Good night, Badlands

If you goof typing that you get Baldands. Funny.

This is the sunset series, such as it was. None were as colorful as the sunrises which was a little weird and disappointing as well. During each session I tried to find something that would work even if the color never materialized.

These first two are an interesting example of how the light shifts from minute to minute during sunset and how white balance can alter and influence the way we feel about an image. Since we worked from popular and accessible overlooks and viewpoints, the compositional choices were limited and none too original, but I did my best to break away from the group and find something at least nominally different. I doubt it made me very popular with the other folks, but I’m happy with the results. For this one I walked farther out onto the ridgeline than I had originally wanted to. It’s very steep, windy and narrow, but for this view I had to try.

Between emotions

There is only a few minutes difference between the first shot and the second. This was as much color as we got in the sky. With the cloud deck being so low, I pointed the camera down at all that amazing geology. The difference is the white balance, really. The warmer shot seems more inviting despite the cooler having the more pronounced leading line. What do you think?

Where it lies

I had a funny moment getting ready for it though. As my cowardice evaporated and I walked out onto the ridges, I saw this composition, but needed to get behind a big bit of rock that would cover me entirely. Just a few minutes before, one of the guides was teasing that if he looked over and only saw the tripod he’d know I fell down into the gorge. So I yelled back to them that I was just behind some rock and not dead. They were happy that I told them. I think that’s part of the key to making a workshop work for you – to stay in communication if you go out of sight and to state your goals pretty clearly. Mine don’t include a lot of instruction, but instead to force me to get up early and stay up late for the best light at a new location. And it’s also nice that if I get an attack of the dithers, I can always call for help with composition.

So that was our most colorful sunset. The rest just didn’t develop. Weird. It was just the luck of the draw, but I did my best to work with what we had. This next photo is actually just a test shot for a composition I wanted to get if the clouds and sky did their thing. They didn’t, but I processed this one anyway since I like the composition quite a bit. That’s the road there in the center of the mid-ground. It’s a 3-shot HDR made in Lightoom.

Cataclysm of the heart

The light down in the valley was really great though. I loved that little tree down there and composed quickly before the light changed. I really like how it’s only shining on the floor by the tree and not on the hills behind. Could have used a little more light in the immediate foreground, but I think it works ok. One of the biggest challenges for me was finding a through-line into each scene. The vastness is overwhelming and majestic, but that wasn’t all I wanted to convey. Finding ways into each scene I think helps with how people will react to them. This little valley of green seems to soften an otherwise very harsh and alienating environment. I think it’s a welcoming element.

Into the valley of solitude

Only in this closer view with the long lens can you tell there is a road or path running behind the tree. I wish we’d had time to do something there. The views sure would be different looking up at all those formations. I think they need to give that a go and see if it would work for a future workshop. If I ran one I’d definitely want to check it out. A lot of the park isn’t set up for hiking and there aren’t a lot of trails so this one seems intriguing.

Scaled down

When it became clear that the composition I had planned and scoped for this sunset wasn’t going to come together because the clouds broke apart (and the color never came) I walked around. This is another example of why looking behind and changing your position you is so important in landscape photography. Check out what was going on over there –

Check your ego

Clouds! And a little color and people. That’s the walkway and viewing platform with a photographer from our group on it with someone else. And another person ventured out in front on the rock a bit and boy does that help give some scale and proportion that’s been missing in a lot of these photos. Ok, I had a little fun with the new Adaptive Presets in Lightroom, but I didn’t go too far did I? LOL.

So that was it for that sunset. In a way it’s nice because we all got to bed earlier since we weren’t hanging around for that last bit of color (don’t pack until it’s black!). Unfortunately the next day gave us the same and I didn’t even bother processing the landscape views I did take. Maybe I will, but for now here is a look at some small scenes and details.

First up this tiny cedar tree that one of the guides pointed out. Maybe I would have noticed it on my own, but I was happy to have it brought to my attention. It’s probably 50 years old or something, but with so little light and water it is stunted and small. Cute as anything though and I like to think it expands the story of the place.

Thwarted ambition

The area we were at is called Window and Door and has some very pale and pastel colored rock and mud. We didn’t have a ton of time for detail work, but I loved some of these harder rocks embedded in the softer clay. This one is on the floor of the canyon with the camera pointed straight down on the tripod. The second is on the wall of the canyon and I processed it slightly differently – leaving the reflection of the bluebird sky in the first, and reducing it in the second.

An epoch on Saturn

The first is more abstract and so I felt that the blues and mauves helped reinforce that idea. In the second I went with a more natural approach because the arrangement isn’t so abstract, but seems more like a collection of intentionally placed objects. It reminded me of an ancient shrine that you could find in a cave occupied by Neanderthals or Cro-Magnon man. Offerings to ancestors. A shelf dedicated to the memory of the dead.

A whisper in the chaos

Next is a look almost straight down into the canyon floor. It looks like a bandit hideout or something and I did some pretty unconventional processing to get it in a more otherworldly vibe.

Fantasy fortress

Continued wandering and look what should appear – cliff emojis!!

I 🤍 The Badlands

Me and my single trees. I can’t resist them. This little cottonwood was lit so nicely on the corner of the path that I stopped and shot. Maybe someday, in a hundred years, it will be a massive tree overshadowing the path and people will wonder what it was like when it was young.

Hanging on the corner

Persistent, but smaller are the wildflowers. There were a surprising amount, but given the constant wind I didn’t shoot them much. Just this one struck me, in there with the prickly pear cactuses.

Rare enticements

And a bit with the macro lens. There were lots of very tempting lichens, but there wasn’t much time to shoot them. That’s the nature of a group like this, but I did manage to get the camera right up to the canyon wall for this arrangement that reminds me of a broken plate. Hey, at least I used the macro after lugging it all over with me. Actually I used all of my lenses out there. Wish I could have done more and some stacking with the macro, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Recriminations

So that’s the sunset phase of the trip. Not as spectacular as the sunrises, but I like the imagery I came away with. I wish I’d had more time to pick out details, but it is what it is and overall I’m pretty happy.

Next up probably wildlife. Such as it was.

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