It was a beautiful day in the Panjshir Valley. I thought I'd work with a duotone treatment. I did the lighter areas in a yellow-brown, sepia-ish color and the shadows in a blue. I think the brown conveys some of the sense of the heat of the day and brings out the dustiness of the hillside, while the blue helps out the sky and river.
I've heard that Panjshir Province is working on developing some sort of tourism industry...if you ever have a chance, go there. It's probably the safest place in Afghanistan, maybe the world, and one of the most beautiful places on earth.
On a flight to the Panjshir Valley, we passed over the southern edge of the Hindu Kush. That rectangle on the left is someone's homestead or field, rather dramatically disrupted by the formation of a new gully. I would guess the road in the upper right will have to be rebuilt after the spring floods...assuming we get enough snow this winter for there to be spring floods.
I don't know if you know this about me, but I love to drive on winding dirt roads going into the mountains. I particularly love it when the roads are in terrible shape and demand a 4WD. So living in a place where I can't go driving off by myself is a little painful. But I do get to take helicopter rides over those roads occasionally.
So after last night's post, I worked a bit on this shot, and decided that I like it better.
Today's story? When we were leaving the petroglyph site, a family was setting up a picnic at the edge of the bone-dry grass. They hadn't brought cooked food, because you cook your shashlik (kebabs) at the picnic. Pre-cooked shashlik are just wrong.
Now, when I said, "at the edge of the bone-dry grass," I meant with the 4-foot-tall grass waving over top of them as they set up the stones for their fire. And look at these thistles. Do they look like they've seen water recently? So the family takes up some of the dry grass they flattened out for their picnic area and uses it as tinder.
Dry grass, once it becomes embers, floats upward. Where it impacts other dry grass. Which ignites. Which drops embers to the base of the grass. Which ignites. The wind blows a bit. And you have a prairie fire before you can say, "Crap, get the fire extinguisher."
As the family beat at the trailing edges of a rapidly growing fire, we took self-preservation in hand, hopped into our truck and sped off.
At Tamgali, there are petroglyphs showing continuous human usage of the area for at least 3000 years. Many of the symbols are very similar to those found elsewhere in the world - sun gods, antelope, man, earth mothers and so on.
Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take my camera onto the site. Not even with the offer of paying a little extra for my entrance fee (that shocked me). So I took pictures of the dry thistles along the road.
On the road between Taneytown, MD and Littlestown, PA, there's an abandoned house that nestles in a little forest next to a stream. I found it irresistible and stopped in for about an hour of shooting one morning. Unlike most abandoned houses, it didn't have any No Trespassing signs, so I didn't worry too much about frightening the former owners or the bank.
I ended up not liking too many of my frames from that shoot, but this is one that I've been wanting to work with for some time. I'll probably play with it a lot, experimenting with burning and dodging and masking layers and some duotone colors to get just the right feel.
The litter of dead leaves and the blur from branches waving in a long exposure give the feeling of a forest where all the nymphs and dryads have died. Maybe there's a gateway to a bizarre land just behind that dark bunch on the left. No, I don't believe in supernatural entities, but myths and legends grab us and hold on, because otherwise, this is just a copse waiting for spring, and dying spirits or paths to the land of Narnia are a lot more interesting sometimes.
There are so many things to say about this photo. There's a cow in the middle of the road. Or there's a road across the prairie. Or the prairie is at 10,000 ft, and that line of hills in the distance are 16-18,000 feet high. The mountain prairies (or jailoos) of central Kyrgyzstan are among my favorite places on the planet. Although I'd go out of my mind with boredom (or perhaps not) I would love to live with the shepherds for a year and see life from their perspective.
We were about 2 weeks early for the huge party that's about to descend on the jailoo. Every summer the shepherd clans gather here for festivals, marrying off their children, trading, seeing the children they've married off and games of buzkashi (goat polo - see pictures at siananjim's travel blog). I love the idea of something like a giant Boy Scout jamboree taking over this vast grassy plain.
I like this one a little better than yesterday's. I think the repeating angles that cross each other make it a stronger image, much closer to what I had in mind.
It was a beautiful day in the forest. Obviously a nearly clear, blue sky, and a temperature that made jeans, hiking shoes and a long-sleeved t-shirt the perfect clothes. I didn't end up hiking as far as I had thought I might, but then, I hadn't expected to get such great views straight out of the parking lot.
After being traumatized by about 10 gazillion people at the Cherry Blossom Festival, I decided I needed a day with very few people. So the following morning I went out to Skyline Drive, and saw very few people.
I'm starting to grow fond of the hardwood forests of the Mid-Atlantic. I finally noticed this winter the spare beauty of leafless trees, showing the underlying structure of the woods.
First I was going to leave this in color. Then I was going to leave it B&W. I finally decided to make it monochrome in a color similar to the original. Why? The original color was, well, too muddy and distracted from the inherent beauty of the reflection and the scene itself. In true color, for example, the fact that the reflection is in focus but the shore of the puddle isn't gets lost.
It snowed a lot between February 5 and 6, 2010 in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. We got around 20 inches (50 cm) in Hanover. Before the storm had a chance to slow, I went and spent about an hour shooting. Most of the photos were the usual shots of people clearing their driveways, plowing the streets, and some snow blowing against the trees.
This photo is my favorite from the shoot. I didn't think I'd be able to get much contrast, and my first couple of attempts at processing were heavy-handed and obvious. This rendition, though, I like very much.
