The family and I went scouting on Donner Summit a few weeks ago trying to find a new photo location (I didn’t bring my camera gear for that trip since we were just exploring as a family). It didn’t take us too long, but we found a fallen tree with roots wrapped around a rock. If you look closely at the bottom right of the final photo, you can see a “dragon” coming out of the side of the rock. My intention with the return trip was to photograph just the dragon wrapped around the rock, but I just couldn’t find a composition that separated the tree from the background as much as I wanted (they were just too similar in color).

After probably an hour of trying different focal lengths, apertures, etc., I settled on a vertical composition that included much more of the surroundings than I thought I’d be shooting. It just seemed like the fallen tree had so much more to say than just the dragon. Since I ended up looking at the tree for close to 4 hours waiting for the sun to set, I found a few other things in the photo. I see an epic battle between a dragon and horse. What do you see?

Once the sun finally set, I was treated with a very beautiful sunset (unfortunately it was behind me). This photo was a bit before official sunset when there were still some dramatic clouds in the background of the composition I was set on. It was one of the trickier photos I’ve taken from a technical standpoint. The tripod was very precariously placed, my 19mm tilt/shift lens shifted up about 8mm and just a tiny bit of tilt to keep everything in focus. Since the lens was shifted up so far, there was a natural vignetting that forced me to use a 3 stop soft edge GND upside down to darken the foreground enough to match the top of the frame.

It was not what I set out to shoot, but in the end I was happy to spend a few hours in absolute silence doing what I enjoy (the hike out in the dark wasn’t very fun though).