Wednesday, November 3, 2010
On shooting trips, it is impossible for me to sleep in. Don’t get me wrong, I still set an alarm clock — but it’s seldom needed. I often wake up several minutes before the alarm sounds. Today was no exception.
At dark o’clock, I woke up, and preempted my alarm clock.
Initially, I was going to join Jeffrey for a morning of shooting at the east end of the park. Upon checking the weather forecast on my iphone, I saw high clouds in the forecast for the rest of the week. If this weather report proved accurate, today was my last guranteed day of clear skies.
Remember, clouds are the enemy when shooting in canyon country. Even a thin layer of cirrus clouds will greatly impact reflected light.
I decided to head back to the Narrows, and take advantage of the sunny day.
I drove to the Temple of Sinawava parking lot, and changed into my river hiking gear.
This time of year, the Virgin River is very cold. Although I have seen some (miserable) people hike the narrows in shorts, most people prefer dry pants. Rather than renting my equipment from the outfitters in town, I own a pair of dry pants. I purchased them before my fall 2009 trip to Zion.
Under the dry pants, I wear fleece long underwear as insulation. I use my regular hiking boots with neoprene socks to keep my feet warm.
Though I feel overdressed on the one mile hike to the rivers edge, I am very comfortable in the water.
Photographing the Narrows often involves standing or kneeling in the river for an extended periods of time. It is during these times that I am grateful for the dry pants and thermal layer. Rather than thinking about my numb legs, I can concentrate on the shot.
My scouting trip on Day 3 provided me with important information for the coming days. I developed a shot list based on my detailed notes.
Today, I planned on shooting a location I refer to as “The Vortex.” This gentle bend in the canyon yields beautiful reflected light for a one hour window. Even though the glow lasts a long time, the best light only lasts 15 minutes. It was important to arrive at this location well ahead of schedule so I could find an ideal composition.
I brought my 6×17 panoramic camera along with 3 rolls of 120 film — two rolls of Velvia 50, and a single roll of Provia 100.
I was the first (crazy) person into the Narrows today. It was an amazing experience having this location all to myself. The towering sandstone cliffs make anyone — anything, seem insignificant.
I arrived at The Vortex several hours early. This allowed me to further scout the scene, and find an ideal composition.
I carefully setup my Fuji GX617 panoramic camera, and used the ground glass back to ensure accurate focus and composition.
The shot looked very good — with one exception. The lower left corner lacked a foreground anchor. I needed something in that part of the composition to balance the cascade on the right side of the image.
I stumbled around the river until I found an ideal rock. This was a big rock — I could hardly move it. It took me a half hour to finesse the rock into position. The water was over a foot deep in this area, so I used several other rocks to prop it up out of the water. By the tine I was done, the my hands were numb.
Some people seem to have a problem with moving rocks or other elements in the scene. I don’t see the big deal. Every year, large flash floods tear through this canyon and the river is in a constant state of change. Moving one rock is not going to make a difference.
This was a very difficult scene to expose for, but I nailed it. The highlights were metered at +2 on my Sekonic spot meter, and the darkest shadows were metered at -2. Although the flatbed scan did not pull out the dark shadows, I am still holding detail.
The 5 minute exposure is well beyond what Velvia 50 is rated for. I gave an extra stop of exposure to account for reciprocity failure. I’ve found that Velvia 50 does well with long exposures in these situation.
I packed up my gear, and headed back to the trailhead. Along the way, I found another scene with amazing reflected light. I quickly setup my camera, and shot an entire roll of Velvia 50 with bracketed exposures.
The scene looked cool on my 6×17, but I knew it would be even better on my 8×10. With my 8×10 camera and a normal lens, I knew I could show much more of the reflected light in the background. I made plans to return the following day.
Note: For Best Video Quality at this size, please select 360p instead of 240p