La Gusella, at the summit of Passo Giau, is an iconic 2,595m mountain peak near Alleghe (Veneto—Italy). It ranks as the 79th highest mountain in Veneto and the 1364th highest mountain in Italy. Other nearest famous peaks are Cinque Torri, Nuvolao, Averau and Monte Cernera.
Passo Giau is one of the most famous and visited places within the Dolomites National Park and, for me, is a landscape photographer’s playground. I took several images of this area during the last two years, and I love it. The best seasons to photograph this wonderful mountain are in the summer and winter—an absolutely stunning and inspiring scenario.
During the summer, the weather in the Dolomites is quite unpredictable, and when you’re planning a shot in this area it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that the weather can change dramatically very quickly. For this specific shot I was very lucky, as the colors of the sunset were among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
I arrived at Passo Giau about two hours before the sunset to find some good spots with an interesting foreground to draw the attention to the mountain peak. In the summer, above 2,000m, different rhododendron species were growing with crazy colors, and they would play in my favor for the final composition.
For this type of shot, I proceed in a very meticulous and organic way. I don’t think only about the light, but I try every time to find and arrange interesting shapes. The collection of pink rhododendrons in the foreground works as an echo shape of the peak in the background, and this correspondence between these two elements makes the composition much stronger.
At this time I set up my tripod and camera, did some test shots for the correct exposure and sharpness, and waited for the perfect moment. When I’m in the field I usually use the viewfinder to compose the frame, but after I found the right composition, I switch to live view screen mode; this way I can constantly check the histogram in real time. A very crucial tool that I use in the field is my Hoodman Loupe, a beautiful magnifier that allows me to check the sharpness of the image from corner to corner. I love to see all the details tack sharp from front to back.
At about 8 p.m., boom! The colors of the sky exploded in an incredible pink/purple tones, the same tones of the rhododendron. Okay, I’m not so lucky every time!
The dynamic range of a mountain scene at dusk is usually very wide, and it’s a bit challenging to capture all the details of the sky and the foreground together in one single frame. At the moment I don’t use any graduated neutral density filter; I prefer to use the bracketing function. I took five different exposures (-2 1/3, -1 1/3, 0, +1 1/3, +2 1/3) and merge them together with Lightroom CC. After that, I proceeded within Photoshop CC for cleaning some spots, adjusting the contrast (Color Efex Pro 4), color correction and sharpening. After taking this photo, I continued for about one hour, moving from composition to composition. I put some of those shots on my blog.
Equipment & Settings: Canon 6D, Canon 16-35mm ƒ/4 L IS USM wide angle zoom lens @ 21mm, ISO 100, ƒ/16 (bracketing 5 exposures: 25 sec. – 10 sec. – 4 sec. – 1.6 sec. – 0.6 sec.), Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod, Manfrotto MH057M0-Q6 tripod head.