The visitor Center in Death Valley National Park has had a major rebuild and remodel over the last couple of years. As part of the process the museum has been completely redone. The staff wanted a shot for a large panel on the subject of "Back country camping". This is what my wife and I came up with. These are two shots from a larger selection we gave them to work from. My wife selected the place, and I composed and shot the final results. One image from the shoot was used -- I don't know which because I haven't seen the museum yet. I also gave them freedom to crop as they saw fit, and I have no idea how they cropped or what the final aspect ratio was.
The wider shot was with a D3 with 24-70 F2.8, and the narrower view with a D700 and 70-200mm F2.8 (Version 1). All using a tripod. That is my wife in the shot.
I am curious about which version people here would have chosen for a five foot wide panel in the museum and why, as well as any comments on how this could have been shot or composed differently or better. This sort of setup shot is not something I do often, so I'm curious about what folks think...
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
Attachment#2 (jpg file)
#1. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 0spiritualized67 Nikonian since 28th Feb 2007Mon 22-Oct-12 07:06 PM | edited Mon 22-Oct-12 07:09 PM by spiritualized67
Sounds like a great opportunity.
Hands down, I would go with the first image, because it gives you more "sense of place" and does a better job of showing the vastness of Death Valley IMHO. The main subject will always be the location - and you show enough of the tent and subject to provide proper context (she's also wearing red, which provides even more visual weight - not to mention the fact that this will be blown up into a five foot panel).
As for suggestions, I would say the light. I like your composition in the first image, but would love to see this at dusk or dawn when the light is magical (or when the sky/clouds are more interesting). Heck, you could even have some fun and put a dim light inside the tent for some cool ambiance. I think you've set up the scene nicely, but need that light/weather drama to really jazz things up.
#2. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 1Mon 22-Oct-12 07:52 PM
They were done at 7:30 AM, which was as early as we could get things organised. The thin cloud cover was an issue, though I find the clouds interesting. Our choices in general were limited as this was a side project to what we were primarily in the area to do. Also, this spot was extremely difficult to get into and out of, it was cold and windy, and we were generally pretty focussed on getting the other project done that day and getting out of that valley safely. I tend to agree on your choice -- it'll be interesting to see what the Park Service chose.
Thanks for the comment. I'd like to hear from others here.
This sort of setup shot is well outside my comfort zone, and I'd like more comments on how I did.
#3. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 0
I agree with Dan 100%. The first one is what I think of when I imagine Death Valley. I have driven through several times when I was younger. It looks just like the first image, miles of nothing. Congratulations on the opportunity to show your work, in a museum no less.
Scott Martin Sternberg
Scotts Fine Art
#4. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 3Tue 23-Oct-12 11:09 AM
Apparently 3 or 4 of my shots ended up being used. I'm looking forward to seeing them next week when I finally get down there. I've been published quite a bit over the years, but having this stuff in the museum means a bit of my work will be seen for a lot longer and by more people than my magazine work ever will.
#6. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 0
Both images are very nice Neal. I think I like #1 the best as, as others have said, it shows the grandeur of Death Valley better.
One thing that hits me though, being a long time backpacker and setting up many a tent site, is that the tent seems to have been just thrown wherever without thought to access and/or levelness. Since it's for "back country camping" I would add a few small camping items like a camp stove, a pot, a small backpack leaning on the tent. Make it like you're really going to be there over night.
#7. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 6Tue 23-Oct-12 03:57 PM | edited Tue 23-Oct-12 04:17 PM by Wingman
I'm personally somewhat inclined to agree but the Park staff showed me several stock images (not from Death Valley) to give me a sense of what they were looking for, and most were much like these, and they were indeed very happy with what I shot. I think the intent here was not realism but to get across "the idea" of backcountry camping. And, as an image I do like the uncluttered look of this. I suspect that new visitors coming into the museum will not be looking for packs, groundcloths, stoves etc when viewing this image, or at least I hope not.
On a practical level, this particular spot would not have been easy to camp on -- there were much better in the area, but none with this unobstructed view. I slept in that tent the night before. We just emptied it and carried it a few hundred feet and plunked it down in the photogenic spot we'd picked out. If the park had wanted a more realistic scene we could have gone back and done things differently but they were quite happy...
edited to add: This is not a spot I would have chosen to camp anyway, as camping there would have meant destroying vegetation and changing ground contours. Vegetation is precious in the desert, and digging and leveling invites erosion. This is a VERY fragile place in many ways and I try very hard not to change things any more than absolutely necessary. We were camped in a loose sandy wash nearby -- not so photogenic but much harder to damage. And hey, how many chances does one get to camp right on a road?? This road is probably driven by less than ten vehicles per year at most. We were in there twice for a total of 5 days and didn't see a soul.
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
#8. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 7kennoll Nikonian since 07th Feb 2011Tue 23-Oct-12 04:49 PM
Thanks for the reply Neal. And congrats on having your image posted in the museum. Five foot panel. Wow!
"...This sort of setup shot is not something I do often, so I'm curious about what folks think...". This is what I was responding to. Now that i understnd what the request was I think you're right on the nose. Good job!
I'd be tempted to go and shoot the interior of the museum with your work posted.
I agree with you on the camp site. Looks uncomfortable.
#9. "RE: Shot for a museum exhibit " | In response to Reply # 8Tue 23-Oct-12 07:23 PM
The road was much better! And I do plan to try to shoot the museum exhibits using my shots. I'm expecting some pretty wonky light balance issues, though...