Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Contender Ben Babusis

Multiple photo submissions by American Landscape contest Contender Ben Babusis are tied together by powerful personal memories connected to each scene

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Banner Sunrise

Location: John Muir Trail, Yosemite
When did you take this photograph? Sept 10, 2011

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Canon 24-105 mm f/4 IS lens, Gitzo mountaineer tripod, external shutter release cable

Describe how you got this photo.
This image was made during a backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness just south of Yosemite.  The image is of Banner Peak, 12,936 feet, reflected in Thousand Island Lake, named for its many tiny islands.  My friend and I arrived late the afternoon before and set up camp just before a massive thunderstorm struck.  After the rain and lightning cleared I scouted the lakeshore for good photo locations and was particularly struck by the perfect line of lupine on the water's edge in this location. The next morning, I arose before sunrise and was treated to nearly clear skies and no wind.  I waited until Banner Peak was completely illuminated, and composed the contour of the wildflowers to neatly frame the reflection of the mountain. Although the mountain and lake are certainly beautiful, I think the wildflowers are what really make this image unique.

Did you use any special techniques?
I used a relatively small aperture of f/16 to increase depth of field and the lowest possible ISO, but could not stop down all the way as the scene was too dark.  I got away with a 1 second exposure only because there was almost no wind and the flowers stayed sharp. I did not use any graduated ND filter nor HDR bracketing.  I instead chose to brighten the foreground in post-processing using the fill-light feature in Adobe Lightroom on a single image. Since I shoot RAW, there was plenty of pixel depth to work with on a single exposure.

Why is this scene of the American Landscape special to you?
Thousand Island Lake has always been one of my very favorite alpine tarns because of the many picturesque islands and the imposing Banner Peak, which towers over the lake and provides a dramatic subject. The Sierra brings back great memories for me as a kid as I spent so much time backpacking and camping here with my brother while growing up. The beauty and solitude here are just unbeatable.

Fire In The Sky

Location: Yosemite Valley

When did you take this photograph? February 5, 2011 6:40 pm

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS lens, Gitzo mountaineer tripod, external shutter release cable

Describe how you got this photo.
I made this photo from the "Tunnel View" viewpoint in Yosemite Valley on a relatively balmy winter evening just past sunset.  I arrived to the viewpoint relatively late and got some nice shots of the warm yellow waning light on El Capitan and Half Dome. The sun set at 5:26 pm and light was initially pretty flat after that. I continued to wait, as I have learned from experience in the Sierra that some of the best light can occur well past sunset when alpine-glow sets in. That happened in a big way on this evening and resulted in one of the longest and finest post sunset light displays I have ever seen.  The swirling clouds in the sky lit up like fire with the color getting progressively more intense, peaking when I took this image, which was a full hour and 15 minutes after sunset!   

Did you use any special techniques?
I used an intermediate aperture and shutter speed and exposed on the sky.  No filters were utilized.  During post-processing I used the fill-light feature in Lightroom to brighten the foreground, which was possible using only a single image shot in RAW format.  Because I was shooting a relatively dimly lit scene well after sunset, the color saturation was almost unrealistically intense on the original image requiring a slight desaturation of the color, something I have never done before on a sunset image. 

Why is this scene of the American Landscape special to you?

Tunnel View is the most popular viewpoint in one of the most popular parks in the world for nature photographers.  An immense number of photographs have been taken here. It was frequently enjoyed by the likes of John Muir and Ansel Adams.  While easy to get a good photograph of the valley, it remains difficult to get a unique or truly outstanding photograph here.  Creativity in composition is quickly exhausted on the viewpoint, leaving great photographs largely to those photographers who by persistence (or luck) get treated to great atmospheric conditions.  This image will always be special to me as it was one of the most intense sunset color displays I have ever witnessed, on one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the world.


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