We just got back from our trip to Bosque del Apache. I guess I’ve been a little spoiled in the past, weather–wise. This time around, we had just enough time to do a bike ride around the Farm Loop when the skies opened up; the weather was damp and overcast for the entire trip. I was disappointed because I had this pre–conceived idea of the images I hoped to make (glorious sunsets, cranes in flight, pretty much the same types of photos I had made on my previous trips to the Bosque). In other words, I was in a rut!
As it turned out, the weather forced me to take a different approach to my image–making, and I’m happy to say that I feel pretty good about the results. It’s not that I discovered any new techniques, but I did (once again) come to the realization that I should not have expectations, or pre–conceived ideas about my photography. When I think that way, it hampers my creativity, and I usually just get frustrated; from there, it’s a downward spiral.
This image was made near the end of the first day. We had left the reserve, and decided to stop at the Chupadera pond along State Road 1. The cranes were starting to fly in for the night, and there was a storm over the San Mateo mountains to the west. I was so intent on the birds that I hadn’t noticed the feathery clouds over Chupadera Peak, but my companion pointed them out to me, and I made one exposure. This is the result.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 80–400 mm lens.
Processing: Clarity, contrast, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom, curves adjustment in Photoshop.
I recently decided to go through my archives to see if I could find any images I had missed that might be worth printing. I don’t know why I passed this one up in the initial edit, but I’m glad I went back for another look; this is not the first time I have found a gem amongst the chaff of forgotten (digital) negatives. This photo was made two years ago; there are close to four hundred images in that folder, so maybe I was slightly delirious the first time I saw it.
I made eight exposures of these two cranes silhouetted against the evening sky, and this is the one where it all came together. Except for the lead bird’s beak, open in a raucous cry celebrating…the joy of flight?, or maybe just a full belly after feeding all day in the farm fields at the north end of the refuge; they are frozen, almost perfectly synchronous, in their return to their watery roost. Peter Matthiessen was right when he referred to cranes as the “Birds of Heaven”.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 300 mm f 4 lens.
Settings: ISO 320, f 9 @ 1/400 sec.
Processing: Contrast, clarity, and vibrance adjustments in Lightroom, curves and saturation adjustments in Photoshop.
Cranes are perennially monogamous, meaning that they keep the same mate for their entire lives. I caught this pair in a tender moment as the sun was setting at Bosque del Apache NWR last year.
A year later, and, once again, I am preparing to make my annual journey to the Bosque. In doing so, I find myself wondering if this pair will be there, or if they might have met some terrible fate during their migration, or even worse perhaps, if only one of them has survived. I recently watched a documentary movie titled “Winged Migration”. It is a beautifully photographed movie about migrating birds, and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about these wonderful creatures. But, I digress!
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 300 mm f 4 lens
Processing: Contrast, vibrance, clarity, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom, curves adjustment in Photoshop
Okay, Okay, I know it’s another fence photo. This was actually the first time I had consciously included a manmade object in an image in a long time. I was driving across the Valles Caldera one winter day; it was foggy and there was fresh snow on the ground. I noticed this fence line angling off into the distance, and it seemed as though it was floating. There was no discernible horizon; it was like watching a dream unfold.
This is another of those images that I visualized in B&W as I was setting up the shot. I knew I wanted simplicity, to the exclusion of everything but the lines, shapes and tonal values. Color would have been an overstatement.
Equipment: Nikon F100, Nikon 35–70 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, Fuji Velvia.
Processing: Nikon CoolscanV, Curves, and B&W conversion in Photoshop
Another icon in the realm of nature photography, Delicate Arch is a favorite of visitors to Arches National Park. The well worn trail meanders across an upthrust ridge of slickrock for nearly two miles. The last couple hundred yards of the trail hugs a cliff face before you suddenly arrive at the edge of a huge natural amphitheater, and there before you stands this seemingly impossible structure of red sandstone.
