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Author Topic: Evolution Traverse, High Sierra  (Read 1344 times)
PDobson
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« on: September 06, 2012, 11:58:06 PM »
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I'm new here, and I am hoping to get some help with a couple of photos from this summer. It feels like something is lacking, but I can't quite figure out what to do.

These photos were taken during our ascent of the Evolution Traverse in the High Sierra. This traverse covers eight miles of technical climbing and fifteen-thousand feet of total elevation gain by connecting nine 13,000' peaks (all named after prominent evolutionists). Weight was extremely limited, so I was designated the camera-carrier)

Photographing this trip was difficult for me. The high-altitude light made for harsh shadows, and the skies were generally clear (a godsend!). Adding to that, there was also exhaustion, lack of mobility, and the constant need to keep moving (the route itself took three days). Nevertheless, these photos are important to me, and I want to make them the best I can. Hopefully I can present prints to my partners as gifts.

The problem I see with these images is a lack of differentiation between various elements. The "triangle" that dominates the frame is backlit and darker than the background objects. I like the look of grayscale, but the textures really blend together. Any advice on how to improve this would be much appreciated.

Phillip Dobson
Butte, MT
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 12:44:44 AM »
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Try different crops and see whether compositions are improved.
Also, try changing the white balance, possibly to a higher colour temperature, since these images are a bit blue.

I don't know whether this will ultimately help but give it a go.

Regards

Tony Jay
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2012, 03:38:38 AM »
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They both look like fine mountain shots to me. From a UK perspective, the lack of mist, low cloud, rain, more cloud, sleet etc, simply adds to the wonder of the scenery. I feel like digging out my harness & getting stuck in to a fine looking ridge.
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sdwilsonsct
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2012, 05:32:36 AM »
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The problem I see with these images is a lack of differentiation between various elements.

One approach might be selective dodging, burning and curve application.
On the other hand, it is difficult to do many things well, and these pictures suggest that much of your attention was (rightly!) allocated to climbing. A couple of good recent mountain pictures here were made early in the morning when the climber (shaunw) could devote himself to photography, and the light was less harsh.
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Chris Calohan
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2012, 08:19:40 AM »
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As you noted, because of the higher altitude and lack of atmospheric defraction, the colors and contrast are quite stark and thus hard to mask down to a less contrasty state.

I used some GND effects in ACR to bump the sky and deadn the foreground contrast and in Photoshop used some curves and levels adjustments, reset the black point and used some selective dodging and burning to "soften" the overall look. Working 3with only the jpg file, it's always a guessing game.

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PDobson
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2012, 10:05:08 AM »
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Thanks. I have some ideas to play with now.

Bill, the weather in the High Sierra is just incredible. We had just escaped the snow/rain/fog of the North Cascades and California lived up to its reputation. It was hot in the valleys, but up high it was perfect. The only precip we had were a few snowflakes at our bivy on the summit of Darwin.

I tried changing the crop to something with less empty space. I also applied selective curves using the technique detailed in DeWolfe's Master Print article. I'm much happier with this result.

I am getting used to compromised photography conditions. The most interesting landscapes I visit are difficult to get to. My attention is usually on moving safely. My camera is also starting to break from all of the abuse, so that means no autofocus and unresponsive controls. All of this makes for a lot of emergency surgery in Lightroom. One of my favorite images from this summer (attached) was the victim of severe overexposure. I was navigating the summit ridge of Skyladder (Mount Andromeda, AB), when I snapped a few quick shots of this massive serac. Later, when I checked the preview, all I saw was white. Lightroom's excellent recovery tool allowed me to salvage most of it.

Phillip
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2012, 10:58:49 AM »
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They both look like fine mountain shots to me...

Agreed.

However, if one wants to play with it, this would be one possible outcome (the emphasis is on subtle changes):


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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2012, 03:56:20 PM »
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Of the variants suggested so far, I prefer Slobodan's. He has lightened the climber so he isn't lost in the image, and his sky is much more believable. I would suggest trying a similar treatment to the other shot, where the climber can be missed if one isn't looking cosely.

That is a beautiful area. I was there several years ago on a Sierra Club trip (in the valleys, not the summits.) One evening a trip member who was a Creationist gave an impassioned defense of his viewpoint at  the evening campfire in Evolution Valley. Mount Darwin looked on but did not tremble.
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2012, 04:14:02 PM »
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... a trip member who was a Creationist gave an impassioned defense of his viewpoint ...

Did you count the canards in his argument?
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2012, 10:41:27 PM »
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Did you count the canards in his argument?
One of the attributes that seems to be attributed to God by all those who believe in such a being, as far as I can tell, is Omnipotence, i.e., the ability to do anything whatever. And most religions having a central God (or equivalent) seem to claim that it is impossible to know the mind of God. Thus it seems to me to be blasphemy to assert that God could not or did not create a world that after creation could develop purely on the basis of Evolution.

I said as much, but didn't go into details, such as carbon dating, etc. It was an interesting encounter, and he was a quite charming and friendly individual.
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shaunw
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2012, 03:26:02 AM »
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A basic problem of mountain photography particularly those images that include a climber is harsh unforgiving light...the climbers due to safety often get to the meat of the route when the conditions for it are optimal those conditions are often not optimal for photography and that what I see here. Harsh light has left the image looking flat unfortunately. I was going to say try converting them but I see you've already done so.....the monos work a lot better for me.

I've been in the French alps recently...the climbing is all over by midday again re safety so said climbers can get back across crevasse snow bridges before the sun melts them, if your  a climber forgive the sucking eggs...if your a photographer heading out with climbers....have a long long chat timings stops, a lot of the time I've found myself having to climb/hike right best fantastic scenes because safety and climbers timing was paramount and dictated no stopping.

The holy grail is to find a climber/photographer to head out with...not easy.
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PDobson
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« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2012, 12:43:05 PM »
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Thanks again everyone. I think I'm getting these where I want them now.

Eric, I didn't notice the beauty of Evolution Valley at first. From above, everything looks like a dead wasteland. I was only able to appreciate it after we had descended and were hiking back home. Up close, the colors stand out and provide counterpoint to the mountains above. If I hadn't been so exhausted and hungry, I would have enjoyed it even more.

Shaun; my first love is definitely for climbing. Photography, for me, is often a way to record and share my climbing experiences. The challenge of photographing in such a  hostile environment is appealing to me. The only more challenging photography environment I've experienced is deep inside technical caves.

I've spent the last few years trying to figure out how to photograph remote and committing climbs.  The problem is that the climbs are difficult and dangerous on their own. Adding weight and complexity isn't really the best idea (on the Evo, the weight of camera and lens cost us a day's worth of food). The photographer should be as strong or stronger than his teammate(s), as he carries the added burden of carrying and using the camera. Then there's the limited mobility and fixed schedule that you have to work around...

... someone needs to write a how-to guide.

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2012, 12:46:24 PM »
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... someone needs to write a how-to guide.

Galen Rowell?
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Slobodan

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PDobson
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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2012, 01:03:00 PM »
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Did he write one? His work is exactly what I'm looking for. He actually photographed Peter Croft on his incredible first ascent (in a day!) of the Evolution Traverse in '99.
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