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1) Deserts Assignment Winner
Photographer: Darren White
Location: Death Valley National Park, California
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, 2-stop soft grad filter
The photo was taken in Death Valley National Park on Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, Calif. My buddy and I were traveling for a photo vacation. We arrived early in the afternoon and were out exploring the dunes. Finding a good ridge without any footprints was the real challenge. I walked up over a dune and saw this ridge without any footprints and the composition looked good. I could see some clouds building as the sun was going down. I knew if I was just patient and waited it would be a good shot. About two hours after this shot was taken, the entire dunes turned into a massive sandstorm as the winds kicked up for several hours.
In this issue of OP, I'm spotlighting the winners of several of the recent Assignments at outdoorphotographer.com. Each weekly Assignment is like a contest. When the entry period ends, the editors look at all of the submissions and choose a winner whose photo is highlighted on our home page and, as you see on these pages, in the magazine. To be in the running, all you have to do is enter.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor
2) Waterfalls Assignment Winner
Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, Really Right Stuff L bracket, SUNWAYFOTO DB-44 ballhead, SLIK 700DX tripod, Satechi Smart Trigger, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
Yosemite has become a very special place for me to enjoy my photography. Recently, I've been sharing this with my son, Vincent, who started with his first DSLR when he was 11. We arrived at the park on an extremely busy day of the Memorial Day weekend in 2013. Parking was tough, so we had to hike from the opposite end of Cook's Meadow to get to the falls. The moonbow was predicted to occur around 11:30 p.m., and we had ample time to find our locations and frame our shots. I wanted to include some foreground to give depth to my image, but still wanted stars included in the frame. It was luck that I included enough room for the Big Dipper to be seen! I tried to use the shortest exposure time to minimize the movement of the stars, yet I didn't want noise to ruin my image. I chose an ISO of 800 and a 43-second exposure; I felt it was a good balance. We were fortunate that the waterfall had enough flow and the winds were relatively calm to minimize the mist landing on our lenses. By the end of the night, we all had the system down of "shoot, cover, wipe lens, shoot again." We all came back with great images. One process that worked well for the image was to make an adjustment layer with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to bring out the structure and lighten/darken areas of the image that I felt needed to be adjusted. I feel this gave me a lot of control over the scene.
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3) Fall Wildlife Assignment Winner
Photographer: Doug Kliewer
Location: Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS II USM
This photo was taken on September 3, 2013, from the north shore of Wonder Lake in Denali National Park at about 10:30 a.m. Our group had spent the morning attempting grand landscape photos from a rise above the lake when I noticed the beautiful fall foliage reflections in the water. I had just replaced my wide-angle lens with a 500mm lens to direct attention to the lake reflections when a pair of trumpeter swans flew into view. I only had time to grab a few handheld shots before the swans flew beyond the colorful reflections of the fall foliage. The photo was processed with Adobe Lightroom 5, with contrast, color saturation and Levels adjustments, as well as cropping adjustments.
4) Moonshots Assignment Winner
Photographer: Steve Shuey
Location: Bear Valley, California
Equipment: Nikon N90S, Fujichrome Velvia
This photo was taken in early August, 1994. There was a bit of previsualization to this shot and a bit of luck on two accounts. No special processing was involved after the photo was scanned, just removal of dust and scanning artifacts and Levels adjustments. Every year my family stays in Bear Valley, on the west side of Ebbetts Pass, for a couple of weeks. I've always loved the outdoors, and whenever I'm up there, I explore the surrounding areas. On one of my explorations, before taking this photo, I had found this tree and had shot it during daytime and sunset. I had always thought it might look nice at night with some star trails or as a silhouette at sunrise and, since I like to put people in my landscapes, I thought that a silhouette of a person would work also. I had taken a workshop with Galen Rowell a few years earlier, and some of his ideas on previsualization still resonated with me (as they do today). I knew, however, that I couldn't be in the photo due to the spacing, so I was able to coax my brother Dave into getting up very early so we could drive to this place and give me time to set up. In addition to Dave being so nice, a couple of strokes of luck helped immensely. First, the year before, a volcano had erupted. It was far from here, but it put so much ash and particulates into the atmosphere that sunrises and sunsets were magical. Secondly, I knew the composition I wanted, but I had no idea the moon would be where it was at the time. When we got there, I actually had to move faster than I thought in order to keep the moon high enough to make it look good. I tried many different compositions, but this one was my favorite.