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Welcome to today’s post. This is the seventh, and I hope final, attempt at this post. I hope you enjoy it. PLEASE click on images – they appear much better in the lightbox.
I love movies. When friends hear this they are quick to respond, “Ohh. Did you see so and so?” Most likely it will be a first run movie so the typical response from me is, “Nope, I haven’t yet.” I’m cheap. I wait for it to hit the Riverside Theater or show up someplace on the Internet. Suffice it to say that The Big Lebowski still sits near the top of my all time favorites. Another little know fact about movies in the theater – you can get a great idea about how good the movie will be by the quality of the previews.
A stranger joined me at Panorama Point, where these images were shot. Since I never caught his name, I’ll refer to him as The Dude. He pulled out his camera and snapped a few shots early, before sunset, and then headed back to his car. I couldn’t let him do that. I knew what was coming. The first image, the Preview, was too good. So I just blurted out to him, “Dude, the movie hasn’t even started yet. You need to stay another 20 minutes. Trust me on this. We’re just getting a preview of what is to come.”
And with The Dude I stood and made the uncontrollable, audible “ohhhh and ahhhh” noises. The sky began exploded around us. All the way around us. I find awe in those moments of twilight when the sky is in a real-time perceptible state of change. Most of us on any given day may not even give a glance to the sky. Those of us who do are probably considering whether it will rain. Furthermore, during most of the day the sunlight is hitting clouds from above, masking a majority of the character, texture and detail that exists in them. When the sun gets low a few things happen: First, the sun position is changing rapidly, creating rapid change in the circumstances. Second, the clouds are lit from the underside, giving rise to a much greater level of detail, contrast and character. Last, the light warms up in color.
The sky is changing right before your eyes. The color is changing. The texture is changing. It is real-time. It is like watching a movie plot unfold. The first image was a great Preview. The second (and other variations I shot during this 20 minute flick) was the main show. They were shot 15 minutes apart. Nothing perceptibly changes between noon and 12:15pm; it happens in those waning moments of before sunset and into twilight.
I hope for drama and beauty in my landscape images, but also for some relationship between the drama in the sky and the rest of the landscape. I got that in today’s images. As The Dude (in The Big Lebowski) said, “That rug really tied the room together.” And so it is in the clouds, color and landscape.
Technical Details: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 16-35mm lens, ISO100, f/16, 3.2 seconds, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer, bracketed +/- 2 stops for Photomatix (click on image, it always looks better when seen larger)
Welcome to today’s post. As promised, I have some new landscape images from Bandlands National Park to share with you over the next couple of posts, but I had to devise a strategy for sharing them. Options included sharing by order of life threatening moments (fell down a hill in Cedar Pass), by places I had a great conversation with total strangers (Panorama Point), or was nearly attacked by wildlife (Big Horn Ram near Visitor Center). Of course I could use a more conventional strategy, like color vs. BW, but that would be predictable. Since my goal is to share great images and give you a better sense of the park, I’ve decided to go out on a limb and share by location. If you’re thinking of visiting the park and taking some pictures, then these posts might serve as a guide for you.
My journey to the Badlands started late Tuesday night, about 10 pm, after working all day long – a straight drive through the night in hopes of making the east end of the park by sunrise Wednesday. That goal was never really in doubt, at least to the extent of my willingness to drive 90mph, which I did for the last 40 miles or so. Driving at night for over 8 hours is not for the timid. Its exhausting and requires a careful balance of tactics, including caffeine, light food, sunglasses, singing out loud, dimming lights on the dashboard, texting while driving and of course AM talk radio about excessive sightings of UFO’s in Missouri this year.
The good news about So Dak at night is the lack of any human existence and the lack of curves in the interstate. My powers of observation, which are, well…powerful…observed several 30-50 minute intervals during which neither car nor curve was detected. Its a great time to think through the problems in your life, but I will say this; contrary to common cultural wisdom regarding males, I did not think of sex every 7 seconds. Let’s do the math on this – nearly 9 hours on the road equals 32,400 seconds. Divide that by 7 secs and we have 4,629 times I would have thought about sex. No way did that happen. First, 2,117 of those opportunities were given to thinking about the Packers. I counted those. Another 1,977 were given to the show on UFO’s and how I hoped some would show up right there, near Kennebec or Murdo, South Dakota. Of the remaining 534 sex-thought opportunities, 521 went to photography, 11 went to gas/potty break stops, 2 to this blog post and 1 to sex. Truth be told, that 1 sex thought actually had to do with a question that’s plagued me for years now. How do porcupines have sex? Answer: Very carefully.
Ok, so I made it. Heart and nervous system no longer functional. Just twitching. Exhaustion, fatigue, dehydration, over-caffeination, excited with what I saw happening in the early twilight of sunrise. I came in to the east side of the park, near the Door and Window trails which are amazing at sunrise. And what a sunrise I had. I shot everywhere I could and needed at least 3 cameras in different locations to truly capture what was happening. But I don’t have three cameras. So I took shots, ran to another spot, took more shots, ran back to another spot, took some more shots and then went back to the car and nearly fell asleep at the wheel on my way to check in to the motel, while you were just waking up.
4 images from Door Trail. The last is a true, 5 frame pano composed of 15 total frames prepared through Photomatix and stitched together using PTGui.
(click image for larger view)
If someone else had taken this photo and showed it to me, then I might have been tempted to question its legitimacy. I can hear the voice in my head say, “that’s bull!@#$.” Was the sky shot some other time or place? Was it some how digitally created? At the very least are the colors overdone? I even feel a little disappointed in myself for having that reaction. I take a great deal of pride in the photography as well as the editing, but I typically want the photography to be recognized before the editing. At the very least, I want the editing to compliment, not dominate, the photography. So, it would be no surprise to me if some of you felt the way I did. This morning sky was amazing and I feel like I’ve captured it the way I experienced it, but still don’t believe it. Fortunately, there was a witness to this morning, excellent photographer and good friend, Travis Bechtel.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I drove to Badlands National Park with Travis to photograph and scout the park for a future 2011 workshop. In my last post I wrote about what landscape photographers go through to get an amazing shot. Of this 4 day trip, 2 days were spent driving, 2 spent shooting. Of the two days shooting, both sunsets were duds. One sunrise was ok and then there was Saturday morning. We arrived a full hour before sunrise, reading the sky in the dark for cloud cover, with color already starting to build, and build it did. We both were laughing and commenting that the color was so intense that our camera sensors couldn’t handle it. I remember at some point just giving up on trying to capture the moment and sat back to enjoy the show. That lasted about 7 seconds and I started shooting again. Its the kind of moment a landscape photog lives for and may be some sort of gift that one gets from putting in the time. I’ve decided to present several images from that morning, as well as some others from the trip. For example, BigBadlands.jpg and BigBadlands3.jpg are a combination of 3 panel panoramic photography with HDR photography. I hope you enjoy the images.