Zion 2010: Day 5 (The Narrows III)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I woke up well before sunrise, and drove to the Temple of Sinawava. Today would be my third day in the Narrows.

I packed my 8×10 camera and two lenses: my wide angle and my normal lens. I brought two film holders, one filled with Velvia 50, and the other with Kodak Ektar.

My goal was to return to yesterday’s shooting location, and shoot a photo on my 8×10. This long lasting glow makes for a very straightforward photo.

Sounds easy so far, right?

Well, there was a problem — the weather.

High clouds were in the forecast for the rest of the week. These clouds would surely kill any reflected light, resulting in very drab conditions.

I was hopeful that there would be a break in the clouds during my window of opportunity.

As I hit the trail, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Delicate cirrus clouds caught the first rays of light, dancing across the sky while flaunting a wonderful crimson glow.

I arrived early at my shooting location, and setup my camera. I settled on a horizontal composition with my normal lens. After focusing the camera and setting all the lens movements, I relaxed and waited for the light.

Several hours later, a glow began to appear. This was not the light I was hoping to shoot, but I decided it was “good enough,” so I took a safety shot.

I will often shoot a safety shot of a location just to make sure I walk away with something. If the conditions continue to degrade, I will at least walk away with something.

The high clouds continued to build — thus killing the reflected light.

My only shot on the 8×10 was the safety shot.

It is a blast shooting large format when things turn out. A properly exposed transparency looks amazing on a light table. The amount of detail, and the color in print can be stunning when all the pieces come together.

Today, the pieces didn’t come together.

My metering judgment was perfect. This, I am proud of. However, two major things went wrong with this exposure. First, I suffered a major light leak on one side of the photo. I could simply crop the photo, but the second problem was even worse.

Even though I weighted down the camera, a close crop of the photo reveals a ghosted, slightly offset double image. How could this happen?

I weighted down the tripod with about 15 to 20 lbs of water in a drysack, and I checked to make sure the tripod was steady. I locked all the knobs on the tripod head to make sure it was rock solid.

That leaves only the controls on the camera itself. I specifically remember locking the focus, and the other controls. Something must not have been tight, and must have shifted during the exposure.

I seem to remember that the rear standard was slightly loose when I removed the film holder. My failure to fully tighten this must have lead to some sort of movement part way through the exposure.

The light leak concerns me the most. Based on the concave shape of the light leak, I thing it has something to do with the dark slide. Maybe the slight movement of the rear standard caused a problem when I inserted the dark slide at an ever so slightly wrong angle.

I didn’t suspect anything was wrong when I shot the photo. Otherwise, I would have tightened the camera, flipped over the film holder, and taken a second shot.


Here is a closer view of the large boulder in the background. Upon close inspection, the movement during the exposure is very difficult to look at. I suspect this was the result of one of the rear tilt knobs being loose. Oh well…

Closer view of Ooops!

As it turns out, the light was quite nice during my safety shot. If I hadn’t messed up this photo, it might have been a good shot. I’m not sure how many other photographers show off their mistakes, but I like to give the entire story, and show the learning process.

When I return to Zion next year, I can reshoot this photo without much difficulty.  I know where to be and when — next time, I’ll be sure to double check all those knobs.

As I packed up my camera and prepared for the return hike, I thought the shot was lost due to poor conditions. Little did I know, I was the poor condition. Good times!

After an hour or so, I was back at the trailhead.

During overcast conditions, it is best to think small, and shoot subjects on the ground.  I wanted to make good use of these conditions, and shoot a wonderful maple grove that I scouted the day before. I traded my 8×10 for my 6×17 panoramic camera, and hiked into the maple grove.

Upon reaching the grove, I was immediately greeted by a wonderful display of fallen leaves on the ground. I spent a half hour scouting for just the right patch of leaves.

Maple Confetti (Fuji GX617 w/ 105mm | 25 sec @ f/32 | Velvia 50)

The light source for this photo was very unique. The reflected light from a nearby sandstone cliff filtered through the canopy of maple leaves, and bathed this scene in a warm soft glow.

Wandering through that maple grove was am invigorating experience. It was not the best maple grove I encountered on this trip (hint, hint, hint), but it was calm, serene, and I had the place to myself.

I worked my way up slope, and shot a second composition. This was my first time shooting maple trees. I learned that they are best shot from an upper vantage point, looking down slope. The thick canopy yields beautiful color, and the whimsical trucks are full of character.

The second composition is a mix of color ranging from green to red. This was a tricky exposure for slide film, but I nailed it. I used my Sekonic 558 spot meter to average the dark trunks with the bright highlights in the background. The trunks metered at -2, and the brightest highlights were +2.

After shooting the maple grove, I headed back to camp for dinner.

Maple Dream #1 (Fuji GX617 | 40 sec @ f/32 | Velvia 50)

Note: For Best Video Quality at this size, please select 360p instead of 240p

6 Responses to “Zion 2010: Day 5 (The Narrows III)”

  1. Nicolas Belokurov Says:

    Too bad the 8×10 shot didn’t work out, although I understand that you did a second exposure using ektar. Have you seen it already, is it ok?
    The 6×17 are wonderful, especially the Maple confetti. Really dangerous to visit your blog Ben, now I just need a 6×17 🙂
    Great stuff as usual.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I haven’t sent the Ektar in for processing yet. The lab that does my chrome film does not handle C-41. I know there is another local lab that develops LF print film, but I haven’t had a chance to take care of that yet.

      The 6×17 is an absolute blast to shoot with. I was close to selling it a few months ago because I hadn’t produced anything I liked with it — but this trip has really changed my mind. I’ll definitely be holding onto that camera.

  2. Chuck Says:

    What a nice experience watching your video. For guys like myself that are physically bankrupt watching you carry and setup your 8X10 in a remote area adds to our life’s experience.

    • Ben Horne Says:


      My goal with the video is to give the viewer a better sense of the location, and the story behind the shot. I’m glad you enjoy the videos. I plan on stepping up the video quality even more on my next trip.

  3. Jose Suro Says:

    Hi Ben,

    We all ruin one or two every so often so don’t feel bad. To my eyes it looks like the movement was vertical. This has happened to me in the past shooting long exposures on the beach with the tripod in the water. even a very slight wave action (ripples) erodes the sand around the tripod legs and makes it sink. A vertical motion points to the front leg :).



    • Ben Horne Says:

      I think you might be on to something Jose. I’m pretty sure I didn’t touch the tripod during the exposure, but I do not know for certain. In any case, I have not see this in any of my other photos, so I hope it was a fluke.

      Maybe I can market this shot as a rare earthquake in Zion? 🙂

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