As the weather begins to cool and the autumn season quickly approaches, I begin to prepare for my annual trip to Zion National Park for 2017. In counting down the days I will be posting a 3 part series over the next few weeks. In each post I will share a few of my experiences and photographs from last year’s visit to Zion in 2016.
Autumn maple leaves shelter the base of an old pine tree infused with reflected light.
While scouting a few early morning locations I came across this intimate autumn scene that appeared to have all the right elements. In many parts of Zion the scenery can appear very busy and chaotic. For a more subtle and calming representation I’ll isolate an area of greater interest composing only the strongest elements that balance well together. While in person a scene may appear inviting, that does not always mean it will translate well through photography.
After viewing the potential of this area from many different angles and perspectives, I then setup my equipment and began to work on my final composition. As the morning sunlight crept down the hillside behind me, it reflected more and more light as it grew near. With my composition in place, I began waiting until the reflected light was at its peak unveiling a warm subtle glow.
Some unexpected visitors
While normally it is the wind or a small breeze that causes issues with moving leaves, on this occasion it was a group of hover-flies that kept landing on the delicate leaves causing them to bounce up and down. This is not good for long exposures as it will record movement in the leaves making them appear blurry in the final shot.
While it may seem like an easy task to simply shoo the flies away, that did not work. The moment they flew away, they would come right back like a paddle ball to the exact same spot. They were a bit large and looked like a mix between a bee, a housefly and a dragonfly. I needed a way to temporarily expel these loiterers before direct sun light overtook the scene and ruined the shot.
Using the dark slide from my film holder, I waved it back and forth several times in large sweeping motions about 2 feet above the flies to scare them off. At the same time I had to be careful as to not disturb the leaves myself. I would then step back over to my camera, wait a few seconds for the leaves to settle and then trigger the shutter release. Using this method between each shot it seemed to keep the flies away just long enough to complete each exposure.
After exposing a few sheets of film on both Velvia 50 and Extar 100, I explored the surrounding area before packing up my gear and continuing on my hike.
Conclusion and final thoughts
The developed image revealed no leaf moment and not a single one of my bee-fly hover friends was in the shot. The full resolution shows incredible detail throughout and represents the scene nicely. Although I am now very pleased with this image, that was not the case when I first reviewed it. It took a while before it really began to grow on me in passing the test of time and becoming part of my official gallery and portfolio work.
Sign up to the newsletter at the bottom of the home page for updates on new work and featured blogs posts.
The Artwork and Photography of Mike Fink.