The alarm is set for 3:30 am. I will be in the car and on the road by 4 am with an hour and a half drive, followed by a 30 minute walk. I need to be on location well before sunrise, in the early twilight. In my backpack is my equipment: camera, extra batteries (at least two), water, power bars, memory cards, filters, remote release, cleaning gear (cotton cloth, lens cloth, lens cleaner), and lenses. Heavy lenses. They are mostly f/2.8 lines which means lots of glass in them and the glass is what makes them so heavy. My favorite landscape lens, a Canon L series f/2.8, 16-35mm. This along with my 24-70mm f/2.8 and an f/2.8 70-200mm gives me coverage on most of the range I will be shooting. Now and then I include the f/4 100-400, but that starts making it so heavy I only take it occasionally. Once on location I wander around in the dim light looking for a good composition. I will usually shoot several. But for now, to catch the first light, I choose my spot, adjust my tripod and set up the camera. Thanks to Andy Cook of Rocky Mountain Reflections I have a set of tasks: First is composition, getting the best one. Next is whether of not to use a filter, then check for depth of field and finally setting exposure. The exposure will change as the light continuously changes with the emerging light, or the formation of fog, or changing location of clouds. Being present to witness these changes and capture them at their best, exhilarating!
I am passionate about this part of photography, and it is only the beginning of the process. I always shoot in RAW, which means the camera captures the raw data that makes up the eventual image, leaving the fine tuning of the image to me. Into the digital darkroom it will go, being worked up in Camera Raw, Photoshop and sometimes On One, Photomatix, Topaz, or Nix depending on what I think it needs to come out looking its best. While working up an individual image I get completely absorbed in the process, working to bring the image to the place where it gives me the same experience I had when I first released the shutter.
The process of adjusting the image is repeated to some degree in the printing of the image as well. The file has to be adjusted to ensure that what is printed will look like what I captured. Different kinds of paper have different results, and even though there are computer programs to attempt to make them come out right, there is still, in my experience, a need to know what kind of effect each paper has on the resulting image. When a print comes out of my printer and I hold it in my hands, I am in a darkened room, as I walk into an area with brighter, natural light, the image comes alive. By the time I reach a fully lit north window, I know if it is a keeper.
Photography for me is a form of communication. It allows me to capture a moment in time, reproduce it, and share it with others. It is my hope that in viewing my images you will have more than a visual experience, that you will be touched on the same level as I was, experiencing a deeply felt appreciation for the incredible beauty in nature, and through this experience allow it to serve as a motivation to do your part, and me mine, to protect and preserve it.