Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is This the Original Blog?

"Newspaper Rock" - Canyon de Chelly, AZ
Well then.. back from my 1800 mile road trip to the Navajo country of Northeast Arizona, and a bit of time off from the city, work and computers. This time I specifically wanted to photograph some of the wonderful cliff dwellings and rock art that are found all through this area, along with the incredible landscapes in and around the canyons. It'll take me some time to sort and process all the new material, but this one is a relatively straightforward shot of what is essentially an ancient form of blog.
Humans have been living here in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'SHAY, a Spanish corruption of the Navajo word "Tsegi" meaning canyon) for 5000 years. The Navajo people now own this land, but they are just the most recent inhabitants and all the various peoples before them are referred to by the generic term "Anasazi", meaning Ancient Ones, who apparently left here around 1300 A.D. and were followed first by the Hopi and then the Navajo.
Primitive rock art is divided into two types: pictographs, which are painted on with natural pigments... and petroglyphs, which are scratched or etched into the rock. Over the ages, various residents have embellished the walls of their home area with the symbolic art depicted here, each group having different techniques and styles to tell their stories. Some are fairly obvious in their meaning (notice the Spanish Conquistador-looking characters etched more lightly in the upper center area-they are a common subject and I have another really fantastic location for that later), some are not. What appear to be bullet holes in the rock are probably the work of some fairly recent vandal. My Navajo guide was explaining some of the symbols to me but I didn't really have time to take notes since I was busy trying to get as much work done as possible at each location while listening.
Some of the best Anasazi cliff dwellings in the Southwest are located here in this canyon, so I hope to have some interesting shots from my time photographing these, as well as more interesting facts and stories about the area which I will get into to accompany new images as I get to them.
My pictures are never pre-visialized or planned. I feel strongly that pictures must come from contact with things at the time and place of taking. At such times, I rely on intuitive, perceptual responses to guide me, using reason only after the final print is made to accept or reject the results of my work.
- Wynn Bullock

Monday, July 13, 2009

Twilight in Joshua Tree (and an Instructive Site to Visit)

All that I have achieved are these dreams locked in silver. - Paul Caponigro

No special background story to go with this one! It's a rather alien-looking scene (the kind I love) shot at twilight among the boulders in Joshua Tree National Park, which I have mentioned before here, in a February post. If I remember correctly, some smoke from a distant wildfire contributed to the nice colors in the sky at the horizon on an otherwise pure blue day. The granite formations in this area are very unique and interesting as you can see, but no Joshua trees appear in this shot.
In addition to mentioning as I go along here some of the classic photographers or artists that have influenced and inspired me, I want to occasionally point out a site that is especially interesting or informative. Therefore, for my "tip of the day", I give a big thumbs up to Georgia-based photographer Craig Tanner's video series "The Daily Critique". You can view it directly on the website where he is the principal contributor: The Mindful Eye (after a free sign-up), or find the entire archive easily here on YouTube. Each day, he takes a viewer-submitted image and analyzes it in a very informative and positive way, discussing composition, color theory, processing techniques and the general thought process behind art and photography. I'm pretty sure that no matter what your skill level, you will find it quite fun to watch. He has a very pleasant manner and more importantly, is excellent at articulating the concepts of visual language. A nice byproduct (to me at least) is that at the end of each segment, you will have spent 6-8 minutes really studying an image and getting a feel for what the photographer was thinking and trying to accomplish, as opposed to the quick few seconds glance we typically allow when cruising blogs and websites. His essay, "The Myth of Talent" is quite inspiring, also. Please check out a video or two and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Scene from the Narrows

What's just around that next bend in the stream? Well... you're never really sure, but the answer in this particular case turned out to be each scene more fantastic than the last. Well worth trekking all day in thigh-deep water up Utah's Virgin River. This image is another of my once passed-over rehab projects; not quite as much "wow" factor as some other shots I have from this area, but worthy of a look, I think. Truly a dream location for texture and color lovers like me.
The first hour or so on this trip I was diligent about hiking with my gear stored safely in a waterproof pack.. stopping to unpack and set up at each scene along the way. Way too much work under the circumstances and I found that I was passing up potentially good shots because of the extra effort involved. Eventually I had to say screw it... and took my chances walking with the camera around my neck and ready to pop on the tripod, even at the risk of stumbling and ruining the whole deal. Walking very slowly and deliberately through the water with the aid of a tall staff for support saved the day. Try walking on slippery rocks in cold moving water, with all your camera gear someday if you want to see what it's like:) Nothing to complain about in the end, though... got back in one piece with all gear intact and plenty of very cool images.

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment.