Wednesday, 25 March 2020 11:48

Oconaluftee Snowflakes

In the lower stretches of the Oconaluftee River Valley, downstream from the confluence of Kephart Prong and Beech Flats Prong, and where all of the various branches - Kanati Fork, Bradley Fork, Straight Fork, and Raven Fork - have come together, there are forests where the lovely flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) hold sway. When you see them brightening the valley, think about the feathered ones, the bird people. Each mature dogwood is estimated to produce on average about 20 pounds of berries each autumn, which in turn feed perhaps 50 species of birds, including cardinals, juncos, bluebirds, waxwings, and tufted titmice. Our public lands are only as healthy as the living species that call them "home." Our work as stewards is to protect these homes.

A focal length of 52mm, about as normal as it gets, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, a small copse of blooming trees with their contrasting creamy white flowers and dark, dark trunks. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field; but I focused on the nearest dogwood (at left) which meant that some of the available depth was "wasted" back toward the camera and there was a hint of softness in the far-background gray poplar trunks. At ISO 100 the shutter speed for f/16 was 2.0 seconds for an overall medium exposure. What remained was the post-processing tool of "Negative Clarity" in Camera Raw for an impressionist effect.

My prediction for the first spring of the new decade is an easy one. It has been a very mild and quite moist winter. The blooming looks to be very profuse, perhaps even more so than the Spring of 2019; and it's running about 6-10 days ahead of last year. Be safe, enjoy, be considerate of others in the outdoors.



Friday, 20 March 2020 17:27

Looking Down the Long Ditch of Time

There is a thin peninsula of a headland that juts into the great chasm of the Grand Canyon from the southern extremity of the North Rim's Kaibab Plateau. Though technically part of the Kaibab, it has been given the separate name of the Walhalla Plateau. One day, Bright Angel Canyon will erode its way into Nankoweap Canyon and Walhalla Plateau will become an isolated island in the sky above Unkar Delta. At the very tip of Walhalla Plateau, Cape Royal, one of the premier Grand Canyon sunset locations on the North Rim, overlooks the canyon of Vishnu Creek and the seemingly miniscule profile of Vishnu Temple at its southern end, while far, far to the west of everywhere, a mid-spring sun sets beneath a moody Arizona sky. Clarence Dutton, John Wesley Powell's intrepid geologist, gave Cape Royal its name in 1882, as he waxed poetic on the myriad geological wonders that lay before him at this location.

A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, wide-angleland to be certain, but not so wide that the background receded into nothingness. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 5.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me a silghtly darker-than-medium exposure.

Grand Canyon National Park is one of our great public lands; and while it may be tempting to think that nothing this majestic could ever be sold for money, there are material interests that are at work to see parts of this awesome landscape sold for the purpose of uranium mining. Please join with me to see that this never happens. The destruction of this beauty would be a travesty beyond words.

Saturday, 14 March 2020 18:10

Somewhere Above the Goblins

One hundred and Seventy (170,000,000) million years ago, a vast inland sea covered what is now South-central Utah. Over time large deposits were laid down along the margins of that body of water. Eventually, those Jurassic deposits were exposed and weathered; one of them, the extensive Entrada, eroding to create the fabulously sculpted hoodoos of Goblin Valley. Overlaying the Entrada are three other great deposits: the Curtis, the Summerville, and upmost of all the Morrison. Where the Morrison has shown itself to be more erosion resistant, it has become the caprock for the great buttes of the Lower San Rafael Swell, Wild Horse Butte being a singular example. Wild Horse Butte looms over the nascent goblins of Entrada like a silent sentinel keeping an eye on all of its children.

A focal length of 112mm gave me the somewhat narrow angle-of-view I wanted and a bit of magnification, as well. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure in the waning afternoon light.

The great geologic displays for which Utah is so well known are on full display in the Lower San Rafael; and while the beauty of Goblin Valley seems safe from development, the lands that surround it are known to be flush with ores coveted by the extractive industries. The Bureau of Land Management oversees these wonderful landscapes for us, and our voices should be heard and heeded above any corporate interest when the fate of these lands is on the line.

Saturday, 07 March 2020 16:43

One Day Past New

When the sun sets in Chaco Canyon, it lights up the western flank of that sacred, Cretaceous sandstone remnant, Fajada Butte, a fairly spectacular sight all by itself.

Nearly 180 degrees away from Fajada, on the day following the new moon, the Syzygy (new moon) for all you astronomy folks, the moon reappears as a thin crescent, low above the western horizon. To experience both of these lightshows is the conclusion of a Chaco day at its finest.

A focal length of 247mm, medium telephoto-land, gave me some magnification and compression (It was a flat scene already), and the angle-of-view I wanted, with the moon and last bit of color from the setting sun. An aperture of f/16 provided all of the depth-of-field I needed, and a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds at ISO 100 gave me a somewhat darker-than-medium exposure. The fastest shutter speed I could imagine achieving, given the constraints of depth-of-field and camera noise, was about 1/16 second (ISO 400, f/11); and since 1/16th second would not "freeze" the movement of the moon substantially "better" than 2.5 seconds, I chose to reduce the noise in the image by using ISO 100. Exposures are always about problem-solving, and generally there are at least two solutions.

Chaco is sacred space and the BLM continues to threaten the greater Chaco area with new rounds of lease-auctioning which could negatively impact thousand-year-old sandstone walls. Please join in the work to protect this special place. 

Saturday, 29 February 2020 13:06

House Made of Earth

When the entourage of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to what is now Northern New Mexico in 1540, the inhabitants of the Village of Taos Pueblo had been living along that portion of the upper Rio Grande Valley for perhaps 250 years, maybe longer. By 1680, the oppression and heavy-handedness of the Spanish would ignite the Tiwa-speaking Tanoans and their allies, including nearly all of the Puebloans spread across the Rio Grande and beyond, even as far west as Hopi, into a rebellion for survival. The primary strategist and spiritual inspiration for the revolt was Po'pay, who although from the Village of Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan), removed himself to remote Taos around 1675 to plan and execute the uprising. These events can rightfully be called the first American Revolution, and even though the Spanish would retake Nuevo Mexico in 1692, the long-lasting outcome for the Puebloans would be a recognition of their rights to religious self-determination and practice.

The stark elements of this Image determined me to process it as a black & white using Silver Effects Pro, a Nikware filter set from DxO. A focal length of 60mm, just slightly beyond true "normal," gave me the angle-of-view I wanted and a wee bit of magnification/compression. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Taos Pueblo is one of the longest continuously inhabited cities in what became the United States. It is a spiritual gem surrounded by the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley, with Carson National Forest thrown in for good measure. If you find yourself in Taos County, set aside a day to visit Taos Pueblo. It will elevate your humility factor.

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