Posts Tagged shapes

Ma Nature Comes Through

I’m the kind of guy who thinks that if I get up in the morning, especially early, the whole world owes me something. I just hate getting up. Add that to the fact that I sleep a lot lighter as I ripen and you’ll understand that I have a lot of mornings where I’m kind of growly.

This was one of those days when I set the alarm for 4:30 in order to be awake, coherent and pleasant (at least as pleasant as I can get) by the time the group left for a sunrise photo shoot.

Well, the group was small: five of us. We set our for the Lonely Dell Ranch by Lee’s Ferry to see what the sunrise would bring.

There was a lot of promise. Photographers love to see some clouds in the sky at sunrise, as long as those clouds aren’t low on the East horizon. A few clouds promise a little warm color to offset the otherwise bald blue of a clear sky. Another plus: the color in the sky will often match the color of the earthly features as they get lit by the early sun’s warm light as the rays get refracted by the atmosphere.

But early in the day on this trip the clouds were not only overhead but also along the Eastern horizon, so we were kind of skunked. Not to worry, Brian serenaded us with his ukulele while we watched the sunrise do not too much.

I made the first image during the concert. Not much color but some interesting light on the mesa to the North and a spectacular sky.

We packed up and headed out only to find that a few miles up the road, conditions were more conducive to sunrise color. To our right, the cliffs were lighting up like crazy with early morning light. We stopped, grabbed our gear and started photographing. The scene was just too wide for one image, so I captured about a nine-image panorama. Then, when I stitched the frames together and did a little cropping, I ended up with this rather nice sunrise view.

 

Here’s a look at sunrise when the colors just aren’t there (You know, click on the images):

 

Sunrise #1, Lonely Dell

Sunrise #1, Lonely Dell

 

And here’s that panorama:

 

Sunrise Pano, Lonely Dell

Sunrise Pano, Lonely Dell

 

Yes, the world owes me something if I get up in the morning, and Ma Nature certainly came through on this day. Thanks, Ma!

More to follow

Bob

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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

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A mysterious lack of mystery

Last post I talked about the desert and how I came to believe it is my soul’s home. There are several reasons for that feeling, I suppose, and I’ll list a couple here.

First the desert has no mystery. It’s nothing more than rocks and sand and scrubby plants that can barely survive the harsh climate. Juniper trees that are hundreds of years old form beautiful shapes that testify to their struggle for life. Cactus protect their internally-held water with spines that will make you wish you’d never touched them. There are poisonous critters throughout the area: scorpions, rattlesnakes and all-terrain vehicles. The desert will kill you as readily as it will tolerate you, so you’d better come prepared for the worst if you visit the desert.

Second, the desert has great mysteries. I’ll share a few examples today.

Long ago—estimates suggest 1,000+ years—there were thriving civilizations in the desert. I say civilizations, plural, because archaeological evidence suggests that there were actually several different periods of occupation over the centuries.

The first European-descended settlers in the area named them “Anasazi,” a term they picked up from Navajos. The disappearance of the Anasazi became a great mystery and was ballyhooed around the region in an attempt to lure tourists in to spend their dollars. Problem is, Anasazi is an insult to the people who lived here way back then. According to interpretations of the term that I’ve seen it means “Enemies of Our Ancestors.” Not a very nice name for the ancient ones.

Craig Childs, in his book House of Rain, explores several sites and reports conversations with archaeologists who, he says, reports that the “Anasazi” were actually Pueblo people who were nomadic and ranged from the Cedar Mesa areas of Utah all the way into Mexico, finally staying in New Mexico after the European invasion. A guide at Navajo National Monument, a place with great examples of Ancestral Pueblo dwellings told the story of Monument staff bringing some Pueblo elders to the site of the Betatakin ruin in the Monument. The elders read some of the rock art and pointed out where the springs were, where the kivas were and accurately described some of the features of the ruin without having ever been there. A pretty good indication that they know who the inhabitants were.

