It's all about the light, stupid!

A follow-on to Making Unique Images
Yesterday I wrote about making images that were not the same as everyone else’s. Much of what I said had to do with that old real estate adage – location, location, location.
Today I want to show that a given location – and a specific subject at a given location even – can provide a multiplicity of strikingly different images. This time the story is about light, light, light – or as a wise man once said regarding photography –

It’s all about the light, stupid!

So, lets look at a few examples of the aforementioned “strikingly different images” made at a single location – made different solely due to the lighting conditions (often referred to as time of day and weather ;-)).
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This is the general location that the “light stupid” images to follow were made – Thorofare Mountain overlook, Shenandoah NP. I was staying at the park for a few days and the day (and all night) before this sunrise there was terrible storm (though, thunder & lightning atop the mountains is awe inspiring). Regardless, I dutifully set the alarm for o’dark-thirty. If you’ve done this (start out in the dark) you know that you are committed even though you have no clue as to what to expect until much later. This is what I found.

But – enough about that scene (I could show an entire series just on this view – different times of day, seasons, weather = different images). Today’s images are about something else –  something located about 60 degrees left and 50 feet away from this spot on the overlook (remember the Freeman Patterson exercise of the previous post – shoot 36 shots from a single spot & learn to see). It’s the skeleton of a tree – I call it the Thorofare Mountain sentinel.
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My sentinel can take on all sorts of appearances. Here is how it looked 20 minutes after the landscape above. Getting this shot meant scrambling over the hillside and lining up the sun with the side of the tree to get the “star burst” (f/29 – to get a star like result with a light source the lens must be stopped way down).

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This subject can also take on many other appearances. Here are some examples.
1. Dark & Moody – During a rain/sleet/snow squall which provides a dramatic contrast to the sunrise version.

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2. Showing where the sentinel “lives” on a treeless mountain field among wild flowers (Turks Cap lily).

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3. An infrared view

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4. Sitting above the clouds

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5. Night with lights in the valley below

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6. By moonlight

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You get the idea. It’s the same tree, but you can’t really “see it” by making just one image – or during a single visit. There are lots of different images residing within this single subject – and when you exhaust this subject, there’s the rest of the overlook, followed by over 100 miles of similar mountain tops to choose from (& 500+ miles of trails).
This demonstrates why, in the previous post, I suggested concentrating on locations within an hour or so of home – and getting to know them. Yosemite, as a example, probably has more striking vistas and subjects than Shenandoah but a visitor to the Yosemite will never see them all (or even a small percentage) – it takes more time than a few days in the park. Heck, a few days is barely enough time to “scout” a single spot at a location.
On my one trip west, I was “cursed” with sunny weather almost throughout the entire 6 week trip. “Normal” photographers might have been thrilled but not moi. In that type of weather, my sentinel would have looked exactly the same – day after monotonous day. Shenandoah is much better for me – an hour away & I get to pick the weather. 😉 The park staff (I’m a volunteer photographer) have dubbed days like the one shown with the image labeled “Dark & Moody” – an Ed Knepley Day.
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Just for fun here’s an image called a mandala (Google it). It was made using the very first “sentinel” image in this post. Cropped the image to a square, twisted/flipped the square into all 8 possible orientations, combined the 8 layers in Photoshop. If there’s interest, this might be the subject of a future post. ??

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