MM01062021

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My wife is Italian. So every time we visit her parent’s home, we find ourselves automatically in one of the most beautiful places in the world: The Italian Dolomites. Since my first visit to that part of the world, I’ve just been amazed by its unique nature. No matter where you let your eyes wander, you can just call it a paradise – especially for me as a photographer.

Always when coming back to the Dolomites, I intend to shoot a couple (even for free in terms of my own projects and to test out new ideas!) who love the mountains as much as I do to celebrate their anniversary or just to create unforgettable memories.

This time we headed to the area of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks). Like at many other tourist spots in the world, I always recommend escaping the crowds and follow your own paths which always bring you to calmer and unexpected places – as it happened here. My experience is the longer you hike somewhere, the quieter it becomes. :) I adore uniting people with beautiful nature and landscapes. As seen in the photo, it’s so amazing, how massive and powerful mother nature can be in relation to human beings.

What inspired me? I think it’s a passion for all kinds of landscapes and the unexpected out there in general – like the clouds which suddenly appeared and made the perfect atmosphere even more mystical and special to us.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

I saw this very narrow path and I knew straight away that it would look wonderful when I photographed the couple from a distance. Since the photo was taken from about 200m away, I had to explain to the couple beforehand what they need to do. At the same time, it’s important working out some signs (signals?!) (such as whistles, arm movements, etc., and their meaning) at such a distance, as the couple may not be able to hear me. That worked out great in this case. It is always important to me to keep the instructions very simple but clear and not to give too much information, otherwise, it could unsettle the couple. Since it wasn’t a harmless place, I had a closer look at the path before I gave the couple the go. It’s important never to push a couple into a dangerous situation just for a photo.

What did you say?

“Well guys, this is a pretty narrow path over there, but since you are experienced hikers, I am sure that you can easily do it. Please pay attention anyway and if it gets too tricky for you, come back anytime. You (GIRL), take his hand, go ahead and lead your friend safely to the other side of the path. Don’t care about me or where I’m standing. Just wait for my further instructions, which I will shout over and show with my arms. But also feel free to be spontaneous whenever you want and do whatever you feel for, it looks even more natural then. Good Trip!”

How did you compose your image?

First of all, there was only one option for me in this situation – to shoot this photo in landscape. I didn’t want to capture and focus on an intimate kissing shot, I wanted to specifically show the breathtaking landscape and how small the couple is in relation to this spot. I shot the photo from a small hill diagonally from the side, so it got a more three-dimensional effect and a certain depth and drama. Only from this position, you were able to see how steep it goes down from the narrow path. I’m convinced that taking the photo straight from the side wouldn’t have the same drastic effect and would even become a bit boring.

Since a few clouds happened to fly by at that moment, I didn’t have too much time to create that perfect composition, because they disappeared after 10 seconds again and I had to decide: Either I play with different perspectives and sections or I seize the moment. For my taste, unfortunately, the couple is too centered in the photo. I would have preferred them more in the first third (further to the right), that would just look more harmonious. But I caught the clouds which definitely redeemed it.

How and what did you focus on?

Well, like nearly anytime I used the Single Focus Point on this one. I didn’t want to lose control over the focus area. The distance and the movement wouldn’t allow me to use manual focus. But even with the autofocus, it wasn’t easy to hit the couple. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision to use a 1.4 aperture from that distance. When zooming into the photo I recognize that the couple is not 100% on spot. Next time I would close the aperture to 5.6 or even 8 to achieve the couple and background to be sharp at the same time. But I needed to be super fast by shooting the short cloudy situation and just ignored changing the aperture.

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How did you use the light in your image?

It was quite late in the day, I reckon around 1.5 hours before sunset. So the light was still a bit strong (August sun) but at a perfect angle to shoot from my position. The light came at a slight angle from the side and lit the couple slightly from behind, just as I imagined. The guy’s white shirt and the girl’s green dress were nicely emphasized by the sun, so the couple was also beautifully presented and didn’t perish somewhere in the shade.

The chasm to the left of the couple has remained dark, which is a nice contrast to the bright area and gives the photo a mystical touch. The sunlight also put the clouds in the limelight, which in turn gave the image more liveliness and the special something. Actually, I wouldn’t do much differently and it was quite easy to take photos with this comfortable light. Maybe I should have tried to find another position so that I could get the chance to work with the backlight. But then I might have missed the few seconds of the clouds by changing my perspective, so I’m still more than happy with the results.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Camera

Sony A7 III

Lens

Sony FE 35mm f/1,4

Filter

None

Other

None

Shutter Speed

1/4000

Aperture

f/1.4

ISO

100

White Balance

Auto

How did you edit your image & what did you use?

My own developed preset (based on Vsco Portra 160) was kind of perfect for this light situation and the environment. One of the first steps of my editing workflow is always to adjust the right temperature. I set it close to 6000k which seems to be perfect without losing the soft greens in the background. Usually, I also change the exposure but this time it was just on spot. Also, I didn’t want to have too much orange in my photo so I muted the saturation a bit. To keep the details of the clouds (as the sunshine was still quite strong), I decreased the highlights, whites, and shadows. This gave an overall more moody feeling to this photo. Finally, I used the clone tool (spot removal tool?) to remove a disturbing rock in the lower right corner and two men sitting on the other end of the narrow path. I just loooove this clone tool! So easy to use and effective.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Preset

Custom Preset

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What challenges did you face?

1. It was certainly not easy to give instructions to the couple at this great distance.

2. In the mountains the weather conditions can change every second and you should be prepared how you can use them for your work.

3. To focus on the couple sharply at a distance.

How did you solve them?

1. In such a situation, you should stipulate some signs (signals?!) with the couple in advance or tell them exactly how to behave in the next few minutes when verbal communication is going to be interrupted. Everyone involved should know their way around.

2. Always have the cameras ready, even if you are taking a short break. Sometimes you only have a few seconds to take advantage of a special weather situation.

3. Unfortunately, it had to be quick, so I stayed at an aperture of 1.4. This made it almost impossible to focus the couple sharply. The next time I would shoot at such a distance with at least f / 5.6 to get everything sharp (couple + background).

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

Sometimes only a split second decides how exciting a picture can become. You’d rather use this little time and take an imperfect photo instead of thinking about the right camera setting or composition and then missing out on a magical situation. I would have been annoyed if I missed those magical clouds, to be honest.

Mati Photography

Shooting since

2016

Current Home

Austria

Website

Instagram

I’m Mati, a laid-back destination wedding & elopement photographer from Austria! My work is based on a somewhat artistic (but natural) touch and I love building up a good connection to my couples, which helps to create the best and honest results. Photography means so much more than only work to me, it belongs to my lifestyle and for me it’s the best way to express emotions.

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