Stars of Coldest Night

It made at the Snoqualmie Pass summit around midnight in mid January. The mountains were alive from the moon, which is out of frame on the right, and the lights from an active ski slope directly behind the giant snow pile on which I perched with my tripod. I’ve been studying Ansel Adams work lately, experimenting with black and white, and becoming ever fonder of what it can produce. I have not focused a lot of B&W in the past, but I’m finding it can be very compelling. When color is taken away, many distractions go with it. The monochromatic world becomes one of lines, shapes and textures that the eye can dance across like a princess in a ballroom. I also made a variation of this scene in color. Both were beautiful and it was a hard choice but in the end I really felt monotone made this something special.

I spent hours doing subtle tweaks to this. It was actually a panorama of the scene, but I ended up cropping the ends. It might of been easier had I started with a single frame, but my original vision was a panoramic multi bracket night HDR. That turned out to be the wrong approach. The extra width was distracting and in this case a multi-image HDR made the scene feel washed out and over processed. I decided to work the dynamic range from a single file.

The general monochrome tone was fairly simple, mainly done in LR. To refine it I did a lot of cropping and cleanup and much careful burning and dodging. I’ve long been a proponent of well used burn and dodge to control the direction of a scene and as a recent fan of Ansel, I notice that he was as well. I have no doubt that is Ansel was alive today who would love digital.

I originally did this in pure B&W. Then shortly before making the first print, a limited edition 65″ canvas, I went to this slight color tone. I confess I agonized over it and spent a bit time tweaking the subtleties of it. I liked the feel of pure B&W, but pure is much harder to get printed this large (not that that’s a good reason) and my brown sepia added a bit of depth. Everyone seemed to like it, so I went forward. I may make a true B&W at a later time, but am undecided as I don’t want to add confusion to my signature prints. Either way, it made a beautiful print. A variation of the color tone has even been added to my LR packages because I liked it so well.

This image went to national competition in 2010. It not not score exceptionally high. I like it no less however. At competition images are viewed at only sixteen inches wide. This needs to be seen large to be truly appreciated. It think it’s a compelling portrait of these mountains with many subtitles (such as the cloud that looks rather like a howling wolf) and the spotted details on the trees. I don’t know how popular this print will be, but to me it will always represent a turning point in the planning and refinement of my monochrome images. Who care what a panel of judges think. This one is mine… Gav

This entry was posted in f164, Fine Art and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stars of Coldest Night

  1. robin says:

    this is absolutely beautiful.

  2. Connie says:

    what a great shot alone, and excellent processing! love it!

  3. Cathy says:

    I think the print should have been awarded something!
    The clouds are captivating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *