Sunday, December 28, 2008

When the Sun Rises

The rising sun changes everything.

The warm, soft glow of predawn gives way to to bright light and dark shadows of the new day. The directional light casts long shadows and the deep canyons of the Colorado become black holes in the earth.

Here is sunrise at Dead Horse Point. The location that was the same morning as two posts ago-but this is after the sun rose.

The canyon is very different after sunrise and the harsh light is tough on the color photographer. This is the moment to try what black and white might do, but I had no B+W with me that day. I may have to see what I can do with a conversion.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas in Downtown

The Christmas season as seen on Main Street in Fort Worth. Here is Main Street with a view toward the courthouse. The lights of the city Christmas Tree shine in the ground glass.

Seasons Greetings!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dead Horse Point

Waiting for the sunrise at Dead Horse Point.

I was here on a clear morning in October. The photographers were taking up spots along the rim waiting for that first glow of sunrise. Early on there was nice glow but there is a lull from early twilight and sunrise. This was that middling part after the twilight glow and before the actual sunrise.

One can see the Colorado in the depths of the canyon.

Note-the astute may also spot a Soligor light meter in the image. A $5 garage sale find!

Monday, December 8, 2008

One Year and Counting!

The Traveling Camera Blog is one year old!

From the wilds of west Texas, to my own backyard on the Trinity River, to Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wisconsin. I have hauled the 4x5 and made images with it and of it.

If you have been reading, thanks.

For that one year moment-here is a view from the red rock country of Arches National Park. I am set up overlooking the Garden of Eden. The sky might be clear but with a view like this-who cares.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mesa Arch -Same Cloudy Day

After working the image from the previous post I made my way down to the more traditional view of Mesa Arch. Here is looking through the arch with my 4x5 still set up in the previous location.

The sharp eye will also notice another large format camera, its a Linhof Technica III. The other photog was working some b+w film. We talked shop for a few minutes as the light was not changing anytime fast.

We were both back there the next morning for clear sky but had to contend with about 40 other people. So it was nice to have it just be a few folks with time to talk and move around.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mesa Arch but No Glow

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park is famous for it's glow on a clear day. When the sun first rises it lights up the underside of the arch with an orange glow that is spectacular.

On a cloudy day there is no glow.

My first morning in Canyonlands was completely overcast. There was zero chance for glow. So I set up looking down through the arch and across the Colorado River canyons.

No it was not the classic image but I still wanted to see what I could get. Hard to take a bad picture in a place like this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Garden of Eden

Late one afternoon in Arches National Park I found myself in an area called the Garden of Eden. It was an area of rocky red spires.

I took the camera and wandered into the spires looking for an image. On a steep slope I found a view that took in the spires and the distant La Sal Mountains.

As the last light of day stretched across the valley, I made a couple of images. Then I waited for the glow that happens after the sunset. The sky was clear and sure enough about 20 minutes after sunset the pink glow spilling across the landscape bathed the area in light. Another couple of images.

See the camera set up on the steep slope with the dunes beyond. It was a bit of a balancing act, but that is what a good tripod is for.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rock Dunes

Arches National Park is obviously home to a few arches. It is also home to some great slick rock, red rock, and rock dunes. Rock dunes? Shouldn't dunes be made of sand? Yes, but sometimes they get buried and compressed into rock. Normally they are compressed into sandstone, but in Arches there are some petrified dunes. So they look a lot like dunes even though they are rock.

Here are the petrified dunes with the La Sal Mountains rising beyond at sunset.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mesa Arch at Night

Mesa Arch is one of the premier photo destinations in Utah and certainly in Canyonlands National Park. The arch hangs right on the edge of a 1500' cliff and faces east. The arch is famous for the orange glow it gets at sunrise on a clear day. It draws the photographers in thick. One morning we had better than 40 people jockeying for tripod positions. I wanted to try something a little different and I also wanted to stake my spot for sunrise, so one morning I got to the arch about 5am.

I had the whole thing to myself for at least an hour and a half. I made several night images of the stars. I painted the arch with light. I got my spot picked out. And all without the hassle of 40 other people.

Here is one of my favorite from that morning. The stars above the arch and the arch painted with light.

BTW- I went back the next night and got a great self portrait standing on the arch in the dark. See that on my Wilderness Photographer Blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sunset Rain

At Grandivew Point in Canyonlands NP there is a trail that wanders for about a mile over the slickrock to the very tip of the mesa where one can stare across the Green and Colorado River canyons. I made that hike in late light as rain showers were building over the Green River. I made it to a view point right as the sun was about to pop out from under the rain. I raced to get the tripod up and camera focused. I made one image.