The experience is well worth the effort, but you have to be patient if you want to make an image that doesn’t include twenty or thirty other visitors. I was wishing for some dramatic clouds to take some of the edge off the deep cerulean sky, but had to settle for the snowcapped La Sal mountains. I am planning another trip to Arches soon. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the atmospheric conditions.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17–35 mm f–2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer.
Processing: Contrast, vibrance, and saturation adjustment in Lightroom, curves adjustment in Photoshop.
Tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle) piled against a barbed wire fence, with a far–off horizon in the background. If it weren’t for that fence, who knows where those damn tumbleweeds would be by now!
There was a time when I would go out of my way to exclude a fence from an image, but fences are a part of the landscape, and sometimes they can evoke emotions. So, I guess in many ways they can be considered works of art.
This image was made on the same day as I made “County Road 5728”. It is a bit further up Hwy. 550 from Lybrook. I struggled with the color version of this for days, but was not satisfied with the results, so I did a B&W conversion, and I like this version much better.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17–35mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer.
Processing: Exposure, contrast, clarity, and vibrance in Lightroom, Curves and B&W conversion in Photoshop.
I’ve felt this way a few times in my life: the loss of a loved one, a breakup with someone whom I loved (and probably still do), those melancholy moments when memories of an irretrievable past seem to burrow into my mind and won’t let go.
We were mountain biking on Cebollita Mesa. As we walked our bikes across a cattle guard, I saw this strand of barbed wire wrapped tightly around a fence post. The metaphor was obvious.
Equipment: Nikon F100, Nikon 105mm f2,8 macro lens, Fuji Velvia.
Processing: Nikon Coolscan V, curves, levels, color balance, and saturation adjustments in Photoshop
Yin Yang Winter
I think I must have photographed this waterfall at least a dozen times. I have used it for background in portraits, and I have photographed it at different times of the year. I think that, out of all the images I have of this waterfall, this is my favorite.
The falls are fed by a warm spring, and they cascade over a cliff of basalt. They are tucked into a small canyon which is cut into the welded volcanic ash that makes up the surrounding mesas. There is a state highway a stones throw away, but it can neither be seen nor heard.
As usual, when photographing moving water, I used a slow shutter speed, about .5 seconds, and stopped down for a wide depth of field to make sure everything was in sharp focus. The longer exposure time requires a sturdy tripod and head, and a remote release.
Equipment: Nikon F100, Nikon 35–70 mm f2.8 lens 4x ND filter, Fuji Velvia 50 ISO.
Processing: Nikon CoolscanV, curves adjustment, and greyscale conversion in Photoshop.
Symphony In Ice Major
Here is another example of what you can find if you just look down. I was walking out to my car one winter morning. There was ice everywhere, and there were these amazing patterns in it. I got my camera, and set the tripod over this small section of the ice with pebbles showing through. The way the pattern in the ice follows the curve of the bare pebbles reminded me of music (thus the name).
Equipment: Nikon F100, Nikon 105 mm f-2.8 Macro lens, Fuji Velvia film.
Processing: Nikon CoolscanV, curves, color balance, and saturation adjustments in Photoshop.
From Mesa Arch
This is a view looking through Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. In the background is a formation known as The Washerwoman, and beyond that are the La Sal Mountains. This is an iconic setting in the realm of nature photography. I tried to shoot from a different perspective to give this image a fresh point of view. This is my pick out of about forty exposures I made that day.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, circular polarizer
Processing: curves, vibrance, clarity and saturation adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop
Guadalupe Falls Winter
This photo was taken several years ago when I was still shooting exclusively with film. It is a black & white conversion of a color transparency (Fuji Velvia). I used to visit Guadalupe Falls regularly; it is a spectacular place. The Guadalupe River has carved a deep gorge into the surrounding granite over millions upon millions of years.
I used a slow shutter speed to emphasize the contrast of the soft flowing water against the hard granite. I scanned the film with a Nikon CoolscanV, and did curves, and contrast adjustments, and the greyscale conversion in Photoshop.
