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  • Charlie Janson

Waiting for the light...

Capturing a compelling landscape on 'film' requires much more than finding a beautiful place to set up. I was happy to stumble into this pretty scene in Zion National Park, but it took some real work to bring its beauty to you, who was not there.

First, the composition had to provide an 'entry' - in this case literal stepping stones in the river - to allow you to move into the center of the landscape. If the camera position was too high, the stones were too distant; if too low, they became stumbling blocks. It took some trail-and-error to get it right. Second, I had to slow down the shutter to several seconds to achieve the silky softness of the moving water, which helps to make the foreground quiet and not distracting. However, actually getting that slow a shutter speed on an almost-sunny day needs some special filters, which I had fortunately remembered to bring. Third, it was important to frame the main subject (Bridge Mountain, viewed from the side) to emphasize its importance, and then I had to wait for the emerging sun to light it up. That happened quickly enough as the sky was clearing from earlier cloud cover, but now the awesome fall foliage was backlit and dull against the sunny mountain. So, I waited.... Finally, the retreating clouds allowed partly filtered sun to light up the rich yellow cottonwood leaves and made the colors glow. I knew that this was THE moment. In another few seconds, with full sun on it, the cottonwood would become too bright and distract from the main subject. If I had not had everything else ready, I would have missed this perfect balance of light. I am lucky it happened at all - nature does not always cooperate. It was magical to see, and wonderful to record. I hope that you too can feel a bit of the magic of that moment!

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