Cottonwood Trees Detail, Autumn. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24. 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Close up view of golden autumn cottonwood leaves, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
One of the main reasons we visited this particular canyon at this particular time of year and on this exact day was… fall color from cottonwood trees and a few other contributors. This small group was growing almost directly against the cliff walls alongside the river, and when I was there the cliffs shaded the trees and provided softer, diffused light.
While many of my cottonwood photographs set the trees in their surroundings a bit more clearly, in this one I simply wanted to show the colors and patterns and textures of the trees themselves, so I chose to shoot in tight and exclude anything that was not “tree.” These trees really are this colorful, especially in this light. This presented me with a bit of a challenge while working on the photograph in post. When shooting in the shade, as I like to do with such subjects, the light is often quite blue, since the scene is largely lit by that giant blue light box that we often refer to as “the sky.” Most people (other than photographers) would not notice the blue-ness of the scene while standing there, but it becomes quite apparent when looking at the photograph. In order to make the color balance conform to what we think we see when on the scene, I often choose to warm up the color balance of all or part of the photograph. For example, I might move the objectively blue tones of background rocks more toward gray, if the rocks were that color. But here, if I went to the “objectively gray” point, the color of the trees shifts to be warm beyond belief, so here I left the overall balance a bit on the blue side.
(Note: This photograph was originally posted with the wrong title. The error has now been corrected.)
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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