I didn’t have much time for planning out the next day. It was 10:00 at night and I was leaving bright and early the next morning for a week of vacation and scouting for future CAPTURE California workshops! Where should I stop tomorrow?
I knew what route I would be driving so I Googled for photographic sunset locations in the Lone Pine/Bishop area. A place called Alabama Hills stood out to me. Had I heard of that place before? Let me think, where had I heard that name? Oh, yeah! I think it was an article I read years and years ago in an Outdoor Photographer magazine. Or maybe it was some photographers blog I was following way back when. At any rate, it was far enough back that pretty much all I can remember was thinking that I wished I could be there, but had to dismiss the thought because of how unrealistic it was that I could actually be there.
But now, here it was, literally a five minute drive from where I was going to be traveling the next day. Only God could have planned that! I wrote down the directions (though I didn’t need to, because all I had to remember was to turn left at the only stop light in Lone Pine) and went to bed praising the Lord that he was going to allow me to see a very special and unusual part of His infinitely creative creation!
Randomly positioned boulders were very common in the Alabama Hills. To get the dark blue sky I kept my shoulder toward the sun and used a circular polarizer. To get the warm color in the rocks, I simply planned my picture-taking time to be in the late afternoon.
Color in the Desert
Though it was late September, it was not necessarily the fall season that caused the plants to look so colorful. It was the fact that they were back-lit. Back lighting is the most difficult lighting to shoot, but I was able to use it effectively by breaking the strength of the sun by positioning it behind the tree branches. A very narrow aperture accomplished the pleasing star burst effect.
This is one of my favorite shots! It’s back lighting again only without the sun in the composition. Exposing on the shadow side of the rocks caused the background hillside to look overexposed producing a fantastic or mystifying emotion.
The most difficult thing about shooting in abstract locations like this is to remove distractions and keep things simple. There are a million things screaming for attention. Even this odd rock formation required a lot time to find a position that would keep it from blending into the background.
This shot works because of a compositional concept called One-point Perspective. We’ll learn more about these sort of things at the CAPTURE Kansas workshop next week. It never ceases to amaze me how things can grow in places as desolate and arid as the Alabama Hills. It’s yet another manifestation of God’s great ingenuity! He can make anything happen. “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3
That’s my little rental car with Mount Whitney in the background, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. It stands as a backdrop for the entire Alabama Hills area.