the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Posts tagged “Southwest

On the Road – East Mitten

East Mitten Sunrise

Tanya and I are about to head back out into the internetless wilderness of the American Southwest once again after spending three nights in Page, Arizona. Therefore, I wanted to post one more image from our road trip. This is the sun rising on Monument Valley last week, between the two Mittens, with the East Mitten featured. Monument Valley was incredible. I’ll post more about it when I get home and have more time.

Today we are heading to the Paria region to camp and do some day hikes. Unfortunately, we did not get a permit for the Wave (I bombed out on the internet lottery last June and also in the in-person lottery yesterday). However, there are many other great places to hike to in the region. Some of you might remember that I backpacked through the Paria River Canyon last year. This year, I want to show Tanya some of that country.

Our last three days in Page have been rainy on and off, so I decided not to go to Antelope Canyon, even though the Upper Canyon was open (I don’t know if the Lower Canyon was open or not). Something about visiting a slot canyon while it is rainy does not sit well with me! However, today it is sunny once again without a cloud in the sky. Hopefully the sun will dry out some of the dirt roads we are planning on taking over the next few days.

I’ll post more photos once I get home. Meanwhile, we are off on the road once again.

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On the Road – Bowtie Arch

Bowtie ArchTanya and I have been on the road for the past week and only today have an internet connection. We’ve been enjoying a trip through the American Southwest, first stopping in Moab and camping in Arches National Park, then on to Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Last night, taking a few days off from camping, we pulled into Page, Arizona and are staying a very nice AirBnB.

This morning, we were scheduled to go to Lower Antelope Canyon at 8 a.m. and Upper Antelope Canyon at 11 a.m. However, we woke to rain and a weather forecast of 70% showers or thunderstorms and a flash flood watch. And though the sun is shining at this very moment, we decided that investigating slot canyons was not a good idea in this weather. Thus, I’ve been working all morning downloading flash cards from earlier in the trip. So my loss due to weather is your gain because I get to post this image of Bowtie Arch near Moab, Utah.

Moab is known for Arches National Park, and we did camp there. However, not all the arches are in the park. Bowtie Arch, also known as Bowtie Pothole Arch is a small arch very close to its larger and more famous cousin, Corona Arch. Both are not in the park but rather are reached from a fairly easy, but fun, 1.5 mile hike off the Potash Road 10 miles south of Moab. The path is well marked and makes use of several cables for steep spots and even one short metal ladder. My photo reference book suggests afternoon is a better time to photograph Corona Arch, but morning (when we went) worked very well for Bowtie Arch and okay for Corona Arch (by walking underneath the arch and photographing the sunlit side).

I hope to post another shot from the road soon, but until then, enjoy this image of Bowtie Arch.

 

 

 


Love/Hate Relationship

House on Fire ruin, Mule CanyonDuring my recent southwest road trip, I took lots of good photos. Unfortunately, I took lots of bad photos too. And lots of mediocre photos. And lots of duplicates. In other words, I have a lot of editing to do. If I calculate it correctly, I tripped the shutter button 3,852 times over the 18 days on the road. Considering I didn’t take any photos on the first or last days, that averages out to almost 240 photos per day.

House on Fire ruin, Mule CanyonThis is what I love about digital photography – you can take a lot of pictures. This is what I hate about digital photography – you can take a lot of pictures. Digital cameras give you the freedom to experiment. They give you the freedom to bracket. You can bracket exposures, apertures, compositions, etc. Of course, you could do this with film, but it got to be real expensive.

I confess, I am a bracketer (is that even a word?), and truth be told, probably an over-bracketer. This is especially true when traveling on a trip like this one. I went some places where I will likely never visit again. And I wanted to make sure I got the shot right. So, I bracket. I basically bracket exposures, using the auto-bracket feature on my camera. But often I also bracket apertures. And I usually bracket compositions. And, of course, with each change in composition, I bracket exposures again – and on it goes. I end up burning a lot of pixels. I love this ability to take lots of images, so that I get the perfect one.

Formerly, when I shot film, I was much more selective; and though I did sometimes bracket, never to the extent I do now. For example, the images accompanying this blog are of the House on Fire ruin in Mule Canyon, Utah. If I was still shooting slide film, I might have taken 10 or 20 shots at this site, knowing I was unlikely to come back for many years if ever.  This trip, I took 126 images at this location. I love being able to do that.

Now comes the hate part – I must edit those 126 images from the House on Fire ruin. And I must edit those 3,852 images from the entire trip. This will take a lot of time. And I usually fall behind in my editing; for example, I still have images from last May that should be edited.

Besides time-consuming, editing is aggravating in deciding which image is better. Is this one better than that one? Is the focus slightly better in this one? Did this slight change in composition make a difference; is it noticeable; is it better, worse, or the same? It reminds me of an episode of the The Bob Newhart Show, which ran in the 1970s. (I suppose I dated myself with this comment, but I really loved that show.) In this particular episode, Emily Hartley (Newhart’s wife on the show) describes to Bob how she hates going to the eye doctor – not because it hurts, but because there’s too much pressure deciding if the letters on the vision chart are clearer with lens one or lens two. The doctor presses for an answer over and over, lens one or lens two. In my case, I’m pressing myself over and over, image one or image two (or three or four…)

The ability to take thousands of photos with a digital camera has made some of us photographers sloppy. There are those who say digital cameras have made photographers sloppy in that they take shortcuts because an image can always be fixed in Photoshop. I don’t mean that kind of sloppiness; I always try to take the highest quality image I can to limit post-processing. By sloppy, I mean not being selective of the images we take. I am guilty of this with my over-bracketing. But my over-bracketing is a response to a desire to take the highest quality image to start with; it’s an attempt not to be sloppy and leave it to Photoshop to fix! In fact, I often will not take an image, even though it may have a worthy subject, if the light is not very good – you cannot fix bad light in Photoshop! Even so, I end up with way too many images.

I guess, in the end, there are no shortcuts to doing the work of photography. Either you have to take the time to think about the best exposure and composition in the field or take the time editing in the office. The work must be done one way or the other. However, thinking in the field is a quicker and less painless process (as long as you trust yourself to do it right) than editing endless numbers of very similar images. High time for me to think more, trust myself more, and shoot less. Perhaps editing these 3,852 images will help me to finally learn that lesson.

House on Fire ruin, Mule Canyon

House on Fire ruin, Mule Canyon

House on Fire ruin, Mule Canyon


A Great American Road Trip – coming soon

Split Mountain at Dinosaur National Monument, circa 1983

It’s amazing what being Freshly Pressed does. My blog had 23 views on September 5th, a rather typical day. Then on September 6th, WordPress featured my blog Mountain Blues in their Freshly Pressed blogs, resulting in 2,784 views that day and over 3,000 the next day. Wow! Prior to Tuesday, I had 5 subscribers to my blog and now, at last count, I have 73! All I can say is thank you to all who visited the blog over the past few days, all who left comments, and special thanks to all my new subscribers. But now, with all you guys watching, I feel pressure to come up with new, exciting blogs. There certainly is some freedom in living in obscurity. Maybe after a few more blogs, all you new subscribers will get tired of me and take yourselves off the list. I hope not, but one never knows.

Dinosaur National Monument, circa mid 1990s

So in light of that pressure, what to blog about. I haven’t had much chance to do any photography since my trip to Blue Mountain and Deer Park. Between the day job, preparing for the Mountaineers Photo exhibition and reception (see my last blog), and researching sites to go on my upcoming vacation, there hasn’t been much time for new photography. So, this blog is more about my pending vacation. I briefly wrote about it several weeks ago, but serious planning is now going on. Several weeks ago, it was still an idea, more of an ephemeral vision than a hard date on the calendar. Now we have an itinerary, have some hotel reservations set, and have a house sitter arranged. Now it is starting to seem real.

Normally I’m a kind of go-with-the-flow guy; and if time was not of the essence, I’d consider just taking off without a set itinerary. But, there’s a lot to see and photograph, and only a limited time to do it. Besides, I like the planning; I like pre-visualizing potential shots. The only hard dates are the start, the finish, and the three days in Sante Fe where we’ve already paid half our hotel bill. Most everywhere else we will be camping.

