Corn Lilies, Autumn, Mount Rainier National Park

Corn Lilies, Autumn, Mount Rainier National Park

I made this photograph just over a week ago, when I made a trip down to Mount Rainier National Park. I typically travel with others, but was on my own on this particular day. I made the most of my solo time by allowing myself extra time with some subjects that I would normally have overlooked.

Corn Lilies are a favorite photographic subject for landscape photographers - they have great shapes and lines in their twisting leaves, and I have seen many beautiful monochrome photographs from others (I have some attempts in my personal queue as well, if I ever get to them). It is well into autumn now, and the corn lilies (like everything else) have changed colors and had largely collapsed to the ground now. I was more drawn to photograph these fallen corn lilies than I have been when they're green, healthy, and upright in the summer. The leaves were now paper-thin and translucent - far more delicate than they appear in summer.

I set up my camera over these corn lilies, trying to also capture the manner it which the stalks radiated outwards from the center of the cluster. I believe I received many confused stares from passers-by wondering what on earth I was doing standing over dead corn lilies on the side of the trail, with the dark cloth over my head. It took quite some time for me to get the photograph propery framed and focused as I had intended. At close distances focusing a field camera can also noticeably change the framing of the shot, making it an iterative process of moving the camera and focusing it again and again (as it is, I wound up catching the corner of my tripod leg in the bottom right of the frame, which I hadn't noticed when I made the exposure). Over time the process gets easier, but I still find it a challenge. Once I had the camera focused, I had to wait a few minutes for the sun to disappear behind cloud again and soften the light, as the sun was at my back creating harsh shadows. The contrast was fairly low, and I attempted to expand it by filtering with a red (25A) filter, expansion during the film development, and the use of a higher contrast filter during printing.

I was not sure how this would turn out, but once I prepared a contact print and saw the results I loved it - this is one of my personal favorite photographs taken in the last year. Rather than scan the negative to post online (as I typcially do), I decided to scan from the contact print itself which I felt looked exactly the way I wanted it to already. I am happy with the digital result, but substantially prefer the look of the physical contact print. As much as we have become accustomed to viewing photographs on computer monitors, I am learning to appreciate the value of a physical print as the true finished product.

Tachihara 4x5 | Caltar II-N 150mm f/5.6 | f/32 | 1s | Ilford FP4+ | Tripod | HC110(h)

See more related images in my Mount Rainier National Park Gallery.

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