Bend, Oregon, USA by Steve Giardini

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Picture Story

Spring had arrived at lower elevations but the Central Oregon Cascade Mountain Range was still blanketed in snow. I love this time of the year! Travel to the high country is easier, storms are more frequent, and sunrise is at a reasonable time.

When I arrived at Dutchman Flat Snow Park there wasn’t a single car in the parking area. I strapped on the snow shoes and headlamp. I trekked out to the middle of Dutchman Flat. I was surrounded by mountains. I waited.

As the sun rose dramatic clouds moved in over Broken Top Mountain. The crater rim caught the first rays of the rising sun. As the wind picked up the upper layer of clouds sped across the sky.

I experimented with a bunch of different lens focal lengths before deciding on the 70-200mm. I wanted to compress the foreground and make the clouds as important an element as the mountain itself. The foreground trees were a perfect height. They added perspective without obscuring the dramatic crater snow bowl. Ground fog creeped across the open snow flat creating streaks of highlights in front of the mostly dark trees.

I considered a long exposure allowing the clouds to smear through the frame but opted for a more standard exposure time. At 130 mm I was able to isolate this single mountain top yet included a good portion of the sky. I positioned the horizon low to exclude the large foreground snow field. I made sure to include the little tree (frame right) for scale and perspective.

I worked quickly but methodically. I knew the foggy atmospheric conditions wouldn’t last long and this was an important image element. The blackness of the rock pinnacles along the top of the crater rim and dark trees beyond the front row contrasted nicely with the sky and mountain snow.

My goal during the editing process was to create a feeling of ruggedness. I wanted the viewer to experience that cold moment in time. I was careful to maintain detail in the snow highlights, a full grayscale tonal range, and enough contrast to guarantee maximum image depth. A monochromatic experience without the darkroom chemical smell!

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