The White Mountains 2012: Day 3

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

After having already scouted sunrise at the Patriarch Grove on Day 2, there was no need for an early start this morning.I slept in until 6:30, and enjoyed the clean mountain air that filtered through my tent.

My plan for today was to setup a shot in the Patriarch Grove, then leave the camera overnight for a morning shot. Without any obligations until mid afternoon, I decided to visit the Shulman Grove in the morning. I hiked the 4 mile loop trail, and enjoyed the expansive views down into Death Valley to the south, and the Sierra crest to the west. It was a warm day on the trail — I could only imagine how hot it was at lower elevation.

Though it was an interesting hike, I didn’t see anything that inspired me from a photographic point of view. It was difficult to find simple compositions in the chaos of the Bristlecone Pine forest.

After the hike, I made the long dusty drive to the Patriach Grove. It was now only 11AM, which gave me plenty of time to setup my camera for the shot tomorrow morning.

I made lunch, then decided to kill some time by loading my film holders. Each film holder can hold two sheets of 8×10 film. I have a total of 4 film holders in my rotation. Though this might sound very limiting, It’s uncommon for me to shoot more than a handful of photos in one day.

I unloaded my film holders from Day 2, then loaded them with fresh film. Two of the holders contain Velvia 50 — the other two are used for Kodak Portra 160 and Kodak Ektar 100. On any given day, I take just two holders with me. This way, I can have both slide film and color negative film to choose from.

With both my stomach and my film holders filled to capacity, I headed out into the Bristlecone grove to set up my morning shot. My goal was to showcase a particular tree in the first light of morning. No clouds were necessary for this composition, but it would require a very long exposure.

When I setup my camera, one thing became clear. The angle of the slope meant that the afternoon sun was just above my tree of choice. This might not be an issue with other cameras, but on my 8×10, I wasn’t able to set up the composition.

Even though the sun was out of view on my ground glass, it would act as a magnifying glass on the bellows of my camera. I tried stopping down the lens to minimize the effect, but it was too dark to reliably set up the composition.

The steep angle of the slope caused me to miscalculate how early I would need to set up my camera — the shot I was hoping for would have to wait. I scrambled around the tree, and debated if an afternoon/evening shot would be possible.

With a normal lens, perhaps I could emphasize the Earth’s shadow as it rises in the East after sunset. I certainly couldn’t count on capturing dramatic light on the tree — it would be in shadow well before sunset. There weren’t any dramatic thunder storms that evening, but there was significant cloud formation above the mountain peak at my back.

My only chance at great light would be if these clouds were lit ablaze by the last light of day, and the warm light was reflected on my tree. I decided at the last minute to expose a sheet of Velvia 50 as the last rays of sunlight illuminated my foreground tree. It’s not as dramatic as I would like, but my camera was setup, and every exposure on the 8×10 is a learning experience.

I took a second exposure nearly 15 minutes after sunset as the Earth’s Shadow rose to the east. Neither shot is what I had envisioned, but the weather didn’t cooperate that evening. I packed up my gear, and hiked back to camp under the gleaming vestige of twilight.

Fuji Velvia 50 8×10 | 1/8 sec @ f/45

Kodak Portra 160 8×10 | Several Minutes @ f/45

One Response to “The White Mountains 2012: Day 3”

  1. Mac Says:

    I like how the grove of small trees are in light in the Fuji shot. Which made me wonder; why are you using f/45 exclusively?

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