The Joy of Sunrise!

Sunrise, Misty Reflection, The Oxbow

Sunrise is a special time for landscape photographers. We venture out into a dark world with great hope and expectation. The world is quiet and still, with most creatures (at least humans) still asleep, and the wind waiting to be pushed by the suns first warming rays. Often times it is quite cold, but we come prepared. To endure the lack of sleep, darkness and bitter temperatures is a small price to pay to witness the first glimmers of light on a new day. At times this is looked upon as sacrifice. However, for those of us that have experienced the new dawn in a spectacular, and perhaps remote wild location, this is food for our soul. The image a reminder of the feelings we experienced in that spiritual place.
I have continued to use large format film in the hopes of doing justice to these special moments and places. I hope to share  more than just an image, but to give you, my collectors, the ability to be in that place, at that time, so your life can also benefit from what nature has to offer, if I am willing to endure a little discomfort. Soul food. May it fill you up.

The Story
Sunrise at Oxbow Bend is a classic! The anticipation of waiting for the sun to rise to the east and illuminate Mount Moran, the Teton Range and the yellow aspens in the foreground is fantastic. However, on this Fall morning, Mother Nature shared a visual appetizer! I looked over my shoulder to the east and realized the show was starting early, and in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I had time to move my 4×5 setup, compose and focus in time to capture this incredible light show. The shape of the clouds, the mirrored reflection and the mist rising from the river were capped off by the pastel colors of sunrise. The depth of this image draws us in, as this location draws me back year after year. Enjoy the view!

Photo Tip:
Everyone loves a colorful sunrise reflected in a still body of water. It’s a classic type of scenic image. Depending on the physical conditions of the location, it can also be very challenging to create a solid exposure. Most often, the sky is lit with the best color before the sun actually rises above the horizon. This leaves us with a larger dynamic range (from highlight to shadows) that the film or digital sensor can’t  handle in one exposure. You either end up with accurately exposed sky and black foreground and mountains, or accurately exposed foreground and blown out / white sky. While many people choose to use HDR software or image blending to put together two or more exposures in the computer, I prefer the simplicity of using a split level ND filter. This filter enables you to hold back the amount of light entering the camera from the sky, reducing the dynamic range, and enabling you to capture the scene in one exposure.
In the example above, I used a 3-stop split ND filter with a soft gradation. I was then able to expose for the foreground (bushes and fall color in mist), giving me an exposure latitude easily handleable by my transparency film. The result is a very true exposure in which I held the highlight detail and pastel color in the clouds, along with retaining shadow detail and subtle fall colors through the mist in the middle of the scene. Another bonus; very little computer time and a clean image that can be printed to 48×65 inches!
NOTE: Many people use split filters or image blending / HDR  and forget the fact that reflections are always 1 stop darker that what they are reflecting. To keep a natural look to your image (albeit subtle), make sure the reflection is a little darker than the reflected subject. It’s all about the details!

Equipment Used:
Canham 5×7 Metal Field Camera, 4×5 reducing back, Caltar IIN (Rodenstock) 90mm lens, Singh Ray 3-stop soft gradation split ND filter, Gitzo Carbon Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Fuji Provia 100 4×5 inch Transparency Film.

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This entry was posted in 4x5 film, digital photography, Fall color, fog, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, jon paul gallery, Landscape, large format, Mountains, National Parks, oxbow bend, photo techniques, Photo Tip, reflection, Sunrise, Tutorial, Uncategorized, western, Wyoming and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .