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Saturday, 24 January 2015 00:00

A Backbone from Hell

Looking down into and out across the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness from the southeastern end of a 109'-long/14'-wide wood-and-steel bridge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, you are peering into 1500' of space between you and the bottom on either side. If Hell had a backbone, you are reasonably convinced it would look exactly like the tortured and twisted folds of Navajo sandstone that melt away into the distance. From drainages such as this, sliding steeply off the Aquarius Plateau and the Escalante Mountains, the Escalante River is born, the last river of comparable size to be discovered by Europeans in the lower contiguous forty-eight states. I have long felt that the complexity of this environment makes it one of the toughest photographic challenges for landscape work that I have found; but it is beautiful beyond words and a wonderful playground for creative work. Amazing abstrasts are everywhere, but the depth of the gorges makes finding appealing foregrounds a difficult task. Even where I am standing, the rim begins to slope away quickly, but there was enough ground cover and rock detritus with which to fashion a few lines to lead the eye over the edge and into the craggy ridges and canyons beyond. A 45mm focal length gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, and I used the two pine trees on opposing slopes to increase the sense of depth in the near ground. An aperture of f/14 gave sufficient depth-of-field, which was helpful since even with that opening a 1.0 second shutter speed at ISO 100 was necessary for a medium overall exposure. The wind was gusting persistently, but patience, at that shutter speed, was occasionally rewarded.

Saturday, 17 January 2015 00:00

The Stone Horses

Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most amazing small pieces of public land on the Colorado Plateau. The point itself is at the tip formed as opposing canyon walls have narrowed toward each other behind it. Millions of years ago the ancient Colorado River established itself on a broad floodplain, developing broad, deeply cut meander loops. Some sudden event, geologically speaking, caused a rapid lowering of the river's base level leading to accelerated down cutting leaving the meanders cut within canyon walls. From where I stand the river is 2000' below me and a mile away, and Canyonlands in all of its glory spreads away in the distance. I was looking for places of visual interest after I had worked the iconic "Gooseneck" to my right out of view when the new rays of morning struck the ridge directly below me, highlighting it as the line of rock spread away toward the river. As places along the benches and canyon walls were also lit, the contrast patterns of line, shape, and form were suddenly breathtaking. A focal length of 42mm allowed me to isolate the scene I saw in my mind's eye. An aperture of f/20 and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-darker-than-medium exposure.

Saturday, 10 January 2015 00:00

Cloudy and No Meatballs

Winter in the Smokies is the season of fast-moving fronts that often bring rain to the mountains. As the rain ends, the lowering clouds cling to the valleys and lower ridges making the visibility at those elevations sometimes questionable. What is remarkable though is what can be seen from the high elevation ridges like Thomas Divide looking down and out over the rolling atmospherics. A couple of days before New Years Bonnie and I took some dear friends to see what could be seen as such a front began to move out across the Deep Creek watershed and the larger valley of the Tuckasegee and Little Tennessee Rivers. From Swinging Bridge we set up and worked as the hills below became enshrouded and then uncovered in the moving mists. It was a wonderful show that rewarded patience and a quick eye. There were images of many sorts, from wide angle to intimate landscape to abstract. The image I particularly liked was this very short telephoto focal length of 66mm, which gave a fairly wide angle of coverage considering the camera-to-subject distance. An aperture of f/20 gave depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/30th second was all that was needed in the ambient light at ISO 100 to create a medium exposure that stopped the motion of the clouds.

Friday, 02 January 2015 00:00

Janus Visits Chaco

Janus was the Roman diety of beginnings and transitions, and, thus, of doors, doorways, and passages; and although the Roman Empire had collapsed by the time Pueblo Bonito was built in Chaco Canyon beginning around AD 828, Janus would probably have felt at home in the amazingly beautiful Chacoan Great House. Our month January, the beginning of our calendar year, honors the Roman god, but the passageways of the East Wing of Pueblo Bonito honor the ingenuity of a desert people and their consummate skill in erecting intricate structures in a land where resources are severely limited. What more appropriate way to begin a new year than to reflect on the doorways of Bonito and artisans who flourished long before Europeans even dreamed of coming to the "New World." Because the four doorways seen here are somewhat off-set, it is not possible to align the openings exactly, but they can be partially shown with a bit of thought. I wanted to leave some of the stonework around the openings and to show the full entry of the nearest door. A short telephoto focal length of 78mm allowed for this. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.3 second at ISO 100 gave me a medium exposure. With no roof covering over this part of the structure, I waited for a cloud to soften the harsh shadows cast by the afternoon sun, but the sky was mostly clear except for some thin cirrus that offered little shade.

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