Archive for category Uncategorized

Everything looks better in Black-and-White

Digital photography brings a wide range of advantages over film photography. (It took me a long time to accept that, but now I’m firmly in the digital camp, even with the apparent increase in interest in film that’s flickering in the world today.)

With film photography, depending on the camera system you were using, you could find yourself ‘locked out’ of a good photograph. With a 35mm camera, the film that was loaded was pretty much what you had to use. Sure, there were ways of rewinding film, taking it out and replacing it, then reinserting it and hoping you advanced the film far enough to avoid double exposures on already-photographed spaces on the film. It became more convenient to carry two bodies, each loaded with a different kind of film (usually color and Black-and-White), just to be able to capture the image in the way your vision dictated.

Cameras larger than 35mm usually offered the opportunity for the photographer to change film backs or film holders loaded with the ‘right’ kind of film for the image. That’s why I carried a 5×7 Deardorff view camera into the field: The camera used film holders, and a large assortment of color transparency and B&W negative film could be carried. At a cost. The view camera, a sufficient tripod to mount it on, 20 or so film holders and a wide assortment of lenses and filters made for a heavy backpack. Being a landscape photographer required a lot of labor, but it was a labor of love.

Then came digital. With increasingly capable processing programs, digital imaging has become a photographer’s dream.

We don’t have to send our color film off for processing and wait for its return. We don’t have to carefully mix batches of potentially toxic chemicals to process black-and-white film in order to make negatives we can print. We don’t have to make prints (color or black-and-white), which also require a batches of potentially toxic chemicals to develop.

No, we just upload the digital images to the computer, open the processing program of our choice and process the image to match our visualization. And we have a significant advantage over the film days when we do that. Would an image look better in Black-and-White? (They all do.) No problem we convert them to monochrome using a plug-in or any of a number of different methods and we have a beautiful black-and-white image. Is the color a little drab? No problem, we simply bump the saturation or ‘fiddle’ with the color balance and there you have it: a finished image that represents our vision with no processing delays, no wrinkled fingers from soaking them in developer, no toxic chemicals. Digital photography is a great move forward.

Of course, there’s one thing we really can’t do and that’s take infrared photographs with our standard digital cameras. Manufacturers place filters over camera sensors to block infrared light because allowing IR to come through onto the sensors would make images difficult to process.

The problem is that it was fun to occasionally load a roll of IR film into a 35mm camera and see what we could come up with. Some of us like to do that to this day.

Luckily there are a couple of companies that will take your camera apart, remove the IR blocking filter and add filters that pass certain bandwidths of light in the IR spectrum. I got an old camera converted to IR a couple years back and I really like the results I get from it.

Here are a couple of examples: We were at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for sunrise. The colors didn’t seem to be what I expect for sunrise images, so I took out my IR camera and fired away. IR gives a nice, strong contrast to an image and catches sunlight reflecting off rocks and things very nicely.

Here are a few views of a sunrise with IR. See what you think.

 

Wotans Throne is the most commanding geologic formation at Cape Royal, so it becomes the most-photographed scene:

 

 

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

But we’re always told to look around and sure enough we find other images that work, too.

 

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

 

 

Yes, indeed, sunrise in Black-and-White certainly works.

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Delicately Tough Tree

I’ve committed to trying to post at least once a week now that I’m retired and have set a project of going through the 32,000 plus images on my hard drive. That’s a noble objective, to be sure, but things do get in the way.

Things like going out in the field and getting more images and practicing photography techniques that I need to work on.

Last week at the Grand Canyon I was reminded how much I love Aspens. There’s something very attractive about these trees. Sure, the white bark and quaking leaves are attractive, but there’s something more. Something that I’m still trying to figure out.

Much of it comes from the aspen forest being not individual trees, but a living organism, with many trees connected through a series of underground runners. The saying in the nursery business that I’ve heard is that you don’t buy an aspen, you buy an aspen grove. I’ve seen this with captive aspens in my yards. There are always shoots coming up in the least convenient places. Yes, a grove of aspens is the way Ma Nature intended it, so we should let them grow that way where they’re most comfortable, I guess.

