After several attempts, this image is the final result of my recent “self-assignment” to create a new photograph for the Mohonk Preserve’s yearly benefit auction. Titled “Sunrise, Lost City, Mohonk Preserve”, my goal was to capture the dramatic feel and nature of this location, and on my last visit, I think I’ve come pretty close.
The goal for me was to find the defining features of this location, which in essence encapsulate the entire Shawangunk Ridge. But in contrast to the image I donated last year, which was more of a grand landscape, I really wanted to create a more intimate experience. Though varied in terrain and vegetation, ultimately it’s the conglomerate rock that is most dramatic here, and the cracks and fissures create exciting lines and textures that I think lead the viewer through the image. It’s also what attracts rock climbers to Mohonk and surrounding areas.
On this particular day, timing was critical, and an early morning start was needed to be there before sunrise (5:30am). However, I had to wait until the light was just hitting the rock faces in a fashion I thought would highlight them best. Too much light, and all of the cliff faces would be bathed in golden light – not a bad thing per se, but much more effective when there is tension between the light and shadows. I was also fortunate in that the sky complements the foreground well – too many clouds and the rocks loose their dominance. The sparse cirrus clouds add a nice accent to the busy features below.
With a scene like this, my primary focus was on how to create the most pleasing and harmonious path for the eye, from foreground to middle ground – the main statement in this image– and then the background and sky which completes the composition and returns the viewer to the foreground. I always look for strong diagonals as well, and I’ve used them here to bring strength to the morning light.
As always, I hope this article helps photographers and photography lovers alike understand and appreciate the planning and effort I put into making an image I’m proud of. Thanks for reading…it was a learning experience and fun!