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When I first saw this scene, looking over the hood of a Jeep, I was struck by the beauty of the forest and the contrast with the trail we were on. As I worked on the photo, the contrast stayed with me. Now, looking at it as I write this post, I think about the people who first crossed the Cascade Range, indeed any mountains, by foot, with oxen or horses pulling a cart. And then there are the people who had their trail to follow, but had to slog through greasy, slick mud.
Did they look up from their travails, shivering in their boots, and curse the dark forest or admire its beauty?
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See? Goats! This was shot with the Nikkor 500mm f/8 reflector lens. On the D200 its relative focal length is 750mm. It's a small telescope, essentially. I promise the rest of the Meteora pictures you'll see for the next few days will be much better photos. I just couldn't believe there were goats on the cliffs. Also, I like to show off the 500mm.
The trees, particularly the oaks, the plane maples and these flowering trees, were all abuzz. Greece has had a phenomenal amount of rain this year, making everything lush and green, and the bees are going crazy for all the pollen. I imagine this will be a great year to buy honey, as the market should be glutted.
Anyway, so I'm walking through the site at Ancient Olympia and I decide to spend a few minutes shooting the bees and the flowers. Turns out I'm much better at shooting flowers than bees, as this is a 640x480 crop from a 3240x2592 image. But still, look at all those bees.
Another from Meteora. The rocks there are perfect for a photo like this, because they're hard, yet because you can see the motion of the ancient water that scoured the cliffs into the sea/lake bottom, they have a soft, organic look that complements the trees nicely.
Yes, I really do think about things like that while I'm shooting. I especially like traveling millions or billions of years back through Earth's history as I work in a canyon or gorge or mountain range.
A few times a year we get these odd sandstorms that manage to lift some very, very fine dust from the Sahara all the across the Mediterranean. Such was the case on Friday. They reduce visibility, the wind can be pretty impressive, and this fine dust coats everything. It's not as bad a dust storm in a place where the dust originates, as in the western US or Kazakhstan, or I imagine the Sahara, but I'm impressed by this dust that has traveled across something like 500 miles of open water.
Anne Baker. When I uploaded from the card to the hard drive, the series I had shot of this flower was upside down. A minor irritation, but I'd have to invert all 8 or 10 renditions to get them right. Anne Baker said, "That looks cool. You should leave it like that...I think you should also leave it in color." She was right. Twice. Anne Baker.
The fires that engulfed Greece last summer were particularly bad in this part of Evia. We drove along the base of the ridge for about 20 minutes and saw no living olive trees (or cedars or pines). It was pretty devastating. Trees will eventually grow back, but much of the country is looking at 30-100 years before the forests completely recover.
Athens is woefully unprepared for the once-every-five-years snowfall. We got 6 inches or so and the city ground to a halt for two days. Take this young lady as an example of just how unprepared the city is, with her cute, but very short, wool dress and boots with hard plastic soles. Of course, right after I surreptitiously shot this picture, she slipped and fell, making me feel like a jerk.
The floors of our decidedly middle-class apartment are made almost entirely of marble. Now usually, we think of marble as a high-end building material, but in Athens, wood is high-end, because all the mountains and hills, are marble. There are huge marble mines, the buildings of the Acropolis are built of marble on marble. The aggregate that binds the asphalt in the streets is marble. The sidewalks often have marble pavers.
For a more mundane description, this is a young vine that I saw growing near the peak of Lycavettos. More pictures of the hill next week.
Ordinarily, you might think it curious to have a lamp post in a beautiful forest of evergreens. However this picture's a bit of an illusion. The forest is across the street from our apartment, at the base of Lycavettos Hill, in the center of Athens. The street is very, very busy, with traffic starting up around 5:30 am and continuing unabated until about 2 am, sometimes later.
Why do Washingtonians love their state and their region? Mt. Si is a good place to start looking. This dramatic hill always manages to catch the clouds and look exciting. At about 4000 feet, it's nearly as tall as the highest mountain in West Virginia, yet 7000 to 10,000 feet shorter than the real mountains in Washington.
See that big rock on the left, covered in mosses and ferns? See the top of the Jeep in the lower right (that's just so you can realize the full size of the rock). That rock rolled down from the mountain in the background. When? Long enough ago that the rock is smooth at the corners and covered in moss.
I learned over Labor Day weekend that Atlantic Ocean photography is a little different than Mediterranean Sea photography - your lens gets spotted up pretty easily. This requires either more frequent cleaning, or a lot of spotting afterward. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until I was putting my camera away, so I have a lot of spotting to do. This shot is shortly after sunrise, with a storm (which never materialized) on the horizon.
One project I would love to get paid to do is photography for geologists. I love the shapes that result from sand and gravel getting compressed in a sea bottom, then lifted into the sky. Or the way a nice plate collision can push whole mountains and giant plateaus (the Himalayas & Tibetan Plateau come to mind) into crazy angles. So, really, if you know a geologist looking for someone to do beautiful photography, let me know.
I bet you weren't expecting the first shot of Greece to be a mountain shot, were you? This is Pentalofos, in the northwest, about 45 minutes by back country road from Albania. We spent about 5 days there. The trip was like the film days - shoot 1500 or 2000 pictures (well, with film it was more like 200-400), and have no opportunity to edit them for more than 2 weeks. We've been back a couple days, and I have all the shots loaded on the computer. I'm wading through them, trying to decide which ones get to live a little longer and which will languish forgotten on the hard drive until it's time to clean things up.