3 AM And All Is Well

Less tan an hour after the lightning storm the other night in Monument Valley, the storm passed, the moon peaked back out illuminating the landscape and a faint rainbow appeared over one of the MIttens. 3 AM and all is well with the world…

When I first set up my camera to shoot the night sky, an eight minute exposure was needed with the overcast sky to register any detail. As the storm raged, I was able to capture several lightning bolts in the distance. And when the storm passed, and the moon came out, it’s brightness along with the eight minute exposure rendered the scene as if it were daylight and the long exposure blurred the moving clouds into streaks. If you look really close in the upper left corner, you can even see some faint star trails.

Image created with Nikon D3S AF-S 28-300mm VR on Lexar digital media

Southwest Adventure 2 Day 5

I enjoy meeting and talking to people along my travels. In the course of a conversation, you learn of new locations. So, when I began asking around about a slot canyon that I had read about that sounded interesting but, difficult to access I was told that it depended which way you turned when you dropped into the canyon. So, we got a permit and off we went. Turns out, it was a lovely canyon and a well kept secret. We met one couple coming out as we went in and then had the place all to ourselves for several hours. It was a nice break after the hustle and bustle of the better known canyons from the day before giving us time to slow down and get to know our subject better. I found a log jammed into the canyon walls from a previous flash flood. I liked the way the log repeated the pattern of the sandstone walls and felt that B&W was the way to go…

There were many signs of sand falling from the top of the canyon and gathering into little pockets. I watched John working just such a spot adding sand to capture the effect of the shifting sands of time which gave me and idea to make a sand fall (like a waterfall but with sand instead). We all set up our cameras and took turns pouring sand into the depression until it overflowed, creating a sandfall. Mark quit shooting and when I asked him why, he said “I got the shot I want already.” I took one look at his rear lcd and sure enough, with his slightly different angle he had nailed it with just a few clicks. John and I moved out cameras to a different angle, tried a few more clicks and this is what we were able to come up with…

The temps had been gradually increasing all week and with the warmer weather came the beginning blooms of cactus. As we paused for a break at one point I looked up and saw a cactus clinging tenaciously to the rock wall with some new blooms…

The warm weather also, brought out the lizards in full force. We could hardly take a step without a lizard scurrying around. I tried to get close several times to no avail. It wasn’t until we were nearly our of the canyon that I found this guy sitting atop a cairn (pile of rocks) as if he were a sentinel surveying his world. He cooperated long enough for all of us to make a few images before he too scurried away…

There was one location that I had read about and really wanted to visit for sunset but, from everything I had read it was a difficult location to get to. It was only forty miles from Page but, could take hours to get to over the rough slickrock. I asked Lionel if he would take us there and he agreed so, late in the afternoon he and a couple of his buddies picked us up at the hotel and off we went. Alstrom Point is a great location to photograph Lake Powell from as it takes you close to the formations that you can only see from a distance near Page. We enjoyed our last evening watching the sun go down and the shadows creeps up the rocks until the light was gone. My favorite image is a vertical composition I made after the sun had gone down. I love the contrast of the red rock and the deep blues of Lake Powell…

Two weeks have flown by and each week was great, providing different opportunities for both groups. Many thanks to Linda, Bruce, John and Mark for helping to make the adventures memorable, for your questions that led to interesting discussions and ideas for photographing each location and to Tom and Lionel for making it possible to get to the right places at the right time. The southwest is a magical place that continues to draw me back and I’m already looking at the calendar to find some dates for 2012.

Images created with Nikon D3X, AF-S 24-70mm 2.8, AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II, TC-14E II on Lexar digital media

Horseshoe Bend HDR Dilemma

Horseshoe Bend is normally photographed in the morning with the sun coming up from behind, lighting the canyon. Slight overcast is the best light as the sun and shadows make for some very contrasty images. All the sunset images I have seen using HDR have that fakey look about them that is hard to avoid as we know that if you shoot into the sun exposing so that you don’t blow out the highlights, the foreground will be rendered too dark to see detail. If you expose for the foreground the sun and sky will blow out. So, when we were looking for an appropriate location to photograph the sunset and John suggested we visit Horseshoe Bend, I agreed with some reservation. It was a lovely sunset with clouds adding texture to the sky, the light bouncing off the canyon walls but, to capture it all, HDR is needed. Before the sun went down, we closed out apertures down to f22 to capture a starburst. I like the effect and I like the way the inner canyon turned out but, blended all together, I was unable to make what I consider a realistic image…

During a discussion about how our images came out, I commented that I was having a hard time making an image that looked realistic. Mark asked if I had converted the image to B&W and I said that I had and still didn’t feel it worked. As our discussion continued, I had an idea…take one of the series of exposures after the sun had gone down and blend the images. The color version still looked flat and fakey but, the a quick conversion to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 and I was able to make an image that I really like…

Thanks to John for his wild hair thought to go to Horseshoe Bend for sunset and to Mark for his suggestion of converting the images to B&W. Our discussion led me to an image that I would never had made in the first place or finished in B&W later. Lesson learned…if you think it, try it! You never know what you’ll end up with.

Images created with Nikon D3X, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8 on Lexar digital media.

Southwest Adventure 2 Day 4

I am often asked why I go back to the same places time and time again and I explain that no two times are the same. The light is different, the seasons are different, I see new things each time I revisit a location and the slots are no exception. With each twisting turn in the canyon, there are new photo opportunities to be found. The light bouncing off one wall and reflecting warm light onto the other lights the canyons up as if they were on fire (and that’s at high noon when most respectable photographers are taking a midday break to download images, nap, regroup for the evening when the light is softer, warmer, more appealing). So, I was looking forward to seeing what new images I could create revisiting the slots we had photographed the week before. I knew I wanted to work in tighter to capture simple compositions with texture, shadow and light…

I also wanted to explore some more B&W…

I photographed a section of one canyon in vertical rather than the horizontal that I had made the week before and actually like the vertical better than the horizontal composition…

In Upper Antelope Canyon, we were fortunate to have the best guide in Page as there is a constant flow of people moving through. Lionel knew when the god beams would happen, got us into place and when the magic began, held off the crowds for a time so we could get “the shot”…

While we waited, people moved through the chamber stopping to make some images of their own. I photographed during this time too, shooting at slow shutter speeds trying to capture ghosts. While I was unable to capture just the right ghost effect (people were either moving too fast or not fast enough to capture the effect I was after), I was able to make an image that I quite like of a lone tourist photographing the beam lending scale to the scene…

It was a great day of making images. It ran the gamut from a slow pace with solitude in the private canyons to the hustle bustle of Upper Antelope where it’s like combat photography. While I prefer the solitude, I am glad we visited Upper Antelope, it’s such a classic and thanks to Lionel, we all made some excellent images.

Images created with Nikon D3X, AF-S 24-70mm 2.8, AF 16mm 2.8 Fisheye on Lexar digital media