Pines and Sandstone Cliff. Zion National Park, Utah.October 22, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A sparse forest of pine trees in front of a towering sandstone cliff, Zion National Park
This could be one of those “don’t forget to look around” photographs – a reminder to look beyond the most obvious thing that you (and others) might have stopped for. The photograph is from Zion National Park, made on my late October visit when we passed through on the way to shoot further east in Utah. The specific location is a well-known automobile pull-out that features a large and impressive nearby geological feature, with signage around the parking lot mostly about that thing. And it is an interesting and worthy site, but one that I’ve struggled to see as a photograph. In fact, the whole area right near here has been a bit this way – a very interesting place where I’ve stopped a few times, but also one where I’ve had a difficult time seeing how to photograph the attractive features found here.
From this location, trees growing on a middle-distance rise can be seen. I’ve also looked at them before and wondered how or whether they could make a photograph. Those trees are the trees in this photograph. What seemed different this time was the result of interesting and changing lighting conditions. The light was coming from the side and a bit behind the trees, so it highlighted the branches and even created just a tiny bit of that glow that I often look for with this subject. In addition, there were broken clouds about, and they were being blown past fairly quickly by a brisk wind – so the light was in a constant state of change. One moment the trees were in a cloud shadow, and the next they were in sun. When they were in sun, the foreground and background might be in sun, too, or in shade, or even some combination of the two. I love these conditions since so many things are (fleetingly) possible with the light. My approach is to make some guesses about what might with the light, find a composition that I think will work, and then pay careful attention to what is happening. This photograph was exposed during a lucky instant when the clouds shaded the background sandstone cliff, and the slightly cloud-muted sun shone on the trees.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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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