Tanya and I love the American Southwest. I’ve made quite a few trips down there, mostly to Utah. We haven’t been in several years, so felt it was time to go again. Tanya expressed a desire to go to Sante Fe, and that’s were the seed of this trip was planted. The tentative itinerary has us driving first to Dinosaur National Monument, then on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, down to the San Juan Mountains area of Colorado, over to Taos, then on to Sante Fe, and on the way back stopping at Chaco Culture National Historic Park, the Bisti Wilderness, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Moab.

The idea was to go see some new places in the Southwest, or at least spend more time in places I’ve only touched lightly long ago. Of all these places, I have only spent significant time in the Moab area. I have actually been to Dinosaur National Monument, twice – once a quick stop in 1983 while driving down to grad school in Texas (Texas A&M), and once a rafting trip in the early 90s. Though the raft trip was several days long, I didn’t get to see much beyond the river; so this new trip will explore new territory there. In 1984, on my way back from grad school, I stopped for about an hour at the Black Canyon, so that really doesn’t count either. And I spent several hours in Sante Fe while a teaching assistant on a geology field camp, again in 1984. And I recall a distant memory of when I was young, perhaps in junior high school or maybe grad school, on a family vacation, we drove through the San Juan Mountains. I’ve never been to Natural Bridges, Bisti, Taos, or Chaco Canyon.

So, this blog is supposed to be about photography, not about where I traveled ages ago. Thus I needed something to illustrate it with, so I dug out the old slide albums. It was hard finding anything decent to show, but finally found the two images here, taken long ago in Dinosaur National Monument. Most of those old slides are pretty bad; my composition and exposure skills have come a long way in the past 30 years. Hopefully with this upcoming Great American Road Trip, I’ll bring some better shots home.


Vacation Dreaming

Capital Reef National Park at sunset

We finally had a decent summer weekend. It was sure a long time coming this year. And where was I when the weather finally reached over 80 degrees? Up in the mountains photographing wildflowers and snowfields? Photographing tidepools in Olympic National Park at Ruby Beach or Kalaloch? Or even enjoying a family picnic sans camera? No, no, and no. I was stuck inside my studio most the weekend working on processing portrait shots. It’s not that I hate processing photos, in fact I like it; for me, processing is part of the art of photography. I like taking a RAW image and turning it into a thing of beauty (though repeating the same enhancements over and over again on a series of portraits can get a bit tedious). But when the weather is nice, I should be out shooting!

Alas, the portrait work needed doing, regardless of the weather. So I slaved over the computer most the weekend (and am actually happy with the amount of work I got done). However, I couldn’t help be dream of being outside, taking photographs in a beautiful landscape. With that, my day dreams turned to my pending vacation. Late next month Tanya and I hope to drive down to southern Utah and northern New Mexico. We are planning to go to some spots I’ve never been before, and I’m excited about the photographic opportunities.

I love the American Southwest. In part, I think, it is due to my formal training as a geologist. I like seeing all the bare rocks – no soil, trees or other vegetation covering their colors and patterns. And as a travel and landscape photographer, I can’t think of a more photogenic area. I like the American Southwest so much I named my photography company after a character, Seldom Seen Smith, in the Edward Abbey novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. For awhile, I had been visiting southern Utah about every other year. But now it’s been about four years and I’m itching to go again. Seeing some of New Mexico will be great too. I haven’t been there in over 25 years, not since my Texas A&M grad school days when I was a teaching assistant on a geology field camp. I imagine it has changed much in that quarter century.

Now on Monday, the rain has returned to Tacoma, and dreaming of a vacation in the Southwest has only gotten stronger. In support of my vacation dreams, I’m posting these shots from some of my previous trips to Utah. These are images I haven’t much shown before. I hope you enjoy them.

Tanya in our Saturn Vue in the middle of Utah

North Window, Arches National Park

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Lake Powell near Hite

Nice light in Bryce Canyon National Park

Hoodoos, Devils Garden near Escalante

Old cabin, San Rafael Swell

Green River, Cayonlands National Park

Panorama in Arches National Park