Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA
Time / Date:
1:15pm / September 10, 2012
Camera Body: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II
Shutter Speed: 1/1500s
Focal Length: 200mm
We were in the middle of a week-long traverse of the Sierra High Route, an obscure off-trail trek that spans 200 miles between Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks. This was a trip shoot for an outdoor gear brand, so every aspect of the day was a potential opportunity to produce work. From setting up camp, to preparing food and the scenes we passed through during the day. Since we also had to keep the team moving (there were six of us), we were constantly analyzing situations to determine if they were worth exploring further. It’s always nice when you come across a no brainer.
We had just ascended up a ruggedly steep pass when this giant wall came into view not far in the distance. I instantly saw the picture I wanted to make; putting the team against that feature to showcase the immense scale of the country we were traveling through.
We were on an extended commercial shoot and the client was counting on the work for their upcoming catalog and advertising. Thus we packed a complete Nikon kit that included two cameras, several lenses, a flash, a tripod and all the accessories that go along with that gear. It’s always nice when you have a strong team to divide up the weight of so much equipment. Pieces such as the tripod, flash and radio triggers would be packed away, usually only brought out at camp. But the main camera along with my main workhorse lens, a 24-70 f/2.8, is carried in a chest bag for easy access. The rest of the glass is carried in a padded cell accessed under one zipper in my pack.
Making the Shot:
For days we had been making our way through this vast alpine wilderness carved from the Sierra granite. Towering walls, soaring spires and even the ground we walked were made of clean stone. I saw this scene as an opportunity to bring the audience into this landscape. To really make them feel the shear immensity of the place. The quartz vein is probably a hundred feet thick on a wall measuring at least a thousand feet. Agnes walked a shelf a rock quite a distance out from the wall and I ran to a far position to maximize that delightful telephoto effect.
Editing & Processing:
We use an Aperture workflow, importing our cards into projects within the database. Our work is then scrutinized on a 27” Mac Retina display before doing basic image corrections in Aperture. This picture required hardly any work, with just minor adjustments to the color, contrast and definition. I come from a film camera background and still try to get the image as perfect as possible ‘in camera’. I also have a limited tolerance to sitting at the computer.
This is one of my favorite pictures from that assignment. It’s also one of the client’s as well. My favorite work is simple and impactful. It gets to the point of what we’re trying to convey. I think this photograph embodies those attributes.
I would recommend exploring whatever it is that really inspires you. Makes you want to get up early, stay up late and work hard all day long. Because that’s exactly what it takes to make a living as a photographer in any genre. What defines a professional in this age saturated with visual media is starting each day with the pursuit of perfection.
I’m addicted to how the world looks through a lens. How the device in my hands can control what we see and how we see it. It’s quite simply one of the most interesting phenomena I’ve ever encountered. The fact that this process can make us feel a certain way or understand a message or follow a story is fascinating to me. I love it when a simple picture succeeds at doing that.
About the Photographer
Matt Hage is a life-long Alaskan and lives in Anchorage. He works with wife Agnes to produce active lifestyle and adventure travel work for magazines, agencies and brand clients worldwide.
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