Then I quickly made this snap and went back to put a couple more sheets through the 4x5. And just like that the sun was gone.

The rain and the light put on a show. I was changing lenses and making images with both cameras. The glow of sunlight behind the distant rain was great. I made images for another twenty minutes until it looked like the best light was gone. So with everyone else long gone I packed up. I started walking back but I kept turning around. And stopping. And making more images. By the time I got back to the truck it was way dark.

When I was able to review the images as I downloaded them I found several very nice ones. I cannot wait to see what the chromes look like.

Wow, what an afternoon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Back from a week in Utah. Got to see some great red rock country.
Here is the view from Grandview Point at the very end of the road in Canyonlands National Park.
Out there in that maze of pinnacles, cliffs, and canyons is the mighty Colorado River. I am on the Island in the Sky plateau looking down on the wonders of the park. The edge in front of me is 1500' straight down.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fall Color Bound

I am off to Utah and the red rock country. I also hope to see some of the fall color of the La Sal Mountains. The aspens of the west got me to looking through last fall's Colorado trip and that led me to this image. Here is some of the fall color of southwest Colorado as a way to think about the fall color of southeast Utah.

Red rock country-here I come!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thinking of the Seasons

Summer passed into fall this week. It has me thinking of the colors of autumn and the changing of the seasons.

I was also looking through some images and came across this one that I had not posted before. Wisconsin on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi.

The cold of winter is not many folks idea of fun but during a long hot Texas August it actually sounds refreshing.

So call it the end of summer and try to to let it get you "too" cold.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Low Trestle

At the location I often photograph the train trestles is a spot where the floodplain of the Trinity River is rather broad. As such the rail lines have extended low bridges that run across the floodplain. Here you can see two. Different styles from probably different eras of rail development.

From a photograph perspective it was a great place for the view camera. With the rail line running away from me I was able to use a small swing movement to put the whole trestle in focus instead of just the part close to me.

That selective focus is a neat feature. I can use it to pus everything in focus or I could use to put only a sliver of the image in focus. A simple yet powerful tool. Good reason to keep one of these cameras around.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Green Banks of the Trinity

The green banks of the trinity River near downtown Fort Worth.

I wish I could be out west everyday, but on weeks when I cannot, I find locations around the area that I can make a decent image. This is in the aptly named Trinity Park that runs along the river near downtown.

I like the greens of late spring and the slow flow of the river.

I also like to photograph the city because of all the change. We seem to be a constant stage of growth and one day I'll look back and think how quaint it was back in 2008.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Trestles on the Trinity

A series of railroad trestles across the Trinity where three lines converge on the downtown area.

The railroads turned Fort Worth from a place the cattle passed through to the place the cattle went to. Several lines come into town and many of the trestles are of the classic steel and concrete style from the early part of the 20th century.

On a clear summer morning I took the camera out to photograph these three at first light. The steel, the weathered look, the reflections-it has alot of the elements to keep my interest and I make several images.

Having locations like this in my town are a nice perk to life here in Cowtown.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trestle at Night

An old train trestle on the Trinity River near downtown Fort Worth by night.

I had hopes of catching a great sunrise with the trestle and downtown but it was not to be. However as I was working on a star trail image I was able to get this image. The light on the camera is creative use of my trusty headlamp.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Downtown on the River

Here is downtown Fort Worth from along the Trinity River.

The two branches of the Trinity River meet right by downtown Fort Worth. The Clear Fork comes in from the southwest and the West Fork (pictured here) comes in from the northwest and they meet right at the bluff that Fort Worth was built on.

This view is about a half a mile up the West Fork from the bluff on a morning of cool blue light in the sky.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Early twilight on the Trinity River. I was out walking on the ledges of the river on a summer morning listening to the river running over the rocks.
As the first early light started to creep into the sky I started a long exposure to capture the hint of color and motion of the water.
The light levels were low and I think I went with a two minute exposure.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Plains and Mountains

A closing view from my El Paso trip. I had spent the day up in New Mexico and in the afternoon as I was driving back to Texas I kept watching these mountains. The tall horn peak with snow on it drew my attention. I knew it had to be photographed-the vast open grasslands with that peak beyond were a great image right out of a hundred years ago.

I found a turnout and made an image. Later I found a windmill that I was also able to work into an image with the mountain(posted before).

