Pothole Paramour


I recently posted this photo on my FB page announcing that I’d submitted it to my first “contest” in over 4 years. Nikonians, supported by Lensculture selected it for their Competition Gallery. My friend Gil sent me a note asking for a look “behind the curtain” as he could not quite believe it was made from a single image.

As I really like this image I’m going to take him up on it…..and here we go.

First and foremost, this image, like I hope all others I make, is steeped in a love and familiarity of place. This is certainly the case for the Needles District of Canyonlands NP. It is the home of my soul. That being said I rarely take the walk out on Pothole Point, a scenic walk and picnic place on the paved road to Big Spring Canyon. On this day I was scouting workshop sites for the Terrific Trio Workshop that I conduct with @Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and @Guy Tal as part of the annual @Moab Photography Symposium, which I own and direct.

It was a cloudy day and we (girlfriend) were returning from Big Spring when I decided we should check out the point. I had my gear and off we went. It was late afternoon and the storm sat heavily across the region. The clouds were low, the air was dry and there did not seem to be any rain in the dark clouds. The light was pretty flat which would have made COLOR imagery pretty dull, but it created some good opportunities for B&W should one find the right image.

When I walk with B&W on and in my mind that’s all I see. I see the land with increased contrast and a range of glowing tones that immediately have me walking in the naturally abstract world that is B&W. There is also a strong NO NOUN filter. I like and practice seeing in terms of line, form, pattern, texture and the rest of the visual art dictionary. I really do not make images “of” something. I’m not reporting on my escapade, rather, I walk in conversation with the land and make photographs when we can mutually agree on a topic or when we might even tease, argue, joke or arrive at an impasse.

I rarely “plan” an image by using Google earth to search it out, employing apps to know when the sun rises and sets and all that stuff. I go out. I’m aware of the current conditions. If they favor B&W then I dial in my B&W brain filter. On this day that’s what I did and it was almost an after-thought to visit Pothole Point. I’m sure glad I did though!

The point is named for the large number of potholes, depressions in the sandstone that hold water and all sorts of small life. I wandered west from the road. The “trail” is a series of rock cairns that lead you past some large boulders to the pothole area that overlooks tributaries of Big Spring Canyon and beyond is the massive sandstone wall of spires for which the district is named. I’d only been walking for 20 minutes or so when I came across “the pothole.” I glanced at it but was intent on going further. I made just a few more steps past it, with it behind me, and then in mid-step, it seemed like a hand grabbed my shoulder and turned me back around. I was stopped cold, and could see that here was a place to work.
This is the raw capture. Though it is what the camera recorded, what I had already seen in my mind was closer to the B&W image I present as the final. I only had to GET THERE!


This is the RAW IMAGE.


This is the image with some GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS.

Please note that I believe that preparation is both physical (Got camera? Gas? Lunch? Map? Spousal blessing? Other THINGS?) and mental (are you in the mood? In the Zone? Is your mind free?) Unfettered is an excellent word and state of being.

This image was made on a Nikon D810 and my 24mm PC Nikkor. Exposure was f16 and the required shutter speed. There may have been a graduated neutral density figure on the sky. Can’t recall. The composition hinges on the interplay between the broken pieces of dry dirt (just recently covered in water) in the pothole bottom and the reflected cloud forms on the water’s surface. I eliminated the rim of the pothole at the bottom of the image to land our eye in the most important part of the image. I was fairly low and close with the purpose of emphasizing and exaggerating the content at the bottom of the image. The top of the image rather set itself and I was thankful for the clouds as they really make the image. I also find that VERTICAL images help to abstract an image. We spend much of our lives seeing horizontally. Our eyes are set that way, as are our monitors, TV screens, windshields, the way we read, billboards and the horizon! This image moves vertically. So, composition set, f/16, tilt-shift adjusted. I then made a backup beginning exposure and sat with my finger on the cable release and watched subtle changes of light grace the scene. The distant horizon would shadow then gain light, a few light rays would spotlight certain areas and finally a soft caress of feathered light raised the tones ever so slightly on the pothole. Click! Back to the truck and a beer!

We are now home and processing. NOTE TO GIL: All the information needed to make the final B&W image is in the RAW capture. It is our job as photographers to use, manipulate, plead with, pray to and reveal that information in a manner that correlates to what we saw and felt at the time of “capture.”

I brought the image into LIGHTROOM and performed some basic tweaking on the entire image and in the sections shown here.





The image then went to PHOTOSHOP where it received local area work.


To wrap this image up I took it back into LR for a little tweaking and then I printed it! I work on plenty of images, but none of them feel finished to me until they are printed.


So with all that said it’s time to get out for a snowy hike!

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