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Shadow & Minaret Creek Headwaters Backpack story

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Shadow & Minaret Creek Headwaters Backpack story

Postby SSSdave » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:40 pm

I wrote a story in html with images below on a trip last month into the Ritter Range which is loaded onto my website below. An addition to the two others that give some insight into what goes into my photography. On that trip I and a friend did the infamous Iceberg Lake snowfield crossing. ...David

On my home page link below select this field:
Shadow & Minaret Creek Headwaters Backpack August 2006

http://www.davidsenesac.com/



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Postby Buck Forester » Thu Sep 14, 2006 3:26 pm

Very nice report and images! Very well done.

I was reading in your report about not catching the first rays of light on the Minarets because you don't like the color rendered on this black-ish rock. Photography is all personal preference, to be sure, but my best selling print to date has been of this very thing you menioned. I call it "Minaret Morning" and it was taken from the creek above Lake Ediza, just below the highest big meadow.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckforest ... 113633370/

The print comes out much better than this low-rez image (I suck at Photoshop and the print version was personally Photoshopped by Bob Cornelis of Color Folio, who taught alongside Galen Rowell - holding hand to heart). Mine was shot on Fuji Velvia 50 (35mm), but it enlarges to 20X30 amazingly well and is just as sharp at 20x30 as it is 16x20, keeping the same colors... I don't know how they do it). I'd LOVE to see a 4x5 or 8x10 version from you! I think you'd sell the heck out of it too.

I've been to Lake Ediza a gazeeellion times but I never made the hike up to Nydiver Lakes... I really like that perspective you took in one of those images! I'd like to be there at that spot as the sun first hits the Minarets!
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Postby copeg » Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:00 pm

Dave, great trip report and photos. Looks like you had a great flower show. Minaret Lake has long been on my list of trips to do, preferably with an itinerary similar to yours. Thanks for posting
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Postby Buck Forester » Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:06 pm

Also, real quick, here's another image of the same area taken first thing in the morning. An Australian water bottle company contacted me a few months ago to use this image as part of their new "logo" graphic, which they did. It came out pretty cool the way they did it. Like I said, it's all a matter of personal aesthetic choice, but I've always loved the way the Minarets turn an odd, rich, deep orange at the first rays of light. Since I know you sell your images too, I'd hate to see you miss good saleable images since you're already there, along with the other saleable images you already take. Just between these two images alone I have unexpectedly done well on the business side (I say humbly and thankfully)... which I don't really like to think of it as "business", but I do like to think of it as keeping my wife home with our baby and then hopefully doing this stuff full-time.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckforester/117337099/
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Postby Buck Forester » Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:12 pm

By the way, I especially loved your reflection image at top... very cool! Aren't the meadowy basins below Minaret Lake so cool? In some ways it reminds me of some of the beautifully intimate scenes between Donohue Pass and Island Pass. One could spend many days with a camera finding breathtaking views with every step in any direction!
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:44 pm

We camped close to where you took that shot. Although one can use Velvia or newer digital SLR camera software techniques to boost up saturation of natural light experiences and bring out shadows that otherwise just look too dark, that is something I don't personally do with my realistic photography style. Of course you already know I'm not a fan of such images myself. I know there are many ordinary people that are impressed by such images which makes for sales but the truth is they don't represent real experiences up there in the mountains so I'll leave such shooting to all the rest of you to mine haha. Each to their own style. One can get reasonably naturally saturated alpenglow on even Provia in the right circumstance as I did last year on my Balance Rock shot at Arches NP. The opportunity to capture such is just limited to much fewer locations and requires ideal weather conditions. In any case anyone these days with high saturation film or digital cameras can create what appears to be more impressive alpenglow than even the best natural conditions even on a days when the light is rather average looking in person. My Coolpix has a Dawn/Dusk mode that even on mediocre dawn/dusks creates all sorts of bizarre deep purples, pinks, and reds in the capture that in the straight Landscape mode are just so so reds.

