Image No. 98 thru 101 – Giving Thanks

TRIP POST

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”

Ansel Adams

 

Clearing Storm - Cape Royal - Grand Canyon NP, AZ

Image No. 98 – Clearing Storm – Cape Royal – Grand Canyon NP, AZ  © jj raia

There were so many reasons for which to be thankful on this trip. In fact on the last day when I was completely alone at Shoshone Point, after having witnessed a wonderful sunrise overlooking the Grand Canyon, I lingered a bit before hiking back to give thanks for being privileged to be there, for having the opportunity to experience all that I had and for the trip’s safe conclusion without mishap, injury or illness.
But first and foremost I am thankful for the good fortune to have met my wife over 37 years ago and her generosity to encourage me to go on this adventure. “The Gift of Time” has always been a phrase we have used in our family for years, but this was a gift beyond all others. It was truly a selfless act stemming from the kindness I saw in her the very first day we met. I will always be thankful for having met her, and to her for this extraordinary gift…it will be treasured forever.

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Image No. 93 thru No. 97 – A Hint of People

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City Lights at Dawn - Colorado NM, CO

Image No. 93 –  City Lights at Dawn – Colorado NM, CO. © jj raia

Since I have always centered my photography around the landscape, it should come as no surprise that generally, people do not appear in my images. In fact, I usually try not to include anything that shows the influence of man. No roads, no fences, no buildings, no farms. When I was doing most of my work shooting in New Jersey, that turned out to be a difficult proposition, especially around dawn or sunset when street lights were on and Photoshop hadn’t been invented yet. At other times, I had to clean up areas to eliminate beer cans, soda bottles or cigarette butts from a scene, even going so far as fishing a car tire from a lake so it wouldn’t appear within the frame. But when I unexpectedly came upon Cisco, the abandoned town, I got sucked in immediately and had to record it in some way. Another time, Denis knew of a small cabin and we stopped there for him to photograph it, but when he saw I didn’t take out my camera, he insisted I photograph it because it was so beautiful (which it was) surrounded by snow covered aspens and mountains. And so I did. At Cape Royal in the Grand Canyon, when my sunrise solitude was broken by a young couple who came just after sunrise and sat in front of me to gaze into that amazing view, I had to trip the shutter to include them. It was a classic Kodak landscape right down to the red jacket.

Aspens and Fence  © jj raia

Aspens and Fence © jj raia

So on this trip, I stretched out a bit from my normal routines and tried some light painting during long exposures of the Milky Way, tried motion blurs of aspens, photographed old buildings and, on rare occasions, actually included people, or at least a hint of them.

 

Hiker - Bryce Canyon NP, UT

Image No. 94 – Hiker – Bryce Canyon NP, UT © jj raia

Cape Royal, Grand Canyon NP, AZ

Image No. 95 – Cape Royal, Grand Canyon NP, AZ  © jj raia

Autumn Frosting - Uncompahgre National Forest, CO

Image No. 97 – Autumn Frosting – Uncompahgre National Forest, CO  © jj raia

Window - Cisco, UT

Image No. 96 – Window – Cisco, UT  © jj raia

 

Image No. 87 thru No. 92 – Water

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Image No. 87 – Approaching Storm – Independence Pass, CO  © jj raia

Image No. 87 thru No. 92 – Water
The addition of water in an image will generally add a bit of interest to a scene, but in order to do so, the right conditions have to exist. For reflections, ideally the water should be very calm without ripples so that what is reflected is at least recognizable (mirrorlike would be the absolute ideal – see Image No. 11 ). Another condition that is sometimes neglected to be taken into account is it is best that the water is completely in shadow while what is reflected is in sunshine to have a good contrasty reflection. Also important to remember is that reflections are generally about two-stops darker than what is reflected, so a split neutral-density filter helps balance the light between the two in camera thereby avoiding overexposing your reflected object and reducing the amount of post processing needed later on. If there are small ripples in the water, then an exposure of about 1/15 second or faster will generally stop those movements if that is the desired result, or slower exposure will “blend” those together, which can also be interesting.

Image No. 85 and N0. 86 – The Dilemma

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Horseshoe Bend - Glen Canyon NRA, AZ

Image No. 85 – Horseshoe Bend – Glen Canyon NRA, AZ  © jj raia

During the trip, I planned on visiting Horseshoe Bend, another iconic location near Page where the Colorado River bends back on itself and the viewpoint, just off Route 89, is hundreds of feet above. I wanted to get there for sunset and hopefully have some wonderful clouds to light up just as the sun went down. Well, because of the torrential rains during August, a section of Route 89, the only highway to get directly there from my location, turned out to be closed and I had to travel over an hour extra to detour around the site. As I was driving, I knew I would never make it, but to make things worse, the sky held the promise of a spectacular sunset. And sure enough, it was spectacular. So I pulled over to the side of the road and captured the sunset, just not at Horseshoe Bend. I figured, in my drive around the detour, I was just a few miles due east of the Bend and the sky would have lined up with the Bend in the same way as where I was, and looking in the same direction. I could shoot the sunset here, shoot the Bend the next day and blend the two images together in Photoshop and by using two images, get much more resolution for the single image; roughly 72 megapixels instead of 36!

