"Kindred Spirits" - Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Oregon

Original post:


You never know when a new favorite image is coming. I certainly didn’t expect one on this 3-day backpacking trip with my girlfriend and our friends. The mindset I had when I first visited this place six years prior was that the most worthy photo would be a grand sunset mountain shot with wildflowers in the foreground. Given that my interests have moved away from such images since then, I had written it off as at best a fun experience to document this time around—but likely not productive photographically. I left the tripod and telephoto behind, carrying only my camera, a standard zoom lens, and a single battery just in case something crazy happened.

Boy, how wrong I was! I’m glad I hedged my bets with the minimal camera setup. What had in my memory simply been a nice backpacking destination was actually an alpine wonderland ripe for exploration, full of dynamic terrain, crystal-clear water, and interesting trees.

These Seussian characters captured my imagination immediately when I saw the way they were glowing backlit against the shaded hillsides in the evening. I was entranced! I made a few images of this phenomenon, but for now I’m only putting my favorite one online.

A lesson I thought I already learned was reinforced: don’t let preconceptions about a place or about weather/light prospects turn you off to seeing other possibilities. Just as you shouldn’t get tunnel vision for what you think you want to photograph, you also shouldn’t decide ahead of time what you’re not shooting.

Please list any pertinent technical details or techniques:

Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm f/4L, 70mm, f/8, ISO 400, single frame handheld at 1/200s

This was quite annoying to shoot because I had to extend my right hand all the way out to shield my lens from flare, while trying to handhold the composition steadily and fire the shutter using only my left hand and my face for stabilization. This is why I needed such a fast shutter speed - the sun was a bit off to the right so I couldn’t reach my left hand far enough out to shade the lens while keeping it out of frame. My left hand just wasn’t steady enough to both hold the camera and fire the shutter reliably.

I could have done a 10-second timer and braced myself, I suppose. A tripod would have made it easy, but I left it behind for weight reasons being that this was backcountry backpacking. I ended up getting some sharp exposures by shooting a lot of them. I would have liked to get every tree in focus (the rearmost ones and the background are OOF), so I guess shooting f/11 and ISO 800 may have been a better call. At any rate, all the main trees and the foreground are in focus, and I think the OOF background helped to separate the subject.

The processing was pretty simple, just finding the right white balance where the background was cool and the trees were green (not yellow), darkening the exposure, cloning out some distractions, and dodging up the trees a little with a greenish color on a soft light layer through a Lights 2 mask. I also did some color work in the foreground and midground brush to separate hues, so that the green trees would stand out from the late-summer ground cover, giving it more of an early-autumn look.


Simply a stunning image Alex. The back story on how you shot this, and your philosophy of keeping an open mind, made for a very entertaining and enlightening read. The processing ain’t bad either :grin:

I love the description of these trees as Seussian, how appropriate a description of them. As someone who has actually eaten green eggs and ham for breakfast, I love Seussian references.

Thank you for reminding us that photography is really about light, shapes, vision and imagination, and not about pre-conceived notions of subjects. How true…

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Beautiful, Alex. I love the light and tree shapes.

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It’s almost always about the light - and you’ve captilized on that big time here. Beautiful capture.

I’m especially drawn to little Cindy Lou Who… the small tree in the background behind the main cluster… sorry, couldn’t resist.

Thanks for sharing from your trip.


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Alex, this is another winner and a great lesson on several levels. Thanks for the description of your processing. Also an interesting story and I had a little chuckle (sorry), imaging you shooting this left handed. I have not had the pleasure of trying that technique yet, but if my results were like this sign me up! Beautiful work!!

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Man there is so much character in those trees. Seussian characters for sure!

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Fabulous photo! A wonderland indeed. I have a small nit: the balance of the composition favors the left because of the short brightly lit bushes above and to the left of the rock verses the dark space on the right border. I would consider darkening the low bushes on the left to give the photo more balance.

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I actually did see that and thought the bushes looked really dingy when darkened, @Tony_Siciliano. But if you noticed it, maybe it’s worth spending more time working them down! I will come back with a revision.

Update posted above for comparison! Thank you @Tony_Siciliano, I think that was a nice improvement! Helps keep the focus on the trees in addition to balancing the composition.

Thank you @Ed_McGuirk, @Harley_Goldman, @Lon_Overacker, and @Michael_McGee!

@Alan_Kreyger, it’s not so much a technique as a workaround for unpreparedness! I’m sure it does look funny, haha. I do use my hand to shield the lens from the sun when shooting backlit subjects like this all the time, even on a tripod. Hoods just can’t do the same job when the light source is in front of you!

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I love this image. The light that caresses the trees in the dim light is divine, and the intimate Alpine landscape is resumed at large. I also believe that less preparations, less expectations, produce great images. Congratulations on your story :slight_smile:

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Obviously, as classic example of what the right light can do for a scene. Without that specific side-lighting, this scene would have been “meh,” Good eye on this capture, Alex

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Alex, This is wonderful. Absolutely love the light and you did a fantastic job capturing this with what you had. Beautiful and so cool just to view. Thanks!

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