Parts of the west offer the opportunity to experience far ranging views and thereby, at times, to see entire mountain ranges; something most of us living here in the east do not experience very often. That’s the case with the Grand Tetons, a fairly well known and recognizable chain of mountains. From Craters of the Moon National Monument, I could see a mountain range I had never heard of: The Lost River Range. They weren’t as majestic as the Tetons, but they gathered the late afternoon glow just as the sun went down one afternoon and were highlighted against a watercolor sky. The black expanse of ancient lava flows forms the base of the panorama above, stitched from five separate panels. As mentioned in previous posts, it was done to keep the perspective accurate for the range since getting in this much real estate would have required a very wide angle lens and made the mountains look like a tiny sliver without any definition.
Although you always feel the presence of the Tetons when you’re visiting the park, Willow Flats offers a lot of different options when the mountains provide only a backdrop for the patterns that run through the flats. A zoom allows you to precisely extract specific areas within the frame that had either a singular focal point or a particular pattern to the growth shimmering in the late afternoon sun.
In the burn area I happened upon, that same zoom provided a backdrop to isolate a few trees where a normal or wide angle lens would not. Most times a small angle of view is needed to bring the background up against the subject to make it seem more wall like; in the same way you may use an actual wall as a background when shooting portraits. Afterall, when the main subjects are isolated in the field, it’s important to have an appropriate background from which they can stand out.
The final image below was shot through steam from the hot spring, lightly lit from behind by the sun straining to see through the cloud cover. The shadows of the tree darkened the steam a bit and provides a graphic element that would otherwise not be present. The steam would have been just a blob of white without the shadows breaking it up. It was one of those moments where the sunlight barely poked through for just a few seconds and was gone. But that overcast provided the even “lightbox” effect that sometimes works well for foliage rather than strong lighting that is just too contrasty to properly record. In either case, whether it is overcast or very contrasty as in the backlit scenes from Willow Flats, a polarizer is necessary to cut through the glare eminating from the leaves. Without the polarizer, the images of the flats and the burn area would be dull and lifeless. For the image below, the polarizer cut through the glare coming from the water and gave the stream some color that, without the polarizer, would have simply been the gray reflection of the clouds above and blended in with the steam.