Another image also required the same process. In the Bisti Badlands after photographing a unique sky in the east after sunset without having found a meaningful foreground, I did find a spot a few hundred yards away that was interesting that was photographed in near darkness, well after the alpenglow had faded.

My dilemma is this: do the ends justify the means? Do we fuse two images together? If it is permissible, is it then morally acceptable to take a sunset from Arizona and place it with a landscape from Mississippi taken six months later? Where is the line drawn? Should we, as photographers simply say no, or as an artist, are we free to create a scene of our own choosing?

Hill Remains and Eastern Sky - Bisti Badlands, NM

Image No. 86 – Hill Remains and Eastern Sky – Bisti Badlands, NM  © jj raia

Image No. 72 thru No. 79 – The Real Aspens

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Aspen Grove - North Rim, Grand Canyon, AZ

Image No. 72 –  Aspen Grove – North Rim, Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

 

Image No. 72 thru No. – The Real Aspens
It’s pretty obvious when an image of aspens is purposely blurred when it was originally taken, the intent being to create something more than the simple recording of what is in front of the camera. So when I take these images in sharp focus, I also keep that in mind as well and try to fill the frame with balanced graphic elements, either with or without a central focal point. Those without tend to have a more textural feel where the viewer themselves will find areas within the frame to explore, an object or a change in color or pattern, according to their own taste rather than having something neatly placed that is more obvious. In either case, blurred or not, the final result will hopefully lean towards an oil painting, a watercolor or a sketch.

 

Aspen Hillside - White River National Forest, CO

Image No. 73 – Aspen Hillside – White River National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Aspens - Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Image No.  74 – Aspens – Rio Grande National Forest, CO  © jj raia

Sunlit Tips - Dixie National Forest, UT  Forest, UT

Image No. 76 – Sunlit Tips – Dixie National Forest, UT Forest, UT  © jj raia

Last Leaves - Dixie National Forest, UT  Forest, UT

Image No. 77 – Last Leaves – Dixie National Forest, UT Forest, UT  © jj raia

Autumn Frosting near Owl Pass - Uncompahgre National Forest, CO

Image No. 78 – Autumn Frosting near Owl Pass – Uncompahgre National Forest, CO  © jj raia

Aspen Hillside No. 2 - Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Image No. 79 – Aspen Hillside above Big Meadow Reservoir – Rio Grande National Forest, CO  © jj raia

Image No. 64 thru No. 71 – The Aspen Blur Obsession Continues

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Full Aspen Blur near McClure Pass, CO

Image No. 64 – Aspen Blur near McClure Pass, CO  © jj raia

 

Image No. 64 thru No. 71 – The Aspen Obsession Continues
Although I didn’t include many other images of aspens after the “Obsession” post, images of these trees were always in the forefront of my thoughts almost the entire time I spent in Colorado. Whether it was blurred or sharp, leaves, trunks, mountainsides, valleys, backlit, side-lit, front lit, only the tips lit, at dusk or midday, sunny or cloudy, I was always on the lookout for an image of aspens. When I left Colorado, I thought I was done, but I found an abundance in Dixie National Forest in Utah and was also surprised to find them as the trip neared its end, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon!! I had a lot of fun doing the blurs, but also some of the sharply focused ones that looked like paintings by Jackson Pollock or Wolf Kahn. In any case, I added a few more here from the many, many that were taken. These are only some of the blurred images that show the range of styles that can be obtained by using some different techniques.

 

Aspen Blur - Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Image No. 65 – Aspen Blur – Rio Grande National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Aspen Blur No. 2 - North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ

Image No. 66 – Aspen Blur No. 2 – North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

 

Aspen Hillside- Uncompahgre National Forest, CO

Image No. 67 – Aspen Hillside- Uncompahgre National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Aspen Blur No.2 - Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Image No. 68 – Aspen Blur No.2 – Rio Grande National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Aspen Hillside and Fir - White River National Forest, CO

Image No. 69 – Aspen Hillside and Fir – White River National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Aspen Blur - Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Image No. 70 – Aspen Blur – Rio Grande National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

Abstract Aspens - Uncompahgre National Forest, CO

Image No. 71 – Abstract Aspens – Uncompahgre National Forest, CO  © jj raia

 

 

Image No. 59 thru No. 63 – The Milky Way

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Milky Way and Trees - Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO

Image No. 59 – Milky Way and Trees – Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO  © jj raia

