I didn't set out to take this image. Or even go to this location. It was early spring in Southern Idaho. The time of year that the camas flowers usually start to bloom. The prairies along Highway 20 explode with spectacular blues and violets. That's what I left home before sunrise to photograph. As I made my way, mile after mile down the road, I began to realize it was still a little too early in the year. The camas hadn't started to bloom yet.
I didn't let that discourage me, though. I changed my plan and decided to head to the Camas Prarie Centennial Marsh and photograph the birds that congregate there while it's still wet. It was an enjoyable morning watching and listening to all the different species of birds and ducks, but I didn't get any "keeper" images. As the sun rose higher and the light got harsh, I was thinking about packing it in and heading home. I made my way back to my car still feeling a little unfulfilled. I drove slowly down the dirt road out of the marshland, still having my camera out with the Sigma 150-600C attached, just in case I came across a mule deer or blue heron. Nothing.
Back at the highway, I headed further east into Fairfield to get gas and some snacks. It was there that realized that I was pretty much already half-way to the Galena Summit overlook where I could get an incredible view of the Sawtooth Mountains. So, on a whim, I headed through Ketchum and Sun Valley up to the overlook. When I arrived I was quite disappointed. The overcast sky was covering the jagged peaks of the mountain range. Still determined to find an image, I told myself that I might as well go all the way to Stanley.
I'm still a little unfamiliar with this part of Idaho, so I took this opportunity to scout out a couple of other locations, Pettit Lake and Redfish Lake, two of Idaho's most popular camping and tourist locations. Both places should have been awesome! Towering granite peaks reflecting off of crystal clear alpine water. It's any photographer's dream, but again, the overcast sky was making my day difficult. Undeterred, I pressed on toward Stanley.
When I arrived I expected to find the perfect composition looking back toward the Sawtooths. Clouds. By this point, I'd chalked the day up to be just a long location scouting trip. I checked my map and saw that Stanley Lake wasn't far. Might as well go there too! As I was pulling up to the lake I was amazed to see the 9860-foot McGown Peak reflecting perfectly on the calm water. Now I was excited. All I needed at this point was light.
It was still about an hour to sunset so I had plenty of time to wander around the lake and look for a composition. Finally settling on my composition, I began experimenting with my polarizer and ND filter to see what exposure time I liked the most. I ended up deciding to use both the polarizer and a 10-stop ND filter, for a long exposure of 15 seconds. There wasn't any motion in the water, but I really liked the small amount of movement that was produced in the clouds.
Now it was a waiting game. With the heavy clouds, I knew right away that there wouldn't be any color, so I was waiting for the light to reach a point that would provide the most contrast for a black and white photo. I took a series of shots as the light changed and the clouds moved across the sky. The whole process from when I set up my tripod lasted less than 15 minutes. By the time I had the image framed and exposure dialed in I only had time for a few attempts before a gust of wind spread ripples across the lake and the reflection was gone.
Happy with the shots I got, I had to hurry and pack up to avoid the rainstorm that I didn't know was coming but was starting to get me wet. Back in my car, with my gear safe from the rain, I scrolled through the images on the LCD screen and I was really happy with how the day turned out. Then I chuckled to myself, realizing I had to drive three and a half hours home. Totally worth it!
22mm, f/11, 15 seconds, ISO 100
Gear I used:
Canon T3i - https://amzn.to/2ClxaF5
Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 - https://amzn.to/2pWleCd
Dolica Tripod - https://amzn.to/2CMGNhb
ICE 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter - https://amzn.to/2RVzJDl
ICE 77mm 10-Stop ND Filter - https://amzn.to/2pWnnxL
Gear I wish I used:
Canon 5d Mark iv - https://amzn.to/2q47DsV
Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II - https://amzn.to/2CSe3Ue
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