Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande

As the sky remained clear in Big Bend day after day I decided that another morning image to try was to go back to Santa Elena Canyon and photograph from the edge of the Rio Grande.

I made my way down to the river in the dark and walked until I had a decent foreground of water and rocks and not just mud.  The mud was the big concern as I was not keen to be walking back and forth in it.  I found a spot I could bounce across some rocks and hopefully avoid it.

I moved the tripod out into the water and started setting up.

The canyon is so big that the 75mm was the lens to use.  That is as wide as I go and it makes me wish I had the 47XL.

I knew the color would be intense on the rock and decided that classic Velvia50 was the way to go.

I used a soft edge grad filter to tone down the sky a bit and waited.

I set up the camera and worked on focus and then waited.

When the light first hit the top of the wall I got the middle image.  

Then quickly, while I reloaded film the light made its way down the wall and I got the third image.

I added a couple of more images for good measure and bracketed too.  All told I shot 8 sheets that morning.  That was a big day for me.  Luckily I got a couple of nice ones.

If you ever make it to Big Bend be sure to plan for a sunrise from here. You will be glad you did.

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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

El Capitan

El Capitan is one of the signature mountains of west Texas.  It might even be THE signature mountain of all of Texas.  It is a beacon visible for many miles across the desert and the views of it from above and below are spectacular.

El Capitan marks the end of the Guadalupe Mountains.  The mountians end here in a vertical cliff that is "V" shaped with the pint of the "V" being El Capitan.  See from above  it is like the prow of a ship, hence the name.  It is impressive.  It's neighbor is Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in the state of Texas.  Today both are part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The mountain and the park are a hidden gem of the park system and a favorite photograph destination.

The Guadalupes, or Guads as we call them, rise up out of the desert and reach an elevation of just under 9,000 feet.  From the salt basin to its west that is over a mile of elevation gain.  Dramatic vistas, desert canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, and hidden in the mountains, aspen, pines and maples. 
Here is what I would call the normal view of El Cap.  This is taken from the second rest area in Guadalupe Pass and right beneath the peak.  I arrived at the park on a very clear sky morning and decided to go with this location as I could fill most of the frame with the mountain and not have too much sky.

It helped that the winds were calm too as this location is often far too windy for large format work.

I went with the longer lens (210mm I think-I don't make notes he says sheepishly......) and tried to get that first light on the peak.

The light was warm but not that awesome orange glow I was hoping for.  I shot a couple of sheets but but the time the cliffs were all lit, I knew the best was already over.

I packed up and started down the mountain toward the salt flats and my mind was already on a plate of huevos rancheros in Dell City.........