Waiting for the Light

I’ve put a lot of miles on the Jeeps this fall color season. In peak week, I was spoiled with sunshine every evening. Since then, it’s been spotty. But that only enhances the challenge and gets you to think a little harder.

Snake Creek Canyon, west of Midway, Utah, has always been a great go-to spot for photography (and Jeeping). Sadly, we missed the bright sky morning and headed out with afternoon clouds rolling in. As we began the approach up to the ridgeline, the sun was dancing through some holes here and there, but never in the appropriate place.

As a photographer, you need to always be watching the light – where is the sun in the sky, where are the holes in the clouds, what’s dancing on the mountain tops?

We came around a corner and I saw a potential scene. The rocky mountaintops overlooking Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons on the other side were shrouded in fog, with new fallen snow on the rocks. A quarter mile or so in the foreground was a hillside of yellow aspens and red oak, mixed with some dark evergreens – a typical Wasatch scene.

Framing the shot with the colors on the diagonal was easy – the composition simply screamed out. But there was little or no sun.

There’s an amazing brilliance to fall leaves when they are backlit. But even without that enhancement, their rainbow tones still shine through. I waited, waited and waited. But the sun never really came. But the colors of the hillside still struck a stark contrast to the windswept, snowy mountainside behind.

The key to this shot technically is a seven-shot HDR spaced .7 stops each.

While it didn’t have the backlit pop of some of my earlier aspen shots in Guardsman Pass, this Snake Creek Canyon scene will rank as one of my favorites for the fall season.

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