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Sunday, 11 May 2014 00:52

A Grand River

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 Some twenty-nine million years ago two tectonic plates, the North American and the Pacific, scraped against each other. The result was the creation of a geologic feature known as a rift valley, a separation of the Earth's crust caused by faulting. Across this separation the ancient Rio Grande River has worn a tectonic chasm, slicing through the basalt flows of the Taos Plateau volcanic field. At its deepest, the Rio Grande Gorge reaches eight hundred feet, producing a truly unique eco-system that is home to forests containing five-hundred-year-old junipers and pinons. Last year the gorge became part of the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, a wonderful way of preserving this beautiful place. We arrived at the gorge about 8:30 a.m., a half-hour after sunrise on an intermittently cloudy morning, which created a soft contrast as the highlights and shadows danced across the land, illuminating first one area and then another. I chose to face upstream at first, from a place on the western approach to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, so that the highlights would come and go on the left side of chasm (and the image), leaving the right side in relative shade. In this way the highlights formed an arc around the shadow area, which I particularly liked. There was a bare vertical wall in the near ground and I waited for a highlight to brighten it and its surrounding slopes. I did not want to have any sky to distract from the scene below, so I cut off the top of the image just above the edge of the rim; and I used the turn of the river to create a diagonal through the frame that ended in an arced C-curve at the top of the ccomposition. A short telephoto focal length of 90mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave me sufficient depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure.


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  • Comment Link Don  McGowan Sunday, 18 May 2014 00:27 posted by Don McGowan

    Hello Everyone. Thank you all very much for joining this conversation. As Horace has so aptly put it, a spectacular scene. It, perhaps, doesn't get the recognition of its larger cousins, but it is a place where one could gaze in creative contemplation for hours. Hey Rod, I'm really glad to have you join us. You would completely be engrossed in these places and your paintings would be amazing. I'm glad you like the image. We're looking forward to seeing you in the fall. Thanks for your kind comments Dorsey. No, these magnificent places are not what we are accustomed to in the East, but they are incredibly beautiful and lots of fun to be creative in. They have their own challenges and rewards; and you are absolutely right about the lines and contrasts being the things that quickly caught my eye. Thanks Michelle; we are definitely in geologists' heaven here. Hey Robert, glad you enjoyed this one. Wish you were here with us. Hope the spring back home has been a great one. Joni, you are very welcome. I look forward to having you join us on one of our adventures. Nancy T., thanks for your thoughtful words. I hope your trip to Florida is going very well. We have missed you and hope to see you soon. I think your comment about being overwhelmed is what many of us feel in the presence of these majestic scenes. I know that's true for me, and I constantly work at bringing the scale of these places down to a manageable collection of bits of information that can convey the grandness to the whole. Thank you all, again, for joining me.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Saturday, 17 May 2014 11:09 posted by Nancy Tripp

    I see how you narrowed your view to include the plateau at the top and the curve of the river to lead the eye through the image. It makes a beautiful composition to show off what you were experiencing. I would have been too overwhelmed with the vast size of the whole scene to decide where to start to capture it. Thanks for sharing the image and how and why you created it.

  • Comment Link Joni Meyer Tuesday, 13 May 2014 11:16 posted by Joni Meyer

    Don you are a wealth of information both on geological history of our nation and photographic. I try to absorb every bit that you share. Thanks for this.

  • Comment Link Bob Monday, 12 May 2014 08:40 posted by Bob

    Terrific take, Don. Great exposure. I feel as though I'm there. Have a great time - Looking for more. Thanks.

  • Comment Link Michelle Jensen Monday, 12 May 2014 03:52 posted by Michelle Jensen

    Beautiful! Lovely lesson in geology for my grandchildren. Thanks. Happy Mother's Day to all.

  • Comment Link Dorsey Davis Sunday, 11 May 2014 22:19 posted by Dorsey Davis

    Although the landscape in this part of NM is rugged and lacking in the lush vegetation we are so familiar with here in the east you have managed to assemble a nice composition with leading lines and light contrasts that give us a sense of the size and depth of this canyon. Well done.

  • Comment Link Rod MacIver Sunday, 11 May 2014 18:48 posted by Rod MacIver

    Incredible spot and photo. Thanks Don.

  • Comment Link Horace Hamilton Sunday, 11 May 2014 10:03 posted by Horace Hamilton

    Marvelous image. I have photographed this scene several times and it seems always more beautiful each time than the last. Spectacular scene!

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