Red Mountain – Edge of Light

by Joe Bridwell

Twice each day, the cool, blue light of night interacts with warm tones of daylight.  For a full hour at either end of the day, colors of light mix together in endless combinations, as if someone in the sky were shaking a kaleidoscope.  

Magic Hour is that hour around dawn and dusk. The Edge of Light occurs when cool, blue light of night interacts with warm tones of daylight. This effect takes place, not directly where the sun rises or sets, but where sun’s rays bring warm, direct light onto parts of land and sky also lit by cool, reflected light of evening.

The most interesting parts of the natural world are these edges.  Places where timberline touches the heights, where bare mountain peaks touch the sky. Landscape photographers shoot light itself! When Magic Hour arrives, I search for perfect light. Then, I hunt for something earthbound to match.

Galen Rowell, Mountain Light, 2011, 3rd Ed.

Red Mountain - No Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Red Mountain – No Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

One of the most profound influences on my photography was Galen Rowell’s book Mountain Light! I checked it out of the library several different times. Attracted to landscape photography, it created many go to concepts for a budding photographer. Recently, my daughter Donna gave it as a Christmas present…

Several months ago, I began dreaming about taking edge of light photos. I’d become quite proficient at HDR capture and Lightroom/Photoshop development. But, I needed a ‘sacred’ place. An earthbound, natural world with a startling edge!

My geology training, when combined with a sense of natural landscape beauty, prompted me to find a high mountain edge. If that natural world was intersected with a high mountain edge of light from early morning rays, perhaps I could get a few once-in-a-lifetime shots.

Red Mountain - First Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Red Mountain – First Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Or, at least, so I dreamed…

Then, I thought about capturing this phenomenal scene in a reflection. I’d seen a still shot from the southern Rocky Mountains. If I could find a pond at significant elevation, then I should be able to capture a truly remarkable edge of light.

What I had not reckoned on was a twist in the spine of said mountain range. That twist created special light behavior. I also had not reckoned on a mountain half snow covered. If snow lay on part of the mountain and the rest were exposed, then my photos could perhaps be even better than Rowell predicted.

Combine direct warm sunrays with indirect cool reflected light of morning. Add the vision of a natural, naked edge called Red Mountain 1. Then enhance the complexity with snow partly covering that naked edge.

That alone should be sufficient…

But, Mother Nature added remarkable drama to this dream. She gave us a partially snow-covered mountain, an edge of light, a sharp natural edge, and then that stunning reflection in the icebound pond below.

Cold, Starry Night

I spent the cold, starry night at 12,000 feet. Far below me, aspens were beginning to turn around Silverton. I got up the next morning, quite eager for this great adventure. I took camera and tripod, set them up, then sat, waiting on the icy cold ground, for truly extraordinary photographers light.

In the 2nd shot above, the Sun’s direct light began to strongly highlight upper ranks of this incredulous snow covered mountain. Yet, bare mountain ridge and snows highlight in the reflecting pond had only just sprung to life.

Red Mountain - Last Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Red Mountain – Last Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

In the next 7 minutes, that remarkable edge of light moved majestically down the mountain and across the enchanted pond. For me, it was like being transfixed in a living dream that was both reality and insanity…

When the entire mountain and tree covered slope was revealed in the pond, I shut off the camera, folded the tripod, got in the truck, and drove home… I knew I had just lived that long-standing dreams reality.

Development using Luminosity Masking

Once in the studio, another part of my dream would come true. I needed to take each of these images, carefully develop it, and bring my memory into only that sharp relief seen by creating such fine art magic.

Last Edge of Light, the third image, has been recast from a prior blog entry. I had learned much more about luminosity masking. I developed all three images to show the same tone mapping style. LastEoL is less saturated and more in tune with overall light patterns than that of Twice Each Day. Stay Tuned! In a blog to follow, I will detail how to Color Synchronize several images using luminosity masking!

I’d seen landscape photos that were so splendid, they simply took my breath away. I discovered those photographers were using Tony Kuyper’s luminosity masking as their development tool of choice. I bought his stuff and began to carefully apply it… Finally, I began truly creating fine art magic!


My life has seen many rather splendid landscape scenes. Somehow, picturesque scenes of that gorgeous, partly snow-covered mountain and stunning reflecting pond are a crowning triumph. Those extraordinary memories will be among my strongest images ever…

Each image has been color synchronized using Tony Kuyper’s luminosity masks and triple play actions. Their gorgeous color and superb texture result from skilled use of Kuyper principles!

©2013 Chopawamsic LC,,

About Joe 

Photographer, author, teacher with enhanced skill creating Award-Winning Photos. Joe uses Luminosity Masking and CFAM-Creating Fine Art Magic for his work!