Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pine Creek Canyon

I've talked before about the difficulties of photographing a canyoneering trip. But every once in awhile, our merry band comes across a canyon that has all the right angles and light for wonderful pictures. I think Pine Creek Canyon in Zion National Park qualifies. My two biggest complaints is lack of good angles to shoot (rappels are often in constricted spaces where it's nearly impossible to shoot anywhere but up or down) and the sometimes necessary speed we have to take on in order to get through a canyon before the end of the day. Pine Creek Canyon? Negative on both accounts. It was a real pleasure to have great angles and a leisurely pace (well, sort of; we planned on doing another, shorter canyon the same day). I had the time to ask my buds to wait for me when a photo op appeared, and there were plenty of those. Pine Creek Canyon is full of wilderness eye candy.

But the bottom line for me is how many good photographs I was able to squeeze out of the canyon. That doesn't happen often. I was happy throughout. What a pleasure.

On a technical note, I went with just one lens, my 16-35mm, and there were many places where there was bright and dark spots in the same shot, so I did a lot of HDR, five-exposure brackets. Many of the pictures in this portfolio come under that category. If I did my job right, it's not obvious. Lastly, lots of darkness where I was shooting anywhere from ISO 400 all the way to 26,400. Love that Canon 5D MIII with its low-light performance!

Jerri at the beginning approach to the top of the canyon.
Rich descending the first rappel.
Jerri watching Rich go down into the canyon.
Jerri on first rappel while Kevin looks on.
Rich descending into one of the most amazing canyon chambers I've seen.
Jerri wading through chest-high water to the chamber's exit. Oh, yeah, that water was cold.
A corridor through the canyon.
Annette under a rare swatch of sunlight.
The canyon version of driftwood.
Another corridor. Note the chock stone overhead.
Annette takes a brief snooze while Rich rigs the anchor.
Out in the open again, Rich descends into one of the more spectacular scenes.
Another canyon scene. Note in the upper left a "window" where the Zion tunnel cuts through the mountain.
Sometimes you get lucky: Rich wore a bright yellow shirt that kept him from getting lost in the composition.
Jerri belaying Annette.
Yours truly descending a free rappel (photo by Jerri Lauridsen).
Rich belaying Annette.
A small pool near the last rappel.
Rich washing off his gear of all the sand in a soothing, down-canyon pool. Caribiners get cranky when they're loaded full of sand and then they get stuck at the worst possible moments.
Relaxing in the pool before what turned out to be a longer than expected (and hotter) hike out to the car.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Typhon Canyon

I have to admit that after I exited Typhon Canyon in Death Valley National Park, I decided I wasn't that thrilled with the place. I can't say exactly what left me unenthusiastic. Maybe it was the long, steep, difficult approach. We left the parking lot at Dante's View and hiked a lovely trail for about two miles before plunging along an extremely steep, loose rock spine that shredded at my toes and worked my thighs more than an uphill climb would have. Finally, we reached the top of the canyon and started the various down-climbs and rappels. I guess I judge a place by how much I enjoy photographing it. Perhaps that's a little strange to some people. Obsessive to others. But if I don't feel like I'm accomplishing much photographically, I get restless. And visually, the canyon was nothing, at least to my eyes. Because it had a lot of broad areas, there was a lot of harsh, hot light on colorless, featureless rock. The rappels were mediocre and run-of-the-mill.

So, I didn't look at the pictures when I got back all that much. Wasn't interested. Finally, I dove into them only because my friends had asked about them and I discovered that subconsciously (I guess) to compensate for the dreary scenery (again, my perception and not necessarily that of my friends), I concentrated more on the people I was with. I rather liked those pictures and that surprised me. As with a lot of photography, sometimes you need that distance to see what you've really got. So here they are.

Headed away from the trailhead at 6 a.m.
Dante Peak
Rich contemplating the route.
Rich down-climbing a tricky patch.
Kevin tossing out the rappel rope.
Scooting along another down-climb.
Kevin about go through a hole in the rock.
Annette about to negotiate the same hole in the rock.
I'm told this is a Mojave rattlesnake. I nearly stepped on it without knowing I was even close to it until someone else pointed it out.
Kevin, our meat anchor. He's backing up an anchor wrapped around a boulder.
Annette on one of the final rappels.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pine Creek Canyon

Deep inside Zion National Park's Pine Creek Canyon is a dark, cool, watery chamber that requires a long rappel to enter. A stunning place. Almost too stunning. I was so fixated on the rappel and the twisted rock, that I nearly missed how one had to exit the opposite end of the chamber through an arched doorway lit from above. I saw Jerri heading for the door, chest-deep in water and shot off a five-frame bracket at one-stop intervals, while trying to hold the camera still. (The ISO was set at a noise-popping 25,600). I did this five times and the fourth one was the best. I liked how her arms were stretched out, hands pulling at the rock with her body nearly centered in the doorway. I took the darkest exposure and then the "normal" exposure and blended them, using bits of the lighter version to open up the shadows. Miraculously, the shots nearly aligned perfectly and with the help of Photoshop, locked into place just right. If I wanted to get really fancy, I suppose I could infuse this caption with all kinds of metaphors, but it's just a nicely realized moment. That's all.