Monday, November 12, 2007

Zion: Evening Light

For those of you in the know, I'm spending 3.5 days in Zion National Park as part of a workshop on landscape photography. Today's assignment was to capture the "golden light" of sunset, while playing with interesting compositions. Here therefore, are the results of scrambling up 600 feet over 40-degree inclines, getting stuck like a pincushion by some fine-thorned cactus, and grazing a much-loved elbow.



While technically correct, this one is actually not a very good picture since the composition is dead boring (Uh-huh. It's a mountain. We get it.) Still, it was pretty for a cliche, and a good example of the quality of the last rays of sunset causing the top of the mountain to glow. I also had a polarizer on which shifted the sky behind to a slightly deeper blue.



I'm happier with this image. It's a stretch for me to be composing landscape pictures with a narrow lens, so I was pushing myself into somewhat uncomfortable territory at this 300mm (35-mm film equiv.) setting. The idea here was to have the setting sun cast a glowing warm rimlight on the tree and the rock ledge, while the background rock face contrasts with a cooler in-shadow look. Personally, I also like the lines of the background rock striations and the foreground ledge that lead your eyes over to the tree.

Other lessons learned:
  • This takes time. It's not about cranking out 30 different compositions. It's about looking around and carefully picking a composition (or three). And then it's just a matter of waiting till the light looks right. Sometimes that means coming back another day to get that one shot that looks really evocative.
  • Timing is everything. The light changes quickly. You need to have your filters in place, and the camera in position on the ball-head so that you're ready to crank off those 3-4 pictures that you'll have time for in the few seconds that the light peaks. If you're fumbling around trying to screw on that polarizer at the last minute, you might as well come back tomorrow.
  • Don't pack up as soon as the light's gone. Sometimes your best picture is the one you see over your shoulder when you're putting your gear back in the car.

No comments: