Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunrise on the sand dunes

If you have followed my blog you probably already know how much I enjoy being in Death Valley Ca.  The early light on the dunes is magical, and to watch it change so quickly has always amazed me. When I worked with a large format camera and film, I knew I had time for three or four possible setups as the sun came up.  It was a lot of work to fine the location and choose the proper fixed lens to fill the frame with the area of interest. I always worked with black and white film and would use a spot meter to determine the exposure. Most of the time I would meter the shadow area and base that value for my exposure.  I used a red filter many times to increase contrast, and quite often would over develop the negative to gain even more contrast.  The dunes at sunrise can fool your eye into thinking that there is a lot of contrast in the scene.  In reality there are about four stops of light between the bright sunlit side of the dune and the shadow side.  The reason being that there is so much light being reflected back into the shadows from the adjacent dunes.  Working with large format equipment alway posed a challenge when being on the dunes.  Extreme care must be taken to prevent dust and the sand from getting into the film holder or the camera.  I always worked in a slow and methodical process to insure my negatives would be properly exposed and as dust free as possible.  The above image was taken with a digital camera and much of the processing of the image is done long after the image was taken.  Working with a zoom lens means I don't have to change lenses as often and gives me the opportunity to create many more interesting compositions at sunrise.  I have made many fine images of the dunes with a digital camera, but appreciate the ones I made with a large format camera more, knowing the hard work that was involved in achieving them.

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