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Cerro Torre, night view

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Cerro Torre, night view, testo e foto by Juza. Pubblicato il 08 Giugno 2012; 0 risposte, 3936 visite.

Shooting data: Cerro Torre, night view with stars - Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM, 30" f/2.8, iso 200, tripod. El Chalten, Argentina.

The Canon 300mm f/2.8 is not the classic landscape lens. That said, sometimes the telephotos are the key for unique landscapes: if you are not satisfied by the result you get with wide-angles, try a longer focal to focus the attention on a detail of the landscape!

This photo is taken from the first viewpoint on the Cerro Torre, about 1 hour from El Chalten (1.30h if you have a ton of photographic equipment). I visited the viewpoint for the first time at sunset, with my travelmate Emanuele C. I immediately realized I needed a long lens - the mountain was quite distant. The sunset was not that great, the mountains were completely in backlight so it was not possible to appreciate the golden light of late evening. I absolutely wanted to take a good photo of Cerro Torre so I proposed to Emanuele to wake up at 4 a.m. next morning...eh eh...you can imagine his answer...but I really wanted that photo, so I decided to come back anyway. I thought that the sunrise was at 6 a.m. and I estimated about 1h 30' of walk, considering I had to walk in the night and I had done the trail only one time before, with daylight.

Next morning, I left El Chalten only with 1DsIII, 300 2.8, tripod and the awesome LiteXpress Workx 500 torch, a very powerful LED torch (thanks Sandro :-)). Of course there was nobody around...only silence, stars and a light wind! I walked fast and I arrived at the viewpoint at 5.15 a.m. ...wow! It was pitch black. Later, I discovered that sunrise was at about 6.50 a.m., so I had to wait almost two hours. I had not planned to take night photos, but since I was there...let's try! I mounted the 300mm on tripod and I tried to compose the photo. The viewfinder was pure black so I had to compose by trial and errors; the same for focus: I put the focus ring rear infinity, I toke a test shot, I moved again the focus ring by a little bit, another test shot, and so on, until I managed to get the image in focus. The camera was in manual mode; I set the aperture on f/2.8, exposure 30" and I tried various ISO settings - at ISO 200 I got the correct exposure. It was amazing! The mountains look a lot brighter than the scene I could see by naked eye, and the stars were rendered as star trails! One note: as always, judge the exposure by using the histogram. You should never thrust the image preview on the LCD screen of the camera because it is inaccurate, in particular for night photos, when the darkness of the surrounding environment makes the LCD screen look much brighter than usual.

After these night photos, I patiently waited for sunrise. It was fascinating to see the sky slowly turning brighter, and when the first rays of sun painted the mountain...wow! The colors were unbelievable! The Cerro Torre, painted by red, really looked like a mountain of Mars. The colors of the sunrise photos were so strong that during post processing I have had to reduce saturation - this is a very rare thing :-) For the night photo, instead, I have just increased a bit the contrast. The photo is a bit dark: it would have been very easy to increase the brightness, but I preferred to leave some darkness, to transmit the feeling of mystery an peace of the night.

One last thing: this is a 100% crop of the photo, to show you up close the top of the mountain. Cerro Torre is considered one of the most difficult mountains of the world by climbers: it is 3128 meters high and it has an almost vertical 1200 meters granite wall. On the top, there is the so-called "mushroom", an unstable formation of ice and snow that you can clearly see in this crop.

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