Anatomy of a Composition, part 1

Mt. Zirkel Wilderness B&W

I haven’t practiced with panoramas, or with “stitching” images together yet. Stitching multiple frames together can produce the massive landscapes that seem to stretch for ever, and they make such stunning pieces to display, with absolutely intricate and mind blowing detail. Sometimes a single, telephoto lens, ones with ranges of 200mm or more, can capture large swathes of land, from a long distance, and compress them down into equally intricate and detailed compositions. This is an example of the latter.

Mt. Zirkel Wilderness – B&W Shot with a Sony a7r using the Sony FE 70200/F4 ZA lens.
EXIF Data: ISO 100 | F/1 | 1/1250 sec.

Originally the plan had been to find a place high in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming, somewhere along the Snowy Range Byway to camp for the night and try to shoot the Milky Way. I’ve ridden and driven the Snowy Range a number of times in the past three years, and it’s emptiness and volume are always inspiring, so even without good images of the Milky Way I was sure that I would be able to find some rewarding compositions. Even though it was early May, the road was still closed because of the winter’s heavy snowfall. This left me with far more time on my hands as the morning of scouting and surveying I had originally planned for was now bust. Once morning I arrived I decided to head back into Colorado without the images I had been planning.

Having missed sunrise because of the high trees surrounding me in the morning, I was feeling anxious to find something to shoot. I was also going to be much later than I intended to getting to Steamboat, which would make getting the sunset image I wanted impossible this day. So, I resigned myself to some of the dirt roads along the edges of North Park, adjacent to the towns of Crowley and Walden. The Continental Divide and Cameron Pass are found to the east, and the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness and Buffalo Pass are found to the west. As I drove around the sun continued to climb and I knew the bright midday light would not be helpful for creating images.

I headed in for early lunch feeling defeated from the lack of opportunities and subjects to fill my viewfinder. While I was in at lunch the few, faint clouds that were formed in the morning began to multiply and grow. For me this meant a better balance and a natural filtering of the light. I decided to head west out of town, towards a series of reservoirs that I’d not yet been to. On a chance, I took a right on the forest road that began to climb quickly off of the flats of the high prairie. To the right of the road a fence line appeared, and I followed it until the road ended at a trail head, and looking back from my new perspective and entire valley floor of compositions with massive snowfields, jagged peaks, triumphant storm clouds, and long, lonely fence poles lay out in front of me. Two of my favorite images would come from this day, a day that I thought was lost. This was a single exposure, handheld with a longer lens. The clouds reflected enough light to foretell the coming rains. Beauty in North Park does in fact abound.

This image is available as a 24″x36″ aluminum print.  Comes with framed backing, ready to hang. Find it at:


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