Backlit Aspen at Hope Valley & Hawkins Peak

Backlit Aspen at Hope Valley & Hawkins Peak

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Toyabe National Forest, Alpine County
mid morning Sunday October 9, 2005, slide 05-Z-6
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature bottom left          

The day before a brief early season snow storm had blown across the Sierra dusting peaks with a thin coat of white. Skies were too cloudy and breezy to do much work. We explored this area and I noted this spot in the trees. In 2003 I had made a similar image near this spot looking out from the edge of an aspen grove to a ridge of peaks in the distance. Translucent aspen leaves photograph most vibrantly when backlit. There was a small clear space within the grove that allow me to move just far enough back from the trees to guarantee good depth of field focus, and the single row of trees were not so dense with branches so individual leaves stood out well against the background. Best of all the leaf color was at absolute peak with an rare red leaved specimen, here mid left frame. The other issue with such a shot is being able to be high enough to prevent inward bowing due to lens optics. Fortunately I was on an uphill slope and could use my view camera shift movement to keep the trunks vertical. I positioned the camera so Hawkins Peak poked through one open spot in the leaves.

So on the chilly Sunday morning, after taking a couple front lit images of the aspen grove, I moved to this spot. The sun was just above the top frame edge. Close enough that flare would be difficult unless the sun was blocked. In these situations, one positions the camera so the sun will be behind a tree trunk. So I set up my view camera while still in the sun and waited awhile for the sun to move a bit to behind the large tree mid left frame. Though breezes were not as strong as on Saturday, they were still enough that I waited about fifteen minutes.

I use relatively slow speed small grain ASA 100 film with slow shutters speeds, here 1/8 a second, thus any movement of leaves would cause an un-aesthetic blur.

In the distance at right is the symetrical pyramid of volcanic Hawkins Peak, 10024 feet 4 miles distant, and to the left two closer similar shaped peaks, the left of which is Pickett Peak. Sunlight scattering off oxygen molecules causes an increasing with distance blue haze to those peaks. Quaking aspen, populus tremuloides, are a widespread tree species throughout cooler areas of North America. In the Eastern Sierra aspen groves tend to be between 6500 and 10500 feet. Larger trees as in this grove are usually found where water is seeping near the surface. Because other evergreen trees easily dominate these trees, aspen often colonize denuded avalanche slopes free from competitors. Aspen tend to spread via root sprouting of runners. Such trees are virtual genetic clones. Leaves of adjacent clones in fall tend to all change about the same time. Trunks are covered by an aesthetic smooth white bark with light yellow-green blotches. The soft smooth white bark is coated with white powder that readily transfers to one's clothing. Encircling trunks are spaced slightly raised ribs. Where old branches have departed black knots show. In places where people frequent one will of course see large trunks decorated with old initial carvings in the soft wood.

Crop at 100% print size:


   David Senesac

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