Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Photo Workshop in Lone Pine and Death Valley

We just returned from our twice-annual trek to these desert gems. And, once again the shooting opportunities were everywhere.

Our workshop began in the sierra foothill town of Lone Pine. This small community, near the trailhead for the hike to Mt Whitney, is situated right on interstate 395, the main highway which connects the LA area to Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Yosemite and many other High Sierra destinations.

One of the mornings we were greeted by a totally overcast sky, and the resulting soft light. Not the conditions we had hoped for, but, Mother Nature's detour allowed us to concentrate on alternate subject matter, and proved to be very productive, shooting-wise.

Located between the main highway and the iconic, sierra peaks to the west, is a second, and even older mountain range dubbed The Alabama Hills. Much more brown and earthtone in color than the sierra's mid-grey granite, these hills have long been popular with the movie studios and commercial TV crews.

So, with the aforementioned flat light, we spent a couple hours exploring these rugged structures....up close. It's interesting how much fun it is to start shooting in a location with absolutely no pre-conceived idea as to what kind of shots you'll get. I was looking strictly at shapes, patterns, light and textures as we moved around in this rocky wonderland. The overall feeling is very similar to the geologic conditions at Joshua Tree Nat'l Park.

Here's a shot of a scene which certainly looked more dramatic after being converted from color to Black and White. ( click on any of these images to see a larger version )

Our group moved about 70 miles due east into Death Valley after a couple days in the sierra foothills. Big change in scenery....sand dunes, almost no vegetation, and some of the amazing patterns on the desert floor, created by fast drying mud after the previous nite's rainfall

This unique abstract image was taken roadside, at one of our late afternoon shooting sessions. In fact, as I pulled the car off the main road to analyze our position for a sunset shot of the side-lit hills, Mike noticed this peeling and curling mud flats. Crunching beneath our tires, and being destroyed as I drove over a good part of it. But, there was still plenty left to shoot! And, the timing was perfect. We were able to catch some dramatic cross-light, just as the sun went behind the Panamint Hills. This shot looks great both in color, and after the B&W conversion with my new, favorite software....Nik Silver Efex Pro. It's super easy to use, and gives you quick and varied options relating to tone, contrast, grain and film simulations.
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