Real Color II
The question “Is the color real?” in sunrise and sunset images led to a previous article pointing out how time of day can drastically alter the color of a landscape. The same question is asked of the blue rock found in Upper Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Reservation near Page Arizona, an area on the Colorado Plateau. The canyon is dimly lit so it is easy to miss. But a camera can expose the scene as in normal daylight and bring out subtle colors. Or does the camera create the blue?
A few years earlier, I was photographing in Zion Nation Park in Utah in the Kolob Canyon section on the west side and ran across this rock. The park ranger I talked to about the rock didn't say what caused the blue color but stated is came from a higher elevation in the park. Further searching on the internet unearthed (pun intended...) the abstract to the paper “Clay Minerals in the Morrison Formation on the Colorado Plateau” by W.D. Keller. In the abstract Keller attributes blue color in the Lone Tree and Blue Mesas north of Uravan, Colorado to illite. Blue has also been attributed to iron in a particular oxidation state.
Since both regions are part of the Colorado Plateau, it makes the Antelope Canyon image blue color more plausible. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
2013 Photographic Finale
I finished the 2013 photographic year in Death Valley, California and the Golden Spike National Historical Site in Utah where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The Golden Spike site holds an annual “steam demonstration” at the end of December where they bring out one of the two replica historical steam engines present at the 1869 rail joining ceremony. The steam and smoke show well in the cold, dry air. This year it was No, 119 and resulted in great photography!
I will use my 100-400 mm lens the next time I shoot this occasion as the image above had to be cropped a lot. The most steam is produced as the engine is accelerating toward the visitor center and the engine is still relatively far away. Also, when you shoot in snow, check your exposures to make sure the snow isn't fooling your camera's metering. Typically that can cause underexposure so you need to overexpose a scene with a lot of snow in the image (or spot meter what you want properly exposed).
A common perception of Death Valley is that it is very hot and drab. Well, not in late December! A short hike from the Artist's Pallet parking lot is certainly not drab. Nor is it hot – during this time of the year that is. Note that a polarizer filter can often help with color saturation by controlling glare.
You often do have to be careful with your camera equipment due to blowing sand on the sand dunes. The benefit of blowing sand is that it covers the footprints of dune hikers overnight. It is a popular part of the park and there can be a lot of footprints. Unfortunately there was not much wind during my stay, and foot prints limited the usable images . Death Valley is also a great place for astrophotography. The night sky is spectacular.
The nearby ghost town of Rhyolite has its “ghosts” to hold your interest and liven things up (pun intended...).
I made my plans early in 2013 for a September trip to Yosemite and Mono Lake in California and the Maroon Bells in Colorado. Reservations and prepayments were made. So far, so good.
Then, a careless hunter started a major forest fire north of Yosemite when he just had to have a campfire one afternoon during a major drought when open fires were banned. (He was caught leaving the area as the fire team was coming in). But I was committed so off I went.
First of all, the waterfalls were practically nonexistent due to the time of year plus the drought. And by the way, there was flooding just east of Yosemite in Nevada. I had to detour around one of them! But the reflections were lovely due to the placid Merced River. Everything was fine in the Yosemite area for the first few days. The smoke went north and east (and made it as far as Detroit). But then the winds shifted. The view from Washburn point looked like this.
The next day's view from Glacier Point looked like this.
In the days of film, game over. Either the sky or the valleys are unacceptable. But this is the digital age. I took a sky from the first day and, in Photoshop, inserted it into the sky from the second day using layers. The result after a lot of work is this
I think it is a big improvement. Do you? So with digital a lot of wasted time and money can be salvaged. Other images could not be saved and will require another trip.
This type of editing is a no-no for documentary photography as the National Geographic Magazine knows. A photographer moved an Egyptian Pyramid to make the image look better and it was picked for the cover. The editors didn't catch it but readers did. Then the editors did catch a lot of flak! But my fine art photography has a different goal. I want to present a scene as I felt it, as it is when it lives up to its potential. I salt to taste digitally speaking! But nothing is new here. Ansel Adams used his darkroom like I use Adobe Lightroom, except I have much more flexibility. His Moonrise over Hernandez print changed a lot over the years for instance. A lot of “editing” was done with filters on the camera lens. Then, color film users picked the film they used based at least in part on its color bias. Warm colors, cool colors, high or low contrast, etc. All this to allow a photographer to present a scene to his/her liking, which extends in the digital age to... salvage operations!