“First Light”, Smith Rock State Park
The first light of morning warms the rocky spires of Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park.
Smith Rock State Park is one of the stand-outs in the Oregon State Parks system. Smith Rock is idolized by rock-climbers from around the world and it’s elegant pinnacles enchant hikers and trail runners. This new image, quite possibly my favorite Smith Rock photo was a long time in the making. It is an easy location to reach but not an easy location from which to capture a great landscape photograph. I’ve seen many photographs from this side of Smith Rock taken at sunset but they all look highly photoshopped. When the rock formation which buttresses this image, the “Smith Rock Group” are back lit by the setting sun, there is an extreme amount of contrast between the sky and the rocks. Digital cameras can capture the contrast range but it simply isn’t what your eyes see when at Smith Rock at Sunset. Unrealistic multiple exposure landscape photographs(HDR) are one of my pet peeves as they are often unrealistic. I abhor the idea that a determined hiker can travel to a location at sunrise on the right day of the year and the scene will look nothing like the landscape photograph that inspired them to undertake their quest. Because I want my fine art prints to look like the scene really looked( if the viewer was there at the right moment on the right day of the year), I’m very particular about when and where I shoot.
Realism demands that I shoot this scene at sunrise, where there isn’t too much contrast between rock and sky. Achieving a beautiful print required that the sky had some interest. I’ve been to this location countless times at sunrise and each of those times, weather forecasts have predicted partially cloudy skies. Weather is often wrong and I have usually been shut-out on these partially cloudy predictions as clouds tend to dissipate over Smith Rock prior to sunrise. I’ve also been shut out because over-clouding. The Smith Rock Group rarely could in but South Sister(to the left of the rock formation) and Mt. Jefferson( to the right of the formation) often cloud in, leaving a visually un-interesting photograph. Don’t get me wrong…Smith Rock State Park is beautiful any time on any day but if you want to hang a 50 inch framed photograph to this scene on your wall for several decades, you want the photograph to be optimal and you probably want it to look like it would to you if you were standing beside me when I captured this fine art photograph of Oregon’s amazing Smith Rock State Park.