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Photographer: Michael Sherman
Location: West of Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Equipment: Nikon D3100, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED II
Situation: It was the first of November, and one of the first snows had hit the area hard for this time of year. I had been watching the forecasts for several weeks and noticed the days in which the canyon was enveloped with overcast skies. I had hoped for a break in the ceiling to allow for the filtered light display I had anticipated. I knew with the fresh snowfall that early morning would prove most beneficial. Finally, the storm subsided, and the clouds began dissipating overnight. The next morning, the filtered light created a beautiful display. When you're at the Grand Canyon with filtered light playing in and out through the cloud cover, you have to be quick in deciding where to locate. I had already chosen my first location and then had to move quickly along the rim in order to create this photograph.
See more of Michael Sherman's photography at www.mikesnature.com.
I'm highlighting images from several recent OP Assignments In this issue. For some nature photographers, the quest for a special image draws them to venture to remote locales in the dead of night to be there when the sun rises. For others, the perfect photograph can be found close to a roadside turnout. Here, we have images that show both extremes. The common thread is in the inspiring nature of the images themselves.
When I saw Michael Sherman's photograph from the Grand Canyon, I wanted nothing more than to pack a bag and my camera and drive there right away.
Catching the perfect light the way he did wasn't an accident or simple luck. The photograph shows how preparation and a clear vision can result in a magnificent photograph. Larry Malvin took advantage of this year's heightened solar activity by planning to take a workshop on aurora photography. He was in a perfect place to capture some of the most dramatic Northern Lights activity in years. The photos by Mark N. Bristol and Javier Acosta are also standout shots in their respective Assignments galleries. You can read all of the stories behind these images on page 82.
I look through the Assignments galleries every day, and I always come away with something new to think about. If you haven't submitted to Assignments yet, go to the OP website. The galleries will inspire you, and I'll be looking for photographs to run in the magazine and even on the cover.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor
Photographer: Larry Malvin
Location: Approximately 270 miles north of Fairbanks, above the Arctic Circle, 20 miles north of Wiseman in the Brooks Range, Alaska
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, SLIK 700DX tripod
Situation: I was with a group of photographers on a Northern Lights photo workshop staying in tiny Wiseman, Alaska. We left town about 9:00 p.m. and drove on the frozen Dalton Highway about 30 minutes north to a clearing off the main road. After setting up and waiting about half an hour, the aurora started getting brighter and brighter, eventually dancing across the sky in swirls and bands, with a curtain of maroon ribbons falling from the sky. To minimize star trails, I experimented with different ISO settings and shutter speeds. This photo was taken at ƒ/4, with a shutter speed of 20 seconds and an ISO of 800.
Photographer: Mark N. Bristol
Location: East side of Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Equipment: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, Hoya Pro-1 polarizer, Kirk BH-3 ballhead, Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod
Situation: This area is in the Lake Tahoe Basin in Nevada about halfway between Sand Point and the Highway 50 junction on the east side of Highway 28. It's near a very long turnout on the east side of the highway. This is a route I take three or four times a year to visit my brother-in-law in Carson City, and I stop here every time I pass through. I always bring my camera backpack when traveling. In the fall, the area is alive with color. This photo was taken in the late afternoon, and the snow was new from the previous evening. I spent about two hours watching and photographing as the light and shadows changed.
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Photographer: Javier Acosta
Location: Bonsai Rock, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, Induro tripod, Lee 3-stop soft-edge, graduated neutral-density filter
Situation: I've been to Bonsai Rock an estimated 20 times. On my previous visits, the conditions weren't present—the lake was either too rough or the water level was too high, it was too windy, the skies were clear, etc.—and I knew that having all of the right conditions would be difficult. I attempted this shot once again during Thanksgiving weekend, November 2011. I arrived at Bonsai Rock in an attempt to capture a great sunset. On the fourth visit that week, the conditions finally came together. The lake was the calmest I had ever seen it, and the sky was amazing. I had this great scene all to myself, shot as many frames as I could and ended up with this image.
See more of Javier Acosta's photography at www.javieracostaphotography.com.