Beauty in the Less Obvious
Especially when photographing in and around national parks, I'm always looking for different veiwpoints and alternate ways to capture the essence of the location.
Big landscapes are great; people like them. They sell. But intimate scenes are just as interesting and effective - and they're often more unique. A series combining small vignettes along with some more iconic landmarks enables the photographer to tell a more complete story.
I like the challenge of distilling a scene to its core elements. For me, the key to finding vignettes is to keep an open mind. I take my time and try to let the place guide me.
At Moab, Utah - home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park - one of the "stories" (of course) is the red rock. Poking around the Colorado River just east of town recently I noticed some great looking trees. They hadn't yet leafed out; what caught my eye was the combination of their graceful shapes and the fact that they were really popping against the canyon walls (the sun had just poked through a mostly overcast sky which created spectacular backlighting).
I walked around them for a while but couldn't find a good vantage point before losing the light.
While I didn't come anywhere close to making a photograph there (the camera never came out of the bag), I began looking out for other opportunities with similar isolated trees.
Later that week along another stretch of the Colorado, I found more potential candidates. I spent quite a bit of time one morning with three different trees. As the sun continued to climb, the lighting improved. Sounds counterintuitive, right?
Mid-day light doesn't have the greatest reputation. To be sure, it can be tough to work with. It's flat. Harsh. It creates deep shadows. But depending on what you're shooting - like these trees - it can be just the ticket. The backlighting was spectacular. Without it you might not have even noticed them.
A few miles further downriver I found my "keeper."
This tree, with its lovely lines, stood alone. Behind it was a canyon wall (a telephoto lens further compressed the scene). The dramatic backlighting made the branches pop. The tree nearly sparkled.
It's a more subtle way of telling Moab's red rock story.
As for that much maligned mid-day light, I made this photograph at about 11:45am. You can shoot in the middle of the day. You just have to know what to look for and how to expose properly.
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