Sunday, October 30, 2011

Once upon a time

Once Upon a Time

It was a dark and stormy night
No scratch that
Feed in new sheet of paper.

Once upon a midnight dreary
Erase dreary
Once upon a midday last.

New sheet of paper
All nice and blank
Sip coffee
The lonely writer sat.

First chapters are the hardest
Begin with number two
The bed where he had lain was cold.

Light streamed through the basement window
Erase that line
Chapter 3
How long had the sun been up?

How long had he been dead
Here in his basement office
Not Writing
Goodbye cruel world.

The suicide note began
Still rolled into the typewriter
Crumpled paper
Body on the bed across the room.

J. Binford-Bell
October 2011

Painted Silence

Painted Silence

Surrounded by hills of painted sand
Whispering of a past long gone
Listening for wild calls of a forest primeval
Drowned beneath the roasting sun.

Walking a trail winding down
Into the erased past beneath
The hills of vivid color so silent
Swallowing every breath of air.

Above on the canyon rim
A reality turned unreal
Descending step by step into silence
Listening for whispers not there.

Surrounded by sands of a time long gone
Transfigured matter which speaks
In whispers not audible
Entombed in colored sands.

J. Binford-Bell
October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

San Mateo Mesa

San Mateo Mesa at sunset

My sister lives in a marvelous section of the state of New Mexico. It is filled with an abundance of little side trips you can take that get you beyond power poles and city boundaries. So when I arrived at San Fidel in the very early afternoon of our fist day of vacation we immediately loaded up the fur kids and headed for San Mateo Mesa to catch the late afternoon sun on the rock formations there.

My father maintained that Interstate 40 and 25 were positioned to go through the most boring parts of the state so people would just keep passing through. Surely they chose the routes for ease of building but the result was the same. Just off the highways lie the most interesting spots.

Lowering sun on outcrop of rock

The rock colors in this federally maintained land were fantastic. I found myself wondering if to a geologist they meant something because it is a mine exploration area and there are some mines on the fringes out of sight.

Hoodoos or vodoos or goblins

Wild variances in colors abound augmented by lichens. For a photographer it was a visual banquet.

And the rock formations are extremely varied. It was amazing to find it all in one short afternoon outing.

Debbie on top of a plateau

Ridge of rock

Reflection in a stock pond

Mesa View
San Mateo Mesa area is used for grazing and hunting and camping as well as mining. It is one of the federal lands where the combination seems to work well. I know two photographers that will probably be going back for more photos and off roading.

Friday, October 28, 2011

More of the Grand Canyon

The recent trip to the Grand Canyon was scheduled for one day. Actually we had only one goal and that was to photograph sunrise and its effects up the canyon walls. We left Flagstaff at 4 a.m. to make the west end of the south rim trail and set up tripods before dawn. No place to eat was open that early and so breakfast waited until after the sun was fully up. And so did the rest of the canyon.

Don't get me wrong. The Grand Canyon is spectacular in any light especially if you have never seen it. But mid day is not great for photographers. And the vistas can get like one more flavor at Baskin-Robbins. Both my sister and I have decided on a return trip of multiple days and staying a lot closer to the focus of our attentions. We want several sunrises and sunsets and we want more days to give all the views their due.

Where we photographed dawn is one of the most visited spots. As you head east on the rim highway the canyon broadens out and the sun rises higher in the sky. My first look at the photos I took along this path did not excite me. But just a bit of tweaking on brightness/contrast brought out the colors the digital megapixels had captured. And because the canyon is wider there are less dark shadows to distract from the patterns in the landscape below you. I found myself wishing I had taken more pictures in this expanse of canyon but I was dealing with a 3:30 am wake up and sensory overload.

Looking west at the Colorado River

At this point, near desert view, the canyon seems more like a broad valley than a grand canyon. But you get a good view of the Colorado River winding its way through the softer sandstone. Further east the river is in cased in harder rock and ergo the canyon narrower. Here it gets to meander.

Looking east at the Colorado

In this view you can see Hanse Rapid. If I remember correctly, when I went down the Colorado on a raft this was the first fun rapid. It is almost a mile long and has seven holes and crests. It is like riding a roller coaster. Doesn't look like much from up here.

The colors of the Grand Canyon are all about the layers of sediment and rock laid down at the bottom of a huge inland sea. The Colorado River exposes layer after layer after the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon also changes color based on the sun and where it is the sky. Here it was almost directly overhead. There are no shadows.

Now that I have seen the Canyon in dawn and full sun I definitely want to see it at sunset and in stormy weather.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

El Morro

Inscription at El Morro
 El Morro National Monument, previously called Inscription Rock, is one of those places I always meant to visit and never got around to until this last vacation. It actually was not on our list but as it was very close to my sister's house we fit it in on a down afternoon after doing the laundry. It had a couple things going for it besides close; One it was dog friendly, and two was very photogenic.