Aspens do some cool things.

In the fall they turn a sparkling, brilliant yellow. Mostly. Some of them for some reason turn to a lovely orange. This orange interspersed with the yellow adds visual interest and makes you think about what could cause that.

In the spring, the electric green of freshly-sprouted aspen leaves is a thrill to observe. In the right light it looks like the forest is alive with green flame.

Aspens are tough, too. They can take a lot of punishment and survive. I’ve seen aspens with trunks twisted in a circle by snow and wind, then continuing to grow toward the sky. Some show the lifelong marks of thoughtless people, people who see the aspens as perfect candidates for scratch pads, carving their names or initials in the bark. Years later, those scars remain and show who passed before (and who didn’t treat these stately trees with respect). Once in a while you’ll find a real artist has attacked an aspen. I found a carving of someone’s horse in a tree a while back. Interesting.

Even when they die and fall to the ground, aspens are interesting. Some host lichens, some host critters, but they decay in stately and interesting ways that draw one’s attention.

Aspens are the first trees to recover after a wildfire. As we traveled through areas at the North Rim where a wildfire had destroyed thousands of acres, we saw thickets of six-foot-tall aspens, already starting the process of reforestation.

I’m toying with the idea of doing an aspen portfolio, a series of photographs of one of my favorite trees. If I do so, I’ll make it into a downloadable e-book you can grab if you want it. It will take me a while to get this done because I’d like to use all new images. I’ll get it done, but it will take a while. So stand by and keep reading. Here are some aspens I saw last week:

 

There are a surprising number of multiple trees growing from the same or near the same root system. These twins were framing a pinyon pine and I thought I’d capture that view. (As always, click to see the full size image.)

Twins Stack

Twin Aspens

 

 

This is the orange we see far too rarely with aspens in the fall.

Orange Aspens

Orange Aspens

 

Fallen aspens offer life support for lichen, critters, etc.

Lichen Stack

Lichen Stack

 

Those who came before left their marks.

Who has passed before?

Who has passed before?

 

 

Aspen Horse

Aspen Horse

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

I’ve hinted that I love the mystery and lack of mystery of the desert. Perhaps no place in Southern Utah looks quite as mysterious as Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce is a visual treat, a photographer’s dream. A high erosion rate has left hoodoos standing watch, dressed in colors ranging from deep red to near white. It’s these spires that have resisted erosion that capture the eye of the viewer. It is reputed that one of the early settlers in the area said the canyon is a hell of a place to lose a cow (I’ve heard that about other places in Southern Utah, too). I’ll go along with that, but I’ll also say it’s a hell of a place to find a photograph.

You’ll see many images of the grand landscape at Bryce. To try to include the whole vista is a true challenge, but the myriad hoodoos and wide range of color seem to demand that we share the whole place. And, of course, with stunning colors in the canyon, the ‘serious’ photographer will be sure to get there at sunrise to catch the amazing light show.

But as with so much in the desert, it’s the details that count for me: the Intimate Landscape, it’s been called. It’s these details that add up to a strange and wonderful desert landscape that draws me back time and again. At Bryce, the temptation to capture the grand landscape is nearly overwhelming. But then, as I look and marvel, I realize it’s the details that make the scene and I start homing in on less and less, and in that way show you more and more.

Yes, the grand landscape is spectacular, but it’s the details that make the grand grand. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

Here are a couple grand shots of Bryce Canyon: The first one is the obligatory sunrise shot, the second taken shortly thereafter with the lighting a little bit better controlled. (I probably don’t have to remind you to click on the images, but I will anyway: Click on the images for a full view.)

 

Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

But it’s the details that add up to the spectacular. Here are a couple images that show it’s the component parts that make Bryce (and pretty much every other desert scene) so spectacular in the aggregate:

 

Bryce Canyon Detail #1, Utah

Bryce Canyon Detail #1, Utah

 

Bryce Canyon Detail #2 Utah

Bryce Canyon Detail #2 Utah

 

More to follow

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Oregon Coast 2

If you go to the coast you’ll notice a couple things. The first and most shocking is that there’s a lot of water out there. For a desert rat, the first view of the ocean is quite a shock. Yes, I’ve been on the open ocean when all we could see was sea, but one tends to forget just how much water there is out there.

