Behind The Shot: Removing Distractions & Creating Visual Pathways In The Badlands

Sapna Reddy (@sapnareddy) is a landscape photographer based in Northern California. The Alpha Collective member is currently pursuing dual careers as a photographer and a physician. As a radiologist she analyzes images in an attempt to establish diagnosis to achieve cure. As a photographer she aspires to generate images that are both a creative expression for the artist as well as a therapeutic visual for the viewer. Her work has been awarded in competitions run by National Geographic, USA landscape photographer of the year, Lonely Planet, Popular Photography and Outdoor Photographer amongst others. We recently came across this photo of Sapna’s, titled “Bare Beauty” that won Grand Prize for the 2021 Nature’s Colors Contest run by Outdoor Photographer. We connected with Sapna to learn more about how she made the image with her Sony Alpha 7R III and Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master – see what she had to say below.

Photo by Sapna Reddy. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100
Photo by Sapna Reddy. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100

The Scene

As a physician, it was difficult to witness firsthand the suffering thrust upon us by the pandemic. From February through the summer months of 2020, the workdays remained long and exhausting. When I got the opportunity to take a vacation in October, I decided to head to Utah to be alone in the Badlands. I figured that the spectacular fall colors would have a therapeutic effect on me.

Our state of mind is reflected in the art we choose to create. Of all the scenes I photographed, the one that appealed to me the most was this bare tree. Amongst trees decked out in autumn splendor, this minimalistic tree stole the show. Devoid of any foliage, its white bark glistened in the sunlight, testimony to grace in suffering and that bare is also beautiful. Its graceful architecture shows that sometimes less is more and that stripping oneself of embellishments reveals the beauty within.

The Gear

My gear and settings were: Sony Alpha 7R III, Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master at 137mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100. In order to get the right perspective I had to climb a small nearby hill and then hold my camera and lens over my head to clear the obstruction of view from foreground bushes (not intended to be included in the scene). The fast shutter speed and the excellent in camera body stabilization offered in Sony Alpha 7R III made this hand held shot possible. But to get the composition right a few tries were needed.

Getting The Shot

I enjoy using my long lens to pick out portions of the grand scene to portray but still keep the feeling of the grand scene intact. In doing so, I feel the story becomes more powerful by removing distractions, strengthening the visual pathway and thereby increasing the emotional impact of the image.

The key to this image was to wait for the right moment when the light hit just the tree and the surrounding foliage was not as brightly lit. Both the angle of the sun as well as position of the overlying clouds played an important role in being able to capture the right quality of light through the scene. The protagonist of this story (the bare tree) needed that spotlight to draw attention center stage. The first time I visited this location the whole scene was in shade. I had to go back the next day when the angle of the sun was such that it would illuminate the tree and then wait for passing clouds to showcase just the tree with more subdued lighting for the surrounding foliage.

The Edit

I used Adobe Photoshop to dodge and burn selectively to strengthen the visual pathway. Other than that not much processing was needed for this image.

See more of Sapna Reddy’s work on her Alpha Universe Profile or on Instagram @sapnareddy.

Featured in this blog:

Sony a7R III Mirrorless Body

Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5–5.6 GM OSS

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