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The variety of compositions possible at the White Pocket area in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument seems almost endless. Scouting out compositions that lead the viewer through the image had been my goal since the first time I visited White Pocket.
I suspect I had walked over this particular area many times not realizing the potential it had for an interesting image. Fortunately, while walking across this area one morning, I noticed how the low light at sunrise created the illusion of a long scaly reptile's tail. To be prepared to shoot this scene early the next morning, I set up my camera to determine the best angle and height to accentuate this long rock formation. Being completely prepared for next days’ sunrise would allow me the luxury of just waiting until the light was optimal. To accentuate the linear rock formation further, I positioned my camera very low and used a 20mm lens. To ensure sharpness throughout the image I focus stacked three images. I also used a slower shutter speed which tends to accentuate red rocks.
When my primary focus of an image is on rock formations with limited sky in the composition, I prefer the skies to be mostly clear and bright. However, in bright conditions the window of optimal light is only a few minutes. If one shoots too early the light will be flat and if too late, the scene becomes too contrasty.
Fortunately, the weather was ideal and being prepared to shoot the scene helped maximize my time getting the correct exposure. It was refreshing to have all the planning come together to create this image I call, Serpent’s Tail.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor