Assignments: September 2013

The Best Of The Assignments Submissions From
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Winner, Shooting In The Dark Assignment

1) Photographer: Dustin Penman
Location: Near Folsom, California
Equipment: Nikon D7000, 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX Nikkor
On July 22, 2012, I was awakened by my buddy calling, “We got lightning,” and I was off like a flash (pun intended)! At 3 a.m., I was still outside, amazed by the constant lightning, the fast-moving storm clouds and the fact that the stars were visible through it all. This just blew my mind. I knew I also wanted to incorporate a strong foreground in the image, so I went looking for an oak tree that would fit the bill. At a local park, I found this scene.

I knew I wanted to capture just how crazy of a night it was. I figured that six 2-minute exposures would allow enough time to capture the lightning and show a small amount of star travel, as well as the quick-moving clouds. The grass near the tree was being lit by a street lamp hidden behind the tree, and I did a little light-painting of the tree with my flashlight on the last exposure. I then stacked the images in Photoshop CS6. I’ve been waiting for another electrical storm ever since.

Every week, the OP editors choose a winning image from the submissions to that week’s Assignment on That photo is highlighted on the OP homepage and in the OP Blog. In this issue of the magazine, instead of showing several top images from a single Assignment, I’m publishing recent winners from various spring Assignments here.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor

Winner, View From The Top Assignment
2) Photographer: Harry Lichtman
Location: White Mountains, New Hampshire
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM, Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod
I’ve hiked along the Moat Mountain Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains many times and made a mental note of the great views. Since the ridge runs south to north, sunrise and sunset possibilities make for good photo opportunities from the same location. Generally, the area isn’t great for camping, as there’s no running water and the ledges are exposed. I hiked down the exposed ledges near Middle Moat, away from the trail in June 2013, and found a relatively flat area where I could set up my ultralight tent and be in a good position should the light cooperate. I prefer the spring and fall for these grand views as the varying shades of green foliage provide some differentiation between leaves and the evergreens. Midsummer greens tend to be overwhelming in this kind of photo. I packed extra water and brought only dry food so as not to need a stove above treeline and minimize impact.

I previsualized the scene so I could be in the right place at the right time if weather conditions worked out. The weather always comes into play. I had intended to shoot pure landscape images, but found the inclusion of the tent and me (using the self-timer) a more powerful image.

I bracketed exposures and manually blended two exposures to maintain detail in the highlights and shadows. The distant cloud bank acted as a natural diffuser, making the lighting a little softer and more uniform.

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Winner, Wildlife In Motion Assignment
3) Photographer: Scott Dere
Location: Jamaica Bay, New York
Equipment: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, Canon EF 600mm ƒ/4 IS L, cable release, Gitzo tripod, Wimberley head
During the winter of 2011-2012, there were two adult snowy owls and two owlets that were found across Long Island. The park officials I spoke with say that this male has been wintering here for 20 years. The adult female could be found on the dunes at Jamaica Bay, Queens, while the younger owls were found at the beaches of Breezy Point and Hampton Bays. This was an awesome sighting just miles from New York City.

I previsualized this photograph, but I was definitely in the right place at the right time. I found the owl late in the afternoon near sundown. As the large bird started to become more alert near sunset, I prepared for him to start hunting. Sure enough, as soon as the sun was gone, the snowy owl launched off the sand. He was wide-eyed and ready for action, and came right at the camera with no fear of me or the large equipment I was carrying. I set my camera to Al Servo, ƒ/4.5 at 1⁄1000 sec. and ISO 1250 to get the low-light exposure.

Winner, Cloudy Days Assignment
4) Photographer: Colleen Miniuk-Sperry
Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM, cable release, Manfrotto tripod with grip-action ballhead
In mid-May 2009, my husband Craig and I ventured from our Arizona home to see Redwood National Park for the first time, with the hope of seeing this magnificent forest showing off fresh pink rhododendrons beneath the massive canopy. Upon arrival, we wandered around the park under clear, bright, sunny skies, which enabled endless and exciting explorations, but harsh, contrasty lighting conditions for photographing the beauty in front of our eyes. I had hoped for overcast skies or fog to bring out the vibrant pink color of the flowers, but Mother Nature had other plans for our four-day stay. On the fifth day, our travel plans took us north to Gold Beach, Oregon, but I secretly hoped I would have one last chance to see diffused light in this spectacular park on our return trip home to Arizona.

As luck would have it, on May 23, as we drove back through the state park [which is part of Redwood National Park] en route to Arizona, thick fog curled around the giant redwoods and dainty “rhodies.” From our previous visit, I knew exactly which flowering plant and redwoods I wanted to capture.

Overjoyed, I quickly jumped out of our car with my tripod, camera, 24mm lens and lens cloth in hand. To emphasize the dramatic height of the trees, I pointed my camera toward the sky, getting almost underneath the rhodies 15 feet overhead.

I specifically wanted to show the juxtaposition between the towering trees and the large, but delicate flowers, so I intentionally broke the “Rule of Thirds” and gave them equal amount of real estate within the frame and leveraged the converging lines down the center of the image to pull the viewer into the picture.