May 31, 2009

Sense and Sensibility

Surreal, hoodoo, Bisti Badlands, Farmington, NM

©Joe Bridwell
Sometimes downsun photography can markedly add zest. This Bisti Hoodoo benefits from birefringence – bending of lights rays around sandstone and clay of an delicate hoodoo.

Although Bisti rocks appear static, timeless... light's variation adds subtle appeal and drama. Perhaps I should add another parameter; water.
For, it's water _the almost never present_ but powerful agent whose occasional presence created such an exquisite shape. And, you might think of imagination capable of capturing such an image.

You can't just walk out your door, capture such an image, and feel an ethereal quality in a more 'normal' setting.
Rather, you trek into a treeless, waterless, trailess place... as you go, ever changing number of varying scenes create vivid impressions in the timeless memory of your mind's eye. If you followed Moon landings and Martian explorations, as I did, you come to think of these hoodoos as spaces where God acted in the role of artist and painter.
In the strictest sense, this image is not a silhouette. Yet, light's delicate interplay on the backside of the arch delights my visual sense and sensibilities... what about you?

You may wish to obtain a CD with numerous timeless Bisti images. If so, click here...

May 30, 2009

Been to the Bisti Lately?

Sphinx, Bisti Badlands, Farmington, NM

©Joe Bridwell

Nope, you're not on Mars... but in the Bisti Badlands. Is this really a Sphinx? Or, you might be looking at Darth Vader on some distant planet. Maybe, you might come up with a different interpretation... numerous hoodoo shapes seem to fertilize a creative mind. You're actually looking at an ancient beach combination of sandstone and lava where dinosaurs once roamed the Bisti.

Let your creative imagination run...
If you can find such unique Hoodoos like our Sphinx, just think about other shapes, colors, and textures available to the inquisitive photographer. Although it's a land with no trails, no water, and no trees, nevertheless, the perceptive eye can also find tree stumps, as well as occasional ancient trees where dinosaurs browsed.
The Bisti Badlands, near Farmington, New Mexico, is a hidden jewel amidst what appears to be a deserted area. Hoodoos, sandstone caps standing atop slender clay bases, have been cut by water over millennia.
Just trekking through the Bisti is one of the most spontaneous adventures available to digital photographers. Of course, it's best at Magic Hour, that hour near dawn and dusk.

If you get the chance, get up to the Bisti and find your own unique hoodoo. The Bisti is best trekked in spring and fall; without adequate water, you can become dehydrated rather quickly in summer.

May 27, 2009

Natural Elements

Pecos Country, NM, Composite

I See You…
©Joe Bridwell

Munch, munch... he stood there - in natural element.  I'm sure he was aware of color contrasts between hide and sky.  As he was aware I stopped on high slopes above the Pecos River, just to capture him.
On recent perusal, I know this picture had potential.  Thanks to Photoshop, I present I See You...

Why the Silence?
On return from Escalante country, I found myself with numerous high dynamic range (HDR) images from classic 4 Corner’s landscapes.  Captured mostly during Magic Hour, that hour around Dawn and Dusk, said images require advanced processing.
Tone Mapping HDR images without 'over processing' is an important consideration.  Additionally, emphasis on rain streaked cliffs, times patina's, and other captivating natural aspects (arches, ruins...) requires time to properly paint and sharpen individual nuances.

What Progress?
Each of five Utah areas presented its own unique lighting situation.  In one case, the final composite image resulted from three sets of five HDR shots per orientation. 
Complex HDR pano's may become huge.  I didn’t expect to hit a RAM limit during computations...

In other cases, development is simpler; create a 32-bit HDR image, save as 16-bit tiff, do initial color balance in Lightroom, and final Tone Map touchups in CS4.

Rapid, More Accurate CS4 Workflow
After the unusual experience with RAM limit, I asked Eric Jones to suggest simpler workflow patterns.  His mastery of Photoshop, generosity, and valued time spent quickly took me to newer, simpler understandings of CS4.
Thanks, Eric!

I am completing another project, but on target to soon finish production of my Utah HDR experiences.


