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Welcome to today’s post with images from Alabama Hills. I’ll get back to that place in a moment. First, I’d like to discuss the unintended consequences of blogging.
One of my earliest posts ever was of a woman and her daughter on Nicollet Mall. They were homeless. I photographed the daughter and then posted a story and images on my blog. Long story short a gal in New Jersey found my post and recognized the mother as her old high school classmate and, I believe, they reconnected because of the blog post. I’ve cried telling this story to camera clubs many times. Thank you social media!
My most recent experience is more hilarious. In an earlier post I showed a panoramic image from Zabriskie Point. Apparently I found my way into an image shot by a very famous landscape photographer that morning at Zabriskie Point. Stephen Oachs, the famous photographer who’s images “grace” the pages of National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer Magazine, went 0n a Facebook rant about how another photographer walked into “his composition.” He put forth a challenge on Facebook to locate the individual who was so rude as to walk into his photo. With the stars aligned, one person was successful in finding my blog post and posting my name and web site on Mr. Oachs’ Facebook page. Our images were shot within moments of each other. Amazing. Mr. Oachs provided his image on Facebook and I was able to zoom enough to clearly identify the individual as me. I was wearing my Dark Horse Bar hoodie and was staring dumbfound at the scene, wondering how to shoot it. A few facts worth noting – I did not walk into “his” composition. My mates and I were first on the scene well before twilight. No one else was present. Hence, Mr. Oachs composed a shot with me in it and for that I am grateful. I can now say that I’ve been photographed by a very famous photographer. Also, since Mr. Oachs made a public campaign of identifying me I believe I ‘m due some royalties. Winking emoticon here.
Now, on to Alabama Hills, CA. This area is easily one of the more interesting places I’ve photographed, but is technically just outside Death Valley National Park.
Here is a geological description of the hills from Wikipedia:
“The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west. Though this might suggest that they formed from a different orogeny, the Alabamas are the same age as the nearby Sierras. The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.
Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, towers several thousand feet above this low range, which itself is 1,500 feet (460 m) above the floor of Owens Valley. However, gravity surveys indicate that the Owens Valley is filled with about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of sediment and that the Alabamas are the tip of a very steep escarpment. This feature may have been created by many earthquakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake which, in a single event, caused a vertical displacement of 15–20 feet.
There are two main types of rock exposed at Alabama Hills. One is an orange, drab weathered metamorphosed volcanic rock that is 150-200 million years old. The other type of rock exposed here is 90 million year old granite which weathers to potato-shaped large boulders, many of which stand on end due to spheroidal weathering acting on many nearly vertical joints in the rock.”
In my images you see these rock formations as well as a star trail shot. The star trail image was shot for 32 minutes with about a half moon providing all the foreground light. It also washed the star trails a little, but I like the shot nonetheless. I hope you enjoy today’s images and stories.
Technical Details: Canon 5d MarkII, Canon 16-35mm @16mm, F/16, ISO100, 0.8 sec exposure, no filters
Welcome to today’s post. Zabriskie Point, in my previous post, has an interesting geological relationship to Badwater Basin. Millions of years prior to the actual sinking and widening of Death Valley, a lake covered a large portion of Death Valley including the area around Zabriskie Point. This ancient lake began forming approximately nine million years ago. During several million years of the lake’s existence, sediments were collecting at the bottom in the form of saline mud and gravel from nearby mountains, and ashfalls from the then-active Black Mountain volcanic field (From Wikipedia).
“Sediments collected…”. This is very important to the story. As you know, there is very little rain in Death Valley. The annual average is 2.36 inches. By comparison, Minneapolis averages over 26 inches a year. There isn’t much water in Death Valley. What little there is collects in basins like Badwater, but there is more to the story.
Badwater Basin is what geologists call an endorheic basin. Lake Superior is exorheic. Water flows in and it flows out through rain and snow fall, rivers, seepage through bedrock and evaporation. Its an open system. Badwater is a closed system, or endorheic. Water, all 2.36 inches a year, flows in through runoff from surrounding mountains full of saline mud and then just sits there. This makes sense since its the lowest point in the United States. Badwater is a closed system. Water has no way out except through evaporation. When that drop of water evaporates it leaves behind the salty mud. These sediments go through a cycle of freezing and baking which results in the quintessential patchwork salt formations you see in today’s images.
And check out this very recent story: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227142623.htm . Apparently some scientists have found a special kind of magnetic microbe growing in the Badwater water that will be useful in the nanotechnology space. I don’t pretend to understand it; it just sounds really cool.
I hope you enjoy today’s images and post. If you do, feel free to click the Facebook Like at the top of the post or share the post to your wall through the Facebook bottom just below here. Thank you.
Welcome to today’s post. I’ve just returned from an amazing photography trip to Death Valley with my good friends, Travis Bechtel and Robert Clark. We had some fantastic light and shooting conditions, but to be honest the trip was great because we laughed and joked the entire time. That, along with some sunshine, felt really good.
I’ve decided to present a few images from the trip that highlight the geology of the park. I hope you find this interesting. Today’s image is a panorama from Zabriskie Point. According to Wikipedia, Zabriskie Point is named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century. The company’s famous, iconic twenty-mule teams were used to transport borax from its mining operations in Death Valley. Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in east of Death Valley in Death Valley National Park and is noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago — long before Death Valley came into existence. The distant valley seen in the image is the “Badwater” playa, one of several playas in the park. In the next few posts you’ll see images from the palyas and I’ll provide a geological history of them.