Oasis that was major draw of pioneers
Closeup of pool that is sheltered by the cliffs
There is a half mile self-guided trail that takes you around the base of Inscription Rock and points out all the significant inscriptions and gives a brief history of the lives of some of the "graffiti artists" after they left their mark. Frankly I found that very interesting but was frankly amazed that they carved rock in old world script. We have to get back to teaching penmanship in schools.

Beyond the easy trail is another mile and half trail that leads to the back of the cliffs and ultimately to the top. The Mesa-top Trail at El Morro National Monument was hand-carved into the sandstone by a Civil Works Administration (CWA) crew in 1933. CWA was one of the New Deal programs initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

Rounding the point

Looking back on the switchback trail

Taking a breather at the top
This trip was about exercise and photography but also about educating the pups to be good on leashes over difficult terrain and lots of steps, and patient while mistresses took pictures. They were stars.

And so were the shadow people
At the top new vistas
Nobody mentioned these views

One of the reasons beyond the perpetual pool at its base that inscription rock became so popular is that it was visible for miles across the open mesas. I would like to revisit this national monument and explore other trails in the boundaries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grand Canyon Dawn

South rim of Grand Canyon at Dawn
Of all the parks on our list to see this vacation I have been to the Grand Canyon most often. I first went after my senior year in high school. And in the '70's had the good fortune to go down the Colorado River on a raft twice. It is far more than a huge hole in the ground. And light changes it dramatically.

Our task this trip was to see it at dawn. My sister had accidentally had the great good fortune to catch it just this last year as the sun paints the canyon, so she knew where to go and set up our tripods and focus our cameras and wait for the sun.

Watching the canyon come alive is so spectacular that it is possible to forget to click the shutter. And other times I wanted three different cameras with tripods aimed in different directions. The only solution to this is plan another trip with multiple dawns to capture.

Current favorite

There are five inner canyons and at this point the river is so far down it cannot be seen. Does not prevent you from looking or even thinking you see it. On the Colorado at the bottom on both raft trips I kept looking for some sign of life at the rim. It is like being swallowed up by the earth. And at night there is only the sounds of the rapids and a zillion stars.

Where most tourists stood

I wish I had the money everyone had spent on camera equipment to capture this event that happens daily. One car parked next to us in the predawn disgorged three huge aluminum cases of equipment. Debbie and I grabbed our tripods and camera backpacks and beat them to the spot they wanted. First come and first serve. Many of the tourists perched on the canyon wall to the left in the above photo. Some ranged along the south rim trail and snapped at will without a tripod. I find myself wondering what they got in focus. And if those with iphones were able to see any details.

I must confess, however, that I found my photos a disappointment. Debbie with her super wide angle telephoto lens got some awesome ones. Next trip I am at least going to rent such a lens. I have left my photos of the canyon to near the end of my post processing frenzy because of my disappointment. But as I found out in college - darkroom can make a huge difference.

And I want to make use of my polarizing filter next trip. It proved to be such a great help in dealing with the desert light later in our trip.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mission San Esteban Ray at Acoma

Mission San Estaban Ray
The Mission San Estaban Ray at Acoma Pueblo dates from circa 1641, and has undergone reconstruction. All my pictures are of the exterior because photographs of the alter piece and the santos are not allowed. The mass of the mission and its nearness to the cemetery and other buildings also makes a total view impossible. Still the geometry of the structure makes it a wonderful photographic model.

Two bell towers

Detail of bell tower and original bell
School Balcony
The church and its interior and the art dating from the 1500's are all remarkably cared for even with the treatment the Spanish Catholic church gave the Acoma Natives. Two major Catholic feast days are still celebrated but the center of the spiritual life of the residents are the kivas.

The kivas on Acoma are not round but square as disguise from the Catholic friars and priests. Entrances are on the roof and ladders lead to them.

Kivas and ladders
Many of the residences are also entered from the roof and have ladders to enable access, however the ladders to the kivas are painted white. And the main kiva has a three upright ladder with cross piece to represent clouds. Not sure how this went along with the secret of kivas.

Main Kiva ladder

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chaco Views

Casa Bonito at Chaco
I rather like sepia treatment of Anasazi ruins. Seems to fit the era in which many of these archaeological finds were first unearthed. But the ruins and cliffs of Chaco are also great in color.

Pueblo walls against the cliff face


Raven soaring over cliffs

Balancing act

Wall at Casa Bonito

Geometric balance
But I also could not resist playing around with the geometry and shapes and shadings with some post processing.

Snugged up against the canyon wall

Standing alone

Kiva wall