Don McGowan

Don McGowan

Sunday, 15 July 2018 00:33

For RZ - Listening?

Shash Jaa' is listening. This week I watched as the light of afternoon played across the face of the saced uplifts and dark clouds filled with rain loomed overhead. I did not intend to insinuate commentary on this matter, but as I felt the presence of the great ears watching me, I knew that I had to offer something to the conversation. Bears Ears awaits our answer; will we preserve it, or will we allow it to be compromised for the sake of material greed? The choice is ours.

A focal length of 135mm from a distance of several miles allowed me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure.

The Navajo, the Hopi, the Zuni, and two tribes of Utes are waiting for meaningful participation in the decision process. If I were to say how I really feel, my words would erupt in anger, and Bears Ears is listening to us all.

Saturday, 07 July 2018 22:10

Long Ago and Far Away, Too

As the sparse, but consistent, waters of Unkar Creek wind their way from the high slopes of the Grand Canyon's North Rim, they expose layer upon layer of geologic time as they meander to the silt-laden Colorado miles below and away. In Unkar's delta, for hundreds of years, Ancestral Puebloans seasonally spun out their lives, retreating to the rim as the pressing heat of summer filled the great chasm below. Unkar is the Paiute word for "red," and the creek's delta is one of the largest archaeological sites along the entire canyon's awesone run.

A focal length of 28mm - solidly in wide-angleland - gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/15 second at ISO 200 gave me an overall medium exposure.

I imagine the ancient Natives trudging slowly northward and upward, feeling the cooling airs with each elevation gained; and I sense the endurance they displayed as the great walls rose higher and steeper, the joy they felt as they topped out along the summit into the relief-giving shade of the great conifers of the Kaibab Plateau.


Friday, 29 June 2018 23:05

Relativity and Mostly Solid Rock

In all of the years I/we have been visiting Acadia, we had somehow never managed to find our way over to Schoodic Peninsula, a separate unit of the Park on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, due East of Great Head about an hour away from Southwest Harbor by car, and actually part of the mainland. It is a geologist's Eden, a massive slope of pink granite, fractured by interval intrusions of black diabase - an igneous rock similar to basalt - which weather differentially and encourage fountains of spray to erupt from the creviced rock.

Schoodic is such a convoluted landscape that I wanted to play a bit with perspective.. The rise in the granite (mid-ground) above the shelf is only about 15", but by placing the camera even with the top of the step-up and being lower down on the shelf, the step up was rendered as a much more looming presence. A focal length of 24mm, solid wide-angle, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure. Some of the balsam fir trees along the apex of the point top out around 50'.

I feel certain that our first visit to Schoodic will somehow not be our last.

Saturday, 23 June 2018 13:57

The Lupine of Duck Cove

If Mount Desert Island is a catcher's mitt with the fingers pointed southward, then Duck Cove would be the small indentation between the index and middle fingers. While scouting with my dear friend, John DiGiacomo, the Acadia Adventure just concluded, we happened upon this lovely lupine field looking casually out over the cove toward the more open waters of Blue Hill Bay. It was a scene I have carried in my mind's eye for all the years I have photographed in this amazing landscape.

A focal length of 55mm, very normal, provided the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/25th second at ISO 400 allowed me to still the slight motion in the blossoms caused by the late-afternoon island breeze.

There are many ways to think about pre-visualization, and it is always a delight to happen upon an image that you have held in you mind's-eye for so long, and thus gain the opportunity to turn that vision into creative reality.

Saturday, 16 June 2018 08:24

The Forest and the Ferns

In the Year 1603 Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, Lieutenant Governor of New France, was commissioned by King Henry IV "to establish the name, power, and authority of the King of France; to summon the natives to a knowledge of the Christian religion; to people, cultivate, and settle the said lands; to make explorations and especially to seek out mines of precious metals" in the territory between the 40th and 46th parallels, which would extend from present day Philadelphia to Montreal, including the present day coast of Maine. It is in honor of Sieur de Monts efforts in the New World, led by the great explorer, Samuel de Champlain, that the first superintendent of Acadia, George Dorr, named the nearby spring Sieur de Monts. It is considered the symbolic birthplace of Acadia National Park. It is also a place to find beautiful forests of hardwoods filled with amazing species of ferns that carpet the understory in spring.