So I make this my parting image for this trip.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Mexico Open Range at Dawn

Another image from a morning in New Mexico. This was taken somewhere along the road north of Deming.

The hint of the road in the image makes me think of being on the open road. In the middle of a hot August the high plains sounds mighty nice, but it is still a few weeks until Labor Day and my next road trip west.

So I'll just look at the road and the open range and let my mind wander.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Post 100! El Paso Sunset

This is my 100th post on The Traveling Camera! I was not sure I would have 100 images or for that mater more than 2 or 3 interesting things to say. I found the 100 images, still not sure about the interesting words. But here we are at 100. Thanks for reading.

This image is a sunset in El Paso. I was in town on business and walked out of the office just after 5pm to see what looked like a great sunset in the making. I headed for the edge of the Hueco Mountains. I was hoping I could get a little bit of elevation. In twenty minutes I made the first hill as the sky turned orange. I found a side road, parked, and dashed up the side of a hill in wingtips. Note-wingtips are not the best shoes to climb desert hills or to step in snow with, but you do with what you have. Luckily I had my camera in the car because there would not have been time to go back and get it.

I set up the tripod pushed on a lens, a focused by eyesight to what I thought was infinity just to make an image before the light faded. I got it. Refocused with the loupe. Made another and the light faded rapidly. This snap of the camera came after that, he view is of the first hills of the Huecos, the distant Franklins, with the lights of El Paso and Juarez.

Wow, what a sunset and a quick afternoon was gone. I began to notice the cold more and the darkness fell quick. I packed up everything and slowly made my way down the hill to a warm car and supper.

Hope to have you here when we hit 200.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rock House Ruin

A rock ruin east of El Paso. I saw this ruin from the road and had to stop. It is literally in the middle of no-where. There is nothing around it either naturally or man-made except a modern blacktop road. But this structure looks older than the road. Or at least it looks from the early days of automobile travel.

I am not even sure what the building was. The two rooms look too small to be much of anything. It is such a long way to EL Paso or Van Horn that I wonder what it could have been.

For me on this day though, I liked the view it had toward the distant Guadalupe Mountains. I lined up an image where I could frame the house and the distant Guadalupes into the frame. Made a couple of images to be sure to get the exposure right and not have hot spots on the rocks.

Then it was back on the road looking for that next location.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Out in the Muck

On a cold clear morning I left El Paso at 4:30am and started driving toward the Guadalupes. I could see countless stars but nothing that even looked like a cloud. As I drove I thought about possible places to go for early light. I ended up stopping at the salt flats west of the park. Dawn was getting closer so instead of photographing east into the sunrise, I decided to look southwest toward the Black Mountains and the Sierra Diablo. With any luck, I would get nice pink and blue glow in the west.

I started walking across the flats and found that it was really mucky. The recent snow and rain has made a mess of the flats and it was pretty yuck walking. It would even be worse for a place to put the backpack down. I normally bring a little folding table here but since I flew out on business, I had nothing like that. So I decided to try as little balancing act and put my pack on a fence rail. It took a steady hand but I got it to balance. It also required a light touch when getting things into and out of the pack, but as you cab see in the pic-it kept my pack muck free.

With pack safe and secure, I was able to set up the tripod, camera, and make the image. The light was subtle and just a hint of color. I made only a few before ol' Sol made his appearance and with such harshness the camera was put up really quick.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

City of Rocks

Shadows on the rocks at City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

On a trip to El Paso I made a swing into New Mexico and up through Deming. I ended up at City of Rocks since it sounded like a neat place to look around for images.

Sure enough there are a lot of rocks just sitting there on the ground. I spent a few hours scrambling in and around them.

I only made a few images in the harsh light but I tried to make use of the shapes and texture to bring an image to life. Here is one wavy rock with some nearby boulders.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Alamo Mountain

East of El Paso, where the Hueco Mountains fade off into grasslands is a place of big views. One can easily see the Guadalupes which are 75+ miles away. One also sees several volcanic peaks that dot the open range.

One of those has a flat top, that is Alamo Mountain. This peak is actually in New Mexico and is part of the Cornudas Range which straddles both side of the state line. It is a range that keeps drawing my interest on any trip to El Paso or the Guadalupes. It is a place I plan to visit to explore soon.

This image is late the the afternoon. there is a little haze in the air and the sky is clear. I made a couple of images of Alamo Mountain and then watched the sunset while thinking about a new destination.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Mexico Moonset

The full moon hanging over the open plains of New Mexico.

