The Road to Denali

The Road to Denali

Inside the Photo

The camera sensor often sees quite a bit more (or less) than our own eyes. In October 2013 I was in Alaska, my first time there, with a generous invite to speak at a conference at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I planned a few days before so I could see the big scenery.

The day I had open to drive down to Denali National Park was horribly overcast in Fairbanks, and rained as I crested the first mountains. It looked like a sad day for photography, and I at least had my water proof pocket camera. Tight was flat, dull. But Chris told me the weather can be different near the big mountains, and as I drove farther through some of the most isolated and open places this side of Highway 50 in Nevada, an arc of light held over the mountains.

I never saw the top of Denali, and maybe only the bottom third, but it was impressive. I took this photo on the way back, because while still heavy, I thought I might as well take a road photo.

I always like road photos, and the way you can play with the converging lines that draw the viewer in, in this case the road, the lines on the shoulder, even the ditch all pull towards the center, there goes ye old rule of thirds in the trash. The hill on the right, and to a lesser extent, the dull grey one on the left, point to the same location.

When I edited the photo in Aperture, it was not very interesting, flat color, and very little detail on the sky. But in running the image through Silver Efex Pro (Now owned by Google since they bought Nik software), I was able to really make the sky pop in ways I could not really even see in the original image, another reason to always shoot in RAW format if you can. I cannot remember which effect it was, likely one of the reverse spectrum ones.

Bu here is an example where the software and the experimenting brings out an image I find much more interesting than the original. Sure I am letting the computer do a lot of the work, but I don’t really care how you make something interesting, just that you find ways to do it.

There is of course the immense feeling of isolation here- no structure, no object on the road, and one might consider it pristine beyond the road, whether that is natural forestation or not. For me, it really captures the feeling of the small amount of Alaska landscape I got to see.

There was sad irony here as my other pictures are of the road closed signs outside of Denali National park, thanks to the colossal failure of our government to deal with its budget and the shutdown that closed “our” parks. It was that less pristene after all.

Photo Metadata

  • Caption: Highway 3, the Parks highway (named for George not National)
  • When: Oct 08, 2013 01:29:24 pm
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • ISO: 250
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • Shutter Speed: 1/500sec
  • Rights : cc licensed ( BY-SA ) photo by Alan Levine