“Green Vision” – Yukon Territory, Canada – Marc Adamus – Featured Photographer
Marc and his image of the Aurora Borealis have left me speechless. Read the following passage from his new e-book (Due out in May) below to experience what it is like to be on a photo excursion with a true professional. Then head to his website http://www.marcadamus.com/ for some unforgettable landscapes. Feel free to comment on which one is your favorite.
Our pilot decided to take the scenic route on the way in to the Yukon’s Tombstone Range in early winter so we could get an extreme close-up of some of the most impressive and enormous granite cliffs we had ever seen. I had convinced two other photographer friends that there wouldn’t be anywhere better on Earth to photograph the light spectacle that is the Aurora Borealis, and I haven’t wavered from that opinion one bit today. The Tombstones are totally unique. A mountain range with world-class character, located almost on the Arctic Circle itself is the best possible place to look up and admire the peaks and night skies. If only it would be clear enough to do so.
By the end of the first four nights we had our answer. The Aurora had come each time and each time we had learned more about what we were trying to do. I had long seen the Aurora photographed, but even before I did so myself I felt like something was missing from almost all the shots – something that would describe what it’s like to stand right there, in that landscape.
Night photography composition is inherently simple because photographers are restricted by very shallow depth of field that comes from the wide-open apertures that let in more light, relegating them to subject matter that is either out of focus or in the distance. Today, digitally, I am just beginning to solve this problem. This trip was about the exploration of an amazing place I had been before but it was also more pointedly about photography than any I had done in a long while. It was about the mastery of new techniques that would allow me to shine more light on both the landscape we witnessed and the dancing lights in the night sky above.
No photograph will ever capture one tenth the magic of the Aurora. It moves, dances, shape-shifts, changes color and some say, it even speaks. It flies across the sky so fast I have seen motion-blur in the Aurora in pictures taken at ½ second shutter speed! Still, photographs are my art and the landscape around us was so grand I could not resist the chance to try to fuse it all together in a single frame that told the story as well as it could. We spent days, sometimes together, sometimes apart, scouting, searching, thinking on both the artistic and technical level how to pull it off. While I value spontaneity and the creativity that often comes with it, this was a time for careful consideration of any photographic undertaking as it would simply be too easy to mess-up.
During the afternoon of the fourth day I suggested we make our way down to ‘scout’ another lakeshore and we came across the most amazing ice formations we had seen all trip! We knew immediately what a challenge it would be to combine the ice, peaks and sky but were undeterred. We returned and moved our camp right away, retracing about 5 miles of our route. After a relatively uneventful night at our new camp we had much of the next day to speculate on what would work best for photography. I had more or less zeroed-in on the location you see depicted here because of the amazing foreground and complimentary peak.
I had identified several technical challenges here I had to overcome. The closest ice was only 6 inches from my lens, the peak was too large to fit in my 14mm with its reflection included and the Aurora would change shape quickly, so everything in the sky and reflection had to be photographed very quickly when the time was right. In addition to all this, we had to stay up almost all night each night into the cold of early winter to do the photographing. I practiced how I would record and later blend the shot during the day, since no lens and no camera could capture this scene in one shot because it was both too wide and contained too much detail from near to far.
I went into the night hoping once more the Aurora would come and fill the scene I had selected and when it did, very briefly, after several hours of waiting, I captured it using 3 images stitched together vertically and 10 more images all blended to get the best depth of field throughout the foreground ice. The vertical stitches were taken all within seconds as to not allow the Aurora to move much and the other 10 for the foreground ice were taken over the next 30 minutes, each a 1.5 minute exposure at about f/8 while the Aurora was still occurring elsewhere around me. By compositing these images (which took about half a day in PS) I was able to show each area with detail and encompass the field of view I could see all around me. I consider the image here to be my most ground-breaking on a technical level as of 2012 and I like being one to embrace all the next great possibilities we will have! It’s an exciting time to be a photographer.
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