I drove up that morning alone. My first time at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. My wounder and my sense of adventure on fire. I wandered as the sun rose higher, looking for a way to convey what I was seeing. The vast starkness of Mammoth is deceptively complex and easier to hike than to show on a the two dimensional image. It’s steam clouds and flowing mud made me wounder what it would feel like under my bare feet. But of course I stayed on the path, wondering at it’s starkness and looking for something in the glaring light to convey it’s unique beauty.
I made this image in 2010, over two years before I finished it. It spoke loudly and I knew it was what I needed – But not being quite as experienced at then pre-visualizing a scene, I suppose had to wait for my skill in the finished image to catch up. I just kept coming back. Considering how it should best be presented.
These days I generally plan an image in fine detail before I release the shutter. Visualizing works and once mastered it changes how you see. But that another story. Check out my EXposed workshop.
In the end, this gentle platinum showing the stoic drama of this barren copse of trees, still standing proud on it’s steaming mud flow. It was what I needed. This is their story. Finally finished.
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For Photographers. How it was made…
Technical Notes: Canon MK2, 17-40 L @40mm @ f4, 1/8000, ISO320, Induro Tripod
Processing: Lightroom 4, Photoshop, Seim Effects tools.
One of the keys here was the crop. Most of our cameras today produce a non square image. We are so used to the 4:6 ratio that it’s sometimes hard for our minds to see something outside the viewfinders crop. Many times I have made images only to come back years later and chastise myself. “What was I thinking that I could not see that” – I believe at those moments that I will not make the mistake again. And yet I still seem to.
The image is clear, the rich dark of the trees contrasting with the bright steam and lighter tones from the harsh sunlight of the day. Direct sunlight is a fickle master and often images lack the power under it’s glare. But in this I feel it works here. As is does more often (but not always) on black and white.
The glaring starkness fits the scene beautifully and even adds to it. In the end I used the simple square crop and classic rich tonal values, placing the highlights of the steam up into Zone 9 and maintaining deep shadows all the way down to Zone 1 for a full 8-9 stop range of values and bold contrast.
The goal in finishing and printing an image with full range is to push highlights near to clipping and pull shadows to the edge of blackness. But not lost. Those trees look black but in the print will have the barest detail. You’ll see this a lot in silver images from the masters and it offers a rich and dynamic depth to the image.
Finally a very gentle toning from my Digital Platinum process finished this story as I wanted. I have found the beauty I saw on that late summer day. But for two years has eluded my grasp in the finished process. Now I present it to you whole and remind myself that’s taking our time is generally a good thing.