Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Poor Photographer Etiquette Leads to Serendipity

Milky Way at Balanced Rock
One of my first shots upon arriving at Balanced Rock
So there I was, 4:30 a.m. at Arches National Park, one of the greatest Candylands for a landscape photographer. I was so excited, to push my ISO to obscene levels, with my new Canon EOS 5D Mark III, for Milky Way shots. My wife and I were the only souls awake at this location, this early, so I could light paint to my heart's desire. I got all set up and focused, going back and forth on what ISO to shoot at, until I settled on ISO-10,000. I'm thinking to myself, "alright, time to experiment!"

The photo above:
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS | 28mm | 30 seconds | f/3.5 | ISO-10,000

I was going to start a series of light painted shots, some with the rocks and foreground lit up and others with the rocks as silhouettes, when no sooner did I start then a car drives up, headlights pointed at the rocks. This is of course forgivable as I could always start over again, or so I thought. This photographer gets out of his car, headlight ablaze, turning it every which way causing all sorts of light pollution. "Well, I'll wait for him to get set up," I thought. No sooner does he set up then he just starts light painting Balanced Rock with a very narrow and focused spotlight. No asking me if I was in the middle of a shoot, just starts polluting the whole scene, never turning off his headlamp and randomly shining the spotlight on the rocks. 

Mr. Etiquette
You can see "Mr. Etiquette" on the left side of this photo. And this shot's only at ISO-1250!
The photo above:
Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-s 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6 | 10mm | 30 seconds | f/3.5 | ISO-1250

I was pretty furious, he definitely knew we were there, because I was in the middle of light painting as he pulled up. He clearly showed right away that he was not interested in coordinating shots with me, not to mention he was in my shot. My wife is pretty good at keeping me calm, because I was quite hot under the collar at that point. But seriously, how is it alright to just stroll up and start light polluting a night scene? I know if I was not the first to show up, I would certainly go find out how to coordinate with the other photographer(s), it's simple etiquette and common courtesy. So with a sense of defeat, and a bit of anger, we decided to cut our losses there and move on to the next spot on the itinerary, Delicate Arch. I wanted to be at Delicate Arch for sunrise, but I had not planned on hiking up in the dark.

It was a grueling hour hike, up to Delicate Arch, and sunrise was still quite a ways away. Anyone who has done that hike, knows what I mean, especially when you're carrying loads of photography equipment. It was also getting on to Blue Hour so I wasn't sure what to expect when we got up there. What I saw, when we rounded the corner to Delicate Arch, was absolutely stunning. The twilight glow mixed with the Milky Way was beautiful, even to the naked eye. I knew that the camera would provide an even better representation. I really loved the ethereal effect of Blue Hour mixed with the Milky Way. The addition of the low atmosphere clouds was also a very welcome bonus. In the end, "Mr. Etiquette" causing me to give up on Balanced Rock, was actually a favor.

Ethereal Arch

The photo above:
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS | 28mm | 30 sec | f/3.5 | ISO-10,000

After getting the shots that I really liked, we hiked to the opposite side of Delicate Arch, across the ravine. I got another treat, just before sunrise. A fairly rare phenomenon, called a Sun Pillar, shining on the low atmosphere clouds. The photos from this morning turned out better than I could have ever hoped for.

Light Pillar Eruption
The photo above:
Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-s 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6 | 12mm | 2.5 seconds | f/22 | ISO-100

You can find these photos, and many more, on my website.

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