The title of this post has nothing to do with color correction, or the temperature and tint of images. It has to do with the feeling that comes over me when I find myself enveloped in a cloud, surrounded by a world of white.
A good snow has become a rare thing here in the Jemez Mountains. So, it was a pleasure to wake up to nearly six inches of wet, white stuff recently. I dug my snow boots out of the back of my closet and ventured out into the white.
Growing things become dormant during the winter, but they are still an integral part of the landscape. I found these elongated clusters of seed pods and I was struck by both the contrast between and the similarity to the cottonwood trees in the background. The snow on the branches and on the ground served to intensify the graphic elements of the scene.
This scene of a snow covered bridge over the Jemez River needed only one element to make it complete: a human figure. Since I was the only one around, I volunteered myself. I set the timer on the shutter release and walked across the bridge.
These snow covered cholla cacti caught my eye; their prickly spines covered with a fresh coat of soft snow provided a conceptual as well as visual contrast.
The spring run-off usually happens in late April to mid-May. This is the earliest I have ever seen the river running this high and murky. I used a 3 stop neutral density filter to slow the shutter to 2.5 seconds in order to render the water as a smooth, chocolate colored flow with vanilla streaks. The background is lacking the rincon (a curved cliff face) which is normally visible from this vantage, but it is obscured by the low-hanging clouds.
The chiseled geology of Soda Dam is softened somewhat by the snow. There is never a lot of snow around it due to the warmth of the ground. Soda Dam is formed by a small warm spring that has laid down the calcium-carbonate deposit over thousands of years. The small waterfall was in deep shadow, so I made two exposures, one for the scene, and one for the waterfall. I then blended the two in Photoshop using a layer mask.
This final image was made in my driveway. I love the contrast of the trees against the nearly featureless, white…ish background. The normal view includes a ponderosa pine covered ridge.
By mid-afternoon, the world was back to normal, and most of the snow was melting. These ephemeral transformations are short-lived, but they serve to emphasize the things that I love about the place I chose to make my home.
Here we are again (already) celebrating another year and renewing the circle. In looking back on 2014, I realize that I didn’t spend as much time in the field as I would have liked to. If I made resolutions, which I don’t, I would resolve to get out with my cameras more in the coming year. That being said, I did manage a few keepers over the past twelve months, so here they are.
In March I made a drive up to Abiquiu in search of nesting eagles. I didn’t see a one. But, I did find this scene of the Chama River just north of the village of Abiquiu. The light was amazing and the way it lit the distant peaks was icing on the cake.
Regina, New Mexico is a small village north of Cuba. It has a sleepy feel to it even though New Mexico highway 97 passes through the middle of the town. This old cottonwood, barn, and Chevy flatbed were watching what little traffic was moving by on the road. It seemed a bit nostalgic to me so I made this image.
In May I made several trips to the Bisti Wilderness, but I concentrated my efforts on the northern area off Hunter Wash instead of the more popular southern section off Alamo Wash. I found this nest of emerging hoodoos in a small hollow in the surrounding hills. The skyline is populated with small stone wings which are more prevalent in the north section than in the south.
A little further along on the same day I made this image of Robin making her way across the rolling bentonite hills near the highest point in the wilderness. When these soft hills erode, the incipient hoodoos buried beneath them will be revealed–as illustrated in the preceding photograph. The process is slow, but relentless.
In August we returned to the Bisti Wilderness on my birthday and I made this portrait of Robin and me on a small sandstone throne. We were actually within fifty yards of the highway which cuts through a rocky outcrop downstream from where Hunter and Alamo Wash converge.
This image is a bit of a cliché, but I think it does a pretty good job of telling the story: these places should not be taken lightly. The badlands of the San Juan Basin, or any wilderness for that matter, can be deadly. I never venture forth without enough water and a GPS receiver.
When you shoot into the light as I did in this image, it is called contre-jour lighting. Actually this is not contra-jour in the strictest sense of the word; the sun was not directly behind the scene. But, the effect is pretty much the same. In this case, the backlighting lends a feeling of ephemeral mystery to the image.
This image was made one day after the previous one. In this case I was driving past a place that I see every day on the way home. I was struck by the intensity of the colors and by the uncertainty of the sky.
