Big rocks and little trees

DAY 8 – Wednesday 20th

Half Dome over Merced River - Yosemite National Park, CA, USA - Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo

Half Dome over Merced River – Yosemite National Park, CA, USA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo


I welcomed a later than usual start this morning, We headed into the valley once more and straight to the river bend that we wanted to capture without people and boats. We also wanted to try for a better sky than the previous session. People were still an issue but the sky was definitely better. Otherwise, it was business as usual with the big stopper to smooth the water, a grad for the sky and I also dropped on the polariser for the water. Having the benefit of three filters (as per Paul’s pre road trip suggestion) was really beginning to pay dividends.

With the best possible shot in the bag and a road trip to Lake Tahoe, we hit the road and time to get some supplies and to catch up with the blog.

We hoped to capture two shots on the lake. The first was a scene that Paul had sent us an image of during the trip planning phase. The Bonsai Rock is a fairly large rock with an interesting shape with some small trees that somehow have managed to survive in the most unusual location. I had deliberately not researched the sites that we were to visit because I did not want to arrive with preconceived composition ideas. With the car parked at the side of the road above the slop down to the lake, we waited for the rain to stop and for the clouds to clear a little.

Bonsai - Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe, CA, USA - Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo

Bonsai – Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe, CA, USA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo

Thankfully the weather cleared and we scrambled down the sandy slop, using roots and rocks to stop slipping on the steep sides. At the bottom we were presented with a lake side covered with boulders and I quickly located one with a composition that I liked. The rock had a horrible slop, so I braced my tripod between two rocks and set up the camera.   I decided to initially set up with a graduated filter to balance the sky and to bounce between F8 and F14. F14 was to gain a slightly longer exposure to smooth the water because the sun flare was not going to happen.

Annoyingly, I did not try the big stopper at this location for a milky smooth water around the rocks. However, anything that was dropped would be gone because of the gaps between the rocks. I therefore decided to play safe and learned that in landscape photography, playing it safe usually results in a compromised shot and a missed money shot. This trip is all about great locations, great tuition and lessons to be learned, and I’m learning very, very fast.

Our images from the lake were not great out of the camera and we had to use the histogram to ensure that the shots could be processed later. This was a tip that Paul had shared with us on day two and which really came into its own at this location.

Mark later processed his Bonsai Tree image and uploaded it to his Facebook profile. One of his mates then ran it through one of the software based filters that are readily available to photographers but the image became over processed and very HDR looking. Paul later told us about the various types of software filters that are available and he demonstrated how a nice image can be made very nice, or very fake. He also offered to show us how to better process the image for a more realistic look.

With another early morning start, we headed off for a few short hours of sleep.

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