On a mostly clear morning north of Deming I could see the early light in the east and the moon in the west. As the morning got closer the sky in the west took on a pink glow. I set up an image where I could look across the open range and see the moon too.

The simplicity of the open grasslands colorful band in the sky and moon hanging above it all made a nice view and one to be put on film.

I went with a moderate wide lens. Not to wide but not too long, showing the scene closer to "normal" seemed right.

And who says you cannot make a nice image on a clear day?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Windmill on the New Mexico Plains

After a morning with nice light on the grassy plains, I drove into Silver City for a plate of Huevos Rancheros. Mighty good.

Then it was off to explore the sights to be found in the area. The big open quality of the open range country kept drawing my interest. As the road got close to some of the mountains, I began to look for ways to work them into the image. This one tall peak stood out, snow clung to it's side. I wanted to get that mountain into an image. I made several compositions that had different elements of grass or fences or roads, but I still had not found it. Then I saw this windmill and tank and knew I had my image. Blue sky, mid-day, and all-this had potential. I thought this might even work in black and white.

Then it was back on the road. There were miles to go.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Mexico High Plains

I awoke early on a late winter weekend in El Paso and decided to drive north into New Mexico. Having spent the previous day east of El Paso, I decided to strike out into new territory and make for Silver City and maybe even the Gila National Forest.

I was well north of Deming as the light began to rise in the east. Wide open grasslands stretched out in all directions with distant mountains beyond. Since I did not have a specific destination for sunrise, I decided the open grasslands would be perfect. I turned onto a small side road until I found a nice view with some hills and clouds. Then I went to work to set up the tripod. The view here was nice and there were images to be made. Getting on the road early got me out this far in time for dawn and this is looking like a perfect location. I guess there is some truth to the fact you make your own luck.

I watched the stars fade as the sky turned blue. The clouds picked up some pink light. The grass took on a reddish hue from the light in the clouds. The light kept getting brighter. The clouds turned white. Finally the sun rose and the grass glowed in the early sunlight. I made image after image from the near dark of night to the glory of the first sunlight of the day.

The light filled the sky and I looked around again. Yes, this was a great place. File a note to self to make it back here too. After taking it all in I consulted the map and decided to make for City of Rocks State Park. It was close and rocks in the early light sounded promising.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Open Country

I could not get enough of that big view so after photographing the distant Guadalupes, I turned slightly to pick up the volcanic peaks of the Cornudas Range.

They rise out of the grassy open range country east of El Paso. It is a very different look from the the other ranges out here. Instead of a ridge or spine of peaks, it is individual mountains that have popped out of the grasslands.

It is a series of mountains that draw my eye and my interest. The open range and the individual mountains have limitless possibilities for a photograph.

Of course, this was a severe clear day but as the sun started to set, the light got angular, and the shadows got longer the area began to take on a new life. The light dancing across the tops of the grass and the distant peaks were the image I went for.

I know I'll be back here in search of a sky full of clouds and a big west Texas sunset.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Marty Robbins Country

I have always liked the Marty Robbins classic “ El Paso ”. It sums up the open spaces of the west as a lonely place where you ride for miles. A place where the view goes on forever.

As I was heading west toward El Paso across the open grasslands, I kept stopping what seemed every half mile. Stop. Look. Take pictures. Drive. Stop again. .

This is a big open country. After many miles the road starts to climb the first hills that rise up and become the Hueco Mountains. There I stop yet again.

From this first rise the view stretches back almost 100 miles. The volcanic peaks of the Cornudas Range, the Black Mountains, the Sierra Tinaja Pinta, and even the distant Guadalupes are visible. A big view of a wide, open, empty land. Certainly the kind of place Marty Robbins might sing about.

I walk along the grass and look at the yuccas, the sky, and the distant peaks. The clear blue sky is not a photographers favorite, but you work with what you have. Besides, it enhances the open feeling of the place.

The view is empty- I cannot see a house or town or structure. What a place this would be to have a horse.

I set up the camera and decide to wait here for the sunset. This view is too big and too nice to not be here. I already know that I will be back to this spot.-the view here is perfect west Texas.

And that view could inspire a song.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

High Lonesome

The high lonesome grasslands found east of El Paso are some of my favorite country on the open road. The sky is big and the land is empty. The roads are long and often empty too.

