Posts Tagged Arizona

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: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Work, work, work(shop)

I’ve attended two workshops in the last month. Both were wonderful, but for different reasons.

The first was called “Lens and Pens” conducted by Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Guy Tal. The idea behind the workshop was to help photographers who want to hone their writing skills. There was photography involved, too, so we got to chase both of our muses during the five days.

The second was the 30th Annual Grand Canyon Workshop led by my dear old friend Rodger Newbold and a newer friend, Matt Rich. We stayed at Jacob Lake Inn and traveled from there to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Paria Plateau and the Kaibab National Forest. This was all photography all the time, so my writing muse got to rest for awhile.

Both workshops were great. Lens and Pens because I got to meet a lot of fine writers and learn from experts at publishing their words. The Grand Canyon gig rocked because I got to spend time with old friends and to see a lot of the desert (and forest) that I love.

I even got a chance to be contemplative once or twice during these busy, busy events. Guy assigned a couple of contemplation experiments that helped me to see, really see, what was around me. At the Grand, there were chances to step off a few meters and feel totally alone and just think about what was out there.

The Grand Canyon is hard to photograph. It’s a big hole in the ground. A hole with rugged edges and distances that boggle the mind. The light is challenging, with highlighted high ground and black shadows in the depths. Add to that the constant haze that comes from Los Angeles or a nearby power plant (one that the developers promised would not put out visible pollutants) and you have some major challenges with photography.

I discovered that my infrared camera would cut through that haze, however, and went nuts capturing images without the hard-to-breathe fog of civilization evident. Add to that that I process my IR images in black-and-white, my favorite medium, and I got some photographs that I was happy with.

Both workshops fed my need for the social aspect of photography. It’s always fun and rewarding to go out into the field with other photographers. The meretricious persiflage, banter and joshing, along with the philosophical discussions of photography are helpful. Just being with others of like mind, whether talking or not, makes the event worthwhile.

Generally, I’m a loner when it comes to pursuing photographs, and too many people can be annoying, at least too many non-photographers can be: I found a nice isolated spot at the Grand Canyon to sit and think. It was soon invaded by a family that couldn’t stop talking. It was as if they were afraid to be quiet, lest Sasquatch would stumble upon them. The parents were teaching their kids to scream in the cathedral where I was recharging my spirit, and it was most distracting. Apparently my not-so-welcoming glare convinced them that they could find another place to desecrate nature with noise and they took their nattering elsewhere fairly quickly, allowing me to get back to contemplating the beauty and making some notes.

I managed to slip away a few other times and enjoy getting intimate with a grove of aspens, doing macro photography, my favorite, and then return to the group for more fun and fellowship.

Yes, the workshops were fine experiences and I recommend either of them to you. Heck, I might even go back next year.

Oh, here are some images from the Grand Canyon. Click to see them full size and in the proper color rendition. All were taken at sunrise at Point Imperial on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Mount Hayden figures prominently in all of them.

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #2 Infrared Image

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #2 Infrared Image

 

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #4

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #4

 

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #3

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #3

 

 

Point Imperial Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP Infrared Image

Point Imperial Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP Infrared Image

 

 

More to follow

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Catching up and learning new stuff

Today we started with the balloons, but it was pretty windy and they didn’t launch more than a couple and those in a different part of the Valley. The one we saw flew lickety split past the mesa and disappeared. No others followed.

We took off and went to Page AZ to take a look at Horseshoe Bend. As the only Canon Shooter in a group of ten Nikonites, I am always on the defensive. Then, when the widest lens I have is a 24mm and they all have fisheyes and perspective correcting lenses, it gets a little silly. I decided to make my own fisheye-type shot by doing a panorama and stitching the fotos together.

All went well except that I had a little angle error and the horizon tilted more than the actual one. I dithered over this, but Moose showed me a waaaaay cool way to make the angle closer to right and not lose any of the image. I’m happy enough with it that I thought I’d share it here. Thanks, Moose!

Horseshoe Bend Panorama

click image for better view and color

It’s always a great day when you learn something new! Tomorrow should be grand.

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , ,