Friday, 23 February 2018 10:59

Designing Bisti

The Desert Southwest is an amazing and wonderful place, and nowhere in the desert is this more evident than in the geological wonderland called Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, a small wilderness of 45,000 acres, cobbled together from two even smaller contiguous tracts, Bisti and De-Na-Zin. This badland is nature's design at the peak of its creativity, and it is essential to be mindful so that nothing is overlooked, nor passed by. It is such mindfulness that leads to the everyday beauty that fills the eroded forms of Bisti from the highest strata above you to the rain-washed dirt at your feet, a soil so darkened gray that you might be tempted to believe that here the earth itself once caught fire and burned to ash. What water as does arrive in Bisti, unless it merely evaporates, leaves through an interlocking series of washes, and when the water has gone, the remaining dirt shows the intricacy of Nature's written language, the intricate cuneiform of a desert streambed.

Hiking the edge of one of Bisti's washes, I spotted this design in the place where the water sometimes flows. A focal length of 110mm from about 3.5' above the soil gave me the angle-of-view I wanted and a bit of magnification. An aperture of f/22 gave me depth-of-field and sharpness edge-to-edge; and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

The dimpled outlines of small droplets of evaporated rain gave an additional sense of texture to a surface that already seemed interesting in its delicately eroded appearance.

Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:14

Twilight Time on Old Smokey

Looking south off the upper slopes of Kuwahi, known to those of European descent as Clingman's Dome, into the vastness of the Forney Creek Watershed, the Great Smoky Mountains are a maze of forested wonder illuminated by the last rays of a setting sun. When I look into the face of this mystery, I am reminded of how small and inconsequential is the time I spend on Earth and how majestic is the universe of nature of which I am a part. Yet it and I are of a piece; and the Beauty into which it guides me is all-encompassing.

A focal length of 92mm, very short telephoto, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, isolating the depths of the watershed on its way to the Little Tennessee. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 200 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure, emphasizing the rich quality of the light below.

This was the last day of our two-week Arrowmont autumn adventure, a visual gift to be remembered. In the lower elevations most of the leaves were still on the trees and more than a few were still producing chlorophyll.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:57

In the Winter Palace

A temperature map of the 2017-2018 winter thus far might look uncannily like the profile of any major theme park's premier rollercoaster. While there have been plenty of ice-free moments to celebrate, there have also been quite a few days of thickly frozen liquid to appreciate as just another of Nature's wonderful artforms. This tiny unnamed tributary of Walker Camp Prong at the base of Anakeesta Ridge on the Tennessee side of the Smokies is one of my favorite places to find and be creative with the amazing iceforms that can be found there. During the peak of winter this watercourse gets relatively little direct sunlight, and when the thermometer hovers below freezing for several days at a time, a winter palace begins to take shape: an invitation to bundle up and go outside. A focal length of 150mm - near the boundary of short telephoto-land - gave me the intimate angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.6 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure and an apparent flow of the water that expressed the motion effect I wanted to create.

Winter will soon enough give us a way to spring; but until then; its sculptured forms can offer us much to celebrate and enjoy. 

Saturday, 03 February 2018 12:09

Reflecting Upon Rhode Island

Its 787 acres include five extremely diverse habitats from forest to beach, with grass field, tall shrubland, and red maple swamp in between. It has the only salt pond on the Ocean State's entire coast that does not have a developed shoreline, providing an undisturbed home for almost 300 species of birds, including temporary lodging and food for numbers (31 species) of migratory waterfowl as well. These statistics are enough to make it special, but it is the small farm pond on the northern end that always draws me to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Its quiet waters, filled with water lilies and bordered by lovely old red maples make it, for me, a creative haven, not to mention a chance to observe, from the viewing platform or the dock, frogs and turtles hard at work below my feet.

A focal length of 217mm - upper end of short telephoto - gave me the angle-of-view I wanted to isolate elements and relationships shown. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and along with an ISO of 200 gave me a shutter speed of 1/4th second, fast enough to still most of the surface tension on the water.

The beauty of Trustom Pond is a wonderful jewel sitting astride the ocean's edge. Rhode Island may be small, but its treasures are world-class.


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