Sunrise on Old Rag Mountain

October 17, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

Last week I got up at 2:00 am and drove to Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. This was my 3rd trip to Old Rag Mountain. I went a few weeks ago to scout out locations for this shoot. My goal for this shoot was to capture the fall colors at sunrise, which is why I had to set out so early. I begin climbing the mountain at 4:15 am in the dark. It was a brutal climb.

Getting up at that insane hour and the strenuous climb were well worth it. I caught this beautiful sunrise.

Exposure was very challenging. Using auto settings I either blew out the sky, giving me great detail in the rocks but a washed out sky, or I captured the highlights around the sun but lost all the details in the rocks. However, here I used spot metering (a few degrees to the right of the sun) and then used the highlight and shadow recovery tools in Aperture. I’m very happy with the results.

Sunrise atop Old Rag Mountain The obvious place to take photos at Old Rag is from the peak. However, the place I picked was about 2/3 up to the peak. I think the location I found had better color and a nicer vista.



I really love the color and composition of the following photo.

Fall colors atop Old Rag Mountain I would have liked to get the farm to stand out a bit more. I tried hiking another half hour or so to the peak, hoping the higher angle would bring out the farm better, but it just didn’t work out. One of the problems with this kind of landscape photography is that once you make a decision, you can’t go back on it easily. By the time I got to the peak and turned around to get back to my original location, the sun would have risen too much and the lighting would have changed.

 
I had been planning this shoot for weeks, following the leaf pics and color news for Virginia and the fall color reports for Shenandoah National Park. I had timed my shoot based upon the peak season estimate, which was supposed to be Columbus Day, October 11. Unfortunately, estimates aren’t perfectly accurate. A few days before my shoot, they changed the estimate. We had a very dry summer, which is affecting our fall colors. The latest estimate is that peak season in the mountains will be today. Go figure. Nonetheless, despite the presence of a lot of green, I think I was able to capture some really wonderful color.

 

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