Certain images in the nature and landscape genre have become what we photographers know as icons. We all know what this means: these are the ” famous” features and scenes that have been photographed countless number of times by countless numbers of photographers. Well known examples are images like Yosemite Valley from the Winona tunnel, and the Maroon Bells reflecting in Maroon Lake with Fall color. They are part of the “checklist” of images that serious landscape photographers all aspire to capture. The reason we all love to photograph icons is because they are such spectacular examples of the landscape of our planet. When photographers make images of “icons” are they doing something unique? At one level probably not, but at another level, at a personal distinct moment of time in their life, each photographer making an image of an icon captures their vision of the icon and makes it their own. It is important to consider that at any given time the light and environmental conditions will be different which will result in an image that will be truly unique.
With this statement in mind, I personally often return to areas over and over to make images of scenes( icons or not) in different seasons, conditions and light. A great example of this is a recent photograph I made of of the iconic Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park photographed with the reflected light of sunrise imparting a spectacular glow on the underside of the arch. This icon was first made famous by the great large format landscape photographer David Muench. I have visited Mesa Arch on at least 5 different occasions in different seasons and light conditions and have been fortunate enough to have made a few decent images of this amazing feature. This most recent image was made in February when I was on my way to Reno Nevada to attend the NANPA summit. What makes it interesting and unique to me is the presence of snow and the misty clouds glowing with the sunrise light. Only one other photographer was present to experience this inspiring scene, and even if I had not successfully captured this image the experience of just being there and witnessing the amazing reflected light and glowing clouds would have been reward enough.
Sunrise light at a snowy Mesa Arch in Canyon Lands National Park, Utah
A blast of Winter came to Colorado over the last few days; snow, cold and wind. Now I actually like cold and snowy weather; it can provide beautiful and challenging photography, but my senses were still accustomed to the wonderful warm days of Indian Summer in Colorado that were present just days before the storm . This morning, as I scraped the ice off my truck in 16 degree temps, my mind wandered back to my summer excursions, particular to a trip I made in July to Oklahoma when the temperatures went over 100 degrees. On one day I spent a wonderful morning at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in the Osage Hills of Northern Oklahoma and was able to capture a great sunrise. Conditions were perfect with incredible verdant green grass and wonderful clouds in the sky that lit up as the sun hit the horizon. Viewing it certainly warms me up and brings back wonderful memories. Isn’t that why we all make photographs?
Sunrise on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Oklahoma
Monument Rocks Arch and Earth Shadow
Last week on my way to attend the opening of the Kansas Park Trust show in KC I included a stop at Monument Rocks to photograph them in dawn and sunrise light. Monument Rocks are a collection of pinnacles composed of the the Cretaceous Niobrara Formation located in Gove County south of the town of Oakley. Lithologicaly they are composed of chalk, a very fine grained limestone formed from accumulations of the shells of tiny microscopic marine organisms. The down cutting of the Smokey Hill River has eroded away most of the formation leaving the 70 foot high pinnacles. As a photographer and a geologist they make great subjects and over the years I have often photographed them. Last Friday morning the sky was absolutely clear with no clouds which is often not the best for spectacular sunrises, but very nice for the development of a nice earth shadow, the subtle pink and blue band visible on the western horizon in this photograph of the Monument Rock Arch.
The next image was made just after the sun rose and illuminated one of the other pinnacles. By blending three exposures I was able to maintain detail in the shadowed pinnacle without over exposing the sunlit pinnacle. The new digital tools we have today have greatly expanded our ability to capture the natural world as our eyes see it!
Monument Rocks Sunrise Light
During my June trip through the upper Midwest I spent several days in Minnesota. The day before the Summer Solstice I arrived at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It was a Saturday and the park was absolutely packed with people enjoying the spectacular waterfalls. Because of harsh light and the crowds of people I did very little photography that day, instead I scouted locations along the shore for the following morning’s sunrise. I woke the next morning at about 4:00 AM and could tell almost immediately that the dawn light and sunrise was going to be spectacular. I hiked down to the shore to the spots I had scouted the day before and waited for the light show to begin and Summer officially start. As you can see from the two images below I was not disappointed!
Lake Superior Summer Solstice Dawn Light
Summer Solstice Sunrise Over Lake Superior
Continuing on with the sunrise – dawn light theme, I present an image from the UP of Michigan, made in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Of the two sunrises I photographed there, this is my favorite. I was drawn to the simple almost minimalist layered composition and of course the beautiful pastel shades of reds, orange and blues. Of several exposures, this provided the slight wave-ripple on the water that adds strength to the composition. One other composition note: I placed the horizon right in the middle to divide the image into two major layers of water and sky, each of which have subtle layers within them bases on color tones. Enjoy:
Lake Superior Dawn, Porcupine Mtns State Park, MI ©Stephen Weaver
Posted in Photographs, Trip reports
Tagged "landscape photography", dawn, Lake Superior, landscape, Michigan, nature, photography, sunrise, UP, Upper Pennisula
One last image from Nebraska before I move on to other images from my mid-west trip. My absolute favorite time of day to photograph is that magic time just at and before sunrise. If clouds are present above the horizon and the horizon is itself clear, the clouds can take on amazing colors of pinks, reds and orange as they reflect the light from the rising sun. This sunrise made at Smith Lake was fabulous and although I did not know it when I photographed it, this would be the first of several amazing sunrises I would see and photograph in the following days.
Smith Lake Sunrise ©Stephen Weaver