The other thing is that you find a lot of boats. Mostly fishing boats, I’d guess, but some pleasure boats and a few sailing vessels. But lots of boats and boathouses. I guess with all that water they have to do something with it and it’s kind of hard to drink.

In Newport Harbor we found some nice calm water for some reflection shots and at sunset, that’s a fine combination. Click to see them properly.

 

Boat House

Boathouse, Newport Harbor

Boathouse, Newport Harbor

Reflections

 

Sunset, Newport Harbor

Sunset, Newport Harbor

 

I must admit that it was hard to get my head around all that water and all those boats. Stay tuned for more from the coast.

More to follow,

Bob

The Oregon Coast

I went to the Oregon coast a couple weeks ago. We joined the Rick Sammon Workshop there and toured a lot of nice places with a lot of nice people. I had stated that I wanted to work outside my comfort zone while I was there, and one of those areas that I really don’t like is photographing people. Rocks tend to argue less and I’ve never gotten a dirty look from a juniper tree. But we got down on the dock and Rick struck up a conversation with a gentleman who has a marvelous goatee, John. Rick asked John if he’d mind posing for a few photos and John said sure, but why don’t we join him at his boat? That simple.

Rick then told me it was my chance to start working with John, gave a few pointers and away we went. Rick posed for the first couple shots, suggesting that testing and fiddling around will often lose a subject, so we should get ready with a tolerant subject and them bring on the ‘star.’ So here are a couple portraits. The first is a practice shot of Rick, then come a couple images of John. And, I didn’t die from doing it!

Click the images for full size and proper color.

Rick Sammon

 

Rick Sammon

Rick Sammon

A somewhat formal portrait of John.

 

John 1

John 1

An environmental portrait of John.

 

John II

John II

More to follow,

Bob

Memorial Day

Last year I visited The Wall in Washington, DC. I go every year to visit old friends and lost shipmates. This is my usual Memorial Day post, in which I recognize that the day is to honor those who gave everything for our country, not to buy new furniture or celebrate spring. The sales are flying thick and fast, the misunderstanding of what Memorial Day really is runs rampant. So many people treat this day like Veterans Day, and that’s not quite right. Yes, I appreciate the well wishes for having served, but the right day for formal observance is November 11, not today.

 

Anyway, raving about some misunderstandings and crass commercialism isn’t what this day is about either. It’s about remembering and saying thank you to our lost comrades and their families.

 

My personal remembrance commemorates five individuals I knew who gave everything for the United States:

Corporal Irwin J. Harder, U. S. Army, Vietnam

Lt. Joseph G. Greenleaf, VF-114, Vietnam

Lt. Clemie McKinney, VF-114, Vietnam

LCDR. Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, Vietnam

Capt. John R. Pitzen, VF-114, Vietnam

Irwin was a high school friend and football teammate. He was sent to Vietnam in February and died in April. Short tour of duty.

Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Pender were aircrew members in my squadron. Captain Pitzen was named as our squadron Skipper just as I was leaving to come home.

Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. McKinney were shot down over North Vietnam, and reports were that they weren’t able to escape the aircraft. Other reports, however, indicate that Mr. McKinney was held as a POW and died in captivity.

Captain Pitzen and Mr. Pender were reported missing in action because they never called out “Feet Wet,” that is, clear of North Vietnam and returning to the ship. They were presumed down, but listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Their remains were identified in the late 1990s. I wore an MIA bracelet to remind me of them for years.

 

Here are some images I took last time I was at the wall: Click on the images to see them full size and in proper color.

 

The Wall

The Wall

 

The Soldiers looking for them are below.

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Gentlemen

 

 

More to follow.

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Springtime in the Desert

A flash of red caught my eye and I asked Mike to pull over (I seemed to be yelling at him to stop all weekend. Thanks, Mike). There was a clump of claret cup cactus in bloom along a bend in the road. I think it was a little early for cactus blooms, but was glad to have the opportunity to see my favorite cactus flowers. One look at the shape and color of the blossoms makes it clear why these plants are named after a glass of wine.

