Distinction: I

A short post with a question that has been on my mind for some time now. I’ll just get to the point an ask: Is it possible to identify a landscape photographer from their work alone? Meaning, can you simply look at the images and know which photographer created them?

I genuinely don’t know this answer and have been wanting to write about it. I figured I’d start with asking because maybe I’m missing something that others already know. Are there photographers you can identify by their work? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments and I’m sure anyone interested in this would like to see too. I’ll try to post some links as some come to mind in the coming days.

I’ll elaborate on this more next week as I have many thoughts on this issue. And for context of this discussion, I’m not interested in photographers of the past, only current Landscape Photographers.

Thanks and I look forward to continuing this discussion soon.

EE

Update: There seems to be little to no interest in this topic so I’m putting it on hold for now. I assure you this topic IS of interest to me and I’ll have a much more comprehensive post upcoming with multiple examples.

We all know who took this iconic image but there are a few more photographers today than in 1947. Just a few…

I Wasn’t Looking for This

I’m going to try something new and I hope I can continue doing this on a regular basis. I struggle with a consistent workflow for adding images and recent work to my website and updating it regularly. I also struggle with editing/keywording/organizing my images in Lightroom. This leads to me share work randomly and I feel disorganized in my approach and presentation. So I’m going to try to change this and take a more organized and thoughtful approach to presenting, updating and discussing images.


~ Comprehension ~
2019 // Velvia 50 // Utah

Earlier this winter I spent some time in far Southern Utah and Arizona traveling and exploring landscapes which were both familiar and unfamiliar. One location I visited was a particular river that I’m fond of. There were very few people in the area due to the season which is quite the opposite from the insanely busy summer season. I camped for a few nights and explored this river in different conditions, crossing it several times and doing my best to ignore the icy cold water. I didn’t have neoprene socks on so limiting my time in the water was key to enjoying this beautiful section of river.

In the sunshine, the air was pleasantly warm. The river makes several bends and at times you must walk in the shade where the temperature is starkly cold. There isn’t a trail or path to follow except for the river itself. At times you are walking over the structures of ice, crushing it with every loud, rhythmic step. I always feel a little guilty for crushing such fragile beauty while walking but in reality, it’s just ice. I’d walked the river one morning without my camera to simply explore and observe with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. The warm morning sunshine and hot coffee was a nice contrast to the frigid water and deep, cold shade. Sip a little coffee, crush a little ice and stop every 5 feet to examine the beautiful structures before stepping on them as I carried on up the river.

Later in the day, I repeated this walk in the much warmer afternoon sun but this time the sounds were different. The crunching and crushing of ice was replaced with the roar of rushing water. The river had risen over a foot and was flowing with noticeably more force and sound. All the ice was gone except for a few patches in the deep, dark shade against the sandstone walls. Everything that I was looking at and crushing earlier in the day was gone. Vanished. Melted.

I returned to camp and enjoyed a small fire under the dark, clear Winter skies in one of the darkest places in the USA. The river was still rushing as the Milky Way spanned the sky (Yes, the Milky Way is visible in the Winter, just not the core that everyone photographs). Clear skies and dry air in the Desert SW allow the temperature to plummet in the Winter and upon letting the fire die out, I crawled into bed.

There’s no rush on an ice cold Winter morning in the desert. I was along a river so I wasn’t depending on anything in the sky for images. Sunrise was for the eyes, not the camera. The 2nd morning I again made some hot coffee to go and grabbed the camera this time before heading up the river.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

An endless display of beauty lined the river the previous day’s high water was once again frozen solid along the banks. The river was considerably lower as much of the water was locked up in ice. Miles of this delicate, beautiful ice had formed overnight while I was dreaming, just as it had the night before. My pace slowed to the point of barely moving while my eyes scanned left and right, absorbing as much information as possible. There was so much to see and dissect as I searched for something that stood out. The light wasn’t changing since I was working in the cold shade so I was able to fully engage with this intricate landscape. I have no idea how long I was there because time completely vanishes when in this zone. 5 minutes? 5 hours? It all feels the same and totally irrelevant.

