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Lost City, Mohonk Preserve

The June 2008 Print of the Month is titled “Lost City Dawn” which I made at the Mohonk Preserve in New York. I visit Mohonk and neighboring Minnewaska State Park quite frequently as it is only 30 minutes from my home and offers some fantastic opportunities for landscape and nature photography. This particular spot is a 30 minute hike from the parking area, and with sunrise approaching 5:30AM, I had an early start that day.

Although I am familiar with this area, I didn’t have a specific composition in mind, and decided to improvise with whatever conditions nature provided to work with. This is sometimes risky during sunrise, since you can find yourself searching for something interesting and not being ready for the best light. This is exactly what happened to me, and I found myself at a loss and thinking I would have to wait for a better day. But I was attracted to this particular tree and small pockets of water that held some nice reflections of the blue sky and clouds overhead. The combination of all of the elements gave me a sense of harmony, a feeling I’ve learned to trust.

The problem now was dymanic range (the range of values between light and dark areas) which by now was too great for my camera. I quickly decided to make several exposures and try and make an HDR version in post-processing. I waited for the sun to barely peak above the clouds on the horizon, and made 5 exposures separated by about 2/3 stops each. This allowed me to capture the darkest parts of the scene as well as the highlights in the sky which would never have been possible with a single exposure.

For those not familiar with HDRI, short for high dynamic range imaging, is is a process whereby multiple images taken at different exposures are combined in software to accurately represent the entire range of highlights and shadows found in a scene. Much of the hdr images being created today have a tendency to look too artificial and surreal to me, and lacking in real expressiveness. I prefer to make images that are more based in reality and use it as a tool to help me in situations where the human eye can see the entire range of a scene but the camera can not. I will be writing more on HDR imaging and the techniques and software that I use.

This image captured what I felt and saw on this rock outcropping that morning, a moment without thoughts, preoccupations, problems, or any of the other baggage we carry around in our heads on a constant basis. Just a moment of being alive with my surroundings.

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