Little Stony Man Cliffs, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Beginning the short 0.5 mile late October hike to Little Stony Man Cliffs in Shenandoah National Park, I was brought back to my childhood by the flagrant smell of moist, fallen oak leaves covering the rocks along this short part of the Appalachian Trail. It had been exceedingly cloudy on our drive in to Virginia and my hopes of great sunset light were fading. Arriving at the summit just in time to set up, we witnessed the sun suddenly pop out from under the clouds and illuminate the valley below. The colors were at full peak, and that beautiful soft light made for the most vivid oranges and yellows one can imagine. 

Inspired by the atmosphere, I quickly composed my shot so as to include the blazing fall colors and incorporate the iconic visage facing the sun. If you can imagine, the face of the man is oriented almost in profile is seen on the left of the image, with the nose pointed towards the sun, eyes/eyebrows seen just above, and the chin below. The feeling of breathing the crisp autumn air and having the opportunity to capture this ancient rock formation in the absence of other photographers was truly an experience I will remember for years to come.


"Visage to the Setting Sun," Shehandoah National Park, Virginia


Technique: Nikon D700, NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 at f/16 for the first capture which demonstrates the fantastic rays of light filtering through the clouds and illuminating the valley. Then I recomposed the capture in portrait orientation and stopped down to f/22 to obtain a sweet sunstar illuminating the foreground rocks. The exposures were achieved by bracketing 5 exposures, 1 stop apart, and subsequently manually combining the images in Photoshop.


All images are ©2011 Alexander Filatov Photography. All rights reserved.


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