Aspens Aglow in Arizona Mountains: Tilt Shift Lens for Landscape Photography

October 24, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Autumn, Aspen Loop Trail 2, Flagstaff, AZAutumn, Aspen Loop Trail 2, Flagstaff, AZ

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."         

                               ― Albert Camus

Looking back at these photos, I'm still a bit chilled from the strong autumn winds at San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, Arizona.  It was a clear, crisp day at Snow Bowl, elevation approximately 9,599 feet, with the Aspens aglow in golden leaves. Likewise, the forest floor was a carpet of golden leaves, laced with delicate rust colored ferns. 

Autumn, Aspen Loop Trail, Flagstaff, AZAutumn, Aspen Loop Trail, Flagstaff, AZ To "freeze" the leaves in these photos, I ended up shooting at high shutter speeds,  like 1/500th of a second and faster. This required me to use high ISO settings, between 750 to 1,200. Back at home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the resulting images Gold Above and Beyond, Aspen Loop Trail, Flagstaff, AZGold Above and Beyond, Aspen Loop Trail, Flagstaff, AZ Nature's Regeneration, Flagstaff, AZNature's Regeneration, Flagstaff, AZ  were pretty clean.  A bit of digital "noise" in the sky areas was easily reduced in Photoshop.  Dense Aspen Grove, Snowbowl,  Flagstaff, AZ 5700 WIdeDense Aspen Grove, Snowbowl, Flagstaff, AZ 5700 WIde

For the first, second and fifth photos shown here, I used a Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift Lens for perspective correction.The vertical shift function helps to keep the trees standing upright and in proper 90 degree alignment with the horizon, instead of leaning into the picture frame.  The tilt function worked well to maximize the depth of field in the image with the fallen log and the large rock.

I'm still learning how to operate the tilt shift lens efficiently in the field, as there is a bit of a learning curve with the manual focus and the tilt functions. After this last round, I'm committed to some more practice sessions at home - in my backyard - without the wind and other distractions. 

The photo presented here,  showing the two hillsides,  is both instructive and inspirational in many ways. Known as the Hochderffer Hills, these formations and many of the nearby mountains are the remnants of old volcanos.  The whole area was ravaged by an intense wildfire several years ago, a fragile situation that threatens the Coconino National Forest and the surrounding areas during hot, dry summer months. 

The inspirational part of this scene, for me, is the strong resurgence of the Aspen grove on the hillsides. Here, we're privileged to witness the regenerative capacity of nature on a grand scale in a relatively short time period. Next Fall, this impressive grove of majestic trees will only stand a bit taller and wider, continuing to forge new life in the ashes. It is quite a sight to behold and better yet, to walk into. 

Camera Gear:  For these photos, I used a Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera, Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift lens, Nikon 24-70 mm f/4 S lens and Gitzo tripod with Swiss Arca ball-head.  

See also, Autumn Aspen Reflections: Northern Arizona Photography.


 


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