Is there a better way to showcase the majesty of a 4,000 year old bristlecone pine than a simple silhouette? In this day of HDR (high dynamic range blending of multiple exposures) and light painting ("painting" a subject with direct light during a long exposure), I sometimes feel light a dinosaur (how many pro photographers do you know who don't own a flash?). But I enjoy the challenge of "limiting" myself to my camera's vision of the world.
This is not an indictment of HDR, light painting, or any of the other creative techniques that prevail today--all render beautiful results when done well (check out Don Smith's dramatic light painted image of this very tree as we stood side by side in the Schulman Grove of California's White Mountains). Ultimately photography should be a source of pleasure, and the variety of techniques available to photographers today only increases the opportunities for enjoyment and expression in nature.
My narrow approach to photography is simply a matter of personal preference: It's what makes photography enjoyable for me. That doesn't mean I don't use Photoshop, nor do I disdain others for their creative use of post-processing. I happen to love Photoshop for the giving me the control I never had when I shot color transparencies. But while I've fully embraced the digital era, I find myself still approaching the craft of photography like a film photographer. I like silhouettes for their ability to distill a subject to its essence.
It turns out that the bristlecones that live the longest are those exposed to the most extreme conditions (there's metaphor there). In this case I opted for a simple silhouette because it was the purest way to capture the emotion this magnificent old tree conveys. I took many exposures before rain and lightning drove Don and me for cover, finally selecting for processing this frame with more clouds than sky because the clouds seem to best emphasize the harsh conditions these natural marvels have endured.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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