Capturing a scene such as this is really quite easy from a technical standpoint, even with highly sensitive color slide film (Velvia 50). The shade is very evenly lit and there are few deep shadows and highlights to worry about. Everything was within a few stops, perhaps 1-2, and this is easily visible to the naked eye so no need to meter anything specific. Just take the average meter through the camera and over expose by about 1/2 stop due to the subject being ice. Compose, click, done. I did compose a few other scenes which were very similar but I didn’t bracket or shoot duplicates. I hardly ever do.

I continued to explore this area until the sunlight overtook much of the river and the ice began to immediately melt. The cycle of melting and freezing would continue again the next day in a different yet similar fashion. There is a beautiful contrast in the desert which is presented in a nearly infinite number of ways. The more time I spend engaging with the landscape the more ways these contrasts are revealed. Or maybe time in this landscape allows me to understand these contrasts with more clarity?

Thanks for reading, EE

The Block

(Cottonwoods // In-camera double exposure // 2019)

Creative block. No. Writer’s block. Not exactly.

I’ve been trying to get back in the swing of things with writing here more but every time I do I’m faced with a “block” of sorts. I couldn’t figure it out as I am in no way short of ideas to write about. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I share thoughts freely almost every day. I don’t really have creative blocks, at least not in the 6 1/2 years I’ve been actively pursuing photography. The block I refer to is more personal I’ve concluded. I’ve simply felt overwhelmed by life, photography, thoughts, emotions and ideas. This has all caused me to essentially freeze up when I sit down to write and elaborate on thoughts.

I’ve felt disorganized and I didn’t know where to even begin. So I’m just going to start writing and expressing thoughts along with images with the hope that I’ll move past this block.

(Arches National Park // Stitched Panorama // 2019)

I’ll begin with some images from a recent visit to Moab, UT from earlier this year. For those unfamiliar with Moab, it’s home to 2 National Parks, Canyonlands and Arches, and surrounded by one of the wildest landscapes in North America. It’s also a VERY busy place with visitors from all over the world who gather there for a variety of reasons. Moab is home to some of the best outdoor recreation activities in Utah and within 4 hours of Salt Lake City. All this means that it gets very busy there, much more than you can imagine.

The landscape also attracts photographers from around the world who want to capture the iconic features in these National Parks. Many of these locations are so popular that hordes of photographers often crowd locations just to “get the shot”. Mesa Arch is one such location and a quick Google search shows what a typical morning looks like there. The same for Delicate Arch.

I don’t know about you but these types of situations are something I steer clear of. It makes me also wonder if there are ever times anymore where these iconic locations aren’t crowded. I certainly understand that people have limited time when on vacation so they visit these locations when they can. I too was only there for a few days, just like everyone else, and hadn’t been to Arches NP in over 10 years. I just don’t believe that landscape photography has to be limited to sunrise and sunset, no matter the location. I prefer to think for myself about the other times to experience and photograph a landscape, when people aren’t around. I’ll come back to this topic in an upcoming post.

I’ll keep this post relatively short and say that despite the crowds, Moab and Arches National Park are an incredible place to explore and photograph. I feel a little ashamed of myself for intentionally avoiding these places due to the crowds as I know myself better than this. There’s always something to discover and to create images of, no matter the location, and I can’t wait to visit this place again. And again.

Thanks for reading, EE.

Bryce Canyon: More Than Just Hoodoos

I just returned from a few days in Bryce Canyon National Park where Mother Nature put on quite a show. A strong cold front moved through and brought her friend, Mr. Breezy, with her! The wind at Bryce Point was some of the strongest wind I’ve ever felt in my life and all I could do was just laugh. The Park sits between 8000′ – 9000′ feet above sea level and is on the edge of a large plateau. When the winds blow in Bryce, they blow with force! Anyone who’s ever been there in a strong storm knows this is true. Several large ponderosa pines were knocked down which closed the road past the first few viewpoints, but those viewpoints offer so much.

