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July 2014

July 2014 (4)

Monday, 21 July 2014 00:00

To All The Dead Horses

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The story of the name "Dead Horse Point" is apparently a tragic one, involving negligence and apathy, which no self-respecting cowboy could easily acknowledge; but the beauty of this tongue of land sitting 2000' above the Colorado River is so incredible words cannot do it justice. It is actually a peninsula of rock connected to the mesa of which it is part by a narrow spit simply called the "Neck." From the tip of the peninsula the canyonlands spread away into the distance as far as the eye can see, and far below the great river rolls on its way to its rendezvous with the Green. To stand on the point of the peninsula as the early light begins to bathe the canyonlands in its warmth is to truly realize the capacity to see images within images wherever you look: patterns, shapes, textures, contrasts, colors, and of course, lines. Just as quickly as the images reveal themselves, you realize the difficulty of composing as precisely as you might wish. It is a challenge, but one that can be happily overcome. In this composition I decided to forego the canyon containing the river itself and to concentrate on the light sweeping over the buttes, monuments, and mesas beyond the Colorado, as it created areas of highlight and shadow across the colored patterns of rock strata. The only thing that hurried the effort was knowing that the golden light would not last as long as I would hope. A focal length of 129mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, which did not include any sky. An aperture of f/20 provided depth of field, and a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00

The Guardian

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I have had the good fortune to visit a number of places on my journey that can best be described as spiritual: places in whose presence I have felt a special sense of awe, humility, and gratitude; and in whose beauty I am rendered speechless. Within Canyon X in Northern Arizona there is a place where the presence of spirit is keenly felt, and this place is attended by a lithic being who is known only as "The Guardian." To see The Guardian is to feel that where you are is watched over by the great forces of the world, a place where beauty is supreme and all who respect beauty are welcome. Though The Guardian is at one with the rock from which it flows, it exists unto itself and the contrasts of tone, shape, and form give rise to its presence. My thanks to my friend, Charly Moore, for allowing me to share it with you. A focal length of 450mm allowed me to isolate the figure against the surrounding strata of stone so that I could highlight the shape and tonal contrasts as the light poured in from above. An aperture of f/10 gave sufficient depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 20 seconds at ISO 100 gave a slightly lighter-than-medium overall exposure.

Saturday, 12 July 2014 00:00

Like a Storm in the Desert

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Survival in the desert is a matter of toughness and determination; and during its lifetime this shell of a Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) must surely have exhibited those qualities as it watched the infrequent storms of the early monsoon season dance heavily across the face of the land. For many years it silently observed the lower reaches of Salt Valley in Arches National Park; in fact it was probably there the day that beautiful national park was born. Perhaps in celebration it saluted Balance Rock, whose tip can be seen rising up between the upper "V" of the juniper's topmost branches. In the desert air, its decay will extend over many years giving us its ancient beauty for a while yet to come. I searched to find an attractive example of a deceased juniper to use as a foreground to point to the approaching storm; and this one seemed perfect, so I stood on the back edge of a shallow gully and shot across to the low ridge on which the tree had grown, using the gnarled old branches to point across the valley and toward the Entrada Sandstone uplifts beyond as the sky darkened. Before I finished, the rain had begun to fall. It was an amazing experience. A focal length of 123mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly darker than medium overall exposure.

Friday, 04 July 2014 00:00

The Ghosts of Wahweap

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They rise like wisps of time from the eroded margins of Wahweap Wash, sometimes appearing like our caricatured impressions of ghostly apparitions. They are this and more: One hundred and sixty million years ago on the margins of a great inland seaway, an area of fine white sand was deposited. Elsewhere the sand would be a deeper red. In time, the vast deposit would be overlain with others until it was far beneath the surface where great pressures would turn it into stone, a dazzling white sandstone. It and the greater deposit of which it is part would become known as the Entrada Formation or Entrada Sandstone. In some places, the rock layers above it are the Morrison Formation, but here in Wahweap Wash the overlying, or cap, rock is Dakota sandstone, a dark brown layer of mudstone, siltstone, and shale, which, being much more resistent, came to serve as a caprock for the underlying Entrada. As the sides of the wash eroded, the white Entrada was exposed and where the overlying Dakota covered it, the erosional forces created the famed Wahweap Hoodoos. Where, over time, the Dakota "caps" have fallen off, the ghost-like columns of Entrada remain. Capped or not, they are an amazing spectacle. I wandered among the hoodoos looking for whatever might catch my eye, and up against the wall of the wash I found this small ghost peering out at the world. A focal length of 117mm allowed me to isolate the column against its immediate surroundings - the cliff wall of the wash. An aperture of f/20 and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me a lighter-than-medium overall exposure.

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