Colorado Plateau Trip: Day 2

Monday May 3, 2010

After a restful night sleep under the stars in my one man tent, I was awoke 5 minutes before my alarm clock — as usual. It never fails. I always beat my alarm clock by 5 minutes. I wonder what would happen if I set my clock to be 5 minutes fast?

I drove to the rim of the canyon, and listened to the radio until sunrise was near. It was a chilly morning. The temperature dropped to the low 30’s overnight. The winds were calm, unlike the previous afternoon.

With my light meter in hand, I watched the sunrise unfold before me. I metered the scene before sunrise, and after sunrise. This gave me an idea for how long my exposures would need to be. The answer? Long. Even with full sunlight, I was 5 second or longer. A successful photo would require absolutely no wind. Even the slightest breeze could shake my camera, and result in a blurry photo. This would not be much of a problem, since mornings are often calm.

After seeing where the sun would rise, and metering the scene, I headed back to camp for breakfast. I had many hours to kill until I could setup my camera. It is nearly impossible to accurately setup a large format camera in the darkness of dawn. Even if I could see the image on the ground glass well enough to setup my camera, I still wouldn’t have enough time to carefully consider the composition, and set everything up. It is far easier for me to setup my camera in the afternoon the day before. I can spend an hour or more determining the composition, then cover it up and head back to camp for the evening.

My goal for today was to setup the camera in the last few hours of daylight. This meant that I had most of the day to explore, and relax.

After breakfast, I drove to the trailhead northeast of the campground. Here, you can walk toward the cliffs to the East of the gulley that separates toroweap from the other areas up stream. It was a pleasant hike, but I can’t say that I found anything I was inspired to shoot.

I headed back to camp for lunch, then read a book for several hours.

Before I knew it, the time had come to setup my camera. I headed to the rim with my 8×10 camera, and a normal 300mm lens. I settled on a horizontal composition. I’m not 100% confident in this composition, but I will not know for sure until the film is back from the lab. After setting up the camera, it was time for dinner, more of my book, then another brilliant night under the stars.

4 Responses to “Colorado Plateau Trip: Day 2”

  1. Jose Says:

    Great vid Ben. Can’t wait to see the image. Pretty cool to turn the video camera upside down to show the ground glass. The comp looks really good, don’t know if you’ll be able to get enough dynamic range for the river below though. I had problems with that on my last trip and only because I forgot something I had learned on a trip the year before. I saw some of Leigh Perry’s work in where he was using two filters – a hard 3 and a soft 2, a simple and elegant solution that got him ~4-stops on the sky with everything else graduated to zero at the bottom of the shot. Couldn’t see sky in your comp but this approach could work for you as well.



  2. David Patterson Says:

    Like Jose said… can’t wait to see the image. Getting a glimpse “under the hood” was pretty neat, and my vertigo-saddled brain can’t believe you left the camera perched overnight like that!

  3. Ron Carroll Says:

    I’ll just repeat what David said… pretty amazing that you left the camera out there overnight. How’d you sleep that night? Seems like a light bump by a small animal could have sent it over the edge, no? But I enjoyed your post and the video. Thanks.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      To be honest, I didn’t even think about the camera that night. I knew it was rock solid, and I doubted that anyone would venture near the edge of the cliff at night, so I figured it was also people-proof. Often times, I stick a few rocks in a stuff sack, and hang it from the hook on the bottom of the tripod to reinforce the setup. Since the camera was so low to the ground this time, I was not able to do that.

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