The road to Sierra Blanca is one of those lonely ones. It runs almost due south from US 180 through high dry grasslands. This is an area of big open rangeland. Lots of grass. Lots of sky. Sometimes a yucca. Occasionally you will find a “forest” of yucca. Mountain ranges rise in every direction. Some are big, others small. Sometimes they are just a couple of peaks. All one sees are grass, yucca, mountains, and sky.

The road runs west of the Black Mountains , I can see them and the Sierra Diablo to my east. The volcanic rock of the Cornudas range are behind me to the north. To the west I can make out the rise that is the Hueco Mountains . Ahead of me is the bigger mountain that is Sierra Blanca. In the distance I can see the Guadalupes and even make out the snow on them, even though they are over 50 miles away.

This is ranch land. This is big ranch land. Over a 45 mile stretch on highway 1111 you only pass a few different ranches. The range is mostly open too. The pampas colored grasses seem to go on and on. Pronghorn dash across this land. I see several herds of them on the drive and count at least sixty.

I drive for miles and do not see any sign of civilization- no people, no houses, not even a windmill. Nothing but this high lonesome grassland and an occasional animal. I do not even pass another vehicle.

As I pass through one of the yucca forests I see a lone bull in the grass. It is a scene that really grabs my mind as telling a story about this land, so I stop and set up the camera. I can see the yuccas, the bull, the Black Mountains and the Guadalupes in the distance beyond them. Even with my longest lens, I still have a pretty big view of the land and sky. I add the polarizer to help bring out the sky and snap a couple of images. I like it. I wish there maybe were better clouds, but I really like this view.

Then I am back in the car heading south into town. Sierra Blanca is a small town that is on I-10 and the seat of Hudspeth County . I top off the gas tank and drive around to the south for a few miles looking south toward the Big Bend country and Mexico . Part of me wants to keep going that way, but I decide to save that direction for another time. I turn around and head north again.

The open lonely range is calling and so I drive back out into the high lonesome.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dry Mountain Valleys

I love the mountains in west Texas . After one has driven for hours across the Permian Basin they are a welcome relief of a view. The mountains of west Texas rise out of the desert and can be said to be the southern extension of the Rockies, although they look like nothing in Colorado.

There are well over twenty five ranges (29 depending on what you call a "range") that are all really desert ranges-the vast majority of them are dry. Think of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and you think of clear trout streams but the mountains here are all but dry rocky places. Only the Guadalupes, Davis and Chisos get high enough to generate any real moisture and that is still rapidly runs off or is absorbed into the ground. The rest are mostly rock and brush, although you never know what spring or canyon may contain a surprise.

The Franklin Mountains are like that. They rise some 4000' feet above the city of El Paso and top out at 7000'. They are something to look at, but they are dry. Their elevation and size is just not enough "mass" to generate large amounts of rain, so they are dry peaks with dry valleys. Sure it rains here, it has even snowed twice one week when I was there but moisture is still the exception-not the norm.

When I was up on the trans-mountain drive I stopped at the summit of the pass that the road cut goes through. There a trail starts up a dry wash toward one of the high peaks. With some snow on the peak and the rocky dry stream bed I was struck thinking it reminded me of something one might see in the Himalaya (not that I have been there, but the impression from images I have seen). So I set up my camera in hopes of capturing the scene as my mind saw it, not a mountain range surrounded by a city, but a desolate place half a world away.

The crisp temps, dusting of snow, and wonderful fresh smell of the desert after a rain made the scene even more vivid to the senses. I set up the tripod, picked out a lens and added the polarizer and a grad filter to balance the shadows with the light on the peak. This desert valley of west Texas had taken on a whole new look. I made a few images.

I thought about hiking to the peak, but it was too late in the day. I hoped I would get another opportunity but the snow would be gone before I had that chance. Still I made an image that stood out for me as a rare snow in Texas

It was a good day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

El Paso Winter

Spring has turned to summer and with the summer heat I was looking back through some images from a winter trip to El Paso.

Texas winter is fairly short and snow is a rare occurrence. I was lucky enough to catch a little of both in El Paso. I flew in one afternoon to be greeted by a dusting of snow on the Franklin Mountains. After getting the rental car I was heading right to the Woodrow Bean Trans-Mountain Highway which crosses right through the heart of the Franklins. On the western side of the range are some pullouts that make a great place to watch the sunset (and do people ever). They also have a nice view looking up at the peaks. The warm afternoon sun has melted what had been several inches of powder but there was still enough to draw my interest and make a great image.

