mind warps reality when the weather sucks and you really want to capture some great images? I enjoyed the line about your buddy’s camera the best. Laughed out loud (seriously).

  • http://photosbyhealy.blogspot.com/ Gene Healy

    Matt, Thank You. It is reassuring to know that even someone with your great talent can and does take duds. When all we see are the spectacular images, it can be a bit intimidating. But when we see even the Pros take bad shots, it gives the rest of us hope in becoming better.

  • Sally

    I agree with Gene…you are human! I needed this post.

  • http://gravatar.com/nickyjs Nikki

    Thanks for sharing those, Matt! A much needed chuckle for the morning and to know that even you pros can have trouble finding and taking that perfect shot.

  • yose

    Matt, Thanks a lot! That was an outstanding post and it was a GREAT read. In fact it has boosted my confidence and I will continue to try to shoot decent landscape photos as I know you it’s not always my fault when things look real bad. ;)

    The grass, the tree and your buddy’s camera made laugh real hard.

  • Stephen McCullough

    A very cool and helpful post. We’ve all had a similar experience. Something tells you the various elements are there, but it just doesn’t work out.

  • Tom

    Matt – Despite everything, I think you got some amazing shots from your visit to JH. The photos in the previous posts are just amazing given the conditions! Having been to JH many times, and have experienced 50 or so other fellow photographers jockeying cameras to get the best position it can be quite the challenge! But have you ever hear of “Leave No Trace”? http://lnt.org/ Let’s remember to be mindful of the places we visit and not treat the area as a “set” with “props”. What if you had 50 guys rearranging the shoreline so they can get their “perfect” shot?

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Thanks Tom. And I agree, we should not have a negative impact on the ecosystem we’re around. That said, you should never come shooting with me because I regularly remove dead pieces of wood everywhere I go (and will continue to do so). I like to think I helped create a new home for some non-water dwelling creatures in the area :)

      • Rob

        I have to agree with Matt here. It’s not like he left a candy wrapper in the lake. He moved a piece of wood. That being said, I think he “left no trace”…….

        • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

          You’re right Rob. I did leave no trace. I don’t see one bit of that log left in the photo. I’m thinking of starting an organization called http://www.removealldeadwoodfromphotos.org ;)

      • Tom

        Thanks Matt! Sounds like we’re on the same page! ;-) Actually, I think I would enjoy shooting with you. I could help you leave no trace by picking up and removing any candy wrappers, garbage, any “abandoned” D800/D800E that happened to be sitting on a tripods…. while you move your dead trees ;-)

  • http://gravatar.com/akloogamop Mike

    Funniest photo blog I’ve read in years. This is so much more engaging than the hard-sell approach which has overtaken the main Kelby blog that you’d better watch your back.

  • David

    Glad to see that ‘real’ photographers are also ‘real’ people. Reminds me of what someone said about the work of our great photographers … they are happy with a few good shots a year.
    Thank you Matt for sharing and demonstrating that you shoot ‘many’ but only capture a few.

  • http://Www.mdsimages.com Michael

    I loved this :)

  • http://www.wowphotoshdr.com Jim

    I just can’t wait to see some more of your bad shots from this Nov. and June of next year…. Bless ;your heart you are a trooper.

  • http://livingfancyfreeblog.wordpress.com livingfancyfreeblog

    Oh my gosh! I can sooo relate!!! My fav of your mishaps has to be the fly fisherman/dead tree – your comments literally made me LOL!!! Thanks so much for the chuckle!
    P.S. You’re a great photog!

  • Stephen Foster

    Matt… if you had listened closely you would have heard the tree yelling “Hey! you don’t have me in the frame!” as is wiggled in from the right side.

  • Jeb Buchman

    Great post Matt. I had to put down the coffee while reading it. Laughter and coffee do not mix on a keyboard or monitor.

  • James

    Funny stuff, Matt. Many of us have had similar experiences where a beautiful scene just didn’t happen inside the camera. And as for things that mysteriously show up in photos, there’s the time my photo included a massive dose of bird poop. Still don’t know how it got there (without me seeing it.)