The trick to getting a realistic alpenglow image that looks good in the Ritter Range is to do so in June an early July when the sun rises about 30 degrees north of due east. That is the only time of year it will clear the tall northern end of the White Mountains which are much taller except for the Ritter and Minaret peak tops. Then one of course needs really clear air. Also ideally one will also have a cloud deck for the warm light to bounce under and intensify. I have some such shots across Thousand Island Lake from my 35mm days in the early 80s. As for the Nydiver perspective yeah that is rather nice and with your digital SLR you could bump up the large shadow areas. Otherwise in natural light it is only going to look reasonable after about 10am. From the Nydiver's Ritter is more on axis for alpenglow and is a good choice early season when lots of snow is still around since it is up high. ...David
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Postby Buck Forester » Thu Sep 14, 2006 7:14 pm

Yes, it's true that Velvia is a color saturated film (name comes from a combo of the words "velvet" and "media"), but I have two thoughts about it. The first, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion) I don't think it's as saturated as our eyes might think. In the 2-dimensional world of photographs, we're used to seeing landscapes in a certain way. Originally black and white, and then color came along. When I'm in the wilderness, I look at the lushness of a green meadow and there's no way my camera can capture that rich color, or a brilliant sunset, or bright red alpenglow, or the deep reds of indian paintbrush. During "magic" hours when the light is low, the colors of these things are just incredible. These colors flatten out when the sun is high, but when the light goes magic these colors glow. And we're not used to seeing such colors on a two dimensional photograph. For me, Velvia brings it more to life. There are times I'm surrounded by such incredible color that I know, even with Velvia, I won't be able to match the color brilliance. I think some people (again my opinion) when they see such color, not being used to seeing such color on paper, think it unnatural.

Secondly, color "wows", no doubt, and it "sells". I try and keep it colorful and "real" and to match the slide (not just crank up saturation in PS, which is usually obvious when that happens, it doesn't look right). The 'balanced' magical lighting is what brings out the rich colors. I say balanced because obvious (and I know you know this) having balanced lighting naturally saturates colors, and low light brings on richer tones. That's why I use GND filters so much. But anyway, from my experience (yours may be different), vibrant natural colors sell better and for me and what I'm trying to do with my life and do photography full-time, I hafta take what sells. It's not a sell-out (ha!), because it's what I prefer anyway... Galen Rowell style images. But I completely and totally respect photographers who hold your point of view as well, and use more flat, less colorful mid-day lighting to give a more "realistic" look as if you're just hiking along mid-day and come across the scene. I really do enjoy your photos, and I'll be honest... you have so many wonderful images that I sometimes peruse them looking for good compositions to return in the kind of light I'm looking for in an image. Like that scene overlooking Lake Ediza from Nydiver... it's high on my list for a sunrise version of that puppy, using Velvia 50 and a 3-stop hard Galen Rowell/Singh-Ray GND filter!
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:41 pm

Well here's my nutshell summary for you younger folks. Excuse my wee cynical exaggerations and sarcasm.

Pro photographer went to overly saturated images ever since they noticed everyone with the big bucks that was buying stock liked it. The magazines, the product advertizers, and the trade show exhibitors. Totally a money and business success thing. That happened during the transition in the 80s when Velvia came into favor and Kodachrome went out. Eventually even National Geographic capitulated. In those days there wasn't really much of any fine art color landscape print market as color prints faded in just a few years so collectors thought only in monochrome black and white. Well Cibachrome had some standing but what resulted from that process was more art than reality. The black and white large format world dominated landscape fine art. Hi Ansel! So for those shooting color it was all a stock thing if one was a pro. And magazine writers embraced saturation because it sold product and advertizing. Those who preferred realism and fidelity were absolutely buried. Writers in landscape magazines like Outdoor Photographer were absolutely zealous for whatever ended looking best and most striking without the slightest concern for reality. In the mid 90s serious color pro photographers suddenly had more than just stock for sales. Drum scanners and Adobe Photoshop had arrived. EverColor printing of the mid 90s was the first color print process that offered both fidelity and longevity and so became accepted by fine art connoiseurs. The rest you all probably have lived through.

