The Mount Whitney Trail's 97 Switchbacks at Night

Discussion in 'Landscape' started by kurtlawson, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. kurtlawson

    kurtlawson Member

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    [​IMG]New Scan of the 97 Switchbacks at Night by Kurt Lawson, on Flickr

    The 97 switchbacks of the Mount Whitney Trail - at night.

    On a whim in September 2018 I decided to get this image re-scanned. I had originally scanned it using my Nikon LS-9000ED, but wanted a better result. So I sent it out for drum scanning. Because I was paying quite a bit for the drum scan, I went back and forth with the scanner and essentially micromanaged myself a scan that was in retrospect a bit overexposed. Once I received it, I ended up spending quite a bit of time taking my Nikon scan and using the color from that which I regarded as better and combining it with the increased resolution and sharpness of the drum scan. Working with a 16k by 13k image was painstaking but in the end at the time I was happy with the result. When I sent the film off this time, I did not provide any specific instruction. I just let Michael Strickland do his thing. The comparison of the two is enlightening. The light trail is not overexposed, and you can see the bluish color of the gigantic camping lantern lighting up the rocks around the trail. The colors are overall more saturated, with the reddish pinkish tones that still baffle me as to their origin appearing even more deeply. I still have no idea why the sky was that color that night, as all my tests indicated it would be blue. Both cameras have the exact same palette from two different rolls of film. It’s amazing how I can look at this image after these years in a new light and realize that all this time I had been missing out. I also even scanned the backup camera, in which the light trail stops a little before the left side of the frame as I closed that shutter early. Original caption follows.

    In August 2010 I climbed Mount Whitney. The exhausting zigzag of the infamous 97 switchbacks on the way up got me thinking: What if this part of the trail was photographed as someone carried a lantern on this trail at night?

    On August 21st, 2011 after 9 months of planning and testing films and exposures and with some great luck I achieved this idea on a single frame of Fuji Provia 100 film. The exposure time here was 4.5 hours with a Mamiya 7II camera. The color is what the Provia film rendered in the starlight and moonlight.

    Thank you to my friends who helped carry gear and the lantern!

    The light trail you see from the lantern is about 2 miles long, spanning some 1600 feet of elevation gain. The elevation where this photo was taken is 12,265 feet above sea level. The top of the light trail is 13,600 ft and the low point is 12,000 ft. The trail stops at Trail Crest, the point where you can finally see over the Mount Whitney Crest into Sequoia National Park.

    Mamiya 7 II
    43mm f/4.5 lens at f/5.6
    4.5 hours
    Fuji Provia 100F

    Read about how this photo came to be here: http://blog.kurtlawson.com/?p=952
     
  2. AlanLichty

    AlanLichty Moderator

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    Outstanding planning and execution. I am highly impressed with the results.
     
  3. JimFox

    JimFox Moderator
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    Excellent work Kurt! Having made it to the top of Mt Whitney twice myself, I always enjoy seeing photos like this. I remember specifically counting the switchbacks both times to see if it really was 97 switchbacks.

    Your perseverance to pull this off. How did you decide for the exposure time on this?
     
  4. kurtlawson

    kurtlawson Member

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    I wrote a huge post detailing the process, which involved a lot of trial and error. I was at one point doing 7 simultaneous exposure tests in Death Valley using 35mm and Medium Format film cameras to try to determine what exposure to use and how much moonlight was needed. http://blog.kurtlawson.com/?p=952
     
  5. Kyle Jones

    Kyle Jones Moderator

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    Really cool image and nicely executed - especially on film!
     
  6. Ben Egbert

    Ben Egbert Forum Helper
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    My only time up there was in 1967 or 68. It is really fun to see the switchbacks like this.
     
  7. Douglas Sherman

    Douglas Sherman Supporting Member

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    Beautiful job on this, Kurt. I'm impressed.
     
  8. Tom Narwid

    Tom Narwid Well-Known Member

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    Technically superb.
     
  9. lionking

    lionking Supporting Member

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    Such an amazing capture on so many levels!
    Great work.
     
  10. Jim Dockery

    Jim Dockery Well-Known Member

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    Cooler than a moose and twice as hairy!! Well worth all the considerable effort you put into it.
     

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