Earlier this year I made several trips to this desolate area of Utah. A powerful Spring storm was rolling through and I was able to experience the dramatic changes as the rain, wind and light swept over this incredible landscape. There were no people for miles and I was alone with only my camera. I stopped at a vantage point not far from here as the storm passed, camera in hand, and I became completely overwhelmed by what I was seeing and experiencing. The massive desert landscape was changing by the minute as veils of rain, light and shadow drifted to the horizon. The colors of the landscape were also changing, from muted earth tones to vibrantly saturated colors, then back to muted colors. This all happened in a very short time frame over an expansive landscape. It was simply too much to attempt to capture.
I became overwhelmed with the landscape and felt at a loss at how I could express anything I was feeling or seeing. It was impossible to show everything as the changes were happening simultaneously in all directions and on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. I’d never experienced this sensation of feeling overwhelmed by a landscape. I stood outside in the rain as water ran down my face, mixed with tears. My camera was with me yet I didn’t know how to use it, or why I should use it.
It was at this exact moment I nearly put my camera away and nearly walked away from landscape photography forever…
To be continued.
~ Changes Come ~
Utah – 2017
Day 7 and the final day of a week of images. I have plenty more to share and I hope this helps make up for such a long delay in posting here! It’s still hot throughout the West but the rains and clouds are moving in. Maybe these Winter photos are helping cool things off? I wish! One last day of Winter photos with a few from Zion National Park. I’ll be sharing more from this trip in a separate post because it was one of the best days behind the lens I’ve ever had. For now, a few images and thoughts from Zion on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2016. Stay cool out there!
~ Falling ~ (2016 – Ektar 100)
Heavy rain in the morning created a world of waterfalls in Zion Canyon. As the temperature dropped, the precipitation changed to heavy snow. For a brief moment, there were both waterfalls and snow-covered trees and rocks. Then the landscape became muffled and silent as the waterfalls ceased and the landscape became a Winter Wonderland. Shooting in this heavy precipitation was an extreme challenge with an old camera that isn’t weather sealed.
~ Canyon of Mountains ~ (2016 – Ektar 100)
The landscape slowly became more and more obscured as the heavy snow filled Zion Canyon. This massive landscape quickly became intimate and Zion changed. New patterns and shapes appeared in all directions. All sound vanished. I spent hours roaming without seeing a single person as the heavy wet snow continued to pile up. I still have a hard time writing anything to describe this sensation of being somewhere so powerful and seeing transform so quickly, all without anyone else around. Emotional isn’t the right word. Inspiring seems unjust. Awe seems mild. I felt like Zion was whispering for anyone who was listening.
~ Silent Night ~ (2016 – Ektar 100)
This was the last image I made on Christmas Eve. The snow became deeper and had muffled every sound. This tree is fairly close to the road but there were no cars. No people. No tracks. No color. It was a silent night and Zion whispered for the last time that day.
~ Canyon of Mountains II ~ (2016 – Ektar 100)
Over a foot of snow fell in Zion Canyon by Christmas Morning and the storm was clearing. What else can I say? Actually quite a bit but that’s for another blog post:)
Thanks for reading,
It’s been pretty hot throughout much of the West recently with temperatures in the 100’s for days on end. I figured this will be a good time to share some winter images to keep your eyes cool:) I’ll share more winter images tomorrow as well. I had the chance to visit Bryce Canyon National Park last December on a spectacular morning. The drive there wasn’t looking promising for interesting conditions as the sky was mostly clear in the dawn. As we got closer to Bryce, there were more and more low clouds and luckily it wasn’t bitter cold. We pulled up to an overlook and the temperature was 27 F with no wind. Perfect! Fog hovered over the hoodoos and the sky was getting lighter by the minute.
I’ve been to Bryce Canyon numerous times but I’ve never seen conditions like this in person. Bryce Canyon is incredible to photograph and see even on a clear sky day so any atmospheric conditions are a treat to experience. There were few people so finding a location to photograph and watch the light was easy. In fact, I hiked for a few minutes along the rim and I couldn’t see or hear another person. Just me, my camera and Bryce. And light. I only made 9 exposures on this incredible morning which may sound strange in today’s digital world. I’m sharing 4 images, 2 had light leaks, 2 are similar to the ones below and 1 is for another time. I’m more than happy to get one good photo per trip regardless if it’s digital or on film.
All images are on Kodak Ektar 100 and I’ll let the images stand alone without captions. I hope you get the chance to see Bryce Canyon with your own eyes sometime. It really is a special place unlike anywhere you’ll ever see.