The last two images were both made at Bosque del Apache NWR. The landscape is a view looking northeast along the south tour loop. It is a peaceful image and the colors are a bit of an emotional contrast.
I hope you enjoyed viewing my images as much as I enjoyed making them, and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
I am a photographer, I consider myself an artist. I don’t want to take pretty pictures. I strive to make moving images. A deep green reservoir and a late winter storm moving across distant mesas,
or a lone tree trapped in its winter slumber while light dances on a faraway butte, I had an emotional response to these encounters. As a photographer and an artist, I want to capture not just the way these things appear, but the way these things feel. For me, the making of an image does not stop after the shutter is released. I am not one of those photographers that proudly proclaim that they only strive to capture the image the way it was; total objectivity and nothing less.
Art is not objective. By its very nature, it must be more than that. The artist attempts to convey a certain feeling to those who view his work. This can only be achieved by making an image that is more than just a representation of a scene. To do this requires what some condescendingly call “manipulation”. I call it creating the image and I will make no apologies for that.
Imagine a watering hole miles from any village or human activity. Now imagine a bovine visitor that plods through the dry, cracked, yet still soft earth that lines the edges of the oasis. The sky is overcast and the light, while soft, still shapes the edges of the cracks and lends a beautiful glow to the surface of the moving water.
In order to make these things tangible within the constraints of a two dimensional photographic image, some work must be done beyond the framing, composition, and exposure that make up the original capture. There must be some intention to the final outcome
There are many circumstances where I am challenged to make an image that is different from those that came before. From an oft viewed roadside scene to a sudden ethereal display of atmospheric magnitude, the real challenge is not just to capture a technically acceptable representation of that scene or phenomena, or to use some cliche template to compose it, the challenge is to render it in a way that is unique to my vision.
By doing so, I hope to evoke some response to my work, to kindle in the viewer an appreciation of the world beyond the pavement where they may never have been, or where they may have been, but have never really seen.
In one of his contributions to Eliot Porter’s book “The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon On The Colorado”, Frank Waters wrote: “We measure minutes, the river ignores millennia.” And, although he was referring to the Colorado River, we can still make the same statement about any river. They carve and shape the lands they flow through not judging or playing favorites, and at times they provide a striking contrast to the arid environment that borders their banks.
The Rio Chama is such a river. It makes its way through north-central New Mexico flowing past some remote, but memorable scenery along the journey to its confluence with the Rio Grande. If you throw in just the right amount of foreboding skies and ethereal light, the scene becomes magical. It is my job to capture that magic and to cause those who view my image to be drawn in by it, to wonder what may lie beyond that bend. I hope I have succeeded.
I live in a wondrous place. The problem I have is that, being surrounded by beauty has made me a little thick-skinned; I guess you could say that I take it all for granted. So, I am putting my thoughts down in words accompanied by images, not so much to convince anyone else, but to remind myself.
Fenton Lake is a small (less than 40 acres) manmade lake which was formed by construction of an earthen dam on the Rio Cebolla. The Cebolla itself is not really a river by most standards; it is, at most, three feet wide along most of its length. But, here in New Mexico, it qualifies. I made this image on a dark day. I was standing amongst the cattails at the north end of the lake. The ridge line to the southeast burned during the Lake Fire in 2002.
One of the most recognizable and well known features in the Jemez Valley is Battleship Rock. It is composed of rhyolite and was formed when the volcano that shaped the present-day Jemez Mountains erupted for the final (hopefully) time, the ash and lava flowed into a box canyon; when it cooled the rock filled the canyon and as the softer earth eroded away, the monolith was left exposed.
Jemez Springs is a small village (population: 250) that lies in the heart of San Antonio Canyon–the canyon formed by the Jemez River. Not much has changed, visually anyway, since I first came here in 1977. This is a typical mid-week, January evening.
New Mexico Highway 4 runs through San Antonio Canyon for about thirty miles before climbing onto the flanks of the Valle Grande and continuing across the mountain to Los Alamos (yes that Los Alamos: home of the atomic bomb). This stretch of the highway is about five miles south of Jemez Springs.
