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June 2014

June 2014 (5)

Sunday, 29 June 2014 00:00

Watching Those Icons

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Every special place on earth has some iconic image associated with its existence, and, of course some places have several. In Zion National Park such a place must surely be the Virgin River Bridge looking downstream toward the massive wall of Navajo Sandstone known as "The Watchman" as it gathers the last rays of the setting sun. It's not unusual for 50-75 folks to gather there to watch the day slide into the fall of night, most of them with cameras and tripods. I often avoid icons for the sake of those other, lesser-known places that make a location more meaningful to me; but recently when I was in Zion I saw the most incredible combination of light and atmospherics I have ever seen in the numerous times I have stood on the bridge bidding farewell to the light of another day. So being snared, as I was, by the beauty of an icon, I could conclude only to share it. The thickness of the overhead clouds reduced the contrast just enough to avoid the need for a GND filter. A 37mm focal length gave me the angle of view I wanted; and an aperture of f/16 at a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker than medium exposure.  

Saturday, 21 June 2014 00:00

Grand View at Ground Level

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Canyonlands National Park has so many iconic places it would be impossible to chose a superlative; but among them to be sure would be the extreme end of the Island in the Sky District known as Grand View Point Overlook. From this amazing location, one looks out over the vastness of the redrock country and down upon the conjunction of the Colorado and Green Rivers, from so far above them that the fact seems almost anticlimactic. What one does not usually anticipate are the small waterpockets of the mesa top\\\'s surface to actually be filled with water. However, on the morning of May 12th, just past, there was a storm that crossed over the mesa leaving those tiny reservoirs brimming before it passed on to the southeast. Knowing that this had occurred made the decision to head for Grand View Point in the late afternoon an easy one, since either way - waterpockets or not - it would be beautiful. I wanted to find a spot that would allow me to line up as many puddles as possible and, at the same time, still retain an attractive view off the mesa into the background. The other primary consideration was positioning the camera at a height that would maximize the reflection of the blue sky in each puddle without merging any of the puddle rims with each other, and I waited for a passing cloud to shade the surface to create the maximum saturation. An extremely wide angle focal length allowed too much sky and too much mesa top; but a focal length of 84mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 at a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00

A Canyon for Calf Creek

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Looking down from a nearly vertical wall of Navajo Sandstone, the almost level floor of Calf Creek appears as a long green oasis in a world of rock. Early settlers used this valley as a weaning site for their livestock. Calves newly taken from their mothers were fenced into the box canyon at whose back end is the 126' Lower Calf Creek Falls. The source of the year-round flow is about 8 miles upstream from the creek's confluence with the Escalante River. In 1938 the CCC built Utah Highway 12 - one of the most beautiful drives in the country - to connect the towns of Escalante and Boulder. The road came from Escalante across the river just above its confluence with the creek and then climbed slowly out of the canyon along the Hogsback, a very narrow ridge behind me, before dropping off the mesa and into the fertile valley where Mormon pioneers had established the lovely community of Boulder in 1890. It is said that Boulder, Utah was the last town in America to be serviced by mule train mail delivery, and it did not have electricity until the year I was born. I wanted to use the spur ridge of Navajo Sandstone as a line to lead the eye out into the image and down into the canyon where it could join the green line of the streambed and follow it diagonally, right to left, through the image and out near the upper left corner. I was careful not to occlude the line of the creek with the line of the spur ridge. I also wanted to show a small bit of the horizon above the top of the canyon downstream to give a little greater sense of depth. The green line of the creek's bed and the orange-pink-magenta lines of sandstone in the walls of the canyon seemed to compliment each other nicely. A focal length of 39mm gave me a sufficiently wide angle of view that told the story I wanted to share. An aperture of f/22 provided plenty of depth-of-field; and at ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1/5 second gave me an overall medium exposure.    

Saturday, 07 June 2014 00:00

In the Middle of Munchkin Land

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Bucket Lists are fine, but for me the greater value is in returning to a place with which I have made a connection, because I know that connections allow me to see the same place with new eyes; and new eyes make me a better artist. On our just-ended tour of the Southwest we returned to Goblin Valley State Park in south-central Utah, having visited there in 2011. The "goblins" in this wonderful place are made of Entrada Sandstone, which is the basic rock unit in this area. When the layers of Entrada were brought to the surface by the uplift of the Henry Mountains and subsequent erosional forces that followed, they began to form the hoodoos that now fill the drainage of the wash valley in which they are found. Perhaps because the Entrada was formed of alternating layers of sandstone, siltstone, and shale in shallow tidal flats it erodes in the way that it does. Whatever the reason, what it forms is sheer beauty. I wanted to create as wide of an angle of view as possible while at the same time having the foreground elements large enough to give a sense of scale as the hoodoos receded in the distance. I found a place on the near edge of the valley where the mountains could used as a backdrop to reveal the far rim of the valley and simultaneously preclude nearly all of the sky. I was able to gain enough elevation so that I could reveal groups of goblins with almost no mergers of individual hoodoos. The late afternoon light bathed all of them in a soft, warm glow, and I felt very much like I had found my way to munchkin land. A focal length of 90mm gave me the angle of view and image size combination I wanted. At an aperture of f/22, a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.


Saturday, 31 May 2014 00:00

Sensuality in the Light from Above

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Most of the world's slot canyons are found predominantly in areas of little rainfall, and the Antelope Wash drainage of Northern Arizona certainly qualifies in that regard. The average annual precipitation for the month of May is 0.41"; and for the entire year the precipitation total is a whopping 6.85." These wonderfully beautiful geological features form over thousands, even millions, of years from water rushing over rock, primarily sandstone or limestone. Proportionally, slot canyons are hugely deeper than they are wide. Though not on the main drainage of Antelope Creek, Canyon X is a side channel of that watershed and is upstream from its more well-known siblings. At its deepest it is over 150' in depth, yet there are places within it where one can simultaneously touch both walls. There is only a single outfitter licensed by the Navajo Nation to carry visitors into Canyon X, and Charly Moore of Overland Canyon Tours is intensely protective of the canyon itself and the numbers of visitors that he will lead into its beauty at any given time. I am honored that Charly is a friend and has consented to my use of this week's Image from the work our group recently did during our time with him in the richness of this awesome place. I was attracted to the sensual lines of the lighted area framed by the contrasting darker areas on either side, and I wanted an angle-of-view that would allow me to follow the lighted area almost from the floor up to nearly the top of the canyon where the direct sunlight could be seen shining down. A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle of view. An aperture of f/8 gave me - considering the camera to subject distance - sufficient depth of field; and, with that, a shutter speed of 30.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me a somewhat darker than medium overall exposure. 


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