Sorry about the bad pun, but this seemed like the perfect image to drive home the idea that black and white photographs are more about the structure, tones, lines, and shapes of the photograph, whereas a color image can distract from those basics.
All of the various skeletal segments in the left foreground create lines into the image; they all lead the eye in about the same direction-towards the mesas in the background. The eye then should travel in a kind of spiral: up to the clouds and then back down to the distant double peaked mountain. The focal point (hopefully) is the carcass; the lack of color in the (blue) sky, and the (yellow-ish) grasses means that there is nothing to distract the viewer’s eye from it.
I made this image last year on a trip to the Bisti Wilderness. I had some luck with the atmospheric conditions that day and came away with several very good photographs. This one of the Bisti Arch is one of the best from that outing, and while I think the color version is pretty strong, I feel the black and white conversion says more about what I was seeing and feeling when I captured the image.
Also, the second image has more dynamic tonality; the saturated colors in the first capture the viewer’s attention, but the rich tones in the monochrome version say more about the structure of both the formation and the composition of the image.
The Cabezon Wilderness Study Area is a wild and beautiful place in north-central New Mexico. There are endless vistas dominated by volcanic plugs; there are deep cut channels of the Rio Puerco and its many tributaries; there are ruins of a long deserted Chacoan outlier; and there are roadside dumps where someone, at some time, decided that he or she could improve on the scenery by leaving what they no longer treasured to bake in the sun.
I assume that some of the trash that has been left here was discarded by former residents of the area–there are numerous small ranches and ruins of many more that are now slowly making their way back to the earth. The ruins will probably disappear long before the abandoned refrigerators, stoves, culverts, and other artifacts of human habitation that litter the landscape. Maybe we should just learn to accept it. After all it’s human nature to defile the only home we have. No other species has the means, the desire, or the audacity to deface and pollute the earth.
We already have become accustomed to such degradation-and perhaps we even expect it-in the cities and towns where we gather and live in great numbers, but is it really necessary to leave traces of our arrogance in the wild places where our presence is, or should be, but a whisper?
The Rio Puerco begins its journey to the Rio Grande high in the Nacimiento Mountains of northwestern New Mexico. Its course wanders through San Pedro Parks and the Santa Fe National Forest before leaving public lands near the village of Cuba. From there it follows the western edge of the Jemez Mountains past the village of San Luis, the ghost town of Cabezon, and Cabeon Peak. This first image was made along County Road 279 between San Luis and Cabezon.
The Rio Puerco is an ephemeral flow; most of the time there is no moving water in the deep arroyo that has been carved out over the ages. When there is enough water to fill the stream, it is usually a muddy brown from the sediment being carried by the “ flood”. I made this image after heavy rains transformed the channel at the place where BLM road 1114 crosses the Rio Puerco west of Cabezon Peak. It is my first attempt at HDR imaging; it may be a little over the top for some tastes, but I still like the effect.
A little farther south from this point, the Rio Puerco meanders past Cerro Cuate, and turns to the south. It is here that the river begins its journey through the Cabezon Wilderness Area. As the road begins to drop down to the edge of the wash, there is an expansive view of the valley with Cabezon on the left, and several other mesas and lesser peaks in the distance.
From here the road crosses the Rio Puerco and continues south following the course of the streambed, which, in places is more than a mile across. Several miles beyond the river crossing is the ghost town of Guadalupe, which thrived as a farming and ranching community from the early 1900’s through the 1950s, but drought and overgrazing forced the inhabitants to leave the area. Now all that remains are some dilapidated adobe ruins and some weathered corrals.
About three miles beyond the town, high on a mesa are the Guadalupe Ruins. There are about twenty rooms and three kivas at a location which commands a broad view of the valley to the north and the south. This was an outlier of the Anasazi Chacoan complex which thrived in the area from around 900–1150 CE. Like the people who inhabited the town of Guadalupe, the Chacoan people were also driven out by drought and resource depletion.
If you choose to visit this remarkable place, remember to respect the land and the people who have lived here: take only photographs, leave only footprints.
Yesterday I took a little drive out through the Ojito Wilderness. When I reached the point where I usually turn around, I decided to keep going up the pipeline road which eventually ends near the village of San Luis and the volcanic neck known as Cabezon (Spanish for big head). The distance is only about twenty-three miles, but on a dirt two track with several stops to scope areas for future photo hikes, and to make a couple of exposures, the trip took me nearly six hours.
I was hoping to capture Cabezon bathed in the evening light, or lit by the sunbeams that were shining down through the breaks in the clouds, but this was the best light of the entire evening. I bracketed five exposures (-2, -1, 0, +1, and +2) and blended them in Photomatix Pro. This is the result.
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm wide-angle zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f22, 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/2, 1, and 2 seconds, ISO 100
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
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.
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