The Watchman Mountain
Zion National Park, Utah
The final light of day shown on the great watchman mountain, highlighting its dramatic power over the landscape! The Watchman is a fitting name for this mountain. It stands prominently at the gate of the parks main entrance – like a protecting force, welcoming in all visitors.
The powerful Virgin River flows through Zion canyon and past the foot of the watchman, and acts as a strong foreground for the image. This is a prime spot for photography and it is directly off the road near the parks entrance.
Don't miss this amazing shooting location!
Image Code: A091
San Juan National Forest, Colorado
I took this photo right on the cusp of spring. At the time, there was still a considerable amount of snow in the forests, especially on Sunshine Mountain in the background. The resulting photo out of the camera was rather dull, underexposed and lifeless. As a photographer, I messed up by shooting the image too dark.
However, the scene itself was quite stunning, so I knew there was still a great photo hidden within the file. This is where the magic of post processing comes in, or as photographers call it: the digital darkroom. Sometimes a photo exudes beauty right from the camera and these are often the most exciting images to capture. However, in most cases, snapping the shutter is simply the first step of the photographic process. Post processing is often where the most creativity is poured into the final image.
I spent a great deal of time working on this photo in Photoshop and Lightroom, drawing out the color in the clouds, correcting white balance and adjusting the exposure. The end result was dramatically different than what I had initially captured!
This is one of the things that I love so much about digital photography. Most times the image can stand on its own without post-processing. But sometimes the photographer has to know when to peel away the uninteresting layers of the digital file to uncover a beautiful photo underneath!
Image Code: A025
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Second place info
Sequoia trees are special life forms. They live for millennia, can grow as wide as a small house and they’re majestically beautiful beyond words. For me, I have a deeply personal connection with these trees because I used to live in one of their cousins, the coastal Redwoods.
In my younger days, I was an environmental activist, and part of our protest was to keep the very last of the Redwoods from being logged out of existence. Part of that protest required us to live hundreds of feet up in the trees at all times. The logic was that a logger could not cut these extremely precious trees down without cutting us down with them. The tactic was highly effective.
So, you can understand why I would have a deeply spiritual and personal connection with Redwoods and Sequoias. I can tell you what it is like to sit in the canopy of a tree like this, and I can tell you what it is like to actually call a tree "friend".
Because of this, I am still working to capture the perfect photo of these beautiful giants. This photo represents being one step closer in that journey. I got up before dawn and entered into the Mariposa Grove in Southern Yosemite National park well before dawn. I was searching for the perfect composition, but wasn't having much luck.
Suddenly, I walked past a sunbeam that shot into my eyes and realized I’d stumbled upon the perfect first light location! I set up my tripod as fast as I could, positioned my camera, set my ISO as low as it could go, stopped down my lens f22 and snapped a single shot.
When I saw the resulting photo I literally shouted out in joy! (This got me a couple of funny looks from people around me). I had captured the scene perfectly exposed in one shot; it was a good feeling!
(Note: To capture the sunburst, there are two things you have to keep in mind. First, the sunburst will be the most pronounced when the sun is is either peaking past something. It could be a thick cloud, the horizon or as in this case, a tree. This helps to project the light and accentuate the sunburst effect. Secondly, stop down your lens to f16, f18 or f22. Imagine squinting your eyes towards a street lamp and seeing a burst pattern in the light, this essentially works the same way when a camera lens is set to a low aperture. It creates a smaller hole for the camera to see through, similar to squinting)
Image Code: A028