Sunrise, Mount Stuart, Wenatchee National Forest

Sunrise, Mount Stuart, Wenatchee National Forest

This past Friday, I took an afternoon off of work to head east to the mountains for a quick overnight backpacking trip with Mike Hornblade. Being aware of the miles of hiking and 2000ft+ of elevation gain I sadly left my large format gear (and its associated weight) behind, and opted for my reasonably-lightweight digital kit only.

The objective was to get to Lake Ingalls in the Wenatchee Mountains. After crossing Ingalls Pass, we set up camp, and then continued on to the lake. Everything up to the camp was pretty smooth sailing, but the path from this point onward became much more difficult - both in naviagtion and in terms of the trail itself. We finally arrived at the lake, which was an additional challenge to explore and, sure enough, the imposing Mount Stuart - the photographic subject of choice - was lost in the clouds. It remained that way through the uneventful sunset. We backtracked to camp, arriving in the dark, the cold, and unexpectedly crazy winds.

After a sub-freezing and windy night (that was too much for one of the two tents) we got up again about 30 minutes before sunrise. Conditions were much better in the morning, with just the right amount of cloud cover to start picking up the colorful pre-dawn light. Mount Stuart was no longer lost in the clouds, and the lake would have made an ideal place to shoot, but we likely would have needed another 30 minutes to get back there. Instead we set up not more than about a hundred yards from camp, where a stream flowed down into Headlight Basin and created open views across to Mount Stuart. I was particularly drawn to the color reflecting in the water below, and wanted to pull that into the frame prominently. As I shot here, Mike was just below to the left, where he produced this excellent photograph.

There's an inherent difficulty in photographing a scene like this, as the photo is taken looking into the sun, and preserving any kind of detail in the backside of Mount Stewart, or balancing the foreground exposure with the sky is essentially impossible. There's simply too much dynamic range. In this case, this is a blend of two separate exposures, one for the foreground and one for the sky. This always seems like a good idea at the time, but is quite a challenge to do successfully. Mike and I were interested in learning from one another's approaches to image processing, and decided to swap raw files and try our hand and also processing one another's images. Mike's interpretation is posted below for comparison. We ultimately took very different approaches and arrive at very similar interpretations (though I think he brought out the color much better than I did). It's very enlightening to see two interpretations of the same raw image.

This trip was largely a scouting trip, as the larches should turn color in a few weeks, and we wanted to know how the location would work out. Despite our troubles actually reaching Lake Ingalls, the Headlight Basin area was great, and I hope to make it back there.

Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20@13mm | f/9 | 1/5s | ISO200 | Tripod | Composite

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