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Bishop Canyon

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 19 October 2009 in Landscape & Rural.

UPCOMING 2009 / 2010 WORKSHOPS:

Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 4-8, 2009 (Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (4 spots available)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (9 spots available)
Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
Kauai, Hawaii Photo Workshop - July 12-16, 2010 (8 spots available)
Big Sur Photo Workshop Summer August, 2010 (Exciting details TBA soon)!
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The small eastern-Sierra town of Bishop, California, with its proximity to this incredibly dramatic mountain range, has become a destination for landscape photographers worldwide thanks in part to the iconic imagery of the late-Galen Rowell. A short drive west from Galen's Mountain Light Gallery, one is suddenly transposed into the grandeur of the majestic Sierra crest which seemingly rises to dizzying heights from the high desert floor and provides incredible vistas and backdrops for nature photographers.

Fall color was late in arriving this year, and where it was spotted, early cold temperatures and high winds did major damage. The canyons do provide a bit of respite for the fragile leaves as was the case with this grove of aspens below Lake Sabrina. Unfortunately, the winds were gusting at an estimated 40-50 mph on this early morning making for difficult conditions in which to photograph. Adding to my troubles was the fact I had forgotten to pack my split neutral density filters and most of my winter clothes!

A quick stop to the local K-Mart solved the latter problem, and a bit of blending magic in Photoshop solved the high contrast issue which was evident in this scene. My friend Mike Hall and I climbed up and over rough terrain to get to this vantage point high atop a granite boulder. I quickly setup my camera and tripod, took a reading for the sky and one for the canyon (there was a 5-stop difference), set my aperture for f/16, and bracketed 5 frames at one-stop intervals with my shutter. It was one-take and out as the wind was so strong it was difficult to achieve solid footing.

Back at my computer, I determined I only needed four frames to make the blend work. If you are interested in how to achieve this look, please read my article: HDR The Old-Fashioned Way . The key in blending these types of images is to not overly lighten the shadow as it would look unnatural. I purposely kept the shadow about 1 1/2 stops darker than the sky, but did add a curves adjustment layer utilizing several lock-down points to add some contrast and allow for some punch in color for the aspens. Curves is really an indispensable tool and is my "go-to" adjustment layer for all of my images. If you are not comfortable using the curves tool, I suggest you do some reading and just start playing with it. Small "tweaks" to the curve line can allow for some amazing improvements for your images!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/5 second F/18.0 ISO 200 35 mm

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