Colorado Plateau 2011: Day 4

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday, I found two potential shooting locations. These locations, roughly a mile apart, must be shot at noon. As much as I would love to take both photos in one day, these photos will require two separate trips into the canyon.

I spent the morning packing gear. I’m bringing my RW810 8×10 field camera, 2 lenses (150mm & 300mm), several film holders, my tripod, and plenty of water. Hauling a heavy pack wasn’t going to be fun, but I was anxious to take my first shot.

Did I mention it was going to be hot today? This is the first day of the summer season with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Lucky me. At least I don’t have to worry about my film getting cooked. My solar cooling device worked great yesterday.

My subject today is located 4 to 5 miles down the canyon. It is a narrow passage with a  sandy path that bends gently to the right. Though the corridor is dark, the path is mysteriously illuminated by diffused light.

I setup my camera, and chose to use a 300mm lens (equivalent to a 50mm on 35mm). I struggled with the composition. The wall to my left posed a significant depth of field issue, and I was unsure how much of it to include.

Conflicted over my choice of composition, I stepped away from my camera. I sat on a rock at the foot of the cliff, some 50 feet from my camera. I’m usually far more decisive when it comes to composition. Why was I struggling?  I just couldn’t make sense of this scene. To my eyes, the depth was impressive, but it was difficult to portray on the ground glass.

Distant footsteps echoed off the chiseled sandstone walls.

Through a cloud of dust, a hiker emerged from the very path I was pondering. He was dwarfed by the towering cliffs that lined this narrow passage.

“Hello,” said the hiker. His voice was familiar.

It was Richard, the man with the dead car battery from Day 2. We chatted a while about nearby locations, then he set out to explore the rest of the canyon. Small world.

Soon after Richard left, my location was bathed in reflected light.

I took two shots; one on Fuji Velvia 50 (25 sec @ f/45) and the other on Kodak Ektar 100 (15 sec @ f/45).

The Velvia 50 shot was metered at 15 seconds, but I added 10 seconds to correct for reciprocity failure.

Kodak does not provide reciprocity failure information for Ektar, but it’s generally a good idea to overexpose negative film to maintain shadow detail.  I gave the Ektar exposure an added stop of light. In the past, this has worked well for slot canyon shots.

Secret Passage: Velvia 50 (8x10), 25 sec @ f/45

I’m conflicted about my choice of composition, and upon seeing the film, I wasn’t really happy with the result. Put simply, it isn’t the shot I was hoping for. On another note, I’m pleased to say that the exposure is perfect. The bright wall on the right is metered at +1.5, the dark region up top is metered at -2.2, and the foreground sand is metered at +1.8.

On my way back to camp, I spotted an impressive glow. A notch in the canyon wall allowed a shaft of light to illuminate a large recessed area on the opposing wall. The direct light was hidden from view, but a mysterious glow illuminated the surrounding area.

The quality of light was impressive, but I couldn’t find a composition. Featureless pink sand covered the floor of the canyon, and the walls were far apart. The canyon felt disjointed, and the sandy void would dominate the composition. As if this wasn’t enough, a logjam hovered overhead just down stream. Including this mangled, looming, monstrosity would be a distraction. I noted the time of this glow and continued back to camp.

While recording a closing video on my way back out of the wash, my Panasonic TM700 video camera displayed an error. I don’t recall the exact message, but it had to do with “rebuilding data.” The camera displayed the error for 30 seconds, then returned to normal.

I switched my video camera to play mode — Something was wrong.

I only saw the first half of my footage for the day. My video clips leading up to the shot was there, but everything after was wiped clean. To some people, this might have been frustrating, but I had some fun with it.

12 Responses to “Colorado Plateau 2011: Day 4”

  1. Patrik Larsson Says:

    Haha I just love your humor Ben! Ok images ain´t bad either. 😉

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I certainly had a fun time with an otherwise not so good situation with the failure of a memory card.

  2. Ron Carroll Says:

    Ben, I really enjoyed the video, especially the reconstruction of the missing piece. But the photo left me scratching my head. It doesn’t seem to have the depth and the glow of your past work. I was a bit confused by your narrative; is the “glow” you referred to in the shot that your posted? Or in a shot not taken? Sorry to be sounding so negative here, but the photo looks flat to me, and not on a par with your other work. Then again, maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe you were preoccupied with looking out for rattlesnakes…

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I definitely agree with you Ron. This was more of a subtle glow, but it’s certainly nothing like what the big glows can be. I thought maybe the Ektar would hold potential for a B&W conversion (square crop), but I’m still undecided on that. The strong glow I found was a separate glow on the way back to my truck, but I didn’t shoot that one — it was difficult to find any sort of composition. Many of the photos I show here on my blog will never see the light of day.

  3. Doug Says:

    That’s a gorgeous image Ben. I am amazed how much patience you have stalking these shots. You have certainly peaked my interest in shooting 8×10 though I’m not sure I have the patience.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Doug! 8×10 is a blast to shoot, but all the conditions need to be just right. When the shots turn out, it is an amazing experience to examine them on a light table.

      • Doug Says:

        Yea I understand. I’ve shot a lot of 4×5 and it’s more or less the same in that regard, except for the “tiny” transparencies. I wouldn’t trade any of my good 4×5 shots for the same one made with my Leaf Aptus 75S.

  4. bob Says:

    Ben, what a picture, wow, what color, the shades of color knock my eyes out. Your the greatest, be safe.

  5. Andreas Resch Says:

    Kudos for your technical improvements, Ben. The start of the video looks really pro and one almost forgets that this is a one-man-job you do out there. Throwing all your knowledge, imagination and comical creativity into a pot your only one random circumstance away from a documentation or tv show. Can’t decide if that show will be about photography or sketching yet 😉

    BTW … awesome shot – although seeing an 8×10 slide in such a small version is a bit of a tragedy.

    Can’t wait to see your next videos. Thanks for all your effort. I hope many people appreciate it.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks for the kind words Andreas. The beauty of capturing video on these trips is that it gives me something else to do during the down time. As it turns out, video is yet another way to show the beauty of a location. There are times that a photo just won’t do. Even when I fail to don’t walk away with a photo I’m truly excited about, I at least have the video to take everyone else along for the ride.

  6. bob Says:

    Ben, I cant believe how beautiful that picture is, Great shot, great color and texture

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