In making the image I was able to use a longer lens (my 210mm) and use rise to take the orange barrier you see out of the image. I was quite pleased with the result.

It does not snow that often but I got lucky enough to catch it.

And on a hot summer day a little snow sounds nice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fort Worth Dawn

Dawn along the Trinity Trail near downtown Fort Worth.

Cowtown has a nice downtown and a nicer systems of trails that follow the Trinity River for miles in several directions. A true urban greenbelt.

This view is of a small pond near the river and downtown. The large foreground building is the headquarters of Pier 1. The other buildings rise beyond.

This is a nice place to be in the early morning when the lights of the city and the twilight in the sky fill the scene with color. The reflections in the pond only make it better.

As a photographer it is also a nice place to have the front rise capability of the view camera to keep perspective and distortion under control.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Old Factory

An old factory in Waxahachie, Texas.

I found this image one day on my way to lunch. We had been out photographing the town one morning and were getting hungry. We had a lunch destination in mind but got there about 30 minutes too early. So while we were waiting we drove around, turned a corner, and found this great looking old factory. We had thought that 30 minutes was a long to to wait (hey we were hungry) but once we found this we forgot about our hunger.

I only made two images and would really like to go back and explore this location. I only wish that it was not locked up tight by a big fence as this building has character.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Power Towers

Normally I prefer to photograph out in the lonesome landscapes of west Texas. When I am back in town I look still look to get out and photograph. I have found many "small" landscapes that you would not expect in a city environment.

On occasion I go beyond the landscape and photograph buildings or other objects of interest.

The big metal electric transmission towers have drawn my interest several times. On this morning the lights of the city were lighting up the fast moving, low hanging clouds. I thought the geometry of the towers and the color in the sky made a nice image.

It was not like being out at El Capitan but it was sure alot closer to some good Tex-Mex for breakfast.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas Tea

The oil patch is alive and well in the Lone Star State. Record prices for energy and new drilling techniques are allowing drilling even in town.

This rig is one of tens of dozens working around Fort Worth these days. The bonanza is natural gas (but Texas Tea sounded better as a title) in the Barnett shale. There is as much drilling going on here as anywhere.

I was out early one morning to photograph this rig and some old railroad trestles. Since it was dark and the rig was all lit up I went for that as a way to start the morning. The fast moving clouds only added to the image.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Under the Dark Cloth

This is my view of the world when under the dark cloth. The camera is taking the image you saw it set up for in the last post.

It is dark enough to see the image with the dark cloth in place. Without it, forget it.

It is with this view that I focus, frame and tweak the composition. It is slow. It makes you think. The outside wold fades away.

It is just you and the image.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

At the Modern

Back in Fort Worth photographing around town. It is a far cry from the Big Bend country, but there are still a fair amount of locations to make great images.

Here is one from the Modern Art Museum. It is a work of art itself and one I have tried a few times to make a great image of.

I really like the water, glass and concrete-it makes a remarkable place to view art or make it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why I Keep Going Back

There are some locations I keep going back to. Sometimes, I am hoping for better light, other times it because I just did not get the image to come out right.

So I keep going back.

This is one of those locations. It is in Big Bend National Park where the Rio Grande flows out of Santa Elena Canyon. I have photographed in this location several times. I have photographed several different angles both into and out of the canyon.

This view out the canyon has the Rio Grande, Terlingua Creek, and the Chisos in it. It is also an image that has intrigued me for four years. The first year the light was not right. For the next two years I got the light but missed the shot (either too weak or too strong grad filter). On this trip I had already worked this image once but at the time I had taken it was not too sure about the light. Then with only a short time left on the trip I got this. The clouds were right. The river was still. The dawn had glorious red sky. It all finally came together. On this morning I was able to get several sheets of Velvia through the camera.

And after four years and several attempts, I finally got a great image. Well maybe I'll have to try again on the next trip to see if I can do better. I guess I'll have to keep going back.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Under the Stars

The night skies of the Big Bend country are dark. Thy are very dark. The nearest cities are hundreds of miles away. This area is so dark that the University of Texas has the McDonald Observatory in the nearby Davis Mountains (by nearby I mean 150 miles away).

On dark clear nights you lose count of how many stars you see. The sky is so full of bright stars the constellations are hard to spot.

I often photograph here at night, especially in stretches of cloudless weather or even by the light of the moon.

