One of the first things any photography student learns is the important of having a broad tonal range in a photograph. A photograph that is either too "bright" or too "dark" is, theoretically speaking, not aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, in photography, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes having a vastly underexposed image can hide certain details not essential to the main thought in a photograph, or add an air of mystery to an otherwise ordinary scene. Most important of all, composing a shot with the intention of underexposing the final image creates a photo that's out of the ordinary. In the photograph above, taken inside the run-down once-popular Saltair resort in Utah, the main visual element in the composition is the highlights across the handrailing. The staircase itself is merely an afterthought, and thus does not need to be emphasized to such a degree.
Another important reason to underexpose an image is to capture interesting or visually stunning light. The art of photography itself is the capturing of light, and a good photographer holds the ability to recognize worthwhile light in a scene. The photograph above was taken on the freeway near Pleasant Grove, Utah. For most, the dance between the mountains and the clouds wouldn't seem special in any way. But at the time, I recognized that underlying layer of light that, in its present form, was simply too bright to allow for its subtle intricacies to make themselves known. Lowering the exposure on the photograph and increasing the contrast reveled what I saw in the moment which, for me, is the best possible outcome one can achieve in the post-production stage.
Shooting photos in the rain is fun. Shooting photos in the rain with a camera that's not exactly waterproof? Not so much. The photograph above is one of many that was the end result of running to one of the gift shops in the Snowbird, Utah resort complex and buying a large $8 handkerchief to cover my camera with. The end result, in all its hazy and low-contrast glory, reminds me a bit of the scene from Paint Your Wagon with the song "They Call the Wind Mariah." Sure, the photo is nothing special. But it certainly does communicate a sense of the mood of the situation.
For only having roughly a half hour on top of Hidden Peak in Snowbird, Utah, I managed to capture quite a few memorable shots. I've found myself slowly acquiring the skill to work under pressure, and in this setting, I often create my best work. The weather up at the top was somewhat cloudy, granting me some great opportunities to capture the gentle dance between the clouds and the rocky peaks across the way. The only quaff in this visually-pleasing weather occurred when it started to lightly snow. While my old camera had great weather sealing, the model I downgraded to (for a variety of reasons) lacks any sealing whatsoever. Fortunately, it survived.
The photograph above is a shot that, in all honesty, shouldn't have worked. It was captured with a long zoom, facing downwards on the mountain. The framing isn't special whatsoever, and in terms of a nature photograph, the composition itself isn't what one usually sees. But where this shot shines is the lighting. Though it's often hard to capture the light that one sees in person with a simple camera, stopping down the exposure in post-processing really brought out the beauty that I witnessed in person.
In other news, I have yet to get the rolls of film I took during this trip developed. I've been trying since I got back, but the local Wal-Mart (which is the only place nearby that offers negative-only C-41 developing at a decent price) is having difficulties with their processing equipment. I've spoken to a few people in the department, and apparently they're waiting on a part to arrive. Till then, it's just a waiting game. Luckily, my Epson V500 scanner was delivered today, and the (unrelated) negatives I've scanned in so far have turned out fantastic. I highly recommend it.
This photograph is another one of my former rejects. In its original color form, this photo suffered from the awkward lighting of the moment. It was morning in the desert, and the foreground of this image was in shadow due to the mountains behind me blocking the sun. The resulting file looked more like a snapshot than what I had originally seen in my mind's eye. After converting the photo to black and white, I burned and dodged various parts of the image using Adobe Lightroom. I brought out much of what was in shadow before, and intensified the sky. Though most perceive the desert as dull and dead, an entire world of beauty awaits for those who are patient enough to find it.