Single-image Sunday: Frames   10 comments

Early morning in the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness, New Mexico.

Early morning in the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness, New Mexico.

It had been quite awhile since I’d used this simple technique, but recently I had a golden opportunity to use it.  Photographic frames (or frame within the frame) are actually more common than you might think.  But they’re usually much more subtle than this image shows, particularly natural frames.  I was inspired by this week’s Daily Post.  Check out many more examples over there at Frames.

Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness

I recently checked out an area that I’d been wanting to get to for awhile.  It’s in a fairly remote part of the western U.S. in northwestern New Mexico.  Just north of Chaco Canyon, it’s a protected area called the Bisti/De Na Zi Wilderness.  It’s usually just called Bisti, which is a shortened translation of the Navajo word for adobe walls.  I like the second part of the name better.  It’s an exact rendering of the Navajo for cranes.  South of the wilderness are petroglyphs of cranes.  I love cranes and it’s a beautiful name for them, but with little time, I didn’t locate them on this trip.

 Landscape photographers have been coming here in increasing numbers, so you’ll see plenty of images online if you search.  But these are mostly shots of the interestingly shaped hoodoos (pinnacle-like rock formations), with the most popular being a large wing-shaped formation.  Of course I went for a different take, so explored the canyon floor and an area outside the main concentration of hoodoos.

Despite De Na Zi’s popularity I didn’t see another soul.  I got up very early to be out there at sunrise.  It can be difficult to know how to proceed when you first foray into an unfamiliar area.  And when you start out in the dark pre-dawn hours, it can even be quite disorienting.  This is what I was feeling as I hiked out there into the De Na Zi, still half-asleep.  But there was a moon so I soon got used to it and relaxed, enjoying the detached feeling and the solitude.  See the Extra below for some guidance on confidently heading out into unfamiliar lands to shoot.

I found this little arch just after sunrise.  The badlands beyond were receiving full sun while the grainy rock of the arch, inches from my camera, had just been touched by the sun.  I had to scramble up to it and it was a little precarious to position the tripod, but not too bad.  It was very quiet out there as the shadows gradually shortened and the sun rose, promising a hot August day ahead.  Thanks for looking!

EXTRA: Finding your Way

I don’t use a GPS while hiking & photographing.  Too much temptation to locate and find specific things instead of exploring for my own compositions.  Also I have a good sense of direction and rarely get truly lost.  The most important thing to possess, though, is the right attitude.  I don’t mind wandering around temporarily unaware of exactly where I am (I don’t call this lost).

But whenever I go hiking with others, I realize that most folks do mind not knowing where they are, and do call it being lost.  So for most people who want to go off-trail to find unique photo opportunities, I recommend a GPS.  Learn how to use it in a local park before trying it out in the wilderness.  Even for short forays away from the road, it’s nice to tag your parking location so you’re able to head straight back to the car, particularly if the sun has gone down.

Without GPS, I just keep track of my route using landmarks and position of the sun/moon/stars, occasionally turning around and studying the terrain.  So I’m normally confident of the general return direction.  It’s not as exact as a GPS, but terrain usually dictates an indirect route anyway (something that GPS users sometimes forget).  Even if you use a GPS, I suggest getting used to using landmarks and awareness of route direction relative to your parking spot, the direction the road runs, and the sun (or moon/stars if it gets dark).

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10 responses to “Single-image Sunday: Frames

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  1. Beautiful shot, love the subtle colors and contrast to the early morning sky. Liked your “Extra,” as I’ve always felt comfortable with my own navigation. I’m familiar with the clues, the sky, the stars, water, direction of streams, horizon hints, etc. But I find myself compromised in the car after a few years of GPS. It’s pretty much the dumbing down of America, or so it seems, and increasing reliance of these gagets and devices take away from our natural sensibilities. I feel the younger generations will be worse off for it… I feel. M 😦

    • Thanks a lot MV! I totally agree. The more we use devices the more we naturally substitute them for our own minds. Of course we SAY that we’re supplementing, which is a little lie. I personally can’t stand using the maps on GPS & also Google (Earth excepted). They are very information poor, I suppose because of the perception that most of us are confused by info-rich maps.

  2. Pingback: Frame (4) | What's (in) the picture?

  3. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Frame | stenoodie

  4. What a magnificent place, Michael. Gorgeous image.

  5. I went to that Bisti joint a few winters ago. It was kind of odd in that there really isn’t much in the way of signs or trailhead directions. I’m not even sure I found the correct place. I found some stuff, just wasn’t sure it was the best stuff.

    • Yeah it’s just a wilderness area not a park Patrick, so they keep it natural with no trail signs and such. There are a few trails but the best way to travel is probably to just walk the washes.

  6. So wonderful for you to be able to relish those moments in such a stunning landscape, and bring some reminders home with you to share! Thank you.

    Melissa Shaw-Smith

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