So really someone like me is a rarity today but I'm certainly not alone as realism tugs on most everyone that does landscapes flipping their ethic like Jekyl and Hyde whether they admit it or not. In fact the unspoken unexplained current creed on some of the same outdoor photog forums we both visit is whatever seems to be ok, as long as an image looks somehow believable, must be ok. But if it looks so glowing and unnaturally saturated that some urban person that has never found their way out of the city would question its reality then it is roundly condemned. Apparently because that might start to cast too much doubt with what the rest of them are purveying to the buying public. Ditto for gross image re-construction while small "improvements" are fine as long as no one can tell. Don't ask dont tell. The way one votes on this creed is done casting one liners on image critique forums. Lots of "awesome dudes!" are a yea while a lack of posts to an ignored submission is taken as a nay. I've certainly poured some mild salt in the wounds of a few on internet forum threads trying to digest serious debate about the subject for a number years. Personally as I've always proclaimed, others can go their way making their art however they wish as long as they are upfront about what they do and I'll go mine. I know how to make great images that look natural so its stands out among the rest. Of course the rest is fueled by the explosion of digital photography. For many years I would rarely ever see any tripods in the backcounty but all that is now changed. But almost all of them are not playing on my field which is to my advantage. In fact they'd have a difficult time processing an image to reality they'd taken in the outdoors with a DSLR because there is no record to refer back to when its all the result of myriad settings. Thus they only have their minds eye and imagination to work from, just like our famous deceased friend who I've always been a great fan of even though my own work has been different. ...David
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Postby Buck Forester » Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:17 am

I agree with you about the ethics of "manipulated" images, but for the rest I think Galen Rowell and other greatly respected photographers would think differently than you on this... Galen was always very ethically concerned and he felt his images reflected "reality" very much. I'm squarely in his line of thought on this issue. But hey, everyone perceives the world differently, so it's all good! Whether something is shot with Provia or Velvia or digital (I use all three myself), it doesn't matter. Here's to more great images! Life is good®.
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Postby Buck Forester » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:03 am

Hey Dave, since I know you enjoy this type of discussion (I do too!), I went back through some of your outstanding photos to try and find an example of what I mean about saturated colors during the "magic hour", which I shoot a lot in, while you prefer more fully-lit landscapes. Saturation is more about time of day than it is about the medium used.

Here's your photo (I hope you don't mind me linking to your site?) of Balanced Rock, which I love. The colors really pop. You shot this with "Provia" ... which I think was a good choice.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/images/print_05-l16-1.html

What I did was compare the colors in your image with the colors of one I linked above http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckforester/117337099/ of Ritter & Banner above Lake Ediza. Mine was shot with Fuji Velvia 50, and yours was shot with Fuji Provia. I resized the window my image was in so I could move it directly next to your Balanced Rock image. Your Balanced Rock image is MUCH more color saturated than mine. Mine pales in comparison. To me (and this is just me), it is a prime example of letting the natural light dictate saturation levels, and not the medium used. If I had taken my same image at 9 a.m., it would be flat, colorless "white" light on the gray peaks and a duller green on the grass. Some may call that more "real", but not me, it's just flatter light. I took mine at sunrise when the warm rays of the sun turned the peaks a brilliant orange for just a couple minutes. The window of opportunity, as you know, is very short. I compose my images in advance in anticipation of the moment when the natural light saturates the landscape. When photographers take the majority of their images in such light, and not flat mid-day light, people often think they are saturating their images in Photoshop. Most people's backpacking shots are taken mid-day (at least the ones they post online), and not during magic hours because during these magic hours you often need GND filters (or digital blending) to truly reflect the brilliant colors, they get washed out without it. Peaks blow out or foregrounds go dark. Most point-n-shoot backpackers (like I was years ago!) are disappointed in how their images come out after being in such a beautiful place. They don't understand how film/sensors read light compared to the human eye so they see a lot more brights and darks. Photos taken of their campsite at a beautiful lake at sunrise shows blown-out peaks in the background. It's what got me determined to learn photography so I could better share the beauty of what I saw instead of so-so images where I'd get lucky now and then on accident. Balanced lighting during magic hours = saturated images. If someone just relies on saturation in Photoshop, it is obvious when it's done because something doesn't look right with the lighting vs. colors. But if it's saturated to begin with well-thought out timing, getting up early and staying out late to catch those fleeting moments of natures brilliant light, as in your Balanced Rock image, then it doesn't matter if it's Provia or Velvia. The color comes from God, not PS crayons. Your Provia image is way more "saturated" than my Velvia images, and I know it reflected reality for you because we've both seen such light.

