Lake Blanche is beautiful but not exactly remote. Located up Big Cottonwood Canyon, the very do-able (for most) three-mile hike attracts more than it’s fair share of visitors. And therein lies the issue, to a certain degree. Lake Blanche has probably seen more lenses pointed at it than Paris Hilton. Sundial Peak stands watch over the lake, and it is this image that immediately jumps out to most photographers as they crest the trail. I certainly wanted to capture the classic image of Lake Blanche, but I had chosen to arrive at sunrise, and Sundial Peak is primarily a westerly facing peak. That left me with a lot of rock, and not much light.
I stood around my tripod for some time. Holding my cable release in hand, I was quickly getting impatient as it seemed somebody hit the pause button for sunrise. Finally, after grabbing a couple “test” shots with my new Singh Ray Vari-ND filter, I decided to head to the eastern edge of the lake. I’d always gone the other way and was interested to say what lay in waiting. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a thick patch of bluebells in perfect view of Sundial Peak, and even some of the lake to boot. The lighting was challenging, as the flowers remained in open shade and the peaks in the background were now fully lit by the rising sun. Fortunately, I was able to balance the challenging exposure using my Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. This was a new application for this filter. This filter has its densest gradient nearer the middle of the frame, and is employed most often in shooting sunset or sunrise into the sun. I’ve now found it works quite well in certain standard landscape applications as well.
For those unfamiliar with these types of filters, they do not alter color in any way. It’s not some crazy way to make the image look better than it did in real life. It’s simply the best way to render the scene as the human eye sees it. A camera’s sensor is far less tolerant to differences in light than the human eye. If a scene contains bright highlights and dark shadows, it’s most likely that just shooting the image with no filter will give you less than stellar results. For those that don’t care about all this technical mumbo jumbo, you can now go back to whatever it is you were doing before being sucked into this blog entry!