In the early years of the last century, there was an extensive logging operation in the Jemez Mountains. The logging company used a train to haul the logs to a mill in Gilman. They bored two tunnels through the solid granite that transects the Guadalupe Box and when the logging declined, the tracks were replaced by a road–New Mexico SR 485–which provides access to the Santa Fe National Forest. Some may recognize the tunnels from the role they played in the film “3:10 To Yuma”
The Jemez River cuts through Soda Dam, a large, seven thousand year old calcium carbonate formation left behind by a small, unassuming hot-spring next to Highway 4. It is located about three hundred yards from my door and is a huge tourist attraction as well as being the swimming hole for local youngsters.
The second image provides a better view of the river flowing through the “dam”, and of the swimming hole; the kids jump from the sides into the plunge pool. When the New Mexico Highway Department blasted through the formation to improve Highway 4, the building process was interrupted, and the dam has been eroding since then.
Sometimes the best thing about Autumn is the anticipation of the first snowfall, which often happens in early October. Well, no snow yet this year, but we have had some intense skies, and along with the falling temperatures, it sure looks and feels like we could have an early winter.
Fast forward a couple days and the temperature is back up in the 70s, normal for this time of year. I took a drive through Lake Fork Canyon to capture the aspens in their autumn coats. I made the second image at the entrance to Fogon Canyon which is a side canyon from Lake Fork. There is an old abandoned corral built up against the rock walls. I think the weathered wood compliments the color in the trees nicely.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, I reached the head of the canyon. There, on a small side road that winds through the aspen groves, I made this image of the setting sun shining through the red/yellow leaves creating a soft golden glow.
Autumn in the high country is a fleeting thing. Peak color only last for a day or two, but that’s one of the things that make it special.
I spend a great deal of time wandering the badlands of the San Juan Basin and beyond in search of images. I have an unquenchable thirst for desert landscapes. Some people might consider me a little off kilter, especially since I live right in the middle of a place so full of natural beauty and geologic wonders that it draws visitors from around the world.
The first image is of Soda Dam, a large calcium carbonate formation that has been deposited over the ages by a small warm spring which is right on the shoulder of New Mexico state road 4. This naturally formed dam is pierced by the Jemez River which cascades over a small drop in elevation into a plunge pool which is a popular swimming hole for both locals and visitors from Germany, Japan, Russia… I can hear their squeals as they jump into the cold water on a hot summer day. Soda Dam is about two hundred yards from my door.
If I head in the opposite direction from Soda Dam on Hwy.4, it’s only a five minute drive to Battleship Rock, another geologic attraction that is visible from the highway. It was formed during the last volcanic eruption in these parts-around one million years ago. Lava from the eruption flowed into a narrow dead end canyon and hardened. Over time the softer material which made up the canyon walls eroded away, leaving the volcanic rock exposed.
If I continue up Hwy. 4, I will eventually come to the crowning jewel of the Jemez Mountains; the Valle Grande. Actually only one of several valles which were formed when a huge volcano exploded and collapsed to form a caldera about 1.6 million years ago. The Valle Grande was, until 2000, a privately owned ranch. It is now public land, administered by a trust. This is the view from a turn out on Hwy. 4 looking north.
So, you see, I really need not travel all that far to find a photogenic landscape, but I am in love with the desert; I am in love with the stark, naked, truthful beauty of the earth laid bare. The mountains, rivers, and alpine meadows are fine, but they do not speak to me in the way that the desert badlands do.
This is Part 2 of a two part post on Ricketts Glen. See A Stroll Through Ricketts Glen (Part 1).
After spending some time at Waters Meet, we crossed the bridge and began the climb up through Glen Leigh. This leg of the hike was a true test of my stamina–a seven hundred foot elevation gain in a little over a mile. The beauty of the place fortified me though and we had barely gotten started when we came upon Wyandot Falls.
And a little farther on we discovered this beautiful unnamed cascade which I dubbed Tranquility Falls.
I had the sense that Glen Leigh was much narrower and steeper than Ganoga Glen, but after studying a topo map of the area I discovered that they are both about the same near the bottom, but Ganoga does flatten out a little near the top. As we continued up the deep green canyon, we passed B. Reynolds and R.B. Ricketts Falls, and then came to Ozone Falls which, at sixty feet, is the highest waterfall in Glen Leigh. It cuts a graceful curve as it descends over the many layers which define its classic form.
