This Sunset Print Award-winning photo from the New Hampshire PPA print competition, entitled Firehole River, almost didn’t happen. The photographer, Jeff Dachowski – a former Sunset Print Award winner, decorated photographer and PPA judge – had pneumonia when he captured this scene in Yellowstone National Park at Firehole River.
To top it off, Dachowski says it was “super-cold,” which translates to about 15 below zero. Dachowski was leading a group of about 30 photographers on a photography outing sponsored by McKay Photography Academy.
Thanks to the geothermal features that feed into the river, cold weather brings with it a beautiful mist that frames the river and surrounding landscape. It also adds moisture to the air, which clings to the trees and freezes on the trees’ branches overnight.
“As the morning wears on, it all melts off, so that particular shot exists for maybe an hour every morning,” explains Dachowski. “I immediately saw all this gray, depth and atmosphere just hanging around Christmas Tree Rock. It gave so much separation and the light was so low in the sky it was awesome. I love this. I bracketed a couple of exposures, found one that worked well, and since it was a monochrome scene I presented it in black and white.”
Dachowski adds that the image is a composite of two scenes shot together for a 50-megapixel capture that was then stitched together in Photoshop. He captured the scene at f 9.5, ISO 640 and 1/3,000th of a second.
“I shot it hand-held, which is why my ISO was so high,” says Dachowski. “I always overlap my composites a third or so, and at least 15 percent. I use a visual on the horizon, like a particular tree or something on a mountain range. You don’t want to change your exposure and have your focused locked in one direction as you pan because it will impact how it works out.”
The image Dachowski captured is obviously a beautiful piece of photography, but in competition presentation plays a big role, which is why he chose Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g as the medium to present it.
“Michael and Tina Timmons are printing on Sunset eSatin, and if they’re using it then it’s okay with me because they really know their stuff,” says Dachowski. It printed really nice, and I love the sheen. It’s not so glossy that it reflects too much and not so matte that my blacks go dead. I also like the feel of it when I pick up better than other papers I’ve worked with; some photo papers can be kind of sticky or too flimsy.”
To add depth to the presentation, Dachowski created a shadow-mount with three levels: a backing board, the print board to which the print is heat-mounted and a matt cut out with a window on a piece of foam board.
“There’s a three-dimensionality that happens with a print presentation that you can take advantage of. It won’t make your score soar if the image isn’t good, but it can only add value to a good image,” says Dachowski.