A paradoxical reality of doing photography for a living is that often the images themselves drop to the bottom of the list of things to do. When I return from a trip I generally do a cursory run-through of my images, maybe working on one or two that jump out at me and making a mental note of others to return to when there's time. But somehow that time never materializes, and the images just languish on my hard disk. Sigh.
Fortunately there are lulls in my schedule, and I'm just entering the biggest one of the year. The summer gap between my spring workshops (which usually end in May) and my fall workshops (which don't start until late September) is when I catch up on all the things I've put off since last summer, and maybe even start a project or two. My current project is to catalog all my images in Adobe Lightroom, a wonderful application that (among other things) has forced me to keyword everything, and has pretty much imposed organization on my seat-of-the-pants image management system. The project has also forced me to revisit all those images that I knew were there but hadn't made quality time for. Including today's, six of the last seven images are brand new results of that project, with more on the way.
The comment I most frequently hear about Mono Lake is, "It's like a different planet." I suspect this image will do little to discourage those sentiments. On this chilly morning last fall I had my workshop group at South Tufa about 40 minutes before sunrise. Experience has taught me that the quiet water necessary for glass-like reflections is most likely before the sun rises, and pre-dawn light can start at least 30 minutes before the "official" sunrise time (and it's better to be ten minutes early than one minute late). Arriving this early also allows my groups to get the best locations at this usually crowded location.
We got a particular treat this morning when the chilly temperature, low dew point, and still air combined to form an ethereal, lake-hugging fog that gave the scene a primordial quality. Shooting east into the pre-sunrise sky means extreme contrast between the brilliant horizon and dark foreground that simply doesn't allow for shadow detail, so the objective here is to simplify, simplify, simplify. It's all about color and shape. The sky color and its reflection serves as the canvas that holds the shapes, which must be both strong and complementary.
In scenes like this, where simplicity is key, I usually opt for a mid-range telephoto zoom, in this case my 70-200. With my camera off the tripod I look for strong elements and visual balance, slowly panning and zooming until something stops me. If I decide it's worthy of an exposure, I meter (spot-meter in manual mode on the brightest part of the sky, choosing an exposure that retains the color), return the camera to the tripod, refine the composition, focus, and shoot. If I really like the scene, I try variables of the same general composition, wider/tighter, horizontal/vertical, high-horizon/low-horizon.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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