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May 2014

May 2014 (4)

Sunday, 25 May 2014 03:00

Deserts from Swamps, Like a Circle

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The Earth's geologic history is the most fascinating story I can imagine. This rock in space we call home has been around for some four and a half billion years, and the amazing forces that have molded and shaped it continuously during that span of time repeat themselves with the recurring certainty of a fine chronometer. Mountains arise only to be flattened by erosion; sediments are carried low by the movement of water, only to be deposited, fused by pressure into new rock and uplifted once again; sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes here once again. The awesome beauty of the high desert of the Colorado Plateau bears witness to the truth of this story, and nowhere moreso than in Capitol Reef National Park where the unique feature that is the Waterpocket Fold tells a tale of swampy lowlands, perhaps 155 million years old, raised up and dried out to reveal the lithic bones that are its structural underpinning. This is literally so, for the Morrison Formation, the foreground of this image, is the primary repository of dinosaur bones of all the rock strata revealed in this country. I followed the line of the Fold looking for places to photograph the colorful bands of the Morrison Formation with the older Navajo Sandstone, which through faulting is now the rimrock of the giant crease, in the background. As I walked over the layers of ancient Morrison mud, I found a couple of blocks of volcanic-ash-become-rock to offer themselves as my foreground. Kneeling down over the ash blocks, I positioned them in the frame so that they did not become barriers to the doorway of the image, and then I tilted up to reveal a small amount of cloud-dappled sky above the slanting rimrocks. A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave sufficient depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/25th second at ISO 100 gave an overall medium exposure.        

 

Saturday, 17 May 2014 14:22

...Your House is on Fire

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 Sometime in the mid-to-late 1200s a small community of Ancestral Puebloan people moved into a secluded canyon on the extreme northeastern slope of what would one day come to be called Cedar Mesa in what is now southeastern Utah. Their scar in the earth would become known as Mule Canyon. Up and down the length of Mule Canyon they built a scattered village. Dwellings and granaries were perched on the inclined sides of the sandsone walls. One of the locations was situated underneath a modest alcove whose layered sheets of stone gave the impression, when seen in the late morning light, of being engulfed in flames. I have no idea whether the Ancient Ones saw it that way, but later visitors most definitely do, and it has come to be known as the "House on Fire Ruin." Sitting on the ledge in front, waiting for the light to reach its ideal position, one can feel the spirits of those who were here so long ago. May they walk in beauty forever. Deciding on the focal length of the lens to use to give just the information I wanted to convey was the most difficult choice, along with the amount of "flame" to reveal and the amount of "house" to go with it. I finally decided on a focal length of 27mm, in landscape format, from an angle to the left of, and below, the ruin. An aperture of f/20 gave me depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an ovearall medium exposure.

 

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.

 

Saturday, 03 May 2014 22:27

A Little in the Middle

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As we head into the Desert Southwest for a glorious month on the Colorado Plateau, I wanted to remind myself of the beauty of home and the joy that is spring in the Southern Appalachians. Middle Prong of Little River flows out of the rugged section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park where Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong come together. These two beautiful streams drain Miry Ridge and Defeat Ridge descending from the north slopes of the Smokies Crest. Where the waters join once lay the starkly quaint logging town of Tremont, owned by Colonel W.B. Townsend's Little River Lumber Company. An arm of the Little River Railroad climbed slowly through the narrow valley, opening access to the prized board feet of wooden treasure. Today a gravel one-lane road usurpts the railroad's bed to lead seekers of solace into the heart of a land recovered by nature and filled with amazement. In spring, Tremont is a fireworks display of dogwood and Middle Prong is a boulder-strewn world of whitewater. I stood on a large boulder whose presence diverted the flow to river-left just at my feet. I wanted to include a lot of information so that the entire river would seem to be flowing toward me. A focal length of 42mm accomplished this. The arched dogwood limb in full blossom gave me a foreground element with which I could repeat the dogwoods in the back of the image. I wanted depth of field from front to rear, but I did not want to completely blur out the swiftly moving water. An aperture of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 allowed for this result.

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