Landscape and Nature with Chasing Moments Photography

A Few Words From Olga

I am Olga, the owner and photographer behind Chasing Moments Photography, a boutique newborn, baby and children’s photography studio in Reston, Northern Virginia. I live in Reston with my husband of nearly 10 years and two boys who are turning 4 and 6 in the fall. I am a huge fan of landscape and nature photography, an avid tennis player and I love to read. As a family, we love exploring Northern Virginia and DC for fun, family-friendly activities.

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Starting out: Landscape and nature photography have always been a passion of mine. This passion became reality when I picked up my first digital camera in 2004. Going back to the photos taken that year, I see that most of the images feature macros, nature and landscape shots. (Oh, yes, I will not show them here, but trust me – I have my share of average looking cats, seagulls and flowers on my hard drive).

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I was not drawn to other genres, such as street or documentary photography, or architectural photography. Today, while my main full time business is newborn and baby studio portraiture (and I am pretty sure my clients will agree that I absolutely love what I do), I still get out whenever I can to shoot sunrises, nature details and whatever outdoor photography I am drawn to. So, for me, “it clicked” instantly and I knew right away that I loved this genre. For others, it may take some time to discover their photographic passions.

Sand Dune Landscape
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I think one should not pursue a photographic genre because it is considered “profitable” or “easy” or because they have access to studio, or gear. Any photographer should strive to figure out what type of photography draws her, whether it happens right away or takes some time. Once he/she discovers what genre gets their creative juices flowing, he/she needs to pursue it, and by that, I mean practice, learn, and work hard to improve.

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Practice Makes Perfect: Here is one of my all-time favorite images I took last spring in Sedona, AZ. I love everything about it, the composition, the lighting, the colors. I am totally happy with it!

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It has taken me 11 years since I first picked up my first digital camera to be able to take this image just the way I had envisioned it. I put all my technical knowledge of the camera controls, exposure, lighting and focusing into it. When I mounted my camera on the tripod, I knew just how to bracket, what settings to use, and how many images to take. And then, when I got home, I knew how to use editing software just the right way to blend multiple exposures into this image. See where I am going with this? It takes a LOT to take a beautiful image you are absolutely happy with. So, my own biggest reminder to myself is to practice, practice, and practice. I try to do outdoor photography on a regular basis. (Of course, between having two littles and running a portrait photography business, I do not get out as often as I’d like to, but I do my best. Right now, my goal is once a month)

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I think most professional photographers (and not just nature photographers) will agree that they pre-visualize the shot before taking it. They know exactly what it would look like as a final image. It is especially true with outdoor photography. When you are placed in a scene, your image will only be as good as your experience, technical knowledge and vision.
Practicing a lot does not necessarily mean taking as many pictures as one can. In our high-tech world where most photographers, including myself, are equipped with super-sized memory cards and endless storage, it is easy to overshoot mindlessly hoping to “get a few good ones.” So, these days, when I shoot nature and landscapes, I pace myself and try to pre-visualize what image I want to get before I press the shutter.

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I often hear people say, “I love landscape photography, but I cannot afford to travel to all these beautiful places to pursue it.” My take on it is, “You do not have to!” There are beautiful, colorful, interesting things all around us, in our own backyards, in our own towns. I commonly go to a local botanical garden to do some “photographic soul searching”. Beautiful sunrises happen every day all over the world. And beautiful plants and flowers grow right where you live. Moreover, photographing them in a location that’s “your own” makes the final images so much more meaningful!

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My Gear: I am not a professional landscape photographer. It means I have a long wish list, and several carefully chosen pieces of gear to meet most of my outdoor photography needs without destroying my bank account.
Here is what I currently have, and what is enough for about 90% of my work: camera (I shoot with Canon 5d mark iii), a not-too-shabby tripod (a good one is on my wish list!), a wide angle lens (17-40mm) with a Singh-ray polarizing filter, a telephoto (70-200) with a Singh-ray polarizer, and a 100mm macro. A remote shutter trigger is a must. Oh, and I’d like to think I am pretty good at Photoshop (so, until I am ready to invest in a decent set of graduated filters, I take care of blending in post-production).

Winter Frozen forest in snow
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The Journey Ahead: When it comes to outdoor photography, I am in my “happy place”. I am confident I know enough technical stuff to be able to take the shots I want, and I know I am experienced enough to adapt to a variety of lighting and weather conditions during outdoor shoots. I know my shortcomings, what gear I need (and what gear I’d love to have ) to take me to “the next level” or at least to save me some time in post-processing. And I have clear goals about what I want to learn, practice and experiment with.

I launched a new landscape photography business and website last year (it is called “Rise and Click Photography” with a reference to sunrise/golden light photography). It is a work in progress, and I see my nature and landscape work as independent from my portrait photography business. Thus, a separate name and a separate URL (ironically, notice, I still have my Chasing Moments Photography logo on the images in this article… oh, I am torn on this! I’d love to hear opinions on this!). Right now, I have a few of my favorite galleries on there, some information, and in the future I am planning to develop a “mentoring” section and finally offer more art prints and canvases for purchase.

White Ferry Boat, White Sand Beach and Ocean Background
Golden Gate San Francisco

I have not incorporate my landscape photography work into what I do at the studio with my portraiture clients. I have, on the other hand, been happy to use the technical knowledge of the camera, settings, and exposure and lighting principles I have developed at the studio for my outdoor work!

What I love about nature and landscape photography is that it is a very personal experience. There are no clients, models, or reviewers whose priorities and visions may influence my process. No rambunctious toddlers either (fyi, I am talking about my own kids here). I am out there, shooting my own vision on my own time, and it is 100% for me. For now, even though I’ve been getting inquiries and invitations to license my images and to shoot for various nature project, I intend to keep it this way.

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See more of Olga’s LSI features here: Interview, Fresh Perspective
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