Sunday, November 22, 2009

Light+Shadow=Pure Form


Finally working up some presentable frames from Death Valley a few weeks ago...
For the first night, we stayed right by the Mesquite Flat Dunes at Stovepipe Wells, and getting some good stuff out on the dunes was my main goal, so I might as well start there. This is the perfect kind of place: a wilderness where you can just wander around anywhere and anytime you want, totally undisturbed and with a limitless source of ever-changing light, shadow and beautiful sweeping shapes to keep you busy for hours.
At first impression, you might think that you can just point anywhere and get a great shot, but I find it really challenging to pick out and isolate just the right portion of the whole scene that might make an interesting composition. A certain shape or shadow will catch my eye from a distance, but by the time I walk towards it to find the right distance and angle, it's all gone.. point of view is everything here. Also, some otherwise nice scenes can get messed up by all the tracks in the sand.. (you kind of hope for a windy night followed by a quiet morning, but can't honestly expect that kind of perfection very often). I used a long telephoto (which I rarely do) for many shots, and it seemed to be a really effective tool for once.
This is one of my favorites so far... shot in the very late afternoon just before sunset; the light seems like it was just swept across the foreground by a painter with a large brush... and I love the warm golden glow of the sand against the flowing, soft blue background shapes. The smaller image is actually the larger; you can click for a screen filling view of this one because I think it gives an interesting sense of scale, especially with the figure of the guy walking on the crest. I want to call this one "Sword in the Sand".. can you see my thinking for the title?

17 comments:

Dr. Jay SW said...

Wow...gorgeous photos...I think I drove across Death Valley once, maybe twenty years ago, broken hearted (it's a long story) and I think probably partaking in at least a couuple of things you're not supposed to do while driving...don't think I appreciated the scenery much...

Highton-Ridley said...

The top one is real peachy - in a class of its own. Great, flowing shapes and textures. Also love the question in my mind about the shadow coming in from the left of frame. Nice!

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Wow... Love them both for entirely different reasons... Wow....

roentarre said...

Desert photography is quite hard to do given that there is vastness in everything lacking silouette and edges to compose an image.

The lighting and the patterns are really great coming through your perspective.

Gaelyn said...

I really like the way the sand flows over the crest. You've captured it marvelously with just enough shadow. I like the sword in sand idea.
Guess I should have spent more time on the dunes. yet there was so much else to see.
I look forward to more of your DV captures Mark.

kyungmee said...

Beautiful images!! Espcially the first! Great curves, different shades from the shadows and feel of depth perseption..all flow nicely !

John`s Photography said...

Fabulous shots both but the first one is stunning. Very well composed.

Light and Voices said...

Undeniably this is the BEST photograph I have seen all year. Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours.
Joyce M

Patrick said...

Perfect image Mark !
You did a very good work with the current light.
I just regret we don't have any desert in provence :)

Mook said...

I love the infinite textures created in the sand, mesmerizing :)

Andy Richards said...

Very cool, Mark. I like these kinds of studies. They are a little like the ones I posted a few weeks back of reflections. I think one of my own weaknesses as an artist is seeing and presenting form. Great stuff!

storybeader said...

that second photo is so very strange, with the two ridges. Looks like an escalator, with the stairs running horizontal... Maybe it's just me. The textures are phenomenal!

The bush on the top looks so lonely - almost like a dust bowl scene.

The Retired One said...

The first one is my favorite.
I would love to be able to go there some time and just take photographs for a week or two!

betchai said...

you have very beautiful images, light + shadow = pure form indeed. it is so beautiful to be there, and you captured the beauty, serenity and inspiration so well from that place.

we did not go to darwin falls, i was not very sure if it is an all year waterfall or late winter or spring after some rain and snow, maybe some other time at spring. it is amazing to have waterfall there.

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floreta said...

really like the colors and contrast!

earthtoholly.com said...

These are gorgeous, Mark. I've been away for awhile and had forgotten just how beautiful your photography is. The only time I traveled through Death Valley we had started too late and got only a few late afternoon pics...the rest of the drive was at night and we missed everything. Bad timing.

In contrast, your timing is impeccable!