Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Cottonwoods and Sandstone

For Ken and Juha, a color version of a cottonwood (in full sun) standing next to a Navajo sandstone wall.  I’ve done little to this image (other than apply some sharpening), but it’s still close to what I remember seeing.  In this case, the tree is fully illuminated, but the light on the cliff wall is reflected light.  The wall you see is actually in shadow, but the opposite wall is “lit” and casting a reflected reddish light.  Many photographers use this kind of reflected light to give a red cast to the Virgin River.  Where the water is moving slow, and there’s no wind, the effect can be striking.

If you don’t like shooting at dawn or sunset, by the way,  Zion can be a perfect alternative (if you’re in the canyon itself).  Here, late morning to mid-afternoon can be the best times for combining sunlight and deep shadows.  The walls, remember, are very high.  The sun doesn’t even “see” the inner canyon until 9:00 or 10:00 AM in most spots.

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6 Responses to “Cottonwoods and Sandstone”

  1. oneowner

    After going back and forth between this image and the one in the previous post many times I’ve finally made the same conclusion you did: both the color and the B&W are good choices for processing. But if I was to have only one printed and put on display in my home I would pick the B&W version. I like the dramatic yet subtle quality that black and white imparts to this image. Now that the tools for burning, dodging and masking (among some other tools) are much better and easier than they were in the past, a true, professional quality B&W print can be made without the expense of a custom print..

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Actually, my B & W “decision” was made up front. When I started taking this series of sunlit cottonwoods I was definitely thinking B & W. Some, like this one, look pretty good in color, too, but I agree that monochrome is the better choice. And I’ll probably try one as a large print. Like a lot of other people, I love the feel of a large print in my hands!

      Thanks again, Ken.

      Reply
  2. Juha Haataja

    After seeing this it was interesting to have a look at the b&w version again. The deep red is remarkable, and I’m sure it offers a lot of possibilities for photography. On the other hand, the abstract rendering of b&w is otherwise engaging, it puts focus on the delicate geometry of the cottonwood. I like both very much.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Again, thanks Juha. Yes, the color of the walls can be “remarkable” at times. If you can catch them in early or late sun, after a rain, they will literally change colors in front of you. The moisture tends to enhance the “deep red” you mention.

      I agree – it’s the geometry of the branches that is the real subject here. The color of the walls is secondary.

      Reply
  3. Paul

    Beautiful shot, Paul. BTW, I’ve done Zion in the daytime and the canyon is a perfect place for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in the morning as I was staying in Hurricane, UT and would have had to leave quit a bit early to get there for sunrise and it was my first time there, so I had no idea where things would be happening!

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Paul. Hurricane, huh? That’s a really nice little town. Wouldn’t be a bad place to live, in my opinion. Very close to a lot of good stuff. As for sunrise in Zion, that’s not such a big deal in my experience. There’s only a few spots – outside the canyon and below the plateau area – that get any sun that early. If you get clouds and deep shadows across the Towers of the Virgin area, then it’s worth it. Otherwise, just another sunrise………..

      Reply

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