Archive for the ‘Sky and Clouds’ Category

#132 No-Color Sunset

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Click for larger

I left in all the black and all the white

When is black and white better than color?

A: When the color gets in the way.

This photograph has spectacular color, straight out of the camera with no darkroom magic applied, but the gesture of the sky was obscured, the rush and scurry of the clouds was lost, amidst all the flash and spectacle. With color, this is just another sunset. It’s better this way.

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BW, as it’s called in short-hand-speak, is a difficult discipline. To be consistently successful, one must learn to see not only with the color sense shut off, but must understand the various colored filters and how they effect the light as it connects with the film. The scene must be embraced for it’s tone and not for it’s hue. My friend, Anna Lee Keefer, is a black&white photographer of sensibility and subtly, who creates with great intent. You can see some of her stuff, in collaboration with Ian Talbot, here.

Rating 4.50 out of 5

#128 Another Wyoming Sunset

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Another Wyoming Sunset

An experiment in selective color

I’ve mentioned that these works

Are sketches or studies, and this is certainly the case here. I wanted to find out how emotional responses would change as color is removed from a scene, especially one that had been filled with very wild color to begin with. I took nearly every color away from this sunset. No greens, no yellows, nor browns (which, in fact, are a class of yellows), leaving only a bit of red, a touch of blue and a good deal of what we photographers call ‘tonal values;’ that is to say, blacks and grays. Compare this photograph with this one, which was made in the same place and only a few minutes earlier, but it was developed in a wholly different way.

I think here you can see the importance of the palette of colors used by an artist. Another example to illustrate: Monet’s painting technique is not greatly different from Van Gogh’s, but the emotional impact is much changed by the palette of each painter.

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And I’d like to remind you that I’m giving away a prize for Thanksgiving. To get your chance to win, you can tweet this page, along with my @walterhawn handle or post a comment here or on any page of this blog, or post to my Facebook profile. The complete details are here, or at the “A Thanksgiving Prize” link above. And I’m offering a splendid price on certain works to those who enter the prize drawing.

Rating 4.33 out of 5

#122 Broad Valley

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Broad Valley

It's really a canyon

The actual valley is far to the east

Beyond the end of the canyon, but hardly anybody calls that the Platte Valley. It is simply known as ‘the flat,’ which, oddly enough is what ‘Platte’ means. It continues on until the Platte River intersects the Missouri. What we see here is called Jackson Canyon, even though it’s nowhere near Jackson’s Hole, which is really a valley. The early settlers were not real sticklers for nomenclature.

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I have discovered that the harsh mid-day sun of autumn produces fine conditions for black and white photography, so you are certain to see more of that here.

Rating 4.50 out of 5

#121 They Called These, “The Badlands”

Monday, November 1st, 2010

They Called These, "The Badlands"

They hadn't seen Utah, yet

Never seen anything like this

They said, in their letters home. A lot of the Westering pilgrims (as they were called, then) kept letter diaries and wrote copiously about the trail and the way west, in letters dated every day, written to parents, sweethearts or sometimes even just to the town where they grew up. Most letters we know about were finally posted someplace in Oregon or California, and made their way back East on ships, by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Lines of communication were much longer, and harder, back then.

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As I was lining up this photograph, a fellow dressed all in camouflage, head to toe, with a bow strung across his back, rolled up on a four-wheeler. I wore shorts and a t-shirt. He wanted to know if I’d seen any elk. I said “no.” and he roared off. I suppose, neither had he. His dust effected the scene for probably three or four minutes. I had to wait it out, but still, you can see that some of it settled on my lens.

Rating 4.29 out of 5

#120 Purple Mountains, Purple Sage

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Purple Mountains, Purple Sage

Somewhere, off to the right, is the ghost town of Eadsville

Zane Grey knew what he was talking about

With his purple sage and all. It is rare that you can see it in today’s West, however. For the sage brush to show purple, it requires a wet winter and wetter spring. It seems that, as the West becomes drier, that happens less and less often. I’ve only seen purple sage twice in my life out here. This sage is not really purple in full daylight, but it looks darned good at twilight.

Rating 4.55 out of 5

#119 The Moon Is High

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

The Moon Is High

The sky is wide

After all these years

I’m still astounded at how clear the air can be of an evening in Wyoming. The light of the sun takes on this glow a few minutes before it goes below the horizon and gives even that industrial building on the hill a kind of calm and solemn dignity.

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To photograph a nearly blank sky is not especially hard. It’s not hard at all to set the proper exposure, but you do get to see every speck of dust on your lens and sensor. Three cheers for digital dust removal!
Rating 3.00 out of 5

#117 Full Moon Rising

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Full Moon Rising

The night is large

We are all held in the spell

As the sky darkens but for one large shining object. The fitful breeze quickens, and the stars are not yet visible in the cloudless sky. Far off, a coyote yips and another answers. We shiver.

There is baseball on the TV.

Rating 4.40 out of 5

#116 Another Wyoming Sunset

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Another Wyoming Sunset

The stars soon will shine

Is It Any Wonder

That I live in Wyoming? The only other place I know with light shows like this is New Mexico. Here, I have a mountain set just so, and no state income tax.

I made eight or ten exposures of this sunset, far more than I usually do of any given subject, because you never know when you’ll encounter the “decisive moment,” to borrow a phrase from Cartier-Bresson. This particular exposure was, in my mind, at the time, a sort of throw-away thing. I was sure I had already made better. Depending on taste, perhaps so, but I like the repeated rhythm of the trees and the clouds, and the delicate but electric salmon pink of the high-up clouds is beyond compare.

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Again, I have no ‘technical information.’ I seldom note the aperture and shutter speed, but I can tell you that I usually use an f16 with whatever the meter says is appropriate for the shutter. This was done with my 50mm lens, which is more or less like a 28mm on a standard 35mm camera.

Rating 4.33 out of 5

#114 Long Time Livin’

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Long Time Livein'

And not scared of dying

This lonely, old pine

I found under strong mid-day sunlight at the top of Muddy Mountain, amongst these rocks in the midst of a scree field. Only a little grass grows nearby, and only very near to the rocks. The scree covers an acre or so, and I’d guess there is less than a quarter acre of grass there. These rocks are what allow the tree to live, and the grass to grow, by catching the rain and snow and protecting it from evaporation. The sky was deep and nearly clear, and the wind whipped unmercifully across the plateau.

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I’d been looking for a good monochrome subject, and this tree and its rocks seemed choice: Stark and bold, with plenty of space around. Harsh light, lots of strong, defined lines, and not much color to begin with. I studied landscape photography using the work of Ansel Adams, and this seems to me to be one of my closest approaches to his level of work.

Rating 4.25 out of 5

#113 The Wind Flies Free

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The Wind Flies Free

Only one tree stands in the way

The Wyoming Wind Is Famous

In story and song. But we who live here don’t really understand its effects on those who arrive from elsewhere. To us, a 30 mile-an-hour breeze is refreshing. To a person from the mid-west, it’s a storm warning. We see video of winds stripping shingles from California roofs and we shake our heads and say, “Should have used t-locks. Wouldn’t do that.” We never have the doors of our cars ripped off the hinges, because we always hold tight. And so on. The wind is, even though even we occasionally complain about it, our friend, sometimes unruly but known and tolerated and whose company we would miss dreadfully if it ever went away.

This is the work I sent out on a postcard for the 2011 “Liberate Your Art” Swap. You can find many of the other participants here.

Rating 4.00 out of 5

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