This image is taken from a small hill looking west some time after dark. The stars are visible across the sky, yet the camera picks up just a hint of orange (not seen with the naked eye) on a lone cloud. The V notch of Santa Elena Canyon can be seen in the image too. You can also see a faint band of light that almost looks like it is coming out of the canyon. That is not an errant flashlight- it is Zodiacal light. This is an astronomical phenomenon that can only be seen in places of dark sky.

And for that-Big Bend is perfect.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Grapevine Hills

The balanced rock in the Grapevine Hills of Big Bend National Park is one of the signature images of the area.

I have photographed it once several years before, but decided to make another go of it this past spring. Since I was staying at Cottonwood, I knew it would be an hour drive and at least a 30 minute walk. I left very early in the morning to give myself plenty of time. I left the parking lot for the one mile hike in the dark by the light of the moon and stars. I had my backpack with the 4x5, a small bag with the DSLR and two tripods. The moon was so bright I did not use the headlamp. I followed the braided wash up into the hills and then the path as it twisted up to the balanced rock.

One thing about the rock is there is very little space for the "classic" image. You are wedged in between two rocks and some cactus. I got the spot and set up. It was so dark I had to go place my headlamp on a rock for a focus target. Then I went right for a star trail image and photographed right through the sunrise.

What a great place and while the classic image is a narrow spot there are other images all around. As I waited for the sunrise with the 4x5, I worked other possible images with the DSLR. A little slow photography and a little fast photography. With plenty of images to look through at home.

This view here shows the 4x5 set up at the classic view in the early light. The camera is hot and I am working on a slow exposure. If anything I wish I could have made more.
Note to self-take more images.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sometimes Things Don't Work Out

Sometimes things do not work out as planned in photography.

I had seen these rock fins on the western side of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. They are volcanic dikes that look like walls. I have often wanted to get a good image with them but have never had the right conditions. I saw an area that looked like it might be promising and there were just a few clouds but I hoped for a nice image.

I parked the vehicle and started walking toward one through the brush. Normally cross country is pretty easy in deserty country as the plants have decent spacing between them. However after a few hundred yards I got to a small wash that was thick on either side with thorny brush. It was only a few feet thick but it was one tangled wall and being the desert-everything had thorns. I tried walking length wise hoping for a gap but no dice. I went back to the vehicle and drove farther down the road finding a better angle to get to a rock fin. I saw another gully to cross and dropped into the dry streambed with hopes to get close.

I was closer but this gully was about five feet deep with thick brush and looked like it was also difficult to get to. Luckily I found a small series of ledges off a side stream I could climb out of and get to the rock fin.

The slope up to it was very steep and loose with gravel. The fin was angled off what I wanted. I could not get a good down the length of the fin image.

Two hours of stumbling through brush and I could not get the image I wanted. You can see the image I got in the above photo. The clouds had moved out of the image and the leading lines just were not there.

I made exactly one image and then packed up and headed back to the vehicle. Drove on thinking the evening was a bust. As the sun was setting in the distance I saw a backlit Ocotillo. It was too far out for the 4x5 and my wide angle views, but I did manage to get a few nice snaps of it with a long lens on the DSLR.

The image I had been wanting just did not work, but a fluke chance brought me an image I could only happen upon. I got a pretty decent image. I guess things worked out after all.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Camera in Action

People often want to know what it is like to work with a large format camera. I usually just smile and say it is about the same as a 35mm camera, just bigger.

But it is really so much more.

Large Format, gives you the ability to do more than any DSLR or 35mm could. I can make so many adjustments that I have full control of the image in a way you could never have with any other kind of camera.

As a landscape photographer that allows me to have what amounts to infinite focus-the rock at 6" to the mountain at 6 miles and everything in between. It allows me to keep lines straight on a tree trunk or to make them wonky. It puts the photographer farther into the realm of photography than anything else.

The image here is of the camera set up on Terlingua Creek in Big Bend National Park as I was photographing the creek. This somewhat of a 3/4ths view lets you see some of what the camera can do. I am using my longest lens, a 210mm (about equal to a 60mm if you use a 35mm camera or a full frame DSLR). Note I am using most of my rail and with this 30cm rail could not use a much longer lens. Also note the bellows is the soft leather wide angle bellows which works nicely with this lens although it is about the limit of length too. The camera is pointed slightly down as I am photographing the stream. The rear standard is raised-this lowers the view so I am seeing even more stream and less sky. The rear standard is also tilted back-this most basic of movements helps bring the entire stream into sharp focus. Finally note the Quickload holder is on the top. That means I unclipped and rotated the ground glass. This allows me to flip between vertical and horizontal compositions without moving the camera (can't do that in 35mm). It keeps the camera centered over the tripod too. It is also something that takes just about two seconds to do-so it is quick and easy.