Technical details of image:
The creation of this image starts by knowing when to shoot here. Both early and late twilight are great, but I prefer shooting “in favor of the light” on my subject. It is often more subtle and less dramatic, but can be more beautiful as well. This is the case in today’s image. A number of things are happening here. We’re in what is we called “pre-light” on the trip. It is a hybrid form of direct light that comes for a short period before sunrise, directional but very soft and warm, from the south east (camera left and behind). You see this falling on Zabriskie Point as well as the Black Mountain range to the west, behind Zabriskie Point. When the light arrived I switched to manual mode and spot meter to pull a good exposure from where I thought the middle of the pano would land. Then I swung the camera left and began to shoot my frames, overlapping them by 50%. I worked very, very fast – this pre-light is changing quickly.
The overlap and consistent exposure from frame to frame allows PTGui to provide a very good stitch and blending. If Aperture Priority mode is used, the exposures will vary in a way (because the light in the scene varies from left to right) that makes stitching messy. I didn’t use a pano head for this. I just shot each frame, repositioning the camera for the same elevation and leveling on each frame. Its not perfect, but PTGui doesn’t need it to be perfect. Just close. The output was a 16 bit .psd file, allowing me to complete the post production with incredible file quality.
You’re probably happy to know this will be the last image from DV. It was shot in the Cow Creek area of the park, another salt basin with ground water seeping up through it, providing the visual juxtopostion that is Death Valley. The ranger told me that the valley evaporates 100 inches of water a year!
For those new to landscape photography, I shot this using a split ND filter and have a new video tutorial on the use of them. Click HERE to watch.
Technical: Canon 1Ds MarkII, 16-35mm @17mm, ISO100, f/11, Singh Ray Reverse Two Stop ND, split focus technique.
Split Focus: I shot two frames, one focused at 3 ft (pretty much the shrub) and one focused at infinity and combined them in photoshop to maximize sharpness everywhere in the image.
I’m moving to the Badwater area of DV for the next couple of images. This shot was made in early twilight and with the significant (and sad level of air pollution sitting in the valley, the light was very blue. Both Travis and I commented when we walked out on to the the area that the light just screamed for use of tungsten white balance. Selecting tungsten white balance biases any day light towards blue. During certain times of the day, like twilight, even more so. The blue, then, is not a function of photoshop trickery but rather a choice made in the field about the mood and light at the moment and working with that. Architectural photographers have made use of this relationship between tungsten film and daylight for decades to capture some of the most beautiful images you’ve seen in Architectural Digest.
Technical: Canon 1Ds MarkII, 16-35mm@16, f/9, ISO100, Singh Ray 2 stop reverse neutral density filter.
This week I’ll finish with a couple more dunes images then move to some different images from Death Valley. Then we’ll take a break for the holidays and come back strong afterwards with some new images, new video content and a new….?????
Technical: Canon 1Ds MarkII, 24-70mm@43mm, ISO400, f/13, 1/200 sec hand held, singh ray warming polarizer.
Location: Mesquite Flats Dunes, Death Valley
Technical: Canon 1Ds MarkII, Singh Ray warming polarizer, hand held, 16-35mm lens @35mm, f/10, ISO100, 1/500th shutter speed. Black and white conversion in Adobe Photoshop CS4
If you’re interested in the HOW of black and white creation in these images, email me and I’ll consider producing a short video tutorial on what I look for in the scene and how I get the tones in Photoshop.
For this week and next I’ll be posting a series of sand dune shots. Dunes are a very mature photographic subject (they’ve been photographed a lot by really good photographers), but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. All were shot in Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley.
Technical: Canon 1Ds MkII, 70-200mm, f/16, warming poalrizer, hand-held, 1/500 shutter speed, ISO 800, very late afternoon light. Not quite twilight, but very close to it.
This image was made in Mesquite Sand Dunes. No trickery here, all in camera. The exposure was 40 minutes to capture the star trails. The foreground light was created during the exposure by taking my camera flash, walking around and flashing it. The light on me was made by Travis shining a flashlight on me at various intervals of rotation.
Technical: Canon 1DsMarkII, 16-35mm superwide zoom @16mm, ISO 100, 40 minute shutter speed, in camera noise reduction.
I just returned late last night from a long weekend in Death Valley National Park. For the next week or so I’ll be running a series of landscape images from DV and I’m working on a new video tutorial on the use of split neutral density filters.
I’m not a big fan of desert landscapes, but DV really made its way into my heart. It’s to be experienced for sure and hopefully these images will give you a small taste of it.
From a photographer’s perspective, 3 days in the park was simply a long scouting trip. I wasn’t sure I’d come back with 1 image to share and while I think I did, it was a great reminder of just how much work it takes to get great photography out of an unfamiliar place in a short period of time. DV is the largest park in the lower 48, making it very difficult to get to know. You watch the weather, you hike the trails, contemplating all the possible shots and under what conditions you’d like to shoot them. Then you move 30 miles down the road and do that again. And finally you have to pull the trigger, make a decision and drive another 30 miles because of something happening in the sky, the light. Then you get there and it evaporates and you find yourself muttering the same old cliche, “If it were easy everyone would be doing it.”
I also want to wish everyone a HAPPY HOLIDAY and hope you all enjoy your time with family and friends.
Technical: Zabriski Point, Canon 1Ds Mark II, 24-70mm, Singh Ray Blue/Gold polarizer, ISO800, tripod, composite of 4 frames, early twilight morning, aperture priority, varying shutter speed.