Another sign the mysterious inhabitants of the area left behind was rock art. I just love petroglyphs and pictographs that are found in the area. They are truly mysterious. Sure, there are representations of desert bighorn sheep and elk or deer, clearly an indication of the source of food in the area, but there are other far more indecipherable figures. What looks like people, or maybe space aliens, footprints that may indicate a clan association or what to look out for, plants and possible crops and wondrous birds. Maybe. It’s impossible to tell. Few today really know what they’re all about and they aren’t telling because it’s none of our business. So we look at the art and speculate and wonder and enjoy the mystery.

Here are a few examples of some fine rock art (As usual, click on the images to see them full-size).

 

 

There are several panels in Capitol Reef National Park. One is labeled and easily accessed. The art seems to come from the ancients named the Fremont People.

 

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

 

As you approach the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, you go by a fascinating Utah State Historical Monument, Newspaper Rock. The site was so named because of the incredible display of rock art. Here is a look at the whole panel:

 

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

 

And here are some detail shots:

 

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

 

 

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

 

I’ll share more rock art captures as time goes on. There are so many examples, all so mysterious. It’s a great treat to stumble across an ancient drawing, especially one that hasn’t been trashed by some more recent arrival. Some of the finest panels have bullet holes from high-powered rifles marring the art. But the art has outlasted the defilers. Good.

 

More to follow.

Bob

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Caught in the Act!

I took a hike today down by the Yellowstone River. Under a highway bridge I found some interesting icicles. The photo conditions weren’t very conducive to photography, but when I noticed there was water dripping off the icicles, I decided I had to try to capture a drop.

After several tries, I guess I got my timing OK. While it would have been better to have a faster shutter speed, the drop was changing shape as it fell, so the squashing is probably pretty natural.

Here it is (click on the image to enlarge):

Icicle

Icicle caught in mid-drip, Yellowstone River, Billings, Montana.

 

A little way down the trail, I met a woman who expressed some disappointment that she couldn’t find any Cedar Waxwings. All I had seen so far was a Magpie, so I wished her well and headed back to the car. Soon I was in the middle of a flock of Waxwings. Here’s one:

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

 

Quite a handsome bird!

Moret to follow,

Bob

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Oregon 8

After we visited Yaquina Head, we went to a sort of nautical junk yard. Except it wasn’t really a junk yard. They take a lot of worn or rusted equipment from fishing vessels and repair and refurbish it. The first look gave the appearance of random piles of junk, but once we got in and started looking at things, we found an order to the chaos. There were huge nets, running gear and lots and lots of rusty equipment.

Rick suggested trying to get a few good abstract images of the rust and then of finding images that looked like something else. No problem for me, I love doing detail shots and enjoy seeing if I can find out, as Minor White suggested, what else the object is.

There’s a lot of chain used in sailing and that chain needs to be replaced once in a while, so finding rusted chain was no challenge. It was finding the shark that took a little thought.

 

Rusted Chain

Rusted Chain

 

Sometimes the chain was joined by rope:

 

Rope and chains

Rope and chains

 

And then there are the abstract opportunities. Wear on metal objects is often uneven and leaves us with a great opportunity to select just the right portion of the worn area:

 

Rising against Rust

Rising against Rust

 

As for finding something different in this wide variety of subjects, that wasn’t so hard either. I found a rust shark:

 

Rust Shark

Rust Shark

 

This collection of treasures was a real photographer’s dream.

More to follow,

B0b

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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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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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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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Brought to you in Glorious Monochrome!

Well, you know me. Still trying to make a good Black & White image. I’m showing improvement and some of the images I’ve done lately I’m pretty happy with. It’s funny how I can be looking at a brilliant green scene and see monochrome written all over it. I guess that’s my preference, so I lean that way. I’ve been up in the canyons lately and have done a lot of wildflower photography. And I’ve noticed the non-floral scenery. While I still can’t understand mountains and trees as well as I can the desert, I think I’m getting there.