A lot of people see the desert as barren and consider cactus proof of that. I believe that there’s not much more beautiful than a cactus blossom and always get a thrill when I see some. The desert isn’t barren. Edward Abbey pointed out an important fact. Like all land on the planet, the desert produces at its full capacity. It might be that the capacity is diminished or that the plants have had to adapt to extremes in temperature and dryness, but the desert still produces and produces beauty.

Here’s the claret cup (click for full size and proper color):

 

Claret Cup Cactus

Claret Cup Cactus

 

And here’s a little pine tree doing its best to succeed in a challenging place. Trees in the desert really struggle to survive and the junipers and pines that grow in this region really work hard to be there. I like that in a tree.

 

Lone Pine, Capitol Reef NP

Lone Pine, Capitol Reef NP

 

More to follow,

Bob

Ma Nature struts her stuff

I went back to Capitol Reef National Park last weekend. My two main photography mentors were holding their 30th annual workshop down there and I just couldn’t miss it. It was a great time to reminisce, take some photographs and share lies stories about each other.

As is often the case in the desert, Ma Nature decided to have a little input into the festivities. We had sun, rain, snow and hail, all in less than one hour. Then things kind of stabilized to excitingly-designed skies. The desert is one place where it’s never boring, and when Ma Nature decides to put on a show, it’s really a show.

Here are some images featuring those fascinating skies:

 

As we usually do, we went to Factory Butte to photograph sunrise. Ma Nature didn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about letting the sun light things up, but when I looked south and saw the Henry Mountains starting to catch a little light, I just had to make this panorama (click on the images for full size and proper color):

 

Henry Mt. Pano

Henry Mt. Pano

 

On the way back to the park, I saw this scene. I shouted to Mike to pull over as soon as he could and jumped out of the truck to fire away. I never pass up a chance to show off my favorite place on earth, Capitol Reef.

 

Storm over Capitol Reef

Storm over Capitol Reef

 

 

It was a great weekend. The only downside was that it was too short.

 

More to follow,

Bob

Test

Today I got a note from go doggy, er Go Daddy, the company that hosts my site. They told me that the credit card I had listed for automatic renewal had expired and I needed to update it. So I did. Then I went in and paid my bill.

 

In the mean time, go doggy killed my account. Imagine: I’m being punished because I didn’t sit in the admin section of go doggy and watch my credit card expiration dates. And when I immediately correct the issue, my website has disappeared.

Fail, go doggy, fail!

Valley of Fire 2

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has a lot of great geology. The Earth was particularly tortured long ago in this area and the combination of multiple levels of sedimentation and twisting have made this a place of stunning geology. But geology isn’t the only attraction. There’s anthropology, too. There are petroglyphs in several places in the park. I visited some of them and will share them here.

 

First, a little more geology. The forces of nature must have been tremendous to cause this sort of fracturing and twisting:

Click the images to see them full size and in proper color (at least the ones that have color):

 

Fun with Geology

Fun with Geology

 

Yes, it’s interesting in color, but I think this monochrome view shows a lot more.

The rock art is as good as any I’ve seen. Atlatl Rock has some petroglyphs high up. So high that the park management built a steel staircase to bring visitors close enough to see the glyphs well. Here’s what they look like:

 

Atlatl Rock Petroglyphs

Atlatl Rock Petroglyphs

 

Some of the themes are familiar, being pretty common among many rock art sites in the Southwest Desert, but some are a little different, bringing a lot of interest and speculation to the scene.

As I left the rock, I noticed the sun was in a position to play hide-and-seek as I walked in and out of the rock’s shadow. That rang a bell in my head that said, “Starburst.” When the sun just peeks over a rock or tree and with the right lens and f/stop, you can catch a starburst in an image. Here’s one I saw at Atlatl Rock:

 

Atlatl rock starburst

Atlatl rock starburst

 

As a bonus, you can follow the stairs and see where the petroglyph panel was.

 

I was impressed with Valley of Fire and will go back!

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , ,