“Death Valley Racetrack” – Death Valley, California – Paul Rojas – Featured Photographer
I was just talking the other day to someone about how we will spend thousands of dollars to travel the world to take photographs, but we seldom take advantage of the magical places within a few hours’ drive from home. Well, I am guilty of never having been to Death Valley although I have lived in Southern California for almost 20 years. Fortunately, Paul was there recently and took some spectacular photos including the one featured today. The tones are incredible. Read his story below about how things didn’t go as planned yet he got great photos anyway. Then check out the rest of his portfolios.
Here is Paul with a detailed account :
This was from a trip to the Racetrack in Death Valley, CA a couple of weeks ago to photograph the sailing stones. Nobody really knows how it is that the stones move, but theories suggest that a rare combination of rain and extremely strong wind could provide the conditions needed to push them along the playa surface.
It was my very first time getting to the Racetrack, so I got there early in the afternoon to allow enough time to scout for compositions. Using a handheld GPS device, I also marked the coordinates of all the stones I found interesting for possible nighttime visits. After doing so, I just hung around, took goofy shots with my girlfriend, and waited for the right light. Judging by the clouds overhead, I was optimistic that there would be good light and colorful skies. But just as the sun began to drop below the mountain range, dark rain clouds started rolling in, casting a shadow over the playa. Though not what I was expecting, I found the gloom somewhat interesting and I liked how it added to the overall desolation of the place.
For the shot, the camera was tripod-mounted and positioned probably no more than a couple of feet away from the stone. With my past landscape shots, I took single RAW shots and used hyperfocal distance to set the focus. Being so close to the ground and foreground subject though, I was certain to get a soft foreground using this, so I decided to try something different. In the days prior to the trip, I had been reading up on a technique called “focus blending” and it seemed to be the best way to go about capturing the scene.
To do this, I focused my camera on the foreground stone and took a shot, quickly refocused on the midground and took another shot, then refocused on the background mountain and took a final shot. When I got home, I manually blended the in-focus portions of each of the three shots together in Photoshop to create a single image. This article by John Williams provides an excellent guide to the technique and post-processing: http://www.naturephotographers.net/articles0210/jw0210-1.html.
Camera/lens: Canon 5D MKII with EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 22mm
Camera was set to Manual and 3 shots taken at the following settings:
Shutter speed: 1/25 sec
No filters my personal favorite.
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