The Christensens found me on Instagram a while ago and asked if I could do their family photos. They live in Wyoming (!) but said they were willing to make the long drive down to the Salt Lake City area.
I wanted to shorten that drive for them as much as possible, but they requested photos in a heavily wooded mountain location. If you’re unfamiliar with Utah geography, going from Salt Lake toward Wyoming things get real barren real fast. The mountains are still pretty, but there’s not much that could really qualify as a tree (much less a forest) for a couple hundred miles.
After bouncing around some ideas in the Park City area, we settled on Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Donut Falls got its name because the waterfall carved a hole in the large outcropping of rock creating somewhat of a donut shape.
The hike to Donut Falls is gorgeous and pretty easy for little kids, so it was a great location for family photos. Unfortunately, the water was really high which prevented us from going the last 100 yards or so without getting soaked (the Christensens were definitely the best dressed people on the trail, and we didn’t want to mess that up).
Instead, we found some nice locations along the trail like this beautiful pine tree next to the river:
The Christensens really wanted to feature nature in their family photos, so I went full landscape photographer on this one. It was definitely a challenge to create.
I took a photo of them sitting on the roots of the pine tree next to the river first, but I wasn’t all that happy with it. It needed a little more landscape oomph (industry term).
I decided to make their family photo into a composite landscape image. Basically, I was going to create the type of landscape photo I would make if no one was there and then drop them into it. This meant doing a long exposure (using a 10-stop neutral density filter) panorama to get the entire river into the frame with soft flowing water.
This was the resulting landscape image:
I then took the photo of the family and very carefully positioned them in the frame on a separate layer where I could paint out the parts of the photo I didn’t want.
This was WAY more difficult than I originally imagined it would be. I had to do a lot of stretching and skewing to get everything to line up just right since the panoramic image had distorted some of the areas in the photo.
Finally, I took the composite image and put some final touches on it by blending the layers together and adding some contrast and color:
It took quite a bit of time and a few new photoshop techniques to get it done, but I think the outcome is a family photo that is going to look GREAT hanging on the wall.
Here are the rest of the photos from this fun family shoot: