A Landscape Transformed

Autumn aspens, Conway Summit, Inyo NF, CA, USA
Autumn aspens, Conway Summit, Inyo NF, CA, USA
Here are two photographs I made last week near Conway Summit on the eastern side of the Sierra. The first one, above, is from Tuesday afternoon, with soft backlight filtering through thin clouds and making the leaves glow. The second image, below, was made Wednesday morning under overcast skies as the snow started to fall. I used a fast shutter speed (1/90th sec.) to freeze the motion of the snowflakes, which created a faint white dot pattern across the frame.

Aspens and willows during an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA
Aspens and willows during an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

I didn’t set out to show the same composition (well almost the same) with different light and weather. On each visit I tried a variety of different compositions, but this framing just seemed to work well, and I ended up liking both the Tuesday-afternoon and Wednesday-morning versions.

Then, looking at these images later, I was struck by how different the mood is in each photograph. It’s hard to put these things into words, but the first one is brighter and more vibrant, while the second image is softer and more impressionistic.

I’m not sure I can pick between these two. I might have a slight preference for the second image, but only because it’s more unusual. If you have a preference let me know.

But the main reason I wanted to post these is to show how light and weather can completely transform a landscape. This is not a new revelation, just a striking example. We can’t control the weather, but we can adapt to it, and try to find subjects and compositions that work with the conditions we get.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Autumn Snow; Signs of Autumn

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

In the Moment: Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

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6 Comments

    I like both of them. It’s apples and oranges. It would depend on the wall I was hanging it on. The color is more subdued in the second picture. If I were hanging it in a room that had little color I would probably pick the first one.

    I ran into you last Monday on the trail to Gaylor Lakes. Darn if they didn’t close. I took a picture at Gaylor lakes that day. One of the few I was able to salvage. It’s on the Editor’s Favorite this week.

    I see them differently – I see both as lacking contrast and focal expression. I’m in the

    publishing business (stock photographer) and would pass over these look for more life,

    more life. I am sure this is the way it looked out of the camera, but you expression clearly

    needs much more creative interption. blaa photos = blaa cirtiques.

    My preference is for the first image. Although the image is rather like an oil painting a little grainy and flat tone to the colours. The second picture is cold and lacks vitality. It loses the contrast offered by the first picture for all the different colour tones. But hey this is just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions right?

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