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Hopi Point, Grand Canyon National Park

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 15 May 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
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Summer Big Sur Photo Workshop - August, 17-20, 2010 (space available)
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - November 3-7, 2010 (Workshop Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (space available)
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NOTE: I have begun testing some of the new features in Photoshop CS5. I will be discussing these features in future posts. Please click on the link above to read my review of CS5's new Content Aware Fill tool.

Last week I had the opportunity to guide 13 students through the northern portion of the beautiful state of Arizona during my second annual Northern Arizona Workshop. Though we were challenged with clear blue skies, we nonetheless braved 4 am wakeup calls to be on location prior to sunrise four mornings in a row. We were back on location each evening through sunset and even spent the first night of the workshop working on photographing the night sky! It was a hardy group and all were very skilled!

Today's image was from a windy evening at Grand Canyon National Park's Hopi Point (one of the premiere sunset locations along the south rim). I like this location for a number of reasons including the fact that it affords one a view east, north, and as seen here, west. I also like that a portion of the Colorado River is visible.

I encourage my students to look for foreground objects along the rim to help create a sense of depth. What was the challenge on this particular evening was the fact that the wind was gusting and thus blowing even the most hardiest of foliage. The other challenge was to control the range of light as the difference in exposure from the warm sky to the bottom of the canyon easily exceeded the sensor's limited dynamic range of approximately 5 1/2 stops.

I opted for a very low perspective (which I found by first moving around with just my camera, then bringing the tripod in to match my composition) that allowed for enough of the Colorado River to reflect the highlight (which I controlled by turning my polarizer) from the setting sun. The camera was about 8 inches off the ground. I should note that I use a Gitzo 1325 carbon-fiber tripod with no center column, which allows me to get as low as I wish. Once the composition was set, I went to work on determining the best exposure.

To control the the rather extreme contrast range in this image, I opted to use a Singh-Ray 3-stop reverse neutral density filter stacked with a another Singh-Ray 3-stop, hard-edge graduated neutral density filter. I like hand-holding my filters as I feel it allows me to react quickly to the changing light and allowed me to be extremely flexible with this particular image with my positioning of the filters. Thanks to these filters, there was very little post processing required for this image.

I should mention that as the sun hit the horizon, there was a sudden (and completely unexpected) lull in the wind that allowed about a 2-minute window to capture this frame!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/5 second F/16.0 ISO 400 30 mm

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