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Friday, 25 December 2015 00:00

A Cathedral for Me

This Image marks the conclusion of four years of Image for the Asking, my weekly conversation on photographic beauty and creativity. The number "4" seems rather small, but when I expand it out to 208 weeks, it begins to take on a different meaning and context. I wanted to conclude this fourth year with an image from a place that is as special to me as any cathedral. This is Fajada Butte which sits at the entrance to Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. It must have been sacred to the ancient Ancestral Puebloans for high up among its crevices they carved a spiral glyph which, on the day of the summer solstice is pierced exactly down the center by a dagger of light passing through rock slabs. As the butte appears to have had no "utilitarian" purpose, it seems to have had important spiritual and ceremonial significance for the Chaco people. It seems appropriate that I should offer this image as a "wide-angle" landscape since that is how I typically see the world. The sun was steadily setting in the west and the day's last light was illuminating the butte when we found some rabbitbrush, blooming-to-seed, to serve, by way of being a foreground element, as an invitation for the eye to continue across the chaparral to Fajada. There was absolutely no wind. A focal length of 33mm allowed me to be wide-angle but to eliminate unwanted information in the sky and surrounding landscape. An aperture of f/16, given the camera-to-subject distance, provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 20 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-darker-than-medium exposure. Happy New Year to All. 

Saturday, 19 December 2015 00:00

An Instrument of Peace

Although I had photographed the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Taos on several occasions, I recently learned that there is an interesting feature to consider when thinking about visiting this beautiful structure. There are  light-sensitive floodlights which turn on at dusk illuminating the statue of Francis and the frontal exterior of the building. Constructed between 1772-1815, no less a luminary than Georgia O'Keeffe described it as "one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards." In the gloaming, the marble statue of the good saint, as well as the adobe walls of the church, seem to glow with an inner light that makes the scene, for me, all the more poignant and special. A focal length of 20mm allowed me the angle-of-view I wanted in a visual field that had to be carefully constructed so as to include essential elements and exclude non-essential ones without mergers or other distractions. An aperture of f/13 and a shutter speed of 30.0 seconds at ISO 100 provided depth-of-field and noise control with an overall very slightly-darker-than-medium exposure. It just barely allowed me to avoid having to use the "bulb" setting on my camera. The scene was a gift to my spirit.

Saturday, 12 December 2015 00:00

A Confusion of Seasons

Southeast of Moab the La Sal Loop Road pauses above the deep gash of Mill Creek Canyon before descending to cross the narrow chasm. From that vantage, the broad, flat shoulder of ridge between Horse Creek and Brumley Creek watersheds leads the eye slowly upward toward the rise of Mt. Mellenthin before curving south into the deeply incised Brumley headwaters drainage that eventually ascends to the heights of Mt. Peale, at 12, 721' often, as here, shrouded in cloud. Across the lower reaches of that forested shoulder, Gamble oaks and small junipers spray an autumn palette of color, while higher up thick groves of aspen, some leaf-bare and others still in golden splendor, cover the mountain. Still higher the great conifers reign, but crowning them all beyond the tree line the high peaks of the La Sals stand tall and shining in the season's first dressings of snow. I was far enough removed from even the nearest foreground that a focal length of 150mm took in a fairly wide angle of view. An aperture of f/20 gave depth-of-field (f/11 would have been sufficient here), and a shutter speed of 1/10 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. This, too, is the glory of the Colorado Plateau.

Saturday, 05 December 2015 00:00

Light Lines

The Windows District of Arches National Park is a fairy world of rock. The park, as a whole, contains the largest concentration of rock arches in the world, and those of the Windows District are as incredible as any to be found. In exploring various angles and perspectives recently we came upon an opening in the massive Entrada Sandstone formations which may at one time been an arch itself, but is now a long, rounded outcrop, open to the sky and offering an amazing view northwest toward the Garden of Eden and Balanced Rock tiny in the distance. As we watched the light slowly fade, it began to highlight the various formations in intense tones of warmth, but at the same time it cast a rim light across the top of the outcrop at our feet. Using just the edge of the rock, where the highlight ran, as a floor, I framed the right edge of the image with the edge of the Entrada formation and placed the highlighted formations in the mid-ground so that the lighted tops were near to the right vertical third line. The dark gray clouds overhead were an interesting contrast to the still-whitish cumuli on the far horizon. A focal length of 20mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field;and a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall somewhat-darker-than-medium eposure. Fairyland at sunset is magic.

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