The Ascent

No, Steve and I did not take a daytrip to make it to the summit of K2 or one of the other Himalayan peaks, although we easily could.  This image was made on one of this winter’s sub-zero days at Elephant Rocks.   I had an idea of the image I wanted to make that may showcase an optical effect that Galen Rowell made famous called “diffraction fringe“.  By putting oneself in the shadow of your back-lit subject at just the right difference and position, one may see a ring of hot light that outlines the silhouette of the subject.  This proper geometry of sun, subject and camera (including optical settings)  is just one requirement to observe and capture this effect.  The other, as far as my understanding allows is the need for dry, clean air.  On this particular day we had temps below zero degrees Fahrenheit and the air was as dry as could be with no interference from any noticeable smog.  With the air quality requirement met, it was simply a matter of trying to position the model (Steve) at the correct position between myself and the sun.  This part was more difficult in this setting and ultimately led to us missing our ultimate goal.  Trying to work this out in minus 30 degree windchill proved our undoing.  I could only ask Steve to climb so many boulders in this type of weather, which seemed to be increasingly affecting our mood and thought process the longer we were in these elements.  Ultimately, I did not achieve the diffraction fringe.  I am not sure as to the reasoning for this failure.  I feel the geometry of our positioning, afforded by the placement of boulders and the limited availability of where I could position myself was the biggest factor.  Getting the required distance that I believe necessary was impossible.  Other factors that could have played a part were not having the most appropriate focal length and aperture settings, the air quality not being as suitable as I thought and perhaps the quality of the optics I was using.  Many of these optical phenomena are the result of imperfection in lens design.  Galen took most of his images with older generation optics that were often lower quality compared to today’s standards.

I’m not exactly sure what the reason for the failure in acquiring this diffraction fringing was. I guess this was just a very long explanation of an image I thought turned out to be pretty successful anyway.  I look forward to trying this one again one day.


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