photography from the ground up

Archive for April, 2010

The Painted Desert

We just got back from a three day trip to the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona. What an incredible place!. We put a lot of miles on our hiking boots, and saw some amazing and other–worldly landscapes, This was my first time there, but it will definitely not be my last.

This image was made from Kachina Point which is an overlook at the Painted Desert Inn. Before the trip was over, we hiked down into the Painted Desert/Black Forest Wilderness which is visible in the background of this photo.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod

Cabezon Evening

I recently made another trip out to Cabezon. On the previous visit I had been plagued by a dense overcast which afforded relatively flat light. This time, however, the atmospheric conditions were all I could hope for. I spent about four hours driving , walking, and making images. This is one of the last I made that day. Right after I released the shutter the sun went behind a large cloud which was resting on the horizon, and once again, the light was flat.

This is a five exposure blend. I used the exposure fusion method instead of the tone compression work flow, because it renders a more realistic final image. I actually wanted to process this in a normal workflow, but when I dropped the exposure enough to bring out detail in the clouds, I lost detail in the flanks of Cabezon. This is exactly the reason HDR imaging has been developed: to expand the dynamic range of a photograph to allow detail in the highlights and the shadows.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/50th, 1/25th, 1/13th, 1/6th, 1/3rd sec., ISO 100

In The Middle Of Somewhere

Another image from Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah. There is a never ending supply of delightful surprises in this magical place. This image was made in a little side canyon that is situated at the north end of the main wash. There were a number of these flat rocks with a kind of marbling from erosion on their exposed surface. Common sense tells me that all of these wondrous forms are simply the result of millions upon millions of years of weather, but another part of my intellection considers it all an enigma. In post processing I desaturated and darkened the sky to add some sense of that mystery to the image.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/20th sec., ISO 100


It always amazes me when I find a new really sweet spot in my own backyard. After having lived in the Jemez Mountains for thirty three years you would think that I would know every nook and cranny inside and out. Last Saturday we took a little walk on the San Ysidro Trails. The trailhead is about a mile and a half north of the Hwy. 550/Hwy.4 intersection in San Ysidro.

It’s not a trail really, it’s a two track. The area is used by the New Mexico Trails Association, a group of dirt bike enthusiasts who ride and have competitions in a part of the Trails area. We followed the road almost to the point where it crosses onto Jemez Pueblo land, and there we found a large area of bizarre rock. I suppose you could call it slickrock, but erosion has caused it to scale and spall. There are some low–lying formations, nothing spectacular, but enough to add some interest. The biggest surprise was at the northern edge of the rock field where we stumbled onto a series of pools. It was easy to see that in a time of abundant moisture, there is a small stream here that flows through a channel that has been eroded into the stone. Each of the pools is connected by a watercourse and a drop where a waterfall creates the next pool. During the dry spells, these small tinajas are the only source of water for miles around.

This is another HDR image created from three source images

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm f2.8 lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/10th 1/20th, and 1/40th sec., ISO 100


Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah! What more can you say? Over the past couple of years, I have become a connoisseur of inhospitable desert places. The badlands of the San Juan Basin are, perhaps the most inhospitable, and at the same time, the most fascinating, the most beautiful, the most other–worldly landscapes I have seen anywhere.

Today I made my first trip to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wash. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah lies in the middle of the San Juan Basin: somewhere between Chaco Canyon and the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. I had heard stories, I had read blogs, I had seen hundreds of photographs, but none of them prepared me for the actual experience.

My companion and I wandered around the bizarre landscape for the better part of a day. When we uttered a word, it was usually an exclamation of pure astonishment. So, I’ve rambled on enough. I’ll let the images do the talking. Here is one of my favorites (so far) from the day’s shooting.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/25th sec., ISO 100

Cabezon Flood

This is my first attempt at an HDR image. HDR is an acronym for high dynamic range. It is chiefly used in difficult lighting situations when the camera cannot capture the full breadth of the range of highlights and shadows. The technique involves making several images at different exposures using a tripod, then combining them to expand the dynamic range. The blending can be done in Photoshop or one of the many other applications that have been developed for the purpose. I used Photomatix Pro to blend this image.

I made the initial images out between San Luis and Cabezon where the road crosses a deep arroyo. The sun was obscured by the overcast and everything was in varying degrees of shadow. I bracketed five exposures (-2, -1,0, +1, +2). I did some basic adjustments to all the images in Lightroom, and then exported them to Photomatix to accomplish the blending–I only used four of the five bracketed exposures. The image below was processed using my normal workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop. I like both versions; they both express the scene in a different way. What do you think?

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm 2.8 lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f22, 1/13th, 1/20th, 1/30th, 1/40th sec., ISO 100.

Road To Cabezon

Yesterday I set out with with no particular destination in mind. As I turned north on 550, I thought I might try to get a good shot of Cabezon from the highway. When I got to that stretch of road the sky was overcast, the light flat, so I pushed on, and turned on the road to San Luis and Cabezon.

As I got closer, and the great neck of lava grew larger, I decided to go all the way to the parking area. I was driving my car which has very little clearance, so I wasn’t sure I could make it. Sure enough, the road began to get rougher, so when I saw this two track leading off to the left I stopped. I had to play a waiting game with the sun which was obscured by the overcast. As it got lower in the sky, the light began to soften. I made some exposures, and this image is the best of the lot.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f22, 1/15th sec., ISO 100