Assignments: May 2013

Check out some of these top shots from the recent Sidelight Assignment
This Article Features Photo Zoom

1) Photographer: Laura Zirino
Location: Zion National Park, Utah
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24mm ƒ/1.4L, tripod, spotlight
It was November 12, 2012, the last day of my photography trip, and I wanted to take a shot of something iconic in Zion National Park. I realized that I had never seen a photo of the crooked tree at night. I went to the location while it was still light out and set up the shot, then waited in the 45º weather for the sun to set. Since there was no moon, I had to light-paint the tree for it to be visible. I wanted to create shadows, texture and drama. Lighting from the side and below enhanced the feeling of looking up at the tree, with the stars above you. Also, the light from the left created long shadows that emphasized the downward-tilting rock base. Getting the shot involved several tries setting the timer, quickly moving to position in the dark and crouching so I wouldn’t fall off the side of the rock. It was worth it!

WHEN I MADE THE SIDELIGHT ASSIGNMENT, it was in reaction to a number of submissions I had received where the light was front on and the photos looked quite flat. Using sidelight adds depth and dimension to an image. Textures and relief that are completely hidden by frontal lighting are revealed, and generally, the photos are much more lively and interesting. This goes for just about any subject, from grand landscapes to wildlife and macro. On these pages are some of the best submissions from that Assignment. You can see all of the submissions at
—Christopher Robinson, Editor

2) Photographer: Hank Christensen
Location: Death Valley National Park, California
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L, Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead
While walking through the Mesquite Dunes area before sunset in March 2012, I was trying to scout the location for potential photos, while being careful not to leave footprints across any scene I might want to capture. I slowly worked my way into the center of the dune field, moving in a northerly direction. The shadow pattern in the foreground originally captured my attention, and I knew this would lend to great leading lines into the frame. I lowered my tripod closer to the ground to emphasize the pattern and framed the background around the mountains to the north. As the sun slid toward the western horizon, the contrast built in the shadows across the sand. Once the evening light rendered that perfect texture across the dune, I clicked the shutter.

3) Photographer: Michael Sherman
Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Equipment: Nikon D3100, Nikkor 18-35mm ƒ/3.5-4.5D ED-IF, polarizer
On November 5, 2011, I arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as a thick layer of fog began to lift out of the canyon. With the first glimpse of light, I could see some lingering clouds showing filtered and directed light. This meant that if there were any significant amounts of snow, those areas would catch the light more so than others. The light continued to increase, with the freshly snow-covered foreground and the bold, but delicately weathered tree before me. There’s a price to be paid for preparation and perseverance. I quickly remind myself that anytime you’re dealing with nature herself, it sure is worth it.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

4) Photographer:Philip Kuntz
Location: Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Equipment: Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED, Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa tripod and BH-55 LR ballhead
I was one of the first people on the Moraine Lake rock pile the morning of October 4, 2012. Unfortunately, it was 17º with a light breeze. The season’s first snow had fallen the night before. At this time of year, the sun strikes the peaks with some beautiful sidelight, but there’s only a small window of opportunity to catch it. I stood around for two hours, waiting for the sun to kiss the tops of the Ten Peaks. The breeze softened the reflections. My body was suffering, but I had a big grin on my frozen face.

5) Photographer: Dean Cobin
Location: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona
Equipment: Canon EOS 7D, Tokina 12-24mm ƒ/4 AT-X 124AF Pro DX
I was attending a workshop in August 2010 called “Monsoon over the Mesa” given by Southwest Perspectives. That particular morning we had been scheduled to shoot at the famous Totem Pole and Yei-Bi-Chei monuments. Being in the Navajo park requires that for this location you need to be led by a Navajo guide, which our workshop leader had arranged for; in this case, it was the legendary Tom Phillips, who has since passed away. Led to the location by Tom, we were cautioned to be careful not to disturb the dunes, which may become your or somebody else’s foreground. Arriving with plenty of time to choose a location and start thinking about a composition, we waited for the sun to rise. As the sun came up, the patterns in the sand started to come alive while the face of the formation lit up. The low angle of the sun created wonderful long shadows on the vegetation. As photographers, we try to put ourselves in position, and sometimes we get lucky and it all comes together.