Image No. 59 thru No. 63 – The Milky Way
On a clear moonless night, far away from the light pollution of our cities, a glance up at the night sky reveals what appears to be a faint swath of light. It is our own flat, pinwheel shaped center of our galaxy as seen looking through it’s center from one of it’s outer arms. What makes up this section of sky is anywhere from 200-300 billion stars (depending where you read), gas and dust about 100,000 light years across!! Knowing these facts makes you feel infinitesimal in the cosmos, and being alone in a dark, desolate landscape can be a bit intimidating. But the feelings of isolation will quickly disappear when you begin the business of trying to record this wonder in an image that conveys these feelings. Each image required an exposure of about 25-30 seconds to register the faint pinpoints of light on the camera sensor before they become blurry from the motion of the earth, which in itself is another bit of information that really puts your place in this universe into perspective. But what really made the whole process fun was lighting a tree and immediate surroundings with my headlamp, and an occasional passing car’s headlights, that really gave the images a more 3-dimensional feeling. Each frame during the session was different because you can never really duplicate what or for how long you light things with the headlamp. So I just kept at it until I found I was successful with a few in the 30-40 attempts. One thing I did notice is how my eyes were able to adjust and how much light actually is given off by just the stars.

Milky Way - Canyonlands NP, UT

Image No. 60 – Milky Way Canyonlands NP, UT  © jj raia

Milky Way and Snag - Capitol Reef NP, UT

Image No. 61 – Milky Way and Snag      Capitol Reef NP, UT  © jj raia

Milky Way and Snags - Grand Canyon, AZ

Image No. 62 – Milky Way and Snags  Grand Canyon NP, AZ  © jj raia

 

Milky Way and iconic Pine - Zion NP, UT

Image No. 63 – Milky Way and iconic Pine – Zion NP, UT  © jj raia

 

Image No. 52 thru No. 58 – The Grandest Canyon

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First Light from Yaki Point - Grand Canyon NP, AZ

Image No. 52 – First Light from Yaki Point – Grand Canyon NP, AZ  © jj raia

 

Image No. 52 thru No. 58 – The Grandest Canyon
There is nothing that can prepare a person before seeing the Grand Canyon, especially for the first time. Words cannot describe it and photographs, no matter how dramatic with passing storms at sunset or sublime viewpoints, can ever do justice to the power and enormity of it. In fact, just as we do not fully comprehend the distances involved or the number of individual stars when we look at the sky at night, the same holds true when viewing the Grand Canyon. It is just beyond our ability to understand what we are seeing; it is just too far from the realm of normal for us to “compute”. And yet, even though I completely understood the futility of the attempt, I was still drawn to record it in some way.

Morning Light at Cape Royal - Grand Canyon NP, AZ

No. 53 – Cape Royal – Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

Point Imperial - Grand Canyon NP, AZ

No. 54 – Point Imperial – Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. 55 – Alter Stone – Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

Sunset at Cape Royal - Grand Canyon NP, AZ

No. 56 – Cape Royal – Grand Canyon NP, AZ  © jj raia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. 57 – Sundown at Mojave Point – Grand Canyon, AZ.  © jj raia

Sunset Clouds from Mojave Point - Grand Canyon, AZ

No. 58 – Sunset Clouds from Mojave Point – Grand Canyon, AZ  © jj raia

Image 49 thru No. 51 – The Slot

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Sky and Slot - Antelope Canyon, AZ

Image No. 49 – Sky and Slot – Antelope Canyon, AZ   © jj raia

Image No. 49 thru No. 51 – The Slot
To walk in a slot canyon is a unique experience. Standing within a slit of rock about 50-100 feet below the surface can be a bit claustrophobic, but it can also be exhilarating and awe inspiring. One of the world’s most famous of these is Antelope Canyon just outside Page, Arizona.
The only drawback to the experience is that you are squeezed into it with literally hundreds of others from around the world. The feeling at times is that of rush hour in the subways of New York. My first visit many years ago was quite different. Then, you paid a rather stiff fee and were allowed to wander around at your leisure for as long as you wished. Now, you pay an even stiffer fee (cash only, please) and you either go with a group and a guide for a short limited time, or for an additional fee (you must have a tripod), you can go on your own but are limited to two hours!! That wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the other hundred folks there with you making it difficult to move along since in many spots, if one person stops, they hold up the progress of all those behind. But there are so many people taking self portraits, I almost lost it a few times while waiting for these people to record themselves!! Does a person really need a picture of themselves every ten feet along the path!?!? Or an individual picture with every person in their group!!

Bush and Sandstone Wall - Glen Canyon NRA, AZ  © jj raia

Image 50 – Bush and Sandstone Wall – Glen Canyon NRA, AZ  © jj raia

I think my time there was definitely influenced by the carnival atmosphere. I just never made a connection to the images I was taking as I did so many other times previously on the trip. I think the photos I returned with reflect that, especially after viewing them all and not really seeing much that really struck me as worthy of the place.

 

Circular Erosion - Antelope Canyon, AZ

Image No. 51 – Circular Erosion – Antelope Canyon, AZ  © jj raia