Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Twilight Road Thru the Alabama Hills by Miles Morgan

"The Polarizer" ~ © Miles Morgan
(click to enlarge - then click large image again, to view on black)
Miles Morgan photographed this scene with a Nikon D800E, using a 35mm focal length lens. Exposure was 60 seconds @ f/13, ISO 100 (the moon was a separate exposure with a 70mm lens —but it was in that position over the Sierras). Miles Morgan is an airline pilot out of Portland, Oregon who doubles as an amateur fine art landscape photographer. More of Miles' work can be seen on his 500px page and his website.

I'll let Miles tell the rest of the story in his own words:

Ask around. I'm Mr. Clear Skies lately. I have more sucking removal power than a Hoover vacuum. This makes me grumpy, so it is no small feat that buddies David "Breezy" Thompson and Paul Rojas have been able to put up with me for several photo trips these past few months. We finally did manage a few clouds, but we spent many days trying to come up with shots that would work in the clear blue, and with the full moon hanging around, even night images were proving to be taxing.

I bombed down from Washington to the Mono Lake the first day, and arrived in time for a... you guessed it.... clear sunset. With the full moon rising, however, I figured that I might be able to sneak out some sort of image. I hustled down to the lakeshore and came to a screeching halt. There must have been 100 photographers scrambling around, over, and through the tufas. My camera stayed in the bag.

The Econo Lodge in Mammoth Lakes seemed like a logical place to crash out for a few hours before sunrise, but around 3am I decided that I simply wasn't going to be able to rest, so I might as well head out and find something to shoot. I popped out into the bitter night air, and turned behind a Suburban to head towards my rig only to discover some families tailgate wide open, and trash strewn all over the parking lot. I now found myself face to face with a bear twice my size, who was getting intimate with a Twinkie. I couldn't think of much to do, so I said "Hello". Luckily, I've lost a few pounds recently, so the Twinkie looked a little creamier, I guess, because he went back to eating and ignored me completely. I continued down the lot to my car, and drove off as if nothing could be more normal.

Arriving at Alabama Hills the next day, I finally had enough time to scout out some compositions that might work while I waited for "the boyz" to arrive. With the Photographers Ephemeris, I knew where the moon would set, and that it would be hanging over the mountains in the blue hour before dawn, so I set about finding a composition that might work for the expected conditions the next morning. You guessed it.... clear. Dawn came, and the three of us hustled out to some spots we had found the evening before to shoot. Nothing was working so I came back to this area that I had considered the day before, and set to work. Getting the exposure right, jumping in Rico, my trusty steed, and driving back and forth trying to make this work before the moon disappeared behind the hills was a right challenge in the nippy morning air, but it finally came together. Only it didn't. The moon looked too small, and to expose for the land areas correctly required the moon to be blown totally. I opted to simply zoom in, fire off a shot at 70mm and exposed for the moon itself in order to present it as it appeared to my eyes. A purist, I ain't.

So the title. No I didn't use a polarizer. It's in response to the reaction that I received regarding this image from my critique group, which consists of several photographers who are WAY better than me, and who do me the solid of giving me their honest impression of what works, what doesn't, and what I can do to improve it. This shot simply didn't work for many of those folks. Ironically, it ended up being my favorite from the trip, proving once again I have questionable taste at best. I love that paradox about photography.

Editor's Note: Here's another great Alabama Hills nightscape by Miles. Unlike the "zoo" of photographers that can form around the Mono Lake area, the Alabama Hills continues to be much less crowded, yet it offers amazing photographic opportunities and clear, dark nights for some of the best astro-landscape photography in the world. I will be conducting a NightScape Workshop in the Alabama Hills, April 22-25, 2014.

Royce's 2014 Workshop, Lecture & Video Conference Schedule:
Featured Post: Shooting Stars eBook Review — How to Photograph the Stars and the Moon

1 comment:

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