Friday, 27 July 2018 23:05

The Dance of the Capitol Reef Cottonwoods

Capitol Reef National Park is slowly transforming from an undiscovered treasure to just another "almost loved to death" public land; and I suppose I must confess to being part of the problem, for over the past several years I have encouraged anyone who would listen to visit this jewel of a western national delight. It is one of the most geologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, and one of the most amazing testaments to the power of wind, water, and temperature that I can imagine. Beyond that is was an oasis in the desert to a group of intrepid Mormon pioneers, who created a lush agricultural landscape from the waters of Spring Creek and the Fremont River. In the places where their farms stood there were, and still are, Fremont cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) offering shade to the farmer and traveler alike.

A focal length of 250mm, moderate telephoto, provided the magnification and compression I wanted from about a hundred yards. An aperture of f/20 provided as much depth-of-field as I could hope for, and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 200 sufficiently stopped the moving grasses in the morning zephyrs.

I can only hope in our rush to "love" the nature we still have that we will think deeply about the fragility of these desert jewels and treat them with the great respect they require and deserve.

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More in this category: « The Land of Frozen Dunes

5 comments

  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Thursday, 02 August 2018 19:32 posted by Donald McGowan

    Good evening Everyone. Thanks very much to each of you for joining me for this conversation. Capitol Reef has, as I have said on several occasions, such a tremendous diversity of geological and biological form. Even so, we probably tend to associate its primary attraction with its amazing rock formations. Yet it must be acknowledged that in the desert wherever there is regularly flowing water, there are likely to be found growing the trees on which Native people depended for so much of their material well-being, the cottonwood (Populus fremontii).
    Hey Donald. I hope your wanderings over the summer have given you much pleasure. We look forward to seeing you in the Southern Appalachians very soon. You would, indeed, love the cottonwoods of Capitol Reef exactly for the reasons you cited, and probably more the would be discovered. Thanks for your kind words about the ones in this week's Image. We may yet figure out a way to share this wonderful area with you.
    Hi Nancy T. It was a special treat to get to see you on my way home. I'm so glad we were able to share that time. Downward groovin' and hip-hop body rollin' sound pretty funky to me, but I can see where you're comin' from. May you keep dancin' in whatever form it may take for a long time to come. Walk in Beauty.
    Hi Aileen; it's great to have you join us. I hope all has been well with you. Your two primary points - negative space and everyday beauty - are much appreciated. I usually think of the Gestalt terms "figure" and "ground," but negative space works just as well. We often get so caught up in the "figure" aspect of our image, that we overlook the importance and effective use of negative space/ground. And I love your thought about "everyday beauty." This is what the mindfulness of photography is all about, and I am so glad you pointed it out for us. Thank you.
    Hey Michael; it's always good to have you with us. I so appreciate your first thought, and my first thought in response is that to be thought of in the same sentence as Eliot Porter is to get given a compliment more precious than anything I can imagine. I appreciate your kind words, my friend. Indeed, it is the compositional principle of simplicity that speaks most forcefully foe me in this image; and I'm glad it has spoken to you also. I'm hoping to hear, one of these days, that you are on your way to the Southern Appalachians, so that we can spend a bit of time with you in our backyard. Take good care.
    What a wonderful and thoughtful collection of thoughts and observations for something so simple and yet so powerful, the everyday beauty of a cluster of cottonwood trunks in a lake of grasses. May we all walk in beauty.

  • Comment Link Mike Di Stefano Monday, 30 July 2018 20:54 posted by Mike Di Stefano

    Howdy Don, The first thought that came to mind when I saw your "The Dance of the Capitol Reef Cottonwoods" image was; Elliot Porter. The simplicity yet eye catching interest of the image subject matter and composition is a joy to look at for a long time. The intimate extraction of the three tree trunks from the world of Capitol Reef National Park is a masterpiece. Thanks for sharing.

  • Comment Link Aileen Fletcher Sunday, 29 July 2018 16:29 posted by Aileen Fletcher

    This one is a great example of using negative space effectively and also a great example of using an everyday subject in an exciting and creative way.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 29 July 2018 12:24 posted by Nancy Tripp

    It looks like a hip-hop Cottonwood Dance to me with some body rolling and downward grooving. I like that you chose the vertical format to highlight the dancers. This would still be a fun image even if there were no music.

  • Comment Link Donald E Newsom Sunday, 29 July 2018 11:11 posted by Donald E Newsom

    When I first read, "Capitol Reef," I was expecting another stunning view of red rock. This calm-inducing view of grasses and trees is a delight. I'd love to be there, playing with long exposures in the breeze, to get impressionistically blurred grasses and leaves contrasting with sturdy, still tree trunks. Thank you, Don.

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