White Sands Sunset
This is the last image I made at White Sands on my last trip. The sun was barely above the horizon, and the soft golden light enveloped me in a wave of anticipation. The low angle of the setting sun gave the ripples on the dune a palpable texture.
I think this image does a good job of communicating the fickle nature of the dunes, and the uncertain fate of the life that exists there. One yucca is partially covered by the advancing dune, and another is completely buried except for the dead stalk of it’s blossoms. The exaggerated ripples across the face of the sand suggests the constant movement that is the essence of the dunes.
Earth,Wind, and Sky
I made this image at Kasha Katuwe. The landscape has been sculpted by the elements over eons, and the place has a mystical quality about it. The hike follows a path through an arroyo that grows increasingly narrower until you find yourself in a slot canyon. In places the way is so narrow that two people cannot pass at once. Looking up, you see a sliver of sky.
Once the path exits the narrows, it begins to climb, and you are suddenly looking down on the way you’ve come. There are several vantage points where you can look out over the landscape for miles around. The most prominent feature are the tent rocks which are carved from volcanic pumice and tuff topped with boulders which keep them from eroding away completely This photo was taken about three quarters of the way to the top.
In the background you can see tent rocks in the making, being shaped by an infinitely patient sculptor (mother nature); they will be on display in a couple of million years. Again, I made basic adjustments in lightroom and photoshop.
Lake Fire Rainbow
We were out just driving around one day, and I decided to head out onto Lake Fork Mesa. This area had been ravaged by the Lake Fire several years before, and I had not been there since before the fire. The desolation was complete; from the point where the fire had burned, not a single tree remained unscathed.
The sky was heavy with the possibility of rain. As the dark clouds gathered, giving the charred landscape a sinister look, the sun broke through, and the most amazing rainbow I had ever seen appeared in Lake Fork Canyon. I felt as though I could reach out and touch it; it became a tangible presence.
The contrast between the devastated treescape and the vibrant colors painted across the sky is what makes this image work for me. I made the usual curves, vibrance, clarity, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop.
We were mountain biking on San Juan Mesa, and stopped for a break, so I grabbed my camera and we walked along a game trail. There were bluebells growing everywhere we looked, but it took a while to find the right ones. I was taken by the graceful curve of the stems, and the placement of the blossoms on this pair.
I only had my “all-in-one” lens with me, and no tripod, but I was able to get close enough, and open the aperture wide enough to isolate the flowers against a nice bokeh background. Luckily, there was hardly any wind, so movement was not a problem. This was the best out of five exposures. Again, processing was limited to curves, clarity, vibrance, and contrast adjustments in lightroom and photoshop.
Islands In The Stream
Another image from White Sands. This is one of very few that I had visualized as a black and white image as I was setting up the shot. As I got ready to release the shutter, my camera displayed an error message. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was; all I knew was the sun was setting fast, and I would be losing the light soon. I grabbed my camera and tripod and ran back to the car to get the manual. As it turned out, my lens aperture wasn’t locked, a simple fix, and I was able to get the shot before the light was gone. I’ll not forget what that error message means any time soon, and I now keep my camera’s manual with me at all times.
County Road 5872
One day I took a drive out Highway 550. As I passed through Lybrook, I saw a road off to my right, and on impulse I turned onto it. The sign read CR 5872, and after about a half mile the road turned to dirt. It had rained earlier, and the road was pretty slick, so I decided not to venture very far.
At the bottom of a small hill, there was a drainage with a culvert and a fence line. There was also a wide spot in the road, so I took the opportunity to turn my car around, and to get out to stretch a bit. Something about the road intrigued me: the way it ran off to the horizon. I grabbed my camera and made three exposures. This is the pick. I made adjustments in Lightroom, but it still wasn’t quite right. If all else fails, do a conversion to black and white. This is the result.