Sunday, February 24, 2013

Death Valley Impostor

The Rock That Wasn't There

Welcome to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, that magical anomaly where rocks move mysteriously across a clay-like surface and cut trails to mark the path or their travel.

At least, that's what we think happens. Rain softens the playa and the surface becomes slippery. Wind currents channeled through the mountains are strong enough to move the rocks and cut trails through the soft clay. It's impossible to verify the theory because except for the smallest of pebbles, no one has ever seen the rocks move.

Yet, move they do and trails they leave, and in so doing they capture our imagination. The entire phenomenon is like something from a science fiction story.

There is, unfortunately, a dark side to our story, and that dark side is the hand of man. There are individuals who lack respect for the fragile wonder of places like the Racetrack Playa.

Here is case in point, a subject that I call 'The Impostor Rock'.

a photo of a sliding rock on the racetrack playa at death valley by daniel south
Impostor Rock - Death Valley

We see a long, well-defined trail in the playa, distant mountains, a clear sky, and a rock right in the middle of the action.

The problem is that this rock did not cut the trail, except perhaps for the last few inches. The rock that did cut the trail had a different shape. It would have been a bit wider, and it had a ridge that cut a groove to the left of the main trail.

This rock is an impostor.

Someone took the original rock as a souvenir, probably leaving the trail empty.(There are many empty trails on the playa.) I'm guessing that some well-meaning person put this rock in its place. Hopefully, the didn't snatch it from one of the other trails.

The Racetrack Playa is remote and not well-patrolled. Even if there were rangers on site, the playa is more than two miles wide. It's not possible to watch the entire surface at all times. Inconsiderate people take liberties.

There are signs posted: Don't move or take the rocks. Clearly, this one has been broken a few times. Don't walk on the playa when it's wet, or you'll damage the surface and leave footprints. I saw lots of this type of damage at the southern end of the playa. Don't let your dog run on the playa. While I was there I met a man who told me how much his dog loves to run on the playa, and then he let the dog loose.

The world is full of inconsiderate people, and there's not a whole lot that we can do about it. Let's hope that they don't destroy everything.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rebuilding New York

Moving Forward, Thinking Back

The new World Trade Center tower, still unfinished, rises to prominence in the New York skyline.

a photo of world trade center construction in downtown new york
Rebuilding New York - 9/11/2012

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Geometric Skyscrapers

Art And Abstraction In Architecture


How many different ways are there to look at a structure? 

Where can we stand in search of a fresh view of a well-known structure?

How will light interact with architecture, and how does that change with season and time of day?

How can lenses and two-dimensional perspective enhance and stylize the appearance of large, three-dimensional objects?

I visualized photographing this landmark New York skyscraper from its base, but the composition didn't work until I included the building across the street.

The symmetrical convergence of vertical lines draws attention toward the center of the frame. The reflections hint of a delicate interaction between giants.

a photo of geometric skyscrapers in new york city daniel south photography
Geometric Skyscrapers - New York City

To capture this image, I aimed my tripod-mounted camera straight up. I had to compose and focus from below.  Onlookers watched as I crouched and twisted into a series of uncomfortable positions.

Alignment was critical. Horizontal lines had to remain parallel to the edges of the frame, or the buildings would have skewed to one side.  I wanted the convergence to balance well between the building in front (bottom) and behind (top). 

Luckily, it all worked out in the end. The shapes and patterns blend together nicely, the quality of light reveals sharp detail, and the reflections add a special highlight to the composition.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II (no movements applied)

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved