How I Got That Shot - Marc Muench

Marc Muench has been a professional landscape and sports photographer for over 20 years. After completing his studies at Pasadena Art Center College of Design in the spring of 1989, Marc immediately began photographing for book publishers such as Graphic Arts Center, Browntrout Publishing and Time Inc.  Soon after, Marc represented Canon Camera in several ad campaigns, as well as appearing on "Canon Photo Safari" which aired on ESPN outdoor block, for eight straight seasons. Marc is now the "artist in residence" at for Smugmug, where he contributes on a regular basis to the "Muench University" critique thread. He is currently the photo editor of the National Parks guide, published by The American Park Network, which contain many of his images taken throughout the United States National Park system. We asked Marc to share some information from his recent book, Exploring North American Landscapes, and he was kind enough to give us some insight into an image that included the sun directly in the frame.  

Marc Muench:  "I believe there is an art to exploring. After years of experience, everyone is capable of becoming good at a specific task, and if they also become driven by their discoveries, excitement and love of what they are doing will inspire others to follow.

I was inspired early on by many desert hikes with my parents while my father searched for the perfect images. We spent months in wilderness areas which left me with nothing but time to explore my given surroundings. It was in those early days of my youth when I formed a subconscious vision of my experience. In my attempt to photograph this image, I maintained the relationship between the person within the landscape, which made the subject, the land, and the exploration of the story. In the West, the sunrise is always the revealing moment when, in the transition from night to day, I became energized to continue on.

I wanted the sun to be larger than the person, allowing the action of the person to be more apparent than the person himself. In order to accomplish this, I needed the right stage, and there is no better stage than Vermillion Cliffs, a thousand foot cliff which to this day remains wilderness. The next challenge was to capture the wide dynamic range of the scene without compromising the most important aspect, the person and the sun! I chose the Canon 17-40mm lens to compose a large vista and allow for a large sun star. Since the camera was pointed directly into the sun, I removed all filters and chose a small aperture to create the large sun star. I could have simply taken a burst of three bracketed exposures and been done with it, but this would have not have given me the best shadow detail without flares and glare.

I chose to concentrate on the action shot first asking my helpful friend to make a few passes. Then with the exposure 2 stops brighter/slower shutter speed, I moved my fingers carefully over the location of the sun within the composition. I actually prefer using the viewfinder for this method as the sun shines directly into your face while attempting to view the LCD. I then stacked the two files into Photoshop and manually blended them using a method I write about in my book, Exploring North American Landscapes."

You can see more of Marc's images on the website,, or check out the upcoming workshops.


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Canon 17-40mm lensExploring north american landscapesHow to shoot sunriseJoel addamsLandscape photographyMarc meunchMarch 2012Photographic tipsVermillion cliffs