Thursday, May 10, 2012

Santa Elena Canyon

The showpiece location of Big Bend National Park is Santa Elena Canyon.  If you ever make it here and have just one night, the place you want to see sunrise is here at the canyon.

Calling this location spectacular is an understatement.

Here the Rio Grande flows out of the 1500' deep canyon it has carved in the Sierra Ponce wall.  You can stand at the rivers edge and look up and into it.  This is as awe inspiring of a location as the Grand Canyon and it is a whole lot easier to see and experience as it is just 100 yards from the parking lot.  Not that I am against a long arduous hike to get someplace, but as the large format photographers can tell you, close to the road is sometimes nice.

I had arrived in Big Bend one day last month to some amazing clouds and had one of my best days ever for photography.  I woke up on day two to clear skies and decided to photograph the canyon.  The clear skies should put nice light on the canyon and if I framed it right I could avoid too much empty blue sky.

When I normally photograph the canyon, it is from the mouth of the canyon as I cannot help but be drawn to the rivers edge and that huge wall right in front of you.  Well, I decided to try a different shot and went to the overlook, which is about 1/2 mile away from the canyon.  If you ever saw Ansel Adams image of Santa Elena Canyon, it was taken from the overlook.  The view here is less about the river as it is harder to pick out in the distance and more about the canyon cliff face.

I set up the camera in the dark and chose a longer lens.  Focused.  Decided this is a location all about the orange glow on the wall and went with Velvia 100F.  Waited.  When first light touched the top of the canyon walls I took an image.  When it got all the way to the bottom of the wall I took a second.  Then I switched to black and white.  I am still have yet to get the b+w images developed but the color looked good and is the image here.

What a way and place to watch the sunrise.

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