P.S. I don't mean to hijack your thread, that's not my intent, ha! If you're interested in good natured discussion about this, I can start a different thread. Obviously neither one of us would change our minds (nor would we want each other too, it's all personal vision and it's all good!), but if you don't wish to carry on a discussion about capturing natural light and how it's reflected on chosen mediums, that's cool too. Life is good®
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Postby Buck Forester » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:18 am

One last example from your site (I really hope you don't mind?)

I'm linking this because it's also similar to the one I posted, but in totally different light. Here's your image of close-to-the-same-area as mine:

http://www.davidsenesac.com/images/print_03r7-7.html

Here's mine for time-of-day comparision:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckforest ... 113625153/

If you put them together, the difference is the lighting, not the film used. Which one someone prefers is obviously a matter of taste (I actually don't think mine is a very strong image, I'm just using it as an example since it's the same area we're talking about). If you had shot yours with saturated Velvia 50, and I shot mine with Provia or Astia, mine would still be MUCH more saturated just because of the lighting. That's not good nor bad, but I think it's a natural fact about how light plays on a landscape.

If you want me to delete these, let me know, I'd be happy to, no worries.
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Postby SSSdave » Fri Sep 15, 2006 11:41 am

Buck don't take my terse summaries too seriously which is why I noted "cynical exaggerations and sarcasm". I could certainly write at length about any facet of these subjects as it is not at all black and white. Debating whether or not specific images are too manipulated or not is quite a gray area. In some cases one would have considerable consensus among viewers and in others the spectrum of relative responses. You are putting forth an opinion about how some saturated or shadowed images as some of your own have experiencial validity. Something other eloquent professionals today have been doing for years. That is another gray area that also runs through a relative spectrum of validity. At times it is done well though today the unnatural end of that creativity is more common. I don't feel personally there isn't anything inherently wrong about making images that don't exactly appear in person differently than what comes out on film as long as those doing so are up front about it. Something I am careful to impress on people whenever discussing these subjects.

The luminance response of any film has always been narrow in comparison to what our eyes and minds experience. So from that perspective alone technology is improving on those short comings. In the past it was impossible to make an image like your Shadow Creek image with the Minarets because exposing for the sunlight would invariably result in very dark shadowed landscapes. Neutral density filters expanded what could be done there as well as newer films like Velvia that bring out a good dark response that better matches the response of our eyes. Today newer DSLR's have gone well beyond that and the shadowed foregrounds now can end up looking far brighter than what we actually might experience with our eyes. And that is making believers and converts out of many photographers because the end result images looks and prints out much more aesthetically. Thus there is a goldrush of sorts of new photographers breaking ground in that realm of landscapes. Old icons are being imaged in ways that look far better though have that asterisk of not the human experience attached. From an aesthetic perspective I can quite appreciate the beauty of much that new photographers are creating today that are breaking new ground beyond what great photographers like Rowell were doing just a few years ago. The community of nature and landscape photographers are grappling with the ethics of what is acceptable at the same time technology is rapidly advancing. Those riding the wave don't want to be constrained by their peers however some are realizing the general perception of photography by the public has issues that need to be considered else the acceptibility of the artform may suffer. ...David
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