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Morning's Awakening, Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 20 November 2009 in Landscape & Rural.


Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (2 spots available)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (7 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)!
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 2010 (Details to be released soon)
New Article on my Website: Creating a "Twi-Night" Image

Books Available for Purchase on my Website:
Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)
I read a recent blog post by my friend and colleague Gary Hart regarding an overload of photographing icons Autumn Cascade, Bridalveil Creek, Yosemite and I must say I agree with much of what Gary has to say. But as Gary states, "Most of my workshop students have travelled great distances, sacrificing significant time and expense, to capture the “classic” photos they’ve admired for years in books, magazines, and online. I am of course thrilled to give them those opportunities, but I challenge them to make the iconic shot their starting point rather than their goal. I encourage them to seek unique perspectives (though “unique” is sometimes elusive at locations that generate millions of clicks each year) and to strive for something that’s uniquely their own."

Such was my thought process upon leading a group of seven photographers to the icon of all icons, Mesa Arch, in Canyonlands National Park to allow them to witness and capture the "arch on fire look" that has been made famous by virtually all the greats who have come before.

I agree with Gary's narrative that when I am leading a workshop, my photography comes second. In fact, I took a far left position on this image in order to allow my students the prime position (if there is such a thing) for capturing sunrise. I indeed had my camera out as exposures can be tricky if one is not used to shooting this scene, so I was calling out my settings for those who needed some help.

Weather is one variable that can help in making a familiar scene take on a fresh look. We arrived in the dark an hour before posted sunrise and were treated to the first light illuminating clouds through the arch, it was undoubtedly beautiful to see. Finally the sun made its appearance right on cue and all that could be heard was the clicking of shutters and an occasional gasp at the beauty we were all beholding (sure makes those 4:30 am wakeup calls seem worth it).

As a workshop leader, I held my breath that the warm light under the arch would make an appearance as it did for the other half of our group who photographed this location the previous morning and were busy shooting sunrise in Arches National Park under Gary's tutelage.

My fears were soon alleviated as the red glow (a reflection of the 1,000 foot sandstone cliff below the arch) appeared. I called out to bracket exposures as I knew the arch would turn to silhouette with the extreme range of contrast that was now present.

I heeded my own advice; this image is actually a combination of two exposures at 2 stops difference, one set for the brightening sky and one set for the arch. I made the blend in Photoshop utilizing a layer mask and brush, then fine-tuned the image with he help of Nik Viveza 2 software which will be available next month (see my discount information below).

Did I get enough of a different take on an old icon? Probably not. The bottom line is I am happy with the image, and really, isn't that all that counts?

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/4 second F/16.0 ISO 200 27 mm

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