Here are some monochrome scenes I’ve seen lately (as always, click on the image to see them full size and with the right color. Oh, no color this time):

 

Here’s my boy Gandalf, The Gray Cat. He was sitting thinking about the birds at the feeder, so he held still for a while. Not a bad portrait.

 

Gandalf the Gray Cat

Gandalf the Gray Cat

 

This False Hellebore or California Corn Lily (I’ve been told) just called to me, saying, “Monochrome.” It was right.

False Hellebore

False Hellebore

 

And these are, to all intents and purposes, weeds. I don’t have a clue what family they belong to, so I’ll take the lazy way out on the naming.

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

 

I’ll keep working in this old-timey mode, I think.

 

More to follow.

Bob

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Sometimes it Rains

I remember parts of a song we used to sing when we floated the Green River a few decades ago:

Sometimes it rains, and 
Sometimes it rains, and
Sometimes it rains…

We also used to say uncomplimentary things about Ma Nature at the time. I won’t repeat them here, but they’re still true.

If you follow the blog, you know I had a few days off a while back and went to the Oregon coast looking for a geological and spiritual feature my friend Rick Sammon told me about: Minor White’s Wall.

It was a sort of pilgrimage, because White was a mystic as well as photographer and wrote some interesting thoughts on photography. Some of his ideas really strike home with me and because of that, I have a lot of respect for Minor. One of my favorite quotes from White regards the obsessive need some photographers have to document everything about making an image. Minor said, “For technical detail, the camera was faithfully used.” That’s enough for me. Besides, my camera records all the data anyway. Back in the olden days, I wrote down f/stop, shutter speed, film type, processing information and sometimes even some ideas about how to print the image (no blogs in those days). I guess I’ve gotten lazy in my old age, and Minor’s statement suited me to a tee.

A couple more quotes from Minor: [The ecstasy in photography is the] “Insight, vision, moments of revelation. During those rare moments something  overtakes the man and he becomes the tool of a greater Force; the servant of, willing or unwilling depending on the degree of awakeness. The photograph, then, is a message more than a mirror, and the man a messenger who happens to be a photographer.”  He added, “I believe, that, like Alice Through the Looking Glass, with the camera one comes so close to the real that one goes beyond it and into the reality of the dream.”

I’ve read a little about psychologist Carl Jung, too. He had the idea that every human being shares common memories. Memories buried so deep that we can’t call them up willingly. They’re buried in our unconscious (note, he doesn’t use the Freudian terminology, “subconscious”). That means we have a shared unconscious or, as Jung named it, the Collective Unconscious. American philosopher John Dewey said that artists (and, yes, photographers are artists) are popular and important because their images remind the viewer of something. That must be something deep, something buried in the unconscious. Something mystical (see, I got back around to Minor!).

Pretty heady stuff, and awfully deep. What I take from all that is that photography is more than just tripping the shutter and uploading the image. Much more. Minor gives us a hint when he tells us that when we photographers look at a subject, we should look until we see what else it is. That ‘what else’ is what makes a great photograph. I don’t mean dressing a cat up in an Abe Lincoln hat and posing him in a big chair in a memorial. I mean that there’s a lot more in nature than appears on the surface. And it’s the photographer’s duty so find that ‘what else.’ And to be able to show it.

So I traveled through the rain to do homage to Minor. Finally found Minor White’s Wall and in a brief respite between the storms, I found some features that were worthy of capturing. Are they the ‘what else?’ I’ll let you decide.

Click on the images to see the true colors and proper lighting (there’s something mystical about the way you have to take a second look, I suppose).

See if you can see the “What else?”.

 

Eroded Sandstone, Minor White Wall

Eroded Sandstone, Minor White Wall

 

Erosion Pattern 2, Minor White Wall

Erosion Pattern 2, Minor White Wall

 

Sandstone inclusion, Minor White Wall

Sandstone inclusion, Minor White Wall

 

I originally titled these with the “what else,” but then decided not to guide you to a conclusion. After all, it’s in our collective unconscious, so you should be able to see what they are.

More to follow,

Bob

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