|Popular Science Magazine - November 2012 (pages 12-13)|
I have recently received a great achievement, winning the Grand Prize in the Transitions® Adaptive Lenses, Through Your Eyes Photo Contest, hosted by Popular Science Magazine. As a result the image has been published, in the November 2012 issue of Popular Science Magazine, as a 2-page spread. It's hard to describe the feeling you get seeing your work published for the first time, least of all in a magazine that gets 1.2 million subscriptions. The photo is of sunrise at Mesa Arch, in Canyonlands National Park.
I thought that perhaps I would describe the specifics leading up to getting this shot. I was fortunate to spend a few days in the Moab area as an excursion on the side of a business trip. I researched a lot about the area before heading on the trip; looking at photographs, topography on Google Earth, checking out multiple books from the library, etc. I wanted to use this opportunity to experiment and push the limits of my photography skills. My itinerary revolved around sunrises, sunsets, the Milky Way and I obsessively planned every minute of my day, based on lighting conditions.
My first day I spent mainly in Arches National Park, north of Moab. At this point, I had driven into Utah in the dark and had not yet seen a single feature of the land. I drove into Arches, way before sunrise, taking a gamble that I could get a blue hour silhouette of the iconic Balanced Rock. A gamble that I am more than happy to have made.
|Blue Hour at Balanced Rock|
After finishing my shots at Balanced Rock, the area was finally starting to light up and I looked around at the alien landscape that I had somehow drove through. It was like no place I had ever seen before. Pictures cannot describe the beauty that lay before me. I was headed now to the Courthouse Rocks to catch the first sunlight glowing upon them. Watching the orange sunlight pour down onto The Organ and the Three Gossips was a religious experience. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I had driven past these monoliths, in the dark.
|Sunrise at Courthouse Rocks|
After being satisfied with the sunrise shot that I wanted, I ventured around the park and also went and explored some ancient rock art and other features of the area but the end of the day was reserved for one of the most famous features in Utah, Delicate Arch. I hiked up to Delicate Arch in time for sunset, but I was really there to try my very first shot of the Milky Way. Being in a place with some of the most impressive scenery is a really good motivator to try and experiment. Obviously you want to take the iconic shot first, but once you grab that, it's playtime! After extensive research and some tips from Milky Way shooters, I gave it my all at Delicate Arch.
|Milky Way and Delicate Arch|
After being elated at the shot of the Milky Way that I had gotten, it was still an hour hike back down to the parking lot and almost an hour drive back to the hotel, in the dark. This is where chance first affected my photos of Mesa Arch. I had run myself ragged that first day, waking up at 4 a.m, hiking and driving to multiple locations and not getting back to sleep until after 1 a.m. I had decided instead of going to Mesa Arch, the next morning, I would put it off until the third morning. I instead traveled to Dead Horse Point State Park for sunrise. Dead Horse Point is a gorgeous view of a bend in the Colorado River, with layers upon layers of rock in the canyon lying before you. The sun hits each of these layers differently creating a very dramatic sunrise image. The only problem was there were no defined clouds. Clouds are very important for landscape images and can really add to the impact of the final shot. Had I stuck to the original plan and gone to Mesa Arch, I wouldn't have ended up with the nice feathery wisps of clouds that were present the next day. But in the end I still really liked how the Dead Horse Point shot came out, with or without clouds.
|Morning at Dead Horse Point|
One other very fortunate thing to happen to me, at Dead Horse Point, was meeting Christian James of prophotospots.com. When I first got to Dead Horse Point, I saw a photographer on the farthest point out over the canyon, waiting there for the sunrise. He had another camera, pointed at him, taking photos every minute to document the shoot. We got to talking and I told him that I was planning on going to False Kiva, a Class II archeological site, that evening for sunset shots and hopefully the Milky Way. He said that he himself had been to False Kiva many times, and was interested in doing Milky Way shots there. He told me he would show me the way to False Kiva and accompany me there for the evening. That was very good news for me, especially since I only theoretically knew the way to False Kiva as it is a protected site and does not show up on any map. So that afternoon we made the hike to False Kiva and got awesome shots at sunset, but it was seeing and photographing the Milky Way from False Kiva that I will never forget. Christian and I worked together to light the alcove of False Kiva and use the appropriate camera settings for capturing the Milky Way. It's still my favorite photo to date.
|False Kiva and the Milky Way|
As with the first day, I had again had a very grueling, long day of photographing and didn't get back to the hotel until almost 2 a.m. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to make another sunrise, the next morning, but fighting a minor case of altitude sickness and not being able to sleep because of anticipation, I decided that I would sleep when I'm dead and headed to Mesa Arch for sunrise.
I had a late start so I was traveling pretty fast, through Canyonlands to make sure I got there in time, almost hitting several cows in the open range along the way. I made it, but to my disappointment there was already a crowd of people. The spot that I had originally wanted to take the photo of the arch from was occupied by a 4-headed hydra of photographers, with tripods, all clumped together. I pulled out my Mr. Sun app on my iPhone and calculated exactly where the sun was going to come up. This perspective didn't allow much of a view of the canyon itself, through the arch, but it would give me a great spot for getting a nice sunburst. I set my camera's aperture for f/22.0 to give me the maximum depth of field but also allow for a very nice sunburst. I bracketed my shots in 3 stops, -1EV/0EV/+1EV as I figured I would need to blend the exposures to have a properly lit sky and foreground in the final image.
It seemed like an eternity waiting for the sun to finally rise and reach the top crook of the arch to create the sun burst. I wish I could live in those few minutes forever though as it was just glorious. Everything I wanted for a good photo was there; amazing wispy bands of cloud formations, a stunning and iconic foreground and the most perfect sunrise. After getting the shot that I wanted, I had quite high expectations seeing the preview in the camera, but it wasn't until I reviewed the photo later, in Lightroom, that I really knew what I had gotten. To follow up such an amazing experience at False Kiva with the Milky Way with another first for me, a true sunburst shot made the entire trip, and the strain I put on myself those first couple days, totally worth it.
|Sunrise at Mesa Arch|
I took it a bit easier after this shot. I had put a lot of miles on both myself and driving in such a short amount of time and I had already gotten what I felt were some great takeaways from the trip. There were still a lot of great shots to come in the next couple days, but at a much more relaxed pace than the first couple days.
|Morning in Castle Valley|
|Mustangs at the Watering Hole|
|Morning at Garden of the Gods|
I love to travel. I love to show others photos of beautiful locations, through my eyes. Don't ever be afraid to promote your work, if it is something you are proud of. Had I not entered this photo in the contest, I would have never received the recognition that I have from this. Don't ever give up on your dreams. If you want to be a successful photographer, you need only to continue to improve your skills and work to get your name out there. It has always been my dream to be published and I will always work as hard as I can to deliver captivating photos that will be seen by others.
You can view all of my best photos from this particular trip here: