Graceful Aspen

Graceful Aspen

24×20 prints are $2,000
40×30 prints are $4,000

At the end of September 2005 Ruth and I found ourselves in the Grand Mesa area of Colorado, having spent the previous five days photographing in Idaho and Utah. We were driving down a narrow dirt road when we came around a corner and saw this tree. Well yes, this looks very good.

The lighting was extraordinary and quite rare. It was around noon and the aspen trees were perfectly backlit as you can see by the slight edge lighting of the three tree trunks. Behind the aspens was a group of dark fir trees that were tall enough to provide a backdrop but short enough for the sunlight to fully illumine the aspens. I’ve never seen such a perfect setup before or since.

Working quickly before the light changed or the wind picked up, we set up the 8x10 camera using a modest amount of the falling front adjustment to keep the trunks parallel in the photograph. There was a puff of wind now and then so we had to watch and wait for a still moment before I used my 600mm lens at f/45 for a 1/4 second exposure onto Provia film. I made one more at the same exposure as a backup.

Before we could take the camera down two nice ladies stopped by to see what we were doing and very kindly took our picture which shows the view camera setup and what we looked like in 2005.

The picture was surprisingly difficult to print; it took me three days before I was pleased with it. The difficulty is in keeping tonal separation in the yellow leaves which requires a perfect, rather light density contrast mask combined with a lot of precise dodging and burning on each print.

The final Cibachrome print has a wonderfully cohesive feel to the cascading gold leaves and fine branches that reminds me of movement of clouds in the sky or the piano music of Jessica Williams.

Format: Large (vertical)
Location: Colorado
Reference key: ga