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29Aug/13

30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May


Watch on YouTube for full-size

Here is another 30-second landscape I made on my recent backpacking trip through Sequoia National Park. This clip features Mehrlen Creek winding through the Western Sierras.

This whole area of the trail was very interesting because it featured a gorgeous waterfall cascading gently over the slick granite rock formations. It wasn't a free-fall waterfall flying over a cliff, but instead the water just kind of poured down the steep rocks, finding the path of least resistance, guided by cracks and folds in the terrain. Truly stunning.

We made camp near this creek on our final night in Sequoia National Park and I had the great pleasure of spending some leisure time reclined on a seat of rocks next to this beautiful water feature. As I laid there with the soothing sounds filling my ears and the expansive vista filling my eyes, I felt like I finally understood John Muir's obsession with this area.

Soaking in the sights and sounds from my makeshift lounge chair, I had one of those rare moments of self-awareness where I realized that I was experiencing one of the happiest moments of my life. It may sound like I'm over-inflating a relatively mundane experience, but I truly felt a heightened state of happiness that only the deep wilderness can bring out in me. Being out there in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, observing the wonders of light and color before me, with no cell phone, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other usual diversions, I could truly enjoy the fruits of nature without distraction.

I can't wait to get back out there.

28Aug/13

30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May


Watch on YouTube for full-size

I took a backpacking trip this past May with some good friends of mine through Sequoia National Park. Since weight is obviously an issue when backpacking, I decided to bring my lightweight Canon EOS Rebel T4i for some casual shooting. If I had my way, I would have brought my heavy Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera, but then I'd have to hire a sherpa and I just can't afford that.

The Rebel T4i may not be my usual medium of choice, but the fact that it shoots video came very much in handy for this trip. After a fun session of photographing Mehrlen Creek at sunset, I decided to steal take inspiration from an idea borne from the great Chase Jarvis. He does these awesome 60-second portraits which are basically short tightly-framed video clips of interesting people not really talking or doing anything particularly entertaining. It's just about observing a person and seeing what their face has to say.

I thought I'd take a cue from Chase and start making these 30-second landscapes so that you can get a taste of what the world is like wherever I happen to be taking pictures. No narration or anything. Just the sights and sounds of nature.

Enjoy.

6Jun/13

New Work & Video: Alabama Hills, Day 3


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My third and final day in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area was my last chance to create the composition I'd originally set out to make. When I pre-visualize a composition like I did for this trip, it can be anything from a definite, perfect imagination of what I want, to a vague concept with only the major components laid out - a "rough draft" of sorts composed in my head. I was somewhere in between for this trip. 

I knew I wanted a wide shot with the reddish-pink glow of early sunrise painting the mountains in the background with an interesting arrangement of boulders in the foreground. I envisioned what I would call an "organized mess" of boulders for the foreground. Something that communicated the disorder of this aeolian landscape but without over-complicating the composition with too much clutter. I wanted to bring attention to the interesting juxtaposition of smooth, rounded off granite in the Alabama Hills with the sharp, jagged granite of the Sierras.

Sunrise on the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the Alabama Hills Recreation Area

Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Fuji Velvia 50 film, 6x17 Format
Click Image for Larger View

When viewing this terrain, you can almost imagine that big chunks of granite broke off the Sierras as they rose higher and higher from the force of tectonic plates. With a deafening crash, these chunks tumbled to the desert below, their edges rounding off in the commotion, before settling at the foot of these majestic peaks. Of course, that's not really how this landscape was formed. The boulders are smoothed out by wind, and although these boulders undoubtedly originate from the same gigantic slab of granite that is the Sierra Nevadas, they didn't come "tumbling" off them like the epic scene in my head. But regardless, that's the story I wanted to paint with my images.

Although a couple of my compositions up until this point on the trip were pretty close to what I wanted, they still weren't quite "there". But on the final morning, I found a perfect location with just the vantage point and arrangement of rocks I wanted.

I started with an exposure in the very first minutes of sunrise (image shown above) with the light in that deep reddish-pink hue I envisioned. Using a couple of Lee split ND filters, I held back the exposure in the mountains and sky to capture detail throughout the scene.

Since my large-format field camera is so slow to set up and change compositions, I decided to remain in my current spot with my current composition, but try it with the morning light hitting the entire landscape. The light was much more golden than red at this late in the sunrise, but I think it brought out some great details and textures in the rocks. I like both compositions in their own right, but I have a special place in my heart for the first one (shown above). The way Fuji Velvia 50 film renders reds, magentas, and blues is just gorgeous.

Please click any of the images in this post for a larger view.

Sierra Nevada Mountains over the Alabama Hills Recreation Area

Morning on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Alabama Hills
Fuji Velvia 50 film, 6x17 Format
Click Image for Larger View

So that concludes my recent trip to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. I hope you've enjoyed the videos, photos, and descriptions. I plan to do many more of these on-location video series, so stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel!




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