Landscape Photographer Cliff Laplant

This afternoon I’m very pleased to introduce my blog readers to landscape photographer Cliff Laplant. Cliff has some truly stunning landscape photographs. I’ll share three with you in this post. The one above is called “Big Arroyo Creek”. I’ll include two more at the end of the post.

Cliff was gracious enough to participate in a short interview about his photography for my blog. Before I share two (2) more of his landscape photos, let me share his interview:

How did you start in photography? What got you involved?

Cliff Laplant: I began as mountain climber, traveling to various places mostly in the western United States climbing the Cascades and numerous peaks in the Sierra Nevada Range of California. Back in those days I mostly shot photographs using film and “Point and shoot” type cameras and I was never happy with the end result. The places I visited were so beautiful and what I was transferring over in my photographs never really accurately depicted in what I had seen and experienced.

I was frustrated and began a self-study of some of the legendary landscape photographer’s works such as Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell, and such. I began to realize the importance of composition, time of day, and location. My photographs began to improve and I was hooked!!!

Is there something that attracts you specifically to landscape photography?

Cliff Laplant: With my background in wilderness area travel landscapes have always fascinated me. The flowing streams, the beautiful clouds, the majestic mountains. My absolute favorite place on the planet is the Sierra Nevada Range in California. Every chance I get, I load my pack and head to the mountains for several days at a time.

The idea of being in the remote wilderness and surviving with what I carry on my back is exciting to me. I enjoy the pre-planning of choosing specific mountain passes and lakes in the back country to point my camera in places that are not commonly photographed.

What is your favorite lens and camera?

Cliff Laplant: I shoot exclusively with Nikon cameras and lenses. I am currently using the Nikon D800 camera system and my favorite landscape lens is the 16-35mm Nikkor. This system allows a lot of room for cropping and is extremely detailed in its pixels (36.3 MP per shot) and is relatively light weight for a full frame camera. I normally use a tripod in the mornings and evenings to keep the ISO down and the shots nice and clear.

Can you offer any tips to other photographers for a great landscape shot?

Cliff Laplant: Some tips I utilize in capturing my shots involve shooting in the morning and evening hours for that “Golden light”. A location can look incredibly different when the light is low and full of color. I try and choose a subject when capturing a shot, whether it’s a huge jagged peak, a waterfall, or a large boulder. I also try and use the surrounding area to complement that subject.

I tend to shoot with a wider lens and incorporate a foreground. Some of my favorite shots involve a nice foreground with a sunburst or a nice cloud set in the background. I rarely place my subject in the center of the photograph; rather I slightly move it off center to one of the sides. Weather is also a big factor with me. One of the biggest frustrations I have is being in an absolutely beautiful area with a dull blue sky.

Some of the best photographs (in my opinion) involve weather. Whether it be overcast, windy, raining, or just partly cloudy, these elements give you an opportunity to make a photograph that is truly unique and special for that moment in time. For example, how many photographs have you seen of Half Dome in Yosemite? The photographs that really stand out with Half Dome are the captures with something unique and different going on. Otherwise all you have is another photograph of Half Dome.

What is your typical photography workflow? What software do you use for post-processing?

Cliff Laplant: I tend to take more photographs in the warmer months of the year and primarily spend my time in the mountainous areas. In the cooler months, I like to go to into the southwest. I don’t set a standard on myself for taking as many photographs as I can. Rather I try to just enjoy my time in the wilderness while making them. Ansel Adams once said: “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to make the leap to Photoshop one of these days, however I have not done that as of yet. For the past 10-15 years, I have been using a very cheap program called Paint Shop Pro by Corel ($100). It’s a nice basic program that allows you to crop, adjust color/contrast, remove dust, etc. I shoot a lot with an F/22 aperture, which makes a dirty lens/sensor show every little piece of debris. The main key for me in post-processing is to keep the photograph looking natural.