Monday, April 21, 2014

The Power of Light

     When you view my portfolio, you will quickly see that the Southwest is among my top photographic destinations. The appeal to me is how the light transforms a barren desert environment from a land of dry, harsh conditions, into a three dimensionality of reflected light on sandstone, with aquamarine water pools, rivers, and beautiful color. The conditions can be unforgiving at times, and a day or more of withstanding the dry heat and sun will reward one with just a few minutes of a beautiful soft glow at the beginning and end of every day. The soft light just before dusk, and just after dawn, transforms the colors of the sandstone in a variety of ways. One particular place that illustrates this phenomenon well is Coyote Buttes North around the Utah/Arizona border. A short hike past the iconic "Wave" formation is a second formation that many people either don't know about, or don't bother sticking around until sunset to photograph. I've heard many people even say they walked right past it. Why? During the day, the sandstone is washed out from the bright sunlight, and may be unrecognizable to those who have only seen it in photographs taken very late in the day.
     The first shot ("Encore" - Prints Available) was taken just a few moments before the sun set below the horizon. The last light of the sun caused the sandstone to "glow" in warm, soft light.  The background hills were in shadow, and thus rendered very dark relative to the direct illumination on the rock.
     The second shot ("Candyland" - Prints Available) was taken just a few moments after the sun set. The red, pink, and orange hues not visible with direct light immediately showed in the afterglow of the sun. Only about 5-10 minutes had lapsed between the first and second shot.
     As you can see, the power of light caused a complete transformation in the color and contrast, and each shot has a completely different mood to it.


     The Southwest is full of hidden gems, and there are many more similar examples that can be found. Photography in the southwest can be quite rewarding, but does require patience, pre-visualizaion, and being in the right place at the right time. See more on my website: Exploring Light Photography.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Light at Stud Horse Point

Recently I spent several days in Northern Arizona, with stops in Coyote Buttes, Whitepocket, and remote slot canyons, to name a few. Some popular spots, some not so well known. I needed the dichotomy of bright skies during the day to give reflected light in the slot canyons, and big skies at night for my sunset and sunrise shoots. One particular day I got an incredible show of light at Stud Horse Point. Stud Horse point is an oft-photographed location, both because of its visual interest, and because it is readily accessible, just a short drive outside Page, Arizona. I drove there mid afternoon one day, but had no data access prior to check the weather conditions. There were 40mph winds all afternoon, progressing into the early evening. Being that it was my first time to the area, I did some scouting, but ended up having to seek refuge in my car from time to time after getting blasted with sand in those strong winds. In doing so, I missed a brief rainbow (shucks), but late in the afternoon noticed a wonderful Virga formation in the sky.

As the afternoon progressed towards sunset, the winds were unrelenting. There were a lot of clouds, but a clear break towards the west at the horizon. So I knew that something special would happen at sunset. As soon as the sun went down, the sky exploded with under lighting. I shot multiple compositions over the course of the 15 minutes or so the sky was on fire, constantly changing and shooting towards the color as best I could. Several photos worked out well, but none as good as this one.

It was truly spectacular to witness these changing conditions (on my birthday no less). Around 8pm the winds subsided, and I slept at Stud Horse Point without another soul around for miles. The sky cleared overnight, giving me my second wish of clear skies for shot canyon photography the following day.