More from the Desert

Our recent expedition into the desert was only a week long, but, man did we take pictures. The total for the five of us was a little over 8,000 images and I actually did more than 1,000. Back in the day, I would have likely done twenty or thirty, but digital photography offers a lot of options that require a lot of exposures. You might remember a couple weeks back I posted a panorama from the Totem Pole. That was made of about seven separate images. I’ve posted some High Dynamic Range images that take somewhere between four and seven exposures to blend into the final product. So it’s not all promiscuous shooting, sometimes the multiples are there for a reason.

Sometimes it’s necessary to do a lot of images just to get the one right shot. That’s the situation at Horseshoe Bend. The light is constantly changing, the framing always seems to be a challenge, so the photographer has the choice of either figuring out the exact right shot and being in the exact right position at the time the light is exactly right or finding a good frame and waiting, taking several images until the right one is there. (click on the images to see them full size and in the right color space.)

 

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

 

Or one might be driving up the road to Monument Valley and see a stunning sky outlining El Capitan. If you’ve watched the John Ford/John Wayne movies filmed in Monument Valley, you’ve seen El Capitan off in the distance. If you’ve driven by it, you’ve undoubtedly been impressed. I had to stop in two different places to make images. Again, if it had been in the old view camera days, I’d have carefully composed, metered the scene and waited for the clouds to be perfect and the light on El Capitan to be just right. With digital, we have the option of shifting our composition, our exposure and our zoom to capture the right image. It’s tempting to just blast away, but I hope that I’m thoughtful enough only to capture good scenes and only blast away when the light is constantly changing as it was in this situation.

 

El Capitan Navajo Nation

El Capitan Navajo Nation

 

I kind of like what I found in both circumstances.

More to follow,

Bob

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A Little Side Trip

After the trip to the desert, I had about 14 hours to wash the sand out of my clothes, repack and head for Virginia. The National Telehealth Resource Center Coalition (my colleagues from around the country) held a meeting in Richmond for a couple days. During lunch one day, a friend suggested I join him in Washington, DC, to do a little photography. Didn’t take more than one suggestion and I had a train ticket in hand.

Whenever I’m near DC, I feel the need to do a pilgrimage to The Wall to pay my respects to a few old shipmates and Teammates. A foto trip was as good a reason as any to go and the visit to The Wall was an added benefit.

I don’t do much street photography. I always feel like I’m violating someone’s privacy when I photograph them, even if it’s a well-established concept that if they’re in public they really have no expectation of privacy. At The Wall, I found an interesting scene I felt compelled to record. A family stood reflected in the monument. I made up a story that went along with the scene. The family was with a young boy, about ten or so. I had a feeling that they were explaining to the young man why he never knew his grandfather, but where he could always come to find him.

 

Reflections at the Wall

Reflections at the Wall

 

There’s another story, too. Above The Wall is a sculpture of three soldiers. They’re in battle gear and looking at The Wall in the distance. Kind of like they were wondering where all 58,000 of the men and women whose names were etched in the black granite are. Maybe if they look again, they’ll find the lost ones. As I zoomed in on the faces of the soldiers, the usual sense of grief struck. I’d held it off for quite a while. But like last summer, when I visited and an old veteran (you know, my age) started playing taps on his bugle, it came on in a wave. Maybe we’ll find them someday.

 

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Erwin Harder, Captain Pitzen, Mr. Pender, Mr. Greeleaf and Mr. McKinney. And thank you for enriching my life when I was with you.

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Totem Pole Pano

I’m sitting in the Minneapolis airport waiting for a plane that’s four hours late and getting later by the minute. Luckily I brought my laptop along on this trip. Usually, on business trips I bring only my iPad because it checks mail and takes notes just fine.

But this time, there’s a chance of seeing some autumn color in Virginia, so I figured I’d bring the whole shebang along again.

On my birthday, our guide, Harry (the best guide in Monument Valley) took us into the backcountry and we stopped at the totem pole. There’s a sweeping landscape in that area, so I took seven images and stitched them together to give a sense of the open vista.

Here it is (click on the thumbnail to see it full size and color-correct):

 

Totem Pole Pano

Totem Pole Pano

 

More to follow,

Bob

The Frameup

It’s been a busy week. Lots of time in the field making photographs, not much time to process and post before doing a nose plant into the pillow to be ready for the next day’s adventure. On a very auspicious day we hooked up with a guide. He asked us what we wanted to see and we told him.

That started a long day of traveling the back roads of Monument Valley Tribal Park. Harry, our guide, often made suggestions about where to find good photos and he was seldom wrong. Harry suggested the framing below and it turns out it was a good idea. We all stood in line to get the right position and framing for the West Mitten.

Here’s what I found:

West mitten framed

West mitten framed

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Sunrise Silhouette

It’s easy to get up before sunrise as the year wears on. I was up and fiddling around yesterday so decided I should take advantage of our great room at the View and set up the camera on the balcony.

Here’s what I saw:

Monument Valley Sunrise Silhouette

Monument Valley Sunrise Silhouette

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Down in the Valley

We made it to Monument Valley. I think I saw the ghost of John Wayne talking to the ghost of John Ford. At least I figure this is where they’d be if they had their druthers.