Thanks for reading,
~ Illuminations ~
~ Sun – Water – Time ~
~ Hoodoo Glow ~
~ Everything the Light Touches ~
The desert SW is a fascinating place to observe and photograph patterns. It really doesn’t matter where you go in this vast area, it’s literally everywhere. These patterns and shapes are revealed in both grand and intimate scales and are a treat to the eye. On this trip I used a film that was new to me, Kodak Portra 160. It’s often used for portraits because of the way it renders skin tones and has a wonderfully smooth grain. It has a high dynamic range and is great for high contrast scenes. I don’t see it used much for landscapes so I thought I’d give it a try. I don’t have enough experience with it yet to make any final conclusions but so far I’m liking the film for creating a negative.
~ Edge of Shade ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
Warm light is reflected off a nearby cliff while this rock sits in the shade. The various colors of the sandstone combined with the colors of warm and cool light create an interesting effect. There is endless potential for images in the desert as you wander and observe.
~ Layers Beyond Layers ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
This sunrise was pretty incredible with an entire sky exploding in beautiful color. I opted to photograph this scene instead because it showed much more interesting elements than just a sunrise. I was drawn to the similar shapes (think Nike swoosh) and the layers extending to the horizon. Also, this light was more balanced and no filter was needed to balance the exposure of the sky and foreground. I’ll talk about my strong dislike for GND’s (Graduated Neutral Density filters) in a separate post. I’m pretty impressed with how Portra 160 handles both the highlights and shadows, even in a smaller jpg scan. I can’t wait to see this as a high res TIFF!
~ Stone & Pebble ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
One more intimate image of color, texture and shape. I chose to leave the pebbles just beyond the plane of focus in this image for a specific reason. Eyes are drawn to contrast, brightness and areas of focus. By placing strong contrast on the left, focus in the middle and brightness on the right, a different form of balance is created. Composition techniques become more crucial in intimate images to allow an image to communicate. Every element in an intimate image must serve a purpose to the observer’s eye.
Thanks for reading and more tomorrow!
Today we’ll head to Southern Utah with a few images from Capitol Reef National Park. This park is relatively unknown and is often overshadowed by the other well-known parks in Utah. I’ve visited this place countless times and each visit leaves me with more questions about what else is here to see. It’s a confusing landscape on a grand and intimate scale which can be overwhelming at times. Most visits have been solo and I think the feeling of being alone in a vast place contributes to this sense of being overwhelmed both visually and emotionally. I feel so small there and am reminded on every visit that I will always be just a visitor.
~ Northern Light ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
As the storm clears, the spotlighting begins. One of the simple pleasures of the desert landscape is watching light move across the landscape, illuminating and isolating various features. These are fleeting moments that you can’t plan for, you simply have to be there with your eyes open. This is where anticipation comes in as the light begins to move around. By the time you set up a composition and determine exposure, the light is gone. For this image I saw the light beginning to show on the distant domes and set up a composition and determined the exposure. Then I sat and waited and watched. Once the light popped, click.
~ Beneath the Light ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
This scene was invisible to the naked eye as it was nearly dark. For this image, I actually spotted this earlier in the day and knew the composition would work. I returned after sunset and composed the image with just enough light to set my focus. I then waited for the light to nearly disappear to my eyes. Cameras and eyes don’t work the same to say it simply. If photography was about documenting what something looks like I’d walk away from photography in a heart beat. I’ll leave the rest of this thought for a future post. This was a long exposure which allowed enough light to expose the film while remaining dark to the naked eye. I haven’t experimented with long exposures enough but I do know it’s one of my favorite aspects of photography. A camera is just a tool which allows us to see what our eyes can’t. Period.
~ Spring Valley ~ (2017 – Portra 160)
This particular morning was a pleasant surprise. I knew of this view but the conditions weren’t looking favorable for photographing this scene. It had rained heavily all night but the rain stopped sometime in the middle of the night. Capitol Reef can get some wild weather! This image doesn’t show any amazing light but I’m including this photo because of the colors. I usually focus on the light for landscapes but I question if doing so limits my vision. There is obviously light in this image or you wouldn’t be able to see it. The light is more diffuse due to the cloudy conditions and allows more detail in the normally shadowed areas. Equally, the clouds aren’t particularly bright and the entire scene was within 6 stops of light from the darkest to the lightest areas. This is easily handled by Portra 160 and even with Ektar 100 films without the need for a graduated neutral density filter. I wonder any directional light in this image would’ve created a stronger image? I question if light is sometimes distracting? I wonder what this place looks like on the days I’m not there? I have so many questions about Capitol Reef…
Thanks for reading, more tomorrow!