May 12, 2009

Wild ‘Bill’ Hairball

Corona Arch, Moab, Utah, sunset

Corona Arch
©Joe Bridwell

Utah has a number of truly spectacular arches.  Just west of Moab, Corona is a popular Colorado River site.  The ancient artifact in front of Corona is Wild 'Bill' Hairball... camper, arch hunter, HDR shooter, and sand-covered country bumpkin.

No, this is not an HDR image.  But, I did spend the onset of a long hot summer way off the highway down horrible washboard roads shooting HDR sunrises and sunsets, many in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Since you just don't snap and show HDR panoramas, forgive me if there hasn't been time to do little more than document my return.
Thankfully, a primary order of business _ a deep, encompassing bath_ was joyous!

With time, some of these images will emerge.  As will memories of:
Seeing 4 sunlit crow's watching solemnly from a dawn-lit, nearby hill.
Finding 3 Japanese on a country road 14 miles beyond their goal, lacking English.
Carefully negotiating a small slot canyon, unable to believe my eyes 'Liam the Lizard running along, slightly ahead of me, body and tail parallel to the ground'!  I simply did not know lizards could do that...
On a back country road watching a pickup pull a hang glider by wire.
A windy Navajo rodeo with running horse's hooves creating dusty cloud puffs.
When occasionally around people, frequently hearing German...
Nightly set up a 30-year-old tent, recently renovated by REI (no charge)...
Taking pictures of the most incredible Southwestern natural landscapes.
Living out under great Western skies which softly welcome sunrise and warmly embrace opulent evening.

I would be quite remiss if I did not thank Sonny (Tracback) Lane and Larry (Magic Breath) Stroup for their emotional and intellectual support on this venture and safe return to technical nirvana!  In each unique way, these guys were the Wind beneath My Wings – teaching, arguing, testing my theories, and praying for great images…
And, my beautiful daughter Donna aka Chris, who patiently listened to disjointed and rather intermittent cell phone calls from where ever, contributing care and love on this lonely vigil.  Perhaps the most unusual was from Hole in the Rock Road, some 45 miles down, way in the outback, as Crocodile Dundee might say.  I can only guess that a flashing red light on Navajo Mountain farther south of Lake Powell let me make that jewel… mostly it was ‘Can’t Find  Service…’

May 2, 2009

Nature Calls...

Spring Shoot - Escalante - 2009

Albuquerque's February and March were cold.  Library time, wistfully looking at landscape photography shot with a 4 x 5, thinking/worrying about ‘too cold’ spring camping trips and exotic digital photography...
"What if I could get a truly stunning shot of the second largest arch on the planet?"  "What's the nighttime chill factor going to be in a windy tent?"  Or, "I'm tired of all this seemingly never ending planning; when can I just hit the road?"
Well, amidst all that I've been reading Tom Till, an internationally recognized landscape photographer.  Let me quote a provocative piece he wrote recently, "I rely on a forecast, leave before the storm begins, wait for the storm to hit a lull or end, find a gorgeous landscape, and begin shooting. I then drive home when the roads have dried."

So here it is, Saturday morning in Albuquerque with Escalante, Utah, a provocative shooting target.  And a day of rainy driving to Page, Arizona.  But... Saturday heavy rain at the shooting point.  Looks like it will be clear by early evening.
Looks like Sunday Dawn is earliest shooting chance for fog in high mountains around Escalante.  Maybe that's not so bad, it's nearly 500 miles to Escalante on paved road.  Had planned to shoot an area of Cottonwood Canyon near Paria, but know better than starting up a gumbo clay road in or just after a big rainstorm.  By mid-afternoon Tuesday, those gumbo roads will be hard baked clay again.  So I can get into the areas I'm really shooting for down in the Escalante.

I'm approaching this trip with the strong desire to shoot when the light is right.  I'm aware one may not get the first shot on the first try; luck, patience, and great light make a huge difference.

So, in that departing spirit, I know where I want to go.  I even know when to leave here; I just don't know where I'm going to be when ~ as the title suggests, "Not only does Nature Call; Mother Nature has control!  Perhaps you might call this highly anticipated trip The Call of the Wild…"

A lot of this country doesn't have wireless, so I won't have e-mail.  I will be trying to contact family members periodically with a cell phone, but I don't know local, probably meager cell coverage.  Oh, did I mention ~ Till has a four-wheel-drive.
But, it's time to get out, get active, get some incredible shots, and rejuvenate...