Death Valley 2012: Day 5

My camera stood watch over the salt curve that night. I located it well before sunrise with the assistance of my handheld GPS unit.

This is why I’m not concerned about someone stealing my camera. If I can’t find it without the assistance of triangulated satellites floating silently 12,500 miles above my head, I’m pretty sure no one else will find it either.

I double checked my shutter and aperture settings, then inserted a film holder loaded with Kodak Portra 160 color negative film.

I knew roughly where the sun would rise, and hoped to take a photo as the first glow of morning graced the Panamint Range.

Much to my delight, there were some clouds in the sky that morning.

High clouds to my east were the first to show color that morning. The glow soon spread, and the clouds in my composition were set ablaze. The ground at my feet was bathed in a pinkish-purple glow, and for a few short minutes, the drab brown desert was transformed into a fantasy land. I took two photos on Kodak Portra 160 VC. Both were long exposures, but the first best captured the wonderful color that morning.

Salt River | Kodak Portra 160 (8×10) | ~10 minutes @ f/64 | Nikkor 450mm

It must seem strange for me to leave my camera out overnight in hopes of good light, but this method allows me to capture photos that would otherwise be impossible on 8×10. The above exposure is roughly 10 minutes long. It would have been impossible for me to see an image on the ground glass that early in the morning.

I felt a sense of satisfaction while packing up my gear. With clouds in the forecast, I knew it would be an exciting day for photography in Death Valley.

Please check out my video journal for the rest of the story from Day 5.

15 Responses to “Death Valley 2012: Day 5”

  1. Arnaud Says:

    Oh my gosh! Instant love. In my opinion, this one of your best to date. I love the composition (well i knew that already from the previoust post) and the colors are gorgeous. Congratulations…
    By the way: how do you like that portra VC? It seems that you are using more negative film lately…

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Arnaud. One of the interesting things about presenting my photos this way is that it gives me quite a bit of time to “sit” on a photo before showing it. I had many different thoughts about crops and processing, and this is what I decided after nearly 2 months of having it on my computer. This photo represents a slight crop of the original composition.

      I’ve really learned to embrace color negative film lately. It allows me to capture photos in high contrast situations without fear of blowing my highlights or blocking up my shadows.

      Both Ektar and Portra are fantastic, but the 160 speed of Portra makes those longer exposures a bit easier.

      I’ve learned that it’s best to use slide film on low contrast scenes, and neg film on high contrast scenes.

      I think this composition would have also been great on B&W… I’ll have to add that to the list as well.

      • Arnaud Says:

        I hear you. On my last trip, i used velvia and ektar to shoot Mesa arch at sunrise (amongst others), and even though i prefer the color and deep contrast of velvia, the highlight are badly burned. It doesn’t seem to be the case on the Ektar one (i have to have it properly scanned). I dumbly followed an advice of rating the Velvia 50 at 32, though :)
        To come back on the salt river subject, i agree with you: it would also make a wonderful B&W, but i have to say that in this particular shot, the colors reflected on the ground as well as the nice pink clouds would be a shame to loose.

  2. Sathya Says:

    wow that is one lovely shot. Thanks for sharing the story behind it too !

  3. codyfodale Says:

    Great shot Ben!

    Always love when I get an email saying you posted the next day.

    Keep the trips coming.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Cody. I love hitting the road and going on shooting trips. There’s always that big “unknown” when I go on my shooting trips. I don’t quite know what to expect, or what conditions I will experience, but I often find a way to walk away from each trip with at least one shot for my portfolio.

  4. Lewis Says:

    I really enjoy looking at your work, this shot in particular is absolutely stunning – I could look at it for ages and not get tired of it, such a depth to it, and bags of mood. Also, it’s always good to know that other folk amuse themselves the same way as me when they are waiting for the shot!

    • Ben Horne Says:

      There sure is a heck of a lot of downtime with landscape photography. It’s funny how we all tend to forget spending so much time waiting, watching, and killing time. Meanwhile, those 2 minutes when the sky opens up and we experience an amazing sunrise or sunset will stick with us forever.

  5. Laura Says:

    Beautiful shot and, as always, enjoyed the backstory. If you get tired of Justin Bieber I find that following Kim Kardashian on Twitter is a riveting way to pass the time.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I can never get enough of my Bieber Fix. :-) In all reality though, I spend much of my time listening to various podcasts. I get tired of listening to the same music over and over. Podcasts keep my mind active, and it’s amazing how fast time can fly.

  6. Joshua Warrender Says:

    Fantastic shot Ben. Love the S curve leading into the frame, the clouds and light are great too. A fine addition to your portfolio.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Joshua. Though I certainly planned out this shot, much of it was luck. I was stoaked to see clouds that morning!

  7. Ron Carroll Says:

    Great shot. Looking froward to the rest of the posts from your trip…

  8. Brisbane Skyline shot on 4x5 large format film camera | carlashley. Says:

    [...] can focus and compose. Ben Horne, a very talented large format photographer will often camp out and leave his camera set-up overnight for a sunrise photo, after having considered composition the day before. In this case, I was down [...]

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