Field Trip Loose Ends

Well, we are cranking down to the end of the Fall Semester for 2014.  Students are busy preparing their final portfolios for review and critique, and in between questions and helping with this and that, I’ve managed to finish editing a few more shots from the Alabama Hills field trip.  Remember you can click on the image to enlarge it.  For some if you continue to see the “+” sign you can click again to enlarge it even more.

Since the previous post was a more chronological narrative of that trip, this time I can simply deal with the shots themselves in no particular order.  But I’ve just been talking about sequencing images in a portfolio, I’ll try to find some workable flow to these additional images.  As you may recall from the last post, I was trying to work with extremes of lenses and techniques.  This time I’ll start with a simple one, a macro shot of a tiny flower head that was left on the stalk from last year, refusing to be dropped or blown away.  I am awed by perseverance and so was attracted to this little flower.

A dried flower head hangs on to its stalk among the rocks in the Alabama Hills.  Shot with Canon 5D MkII and Tamron 180mm Macro.

A dried flower head hangs on to its stalk among the rocks in the Alabama Hills. Shot with Canon 5D MkII and Tamron 180mm Macro.

It was shot with a Tamron 180mm Macro so I could get in close and see all of the exquisite and complex detail.  Very different in form from the Rabbit Brush flowers I showed in the previous post that had looked like they had fibers from cotton or some similar fabric,  it is yet no less complex in the rows of tiny straw-like petals.  We normally see just a ball of fluff… but there is so very much more to it.  I’m told many flower heads like this have their elements arranged in perfect Fibonacci number sequences.

Since I led this off with a tiny detail, let’s follow up with another detail of sorts, but this one is on a vastly different scale.  Dawn sometimes paints the Sierras with vivid color and from a vantage point in the Alabama Hills it looks like a fairly solid color.  That is the scene in the banner image at the top of the page.  But when you look very close, as in this detail shot with a Rokinon 600mm f8 lens, you can see the angles of the various facets of the rock each reflect a different part of the spectrum; it is the distance that blends it all together.

Very close detail of Mt. Whitney shot near dawn from down in the Alabama Hills with a Rokinon 600mm f8 lens.

Very close detail of Mt. Whitney shot near dawn from down in the Alabama Hills with a Rokinon 600mm f8 lens.

That dawn light is at such a steep angle to the rock, when you can get close enough with a long lens such as this 600mm Rokinon to see the cracks and crevices, the deep shadows makes it look as if it were a pen and ink drawing.  And i love the pastel color pallet.  What was sort of dead looking on the ground was, upon this close an inspection, quite interesting.

At the picnic ground parking lot at Whitney Portal, right at the base of the spires in the shot above, there is a wonderful little waterfall.  As with other features of this area I’ve shot it a number of times but usually with a normal to wide lens and often with the obligatory long exposure photographers think is so cool.  We often think that because some of the gorgeous old photographs, such as those by Jackson and Gardener have that “cotton candy” look to the water that is how it is supposed to be done.  But those old timers had no choice;  emulsions were SO slow their landscape shots, even in good light, might run to several minutes.  But we do.  Sometimes the long flowing water is a perfect rendition, but other times…

On the quest for something different I decided to change both of those approaches.  I used a Canon 400mm f5.6L telephoto lens and a short exposure (1/320 second) in order to capture some detail of the water as it splashed and trickled down the rocks.

A long-lens rendition of the waterfall at Whitney Portal.  This shot also uses a short shutter speed to capture the details in the water.

A long-lens rendition of the waterfall at Whitney Portal. This shot also uses a short shutter speed to capture the intricate details in the water splashes and flow. Shot with Canon 400mm f5.6L lens.

The 400mm lens forced me to look for compositions different from my norm but it wasn’t long before I saw something that interested me.  I used to never think of taking a long lens on a landscape trek but my friend Lee Peterson spoiled me and now I rarely leave home without them.

Then, finally, you may remember that in the last post I showed a shot of the creek below the waterfall taken at night using a “Painting With Light” technique.  I had mentioned that on the previous night we shot along Tuttle Creek.   Probably tackling something a little too grandiose in scale for a beginning shot with students we actually lit up a canyon across the little gorge in front of us and up to some fascinating rock forms on the opposite wall.

Finally I had a chance to tackle the assembly of that shot and right away ran into an issue.  After I shot the base HDR image I got one or two of the areas lit and then must have somehow slightly moved the camera in the dark and or nudged the zoom ring on the 17-40mm wide angle lens.  I got the assembly underway and then, suddenly, things were not lining up.  Fortunately I had gone back and relit some of the first areas with a different flash light for some variation and it turned out I needed those as primaries.  I had some fun matching the color balance but in the end was able to put something together.

Night-tme Painting With Light approach to the little canyon along Tuttle Creek in the Alabama Hills.

Night-tme Painting With Light approach to the little canyon along Tuttle Creek in the Alabama Hills.  Taken with a wide angle zoom Canon 17-40mm F4L at 17mm

This shot is taken looking almost due south but I’m not sure what the bright star in the center is.  I did think of Pinocchio however but could not find Jiminy Cricket anywhere to intercede for a wish.

So that is my Alabama Hills Field Trip.  I’m looking forward to the trip to the Ancient Bristlecone Pines this July.  if you are interested in joining us, click on the link under the banner to see the details.  It is some pretty amazing stuff in the upper groves around 12,000 feet in the White Mountains.  Let me know if you want on the list!

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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