The title of this post may be somewhat deceptive. Most of us think of writing on the wall as actual markings of some kind made by man (or woman) for the purpose of communicating something to others. And, while a couple of the images included here do feature pictographs and petroglyphs, Most do not. Instead, they are images of natures writing.
This pictograph is on a wall about a quarter mile from my home. It is on the side of a state road, but most people who drive by it are unaware of its presence. Like most drawings of this sort, the meaning is unclear, and lost to the ages but someone in the distant past felt the need to scribe these images onto this rock.
This canyon wall and talus slope is located along the Green River near Hardscrabble Bottom in Canyonlands. I was attracted to the contrast between the rock wall and the living tamarisk as well as the no longer living cottonwood tree. I love the desert varnish on the sandstone and the beginning erosion of what will one day probably be an amphitheater.
These petroglyphs are in the backcountry of Monument Valley. They are called the Eye of the Sun Petroglyphs because of their proximity to an arch bearing that name. It is perhaps someone’s tale of the animals he came across that day, or perhaps a boastful recounting of the game he had killed.
These young aspen trees are growing against a sandstone wall which is covered with lichen. The combination creates a tapestry in which the trees reflect the stains on the wall and overlay them with a filigree of branches.
Here is another example of cross-bedded sandstone. I made this photograph while kayaking with my daughter and her husband in the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. The colors of the stone combined with the intersecting fracture lines, the lichen, and the small, but tenacious, plants caught my eye almost immediately.
There are times when the atmosphere puts on a show that, combined with the right light, cannot be ignored. If you happen to be in a place that provides a suitable setting for such a show, you may be able to capture it all in a way that reveals the power and beauty that nature paints under these conditions.
I made this image in 2007. I was in Canyonlands at Grandview Point when I noticed the storm moving across the buttes and mesas to the south and west. The ethereal nature of the light through the clouds and the haze of the falling rain was stunning. It took me a moment to realize that I should make a picture of this. If you look closely at the bottom right corner, you can see the Green River where it exits Labyrinthe Canyon at Hardscrabble Bottom. A few miles downstream is the confluence of the Green and the Colorado Rivers.
I was driving to Las Cruces for a calendar shoot and decided to take the scenic route through Lake Valley. As the clouds lowered to obscure the tops of a small range of hills, I rounded a curve to find these Cottonwood trees still wearing their autumn colors standing out in an otherwise sere landscape.
I was leading a tour in the Bisti Wilderness in December and by the time we arrived at the Egg Garden, the clouds had moved in and dropped down low on the landscape. Looking to the southwest, I noticed the sun attempting to shine through the thick cover; the result was a number of beams which died in midair much like virga (falling rain that never reaches the ground). Of all the times I have been to this location, I never witnessed better light than this.
The Jemez River bosque south of Jemez Springs nestles close to the base of the wall of Virgin Mesa. I made this image on a winter morning a few years ago. The low clouds were veiling the canyon wall and created a sense of mystery and helped to define the branches of the cottonwoods and willows that line the bosque in that part of the canyon.
I have been stuck in the Photographic Doldrums for the past couple of months, so I have been spending quite a bit of time searching my archived images. I’m not one to live in the past, but I’ve found that it can be rewarding to revisit my older work. I have rediscovered some of my best work rummaging around in old files. I have also found photographs that, for some reason didn’t make the cut when I first edited them, but over time, with my ever-changing vision and some changes in my workflow, they suddenly take on a new life.
This first image was taken in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Mesa Arch is an iconic location for landscape photographers, but the shot almost everyone takes is of the sun rising behind the arch. Being a bit of a crank, and wanting to make an image that spoke of my vision and not some other photographer’s, I made this photograph in the late afternoon and used the arch to frame the incredible landscape that lies beyond it.
I made this image of Shiprock while driving to Utah a couple of years ago. I was drawn by the bright yellow rabbitbrush and I was also going through what I like to think of as my “fence phase”. These two elements made the perfect foreground for the great volcanic plug and brooding skies.
This is an image of the Virgin River in Zion National Park. The overcast settled lower and by the next morning, the rain was continuous, making my hike to the Subway impossible due to high water and flash flooding. But this moment, looking down canyon with the soft light penetrating the swollen sky is one of my best images from that trip.
Twilight at Chupadera Pond in Bosque del Apache NWR. These three cranes were hunting for their dinner. They had just flown back from a day of foraging in the farm fields at the northern end of the refuge and now they were continuing their seemingly endless search for food in the pond where they would spend the night. The color of the light in this image has not been altered. For one magical moment between sunset and the onset of night, the entire landscape was bathed in this golden-orange glow.
This final image of the Egg Garden in the Bisti Wilderness has gone through numerous iterations and I think I finally have it just where I want it. I know the composition goes against the venerable “Rule of Thirds”, but sometimes it’s good to break the rules, and sometimes it’s good to revisit the past.
This image was made in Canyonlands NP. We were doing the Slickrock trail hike, and were nearly back to the car when I saw this juniper. It showed no obvious signs that it was still alive, but there was something majestic about it nonetheless. Just the fact that it had grown through the rock was amazing, even though I’ve seen it a thousand times or more.
Like so many images that I later come back to, this one languished in one of my Lightroom catalogues for a couple years before I realized there might be something there worth working on.
Equipment: Nikon D300, Nikon 35–70 f 2.8 mm zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 18, 1/5th sec., ISO 320
Processing: Contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, curves adjustment, and Raw conversion in Photoshop.
Upheavel Dome is an impact crater in Canyonlands NP. It is thought to have been caused by a meteor about one third of a mile in diameter which struck the earth approximately 170 million years ago. The white and yellowish dome is composed of rock that has been pushed to the surface from more than a mile below, and is not to be found anywhere else within the park.
There are two overlooks along the Upheavel Dome Trail. The first is an easy quarter mile walk from the parking area. The second overlook, where this image was made, is another three quarters of a mile beyond the first, and affords a much better view of both the crater and the dome.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 35–70mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 18, 1/20th sec., ISO 320
Processing: Contrast, clarity, vibrance, saturation adjustments, and RAW conversion in Adobe Lightroom, curves adjustment in Photoshop
This is another image I rescued from my archives. It was taken two years ago when I was at Canyonlands. Earlier I posted a photo named “From Mesa Arch”, and this formation is visible in that photo as well. This is just a different perspective, with more emphasis on the Washer Woman. In the other image, Mesa Arch is the main subject, in this one it serves as a frame for the subject.
The area around Moab, Utah is famous for its unusual formations, and breathtaking landscapes. I’m planning to return soon; there are countless scenes like this one that inspire a love and respect for the natural world, and I’d like to lend my interpretation to them.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17–35 mm zoom lens, circular polarizer
Camera settings: f 18, 1/40th sec., ISO 320
Processing: Contrast, vibrance, clarity, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom, curves adjustment 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