This week’s photo is all about light. If you take away the dramatic lighting effects from this photo, you are left with something pretty mundane – a forest and some rocks. But with the sun filtering through the trees as a star burst, lighting the granite boulders and contrasting them with the darker forest, an interesting image is born.
Before this composition found me, I was pointing my camera in the opposite direction and quickly becoming uninspired. Sure, I was shooting from the edge of a cliff and had a large, open, forested valley below me, but no specific feature stood out and grabbed my attention. I turned around and saw that the sun was setting behind the trees, and knew then that I would use sunlight as my subject.
It didn’t take much hunting around to find this line of granite boulders illuminated by the setting sun. Now I had a decision to make – include the sun in the image or not? Since I was shooting at f/16 (as I often do with landscapes), I knew I’d get a nice, tight star burst effect from the sun. I ultimately decided to include it in the image because I wanted to balance the lower right of the image which included a lot of light, with the light of the sun in the upper left.
Another thing to worry about when shooting into the sun is that the camera’s meter
can will be thrown off. If I shot this at the camera’s recommended shutter speed (I was in aperture priority), the forest would have been rendered brighter and the granite would have been completely blown out. I dropped the exposure compensation by two stops, which gave me a photo much closer to what I was seeing with my eyes.
I am pretty happy with the result. It is not the typical grandiose landscape typical of Sierra photography, but a more intimate scene. Hopefully it conveys more than just the visual aspect, but a real sense of place – the distant echos of forest birds, the sharp smell of pine needles, the thumping of the heart at high elevations. Ultimately for me, it was my latest reminder that when in doubt, I should always follow the light.