On this last day of 2011 I wanted to do something special so I woke up before dawn and got in the car and drove to Mount Pisgah which has nice 360 degree views of the surrounding area. I wanted to catch the last sunrise of 2011. I arrived at the parking lot and turned off the headlights. The darkness surrounded me as I stepped out and slung my camera pack over my shoulders and grabbed my tripod. I hiked in the dark the only sounds breaking the early morning silence were my footsteps and heavy breathing (must get in better shape in 2012).
About halfway up I stopped at a vantage point and looked down on the twinkling city lights where I could only assume most people were at home, warm in their beds. It was cold out, really cold. I had failed to take gloves and my skin felt burned already as they clung to the aluminum legs of my tripod. I frequently switched hands keeping the free hand in a pocket to soak up any warmth.
The recent rains had left their mark on the trail and any water stored in the gravel path was now ice and at times treacherous to walk on. I picked my steps carefully in the dark as the deep blue of dawn crept over the mountaintop ahead of me. I quickened my pace a bit not wanting to miss the sun as it crept over the hills and rose into the sky in all it’s blazing glory.
Others had joined me now and as we passed we exchanged a “Good morning!” and “Happy New Year!” I don’t know if it’s just me but mornings in the outdoors makes for happier and more friendly people. The path continued to meander up and up and I was now feeling pretty good. My body had warmed up and my lungs were no longer burning in rebellion against the workout in the frigid air. At last the top was in sight and I was thankful that I had made it in time.
At the top I brought out my camera and tried to hold onto it with freezing and burning hands. There was a good wind blowing and the wind chill must have been several degrees below freezing. I made a mental note to bring gloves and a hat next time. I decided to shoot with my Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 17-40 f/4L although I also had a Canon 7D and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS to utilize as well. This was also my first opportunity to use and experiment with my Lee ND Grad Soft filters. I screwed on the 77mm wide angle adapter and mounted the Lee Foundation Kit onto the lens.
Note: Some of the Lee filters and holders are hard to get and unless you can find them in stock take some time to get delivered. If you are in the market for a filter though the best place I’ve found is 2filter.com. They are about the nicest people you will ever meet with prices you can’t beat.
I inserted a 0.3 ND Grad filter into the holder and took a few shots. Not dark enough in the sky so I added in a 0.6 and finally a 0.9. The photo below is taken with the 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 ND grad filters all stacked.
I really liked using the filters and I think in the end they made a huge difference in the images. To accomplish the same I would have had to take multiple exposures and composed an HDR image. Overall the filters worked great and I plan to use them more extensively for my landscape photography moving forward. I’ll be writing more about their use and performance at a later date.
After about an hour of shooting the cold finally got the better of me and I started to make my way down the path. The icy gravel that made walking so difficult on the way up was still frozen and at times forced me to try out some fancy footwork. More people were now making their way to the summit but they had already missed the last sunrise of 2011.
As I write this we are about 4 hours away from ringing in the New Year. I want to wish each one of you who reads this blog and enjoys the photos a very Happy New Year. Make 2012 the best year of your life yet. I have big plans and changes for this blog and for my photography in general. It’s been a long time coming and I am excited to share details with you very soon.
I leave you with this quote by Douglas Pagels; “Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.”
Happy New Year!! See you in 2012!
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