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Saturday, 12 July 2014 00:00

Like a Storm in the Desert

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Survival in the desert is a matter of toughness and determination; and during its lifetime this shell of a Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) must surely have exhibited those qualities as it watched the infrequent storms of the early monsoon season dance heavily across the face of the land. For many years it silently observed the lower reaches of Salt Valley in Arches National Park; in fact it was probably there the day that beautiful national park was born. Perhaps in celebration it saluted Balance Rock, whose tip can be seen rising up between the upper "V" of the juniper's topmost branches. In the desert air, its decay will extend over many years giving us its ancient beauty for a while yet to come. I searched to find an attractive example of a deceased juniper to use as a foreground to point to the approaching storm; and this one seemed perfect, so I stood on the back edge of a shallow gully and shot across to the low ridge on which the tree had grown, using the gnarled old branches to point across the valley and toward the Entrada Sandstone uplifts beyond as the sky darkened. Before I finished, the rain had begun to fall. It was an amazing experience. A focal length of 123mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly darker than medium overall exposure.

Read 2884 times Last modified on Sunday, 10 August 2014 08:22

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  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Saturday, 19 July 2014 21:39 posted by Donald McGowan

    Hi Everyone,
    Thank you all, Nancy K., Nancy T., and Karen for joining me in this conversation. It was exactly the idea of moodiness that propelled me to look for just the right juniper for a foreground element to complement the dark background which was forming before my eyes. In that sense I was engaged in sort of a pre-visualization-on-the-fly as it were. Fortunately I found the right foreground tree before the storm arrived. I'm glad you noticed the light on the juniper. There were some small breaks in the clouds as they ballooned in volume and occasionally through those breaks some sunlight came to create a light contrast differential with the background. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the light to be as optimal as possible. If ever there were a tree that could pass for a dancer, this old juniper was it. The one thing I wished for was that I could have gotten up maybe two feet higher so that I could have shot down onto the scene at a slightly more severe angle than the land allowed; but it was as it was and I was glad for that. Thanks, again, for all of your insightful observations.

  • Comment Link Nancy Kelly Sunday, 13 July 2014 18:31 posted by Nancy Kelly

    The lighting is wonderful. The strength of the dark sky behind and lighting on the juniper really provide a powerful image.

  • Comment Link Karen Lemoine Sunday, 13 July 2014 17:51 posted by Karen Lemoine

    I love the graceful lines in the juniper. Indeed it does seem to be dancing attired in a glowing fabric. The muted colors behind it only reinforce the notion of the dancer on a stage with a beautiful backdrop.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 13 July 2014 09:15 posted by Nancy Tripp

    Beautiful moody image. If that Juniper could talk... I love the light in the foreground which makes the tree look like it is dancing. (rain dance?) Your patience and eye for detail makes this dead tree look beautiful. The tree seems to be a warm invitation to stay and enjoy the storm.

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