Angle of Light

Author: Amy Horn

adams - Pumice & PinesRecently, I came across a 1947 Arizona Highways portfolio of photographs by Ansel Adams captured at Sunset Crater. The most interesting photo to me was “Pumice & Pines” with its strong use of shape and form. So, I jumped in the car and drove to Sunset Crater to capture the late afternoon light. I definitely had trees in my mind so when I came across this large snag (standing dead tree) a few feet off the trail. I was inspired. I treated this

Final image with B/W processing
Final image with B/W processing

tree like any other subject and walked around it to find the best angle and light. As the sun was lowering in the sky I didn’t have much time and didn’t have much access to front light so I evaluated side and back light.

The first image is of the tree with warm, side light showing the strength of the snag and its isolation from other trees. It reminded me of a figure guarding the walkway. Then, I moved around to the East to capture back light and was intrigued at how the branches created such a different image. Now, I had a silhouette of this guardian and knew this was my shot. I quickly adjusted my position to capture more of the tree and stopped down my lens to capture a “sunburst.” The sun lowered to a perfect spot on the snag and I captured the image with my Nikon D600, 24-120mm lens at 48mm, 400 ISO, 1/640 and f/14. For variety, I converted the image in post processing to a black/white and added a little vignette for drama. I enjoy looking at photographs from the masters and from my students. Evaluating light and getting inspired is all part of the journey.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or