This photograph was taken by the side of the highway near Mono Lake in California. It was one of those photographs that was nearly impossible to plan or predict. While I prefer a rather deliberate and slow process, patiently working on a composition with my large format camera, sometimes nature finds its own way to surprise even the most legible photographer.
As my good friend and mentor Rodney Lough Jr once said: “There are two most important rules in landscape photography: explore and explore!” We too often, in the urge of creating stunning dramatic images, are drawn to iconic places and famous landmarks, where hundreds of other photographers stood in the past, just to recreate that magical moment. But in the process, while looking at the grand scenes and chasing grand magical weather moments, we lose the sight of more subtle, more intimate scenes that surround us all the time. Sometimes, it just takes a look around the corner even in the most iconic and photographed location to find something new and interesting, something that no one has seen before the way you did, something that speaks to you. There are always almost endless opportunities for great photographs, one must just look around and explore.
This time, we were driving over the snowy mountain pass in Sierras, cutting through a snow blizzard. My camera was packed away in the trunk and I was fully immersed into driving in harsh weather conditions, trying to control the car on the snow. About a mile away I spotted these trees nicely lined up on the snowy hillside. It was still early morning and the light was rather warm, nicely reflecting on the yellow tree branches. The entire scene looked very promising and I immediately realized the great potential for the image. We parked alongside the highway and while I was setting up my camera, the cloud came in and blocked the light, making this scene even more subtle than it was before. A few moments later it started to snow.
Working with a large format camera in such conditions was quite a bit of fun. I used a rather average aperture to get more depth from the scene and ended up with ½ second of exposure, which was enough to hold the trails from the falling snow. I made a couple of extra exposures just to ensure that the trees didn’t move, as shortly after oncoming wind made the work nearly impossible to continue.
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