Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bentonite Hills

These photographs are from the Bentonite Hills near Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. The hills are made of modified volcanic ash, and are banded with strange colors throughout - - deep red, purple, soft green, white, brown... even bright yellow in some places.

Larger stones are sometimes black like the ones in the photo on the left, and sometimes lighter... even white. They dot the landscape and provide very interesting counterpoints for a photographer. The second image is an attempt to simplify the setting so you can see the amazing texture without being overwhelmed by the enormity and variety of the place. I would have been happy to spend our entire trip photographing these hills - they were so amazing to me.

For the first photo, I used a Graduated Neutral Density filter to reduce the brightness of the sky so that my camera could handle the dynamic range. An image like this one is difficult to process because I must make sure the image looks natural without losing detail in my highlights and shadows.

The second shot is much easier to deal with. The dynamic range is very narrow, and the camera can handle it easily. Soft, even lighting allows the details and textures to stand out beautifully. I loved the soft curves in the gullies between the hills.

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