  • denise_apricot

    Thank you Matt for making us all feel human again. I love it when you and Scott post things like this. Just out of interest, how many photos (percentage wise) were you really happy with? Again, thanks for sharing.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Denise. Let’s say I ended up with about 400 photos from the trip (not counting bracketed series). I have maybe 12 that I’m really happy with. Out of those 12, I’ll probably put 1 (maybe 2) in my portfolio. Hope that helps :)

      • denise_apricot

        Thanks Matt. Yes, it helps :-) BTW, love you on The Grid.

  • tony740607

    Yep. One of the funniest blogs I have seen from you and it feels really good that even your D800 takes crap pictures. It is not your fault Matt.
    I assume as well that the “good” pictures are post processed compared to the “bad” ones but I also assume that the fishermans butt would not improve very much in post processing, even with your skills in LR.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Tony. Nope, not really much post on the crappy photos. I may have tweaked the white balance, opened a few shadowy areas and added a slight vignette. But I did this last night and I don’t think I spent more than 5 minutes on all of them in total :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevedocwra/ steve

    Great post, now I know there’s hope for me yet.

  • http://www.luismacedophoto.com Luis Macedo Photography

    Loved this post.
    I know, for sure that Matt is a long way of “totally suck” at photography, but the bad photos (and i’m sure that i’ve taken – and will take many more – terrible photos) are a intrinsic part of being a photographer. They are the steps we have to climb to reach to the ones that are perfect! And after all, it seems that they too have a story to tell!

  • Frieda

    I’m afraid ALL my landscapes look like these…actually, not as good, then I over-process trying to “save” them. Oh well. :-)

  • http://gravatar.com/aboutbilla aboutbilla

    Great post Matt! While humorous, this post is every bit as good as the blind critiques that you and the others have done on The Grid. Nice to know that you pros have the same issues as we mere mortals have and that your compositions don’t always work out as planned too. It looks as though some of the smoke had cleared for you from the time I was there a couple of weeks earlier. I talked briefly in Kansas City.

  • http://www.nikonfanboy.com/ Wesley Varela

    “Where the heck did that half-of-a-tree on the right come from?!” – if only there was a program for that

  • Susan in Columbus

    THANKS for taking time to share those images. Totally enjoyed the instructive yet hilarious commentary — the ability to write/speak like that is one of the reasons you’re such a good instructor.

  • Frieda

    PS: I learn a lot from good photographer’s mistakes or critiques of others’ – thank you for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/flashca5 mross (@flashca5)

    One of the best posts I’ve seen from a pro. Thanks Matt, you got a lot of great pictures but showing these with the critique is inspirational and educational for some of us hobbyists.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyborzi/ Andy Boreham

    Great post and am so glad you take 400, happy with 12 and use 1! Thats probably about what I come away with. Its funny what you think are rubbish when I actually really liked a couple of them!

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  • http://gravatar.com/cathwp2007 cathwp2007

    Funniest post ever. Thank you for writing it. Totally made my day. Especially the parts where you’re determined to keep the bush or the tree in the picture. I do that ALL the time with my landscapes. And then, in post-processing I’m thinking exactly the same things. Why could I just not let it go and move on. Just this morning, out shooting, and I missed the perfect moments of the sunrise. So I take a bunch of pictures trying to make the sun come back to that perfect place again. What am I thinking? Still, I saw beauty in all your photos in this post, even the ones that weren’t quite right. What you shared in critiquing each one was very helpful to me. Thanks.

  • http://expandng.com lisacng

    Thanks for candidness though some of these are still pretty good.

  • Gordon G.

    awesome post, Matt. I had a lotta fun reading it. thank you

  • http://www.facebook/christinebeckstedimages.com Christine B

    “And I call this photo “Fly fisherman’s butt with no feet (and tree with dead branches protruding into the right side of the photo)” – lost it! Sooo funny. I think I might have that same shot, but he was a cowboy! :-)

  • Ron Drewnowski


    On your earlier photos of the Grand Tetons, I noted that they were taken with an 800E and many were at f16. I’ve read that the 800 is diffraction limited to f8 or perhaps f11. What was your thinking and did you find diffraction to be a problem?

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