I am ready to take the image. All I would need to do is set the lens and get a sheet of film.

Further note, this camera is entirely mechanical and manual. From focus to setting the lens, to using the cable release it is all manual. You even need a separate light meter. It does not get much simpler than this. It also does not get as much of open ended creativity as this.

You should try one.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Terlingua Abaja

Lower Terlingua Creek running over rocks at sunrise.

The view here is upstream to the north. Low hills that dot the western side of Big Bend National Park can be seen in the distance. At one time these were settlements along this creek as well as the shade of many cottonwood trees. History also tells us most of the trees were cut down for the ranches and mines in the area. Today mostly just rock and a trickle of water remain.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Subtlety on Terlingua Creek

Water is an amazing thing. That seems like such a simple and obvious statement, but it is true.

Especially for a photographer. Or when you are in the desert. Then water takes on a whole new meaning. .

In this parched land water is a precious gift. As a photographer I know water can lead me to magical locations, great scenes and reflect the big light of sunset.

In Big Bend the Rio Grande is the main body of water. It carved the majestic canyons, creates the border, and its big turn or bend gives the park its name.

Terlingua Creek is another such body of water. It flows clear, shallow, and simple down the western side of the park. It is probably ignored or forgotten by most people unless it is flooding and blocks the trail into Santa Elena Canyon.

This little creek intrigues me. I really like the thin shallow ribbon like quality of how it flows. I like the clear quality of the water. I like the fact others ignore it. I also like that throughout most of its course you can look south and see the imposing ramparts of the Sierra Ponce in the distance.
I was walking along the creek in the afternoon and found several nice dark streaks on the rock and decided that it could be the source of a nice image. The next day it was clear but I decided to try for the creek. I started walking in the dark with my pack, a shoulder bag, and two tripods. I found the spot in the dark and set up the big camera with the thought of getting a starlight image. .

After one long 15 minute exposure, I set to work on the morning image. As the light grew in the sky I made several images of the creek and rocks.

I was not working the huge scene as much as I was working with a simple ripple of water on rock in a shallow stream with a big wall beyond.

Subtle. Simple. Superb.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

At Work in the Desert

Here is a slightly different angle for me. Instead of taking a picture of the scene the camera is taking a picture of-it is a picture of camera itself and what it usually looks like when I am making an image.

Always on a tripod. Always. Using a ND Grad. The Grad filter is half dark and half clear. It allows me to "hold back" a bright sky so I can even out the exposure on the sky and the ground. Those little filters do more for the landscape photographer than any other. In this set up I probably have the polarizer on too, but since it is behind the grad, it might be hard to see.

You might also notice that the front camera standard is raised slightly. That allows me to exclude foreground and still keep perspective. It is much more effective than tilting the whole camera back and a major feature of a view camera. The Fuji Quickload Holder is on the back of the camera and the silver packets on my pack are the Quickload film-Velvia, of course.

That is a pretty typical location set up. A pack full of gear, a tripod, and the big camera.

Note- the mountains in the background are the Christmas Mountains (of frequent news). I hope they can be added to BBNP and I look forward to making a visit to them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Sierra Ponce

Looking down river and down the length of the Sierra Ponce. The near vertical wall rises 1500 feet and runs for miles. The Rio Grande has carved its way through this over eons.

This view is right where the river exits Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio hooks a quick right and follows the wall for a mile or so before turning southeast though the desert.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wait 15 Minutes

There is an old saying in Texas that if you do not like the weather-wait 15 minutes. Boy is that ever true.

I awoke to cloudless skies one morning and left camp trying to decide where to go. I thought with totally clear sky that the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon would be good. As I started the 10 minute drive I began to see clouds. I parked at the canyon entrance and as I gathered my gear I noticed the sky was completely clouded over.

This changed everything. I now had thoughts of a big sunrise filling the sky so I walked up the hill into the canyon and hoped to face east.

I found a great view, set up the camera and waited for the dawn. The sky never went orange. The clouds had moved so fast that it was a cool gray dawn.

Then just as the sun rose the clouds began to part behind me and clear sky began to happen again. That was when I made this image. Within another 20 minutes the sky was clear again.

I did not get the dramatic sunrise I wanted, but I sure had an interesting sky. From clear to cloudy to clear in about an hour.