Temple of the Virgin Sunrise Panorama

Temple of the Virgin Sunrise Panorama

The Details:

Camera: Canham 5x7 metal Field with 6x17cm Roll Film Panoramic Back
Lens: Rodenstock 150mm
Film: Fuji Provia 100F Transparency Film
Filter: None
Light Meter: Sekonic L558R (digital spot meter)
Tripod: Gitzo 1325 Carbon Fiber
Tripod Head: Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head
Aperture: F32
Exposure: 6 second

How I Took This Shot 7

I find Zion National Park an amazing photo location for intimate landscapes. The details are unique and impressive. Sandstone, fall foliage, running water, reflected light. That is what draws me to visit this unique southwestern park. However, there are a couple of iconic locations that many photographers are drawn to. The Towers of the Virgin, which is an easy to reach drive up location is one of them.

During my recent visit to Southern Utah, I decided to take part in the sunrise ritual of photographing this icon. Given the lack of clouds in the forecast, and propensity toward unmanageable contrast found in canyon areas, I chose to arrive well before sunrise in hopes of capturing the pre-dawn glow of atmospheric light. I was not disappointed.

As the sun approached the horizon, its rays reflected off of the atmosphere, painting both the sky and sandstone cliffs in a palette of light rarely seen by non-photographers. As I enjoyed the light show, appreciating the opportunity to experience nature's finest light, I exposed a couple of frames of panoramic film. The time I chose to shoot, and the lighting conditions this light afforded, are what made this image possible.

The soft reflected light, and the vision I had for leaving the foreground relatively dark, made it possible to shoot this image on transparency film, which has relatively little exposure latitude, without the use of a split ND filter. Fuji Provia 100F has a great ability to hold detail in the shadows, which I took advantage of. I also chose a panoramic format, minimizing the shadow area and using it merely as a frame for the dramatic subject of the towers. The big concept to take away is that I planned well, knew my subject, and kept it simple. A full frame digital camera, having much more latitude than my film choice, would open up the possibility of creating a foreground with open light. The use of a split ND filter or image blending / HDR would also make this option possible. My vision lead me in this creative direction, which I happen to prefer.

I can now share the beauty of this magic moment with those who slept in that day. I hope you found this both interesting and informative. Contact me directly if you'd like to join me in the field for a private or small group workshop. i'd love to help you take your photography to the next level.

Enjoy the View!

Jon Paul