After passing Ozone Falls the trail became noticeably steeper and narrower for a short distance. We stopped at Huron and Shawnee Falls and then continued up through the seemingly endless world of green and rushing water. When we finally made F.L. Ricketts Falls I was looking forward to the end of the trek. I set up a shot and then stepped back to look at my framing options when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to see my camera on the tripod fall over and land lens down on the rock. I frantically picked it up to survey the damage. My heart sank when I saw that the Neutral Density filter was shattered. I tried to unscrew the filter to determine if my lens was damaged, but it was stuck, the outer edge of the filter was bent from the impact. I finally managed to loosen the filter and was relieved to see that the lens was undamaged other than some minor scuffs on the filter threads.
I replaced the ND filter and made the above image of the falls. Then I packed up my gear and we headed up the trail to the last waterfall in Glen Leigh, Onondaga Falls.
Onondaga resembles Sheldon Reynolds Falls in its shape and the way the plunge pool is formed. As I made this final image, I remember being exhilarated by the experience and although we were both physically drained, we made our way back to the car with a smiles on our faces, talking about the day’s adventure.
Here is yet another image from Ricketts Glen. Murray Reynolds Falls is the last waterfall going downstream on Kitchen Creek in the main part of the park. Adams Falls is a couple of miles downstream on the other side of Hwy 118, but is usually accessed from a parking area just off the highway. I would say this is the most idyllic of the waterfalls in Ricketts Glen. The emerald pool and the trees which surround it create a sense of calm contentment.
Despite the idyllic feel of Murray Reynolds, it was one of the more challenging places to make an acceptable image. The light breezes had begun to kick up by the time we reached here, and the many overhanging leaves were constantly in motion. Normally this would not be a huge problem, but when you use a slow shutter speed to convey the motion of the falls, you also get the motion of the leaves. I have a few other images of these falls that I think are better than this, but this is the only one in which the leaves are not motion-blurred.
Again, this is a five exposure blend, Initial processing was done in Lightroom, and then blended using the Exposure Fusion module of Photomatix Pro, final adjustments were done in Photoshop
F L Ricketts Falls is the last waterfall I photographed in Ricketts Glen. As I was setting up this shot, I brushed my camera which was mounted on the tripod. The whole thing fell forward and landed lens down on a rock. I held my breath as I inspected the damage. Luckily, the only thing broken was the 3 stop ND filter which had shattered on impact. Silently cursing my inattention while reminding myself to be more careful in the future, I screwed on my 2 stop ND filter and adjusted the exposure settings. Although this is not the best image of the day, it is probably the most memorable due to the near tragedy of a broken favorite lens.
I used my usual camera/lens configuration (Nikon D700/Nikkor 17-35 mm f 2.8 wide angle zoom lens) mounted on a Bogen tripod with a 2 stop neutral density filter. I bracketed five exposures which I edited in Adobe Lightroom. I then combined them using Photomatix Pro’s Exposure Fusion mode, and did the final adjustments in Photoshop.
Here is another image that, for some reason, I overlooked on the first edit of my Ricketts Glen photos. I always make it a habit to go back after a month or so and take another look at files I have archived. In this case, I found four images that should have been picks the first time around, but had gotten lost in the shuffle.
This small waterfall is in Glen Leigh. It probably has a name, but I neglected to note it if it does. I named it Tranquility Falls for what I think are obvious reasons. The falls themselves have a very calm and peaceful look, and the plunge pool is so inviting. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot to sit and meditate on the beauty of the natural world.
Equipment: Nikon D700, nikon 17-35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, 3 stop neutral density filter, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 22, 2 sec., ISO 100
This is an image of Harrison Wright Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park. Wright was a friend of R. B. Ricketts for whom the park is named. It, along with Adams Falls, is considered to be the most photogenic of all the waterfalls in Ricketts Glen.
Photographing the waterfalls in Ricketts Glen can be a challenge: the canopy of old growth hardwood trees can be as thick as a jungle in places, but elsewhere, the cover opens up allowing the sunlight to penetrate and illuminate the scene. Such is the case at Harrison Wright Falls, and as any photographer knows, this combination of highlights and shadows can make it difficult to make a good exposure.