A focal length of 35mm, the upper range of wide-angleland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1.0 second, and patience to wait for a slight breeze to still, at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Bonnie and I have come to love the beauty of Acadia and the warmth of its people as a home-away-from-home and a wonderland to be cherished always. 

Thursday, 07 June 2018 19:26

Fireworks in a Lupine Field

The lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) of Acadia National Park are an invasive species to be sure, but it seems almost a shame to think of their removal - and I do not mean to imply by any means that there is a plan to do this - and, as far as I know, the lupine of Acadia will delight us with their fiery beauty for years to come.

It might be a bit of a surprise to learn that a focal length of 27mm, right in the middle of wide-angleland, allowed me to create the angle-of-view I wanted for this image. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/4th second in some fairly calm air at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

The stalks of large palmate leaves and spires of bean-shaped blossoms seem to emerge from the green stems of their plants as bursts of contained explosive from a densely growing field: fireworks of colorful botanical joyfulness.  

Friday, 01 June 2018 07:34

New Life in Old

They are one of my favorite flowers on the planet, both for their own beauty and for the feelings/memories they evoke. These diminutive relatives of the dogwood (Cornus florida) travel by the unassuming name of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), and they are one of the primary ground cover species of the Great North Woods, including the awesome coastline of Acadia National Park. More than this, they were often the subject of Eliot Porter's camera as he explored the Maine Coast; they grace the cover of the retrospective of his work, Eliot Porter. They remind me that in the face of the chaos in our lives, the world is still a beautiful place.

Early morning light was just beginning to peek through the trees when I came on this scene. A focal length of 123mm, still short-telephoto, from a distance of about 3' allowed bunchberry and decaying stump to come together in intimate landscape. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 2.0 seconds in windless air at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

There are many reasons I fell in love with Acadia; this tiny flower is one of the big ones.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 11:16

Who by Fire

Over the years I have shared several images from Purchase Knob, one of my favorite places in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Several days ago we were there again hoping for a glorious sunrise with which to welcome the new day. What we were given was so much more than we could have imagined that I wanted to share one more Image from this beautiful place. I know why my soul calls this land "home."

A focal length of 52mm, truly normal, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted to isolate the portion of my visual field in which the most intense drama was occurring. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly darker-than-medium exposure and provided a compromise between noise introduction and cloud motion.

As I looked on, almost too enthralled to photograph, the title of a Leonard Cohen song occurred to me, "Who by Fire?"

Saturday, 19 May 2018 08:48

Rocks for the Ages

The old rocks of Franklin Cliffs Overlook in Shenandoah National Park have seen the patience of time. They are gifts of a distant Precambrian world and its Mesoproterozic Era, which ended more than a billion years before the present, long before some of these strata were uplifted to become part of the crest of these ancient mountains. Once exposed, nature's inexorable forces immediately began to lay them low: the primordial lichen, eating rocks, giving birth to soil. As I sat gazing at the great valley miles away, I could not help but contemplate the march of time taking place beneath the soles of my Chacos.

A focal length of 112mm allowed me to isolate - from about 2.5' -  the lichen patterns that attracted me. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly-darker-than-medium exposure.

More than mere patches of lichen, what I saw before me were shapes and lines of the march of time itself: an abstract from the dim past moving across the present day.

Friday, 11 May 2018 21:32

If Forestry Had a Cradle...

All of the land in the fog-filled valley below my perch was once owned by George Washington Vanderbilt II, and on it, with the dendrologic knowledge of Carl A. Schenck, was established the first school of forestry in America. The Cradle of Forestry is now a part of the Pisgah National Forest and serves to share with everyone the knowledge of Vanderbilt's and Schenck's work and its heritage for all of us - the successes, the failures, the wisdom of trees. As the sun peeked cautiously  over the eastern mountains, I watched the valley mist roll like waves on a woody sea.

A focal length of 62mm, still within the "normal" range, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/8, given the camera-to-subject distance, and a shutter speed of 0.3 second at ISO 200 allowed me to stop the movement in the fog to avoid unwanted blurring, provide depth-of-field, and also to create a somewhat darker-than-medium exposure: all without building unacceptable amounts of digital noise into the file.

I often wonder if Schenck came to this spot, before there was a Blue Ridge Parkway, to watch in silence as the new day began.

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