Chasing a Sunset

I’ve been to Palouse many times but still have not found a good place to photograph at sunrise or sunset except the Steptoe Butte. The last trip was not exception. One day we scouted pretty large area trying to find a good composition and end-up with missing sunset. There was a great sky but we could not find a great composition. I ended up taking pretty simple photographs like this:

Sunset in Palouse Sunset in Palouse

Other days I was experimenting with new angles from Steptoe Butte, trying to include some strong foreground into a picture:

_MG_3678 Sunset with a Rock

Look into a field

Palouse is very popular place among photographers. There are a lot of photographs of fields and rolling hills. What I like is also is how the fields look inside – all the vertical lines, some slightly tilted to different angles. And that’s what I like about this photograph. It has rolling hills and fields but it also has a slice of the field and gives a peek inside the field.

_MG_2266 Field Inside

Photographing Light

What this photograph is about? It is about light. Sometimes the light is so visible and interesting that this is all what we see and photograph.

Sunlight Breaking thru the Clouds Sunlight Breaking thru the Clouds

Low contrast

I’m always drawn to photographs with low contrast. They don’t immediately “pop” into your eyes. They slowly draw you in and ask to explore. This one from the last trip to Palouse drew me in:

Anticipation of StormAnticipation of Storm

It did not pop, I skipped it at first, but then I stepped back because there was something in it. As I looked at it more I got a feeling of storm anticipation. A huge storm cloud was coming on, while viewer cannot see the cloud, he can see a shadow of it moving in. You almost sense heavy humidity that condenses right before the storm.

If a photograph communicates feelings in my mind it is a good photograph. I tried to make it pop by increasing contrast, vibrancy, saturation and it was ruining that feeling. The image was too static and too obvious.

Dust Storm

The first day of the trip I’ve experienced a dust storm for the first time. I’ve never been in a dust storm before. At some point of the driving to Palouse I had to stop completely because there was no visibility at all. Then I started moving slowly ahead hoping there is nobody ahead and nobody will smash into me from behind.

When there was visibility it looked like this:

Dust Storm in Cenral Washington

While visually dust storm was as interesting a fog, it was practically impossible to photograph. Strong wind was knocking off my camera on a tripod. I was trying to shoot handheld but I could not stand still because of the wind. Dust was getting everywhere – into my ears, nose, eyes and, worse of all, into my gear. I had to give up.

Photo Archive

It is nice to have a photo archive. Mine just crossed 100,000 photos mark. Do I visit my archive often? No. It is practically impossible to find a photograph of a particular subject or even a place there. But I still keep all the originals – raw or jpeg files. As technology develops I might want to revisit some of the photographs that I’ve picked long time ago.

Just today I recalled that there is a photo posted on my website and mentioned in one of my blog post – – that had strong vignette. I remember I spent lots of time trying to correct it as much as possible. Now we finally have ability to automatically correct vignette in Photoshop for some specific lenses. In no time I was able to re-develop the image and get much better result. The change might look subtle for some, for me the difference is big – it opened up the image:

Pink World

While there – I mean while being in photo archive to pull original raw file for this photograph – I’ve discovered a couple of other photographs which I found interesting. Both are taken at the same place and same sunset.

Last light on a puffy cloud

For I don’t know which time I learn over and over not to give up on a sunset too soon. It is not over until it is dark.

We were photographing Half Dome in Yosemite Valley at sunset. The Dome was partially covered with cloud. Golden rays of a low Sun were breaking thru the clouds. That’s when I got this nice moody photograph of the Dome:

Half Dome painted with golden Sun rays

And after that the light completely disappeared. We packed our cameras and tripods and went to nearby small village to do some shopping before leaving to our camp for the night.

Just as were leaving the village I saw top of Half Dome lit up with this gorgeous purple light. The setting Sun has found its way thru the clouds for the last time for the day. We sharply turned around and parked. As quickly as I could I unpacked camera, set it up on tripod and managed to catch last purple light on a puffy cloud hanging at the top of Half Dome:

Purple cloud at the top of Half Dome

Quality vs. Quantity

Why are we chasing after making more and more photographs?

A famous Russian artist – Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov – spent 20 years on one painting which turned to be his whole artistic life. The painting is absolutely breathtaking.

We, photographers, on the other hand seem to want to produce more photographs per minute than ever. I’m not sure if industry is encouraging us or industry just meets our demand by producing faster shot per second cameras, faster cards, software to go thru photo-editing faster.

Do we produce something great or just visual noise? Is it time to slow down and think about what we trying to get to by doing this? I used to be inspired by single photographs of the past and I still am. Nowadays I’m subscribed to all kinds of digital photography feeds but for the most part all I get is one stream of noise. It seems that photography has become more about inventing something new rather than about creating something beautiful. Now single photograph is not enough, today it is all about folios. Is a folio just a way to unload more photographs into the market?

I wonder what would be an equivalent of spending twenty years on a single painting in photography? How would one work on one photograph their whole life? And what that photograph would be? Maybe a folio is an equivalent of that painting? And it is all about polishing that set of photographs: substituting some of them with other, reshooting some of them, redoing post-processing, etc. That seems to make sense, just don’t make me look at a folio of a thousand photographs.

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