View east looking into Panoche Valley
from a ridge in the Diablo Range
off of Panoche Road; the historic New Idria Mine and Clear Creek are located in the distant hills. This was a very windy and hazy afternoon and I was not in this area looking for a landscape image.
I was working my way up a ridge looking for birds, but the wind had most birds tucked well into trees.
As I was shooting I noticed the light and shadows painting interesting patterns on the hills, and the sunlight was mixing with the haze and forming interesting layers of the ridge lines that ran to the horizon. The hazy scene was very relaxing and pleasant to view, and I was wondering if I could capture an image that allowed the viewer to enjoy this relaxing, hazy, sunlit view.
I framed up this image using a 70-200 f2.8 VR at around 135mm and liked the frame. This is a very “front to back” image, in that the ridge lines that run into the distance provide an important depth to the image. I shot this with a wide angle lens and the look was dramatic but the wide shot highlighted the valley and not the light and shadows in the distance.
In post process I moved this image into black and white using Nik Silver Efex and added a bit of sharpness as well as enhancing the blue tones a bit; the black and white process removed a color cast caused by the haze, but the color version was pleasant also.
I learned a few lessons here. My first assumption when viewing this hazy scene is that a landscape image would not be very appealing. Only after sitting and enjoying the view did I realize the interplay between the haze, light and shadows was creating a really cool affect on the hills in the distance. Also the urge to grab a wide angle lens on this vista was strong, but the wide shot distracted the eye from the really nice parts of this view, namely the light and shadows in the distance. So, don’t be afraid to try a shot on a hazy daytime scene, and be creative with the lens in your bag. Don’t limit yourself to the wide angle lens when viewing wide angle vistas; sometimes beauty is in the small details even when viewing huge expansive views.
Also I was shooting in full manual mode and made sure the highlights in the clouds were not over exposed. I did not use a split grad filter as the shadows in the hills contain enough detail to be interesting, and I prefer the dramatic difference between the bright cloud and dark shadow. Graduated filters and HDR processing are great tools for handing huge differences between light and shadow in the frame, but consider leaving most of the shadow in place if it is part of the view. Sometimes letting the shadows fall to a black silhouette can be a dramatic affect.