While photographing this scene, I used a 3 stop neutral density filter to darken things enough to allow me to use a slow shutter speed. This renders the moving water as a silky blur, and in this case causes the falls to look almost like a sheer curtain. All of these measures achieved my goal of capturing the waterfall in an aesthetically pleasing way, but the shadows were almost totally blocked up, and there were several hot spots on the falls. Here is the image as initially processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.
I decided that this image would be a good candidate for an HDR image (I had bracketed at least three exposures for each photo I took on this trip). I used Photomatix Pro, and tone mapped one using the details enhancer feature, and made another using the exposure fusion tool. I still could not get what I was looking for, so, starting with the original image, I created a second layer in Photoshop, and copied the exposure fusion HDR image to it, and then I adjusted the opacity of the new layer until I found what I was looking for. The result is the first image seen above.
There are many photographers out there who say that this kind of manipulation is not real photography, that it does not render an image that is true to the scene that the eye beheld. But, the eye has the ability to see detail in highlights and shadows, a dynamic range, that is far greater than the that of a camera. So, is this kind of processing really cheating, or is it just another tool in the photographer’s arsenal that will enable him to more effectively capture the scene before him, and share his vision with the world?
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, 3 stop ND filter, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 22, 1, 2, 4 sec., ISO 100
At ninety seven feet, Ganoga Falls is the tallest waterfall in Ricketts Glen. It is a classic example of a “wedding cake” waterfall, so named because of the tiered structure. Wedding cake falls typically consist of numerous small cascades that spread the flow giving the water a diaphanous glow.
Once again, due to the high dynamic range of the scene, I blended four source images into this final image using the exposure fusion workflow in Photomatix Pro. I then made the usual curves adjustments in Photoshop.
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, 2 stop neutral density filter, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f22, 1/2, 1, 2, and 4 sec., ISO 250.
This is another image from Ricketts Glen. We were almost to the confluence of the two forks of Kitchen Creek when I spotted a small stream entering the main flow from the west, so I bushwacked up through the watercourse for about a hundred yards, and I was rewarded with this little cascade. The scene brought to mind an animated movie that was a favorite of my girls when they were small.
I started with my regular workflow in Adobe Lightroom, then I did a three exposure fusion in Photomatix Pro, and finally some curves and color balance adjustments in Photoshop.
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm zoom lens, 2 stop ND filter, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f22, 8/10ths, 1/3rd, 3 sec., ISO 250
My daughter Lauren and I hiked Ricketts Glen yesterday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Ricketts Glen is a State Park in northeastern Pennsylvania. Many people come for the camping, fishing, and boating which is available at Lake Jean in the upper part of the park, but for me, the real attraction is the waterfalls.
The Falls Trail is a three and a half mile hike which drops about 700 feet in the first mile as it cascades through Ganoga Glen. At Waters Meet, the trail heads up through Glen Leigh for another mile before it tops out at the Highland Trail, which brings you back to where you started. There are twenty two named, and numerous unnamed waterfalls along the way. They range in height from 11 to 97 feet; they are all spectacular, each in its own way.
Adams Falls is unique in that it is not within the main part of the park. It is several miles downstream from the rest of the falls, and is actually only a stones throw away from a state highway. It is also, in my opinion, the most beautiful and dramatic of them all.
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 zoom lens, 2 stop neutral density filter, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f22, 1, 2, 4 secs., ISO 250
This image was made while we were on our camping trip to Wild Rivers back in September. We took the trail down into the gorge from our campsite on the top of the mesa. It is an 800 foot descent in a little over a mile, not bad going down, but pretty intense climbing out with close to sixty pounds of camera equipment strapped to my back.
Once we reached the bottom, we explored the area around Big Arsenic Spring, and found the petroglyphs nearby. We then followed the River Trail downstream to Little Arsenic Spring. This photo was made looking upriver from the spring where it enters the Rio Grande.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikkor 17–35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 14, 1/100th sec., ISO 400, +2/3 EV
Processing: White balance, contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, curves, and RAW conversion in Photoshop.