Week of Nov 26 - Photo of the Week, Lone Tree

November 26, 2023  |  Columbia Plateau

A lone tree standing on a hill filled with tall grass in winter in the Columbia Plateau region of Oregon.

Canon R5 - EF100-400mm @ 400mm - f/16 - 1/4 second - ISO 100

It can be interesting to me which composition is a favorite from photographing a particular location or subject. Sometimes, I have seen it as one of the first frames; other times, it's roaming around in the middle of the pack, while at times, it's near the end after I have had time to warm up. One of my unexpected favs this day was nearing my last frames of just over 2 hours photographing the area. I have others I like from this outing, but this one stands out because it wasn't the direction I was staring off into photographing until close to the end. Instead, I was focused on the landscape, basking in the late-day sun breaking through the clouds.

As we were getting ready to wind down, head back to the car, and call it a day, I looked behind me, seeing this hill with lines of tall grasses catching some of the soft light still falling on the landscape. Mix that with some of the shorter and flattened grasses, and it becomes more than simply a lone tree on a hillside. It's now a visually interesting composition with a sense of flow and motion.

This is also one of those times where I was sure this would be a color photo when I came around to processing it. I liked the glowing golden grasses; that pulled me in after all. Yet, I couldn't get the colors and hues throughout the photo to a point where I was thoroughly pleased. I made various selections in parts of the photo, making minor tweaks here and there to fine-tune it in color, to no avail. That is how it can be at times. Occasionally, there are photos that I can't get the colors throughout to gel well. Sometimes, I can come back days, weeks, or months later to make a small change, and voila! I decided to take a different approach here as I continue to explore black and white more and more over the last couple of years. When there is enough contrast in the photo, as is the case here, then departing more from reality to go with black and white seems like a route to go.

Times like this make me wonder how I went so many years without a long-range telephoto. I have only had the 100-400mm lens for about three years now, and it is my first or second most used lens for most trips. For this photo, I fully extended it to 400mm. Had I been out with only a 70-200mm + 1.4 extender, I wouldn't have taken the photo, as the reach wouldn't have been enough.

It's almost like I needed that lone tree to help me find a comp back in the other direction. After I took it and turned around, I took the following photo as my last frame before turning off the camera and packing up. A bonus photo to add along to the photo of the week. As you can see, a lot is going on here, yet finding the flow in a chaotic landscape is a challenge I enjoy. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn't. Here, I believe it works.

While both of these photos were taken in winter in the Columbia Plateau region, it is similar to what we will experience in fall, except likely more fall color on the trees. If this interests you, along with opportunities to photograph old structures, mountain views, and more as of this writing there is 1 spot left in the 2024 Columbia Plateau Workshop. While we don't determine the final itinerary until just before a workshop, at this time I am hoping when the workshop takes place to visit the location where these two photos were taken.