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Saturday, 24 October 2015 00:00

The Salt of the Earth

To the Spanish explorers of the Eighteenth Century along the Old Spanish Trail through what is now Moab, Utah, they were the Sierra La Sal, the Salt Mountains. Twenty-eight million years ago they were igneous intrusions into the less resistant sedimentary rocks of the Colorado Plateau. As the surrounding sediments eroded away, the fire-born La Sals remained, with heights reaching near to thirteen thousand feet. Some years ago a runaway fire above the community of Castle Valley roared up the lower reaches of the mountains badly scorching the extensive forest of Gamble oaks spread across the flanks. The oaks are recovering, but there are reminders of their ordeal everywhere you look. I wanted to vertically isolate a section of burned trunks interspersed by the fall foliage now showing in places where new growth has sprouted. It became an abstract pattern of lines and shapes highlighted by color. Southeastern Utah is not all desert, as the La Sals remind us. A moderate telephoto focal length of 180mm allowed me to isolate the forest without mountainside or sky in the frame. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015 00:00

Tseyikaan by Any Other Name

Dropping off the steep decline of Cedar Mesa, which itself is an amazing piece of geological handiwork, you come upon the narrow valley of Comb Wash appearing as an oasis. However, rising up as the east flank of the wash, the spectacle of Comb Ridge, an 80-mile-long monocline, the surface expression of a very deep fault line, seems like an impenetrable barrier of awesomely beautiful rock topped by a mass of extensively-spread Navajo Sandstone. The wash itself is just the erosional debris from the mesa to the west and the ridge to the east: beauty spread before the almost disbelieving eye. I wanted to emphasize the lines and the colors, highlighted by the approaching storm, so I placed myself on the lower edge of the mesa at a shallow angle to the wash and the ridge, leaving the bottom of the mesa as an anchor on the lower right corner. The sun broke through the cloudmass in the west, lighting the face of the near portion of the ridge, emphasizing the contrast even more. A focal length of 52mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, which allowed me to really showcase the massiveness of the ridge and the expansiveness of the wash. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. 

Friday, 09 October 2015 00:00

One for Charlie

Charlie Moore is a photographer, and a good one, too. For a number of years he also owned and operated Overland Canyon Tours in Page, Arizona. He was the only outfitter to offer photography tours of an amazing slot canyon called, simply, Canyon X. For many reasons Charlie was the outfitter I chose when I wanted to give my workshop students a very special slot canyon experience. In December, 2014, Charlie turned in his permit to guide into Canyon X, and it's hard to imaging that it will ever be the same. I'll miss him. Canyon X lies upstream on Antelope Creek from its two more well-known siblings, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. Not far inside the upstream entrance is an overhead view toward the rim far above. The striations of sandstone spiraling from floor to ceiling are some of the most sensual lines in nature. In the early light the depths of the canyon reflect a deep purple-blue, while the rim light shines orange and golden: a warm-cool tonal contrast that strikes the eye with beauty. Compositionally, it was a matter of establishing the relationships of the lines with the light as it produced its tonal tricks and with each other as they swirled and turned. A focal length of 33mm - technically wide-angle - was needed to capture to scene I envisioned. An aperture of f/11 gave depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 120 seconds (2 minutes on "Bulb") at ISO 100 gave a somewhat darker-than-medium overall exposure. Here's to you, Charlie, for the good times.

Friday, 02 October 2015 00:00

Lookin' for Bleeker Street

Like a shroud, fog, rolling up from the high valleys of the Davidson River watershed west of Looking Glass Rock, covers the hollows and spur ridges on the eastern shoulder of the Devil's Courthouse: Courthouse, Chestnut, and Shuck, by name. In brief moments of partial clearing, the morning light brightens the on-coming colors of fall, promising a greater intensity of hues to follow. What I saw were lines and contrasts from the foreground to the sky, started by the lighter hardwoods and then the dark conifers, and behind them the fog, alternating into the distance with a final show of cloudy sky above it all.  Quickly the fog covered everything and the show was over. A focal length of 75mm, slightly telephoto, isolated the lines and compressed the relationships. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/13th second at ISO 100 provided a medium overall exposure. A little Paul Simon anyone?

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