Monument Valley is a special place and I’m looking forward to exploring it in more detail tomorrow. But just because we got in late in the afternoon doesn’t mean we couldn’t do some photography. Here are a couple images I took this afternoon and after supper. I kind of like them and hope you do, too. You really need to click on the images. The color in the thumbnail isn’t anywhere near what’s really there.

 

Sunset, Monument Valley

Sunset, Monument Valley

 

Monument Valley starlight

Monument Valley starlight

 

 

More to Follow

Bob

That’s a lot of slot

Those of you who know me know that I love slot canyons. We found this one and spent several hours oohing, aaahing and making photographs. The canyon ranged from a couple feet wide to a wide open canyon and the colors were spectacular.

Of course, if you know me at all, you know I prefer black-and-white as an image. Henri Cartier-Breson once said that our first 10,000 photographs are our worst. In pursuit of a black-and-white I can be happy with, I may have to go to 15,000. But, luckily, the canyon provided some excellent opportunities and I’ll share them with you today.

First, the color image. After all, this is color country (click for full size and color).

Slot canyon Overhead

Slot canyon Overhead

 

But then I just had to make some monochrome images. Remember that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel sang words that I will always agree with in their Central Park concert. They correctly updated the words to Kodachrome to say, “Everything looks better in black-and-white.” No truer words have been spoken.

 

Slot canyon 1

Slot canyon 1

 

Still life in a slot canyon

Still life in a slot canyon

More to follow,

Bob

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Back in Paradise

I arrived back in my soul’s home the other day. The red rock country is my true home and it is so good to be back. A group of photographers from a workshop I took recently has been planning this trip for months and we’re all converging on the desert to share some good times and fellowship.

I was waiting for Phil to arrive at Moab international airport, so took a little drive. I spotted some white blossoms and knew I had to record one of my favorite flowers, the sacred datura, or, as it’s known in other regions, jimson weed.

If you’ve read the Carlos Castañeda series of books, you know datura is the plant they used to induce visions. It’s a pretty significant hallucinogen, but must be handled carefully or it can kill the person who ingests it. Being a coward, I tread pretty lightly around the jimson weed, but because it has the most spectacular flowers, it’s always an attractive target for my camera. Here are a couple images I made from a respectful distance (as always, click on the images to see the full size and correct color):

 

Sacred Datura 1

Sacred Datura 1

 

Sacred Datura 2

Sacred Datura 2

 

The adventure is beginning and I’ll share some images of the most beautiful country in the world and the week progresses. Check back often.

More to follow,

Bob

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Western Wildlife

As I entered Yellowstone and went through Mammoth Village, I encountered a lot of traffic. Of course, I knew right away what was happening. The elk herd was on the move. I found a parking place and grabbed the camera with a 300 mm lens. There was a young woman in a ranger uniform nearby and between her shouted exhortations for drivers to move on and not stop in the middle of the road and to stay away from the elk, I struck up a conversation with her. It wasn’t very in-depth, but I think she appreciated the fact that I agreed to get back in the car if he moved our way, so she answered couple questions. Like, why was he wearing the laurel crown? He looked kind of like an elven prince from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and seemed to think he was quite handsome. She said she’d never seen anything like that, but that he’d been scratching the antlers in a tree and the leaves just kind of came along. He didn’t seem to mind. He was more concerned about the cars, charging one every once in a while to show he was ready to defend his harem. Here’s what he looked like:

 

Bull elk, Mammoth Village

Bull elk, Mammoth Village

 

Another kind of wildlife presents itself at Beartooth Pass. There’s a rest area about 2/3 of the way up the pass and along with a bevy of pit toilets, there’s a spectacular view for the adults and entertainment for the kids. I can’t guess how many people feed these gophers (or chipmunks or pot guts or whatever they’re called), but it must be a lot. Including yours truly. A girl, about ten or so seemed to feel sorry for me that all I had was a camera, so she came up and gave me some sunflower seeds to feed the critters with. I thanked her kindly and then, of course, fed the beasts because I didn’t want to disappoint the young lady. This one held still long enough to get a good portrait.

 

Gopher, Beartooth Pass

Gopher, Beartooth Pass

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Back to Yellowstone

There’s so much to see in Yellowstone that a day trip simply isn’t enough. Along with the images I shared the other day, there’s more.

The icon of Yellowstone is probably Old Faithful geyser. It goes off on a pretty regular schedule. I got to the parking lot and walked toward the viewing area. There were a whole lot of people there, so I figured it would go off pretty soon. After about ten minutes, there it went! An earthquake several years ago extended the time between eruptions and cut down a little on the volume of water that goes out with each event, but it’s still awfully spectacular. As I photographed the event, I was thinking Black and White. I think it was the right choice. (Don’t forget to click on the thumbnails.)

 

Old Faithful showing off

Old Faithful showing off

 

On the way back down to Gardiner, I stopped at the Gibbon Falls. You might remember the image I showed you last week of the Gibbon River. That’s a few miles upstream from the falls. The sunlight was direct and harsh, so I thought doing a high-dynamic range image would be a good idea. The direct light highlights and the dark shadows were much more than the camera could capture properly, so an HDR seemed to be a good idea. I think it was. Here’s the shot:

 

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls

 

I’ll share a little wildlife with you next time.

More to follow,

Bob

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