Saturday, May 12, 2018
It would seem that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the destination of choice these days. I guess that is true, at least for the past month or so. I decided to head back up to the mountains today and hit Doughton Park which was one of my goals last week. I was looking forward to testing out a new lens that I had recently purchased, and the weather was looking decent for the mountains. The forecast showed between 40-75% cloud cover, and quite a bit cooler than the 90 degrees that it was going to be at home. I was excited about the opportunity to capture more clouds over the rolling hills, and felt that situation would be the perfect chance to try out the new Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 which give a good bit better field of view than the 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens that I have been using for wide angle work.
Looking at the forecasted sunrise, the potential was pretty good up around Sparta, so I decided to head off to Doughton to take advantage of the colors. As a side benefit, I could make it to the park in an hour and a half which was nice considering that sunrise was about 6:15. I was needing to be in place roughly thirty minutes before that time in order to get the color that I was wanting. I left the house at 3:45, and woke up somewhere around Traphill and realized that I was on schedule for making sunrise.
|Gold on the Horizon|
Once I got on the Parkway, I started to look at the sky. I was a little surprised to see no clouds at all in the sky. When I got to the Air Bellows Overlook, I peeked around the mountain where the sun would be coming up to see if there was anything there I could make use of. There were no clouds at all, and the city lights were just too bright to be of any use. I just decided to continue on to Doughton where I knew that there were many things that I could use in compositions that were not quite as dependent on clouds. When I got the park, I could see that the sky was completely empty, but I went ahead and grabbed the camera and started over on the side with the most visual interest available.
I got to the top of the meadow as the sky was starting to get the first signs of light and the sliver of a moon was dropping towards the horizon. I figured that I would check out my favorite tree for some composition choices, but found that I didn’t really like anything that I was seeing there. I started to mill about looking for more composition possibilities around the top of the meadow. I found a nice bald spot which was positioned in such a way that it complimented the tree line which framed one of the distant mountains. I went ahead and got things set up.
I was really trying to avoid using my 24-70mm lens, but this was a scene that really needed it to keep the scaling right. I went ahead and built the camera with that lens and added the Lee Filter Holder with a 3-Stop Singh-Ray ND Grad filter. I composed the first shot and set the exposure at 30 seconds because it was still rather dark. With that long exposure, the sky showed up as this brilliant color which was just barely visible in the dark sky. The camera doesn’t necessarily lie, but it will sure show you things that your own eyes can’t see. An interesting side note, my first composition was shot right at 50mm which is the reason that I don’t like using this lens currently It seems that I gravitate to that normal focal length, which I really don’t want to do any more. The more creative pictures are done outside of the normal range of vision.
I continued to work the scene as the sun came up. The problem was, as the light got brighter, the color faded and I could tell that the sunrise was going to be rather bland. It seems that I just can’t win for losing when it comes to sunrises these days. This was the closest to a nice one that I have seen, but it wasn’t anything like what I was hoping for. However, I started to look around to see what my other options were. I still had the lone tree at the top of the hill which I wanted to shoot. From where I was standing, it was rather boring sitting there against the medium blue sky. However, I could see a minimalist composition developing. The colors were not what I wanted, but I could see it as an overexposed monochrome image. I put the filter away, and swapped over to my 70-200mm lens.
I got a little bit closer to the tree and framed up a shot. Since I was looking for a minimalist composition, I didn’t try to fill the frame completely. In fact, I shot it horizontal to give a good bit of negative space on the sides. I also was envisioning a heavy vignette on the sides to really add a bit of drama to the image. The image flashed on the LCD and looked really bad as a color image, but the histogram showed me that I had a good exposure for the conversion that I had planned.
As I was turning my attention the mountains in the distance, I took my attention away from the tree for about 20 minutes or so. I shot a handful of compositions of the rolling hills in the morning haze, but there was nothing that really stood out to me. So, after I had moved all around looking for that one composition that organized the mountains, I turned back around. The tree that I had shot against a featureless sky now had some nice puffy clouds above it. They were even picking up some of the color of the rising sun.
I moved back into position for that and trained my long lens back in the direction of the tree. This time, I was wanting to get the sky in the composition as well. The exposure latitude was not very wide since everything was evenly lit from the sun coming up over my right shoulder. I was having no problem getting great exposures of this scene which left me plenty of time to play with compositions.
As I worked on different compositions, the clouds moved away from the tree, and the sun was getting brighter and brighter as it climbed over the horizon. There was still plenty of time to work different compositions though. I was starting to have fun with this tree. I was only wishing that there were more clouds in the sky. At least this portion of the day was showing a little less than 20% coverage, so I wasn’t overly worried, but I was hoping that the clouds would start to roll in so I could get to work on some grand landscapes.
Risking blowing other opportunities, I decided to abandon the tree and start to look for other compositions as the sun was coming up. Again, I turned around and looked towards the West. This is always a fun view as the sun gets a little bit of altitude. The clouds were faint on the other side, but you could see a bit of alpenglow developing in the sky. It was enough to justify setting up to capture it. I kept the long lens on and didn’t need any filters for this at all. Everything was so evenly lit thanks to the clouds obscuring the sun now. I could tell that the sun wasn’t going to illuminate the rocks like it has done in the past though. I’ve shot better images here, but this one had a nice serene feel to it with the muted colors in the sky matched with the low fog in the valleys.
With the passage of time, the sky and the clouds changed. I still wasn’t getting the warm light on the rock outcropping, but I was getting a bank of clouds moving over the distant landscape. These were the same clouds that had been over the tree. Hey, when you don’t have many clouds to work with, you keep working the same clouds over and over. They were still picking up the warm colors of the low sun, now to my rear. The alpenglow was fading which left some nice soft and warm tones in the sky. The warmth of the sky balanced nicely with the cool Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
The sun was still climbing and I was quickly loosing the warm tones of morning. I went ahead and started walking the trail back to the parking lot to see if there was something else I could shoot. There was a really nice fallen tree about mid way back that I’ve shot a time or two before and thought that I might be able to get something there this morning. When I arrived, I had decent light on the tree, but nothing of any interest in the sky above it. There were some interesting textures though, and that was what I started to work with.
I decided to straight for the abstract shot and found an interesting section to work with. The lighting was good and I could pick out lots of interesting textures with it as well. Since there wasn’t much in the way of color here, I made the decision to shoot this one as a monochrome image from the beginning. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I only felt like a single exposure was all that was needed here. I moved on to other sections and tried similar shots with an abstract feel. None of the other ones turned out though. It was all pretty much a time killer as I was waiting to see if the clouds started rolling in like I was expecting according to the forecast.
I was running out of abstracts to shoot on the fallen tree, so I started to look in the meadow for bits of the tree that had broken off over the years that it has been here. I found several with some interesting shapes that I shot. I was able to keep the long lens attached and pick these broken bits of branch out with relative ease. The lighting was perfect on the wood, and the grass was a rich green that really told the story of the season.
|Three Fingers Up|