Bryce Point Wind – April 2019

The wind can be a very difficult element to deal with when photographing at Bryce Canyon. It simply isn’t comfortable. I must not be the only one who feels this way because I noticed a majority of the people who were also visiting decided to move on and the Park became very desolate. Winds don’t last forever though and sure enough, they calmed down enough to be more tolerable.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos on Portra 160 film, Nikon FM.
Looking down and across the light. Portra 160 (pushed +1) // Nikon FM // 2018

The same geography which creates these strong winds is also to credit for another difficult element to deal with: Light. Bryce Canyon predominately faces East and is at a much higher altitude than the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. Morning light hits the canyon from the first sign of dawn, especially in the Late Fall – Early Spring when the Sun rises to the south of Powell Point (10,188). The other months of the year are good for morning light too, but when the Sun rises to the South of Powell Point in the Winter, direct light travels through MUCH more atmosphere before it illuminates the canyon. Winter can present its own obvious challenges in Bryce Canyon with extreme cold and wind. That’s a topic for another time.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos on Portra 160 film, Nikon FM.
Looking more towards the sun, slightly below. Portra 160 (pushed +1) // Nikon FM // 2018

The challenge with light in Bryce Canyon is that the viewpoints face to the East, directly into the rising sun. The presents a challenge with huge dynamic ranges and contrast. There are many ways to deal with this challenge of extreme dynamic range and contrast. One way is a Graduated ND filter to balance the sky an foreground. I personally don’t use these and I’ll write a blog post specifically on this topic. Another way to handle this light is to make several exposures and blend the images in Photoshop or Lightroom. This approach requires more time editing images and can work for many people but I personally don’t enjoy this aspect of photography.

My preferred approach is to not shoot directly into the light and shoot towards or across the light, but not directly into the light. This approach works for me in Bryce Canyon and can produce some interesting results. The hoodoos reflect light in various ways and the light can sometimes bounce between several hoodoos. Shooting across direct light and towards the light can greatly reduce contrast which keeps shadows and highlights in check. I prefer to use a longer lens to accomplish this and a lens hood keeps light off the lens and eliminates flaring.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos on Portra 160 film, Nikon FM.
Looking down, slightly across. Portra 160 (pushed +1) // Nikon FM // 2018

The other challenge with light in Bryce Canyon is finding these angles to shoot across the light. This is where you’re feet come into the picture. Simply put, you have to move around. There is a great trail that runs along the rim of the main amphitheater for those who don’t want to climb or descend at these high elevations. For those who are more comfortable hiking at high elevations, there are many trails which will yield unique compositions nearly every time. This post isn’t a guide to such locations but I’d be happy to suggest some if anyone’s interested.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos on Portra 160 film, Nikon FM.
Looking across, slightly towards the light. Portra 160 (pushed +1) // Nikon FM // 2018

During my latest visit to Bryce Canyon I took my own advice and hiked down among the hoodoos at sunrise and discovered a composition and scene that I’ve never seen images of. The light was spectacular and I photographed a scene which I believe may be one of my favorites that I’ve ever discovered in Bryce Canyon. It developed very quickly and within minutes, the light changed and the scene vanished. I hope to share that image with you at some point soon but I shot it on Velvia 50 film and haven’t sent the film in for processing yet. So I’ll wait as well.

Thanks for reading,

EE

Comfortable Space

The problem with not sharing images and writing for a while here is that I have no idea if I’ve shared this image (or future images) before. I guess I could revisit the archived posts but I’m just going to pretend you haven’t seen some of them anyway:) . So here we go..

I distinctly remember finding and capturing this image, even though it was from nearly 2 years ago. I vividly recall my frame of mind, my thoughts, my emotion and my desires at the time I clicked the shutter. This landscape is a place where few, if any, landscape photographers go. Wildlife photographers visit this area to photograph Wild Horses but landscape photographers seem to overlook this place. Fine with me.

I recall this time so vividly because I went there with the intention to be in a vast, wide open landscape, free of fences and barriers, so that I could think. I needed the wide open space to allow my thoughts to roam free without any interruptions or distractions. I needed a comfortable space.

2 image stitched pano
Portra 160 (pushed +1) Nikon FM Nikkor 105 f/2.5 (non-Ai)

This was a time in my life I was faced with a major decision which would affect the next few years up to this current moment. I needed clarity and silence so I would make the right decision for my future. I ventured into the West Desert of Utah and drove without a destination, only a tank full of gas, some film and a 40 year-old camera. It was mid to late afternoon and the light was just transitioning from the scorching harshness of mid day to the gentle and soothing light of late afternoon. A little later and the shadows would overtake the scene. A little earlier and the beautiful tones wouldn’t be as visible.

Essentially, this image is all about a clean, comfortable space without anything to distract the eye such as clouds or aggressive colors such as red or orange. I think I’ll title this image “Transitions” and leave it at that.

Thanks for reading,

EE

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